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The Contender
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Biologically Immortal Humans

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/8/2012 Category: Science
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,590 times Debate No: 26069
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
Votes (1)




Humans can genetically engineer ourselves to become biologically immortal. First round for acceptance


I accept.
I will be advancing the claims that:
a) It is not possible for humans to be biologically immortal
b) If it were to be possible, it is immoral and should not happen
c) If it does happen we are obliged to intervene.

I'm not too sure what my opponent wishes to debate about to be honest, but I would like to do this debate anyhow, it is too interesting to turn down.

Biological: of or relating to biology or to life and living processes[1]
Immortal: exempt from death [2]

Good luck to my opponent, BoP is shared as it stands, I await to see your case.

Debate Round No. 1


There are immortalized cell lines. Most of them are cancerous cells, such as the HeLa cells which has an active version of telomerase. This prevents the shortening of the telomere, which protects the ends of the chromosome. If such results can be reproduced on a normal cell without the tumorous side-effects, we then would be able to create biologically immortal humans.
There is nothing immoral with being immortal. In the case where it is considered immoral, depending on the reason given, can always be shown to be immaterial. Perhaps the reason for doing so would be overpopulation. Would not this provide a very great motivation to colonize other planets? Yes, certainly, there would be fighting, but there is already fighting, and there will be as long as there are humans.
If there is nothing immoral with this, we should not intervene. In a disruptive way, at least.


Ok, I would normally trounce my opponent for stating an entire argument in a scientific debate without stating a single source, but I know what he says to be true, even though they support my arguments.

To make things easier for everyone, my rebuttals will be thematic, not by sentences, and they will also be my contentions.
a) Immortality is impossible
b) Immortality is immoral
c) Immortality works against the betterment of human civilisation

In simple English, what my opponent is saying in the first paragraph is that the ribonucloidprotein telomerase can be used to stop aging. look at this video if you do not know how DNA reproduction works:

What he proposes, is that we use telomerase to lengthen the lagging strand and replace its DNA, so a cell will have the ability to reproduce without losing length. My rebuttal for his notion that this is a way to be immortal will also be my first contention:

1: It won’t make you immortal.
My opponent has agreed to the definition of immortal that we will use for the course of this debate by not disagreeing with it. The definition states: ' exempt from death.' Using the ribonucloidprotein, aside from being illegal, the user will still not be exempt from death. Furthermore, although telomerase will ensure a near perfect replication of a cell that will allow it to go past its Hayflick limit, [1] nothing else is will be able to continue living without degrading. DNA has multiple systems that are required to work in order for its survival. There are systems that correct faulty DNA, systems that replace broken DNA and everything else required for the DNA to work. But there is nothing to see to the maintenance of the maintenance systems. So over time, they will eventually die. Then the DNA will be subject to decay. The only exception to this is the Turritopsis nutricula, [2] otherwise known as the immortal jellyfish. This jellyfish attains biological immortality by growing younger when it gets old. This won't work in humans though.
1.1: Immortality is achieved by removing apoptosis altogether, non-cells don't die, they degrade. The main problem faced by people who want biological immortality is not that we can't defeat apoptosis in cells -we can- but that we cannot negate apoptosis in non-cellular members of the body. Apoptosis is where a cell commits suicide [3] because it is either suffering from too much damage outside the cells, or flaws inside it. The integration of telomerase into cells will cease their ability to commit suicide against internal flaws from frayed DNA.
1.1.1: The cell will still kill itself due to exterior damage, which means it cannot fit the agreed upon definition of immortal.

