Is Longevity Research Inherently Immoral?


Live long and prosper

New Zealand-based bioethicist Nicholas Agar argues in Slate that the need to vet risky treatments to increase healthy human lifespans implies using healthy poor people as experimental subjects. If this is so, then the longevity enterprise is inherently unethical. Agar explains:

It's not too difficult to entice those suffering from diseases of aging into clinical trials. For example, people with Alzheimer's recognize that they have a terrible illness. They understand that many experimental drugs don't work—that some may actually make them sicker. They view such risks as warranted.

Human trials of experimental therapies for aging as a disease are a different matter. The potential benefits may be huge, but so, too, are the risks. Furthermore, to prove that new therapies can extend the life spans of people free of any significant disease of aging, researchers will need to carry out tests on similar people—that is, experiencing healthy aging. Convincing such people to undertake risky treatment will be challenging.

As example of a risky anti-aging treatment, Agar then cites the proposal by theoretical biogeronlogist Aubrey de Grey to prevent cancer by halting the lengthening of telomeres. Telemores are the caps at the ends of chromosomes that become shorter as cells divide—when the telomeres have dwindled away, the cells stop dividing and become senescent. This telomere dwindling is thought to have evolved as a way to prevent a cell from turning cancerous. In fact, it turns out that most cancer cells reboot the genes that lengthen telomeres which then enables them to proliferate as tumors. Agar assumes that this treatment might work as advertised, but how do we find out? 

Agar writes:

….I would rather not be the first to test it after they're done with the mice and monkeys.

I suspect that people interested in SENS [Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence] are likely to be especially averse to the kinds of risks involved in clinical trials. They are, after all, being enticed by the promise of millennial life spans. Why would they sign up for dangerous clinical trials for anti-aging therapies when there's another option—paying others to do their dirty work? Unlike in some fictional portrayals, there won't be a single "cure" for aging that, once discovered, can be safely given to anyone who wants and can pay for it. Scientists will develop multiple therapies targeting distinct types of age-related damage. Each will need extensive testing, and there will inevitably be many false turns and disappointments along the way. Anti-aging researchers will need to be well-supplied with healthy human test subjects. A general recognition of the scientific possibility of radically extending human life spans will bring a sense of urgency. Human trials must happen ASAP if safe anti-aging therapies are to arrive in time to arrest the death spiral of biological decay awaiting today's 40-year-old supporters of SENS.

I suspect, then, that human guinea pigs for anti-aging trials will come disproportionately from the poor and disempowered.

So will the poor be conscripted as longevity research guinea pigs? Maybe not. Agar has a rather static view of biomedical research and what will be possible for future longevity researchers to know and test beforehand. Of course, proposed longevity treatments will first be extensively tested and perfected in animal models. Further, a vastly expanded bioinformatics enterprise will become crucial to understanding the ramifications of proposed anti-aging interventions. As scientific understanding improves, the risk-benefit calculations of various prospective treatments will shift in favor of proceeding.

Let's take a closer look at Agar's objection to telomere treatments as a longevity boosting strategy. In fact, researchers are already considering ways to target telomere regulation as a way to treat and cure cancer. Assuming that de Grey's hypothesis is correct, one side benefit of this research might be not only a cure for cancer but also treatments that lengthen healthy lifespans. In other words, cancer research could become longevity research. People with cancer would be happy to be enrolled in research that could result not only in cancer cures, but longer healthier lives as well. Most anti-aging research will piggy-back on biomedical research aimed at curing diseases. 

Interestingly, some other researchers believe that ever dwindling telomeres cause cellular aging and argue that restoring telomeres could lengthen healthy lifespans. In fact, researchers at Harvard reported in 2010 that lengthening telomeres in genetically modified mice boosted their healthy lifespans.

So, according to Agar, next come the experiments on hapless poor people, right? Hardly. As it turns out some rich people who are eager to extend their lives are already paying considerable sums to take a supplement, TA-65, which has been shown to lengthen telomeres in humans. No poor people need apply. 

NEXT: Newt Gingrich vs. the Rule of Law

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  1. Why can’t we experiment on TSA workers?

    1. We already have plenty of animal subjects.

      1. Unlike animals, TSA agents won’t cause pangs of guilt and sympathy from the researchers when they are sacrificed or suffer inordinate pain. They also will probably be the closest in vivo models to humans. There’s a lot of advantages here.

    2. who says they aren’t

  2. not inherently immoral, inherently stupid.

    “lengthen telomeres in humans”

    Hello cancer!

    1. y: And yet, critters (and people) with longer telomeres do tend to live longer. It’s all trade-offs all of the time.

