Aubrey de Grey – Ending Aging

January 11, 2008

Aubrey de Grey, PhD, is a biomedical gerontologist and Chairman and Chief Science Officer of The Methuselah Foundation. His major research interests are the role and etiology of all forms of cellular and molecular damage in mammalian aging, and the design of interventions to reverse the age-related accumulation of such damage. He has published extensively on these and other areas of gerontology, and is also Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, the only peer-reviewed academic journal focusing on intervention in aging. He is the organiser of an ongoing series of conferences and workshops that focus on the key biomedical research relevant to SENS, and he also oversees the Methuselah Foundation’s growing sponsorship of SENS research worldwide.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Aubrey de Grey explains aging, and the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) program that seeks to reverse aging in our lifetime. He explains how his work is, and is not, continuous with “transhumanism.” He addresses challenges the medical and scientific establishment have brought against his work, and how his project is different than the quackery so widespread in the anti-aging movement. He also discusses some of the social and existential problems that ending aging may create for our civilization.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry for Friday, January 11th, 2008. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry, I’m DJ Grothe fee point of inquiries, the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason and science and secular values and public affairs. Before we get to Aubrey de Gray, here’s a word from Skeptical Inquirer magazine. 

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Joining me now by phone, he’s in the U.K. is Dr Aubrey de Gray for over a decade. He was a researcher at the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge in the U.K.. The main goal of his bio gerontology work is to speed up the development of a true cure for human aging. He is chairman and chief science officer of the Methuselah Foundation, a nonprofit organization which seeks to organize research in anti aging. He’s published extensively in this and other areas of gerontology and is also editor in chief of the science journal Rejuvenation Research. The only peer reviewed academic journal focusing on intervention in aging. He’s developed a really wide ranging plan for the eventual indefinite postponement of age related physical and mental decline. Named Sense Strategies for engineered negligible senescence. Welcome to Point of Inquiry, Dr. Aubrey de Gray. 

Many thanks for having me on the show. 

Dr. Dougray, our conversation today is going to be something of a departure for us on point of inquiry. It’s a discussion more about a topic that I think’s really important to transhumanist maybe more than humanists, a topic that, you know, we’ve talked about humanism a lot on the show. But transhumanism, it’s not just living ethically without religion, but it’s using technology in an ethical way to expand our capacities, not just living the good life like a humanist might espouse, but living the best life possible through science and technology. So to start off, doctor degree, is your work properly understood to be transhumanist? 

Well, that’s actually a much harder question than you might think, largely because actually Transhumanist have a range of different definitions of the term. 

I think that my work certainly fits with the original definition of transhumanism that was set out by Julian Huxley back in the 50s. He defined it as basically a process of continual improvement. And if you like, transcendence of providing way of life and progressive transformation. But he very much included the phrase man remaining man, if I remember rightly, in his definition of Kant humanism. Whereas more recently, I think a lot of time, Humanist felt more comfortable with a definition that was laid out about fifteen years ago by Max Moore. And he basically emphasized humanism as a transitional phase on the way to becoming post human and the same sort of way that we might currently considered ourselves to be both ape at this point. And I I’m not really sure that I feel so comfortable identifying with that, because it seems to me that what I do entail preserving the structure of fully working, fully functioning human body and not so much actually in something that I don’t have anything against enhancement by any means. 

But I don’t really see the two things in equivalent as humanists and atheists, hardcore science types. Most of our listeners, I bet, are skeptics about belief, like life after death or the supernatural. But many are also, I bet you, skeptical about many of the claims of the anti aging movement. They might dismiss it, or at least some of it is quackery. Even so, we’re all interested in futurism, in science and technology breakthroughs, breakthroughs in medical science. Personally, I don’t see antiaging science as too controversial. You just look at the history of of medical science, not to mention technological advances with sanitation and nutrition. It’s already tripled human lifespan in the last 500 years. You’re just talking about extending in a radical way human lifespan. 