1.1.2: Other things inside the cell will cause it to die aside from imperfect replications of itself, refer to argument 1.0.
1.1: So while the cell will not die from suicide, that only leaves a large fraction of the body in the safe zone. All of our senses will degrade, all our joints and bones will degrade, the protective lining of our stomach will degrade etc... This will result in death. I will not accept robotic replacements as a rebuttal due to the fact that:
a) It involves a completely new debate
b) It defeats the purpose of biological immortality
c) This debate is about humans, not robot humans.
1.2: Experiments are immoral; we cannot indefinitely say what will happen to humans if we activated this riobonucloidprotein in them while they are still a foetus. In this debate, we will assume that the laws of the UN are the base view/belief, and since it is outlawed there, it is also to be considered wrong by both parties of this debate, for sake of staying on topic. So since an experiment on a human to allow this is immoral, my claim that immortality is immoral is affirmed here. For the sake of argument, I will propose why experiments on human babies are immoral.
>Human babies cannot disagree to be tested on, and if they survive, any negative or unwanted effects of the experiment are forced unto them, which is a violation of the human’s basic rights.
1.3: Cancer will be a problem, the main difference between a normal cell and a cancerous cell is that telomerase is active. Another argument in my favour is that these cancerous cells are an example of cell mortality. Cancer cells eventually die even though they have the ability to reproduce perfectly, the bottom line is that these cells are mortal and do not fit the definition of immortal.
1.4: It is not possible with modern-day technology, so my opponent’s claim that we can make humans immortal is wrong. We cannot definitively know that we will one day be able to either, it seems possible, but we cannot know, so any claim that my opponent makes that sounds like: 'It will be possible one day,' will be invalid.

2: Immortality is immoral
Assuming that immortality was possible, the natural human characteristics of greed will show itself in all its colours in a human who cannot be killed. There is no such thing as a perfect human; making humans immortal will always have bigger risk for the reward. In my next contention I will demonstrate why this 'reward' is non-existent. So in essence, immortality seeks to cause an elite class of humans that are above all else. One might as well argue that they are not humans, they definitely are not regular humans and they are very different to other normal races of humans. The only way for it to be moral is if we make everyone immortal, in which case some humans would try to be normal whereas many others would wreak havoc on the world.

3: Immortality would work against the betterment of human civilisation.
We can enjoy being alive due to the fact that others are dead. This world simply cannot sustain a constant growth of human population. According to the Population Reference Bureau's "2010 World Population Data Sheet" (28-Jul-2010), per year: 140.4 million are born, 56.7 million die, (net increase 83.6 million) there is too much life, not enough death. Now if we stopped 56.7 million people from dying, then there would be 197.1 million people contributing to humanities reproducing flood each year. Even as it is we are having trouble sustaining the world, in fact, we fail to adequately sustain 2/7ths of the world. Such a huge flood of people would make life impossible on earth. The only way to survive is to improve technology and infrastructure. But that takes centuries, millennia’s even, by that time; all the immortal humans would have starved to death along with the normal ones (if there are any left).

Concluding, there is no viable way we have to make ourselves immortal, there is always a way to kill a human, there is no way to immortalise a human morally, and do so without ruining earth. Vote Con.


Debate Round No. 2


I will use the same format in my closing arguments as my opponent, seeing that it will not confuse things.

1. My opponent argues that there is nothing to maintain the maintenance system. It is obvious that the maintenance system is self-maintaining [1][2]. The system is physical [3], in that any degradation is the result of physics. My opponent has mixed up his references 1 and 2. That is forgivable. What my opponent fails to state is how this genetic feature can be adapted into humans won"t work. After all, jellyfish luminance has been transferred to mice and can theoretically be transferred to humans. [4]
1.1 What my opponent fails to state is that if apoptosis is removed, then cells would not die even though they degrade to an extent that would normally require death. After all, even if we are just a bag of cells that is living but highly degraded, we would still not be dead, although life in such a state would be meaningless. I see no references to "non-cellular" portions of the body. The body"s building block is the cell.
To removing apoptosis altogether. This would not be required. If a cell multiplies sufficiently, then some cells would be allowed to die, but the whole organism would still live [5].
1.1.1 My opponent has created a straw man in that he has disallowed the death of cells within the human body. This is not what my debate is about. My debate is about the death of the organism, so this point fails.
1.1.2 Refer to reference 5 and supporting argument.
1.1 My opponent has created a factual inconsistency. He states, "So while the cell will not die from suicide, that only leaves a large fraction of the body in the safe zone. All of our senses will degrade, all our joints and bones will degrade, the protective lining of our stomach will degrade etc..." All the items listed are made from cells [6].
1.2 I said nothing about experimenting on human babies. This is because genetic changes can be made in adult mammals [7], theoretically including humans.
1.3 The strawman as described in 1.1.1 is used again.
1.4 My opponent"s arguments fail here [8]. As shown in reference 7, changes to the genome can be made. Just because we don"t have the information does not mean we don"t have the technology.