      1. No. The trade-off is living longer versus living better. It’s the whole archie and the butterfly.

        1. by which I mean archy and the moth

          1. i was talking to a moth
            the other evening
            he was trying to break into
            an electric light bulb
            and fry himself on the wires

            why do you fellows
            pull this stunt i asked him
            because it is the conventional
            thing for moths or why
            if that had been an uncovered
            candle instead of an electric
            light bulb you would
            now be a small unsightly cinder
            have you no sense

            plenty of it he answered
            but at times we get tired
            of using it
            we get bored with the routine
            and crave beauty
            and excitement
            fire is beautiful
            and we know that if we get
            too close it will kill us
            but what does that matter
            it is better to be happy
            for a moment
            and be burned up with beauty
            than to live a long time
            and be bored all the while
            so we wad all our life up
            into one little roll
            and then we shoot the roll
            that is what life is for
            it is better to be a part of beauty
            for one instant and then to cease to
            exist than to exist forever
            and never be a part of beauty
            our attitude toward life
            is to come easy go easy
            we are like human beings
            used to be before they became
            too civilized to enjoy themselves

            and before i could argue him
            out of his philosophy
            he went and immolated himself
            on a patent cigar lighter
            i do not agree with him
            myself i would rather have
            half the happiness and twice
            the longevity

            but at the same time i wish
            there was something i wanted
            as badly as he wanted to fry himself


            1. are you named after the toad?

              1. No, but I wish I was. I discovered Don Marquis soon after I started posting here. This was my link for ages before I started using my email.

        2. Living longer will certainly increase your risk of getting cancer, but that is a risk, not a certainty. You can certainly live longer than the current average without getting cancer. Thus, you can live longer with the same quality of life as any other old person.

          1. id rather die in a flaming, glorious car wreck at 85 than live to 100 the last 10 of which spent drugged-up in a bed w adult diapers & dementia. some life

              1. He’s speaking from experience. Isn’t it obvious that Orrin suffers from dementia and wears adult diapers already?

                1. the rev is my car target for my car.

                  *insert those sky-cable pigs noises just before impact*

            1. I’d rather live to 100 in reasonable health myself, as long as we are inventing scenarios.

            2. When I was in medical school in the 1980s I did a rotation under a leading gerontologist. His belief was that the human body is designed to live to 85. His philosophy was to make sure everyone could be healthy until 85, but he felt that after that people are on borrowed time.

          2. OK. I’ll bite. Cancer usually requires five phenotypic changes in cells.

            1) loss of self-monitoring/self-destruction that cells normally do when things are going south.
            2) restoration of ability to replicate (most differentiated cells are terminal and won’t replicate anymore)
            3) ability to recruit blood vessels to provide nutrients (not an issue for, say leukemia)
            4) loss of differentiation, especially with respect to attachment to particular region of body
            5) ability to replicate indefinitely without telomere loss.

            if you’re undergoing telomere rejuvenation, instead of requiring five goals, now the cancer only has to achieve four. So age notwithstanding, your odds of cancer go up.

            1. Well I don’t think it’s that simple. The experimental data shows that increasing the telomere length increases the healthy lifespan of mice.

              1. mice also don’t typically live long enough to get cancer unless something is terribly, terribly wrong in them.

                1. mouse cancer models are great for finding things that will defeat cancer, terrible for explaining cancer, except in the broadest possible strokes.

                  1. That’s not true; it depends on which line you are using. Some mouse lines are just as susceptible to cancer as humans.

                    1. yes, because they have had recombinase genes knocked out, or error correcting genes disabled, or immune response altered.

                      one out of three humans gets cancer. One out of two in men. There are no ‘wild type’ mouse lines that aren’t horribly defective that have that high of a cancer ratio.

                    2. Yes, I know there are no wt like that.

                      Anyway, if you read the study, you’ll see they took a line of mice with short telomeres (TERT-ER) and then lengthened them. This resulted in the rejuvenation of various organs. So which one is better, living longer with the risk of cancer, or negating the risk of cancer through natural death?

                    3. Also, if telomere length is simply proportional to the success of cancer, wouldn’t we see less older people getting cancer?

                    4. no, because the mechanism for old people to get cancer is distinct from the mechanism of cancer to benefit from telomeres.

                      Correlation is not causality DUH.

                    5. Causality should produce correlation. If extending telomeres would cause (and therefore correlate with) increased cancer rates, then the same causation/correlation should be seen in normal individuals with long and short telomeres.

                      Or the effect of telomere length is tiny enough to be swamped by other factors in old age, which means that worrying about risk from telomere length in longevity subjects makes no sense. The other factors from extended old age will swamp that risk. As I said from the start, the older you are the greater your risk of cancer. But that risk doesn’t make longevity research “stupid.”

                    6. You don’t understand the concept of ‘mechanism’, do you? One of the five mutations is to reactivate telomerase. If you’re taking drugs that restore telomeres, you don’t need one of the factors.

                      So, you can deal with that fourth factor either by random mutation in cells (a natural consequence of dividing) that reactivates telomerase – or, possibly, by taking a drug that does the same thing.

                      Yes, telomeres get shorter as you age, but what i’m saying is that mutagenesis, which also happens as you age, can result in lengthened telomeres. Or you can not wait for the mutagenesis and go directly to the drug (which is supposed to make you not age but instead potentiates cancer).

