If Evolution Leads to All of Our Natural Advantages, Then Why not the Advantage of Immortality?
"Religious principles are also a blemish in any polite composition, when they rise up to superstition, and intrude themselves into every sentiment, however remote from any connection with religion"
(The following is adapted from a real debate.)
Creationist: Some of the evidence for evolution may be convincing, but it is not about putting together convincing pieces of evidence. It is about having a theory that works. Evolution does not work. Why not? Quite simply, evolution has produced no creatures that are immortal.
Creationist: Well, evolution is responsible for producing all of our natural advantages, right? It is responsible for the eyebrows that keep sweat and rain out of our eyes as much as it is responsible for the muscles that drive the most powerful whales, right?
Scientist: Of course.
Creationist: Then why hasn't any creature evolved that is immortal?
Scientist: That is not the point of an organism within evolution. The only thing a living being needs to do is reproduce. Once reproduction has taken place, then future generations provide the following generations and so on. Nowhere within evolution is anything like immortality necessary.
Creationist: I understand that. My difficulty is not with whether evolution depends on immortality or not. I just want to know why there is not at least one creature that has evolved with the natural adaptation of living forever.
Punkerslut: Where have we ever seen anything that has lived forever?
Creationist: Well, with the lord, of course, but --
Punkerslut: Isn't that what our debate is about? Whether the universe is the result of naturally-occurring processes or whether we're just figments of the imagination of some universal, all-knowing, all-powerful god? It would be too presumptuous to say that.
Creationist: You are right, it would.
Punkerslut: So, then, to know that a creature or organism has developed immortality, wouldn't that require that the observing creature also be immortal? How can you know if something lives forever, unless you have enough time on your hands to watch it forever?
Punkerslut: How do we know that there aren't some immortal organisms already living on this planet, then? Maybe some microscopic fungus that eats rocks and heat miles and miles below the earth's surface. After all, if you want something that can live forever, then you want something with a little bit of stability. A lion or gazelle in fields of the Savannah is a bad place to look. You'd do much better to look between the cracks.
Creationist: But we don't know for certain that any life forms are immortal!
Punkerslut: Nor could we ever know, as we here all mortal, although you may entertain some ideas about living forever after death. But we all can expect to die with our "earthly bodies," so it will be impossible for any of us even to judge whether any organism is immortal, right?
Creationist: Yes, I do see your point now.
Punkerslut: Doesn't that seem like a misleading question, then? Asking why no immortal creatures have evolved yet is asking a question that nobody can answer, unless they themselves are immortal and have the time to evaluate the immortality of another being. You could just as well ask why no creatures have evolved with the paintings of Pablo Picasso randomly birthmarked across their bodies. We're not painters and we would have no idea, but even if there were a painter who could answer, it would require some fantastic, out-of-this-world knowledge to provide a believable answer.
Creationist: True, very true.
Punkerslut: Immortality, having never been observed, is a great hypothesis for a natural adaptation within the framework of evolution. It is great just for that reason -- it is a hypothesis of something that has never happened. How do we even judge immortality?
Creationist: Okay, okay, you have certain proved your point.
Punkerslut: But wait -- let's just pretend that Evolution did in fact give us a creature that is immortal.
Creationist: I understand what you're saying, you don't have to go any further.
Punkerslut: Trust me, you don't understand what I'm about to say. Now, let us assume that evolution has given birth to a creature that is immortal. This scenario deserves full investigation, doesn't it?
Creationist: It would be unusual.
Punkerslut: How many days does an immortal organism live for?
Creationist: The number would be infinity. There is no end to life, so there is no end to the number of days that such an organism lives for.
Punkerslut: A human being requires 2,000 calories of healthy food a day, plenty of exercise, sunshine, fresh air, and leisure time. If a human being lives a natural lifetime of around 80 years, that's about 1,000 months, or 30,000 days. So, for a completely mortal and limited lifespan of a very limited creature, total existence would require 60,000,000 calories of healthy food. How many calories would an immortal organism require in their lifetime?
Creationist: For an infinite amount of days, no matter how many calories are used per day, a single lifetime would require an infinite amount of calories.
Punkerslut: And are there an infinite number of calories in the universe?
Creationist: That we do not know, but I believe the universe is limited.
Scientist: By observation, the outer edges of the universe have been detected, with the only thing beyond it being lots of empty space.
Punkerslut: So, how could there be an organism that requires an infinite amount of calories to live, when the universe doesn't even have an infinite amount of calories?
Creationist: It's possible that the organism doesn't require any calories at all.
Punkerslut: Now that's stretching it to realm of impossibility. Our very definition of life is that subject in question consumes and uses energy regularly, which we simply measure as calories.
Creationist: So, you have a definition that insulates you against criticism. How convenient.
Punkerslut: There is a reason why this definition was adopted. Any conception of life outside of these confines makes no sense to what we traditionally think of as life. If we remove that limitation, then rocks and mountains are also technically alive, since they don't use energy. And, they may as well be immortal. There -- Evolution has given birth to your immortal creature, and it's a rock. How did you miss it?
Creationist: Well, what if there was a creature that used energy, but created as much energy as it was using?
Punkerslut: That would violate more than a handful of laws of physics. If energy is used, then you cannot use the results to create an even larger quantity of energy -- call it Thermodynamics, Entropy, or whatever scientific phrase you want.
Creationist: Well, what if it turned out that maybe the universe did have an infinite number of calories after all?
Punkerslut: Sure, let's take that into account, as well. The universe has an infinite number of calories, the vast majority of which are nearly infinitely away from the earth, and somehow, an immortal creature on this planet is going to live off of those distant calories. It will harvest those calories millions of light years away like it was plucking apples from a tree. Why not, right?
Punkerslut: Well, I'll tell you why not. Let's say that the creature has an arm that is infinitely long to grab all of these calories. It would take an infinite amount of energy to move this infinitely long arm even by a very small amount. We can actually look at these large magnitude numbers and evaluate different types of "infinite" values against each other, and the infinite energy required to move an infinitely-long arm to obtain a single calorie would be something like infinite to the power of infinite.
Creationist: I didn't think of that.
Punkerslut: So, the immortal creature can't live off of infinite calories because they don't exist, and if they did, it would cost too much energy to obtain all of these calories, and it certainly is not self-sustaining with calories, as then I would simply point to a rock as a perfect example of an immortal life form. Then, there is absolutely no possibility that an immortal creature could ever possibly exist, now is there?
Creationist: I suppose you are right. There is no possible such thing as an immortal creature.
Punkerslut: Did I say immortal creature? I meant to say "god."