2. I have already stated that humans would fight. They have been doing it, is doing it, and will be doing it even if they are not immortal. My opponent"s main objection thus fails.

3. I have already stated my reasons for this. Humans would be pushed to colonize other planets, which is not immoral. Furthermore, my opponent"s contention that life would starve because technology would not keep up with the pace of human growth is false in the light of the technological revolution. When there"s a need, there"s a driving force for innovation. Thus, it need not take centuries.

Thanks for the interesting debate.

Vote Pro

3. Leggett, G.J., Brewer, N.J and Chong, K.S.L., Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 7:1107"1120, 2005.


Before I begin my rebuttals, I would like to point out that my opponent did not adhere to the agreed upon definition of immortality: exempt from death. He has attempted to prove that we can and we must make our cells ageless, without attempting to correct the definition in either round. He has provided no reason at all why:
a) Immortality is achievable
b) Immortality is reasonable

Although my opponent has presented no clear arguments, his attempt to address everything I said indicates that I may have managed to address all his points in arguments 1,2 and 3 of my last post. I will be defending my arguments and rebuttals now.
My rebuttals/Defence will address the following points:
1) DNA cannot be perfect.
2) Assuming we could be immortal it would be immoral.
3) Assuming we made all humans immortal, life would perish.

1: DNA will eventually degrade no matter what.
The existence of Telomerase merely fixes one of the issues. When DNA is reproduced, there are flaws along the sequence every now and then, most of the time, repair enzymes identify these mismatched base pairs and fix them. However, nothing is perfect and every now and then a faulty pair is let through. When the DNA is reproduced again this flaw is transferred to the daughter strain and eventually builds into a mutation. [1] The cell may be able to live longer due to the Telomerase, but it will still die. A far cry from my opponent’s claim of immortality.
Now, I would like to examine a very curious statement from my opponent that undermines all his arguments: "It is obvious that the maintenance system is self-maintaining." No, the system cannot maintain itself, photolyase for example requires the cell to die before it can regain its electron, and there are more flaws than enzymes, which is why skin cancer is becoming an increasingly tragic problem. "The system is physical, in that any degradation is the result of physics." This is a concession by my opponent. He has admitted that natural wear and strain degrades the cellular system to death.
In the last part of my case, my opponent attacks me for failing to take his burden of proof. "What my opponent fails to state is how this genetic feature can be adapted into humans won’t work." BoP is on Pro to show how it is possible. Complete phoenix-like rebirth is something not physically possible in mammals. The Turritopsis nutricula grows from birth to full maturity to birth again; the mechanisms involved cannot be applied to anything other than this jellyfish.
1.1 Removal of the ability of apoptosis leads to severe mutation and malfunction of cellular systems.
Apoptosis is a safety measure employed by cells to ensure the well-being of the body as a whole. When a cell has been damage or degraded to a dangerous level, it kills itself and engulfs itself in materials to identify it to the body as a waste product. [2] Bcl-2 can be used in prevention of apoptosis to block cytochrome c release from mitochondria. [3] If the cell is allowed to live on in its damage state however, it becomes cancerous, and kills the host body. If Apoptosis is not removed however, the cell will die due to DNA flaws anyways.
1.1.1 Degradation of the cells leads to overall destruction of the organism.
Let's grant my opponent his wish and say that time freezes when a cell is at the bare minimum order required for life (no matter how absurd) The cell will still work, but the body will not be able to function in a way appropriate to survive. The person will just be able to breathe shallowly and do nothing else. After a while, the muscle fibres will simply just tear themselves apart and the body will appear to fall to bits slowly.
1.1.2 My opponent here provides a reference in rebuttal to my point and practically says: Here, this website refutes your argument. The actual argument connected to his source has already been refuted and I do not like it when people say that a source refutes me.
1.1 Bones are not made of cells. [1] They are made by cells, and then the template is filled with calcium and phosphorous.
1.2 Activating telomerase in every cell of an adult human is unconscionable. It needs to be done on babies, which is immoral as I argued before.
1.3 I did not make a straw man; I made a valid argument which my opponent failed to refute. How can I make a straw man if I don't know my opponents arguments? Straw men are grossly simplified misrepresentations of an argument. I didn't do that. This argument stands
1.4 we have never experimented like this on a human ever before, Pro cannot say that we know what we are doing. We don't.

