Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Whole Lot of Nothing

For this weeks mandatory CMB graduate seminar the department invited Aubrey de Grey the Chief Science Officer of the SENS Foundation. He gave a talk on something he called rejuvenating research, whereby taking care of so called pre-defined "Damage" humans will be able to extend their lifespans indefinitely. He proposed that the possibly for humans to live indefinitely is attainable within the next 20-30 years. While the talk was humorous at times, it was utterly bogged down by its lack of anything resembling science. I think that I can summarize his talk quite easily, ooohhh nice quick quips, bullet points, gotta define my points so that I can defend against major intrinsic problems with them, big colorful graphs with numbers, very scientefeek (own def. resembling science to people who don't know better), oh ya just to be controversial and make money let's end this thing with a bang and say something ridiculous then plug my book and ask for donations.

The talk was actually about the advocacy for awareness of longevity research. The speaker made it very clear that his SENS(Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) foundation does not do science, they just hypothesize about what they think science can do. In a very "Kurzweilian" manner the speaker presented a graph that proposed a pseudo-Moore's law for aging therapies (healing his so called "Damage") which would double every 20-30 years leading to humans indefinitely living. One should keep in mind that not a single therapy for the ill defined "damage" has ever been shown to increase the life-span of anything. 'That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.' to quote one of my favorite intellectuals, Christopher Hitchens perfectly sums up this situation. In a lovely display of intellectual dishonesty the speaker presented quotes showing a false dichotomy of a "you are either with us or against us attitude". You either support longevity research or you are responsible for the deaths of countless human lives, totally ignoring the fact that one of the goals of Biomedical science is to prolong lives without suffering and the fact that practically everyone wants to live longer and healthier lives minus the hard work to achieve it. Sorry Mr. Grey but we don't need to believe in your bullshit in order to support and research methods to help improve and stop the aging process.

What should I say about this? Isn't it a disgrace for our school to invite pseudo-science speakers to science class lectures? I guess the best thing I can say about the guy is that at least he did say that nothing he talked about has any type of scientific data to support it.

While it would be impolite to call MR. Aubrey de Grey a hack, I hope that it is evident that I strongly imply that he is.

I have come across a great review as to why Mr. de Grey's ideas are incompetent. Here is an excerpt:

1) SENS is based on the scientifically
unsupported speculations of Aubrey de Grey, which are camouflaged by the legitimate
science of others; 2) SENS bears only a superficial resemblance to science or
engineering; 3) SENS and de Grey’s writings in support of it are riddled with jargonfilled
misunderstandings and misrepresentations; 4) SENS’ notoriety is due almost
entirely to its emotional appeal; 5) SENS is pseudoscience.
http://www.technologyreview.com/sens/docs/estepetal.pdf

The author received 10k for his efforts from MIT review for his attempt at debunking this pseudo-science.

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