It would appear that Darwin never wrote on the subject of old age. Whether he did or not, I am about to dare to do so. Cicero, in “De Senectute” (“On Old Age”) did (it was one of the texts for the L.C. in 1952), so “cur non ego ?”, why, oh why, can’t I ?
I am four score and two, and not at all sure that I’ll make it to one hundred. My Dad hit eighty-four, Mum only seventy-six. But my grandchildren have a 50/50 chance of becoming one-hundred-year-olds. The demographic, social and economic implications of this are enormous. They will be their and their children’s problems, not mine.
The Bible (Gen. 5:27) tells us of Methuselah, who lived for almost one thousand years (969, to be precise). Exegetes suggest that he did in fact have a long life, even if, at the time the story was written, a year seems to have meant twenty-nine days. A respectable score anyhow. The point is, does God have anything to do with our span of life or current generations’ increase in longevity ? For atheists the answer is obvious. But what sense do believers make of this ? Some of them presumably think that God, in His goodness, has allowed, intended, that people live longer now than in the recent past. But give or take fifty, even a hundred, years, what difference does it really make in terms of God’s presumed intention ? The question will always remain, why we were born, and above all, why we are condemned to die. “Condemned” is the right word, if you take the Bible at face-value. For rationalists and Darwinians, it’s a question, as we have already suggested, of space and resources.
Death is inevitable, old age and its extension perhaps a mixed blessing. It will remain the ultimate mystery of the accident which is life.