                      How is this hard to understand?

                    7. Did you read what I just wrote? Try again?

    2. should have explained that better, but meh.

  3. The concept of “Engineered Negligible Senescence” is inherently immoral but luckily not practical in the near future.

    It would be more productive to discuss actually existing technologies like, for example, in vitro fertilization.

    1. Engineered Negligible Senescence


      1. One obvious reason is simple overpopulation. If people become immortal then eventually you either have to coerce people into not having children or experience Malthusian catastrophe.

        More fundamental is that entities without a natural lifespan are no longer human in any meaningful sense. The technologies necessary would probably also give rise to enhanced cognitive and other abilities, making traditional humans irrelevant. This would be a disastrous outcome for our species.

        1. Like fire, tool building, and vaccination.

          1. agriculture

        2. I don’t think there’s any particular morality attached to ENS. The young will continue to get a raw deal from the old, with the category of young extending ever further. Eventually more people will die of lightning strikes than heart attacks, but you’re already more likely to die in a car wreck as by cancer. ENS won’t change that.

        3. More fundamental is that entities without a natural lifespan are no longer human in any meaningful sense.

          I think what people do in their lives defines their humanity more than their death.

          1. It doesn’t matter, because Al has already decided what’s moral and what isn’t based on…uh…uh…I have no idea. But it’s normal!!!

          2. What they do in their lives would be drastically affected by not having to consider death.

            1. They have to consider it, hell, they have to consider it even more.

              Doing that stupid, dangerous, risk-taking activity which might kill you at 23 and shorting your life by 50 years is one thing. When that same stupid, dangerous activity could shorten your life by… oh… 300 years it’s a much greater loss.

              Extended lifespans will make us far, far, far more risk-averse.

              1. Very true, just like at the elves from middle earth. Just sitting in their little tree forts playing grab ass, eating grahm crackers, and playing their flute, all the while Sauron is raping women and spreading his dark seed.

            2. What kind of immortality do you think is foreseeably possible for biological beings? If something is alive, it will die.

              1. Not if you can repair the damage of aging as you go along.

                We should be able to double our lifespans without too much effort. After that, it will take some serious advances in biotech and nanotech.

                1. You will still die if particular parts of your body suddenly stop functioning for some reason.

        4. I don’t see how it is obvious that this woudl be disastrous.

        5. If people know they can/will live longer, they may delay having children for longer than they do already, at least in developed countries. This assumes that the lengthening of a human lifespan would also create a longer period of child-bearing years for women.

          1. But we are not talking about a moderately longer lifespan, we are talking about immortality. Theoretically you could maintain a reasonable population by tying the childbirth rate to the rate of fatal accidents, I suppose, but that would require coercion.

            1. What makes you think that people won’t naturally select against propagation of the species once propagation becomes unnecessary? After 100 years or so of life, you might outgrow the need to procreate.

            2. No, we’re talking about longevity.

            3. No, no one here is talking about immortality. Immortality would have to go beyond medicine, involving digital, neurological, and robotic technologies we are very very far from achieving.

              1. Do you understand what “Engineered Negligible Senescence” means? Get a clue.



                1. Yes, I understand what it means. Do you? Because it doesn’t mean immortality.

        6. If people become immortal then eventually you either have to coerce people into not having children or experience Malthusian catastrophe.

          Right! That’s exactly what has been borne by increased longevity in wealthy Western countries oh wait you’re an idiot.

          1. increased longevity != immortality.

        7. “This would be a disastrous outcome for our species”

          But not disastrous for the new, better species, which would be an evolutionary successor. It happens all the time.

          1. Kobo Abe, anyone?

        8. The Malthusian catasrophe will never happen. Ignoring the trending data that shows the human population growth rate lowering, and that for many parts of the world a population crash is an all too real likelihood; here is why it will never happen. Human beings are adaptive, the most adaptive species on the planet, while resources are finite on the earth, there exist other avenues outside of just mother terra upon which we could get the resources we need. Remember, everything organic is ultimately some form of carbon compund. Carbon is the fourth most abundent substance in the Universe, though admittedly it is a distant fourth when compared to Hyrdogen and Helium, human beings will ultimately find ways to access the resources we need to survive and expand.

          1. Until heat death.

          2. The Malthusian catasrophe will never happen.


            Ignoring the trending data that shows the human population growth rate lowering.

            the only part of your comment that holds any validity.

        9. Unsupported conjecture. False premise. Extreme remedy to false premise.

          Unsupported philosophical conjecture. Unsupported and unlikely scientific conjecture. Vaguely defined but apocalyptic outcome!

  4. Agar is 48 years old, past the median age in much of the world as recently as the early 20th century.
    It astounds me that bioethicists do not walk the walk and gleefully volunteer to spend the last decade of their life bed-ridden and kept alive only by tubes and the GED orderlies scraping day-old shit from their buttocks all in the name of human dignity.

