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What is the goal of ageing research?

Patrick O'Neil patrick at corona
Tue Feb 14 19:27:54 EST 1995

On 14 Feb 1995 LITVAK at VMS.HUJI.AC.IL wrote:

> I've been reading this newsgroup for several months and this is my first
> posting. I'd like to relate to the latest discussion about life extension
> via genetic engineering and ask more general question. I think, Patrick's
> arguments against life extension are very persuasive. Right now even minor
> changes in human lifespan would cause a demographic  disaster.

Though I do not necessarily agree with all you wrote, it is nice to read 
a post concerning all this that is actually thought out rather than pure, 
emotionalistic-based self interest to the exclusion of all else.

With all I have said, I nevertheless realize that knowledge ALWAYS gets 
used.  Since research into the biology of aging is ongoing, and I could 
NEVER accept a muzzle on scientific wanderings, one day there will be 
treatments that would lead to an extended life, though NEVER immortality 
(there are aspects of biology and biochemistry that cannot support 
this).  This being so, the harm WILL be done (the demographic bomb - nice 
phrase, by the way - WILL go off) and in the end, it will be 
self-correcting in spite of our efforts.  Famine and disease are a 
natural consequence of overpopulation, or more accurately, too high a 
population density, and war is a social control.  All will happen in 
result.  Nature is far better at engineering, via evolution, nasty 
viruses, fungi, and bacterial strains than we are, and in the end, nature 
always wins.  All I dislike about all this is that it wont be just us 
that we take down.  We will take down many, many other species with us on 
the road to our own self destruction.  It is THAT that I cannot blithely 
accept.  If we do ourselves in, then we only deserve it, but the same 
cannot be said for those other creatures we take with us.

If it were possible to disconnect our damaging ways from the rest of the 
biosphere, then I would say, "Go ahead and beat the crap out of 
ourselves.  No sweat."  But this is not possible.

Another point:  old age is NOT a disease.  It can be plagued with 
disease, certainly, but in and of itself, it is a natural, evolutionarily 
conserved (ABSOLUTELY conserved) fact of life.  It is no error.


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