Re: "...Death is an evil" (Sappho 630 BC)

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Tue Oct 02 2001 - 07:01:35 MDT

At 11:07 AM 10/2/01 +0200, Amara wrote:

>I saw this piece by
>Sappho (~630 BC)

>Death is an evil;
>we have the gods'
>word for it; they too
>would die if death
>were a good thing

A very sly and enjoyable remark, but then Sappho didn't know about the
forthcoming chosen death of our beloved and divine savior Jesus, or the
death of other prophets (peace be upon them), which show how altogether
acceptable this practice is to the One True God, even unto His Own death
and resurrection (but with a guaranteed proviso like that I wouldn't mind

I was wondering, as a thought experiment (ie I don't expect it to be
literally the case) how people generally would react if it were discovered
that senescence and death are the indirect result of a nearly universal
prion infection.

In the absence of this malign form of a common structural protein, our
maintenance systems would remain highly effective indefinitely, but in most
higher organisms the prion builds up from childhood and after 20 years or
so (like other `slow viruses') has progressively done enough damage to
prevent us from fixing our damaged cells. Evolution worked around this
contingent fact by selecting for other pleitropic characters promoting
heightened early fitness/health even at the cost of later damage, since the
damage will be done anyway by the damnable prion.

If something like this were shown to be true, death literally would be seen
as a disease, akin to kuru. Medical means might be found to block the prion
form and promote benign conformations. What then for the pious? Must we
assume that God has allowed this vile disorder for our own good, or even
cast it upon humankind as a punishment? But if that's so, it must apply as
well to other illnesses, yet even the pious, unless they are very odd, seek
cures for infections and heart conditions, etc. Why not for death?

Damien Broderick

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