Thoughts on Aging Apologism

There are plenty of apologists for aging out there, sad to say:

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."

And so forth. I have long been greatly puzzled by medical professionals who devote themselves to preserving human health and life under all other circumstances but preach that we should not do anything about aging - the root cause of the greatest ongoing toll of suffering and loss of life. Nothing else even comes close, yet all too many people close their eyes to the possibilities offered by medical science when it comes to addressing the biochemical and cellular damage that is aging.

On this topic, I notice that one of the few vocal pro-longevity bioethicists is working his way through a discussion of attitudes to longevity science at the moment:

most rational people [think] we should strive to reduce the deaths caused by poverty, malaria, HIV, cancer, car accidents, smoking, war, etc ... how many people think it is desirable to try to prevent disease and death by retarding human aging? Well, that changes everything!! Now the apologists come out in full force. People who agreed with me so far will all of a sudden do an about face and raise objections to the goal of keeping people healthy and alive. "That is unnatural!" they might say. Or they worry "This will cause overpopulation!" or "There will be massive unemployment!" etc., etc ...

There is almost no end to the reasons people will give to justify why the current rate of aging, and its ever growing disease burden, is actually a good (rather than bad) thing!

...

Dawkins has a great line that we are all atheists about most of the gods humans have believed in (thor, zeus, etc.)... some of us just go one god further. Likewise, we are all "pro-longevity" for most things that kill humans (war, cancer, poverty), champions of aging research just go one step further by acknowledging that aging itself is a big problem we should strive to mitigate.

...

Having said that, I can also appreciate why it is hard for so many people to abandon their "pro-aging" or "pro-magic" belief system. Indeed, I myself used to hold those beliefs and it has been a long and sometimes difficult journey to go from the beliefs I once held as a young adult to those I have today. Giving up these beliefs requires a major re-orientation of one's perception of the world, something few people are keen to undertake. Indeed, I would describe my own transformation as one that involved a good deal of cognitive dissonance

Comments

The "it's unnatural" comment takes the cake for me. I mean, flying through the air at 40,000 ft at 600 miles an hour in a metal tube in unnatural, but most people seem to go for that.

Posted by: kurt9 at February 17th, 2009 10:32 PM

OT: I thought you would find this interesting:

http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/22196/page1/

It indirectly supports one of the pillars of Aubrey de Grey's approach; by removing damaged proteins, the naked mole rat lives 10 times longer than its relatives.

Posted by: ShrinkWrapped at February 18th, 2009 10:35 AM

many atheists accept inevitability of aging and death

However, it seems to me that if one uses logic to come the the conclusion that there is no god and this earthly life is the only life we can have,

by the same logic must come to the conclusion that based on instinct of self-preservation, that this earthly life should be extended as much as science and technology allows.

life extension is very logical!

Posted by: nikki at February 18th, 2009 1:11 PM

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