That’s really right. And in fact, I would go slightly further. 

I think it’s important to remember that the advances that we made a century or so ago in in hygiene and development of vaccines and antibiotics and so on are probably not best described as simply a doubling or tripling of life expectancy. The more important thing to understand is that they come to an almost complete elimination of one cause of death, namely infectious diseases in infancy. The portion of people who die in the Western world now from both at the core of it in infancy, is something like one twentieth of what it was a couple of centuries ago. So really, we’re talking about not a gradual quantitative change, but an absolutely qualitative difference in the range of things that we can die of and the range of ages we can die. And that, I think, puts into even sharper perspective the fact that an assault on aging, which is what we’re engaged in now, can realistically be so complete as to result in virtually nobody dying of actual old age or activities at all. 

That raises all kinds of philosophical questions. Maybe we’ll get to them. But before we get to either the implications of eliminating aging or death from aging as if aging is a disease. And even before we get into the science, why don’t you just define for me in scientific terms what aging is? 

Before we talk about anti aging, yes, I think I’ve done it the right way to do things. 

Yes, aging is the lifelong accumulation of a variety of molecular and cellular changes. The body that are eventually bad for us and eventually get in the way of various metabolic processes and cause Age-Related, they’ve even frailty and debilitation and of course, finally die. Those side effects, so to speak, about ongoing metabolism, are absolutely intrinsic. There’s nothing we can do to stop those side effects from happening short of completely redesigning our bodies. But in the same way that a simple machine like a car or an airplane undergoes damage as an intrinsic side effect of the operation of the machine. Similarly, the human body does the same thing. 

And you’ve developed strategies to offset these side effects of just the operation of the machine. You call it sends strategies for engineered, negligible senescence ways to scientifically reduce natural aging. 

That’s right. And in fact, more than reduce but actually reverse natural aging. The idea is to focus on the fact that I just described that aging. 

If the accumulation of various side effects, mainly side products of normal metabolic processes, which means that the body can in principle be repaired at the molecular and cellular level. In other words, restored to a structural composition that more or less resembles what it looked like at an earlier age. Just in the way that repairing and maintaining a simple manmade machine constitutes restoring its structure to an earlier state and thereby extending its functional lifespan. 

So what are some of the ways that you remove this accumulated damage? 

Normally I partition the various things that we have to do in seven major categories, seven major categories of damage at the molecular and cellular level. And that classification is useful because within each category there are various examples. But the same sort of intervention seems likely to work well to repair that particular type of damage. So going through those seven things, the first one is loss of cells. What that means is cell death. That is not balanced by the division of other cells and various diseases, such as, for example, Parkinson’s disease caused by the loss of cells in certain parts of the body. Now, stem cell therapy is basically designed to combat a loss. That’s really what it’s for. And indeed, stem cell therapy is already having quite impressive success against Parkinson’s disease and against lots of other diseases characterized by cell. The second of the seven category is in some ways the opposite of number one. It’s the accumulation of cells. No, I’m not here talking about countless outcomes of cancer in a minute. Right. I’m talking about cells that are not necessarily dividing, but they have got into a state where they’re not dying when they should. There are various types of cells that we have that need to die in order to be replaced by more useful other cells. And that sometimes doesn’t happen. So we need to get better at encouraging these cells to keel over and get out of the way when they need help. 

Give me some examples of medical conditions when there are too many cells, not cancer, not not hyper dividing. 