Summary of argument 1:
When cells have degraded sufficiently, they die. If you stop them from being able to die, they turn cancerous, to stop them from turning cancerous you must nullify or remove the cell's Telomerase, which will cause its DNA to fray, then die. This is classic paper, scissors, rock. You cannot immortalise a cell.

2: Creating reasons to fight are immoral
my opponent concedes that war is inevitable under his scheme, but justifies it by saying wars happen anyways. My contention is that wars are caused, and are not spontaneous. So it follows that if we take out the reasons why people could fight, then there would be no more fighting. Likewise, if we take out this major temptation for WW3, it may never happen, or will be delayed. It is pure rubbish to claim that we might as well go ahead with war since its inevitable anyways. My opponent's reasoning disagrees with his next argument, I will address it soon. Wars only occur due to a specific reason, and my opponent concedes that it is morally ok to provide a reason to go to war. I do not see how this is moral. My opponent did not do much to refute my reasoning; he just says that since it will happen anyways, we might as well fight now. This is the same as saying: Since Earth will die one day; we might as well kill it now. A completely morally horrific argument that cannot be called moral at all.

3: The world cannot support immortal humans
my opponent attempts to refute this with a single point: We will be pushed to colonise other planets. There are a few reasons why this won't work:
a) we don't have enough resources to send millions into space.
b) We don't have enough technology to start a colony off earth.
But what we can do is NOT allow people to be immortal. Even though immortality is impossible.

My opponent's arguments have these main flaws:
1) Telomerase will allow the cell to replicate without losing DNA, but the DNA will continue to degrade (the cause of aging) and eventually lead to apoptosis (Cellular suicide).
2) He has conceded that degrading will occur due to the results of physics "any degradation is the result of physics." So cells cannot be immortal if they are ruined by the environment.
3) Biological immortality cannot be achieved when many parts of the body is not made of cells. These parts, like the bones, will eventually cease to function at a strength appropriate to support the human
4) Biological immortality requires currently established scientific laws to be wrong, 3rd law of thermodynamics: Entropy must increase. [4]
5) my opponent failed to justify points 2 and 3.

Concluding: The ribonucloidprotein Telomerase will enable a cell to replicate with DNA a constant length, but cannot stop it degrading to apoptosis. Everything else in the body will degrade as well regardless. Activation of Telomerase or negation of Apoptosis will not stop a cell from dying.
My opponent’s arguments have been thoroughly refuted and disproven. He has given no reason to believe that humans can be immortal; his BoP has not been touched by him. This debate concludes in my favour. Thankyou Pro for a very interesting discussion.



Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Smithereens 5 years ago
i c wut u mean.
Posted by Muted 5 years ago
I don't mind him voting, in fact, I welcom him voting. However, I don't like this being decided by just one vote.
Posted by Smithereens 5 years ago
the guy who decided just so happens to be one of DDO's best and brightest. Any other vote is likely to be inferior to his.
Posted by Muted 5 years ago
I do not believe this should be decided by one vote!
Posted by Smithereens 5 years ago
This debate has convinced me to stop pursuing psychology and focus more on biology.
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
Interesting debate. It brings up the DDO average.
Posted by Muted 5 years ago
Well, when my aspirations is to become a geneticist, I generally would not like to be backward in that.
Posted by Muted 5 years ago
Sure, that would be great! I am not in a particular hurry myself.
Posted by Smithereens 5 years ago
also you seem to know a lot about DNA for a 16 year old. I would have done biology too, but I wanted chemistry :\
Posted by Smithereens 5 years ago
I'll post my argument tomorrow if that's fine with u. As much as I would like to rush, I cant afford to miss something.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by socialpinko 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Con's second contention was irrelevant to the resolution. Pro's only contention was that biological immortality in humans was something that could be attained. The third contention was also irrelevant considering that Pro was not arguing that humans could live forever per se, but that the natural cause of death could be stopped. Con did however win on that point. Apopsis won it for him. It's basically an either/or. Either the cell dies naturally or becomes cancerous and then goes on to die.