Thursday's HOT MIC
The battle cry 'We're going to live forever" used to translate more as a feeling of euphoria and elation.
But scientists are now claiming that there is more to that saying than just good feelings. In fact, a recent paper postulating that the average human could only hope to live 115 years is being challenged by scientists who say that it's premature to say there is any limit at all on a human lifespan.
Last October, scientists made a splash when they determined that on average, people can only live for about 115 years. That was the magic age at which the human body and brain just petered out; it wasn’t designed to chug along much longer than that, they said.
That conclusion, published in the journal Nature, sparked hot debate among longevity researchers. Some felt the results vindicated what they felt to be the case, while others took issue with pinpointing a limit—and such a specific one, at that.
Now, in the new issue of Nature, the editors invited scientists who criticized the original authors’ methods to lay out their arguments for why there isn't necessarily a limit to human aging. In the five resulting critiques, researchers tease apart the original authors’ methods, noting that they made assumptions that weren't warranted and overreached in their conclusions. (The researchers who concluded that human lifespan maxes out at 115 years stand by their findings, and they responded to each of the current authors’ criticisms.)
The new papers don’t argue that human lifespan is limitless. But they note that it’s premature to accept that a maximum lifespan for humans exists. It’s equally possible, they say, that humans will continue to live longer, and therefore might survive beyond 115 years. “It was reasonable that when everybody lived to 50 that the very long lived, for whatever reason—genetics or luck—would make it to 80," says Siegfried Hekimi, professor of genetics at McGill University in Canada and one of the authors of a criticism. "If people live on average to 80 or 90, like they do now, then the very long lived make it to 110 or 120. So if the average lifespan keeps expanding, that would mean the long-lived would live even longer, beyond 115 years."
Are we talking about slowing the aging process so that you can be doing at 70 what you were doing at 30? Or are we simply talking about extending old age? I can see getting excited about the former but you can take or leave the latter. Either way, living longer means more time with our loved ones, more time to teach the young, more time to enjoy the simple pleasures that make life worth living.
That's one way to look at it. Of course, others might get hysterical and talk about the "drain on resources" or how crowded the earth will get, or maybe that health care should be rationed so that only younger people -- say, those in their 80s -- get cured.
Which way do you look at the concept of limitless lifespans?