  5. How does the argument “we’ll be forced to test it on poor people!” not apply to every drug/procedure/treatment ever?

    1. You wouldn’t want to test gold-plated baby-bone monocles on poor people, would you?

      Well? WOULD YOU?

      I think I’ve made my point…

      1. I don’t care who they’re tested on, what I need to know is where to place my order!

      2. I would.

        The platinum-plated, fetus-bone monocles, now those are the ones I would save.

    2. It certainly isn’t rich people or sick people that they do Phase I trials on.

  6. Is Longevity Research Inherently Immoral?


    *presses “Easy” button*

  7. Everything we do today is designed to lengthen lifespans. Agar is already immoral by his own standards. He is a fucking moron.

    1. I don’t think the increased manufacture of better and better AR’s and 1911’s is meant to…wait. Yes, yes it is meant to lengthen life – mine and everyone else who owns one.

      Never mind…

  8. Has nobody warned Agar about the giant Space Goat that is menacing Earth? I’m sure Commodore Gingrich would welcome Agar as an advisor to help with the governance of the arcology that will take luminaries from Earth to other star systems in a bid to save the human race from extinction in the jaws of the Space Goat.

    1. “The arcology’s trajectory only takes it CLOSE to the sun, to slingshot you onto your destination. Yes, just like Star Trek. No, not including the time travel part. Or the whales. Jesus, would you people just keep boarding, with the fucking questions, I swear.”

    2. Don’t worry, we can escape in the Great Space Coaster.

      1. Get on board, step inside, going for a magic ride. Going to the other side where only rainbows hide.


  9. “I suspect, then, that human guinea pigs for anti-aging trials will come disproportionately from the poor and disempowered.”

    It is an almost sure bet that when someone uses the words “disproportionately” and “disempowered” in the same sentences, they are making a completely stupid point.

    I wouldn’t volunteer to be a human guinee pig. But I have something to lose. If I were living in Calcutta and doing so would give my family a middle class lifestyle, I probably would. If I had some disease that was going to probably kill me anyway, I would. Who knows. Maybe I just like taking risks or want to give my life some meaning by sacrificing for the common good.

    1. But poor people, especially old poor people, are too stupid to control their own lives. They are instead like geese, following you around the park, hoping you will throw them a piece of bread.

    2. It’s really not too different from people who work in coal mines, or other dirty dangerous places. People take the jobs knowing that their lives will probably be shortened by the work they do so that their families can live well and improve their lot. It sort of sucks for the person who has to sacrifice, but that’s a major way that people get out of poverty.

    3. I had a PoliSci teacher who argued that because the GI Bill provides subsidized education to those who enlist, it attracts a disproportionate amount of people who “need” the assistance (ie, the poor). Of course, sending off the poor to go get killed in wars was highly immoral in his eyes and so we needed to reassess the policy.

      His solution? Mandatory military service for all American citizens and fully subsidized college education for the populace. It was “only fair”.

      I love liberals.

      1. Had the Poliscientist served in the military himself? I’m betting not.

        1. Nope! But he had Asthma and Chronic Hypocrisy, so he’s exempt.

          1. It’s tragic when you find those together in the same person.

      2. His solution? Mandatory military service for all American citizens and fully subsidized college education for the populace. It was “only fair”.

        Of course! no one ever considers lowering Buffet’s secretary’s taxes.

      3. You should’ve come up with a counter proposal. The mandatory draft of all individuals whose occupations were not deemed essential, you know, like the majority of college professors?

  10. Didn’t you guys see “Lawnmower Man”?
    Everyone knows you test the big technological leaps on slow-witted people.

    I’d like to have my brain installed into a giant spaceship/death machine to be immortal and destroy things — but I’ll try it out first on Sammy, the retarded man who lives next door. I’m sure that will work better than my slow, incremental testing and implementation plan.

  11. I’m pretty sure life extension technology has been and will continue to be experimented on wealthy sick people.

    1. Especially the ones who currently have no problem injecting poisons directly into their faces to eliminate wrinkles.

  12. Dude’s clearly got issues with the fact that researchers see his last name and instantly think “gelatinous goo”.

    Everything he publishes is a vain attempt to compensate.

    1. It is one of those “sneakily bad” names, isn’t it?

      1. knew a professor by the name of —- getzoff. Poor woman must have been tortured as a teenager; no surprise then that she ended up as a scientist.

        1. I know a girl named Freda Boner. She’s a rock musician.

          1. I knew a girl whose last name was Falater. She kind of liked me, I think. Nothing happened, and years later I found out that her dad had killed her mother about a year before we met. Was a pretty well-known case, too. Which gives you an idea of how messed up a woman has to be to like me.

            1. Incidentally, I also went to elementary school with Adrian Lamo, am friends with Bambi Finney, was friends with John Robert Reeves (until a few weeks ago), among other people with interesting google results.