Yeah, well, probably the most important wife in the immune system, the type of white blood cell called a T cell, which is very important in combating infectious diseases. And when T cells are reacting against viruses, they sort of expect that built in such a way as to expect to win to get rid of the infection. But there are certain infections that are easy for the immune system to suppress, but which the immune system never quite gets rid of. There are various herpes viruses that do this the most important to something called cytomegalovirus. And when T cells are confronted with the continual ongoing year after year requirement to suppress an infection like that, they divide too often and they get into a state where they simply can’t divide anymore. They no longer respond to the antigen, to the virus that they’re supposed to respond to. But sadly, cells tend to get into a state where they don’t die either. And that means that they take up space in the immune system. The actual total number of white blood cells in the immune system is carefully regulated. So if you’ve got a lot of these useless ones lying around them, that inhibits the proliferation of potentially useful ones against other infections. And it’s not believed that that played a major role in the decline of efficacy of the immune system in old Jim Underdown. 

You have a roadmap. You mentioned cancer. You actually have these seven categories. But let’s touch on cancer, right? 

That’s nobody. My not my. The third one that I. 

Yeah. This audacious program to actually eliminate cancer altogether. Part of your sense program. 

That’s right. I feel that a lot of people misunderstand the situation with cancer. The with, of course, a war on cancer that was announced by Richard. Back in 1971, and a lot of people think that it’s been a complete failure because of concert with the number two killer in America at that time, and it’s there. But actually, the question is, was it worth spending a lot more money than we previously were trying to cure cancer? Sure, we were very over optimistic back then. With regard to how easy it would be, I think that looking back, it’s hard to see how we were so ever. But we have learned a great deal about cancer now. And in particular, I believe that we’ve learned enough that we can really have a good shot at actually eliminating any death from cancer by a manipulation that involves stopping cancer cells from extending the end of their chromosomes when they divide. It’s a very ambitious approach. It’s a variation on an approach that’s being taken already by a number of companies and laboratories. But my approach, the variation that I have propounded involves, well, it may be a lot harder for the cancer to get round and it will have really serious side effects. But the reason I put the proposal forward is because I see that we should be able to mitigate those side effects. And therefore, by doing that at the same time, I have this very robust therapy. We will get the benefits of eliminating cancer without a downside in a general way first. 

Would you call the science you talk about in your book, Fringe Science? I mean, here you’re talking about ending cancer or, you know, ending aging altogether. Can you see how hardcore skeptics might dismiss all of that as junk science, maybe even pseudo science? You’re taking on the biggest issues in medicine and offering kind of a wham bam. Thank you, ma’am. Proposal. 

Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. And of course, for well, is the dawn of civilization. People have been trying to pretend that they knew how to combat aging properly. But ultimately, aging is a physical phenomenon. It’s simply a process that goes on inside a political machine, the human body. And as such, it it in principle something that technology should be able to do something about. It’s just a question of how difficult that problem is and therefore how long it’s going to take us. But it would be unscientific to take the view that the problem is impossibly difficult and therefore that we will never succeed. And therefore, the only way to determine whether a particular approach to doing this is fanciful or if foreseeable, is to look at the details and to ask, okay, given where we are at the moment in the various technologies from which the proposal is proposing to start. How far is that to go? How big are the remaining steps that we need to take? And if none of those remaining steps is particularly big? Then of course, that means you have a realistic proposal. 

How many people besides yourself are doing anti aging research in a scientific way? Surely you’d admit vividly some of what’s being done is anti scientific. It’s quackery. It’s kind of just out there to make a buck. How many guys are in a lab doing your your line of work? 

Yeah. You’re quite right. There are plenty of people who are selling things and making a lot of money out of things that don’t work. But everything that I work on, that I include in a large, multifaceted sense program is being worked on one way or another in laboratories around the world, in universities and also to some extent, in some cases in industry already. Now, most of the people who are working on this are actually not working on it for the purpose of combating aging, for the purpose of its status as a component of the fence plan, for example. Most people are working on these things because of the potential for particular technologies to be useful on their own rather than as part of a big plan in attacking particular diseases or particular other medical conditions. And that’s fine. You know, I mean, as far as I’m concerned, so long as the technology is realistic enough that people are working hard to develop it than the use of that technology doesn’t have to be restricted to particular diseases if it also has applications at a component of a grand plan to defeat aging. 

