March 29, 2006

Some scientists say SENS not up to snuff

The BBC is reporting on how twenty-eight scientists working in gerontology have submitted a rebuttal to a paper published by Dr Aubrey de Grey in the journal EMBO Reports last year.

The rebuttal is not so much a technical account of the apparent failings of Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) as it is a blanket discrediting of Aubrey de Grey and his methodology. Essentially, the 28 scientists are refusing to acknowledge de Grey's work on account of the supposed far flung and futuristic nature of the requisite technologies and medical interventions called for in de Grey's strategy.

An excerpt from the scientists' statement reads, "Each one of the specific proposals that comprises the SENS agenda is, at our present state of ignorance, extremely optimistic...A research programme based around the SENS agenda... is so far from plausible that it commands no respect at all from within the scientific community."

Dr Richard Miller in particular has some harsh things to say about de Grey's research. "I was amazed that we found no-one who refused on the grounds that they agreed with Aubrey; a couple of people said they didn't want to sign anything about his work because they didn't want to draw attention to it," he says, "We got 28 people who astonishingly were willing to say in public that they had evaluated the science and had found it to be worthless." Miller is the associate director of the Geriatric Centre at the University of Michigan.

Interestingly, Miller and others have refrained from entering a submission to Technology Review's SENS Challenge for fear that it would only be "feeding the fire." Needless to say, de Grey is frustrated that opposition exists to SENS, but few, if any, are willing to explain exactly why they object to his theories. In regards to the SENS Challenge, de Grey recently noted, "I essentially felt that it was critical for me to smoke out the opposition...I had to move things along to an on-the-record opposition so that people would be forced not simply to say what they thought of these ideas, but why."

The SENS challenge offers an award of US$20,000 to anyone who can demonstrate that SENS is wrong and unworthy of learned debate. To date, no one has claimed the award.

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