              1. *kindergarten. I went to kindergarten with Adrian Lamo.

          2. A noted linguistics scholar was saddled with the name Ivan Jackendoff (IIRC).

            1. I went to high school with Jack Goff.

  13. Where the hell did my telomeres go?

    1. All you telomeres are belong to us.

      1. Don’t ask , don’t telemere.

  14. Poor people are in fact capable of making voluntary choices. I know that idea would deflate Chuck Schumer’s manboobs a bit, but it’s true.

  15. Seems like there are only two options to avoiding biomed testing on poor people. As noted, his objections apply to all biomed testing on human subjects, not just whatever subset he’s got sand in his panties about today.

    (1) Draft biomed test subjects randomly from the population. Nothing says “morality” like forcing people to be guinea pigs, I guess.

    (2) Stop human subject testing altogether. Which means, stop the introduction of new medical technology.

    I haven’t read this moron’s article, so I don’t know which one he goes for. I’m guessing (2).

    1. I see two alternatives: (1) Use clones as test subjects, because they’re dirty clones and not human at all, or (2) Modify chimps to be more human-like, then use them, because they’re damned dirty apes and not human at all.

      1. The soul-less gingers can also be used.

        1. Use Carrot Top first!

          1. use. your. fucking. brain.

            Immortal Carrot Top?

            Just say no to ENS.

            1. (he’d be allowed to receive the treatment if he promised to move to another planet.)

            2. According to prevailing medical ethical theory, such test subjects must be disposed of when the test is over. Sorry, Mr. Top, but I must kill you for ethical reasons.

              1. I figure the first subjects will die, as first subjects are wont to do. Besides, an immortal Carrot Top could become Chairman of the Board.

                1. Wait. . .that actually happened?

                2. 2.1 stars out of 10. Lowest IMDB score I have ever seen.

                  1. From the reviews:

                    A few weeks ago I watched Carrot Top’s Chairman of the Board on HBO.

                    This is not just the worst movie I’ve ever seen, it’s the worst movie that’s ever been or ever could be.

                    There’s a notorious scene in John Waters’ Pink Flamingos where the drag queen Divine picks up an actual piece of dog feces and eats it. That is a Capraesque delight compared to the moment in COTB when Carrot Top leans in to kiss actress Courtney Thorne-Smith. Indeed, Thorne-Smith deserves an honorary Oscar for not vomiting her small intestines the second Top’s fish-underbelly skin came within Taser range of her lips.

                    1. I have spent the better part of my life a happy-go-lucky atheist, endlessly circling an epistemological cul-de-sac, foolishly content in the delusion that naught but unremarkable randomness and the caprice of evolution govern our planet and our lives.

                      I write this now as a careworn and grudging theist, cursed with the metaphysical certainty that God exists and that there must indeed be a reckoning. Only a literal hell can restore to the universe a sense of order and return to our souls – souls thirsting for justice for humanity, for cable subscribers everywhere, and not least of all for Courtney Thorne-Smith – a small measure of peace.

                      Indeed, Mr. Top’s crushingly unfunny “film” is a long, jagged scar across our collective unconscious. It is your hopes and dreams replaced by a dying, weeping child crushed and all at once bereft of breath in your unconsoling – and inconsolable – embrace. It is blood in your stool on the eve of your wedding day. It is an unaccounted-for prosthetic eyeball swimming languidly in your vegetable pad thai. It is happiness itself blotted forever from the cosmos.

                      Carrot Top is the worst human being who has ever lived or ever will live. Stalin? What’s a pogrom here or there? Pol Pot? The killing fields are the sweet songs of seraphim heard within the fragrant bosom of your lover compared to this dread offering. Hitler? Europe, she recovered by and by.

                    2. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

                    3. Well done good sir.

                      *golf clap*

        2. no, the gingers are the victims of a disease. It’s the japanese who are soul-less.

      2. What could possibly go wrong?

        1. Nothing. That’s why my plan is so brilliant. I mean, they may all be maniacs, but they wouldn’t blow it up or anything.

      3. Well, just to extrapolate that idea a very little bit, how ’bout using Occutards? Bonus feature: they’re “looking” for jobs.

        1. Maybe if the goal of the project were to shorten telomeres.

      4. Wouldn’t it be possible to make brainless clones? That is, clones lacking a physical brain, just a tiny clump of nerves at the top of the spinal column to keep the plumbing working. No ethical dilemma there.

        1. Didn’t Ice Nine just answer that question?

  16. Unlike in some fictional portrayals, there won’t be a single “cure” for aging that, once discovered, can be safely given to anyone who wants and can pay for it.

    How the fuck does this asshole know this? Answer: he doesn’t. It just works for his agenda to make that claim. There is no way we can predict when or what the final fix for aging will be. Numerous other conditions have treatments that get combined or supplanted by better treatments later. Sure, initially it could be a hodgepodge mess, but eventually things may iron out quite nicely. And I really think the telomeres angle might be the primary cause. Anyway,

    New Zealand-based bioethicist Nicholas Agar

    As soon as I see that word, I pretty much discount everything the person is saying, as bioethicist is really just a euphemism for Luddite.