Dr. Degree, tell me about the Methuselah Foundation, named after the character in the Hebrew Bible, lived 900 plus years. That’s that’s the organization you’re running? 

Yes, it is. 

The foundation of the Father 133 nonprofit that I am the chair and chief science officer of. And I should emphasize that the name is not and it does not indicate any sort of religious affiliation. We have we’re completely agnostic with regard to things like that. It’s just because the name Methuselah evokes long life and the avoidance of aging. So the foundation of that, that’s a nonprofit we attract funding from. Individual Ron Lindsay from less wealthy individuals. You can give us money and your credit card if you like to direct. To the effect that needs to be done in order to implement each of the various components of the fence plan. Now that. Of course, means that we tried to make a difference. These things are, as I mentioned earlier, happening anyway, but some of them are happening much more slowly than they might because they seem to be rather ambitious, maybe and hard to fund from other Phyllis’s. So top professors want to work on these things, but they only do them at the sideline because they don’t have the funding to do them more. So we try to accelerate things by providing more funding. That’s one of the activities of the Methuselah Foundation. The other activity we have is we want a prize called them in the mouth prize, abbreviated B m prize. And the M prize is directed at trying to get people to follow their hunches on the basis that the fence program looks pretty good. It looks pretty promising as a way to defeat aging. But you never know. It might not work or for that matter. Something else might exist that might be easier and might work more quickly. And we want to encourage people to think that they’ve got a better idea to actually pursue those ideas. So in just the same way that prizes have an extremely good track record of encouraging technological innovation, whether it be building accurate clocks or flying across the Atlantic of space tourism or whatever. Similarly, we felt four years ago that it was worthwhile to have a prive that would raise the profile of life extension research in a matter of course. That doesn’t trivialize it and thereby get people more interested. And that’s actually the first thing that even the foundation was set up to do. 

Back in 2010, I’d like to let our listeners know that you can purchase a copy of ending aging, the rejuvenation breakthroughs that could reverse human aging in our lifetime. Through our Web site point of inquiry dot org, where you’ll also find more information about the Methuselah Foundation. Dr. Dougray, we just kind of skimmed the surface of the science you talk about in your book. Would you mind just surveying in a quick fashion that the other five components of your sense program? 

Sure. Sadun fell off and fell feel like death, resistance and accumulation. Another problem is uncontrolled cell proliferation, which is, of course, cancer. And that comes from mutations in our DNA. Now, we’re not really looking at any realistic prospect anytime soon of being able to stop DNA from mutating. So what we’re going to have to do instead is stop those mutations from killing us. And I proposed a very ambitious but it seems we’ve got to be realistic game, which will stop cells from dividing more than about 50 times and which will therefore be enough to stop us from dying of cancer, even though cancers will still initiate from single cells that have accumulated the wrong sorts of mutations. OK. Number four, it also mutations, but not in nuclear this time. And I normally Jena, but rather in the what’s called the powerhouse of the cell, the mitochondria, which are the special component of the cell that we have to, if you like, do the chemistry of breathing the mitochondria, have their own DNA and there’s not very much available, but it’s very important and it mutates to have various effects on aging. And I’ve been looking for a long time at an idea that’s been around for about 20 years, 25 years, which is to relocate that DNA into the nucleus where it will be much better protected. And actually, we’re funding from work in that area at the moment. I have faith in the foundation. It’s going extremely well. And I’m now very optimistic about some method that can be made to work. Number five is the accumulation of indigestible molecules in the cell. This is something that is the underlying problem that causes atherosclerosis, the accumulation of basically cholesterol derivatives in the artery wall. It also causes macular degeneration, the accumulation of various modified photoreceptor material. And it also plays a big role in various neurodegenerative diseases. And I proposed about a year ago now that we might be able to eliminate these thing by introducing into our bodies new genes for new enzymes that could break down things that we can’t naturally break down, that ourselves can’t naturally break down. That’s right. Now, what would we find? The enzymes. And it turns out that a very promising answer to that question, which has been explored for not for biomedical reasons, but for reasons of environmental decontamination. For the last few decades, it’s called bio remediation. Eventually, bioremediation works by finding bacteria that have enzymes that can break things down. And the bacteria doesn’t have the enzymes to break down unusual things so that the bacteria can live a long time. Of course, bacteria just want to divide. But that’s quite enough to make them evolve these strange. Time to break down strange things if there are strange things in their environment that they can live off, if they could break them down. So it turns out that easy to find bacteria that can break down really unusual things like explosives or plastic or rubber. And sure enough, it turns out that we can find bacteria that can break down these things that we really wish did not accumulate in our body. So we’re now funding from work in a number of labs across the U.S.. For many people, a foundation that are already succeeding in finding these bacteria. And we’re at the early stages of characterizing the genes and the enzymes that those bacteria are using to break these things down. 

