Cynthia Kenyon Backs Out

As I noted in an update to a recent post, Cynthia Kenyon backed down from agreeing to review Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) for Technology Review. All within a few days of editor Jason Pontin announcing it too; one has to wonder about the timing and thought processes there. This is, sadly, par for the course; as Aubrey has remarked in the past, one of the hardest parts for him is to get other scientists to debate on the merits of his proposals in public. There is still tremendous stigma attached to anti-aging and healthy life extension in the gerontology community, counterintuitive as that might be. Imagine a cancer research community that did nothing but examine the biochemistry of cancer, that made no effort to seek cures, and indeed actively discouraged attempts to implement therapies - sounds ridiculous, right? Yet that is exactly the state of affairs we are faced with within gerontology. There is no shortage of calls for more funding for aging research, for work to understand the aging process, but only the sound of crickets (and forward-looking folks like Aubrey de Grey) when it comes to working towards rejuvenative therapies for the aging process.

I seem to recall someone suggesting that we place a bounty on a published, peer-reviewed scientific critique of SENS from an A-list life scientist. This is sounding like a better idea as time goes by, but it looks like such a bounty would have to be somewhat larger than whatever the going rate for articles is at the Technology Review...

Another point to consider: so long as Jason Pontin is working towards this goal, he's doing good work for the cause of healthy life extension activism, even though his ultimate intentions are less than helpful and his his views on the nature of science are very wrong:

My objections to de Grey's prescriptions were pseudo-philosphical: I felt de Grey wasn't doing science so much as religion. This feeling sprang from scientific skepticism: no working biogerontologist to whom I spoke thought much of de Grey's theorizing. All noted that he had never worked a "bench"--that is, he performs no experiments.

By this standard, my years in theoretical astrophysics count for nothing - and half the scientists in the world are doing pretty much nothing as well. It's just plain wrong to equate non-lab work with non-science.