SENS: Just Like the Rest of Science, But Not

The scientific method and the community of science that surrounds it is truly a powerful machine - able to take the worst aspects of human nature, sailing atop a river of garbage specked with half-wrong answers, and spin that mix into the gold of technology. It doesn't matter what your right to wrong to nonsense ratio is when it comes to deciphering the world; so long as you have the will to progress and your sifting mechanism is good enough, accumulating a whole pile of right is just a matter of time.

The front line of science is a messy place; a mostly wrong messy place, as any of us who have spent time there know. A recent study claimed massive error rates across all scientific papers - which is not a surprise to scientists. The closer to the edge of knowledge you come, the more wrong you'll find - a great frothing sea of wrong, enthusiastically generated by scientists in search of nuggets of right. It's all part of the process, and you have to step back from the details in order to see where the process is taking you. In any complex field, and biotechnology and medicine are about as complex is it gets outside astrophysics, validating truth takes time. Scratch any unanswered question and it'll bleed papers and reviews, a dozen for any given position on the topic.

So the odds are good that much of the present science of the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) - a mix of science, ethics and purpose aimed at advancing the development of real, working anti-aging therapies capable of repairing age-related damage and thus rejuvenating the frail and greatly extending healthy life spans - is flawed or wrong in many ways, just like the rest of modern biotechnology. No-one, least of all biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, is standing up to claim absolute truth - we're up there in the frothing sea of wrong, driven by purpose and the will to progress, as you'll recall. (Claims of absolute truth are a strong sign that you are dealing with a crank; crankery is the anti-science, the ungoverned impulse to sole certainty, the production of claims without verification or against verification). SENS science, like all frontline science, is the best foot forward, built on foundations that will be proven to be wrong, composed of details that will be shown to be mistaken, and provides plenty of point-by-point grist for scientists to argue about now, as even a cursory visit to the Immortality Institute SENS forum will demonstrate.

None of this is any different from any other upper branch of science. People thrive in it. It gets things done, it makes progress, it produces truth, knowledge, technology and better, longer lives - but only if the will is there. You see, there are differences between branches of science and facets of the scientific community, and those differences lie in what they see in themselves, in their own science. Do they have purpose? Are they looking to a specific future, with specific aims? The reason I see SENS as suitable vehicle to champion within the scientific community is not exemplary science; SENS is good science, but good science is going on all over the place. Rather, it is the surrounding package of ethics and goals, the deliberate statement of radical life extension and the defeat of age-related disease and degeneration as a worthy thing for scientists to attain. This is what differentiates SENS and those scientists who support it. The science will evolve, just as all good science evolves. Researchers learn new things, discard what doesn't work, filter out the right from all the wrong. It's the framework of will and goals that guides the work that matters, that carries the work forward. Gerontologists could work towards understand aging or they can attempt to cure aging - that's a big difference, and it's all in the framework.

So support SENS and associated initiatives such as the MPrize for anti-aging research - it'll make a big difference to your future, to all of our futures. Let's put the best foot forward when it comes to making our healthy lives far, far longer!

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