This passage is particularly worth investigating because it seems authoritative and specific; it is the only specific citation or discussion of actual scientific data in de Grey’s response to us, directing attention to particular figures in a publication cited in our submission. The problem with this passage is that not a word of it is true, and in these two sentences there are three obvious falsehoods:
· Figures 3 and 4 of this paper clearly show de Grey’s presentation of the data is false and one doesn’t need to be an expert to see this (although the meaning of these data will be lost on non-biologists). These figures show data on two types of mice: (i) normal mice, and (ii) mice bearing a translocation and mutant allele (with decreased function on the inactive X chromosome) at the assayed locus. The mutant mice show an age-dependent increased gene expression from the inactive X chromosome, with a plateau in expression at the two oldest ages (Figures 3C, and 4C). However, the normal mice, which represent the bulk of these data, show increasing gene expression from the inactive X chromosome at all ages and in both assayed tissues (Figures 3A and 3B, and 4A and 4B). These figures directly contradict de Grey’s claim of a deceleration of epimutation with advancing age.
· We did not cite only one publication with three or more time points. The Fraga et al. publication we cite presents data from human twins of many ages, so, many chronological time points are represented in some of these data. It is true that the majority of these data are from twins in two age groups (one young and one older), but so what? This objection is misleading and it is an excuse to disregard the very strong evidence in this publication that compellingly challenges Aubrey de Grey’s claim of SENS’ comprehensiveness.
· Since Aubrey de Grey’s presentation of these and other data are false and misleading, our accusation that he ignores a large body of scientific evidence stands unchallenged; however, this phrasing doesn’t sufficiently capture the essence of de Grey’s treatment of contrary data. While Aubrey de Grey does simply ignore most contrary data he does acknowledge some; however, he invariably misrepresents the meaning of these data to reduce the negative impact on SENS.
In the judges’ summary there is no mention of these or any other of Aubrey de Grey’s many misrepresentations. If the judges had listened to the SENS Challenge submitters’ unanimous chorus of accusations of deception and misrepresentation they would have discovered for themselves Aubrey de Grey’s obvious misconduct. Instead, our judgment is called into question, we are accused of name-calling, and the most severe criticism of this challenge is directed at us by Rodney Brooks. And what criticisms do they have of Aubrey de Grey? The judges determined that SENS is immature and speculative but Aubrey de Grey was spared any criticism. The absence of even an acknowledgment of his misconduct implicitly grants to him – and everyone else! – a license to distort and misrepresent scientific evidence to fit an agenda composed more of pseudoscientific propaganda than science or engineering. We believe that Technology Review readers are sophisticated enough to critically evaluate the judges’ assessment, to weigh the evidence for themselves, and to conclude that SENS is agenda-driven pseudoscience and unworthy of learned debate.
For a complete history of the SENS Challenge, click here.
1. Warner, H., et al., Science fact and the SENS agenda. EMBO Rep, 2005. 6(11): p. 1006-8.
2. Bennett-Baker, P.E., J. Wilkowski, and D.T. Burke, Age-associated activation of epigenetically repressed genes in the mouse. Genetics, 2003. 165(4): p. 2055-62.
3. Fraga, M.F., et al., Epigenetic differences arise during the lifetime of monozygotic twins. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2005. 102(30): p. 10604-9.
4. de Grey, A., Are nuclear mutations or epimutations relevant to other aspects of mammalian aging than cancer? Technology Review, 2006.