Thoughts on the de Grey/Blakemore Debate on Longevity Science

Filmmaker Robert Pappas, who produced To Age or Not to Age, here offers some thoughts on the recent academic debate between Aubrey de Grey and Colin Blakemore: "The debate's title was: 'Resolved this house wants to defeat aging entirely' and was to cover the feasibility and desirability of bringing aging under medical control. After watching the video of the debate; among other things, it strikes me that the title itself helps obscure the nature and process of the scientific research currently underway to extend healthspan, and by implication, lifespan. The problem waxes ironic. To a large degree, Aubrey became 'famous' by uttering the following on camera: 'I'm claiming that the first person to live to a 1,000, subject of course to global catastrophes, is actually, probably only about 10 years younger than the 1st 150 year old, and that's quite a thought.' On the one hand, Aubrey's thesis is provocative and possibly true - but there is a downside to such a framing of the discussion. The viewer or reader reacts - 'What, 10 years after 150, what? A 1,000 years, people from the middle ages would be alive, what? Population, resources? Bombs? - Who wants to live that long, the world sucks now, ahhhhhhh....!' I personally observed similar reactions in a portion of the audience who watched my film." This is a framing of the standard debate in advocacy for any bold new step forward in science: do you plant a flag right out there to set the bounds of the debate, or do you take the softly-softly incremental approach? In this age of pervasive death cult environmentalism, to the point at which the average man in the street thinks - falsely - that living longer will in some way cause catastrophe, I'm in favor of the former approach lest the middle position in the debate become suppression of research and development in medicine.



First, I couldn't help but feel that the audience was stacked against Aubrey from the start. Were these Blakemore's students? Were they some campus group that was organized to oppose Aubrey?

Second, if Blakemore had seen the movie "Lorenzo's Oil" (a true story), he would know that a father that was told by Blakemore-esq people that there was no hope to save his son, chose to find a way to save his son against the "establishment" view -- and did eventually save his son's life. Aubrey, in my opinion, is the father in this movie; and the problem is aging; Blakemore represents the know-it-all naysayers that told the father/Aubrey that there's no hope.

Third, Blakemore's pessimism represents the past -- and the past always tries to control the future.

Posted by: RHW at May 29th, 2012 1:44 AM

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