Why we die

Science and religion both offer origin stories of death.

It is tempting to set up religion against science in any discussion of life, death, and purpose. But religion and science are different kinds of things and one can find spiritual truths in both of them. Why we die is a question for which both offer an answer.

We think we die because God plays hide-and-seek with himself. But we never die, we just fall back into the wave of God.

But religions don’t really need to explain the details of life and death. Religions don’t have to explain why sunsets are so absorbing. They don’t have to explain why blue light refracts more than red light, thus making the sunset red. We can accept physical laws as God’s preference if we like. The practicalities of our material experience obey their own laws and they lie where religions leave off.

First of all, in one very real sense, it tells us we do not die.

Even more beautifully, because all of life shares a common set of cellular mechanisms, many people believe that we share a common ancestry with all of life, including bacteria, weeds, meerkats and blue whales. Together, we are all one immortal life only divided from one another like a mother from her child.

You are ancient and everywhere.

The cells I am referring to are called germ cells because they are capable of giving rise to individuals and they are different from the cells in the bodies of those individuals, which are called somatic cells, or soma. In most organisms, the germ cells are synonymous with eggs and sperm. But some cells that make up the bodies of individual organisms are immortal as well. Hydra is a multi-cellular water-dwelling organism that can regenerate its entire body from any portion of its cells. As far as we can tell, a Hydra never dies from old age.

Source: Hydra: Wikipedia commons
Source: Henrietta Lacks: OSU

In a nutshell, our investigations into the natural world show that the life spans of organisms are calibrated to keep their germ cells alive and well.

The mortality of our somatic bodies is the bargaining chip life uses to accomplish that.

Evolving author of “Does my algorithm have a mental health problem?”, “Why do we die?” and “The dark side of information proliferation.”

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