    1. it’ll be a series of DNA software patches.

      1. I’ve read that short story. Easily the best thing Cory Doctorow ever wrote by a mile. “0wnzored” got me to read 2.5 of his books before I gave him up as either a terrible writer or well outside my preference zone. You just have to be careful about debugging.

        1. making sure you have all the dependencies is gonna be a bitch.

          1. Ugh, I’ve been in dll hell all week.

            1. You’re still using COM?!?

              1. Some of the shit I work on is written in VB6.

                1. I’m sorry.

        2. I had the same experience. Ownored, great. Everything else, meh.

      2. good luck delivering site-directed mutagenesis to mammalian cells. You have to do a lot of neomycin screening, and I don’t think bathing your body in chemotherapeutics to select for the survivors is going to work. On the upside, you’ll get rid of the cancer.

    2. “And I really think the telomeres angle might be the primary cause.”

      We age because we slowly caramelize from breathing air and processing sugars. I learned this on PBS (or it could have been the Learning Channel) some 10 years ago.

      1. So, we should breathe less to live longer?

        1. Yes. But more importantly, eat a lot less.

    3. bioethicist is really just a euphemism for Luddite

      Precisely. It’s a way of disapproving of any kind of advance while pretending you’re some kind of scientist.

      “I have a degree in bioethics!”

      You’ve got a degree in baloney.”

    4. As soon as I see that word, I pretty much discount everything the person is saying

      I was just about to say as much, and I’ll be damned if that’s going to prevent me from saying as much.

  17. Just think of all the fresh poon I can tap! Generations of snatch!
    (laughs maniacally)
    (rubs own nipples)

    1. poon smoon. cum get ja sum newtie

  18. I run across bioethics issues periodically. And, its funny, but you never see more than a passing mention of the idea that people can and should make decisions for themselves. Often, you don’t even see a passing mention of this idea.

    Which seems like kind a weird omission for soi-disant ethicists to make. If you don’t start with the assumption that people have agency, then I don’t see how you can discuss ethics, bio or otherwise, at all.

    1. Agency doesn’t allow for the clean, sweeping “answers” that social “engineers” prefer.

    2. It’s because the starting point for these discussions is that no one is in control of their own mind. They’re just constantly influenced by advertising and mass media. The strange thing is that no one ever bothers asking where any thought originates from in such circumstances.

      1. ^^^Right. Like the only people who are capable of original, creative thoughts are ad men, copy writers, script writers, etc. Of course, scientists, politicians, and bio-ethicists are also able to “pierce the veil”. But poor, old people that never went to an Ivy League school, are simply golem, activated at the whim of advertisers.

        1. Bet you ten bucks when philo-mastubatory-ers talk about zombies -those that do not act out of conscious thought but appear to do so- they are thinking of poor people.

        2. Yes, and this is why virtually all hospitals have banned docs from talking to, or accepting a bagel, from pharma reps. Once we hear their message physicians are powerless to think or prescribe anything but the sales rep’s product. I used to accept their bringing coffee or sandwiches as a quid pro quo for a few minutes of my time, and allow them to discuss recent peer-reviewed studies with them that favored their drug — much like I have no problem with tv commercials. Yet because I am watching a football game I don’t feel I have no choice but to buy a Chevy — but there are plenty of physicians who believe that any doc who accepted a burrito from a rep will be forever biased and incapable of prescribing appropriately.



    1. I’m trying to figure out what the point of this is. Probably a mistake.

      1. Slappy finally cracked.


      Hybrid vigor. You lose.

      1. eh, mixed race kids are not hybrids. Human races are not defined enough to be considered variant.

    3. does this have to do w the corruption of our precious bodily fluids?…and denying women one’s life essence?…mandrake?

  20. “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place.”

    1. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

      1. sorry but aqua-buddah never said that.

  21. But will there be a cure for pathological narcissism? Nothing illustrates how libertarians approach politics better than their obsession with their own immortality. Just because some chain smoking Russian bitch said you were special doesn’t make it so.

    1. Yep. Libertarians and their rabid, “Leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone” narcissism. You sir, are a douche.

      1. Well what do you call it when you imagine that you could survive and even prosper in a world without government services? Just how do you think skinny white geeks jacking off to Atlas Shrugged would fare in a truly “left alone” world?


        2. Why is it your (fake) concern?

          1. Because it’s the skinny white geeks jacking off to Atlas Shrugged who are in Congress and control the guns who are going to impose your silly narcissism-based utopia on me.

          2. Please do not feed the trolls.

            1. You’re right. I took the bait. Plus, I think it’s a Tony spoofer.

              1. Definitely. But really, what’s the dif? Our House Liberals haven’t shown any interest in arguing in good faith in a looooong long time.

