"Fringe Enthusiast" - I Think Not

I have to admit, I find it very annoying to see otherwise sensible people throwing around terms like "nut" and "fringe enthusiast" on the basis of the briefest aquaintance with facts and background to describe biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey. The man is a scientist. He works in science. He writes papers, organizes conferences, chairs a journal, is an advisor to any number of scientific organizations. If his chosen field - a small, neglected, underfunded field repleat with situational oddities and personality clashes - happened to be anything other than rejuvenation and anti-aging research, you most certainly wouldn't be seeing any of this nonsense. Does the small community of biologists who spend their time scraping together conferences and funding for the study of rare frogs in obscure parts of the world get this much disrespect?

Bah.

I really find it hard to believe that my modest acquaintance with the inside of the scientific sausage-making process renders me somehow privileged when it comes to understanding the way in which these things work. It's not rocket science! The slow fight over the introduction of a new paradigm is just human nature; one of the hardest aspects of working within the scientific community is getting the old guard to debate your new ideas in public. I experienced that in person in a completely different field, but is this concept really so hard to understand?

Comments

For every work you do, there will be critiscms.
In whatever we do, there will be people who likes it, and there will be people who dislike it.

Critics are normal, they should make us stronger, to prove that they have been wrong all the time.
Whatever the case is, Aubrey has my support and what he's doing is a very noble thing. Do not be discouraged by people who doesnt appreciate it. There are still a lot of people like us who understands and support what he's doing.

Posted by: brenda at May 31st, 2005 2:00 AM

From Leonardo da Vinci to Albert Einstein, from the Wright Brothers to John Logie Baird, from Thomas Edison to Alexander Graham Bell, from Galileo to Nikola Tesla, every great scientist/thinker/inventor/theorist throughout history has had their fair deal of criticism and skepticism from the prevailing establishment. Aubrey de Grey is certainly no exception.

Posted by: Andrew at May 31st, 2005 5:38 AM

Reason:

Looking at Andrew's list above, I see that none of those individuals were obsure - none were working on cataloging that rare frog you mentioned.

It is the scientist, engineers, inventors, and thinkers that work in important and civilization changing fields that are most likely to be labeled crackpots.

I think this is because it takes a certain amount of imagination to contemplate a world where the fundamentals have changed. Not everyone is capable of doing this.

Posted by: Stephen Gordon at May 31st, 2005 8:19 AM

While of course alluding to my infamous Techology Review cover, my point was: conventional biogerontologists think that de Grey is "nuts." My point was: well, if he is, tell me why he is --criticize the science. TR could be a platform for such a critique. But so far, no takers about molecular biologists who study aging.

Posted by: Jason Pontin at May 31st, 2005 9:58 AM

There seem to be several scientists who hold Aubrey de Grey in high regard. It seems that those scientists would be in the best position to review SENS ? at least the portion of SENS that they are testing. Microbial geneticist John Archer also of Cambridge University seems to think that Aubrey is worth listening to (http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/iabg10/ppts/Archer.mp3). If you think that scientists shun him all you have to do is listen in on some SENS roundtable discussions and conferences to tell otherwise. So if he is a crack pot many of his colleagues think that he is a particularly bright crack pot ? worth getting cozy with. Indeed, I think that we ignore Aubrey de Grey?s ideas at our own peril. If there are holes in de Grey?s theories we need to find them and work on ways to fix them - and please do so in a public way. Hiding from the public in fear of retribution does nothing for the cause.

Posted by: Awake at May 31st, 2005 10:16 AM

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