from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Immortality is the idea of ​​an unlimited life in physical or spiritual form.

Biological and technical immortality

The proof of biological immortality or its possibility in more highly developed animal and vegetable life forms is still pending. In most known animals, the ability to self-regenerate decreases over the course of life for various reasons. If there were a being that could repair damage to the same extent as it occurs, it would be potentially indefinitely viable.

Biologically immortal species

This immortality is naturally limited in reality by the fact that the organisms can very well be killed by external influences and diseases. Hence, this immortality is referred to as potential or relative immortality :

  • Most protozoa or colonies of bacteria can be referred to as “potential immortality”, because under ideal conditions they continue to multiply through cell division without any aging being observed and the phenomenon of “ death ” occurring. However, recent research casts doubt on this potential immortality, because it has been observed that each successor generation appears slightly smaller, weaker and more prone to dying .
  • The life cycle of the jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii shows an ability that is unique in the animal kingdom: After reaching sexual maturity, the organism can be returned to the stage of childhood by using the cell conversion process known as transdifferentiation. Apparently this cycle can be repeated indefinitely.
  • According to some scientists, some species of sea ​​cucumber can live indefinitely under ideal conditions.
  • In freshwater polyp no evidence could be found of an aging process so far.
  • Mushrooms are potentially immortal.

Evolution of aging

It is assumed that aging is a consequence of the evolutionary process - why aging has established itself as a selection criterion remains an open question. The programmed cell death and the problem of decreasing telomeres can already be found in the simplest organisms. This could be the result of a compromise between avoiding cancer on the one hand and aging on the other.

Among the modern theories on the " evolution of aging " are among others:

  • In 1952, Peter Medawar formulated his mutation-accumulation theory , which basically states that there will never be a selection against aging because the reproductive phase is already over before the symptoms of aging can have a negative impact on the selection.
  • The theory of antagonistic pleiotropy was proposed in 1957 by George C. Williams , a critic of Medawar. It says that the same genes that have a beneficial effect early in life have a detrimental effect in old age.

Biotechnological immortality

Even today, the lifespan in the industrialized nations extends far beyond the possibilities of earlier days. This has led to advances in hygiene, nutrition, the standard of living and, more generally, in medical care. Due to the further development of technologies in gene and cell therapy , in regenerative medicine, biomedicine and micro and nanotechnology , a further significant increase in life expectancy can be expected. As usual, these developments will take place step by step, so that tangible results can be expected in the medium term, which should become more and more comprehensive and effective over time. Robert Freitas , a scientist in the field of theoretical nanorobotics, is constructing models of nanomachines that could be used permanently in the human body in the future to eliminate pathogens , keep cancer in check, and perform repair work. In this way, aging could possibly be brought to a standstill by eliminating signs of wear and tear through regenerative processes in an increasingly targeted manner.

Aubrey de Gray develops theories about human aging, which, like a disease, he traces back to unfavorable biochemical processes that can be stopped or reversed through targeted manipulation. The method he proposed, which he describes as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, SENS for short, is based on seven points of attack propagated by him. De Gray is co-founder (together with David Gobel) and chief scientist of the Methuselah Mouse Prize project , which aims to accelerate and promote research in the field of life extension. The prize money, which is constantly growing through donations, which stood at EUR 2.8 million (USD 4.4 million) in June 2008, is given to laboratories whose work has been shown to significantly extend the life span of mice. The intention of the award is that convincing success in the mouse model would entail large investments in transferring the results to humans.


At sufficiently low temperatures, in practice −196 ° C, any form of bioactivity in the organism comes to a standstill; this will stop any further deterioration of the tissue. Cryonics, the freezing of the whole body or the brain as the seat of consciousness, is a hope for the extension of their own life for people whose aging is or will be too advanced for them to benefit from the technical level of life-prolonging measures whose diseases cannot be cured according to the current state of medicine. The hope of these cryonics patients is that future generations can treat their illnesses or aging itself.

Modern cryonics processes use a process known as vitrification for conservation . With this, the organic matter is not frozen in the classical sense. At the extremely low temperatures used, the human biomass changes into a glass-like structure. This avoids the otherwise observed cell damage caused by the formation of ice crystals. In the case of brain tissue in particular, it is crucial to preserve the exact structure. Only in this way is there hope of being able to restore the information it contains - the memories and consciousness of the individual - in the future.


The transformation of a human into a cyborg essentially states that the human will be maintained or improved through technical implants . In the beginning, such a perspective can already be seen today in the development of artificial hearts, although the systems made by humans are still clearly inferior to the biological model. Cyborgology potentially includes the integration of neuro-implants to maintain and expand cognitive possibilities and the exchange of biological organs and systems with more powerful technical alternatives.

