Before we do this, however, we think it important to point out that all three submissions (and responses) to this challenge were very different but share two unifying themes: 1) Aubrey de Grey engages in deception and misrepresentation (we echo Charles Mobbs’ claim that “de Grey systematically misrepresents the scientific literature”); and 2) de Grey’s claim of SENS’ comprehensiveness is unjustified and unscientific. As we showed very clearly, these two are interrelated and many of de Grey’s deceptions and misrepresentations serve to bolster his claim of SENS’ comprehensiveness. Apparently, in spite of our many warnings that de Grey’s claims are often false, the judges did not investigate the truth of the claims in his response, even though he clearly directed his response to them.
We were reluctant to make a submission to this challenge for which a self-selected group of non-expert scientists act as arbiters of ideas outside their areas of expertise. However, we thought it important to take the opportunity to present to the Technology Review readership important information about SENS, in spite of the risk of ostensibly placing ultimate judgment in the hands of a panel of non-experts. We took this risk because we believe that certain key aspects of Aubrey de Grey’s claims and the judges’ assessment of them can be ultimately judged by the open-minded and technically competent readers of this magazine. Along with over two dozen of our scientific colleagues we recognize the extreme technical deficiencies of SENS but we know that people outside of gerontological research don’t understand some of the arcane scientific minutiae. Therefore, from the beginning of this challenge we focused on conveying two primary messages to non-gerontologists: 1) there is no clear dividing line between legitimate science and pseudoscience, but there are general features of pseudoscience that can help us to identify life extension pseudoscience; and, 2) SENS is unworthy of learned debate because it has so few features of legitimate biological science or engineering and so many features of pseudoscience, including many false and misleading claims.
We believe that Technology Review readers can assess Aubrey de Grey’s claims and the judges’ decision by the same basic processes. First, they can read all the submissions and responses and they can see that all submitters accuse Aubrey de Grey of deception and/or misrepresentation. We did not discuss our submission with Mobbs or Weinstein, and such serious accusations are not made lightly or commonly in science; these accusations are no mere coincidence. Second, de Grey’s response to us contains so many false statements that we left a number of them unaddressed and we mentioned this in our response. These unaddressed falsehoods give a convenient measure of how thoroughly the judges assessed his claims. Once again, we don’t consider all previously unaddressed falsehoods since even a small number within scientific discourse should signal a serious problem, and if the judges allowed multiple falsehoods to go unchallenged then their final judgment must be discounted – or even totally disregarded. Some of the most easily discovered falsehoods are found in a passage in which Aubrey de Grey defends his claims regarding the absence of causal roles for mutation and epimutation in senescence. Here is the passage:
“…indeed, the data in the only publication cited by Estep et al. that explored three or more time points suggests a deceleration (see figures 3 and 4 in that article). Thus, Estep et al.’s accusation that “a large body of scientific evidence on various pathologies and their possible contributions to aging is ignored” by me…is utterly baseless.”