Friday, September 28, 2007

Chasing Immortality

Nature is featuring a collection of open access articles on the topic of ageing. Some very interesting science from the lab to be sure. That said, it is somewhat disappointing that the research they (the world's greatest scientific journal in the universe) chose to feature is somewhat skewed toward an obsession with the quest for magic pills and miraculous cures, without any attention to the question of whether it is desirable or even advisable to set out on such a journey in first place.

Certainly, the human struggle to accept the inevitability of death is nothing new. The many religious sects who have successfully convinced a great number of otherwise sane people to commit insane and suicidal acts over the years have clearly understood the susceptibility of the human mind to the promise of immortality. Will molecular biology and stem cells finally lead us to the holy grail?

At this point, it would seem pertinent to ask, what is ageing, really? A plague or biological destiny? A burden or a blessing on society? I guess we're left to discuss these types of questions amongst ourselves. If Nature's editorial selection is to serve as a barometer, science would seem not to have any insight to offer.

Perhaps we can at least find wisdom in the words of ageing evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who said "you never really quite die; as long as there is some of your genetic material left behind in this world". Surely this is a feat of biology that no pharmacologist will ever equal.