SAGE KE Bulletin Board

RE: Ethics of and motivation for aging cure

3 October 2001

Nuno Arantes-Oliveira

It is indeed impossible to predict exactly what the consequences of a given line of research will be, as Douglas suggests. Luckily, memory of past experience and the ability to think rationally allow humans to have some notion of what the outcome of their actions will be. Only by accepting this simple fact can we recognize any social purpose in scientific research as a whole. As scientists and as citizens, we are constantly "forced" to make some kind of prediction about consequences of present actions. And as human beings we make judgements about the positive or negative value of those consequences.

In practical terms, the advancement of science always has to be "guided" in some direction. There aren't enough financial or human resources for a society to afford supporting just any kind of research, regardless of its utility. Therefore, scientists and decision-makers often have to ponder on which types of research should be given priority. This is why it may be relevant, in my opinion, to discuss the purpose of a search for the "cure" for aging. Especially since most of us would agree that many other fields of research are in fact crucial for the solution of urgent problems.

If there is ideed a practical purpose in aging research, then most gerontologists are probably well positioned to explain it, and I'd be looking forward to read those views. If there is no purpose other than very personal motivations, then I would agree with Douglas that this discussion may be of no consequence.

Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150