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Giving SENS the finger

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#1 Centurion

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Posted 13 August 2006 - 03:06 PM

Stumbled upon an article which dubs SENS pseudoscience. Ironically, its condemnation of SENS' supposed superficial nature is an entire 616 words in length.

Life-Extension Pseudoscience and the SENS Plan

Recent scientific advances have taken gerontological research to exciting new frontiers, giving many scientists increased confidence that human aging is to some degree controllable (see "A Clue to Living Longer," p. 94). We have been on the front lines of some of these developments, and we are proud to be part of the increasingly productive biomedical effort to reduce the pathologies of aging and age-associated diseases-and to extend healthy human life span to the greatest degree possible.

In contrast to those who have engaged in clearly justifiable speculation regarding future advances in human longevity, a few people have made claims that biological immortality is within reach. One, Aubrey de Grey, says he has developed a "detailed plan to cure human aging" called "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence" (SENS). This is an extraordinary claim, and we believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidentiary support.

In supplementary material posted on the Technology Review website, we evaluate SENS in detail. Briefly, here are our conclusions: first, SENS is based on the scientifically unsupported speculations of Aubrey de Grey, which are camouflaged by the legitimate science of others; second, SENS bears only a superficial resemblance to science or engineering; third, SENS and de Grey's writings in support of it are riddled with jargon-filled misunderstandings and misrepresentations; fourth, SENS's notoriety is due almost entirely to its emotional appeal; fifth, SENS is pseudoscience. We base these conclusions on our extensive training in the areas covered by SENS, including the engineering of biological organisms for the purpose of extending life span.

Most scientists believe that pseudoscience poses a real danger to the integrity and public image of science. Because SENS has been recognized by experts as pseudoscience but has nevertheless been featured widely and uncritically in popular media, we devote the rest of this short note and the first section of our full article on technologyreview.com to this troubling aspect of SENS.

How should the nonexpert separate the false promises of pseudoscience from the likely outcomes of rigorously applied biomedical science and engineering? The long history of pseudoscientific claims points to common identifying features of pseudoscience that are rarely or never associated with real science or engineering.

The prefix "pseudo" means "false" and pseudoscience is generally accepted to mean practices that superficially resemble science but violate central scientific precepts. Richard Feynman, a widely respected physicist and staunch defender of science, called some kinds of pseudoscience "cargo-cult science." Feynman thought the South Sea Islanders who created elaborate but superficial simulacra of airports, antennas, and other technology in an attempt to attract heavenly "cargo" offered a powerful metaphor for these efforts to imitate the trappings of science.

We agree with Feynman that cargocult rituals and pseudoscience alike lack a certain kind of integrity, an honesty that will not settle for convenient but superficial explanations no matter how desperately we wish them to be true. There are other important differences between science and pseudoscience, and a primary feature of our full article on technologyreview.com is a list of general features of pseudoscientific plans for extension of human life span.

Given the recent successes of life-extension research and the emotional response they provoke, Aubrey de Grey will not be the last to promote a hopelessly insufficient but ably camouflaged pipe dream to the hopeful many. With this in mind, we hope our list provides a general line of demarcation separating increasingly sophisticated life-extension pretense from real science and engineering, so that we can focus honestly on the significant challenges before us.

#2 Live Forever

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Posted 13 August 2006 - 06:00 PM

pdf of this: http://www.technolog...s/estepetal.pdf

It is one of the ones generated from the Technology Review SENS Challenge, if I am not mistken.

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