More Dr. Weil and the Lie Down and Die School of Thought

I've talked about Dr. Weil's current advertising blitz and his aging apologism fairly recently. The topic seems worthy of more discussion, in light of position statements like this:

Weil calls anti-aging advocates "false prophets who are putting out a message that aging is reversible or that we can stop it."

"I think those are very wrong ideas," he says during a recent interview at his Vail ranch, about 30 miles southeast of Tucson. "Aging is a universal natural process, and I think if you set yourself up in opposition to it, you're in a very wrong relationship with nature."

Anthrax is completely natural too, but I'm sure Dr. Weil isn't so accepting of that - or maybe he would be if modern science didn't have it under control. Living in caves and dying at age twenty due to parasites and disease is also absolutely the natural human condition - everything from shaped sticks and controlled fire onwards is not. Arguments to nature are a very bad way to support any point of view in this modern age, and especially points of view that advocate the avoidable suffering and death of billions of people over the course of future decades.

We cannot presently make major inroads in the fight against age-related degeneration; there is no such thing as a proven therapy prevent or repair age-related damage and thus extend healthy life span by decades. Yet. (Although it is certainly the case that you can make decades of difference one way or another to your eventual life span through choice of life style and preventative health strategies). Dr. Weil is in a position in which it benefits his bottom line to claim that anti-aging medicine is impossible, since his business is competing with the reputable and less reputable arms of the anti-aging industry. However, he also benefits from completely ignoring or disparaging the growing scientific consensus that aging is reversible and can be defeated in the future - he's selling to customers in the here and now and certainly wouldn't thrive if they all donated that same money to real healthy life extension research or the Mprize for anti-aging research.

So don't listen to the Dr. Weils of the world. They may be well-meaning, but they're still trying to get you to give up, lie down and die rather than seize the endless possibilities offered by the future of healthy life extension medicine.

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There's a hardly a species on this planet that simply accepts "nature" as it finds it, since "nature" is really just "All the creatures that are competing for resources that aren't YOU, and the physical forces that act on them." Even besides the conscious tool-users like dolphins, apes, and birds, even trees and mollusks use their chemical attributes to create favorable conditions for themselves and their offspring.

So the good doctor lives in Vail, eh? He should try skiing without skis, or a coat. All those unnatural fibers are "in opposition to nature."

Posted by: Brock at October 28th, 2005 6:44 AM

Good post. I fear that getting the right science is only half the battle, the other half is the massive resisitance that the idea of anti-aging will get.

The concept 'natural' is a tricky one. You could accept the implicit definition used by Dr. Weil but hold that the natural isn't the same as the good (as you in fact do in the post). But it is also possible to reject that definition of natural, and instead hold that it is natural for man to use his mind to make nature adapt to him, rather the the other way around. With that definition, things such as fire, factories, computers, and anti-aging science, is as natural to man as flying is to birds.

And this isn't just some definition that is made up to answer Dr. Weils argument, but in fact a definition that identifies an essential fact about man. It IS natural for us to apply our minds to make our life better. Reason is our means of survival.

Posted by: ND at October 28th, 2005 6:45 AM

Great post. There will always be some luddites out there among us, and Dr. Weil is proving himself to be just that in the anti-aging arena. Of course at this point most people are, that is the big obsticle that has to be overcome.

Posted by: David Canning at October 29th, 2005 1:31 PM
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