Mike Treder has been blogging at the Emerging Technologies conference. Today he caught the breakout session on anti-aging research, in which the speakers were representative of the pro-longevity mainstream in gerontology and associated aging research. This is to say that they believe there is some small progress that can be made by manipulating genes and metabolism, they might be proponents of compression of morbidity over life extension, and reject out of hand any idea that faster progress is possible. From Treder's post:
In audience Q&A, Perls just called Aubrey de Grey a "goofball." Guarente says maximum lifespan (100-110 years) in humans probably will never increase, but the average will grow.
The best response to any number of comments like that is to (a) prove yourself right, and (b) get the job done more effectively. That process is getting underway at the Methuselah Foundation. To my mind, the worse thing you can do is to take the naysayers seriously. That way lies self-fulfilling prophecies; if you don't try, those who said it will never happen will certainly be right. Aubrey de Grey makes a good case for the better research path to extended healthy life spans; as more funding comes in, that case will just keep getting better.
Looking back at some thoughts on future conflict in anti-aging and longevity research, I see this sort of behavior as a good example of the way in which moderates or conservatives in a field feel they have to defend their legitimacy from potentially better, eclipsing solutions. It's just human nature, and we should take it as a good sign - the feeling of long-term funding being threatened by the advent of a new and more effective paradigm.