Davis not so scientific

Sep 072006

Regarding the article by Hilary Davis in the Sept. 6 issue of the Collegian, “Getting far too old before my time,” I would like to offer a few observations. The author appears very upset by what “really scientific people” have discovered.

It is apparent to me that the author is not a really scientific person. This is not a huge problem, as I am not a graphic artist, nor do I tout myself as such. We all have our own talents. However, I must point out the incongruencies in Ms. Davis’ column, since I am a scientific person (though maybe not “really” scientific).

The author states, “There is new scientific information to suggest that aging is purely genetic, and lifestyle and family history play little or no part in how long we live. Fantastic.” I read the New York Times article to which she is referring.

First, family history does imply genetics, since one’s biological family comprises one’s genetic history. So, either the author is contradicting herself in her statement, or else simply doesn’t understand what “genetics” means.

Further, the researchers established that it wasn’t just genetics that predisposed people to die young or live to be old; that was the whole point of the article, a sense of “randomness” in how aging affected different people.

There seemed to be no connection between your genes and how long you lived (case in point: a disparity in twin longevity). If the author is going to write a column critiquing scientists, it would behoove her to understand what she is critiquing.

It is quite obvious to me that the author is more likely to be the one playing Twister. There is a reason that not all people are scientists: it’s difficult.

Further, in response to her statement about aging “not having a cure,” I must set the record straight – that being: aging is not a disease. It is a natural part of being alive. In order to exist, living things must be in a constant state of oxidation, thus providing energy in order to do basic things, like breathe, walk, eructate, write, think, replicate DNA, etc. However, there is a price to pay for all that energy being created: oxidation also causes cellular damage, which an organism can repair, up to a point. Accumulations of this damage (mostly to DNA) can result in changes that are too great to reverse; thus, humans age. The chemistry of our bodies is such that, like a fire, we are slowly burning to death, but that heat is necessary for our survival. Aging is not a disease, it is a process; and while it may be slowed down or sped up, it cannot be stopped. Furthermore, if aging were “cured,” how might that affect world population growth? If the author is so concerned about the “demise of our poor planet,” would it be wise to have people hanging around to populate it, just because the author, and others, doesn’t want to become old? I am happy that I shall not live forever; and, although I don’t welcome some physical changes that might accompany living to be 100 years old, I plan to do my best to pursue a healthy lifestyle, think positively and try to keep my mind and body active as long as possible. If I drop dead at 47 while climbing a mountain, I won’t really complain.

Corrie Welch

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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