is death inevitable?

from: gora 04-16-69

Q: In your book "An Atheist with Gandhi" you were quoted to have said "death is not inevitable." How is it possible?

A: Death is not the universal condition of all living beings. There are many animalcules which have no natural death. When their body grows to a certain size, the whole body divides into two. Each part grows again. When it attains the adult size, it divides in its turn into two again. Thus no part of the body dies. The malarial parasite and amoeba (some of which cause amoebic dysentery) are examples of animalcules which have no natural death. They can however be killed by some chemicals. In fact medicines are drugs which kill these germs to cure the diseases caused by them, like malaria and dysentery. Big trees also need not die. They can continually put forth new buds which grow into fresh leaves and branches while the old ones drop off. So the tree, as a whole, can go on living perennially. Yet what happens is, when a tree becomes very old, the tubes of conduction get clogged and water from the soil cannot reach the branches at the top. So, in the long run, the tree dies out of starvation. Grasses, however, live longer because they spread on the ground and strike roots at many places. Though some old branches of a grass plant may die, the plant as a whole may live indefinitely unless it is dug out and uprooted. Similarly, in the human body, the sex elements called the egg and the sperm have no natural death. The sperm of the father and the egg of the mother continue to live in the children and so on in the progeny. Of course the continuity of the sperm or of the egg is broken, when a parent dies childless. Yet it is noteworthy that the sperm and the egg have no natural death. What we call death occurs only to the part of the body other than eggs and sperms. By advancement in medical science, we are already controlling and preventing diseases. So the expectation of life is going up and the world population is increasing rapidly. It is also possible through medical research to prevent the organs of the body from wearing out, by suitable care, nourishment and treatment. The experiments of transplantation of heart and kidney are already in progress. These experiments enable the replacement of the old organs of the body by younger and better ones, just as the worn out parts of a machine can be replaced and the efficiency of the machine can be maintained longer. Side by side with experiments of transplantation of organs researches are going on into the nature of enzymes which play a vital role in carrying out the functions of the body. Enzymes are substances of complex chemical composition and varied in their nature. When these researches make a headway, it is possible to prevent the organs of the body from getting old and deteriorating. Then the body can go on without aging and possibly without death. A body which is mauled by accident may be lost beyond recovery, but we can reasonably hope that prevention of old age and death will be possible for medical science and biochemical research. It is regrettable that instead of directing their interests, talent and resources in the direction of controlling death and disease, the scientists are bowing down to politicians whose main interest is warfare. We already see how the atomic energy is being used for making bombs instead of using it wholly for human welfare. Unless a moral turn is given to politics and technology, misuse of scientific knowledge will be the tragedy of civilisation. When ethics temper politics, we can look for the day when death will not be inevitable.



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