A Look at 55 Theses

I think it is a pity that most researchers don't in fact write a book or two outlining their view of science, the world, and progress at some point in their career. Scientific papers are a narrow and entirely insufficient window into a larger worldview, and many scientists have very broad and ambitious visions for the future of their field and the resulting technology. Michael Rose is one such scientist, and has written a few books along the way, of which I recommend the Long Tomorrow for an introduction to his view of aging and necessary strategic directions in the development of longevity science.

My attention was recently drawn to a site called 55 Theses that goes a step further and assembles Rose's ideas in an online series of posts, videos, and small essays - and then asks "knowing this, what can we do to make a difference in our own health and longevity?"

These theses are intended to supply a re-visioning of the scientific foundations of health and medicine. Rather than making small adjustments to a body of medical knowledge which has been developing by accretion since the time of Hippocrates, this re-visioning starts with a firm rejection of the present reductionist foundations of medicine. The human body is not an inert vessel that can be fairly viewed in terms of a definable set of chemical reactions. Rather, it is a product of an evolutionary process that has been ongoing for billions of years, an evolutionary process that has been directed by natural selection. As such, it will be argued that evolutionary biology provides the only secure foundation for understanding our health and for improving the practice of medicine.

There is a lot of material there. If you'd like to wrap your head around an alternate scientific view of longevity, as a contrast to the repair biotechnology focus of this SENS-supporting author, I recommend taking an hour or two to walk through 55 Theses. In essence, it is a step by step overview that builds supporting evidence for specific changes in human lifestyle and diet that are predicted to lead to improved health and slower aging. In the end this largely boils down to "stop eating things that you are not well adapted to eat, from an evolutionary perspective."

Older adults from all human populations are not adequately adapted to agricultural patterns of nutrition and activity, resulting in an amplification of aging under such conditions.

Rose has bred breeding ever-longer lived flies for a great many years, and 55 Theses might be thought of as a framework for extending the same concepts to human practice - analogous to the way in which calorie restriction moved from the lab to a fair-sized community of scientifically-minded human practitioners. I see no reason why a Rosean lifestyle community couldn't arise in the same fashion: it would have a greater weight of scientific evidence behind it than most health-focused gatherings, though I think it has a little way to go in order to catch up with plain old calorie restriction and exercise in that regard. But if this is where the developer of 55 Theses is heading, more power to him I say.

So 55 Theses looks like a good attempt at a philosophy of scientific health practices, similar to the ethos of the calorie restriction community: act upon the implications of supported scientific knowledge of human biochemistry, so as to have the best chance possible of making the best use of our bodies over the long-term. There is uncertainty in all things, science included, and we're all aging - but that doesn't mean it's smart to run heedlessly forward, damaging yourself more than is necessary.

In the long run, good health practices may make the difference between living long enough to benefit from future rejuvenation biotechnology or dying just a few years short of the dawn of that golden era - and to my eyes that's where the value lies. If we were not within mere decades of developing the means to defeat aging, the common state of one's health would not be so profound an issue, I suspect.


You use Michael Rose's technics until the SENS therapies become available.

How's that for a strategy?

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at May 5th, 2011 6:54 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.