Number five, number six is, again, the accumulation of indigestible molecules. But this time we’re talking about molecules that accumulate outside the cell and the spaces between cell. And most of the stuff that does this is made of protein and it’s called amyloid. Amyloid is well-known for its role in Alzheimer’s disease, but it also accumulates in some other tissues. And it’s been discovered over the past several years that amyloid is actually not very difficult to break down so long as it can be actually transported inside the cell, because inside the cell, we have more High-Powered machinery to speak for breaking things down. So people have figured out that we can actually stimulate the immune system to gobble up this stuff and thereby break it down. 

And there are actually clinical trials already going on being orchestrated by a company called Allen from South San Francisco and phase two at the moment. And apparently the phase two trials are going extremely well and phase three is already beginning. So we’re looking at something that actually probably further forward than any of the other thin strands at this point. The final one, number seven, is the stiffening of structures that need to be elastic in order to work, especially things like the length of the eye or the artery wall that will go our major arteries. They have to be elastic in order to work and they accumulate chemical changes over time that make them less elastic. Eventually, the proteins that made of react with sugar and you have new chemical bonds made between proteins that are supposed to be able to fly against each other. Now it turns out, rather luckily, that these chemical bonds have an unusual structure that’s never seen in normal chemical structures that the body laid down on purpose. So the race is on to develop drugs that break a thing and thereby restore the activity. But do not, of course, break things that we don’t want to break. And that’s also been going quite well is one drug that’s already been in clinical trials, a little bit of work going on, a pace to find some more. 

So those are the seven things, Dr. Gray, if all of these lines of research are so promising and they excite you so much, why are they catching on in mainstream medical science more quickly? Why isn’t it being trumpeted everywhere as the set of breakthroughs that you talk about in your book? 

Well, the main reason why it takes a long time for an idea like this to gain traction it because it’s got so many bets to it. If you are someone who works on, for example, relocating the mitochondrial DNA into the nucleus, then they may think that, yes, it’s realistic that within 10 or so years we will be able to do that in mice and maybe in 20 years or 30 years we’ll be able to do it in humans. But that that professor is working on that they won’t have an opinion about whether we can break down indigestible molecules in the cell or whether we can use stem cell therapy to replace cell for the missing, because that’s not their area of expertize. So really, it’s a case of nobody having all the right range of expertize to be able to form a good opinion as to whether this is going to work. People who work in the biology of aging in particular, even though you might think they would know all about everything that had anything to do with aging, they have, in fact, very little knowledge by large about most of the things that I have incorporated into the fence plan. Most of the people who are working on these various components are not people who would by any means call themselves gerontology. 

So you’ve just explained why it’s not catching on in mainstream medical science. That’s just the nature of scientific progress. But explain to me why your did a lot of people dismiss you? Medical skeptics kind of put you in the same boat as a lot of people. I think even you would concede are quacks. 

Sure they do. Or at least they have done, though. 

