Friday, March 5, 2010

Of Course Aging Research

When I first read Katja Grace's theory that phrases like "clearly" or "of course" are usually used to cloak messy logic in a shroud of obviousness, I was skeptical. But enough examples have convinced me that she is on to something. For example, consider the end of Perl's interesting article on the characteristics of people who live to 100 years old:
The hope, of course, is that these gene discoveries will help in identification of drug targets and creation of drugs to allow persons to become more "centenarian-like" by maximizing the period of their lives spent in good health.

To me, it is by no means obvious that this should be the goal of comparative gene analysis in centenarians. Other goals could be simply attempting to increase lifespan and hoping that healthspan increases concurrently, or ending aging completely*, or eventually transfecting the lifespan-extending alleles of identified genes into zygotes in utero. Since there are plenty of alternatives, in this case "of course" serves to hide the fact that the author is making a value statement.

* Although, contra de Grey and with the caveat that I am no expert, I think we are quite far away from that.