Mind uploading

Mind uploading is the attempt to outsource the parts of the brain that are relevant to consciousness in a digital medium. On the one hand, this process could create a digital alternative to cryonics as a conservation measure. On the other hand, it could also be possible to bring the stored consciousness to "life" in a digital virtual world. In principle, the question of the extent to which this simulation could make a claim to reality is legitimate. However, every impression that our consciousness receives from the environment is, according to the naturalistic view, little more than the result of sensory impressions processed in the brain. The ultimately philosophical question of subjectivity is not yet answered.

Alternatively, it would also be conceivable to transfer consciousness into a suitable physical unit (such as a robot), to process its sensory impressions and to interact with the environment via adductors (such as arms or legs).

The method of uploading offers a good security advantage for the achievement of immortality, because one would be safe from physical physical damage and additionally backups could be stored on spatially distributed digital systems. The main disadvantage is the new physical form or the lack of one. There is no consensus on the feasibility of mind uploading in principle, because this question depends on the philosophical view. For example, the question might arise as to whether an assumed subjectivity would be lost.


The idea of ​​immortality is an integral part of almost all religions . The worshiped god or the world of gods is attached to the attribute of immortality. But immortality is also granted to the human soul . The story of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest literary efforts to achieve immortality . In addition, many currents in Daoism believe that man can develop his mind and body through cultivation to such an extent that he attains physical immortality and becomes a Xian ; in other currents of Daoism it is a question of a non-physical spiritual or spiritual, sometimes after-death immortality. The Chinese alchemy devoted himself to the end of the Tang Dynasty mainly looking for the elixir of immortality, the Quanzhen School turned explicitly from the target of physical immortality from.

In the New Testament there are some passages that refer to relative physical immortality, of course only to a limited extent through divine will. The following text passages come from the four evangelists (the wording from the Luther Bible 2017 of the German Bible Society):

“When Peter saw this, he said to Jesus: Lord, what will happen to this one? Jesus said to him: If I want him to stay until I come, what is it to you? Follow me Then the talk arose among the brothers: This disciple does not die. "

- Joh 21,22  LUT

"But I tell you verily: some of those who stand here will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

- Lk 9.27  LUT

"And he said to them: Truly I say to you: There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God coming with power."

- Mk 9.1  LUT

In Luke and Markus there is almost literal correspondence. It should be noted that Christianity in particular emphasizes the afterlife and the resurrection . The above-mentioned biblical passages are therefore seldom cited, as they usually have a subordinate status in Christian theology. Regardless of the topic of " eternal life " and immortality, the Bible also contains reports on particularly long-lived individuals such as Methuselah or the ancestral parents .


The philosophical reasoning for immortality (of the soul or the spirit ) goes. a. back to Plato and Aristotle . The main argument is: the spiritual soul cannot die, i. H. destroyed or broken up because it is a simple, non-composite, immaterial substance.

Immanuel Kant , who professed Christianity, formulated his doctrine for a religion of reason in 1793 in his religious-philosophical work “ The religion within the limits of mere reason ” . In it Kant postulates the possibility of the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, which can thus be the object of a rational belief. However, he declined metaphysical evidence for this.

See also

  • Frozen (supposedly invulnerable)
  • Fountain of youth (source of eternal youth or life)
  • Transhumanism (expanding the limits of human possibilities through the use of technological processes)
  • Shiny Lackporling ("mushroom of immortality": Ling-Zhi mushroom)


Web links

Wiktionary: Immortality  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Message: Bacteria Death Reduces Human Hopes of Immortality. In: New Scientist magazine. No. 2485, February 5, 2005 (English; behind a paywall : online at
  2. ^ Scott F. Gilbert: Cheating Death: The Immortal Life Cycle of "Turritopsis". In: Developmental Biology. 8th edition. March 5, 2003 (English; online at ( memento from April 2, 2010 in the Internet Archive )).
  3. ^ Daniel E. Martínez: Mortality patterns suggest lack of senescence in hydra. In: Experimental Gerontology. Volume 33, No. 3, 1998, pp. 217-225 (English; PMID 9615920 ).
  4. Peter Otto: Mushrooms: The breadwinners of our forests. In: Conservation Today. Issue 4, 1996 ( online at ( memento from January 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive )).
  5. Friedrich Heiler : The religions of mankind. Newly edited by Kurt Goldammer . Stuttgart 1982, pp. 125-126.