In fact, my more strident critics have had their bluff called so thoroughly over the past couple of years that they tend to be rather quiet these days. However. Yeah, I mean, we’ve. Pretty obvious, really. Namely, that my colleagues are concerned that by talking about really defeating aging in the foreseeable future, I may be bringing the field into disrepute in some way. I may be blurring the distinction between the hardcore robots, responsible science that they are doing the quackery that you mentioned earlier. You know, I have some sympathy with that there, but I think that it’s basically cowardly to let that fear blow one’s judgment and not to actually take seriously the possibility that we might be able to make progress because of a new direction and a new approach, especially. I think it’s irresponsible to refuse to talk about timeframe. I think that when people accuse me of engendering unwarranted optimism by saying that I think we have a 50/50 chance of eventually defeating aging within the next 25 or 30 years, subject to funding, of course, that sounds as audacious as Ray Kurzweil or other futurists making similar claims, and they’re equally as dismissed by mainstream science. Well, that’s right. Yeah, I mean, a lot of my more conservative colleagues say that it’s irresponsible to make such claims, but I feel that it’s irresponsible to say nothing. I feel that by refusing to speculate as to the likelihood of progress in a particular timeframe. One is, if you like, engendering unwarranted pessimism and perpetuating the incorrect notion that the whole thing is completely hopeless and that we’ll never defeat aging. Hmm. 

I want to switch gears a bit for our remaining time and talk to you about some of the philosophical implications of your line if if you are right and medical science is going to dramatically reduce even an senescence of aging in our lifetimes. Well, what that cause widespread upheaval to our social institutions, not to mention the individual existential implications. I’ll talk to you about in a minute. I mean, just look at natural resources. If everyone lives hundreds of years or something, doesn’t that put a strain on our already overextended resources for our growing population worldwide? 

You’re absolutely right, that post aging world would be different in every possible respect than a world that we have at the moment. But then the world we have at the moment is different in almost every conceivable respect from the pre-industrial world. And I don’t think many of us would want to go back to a pre-industrial world. The fact is that we have to have a sense of proportion about the benefits and the potential downsides of dramatic transformational technologies like that. If we think about the specific one that you just mentioned, the question of resources. Well, we have to ask it. Well, OK, what is the problem with resources? The problem is that you’ve got a global population that is too large to be supported by the planet. Given the way in which we’re using the planet and if we were to eliminate death from aging, then certainly that would mean that the death rate would go down a great deal. And that would other things being equal cause a big and rapid and sustained increase in global population, which would be bad for resources. 

So the only way that ending aging works for society is if we solve all these other social problems at the same time. 

We certainly do have to solve a lot of potential problems, social and individual problems at the same time, just as we would for any other transformational technology, whether we solve them beforehand or whether we fold them shortly after these technologies come into being is really open to question. And certainly I think that it would be very valuable if people had sufficiently realistic idea of the likelihood that these technologies are going to come along so that they would actually take the prospect seriously and forward plan appropriately. When I say people here, of course, I mean policymakers and the public so as to minimize the downsides and especially to minimize the turbulence that might be associated with the transition to a birthday. 

Well, so if people live hundreds of years longer, aging is ended. You don’t think that’s unethical? I mean, cause if you look at the natural order of things, old people die so young people can live. I mean, that’s kind of a brutal way of saying it. But you’re saying, no, there are other solutions to that problem. 

Sure. I mean, hundred years ago or 200 years ago, as I mentioned earlier on, 40 percent of babies died before they reached the age of one. Now, we don’t think it was unethical to invent hygiene and vaccines and antibiotics and so on. So if tomorrow eliminate that problem, we think it was extremely ethical to do so. And that, of course, meant that the birthrate had to go down a lot lot an awful lot of people who would have had the chance to be born and never got born and never get bored. Now, when we’re only having one or two children instead of 10 children, so you could argue, well, we’re going to have to reduce the birth rate even more in order to maintain a stable level of global population, but only by a small fraction of the amount that we had to reduce it in order to cope with the population spike that resulted from eliminating infant mortality. 