    2. Ayn Rand never said anyone was special but Ayn Rand.

      In fact, if you distill down her philosophy the best way to summarize it would be that there can be no value without a valuing agent, so therefore everyone should regard themselves as special but should not expect anyone else to regard them as such.

      The only reason I worry about my own immortality is because it is ontologically certain that all value of any value to me ends when I die.

      1. Do you know who else liked Ayn Rand?

        1. Bert Cooper?

        2. Alan Greenspan?

      2. no value w/o a valuing agent? so is gold the valuing agent for fiat money or the people assigning value to gold? in this scenario, arent ALL things worthless in and of themselves…including gold?

        1. Yup. I think we just witnessed a Great Epistemological Leap Forward for our textspeak friend here.

          1. *coffee figuratively sprayed on monitor*

        2. The mind boggles.

        3. Are you trying to say that if gold weren’t valued by people it would be worthless?

          1. Well, I think cats would still like shiny things, so there’s that…

            1. I have to admit, trying to make sense of the grammatical construction gave me pause. I just wanted to be sure he was actually asking if gold would be worthless if nobody valued it so I could accurately judge the stupidity of the question.

              1. You judged correctly. On most days, he writes the dumbest thing I read that day.

          2. If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

            1. Is it art just because you hang it on a wall?

      3. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hugely narcissistic, I just think it’s funny and telling that all these longevity articles pop up here, where everyone’s a John Galt in his own mind–instead of, in the reality of their ‘utopian’ scheme, the grease on the bottom of the boot of some random thug.

        1. Tony, I think you need to learn what narcissistic means before you start calling people narcissistic for reasons that make no sense.

    3. It’s been my experience that narcissism is an equal opportunity affliction regardless of political affiliation. Nice strawman, though.

    4. Ron Bailey isn’t a libertarian, he’s just employed by them.

      1. y: I am too a libertarian!

        1. yes, but are you a scotsman?

  22. Agar writes: “….I would rather not be the first to test it after they’re done with the mice and monkeys.”

    OK. Some people have bigger balls than you and are willing to take the potentially life saving risk. Get the fuck out of their way and shut up.

    Seriously, this is even an issue?

  23. If an anti-aging technology makes it past animal trials, you will probably need the fucking army to STOP PEOPLE from breaking down the doors to participate in the trials.

    This motherfucker didn’t even put the first effort into thinking this through.

    Seriously, the biggest risk the poor face if an anti-aging technology makes it through animal trials is that they might accidentally get my shoe prints on their faces as I stomp my way over them to volunteer personally.

    We also can be absolutely sure that when the day actually arrives, he will pivot on a dime and his REAL complaint will be that poor people are being SHUT OUT of these trials.

    1. We also can be absolutely sure that when the day actually arrives, he will pivot on a dime and his REAL complaint will be that poor people are being SHUT OUT of these trials.

      Holy shit, you’re right. Ten years in the future this guy will claim it’s inherently unethical that only the wealthy and connected can get access to these amazing longevity treatments. I guess you have to have something to fret about as a bioethicist, otherwise you’ll be out of a job.

  24. Is Longevity Research Inherently Immoral?

    This headline through the ages:

    “Is Vaccination Research Inherently Immoral?”
    “Is Sanitation Research Inherently Immoral?”
    “Is Crop Yield Research Inherently Immoral?”
    “Is AIDS Research Inherently Immoral?”

    and so on.

  25. I don’t know about the rest of you but I grew up poor, and poor people take all sorts of drugs, especially ones they are told over and over not to take. Hell, in high school we had kids spraying Raid on joints because some idiot said it was like PCP.

    1. And yet some claim the poor aren’t stupid.

      1. To clarify: But not you, Tim.

        1. It’s the truth Gus, people like taking drugs, maybe poor people more than most.

    2. Replace “poor people” with “young people” and you’re living in my world.

    3. “spraying Raid on joints because some idiot said it was like PCP.
      reply to this ”

      I always heard it was like DMT.

  26. Well if we won’t extend our lives by experimenting on poor people, I modestly propose that we enliven what time we have left by dropping poor people into the forrest and hunting them for sport.

    1. Frank: Don’t even joke about hunting no man.
      Dennis: Who’s joking? I’m not joking.
      Frank: Oh yeah? Well, I was hunted once. I’d just came back from ‘Nam. I was hitching through Oregon and some cop started harassing me. Next thing you know, I had a whole army of cops chasing me through the woods! I had to take ’em all out–it was a bloodbath!
      (everyone pauses awkwardly)
      Charlie: That’s ‘Rambo’, dude.

      1. “Yeah, and come to think of it, that’s not the first time you’ve described your life in the way of John Rambo’s.”

  27. New Zealand-based bioethicist Nicholas Agar argues in Slate that the need to vet risky treatments to increase healthy human lifespans implies using healthy poor people as experimental subjects. If this is so, then the longevity enterprise is inherently unethical.

