"This baby will live to be 120," proclaimed the cute yet provocative cover of National Geographic's May issue. Good news for the baby—but bad news for society, according to most white evangelicals.
Most agree that medical innovations that extend human life are a good thing. But a much smaller number percentage think that "radical life extension" would be as positive, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.
Only slightly more than a third of white evangelical Protestants (34%) say that procedures allowing humans to live for 120 years or longer would ultimately benefit society. Compare that to the 61 percent who think that "medical advances that prolong life are generally good" and the 50 percent who said that "medical treatments these days are worth the costs."
Black Protestants, meanwhile, support the prospect of extending life to near-biblical lengths in higher numbers than any other religious affiliation. Pew found that 54 percent of black Protestants approve of radical life extension, compared to 44 percent of Hispanic Catholics, 43 percent of the religiously unaffiliated, 41 percent of white mainline Protestants, and 31 percent of white Catholics.
And surprisingly, those who believe in life after death are more in favor of delaying the afterlife as long as possible than those who don't believe in life after death—by a 43-percent to 37-percent margin. (CT previously noted debate over research showing that religious cancer patients were more likely to seek invasive treatments that prolonged life.)
By contrast, white evangelicals who attend worship services weekly are half as likely to want treatments to live decades longer as those who attend services less often (22% vs. 40%).
As for evangelicals who would personally want to live much longer, aside from the larger benefits to society? Only 1 out of 4 said they would take advantage of such medical advances if available.
Pew also tapped religious groups for statements on the ethics of life extension.