I want to talk to you about the personal implications. Some of the philosophers I hold most dear from them, we learned that accepting one’s death is one of the chief ways of valuing one’s life. It focuses your attention on the things that matter as a secular humanist, as a non-religious person. I don’t believe there’s life after death. So this is all that matters. You know, this life here and now, if you remove from people that focusing truth, that accepting that you’re going to die makes you value your life all the more. Well, that doesn’t honor we set in. Doesn’t meaninglessness kind of take over? 

Yeah. This is a very curious objection to the work to defeat aging, because, in fact, the argument reaches the exact opposite conclusion of the one that it’s claimed to rate. You see, because defeating aging only means removing one cause of death. 

There’s still plenty of other causes of death out there getting hit by a car or something. Yeah, right. 

And that means the value that one may play someone’s life may actually be greater than it is today because one knows that one have a larger number of you have in front of one. And so one can argue, well, that may have its own problem in terms of, for example, risk aversion. But the idea that one would lose the value that may be obtained from no one’s going to die is complete nonsense because, well, it’s still going to die from something else. 

I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface. And I imagine a lot of skeptics out there will chime in in the weeks ahead as they listen to what you have to say. And so maybe we’ll have you back on to continue the conversation to finish up today. What can I listeners do to reduce aging in their lives right now as opposed to just knowing what science is being done to maybe reduce aging in their lifetime? What can they do? And especially how do they separate the wheat from the chaff? How did they look at your stuff? Until that, it’s real science. If it is and look at the quackery and get that it’s quackery. How do. How did they avoid being duped by this really amazing industry, this anti aging industry? 

Well, the first thing to your question about what can be done now is more or less nothing except what you already knew, like don’t smoke and get enough exercise to keep a constant weight and eat a balanced diet. If you’re doing all those things, then have nothing expensive and modern you can do today. 

So unlike other anti aging boosters, you don’t propose people take a lot of vitamins or or supplements or chemicals to extend their their life. You’re saying just eat right, exercise, be healthy and wait for medical science to come up with these breakthroughs? 

That’s almost what I’m saying. I’m not saying just wait. I certainly think that everyone can do something to hasten the arrival of those therapies. You know, obviously, wealthy individuals can give money to the research. Less wealthy individuals can do so to people who have radioshow can get me on the radio to talk about this research and make people understand that it’s realistic. Know anyone can talk to their family and their friends and generally really get the word out that we are within range of genuinely defeating this thing that kills twice as many people as every other cause of death put together worldwide and kill something like 90 percent of Americans. So there’s plenty we can do to make that happen sooner. And, of course, that will improve the probability that one can say one’s own life. 

And then the second question about separating the wheat from the chaff. 

Yeah, well, it helps, of course, that I’m clearly not in this to make money. First of all, if anyone is listening, that’s what I look like. It be pretty hard to think of me as anything other than rather unmaterialistic, but also simply I run a nonprofit. We don’t do anything for money, and that helps. Also, however, in terms of the ability of science, I think it’s important to remember that I have succeeded in getting some of my staunchest critics to actually set down in print why they think that the science that I’m describing is infeasible or isn’t really science. And to have that combination, shall we say, actually evaluated by extremely unassailable neutral experts in the form of the panel that M.I.T. Technology Review put together last year. And, of course, the attempts to denigrate the fence plan roundly and unceremoniously thrown out and in fact, were described as unscientific themselves. So at this point, I think that I’ve got more than the extra mile at stake in demonstrating that the proposal I’m putting forward certainly are real. 

Thank you very much for joining me on point of inquiry, Dr. Aubrey Degree. My pleasure. 

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Point of inquiries produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. Executive producer Paul Kirk’s point of inquiry’s music is composed for us by Emmy Award winning Michael. 

Contributors to today’s show included Debbie Goddard and Sarah Jordan. And I’m your host DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.