    It actually implies Agar is not familiar with the meaning of non sequitur. If so, it implies he’s also not familiar with the concept of begging the question.

    One, it implies no such thing, he is merely assuming it. Second, why would experimienting on “poor” subjects (whatever that happens to mean) be “inherently” unethical? Because Mr. Agar says? Fuck him! Who the fuck made him the nanny for “poor” people?

    1. Who the fuck made him the nanny for “poor” people?

      He did, since they’re too stupid to do it themselves.

      1. Long’s we got perfesser Agar on our side, we’ll be just fine!

  28. “telomere dwindling is thought to have evolved as a way to prevent a cell from turning cancerous…most cancer cells reboot the genes that lengthen telomeres which then enables them to proliferate as tumors”

    I look at aging as information decaying with duplication, while cancer is more of a scrambling of information or splicing in of extra, defective information. A molecule as complicated as DNA is naturally bound to change slightly as cells divide. The point is that the evolutionary “built-in” aging explanation does not completely explain all aging although it may contribute. You would need a way to replace a large number of your “decayed DNA” cells with ones closer to their original form.

    1. Yet single cell organisms such as Ameoba are essentially immortal.

      1. Nothing to stop a single cell organism from “working” except for something like a chemical change that alters the cell’s form.

    2. I look at aging as information decaying with duplication, while cancer is more of a scrambling of information or splicing in of extra, defective information.

      True in some cases. In many, many cases cancer can result from accrued single point mutations that result from information decay.

      1. I didn’t know how I wanted to say that and didn’t feel like drawing out. But it also means that aging increases probability of cancer mutations. The thing about aging “reducing cancer” is kind of circular.

        1. No, no, but that’s the thing. You would think that a process that reduces aging would reduce cancer, but biology always has a neat way of saying “fuck you” and turn it into one that increases cancer.

          Actually, I am working with splicing enzymes (RAD51/52 in yeast) and I had this DNA that was splicing itself out, probably because the yeast didn’t like it and the ones that spliced it had a selective advantage… Thought that knocking out either splicing enzyme would make the DNA more stable, but the RAD52 knockout yeast spit it out faster, probably because it was increasing the other splicing enzymes to compensate.

  29. There is one negative aspect of immortal or near-immortal lifespans that I haven’t seen mentioned. One survival advantage for a species with shorter lifespans is that they can mutate and adapt to changes in the environment and threats such as viruses.

    When a major plague hits humanity, those with better immunity make up a much higher percentage of the population after that event, by virtue of surviving.

    If a human generation increased from the current 20-40 years to something like 1000 years, we might be more susceptible to some new virus wiping us out. Of course, we may be able to engineer other tools to deal with that problem, given medical researchers with a productive career span of 2000 years, vs. the current 30.

    1. That’s true, but I think that we have already crossed into that territory. All medicine is life extending and any treatment that allows a person who woudl have died without it to survive to have children reduces the ability of the species as a whole to adapt to environmental dangers or to evolve away from genetic diseases. I think that if we are to be an advanced technological species, we will have to give up, to a large degree, on evolutionary adaptation in favor of technological adaptation (which seems likely to include genetic modification at some point).

    2. who says medical researchers have a productive career span of zero? Sometimes I look at the sheer amount of scientific fraud, promotion of incompetents, and general patheticness of science and wonder if we’re regressing.

      1. feast your eyes on longevity research gone wrong. Bonus: Aubrey de Gray is a major player to sirtuis.


    3. Eh. we should have something like 5-7 generations at that time. 17 year olds aren’t gonna quit fucking whilst thinking they’re baby proof.

  30. Furthermore, to prove that new therapies can extend the life spans of people free of any significant disease of aging, researchers will need to carry out tests on similar people?that is, experiencing healthy aging.

    This is true of ever drug that’s ever been made. The first phase of any clinical trial is to give the drug to completely healthy people and see what happens:…

    Only after we can verify that a drug doesn’t harm healthy people do we try to determine if it actually helps unhealthy people.

  31. It is true that pharmaceutical companies can and do get away with testing new compounds on volunteers in developing countries and that, indeed, abuses do occur from time to time. There are ways to reign in these abuses. What makes the Slate article so silly is how is this problem any different for anti-aging compound than for any other compounds? This is why Nicholas Agar’s article is so silly and pointless.

    If anything, development of effective anti-aging will reduce the need for the testing of new compounds because most “age-related” conditions are, in fact, caused by the aging process itself rather than independent disease states. Thus, it makes more sense, in terms of cost and effort, to focus on curing aging itself (and thus curing, by default, all of the “age-related” conditions) rather than to attempt to treat and cure all of those “age-related” conditions as though they are independent disease state, as is current practice on the part of the pharmaceutical industry?

  32. Is Longevity Research Inherently Immoral?
    Which begs the question:
    What would be the morality of the immortal (if any)?

  33. do you think you can anti-age without these medical treatments that can be risky?
    Check this out,

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