In 1998, scientists discovered an enzyme, telomerase, that had the astonishing ability to "immortalize" certain kinds of cells that normally died within a short time. When that discovery was announced to the public, the press put an almost inevitable spin on it: aging was about to become an artifact of the past. Never mind that the scientists in question never claimed that telomerase had anything to do with the lifespan of humans: the discovery became a story because it appealed to our ancient interest in cheating death and living forever. A huge, lucrative industry now caters to that interest, offering the public pills, potions, and powders that are meant to reverse and undo the effects of aging.
Such fixes do not, will not, and cannot work, write scientists Jay Olshansky and Bruce Carnes in this book-length argument against the claims of "prolongevists," those who believe that the fountain of youth is just around the corner. "Short of medical interventions that manufacture survival time," the authors argue, "there is very little you can do as an individual to extend the latent potential for longevity that was present at your conception." In the aggregate, they continue, we have already passed the far limits of our life expectancy, as is evident by the fact that many of the diseases that plague us today, such as certain cancers and neuromuscular disorders, are the expression of genes that have long been with us but were not often manifest, because humans did not live long enough for them to become a problem.
Adding still more years will do nothing to improve the quality of life, Olshansky and Carnes suggest. The better approach is to guard our health during the years that are ours--and to regard all claims to immortality and life extension, no matter how attractive, with a skeptical eye. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
As the baby boomers age, the number of books on the aging process seems to increase exponentially. Similarly, the range of elixirs, potions, herbs, specialty diets and hormones being marketed as ways to halt or reverse the aging process has been growing apace. Olshansky, a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago, and Carnes, an expert on aging, insert their voices into the mix, refuting many of the claims of purveyors of these products, reminding readers that "we should all be wary of those who distort legitimate science and use pseudoscience or no science in order to create and market false promises and exaggerated claims about health and longevity." They begin with a brief but far-reaching history of the human preoccupation with the Fountain of Youth, going all the way back to Babylonian and Greek myth and describing alchemical pursuits during the Renaissance. They then present an overview of current scientific study of the aging process, covering such topics as the evolutionary reasons for aging, cellular changes associated with the process and the physiological alterations inextricably linked to it. The authors address advances in medicine and public health that have led to dramatic increases in the human lifespan in developed countries over the past century, and that may yield genetic therapies intended to even further enhance longevity. Unfortunately, the authors seem to give secondary priority to the writing: there are distracting repetitions and awkward transitions between the singular and plural first person. But they argue persuasively that, taking whole populations into account, overall lifespan is unlikely to increase significantly, and that the most productive means for improving quality, and perhaps length, of life are mundane diet monitoring and consistent physical activity. (Jan.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This book seems pretty biased to me. While he seemingly makes a case for open-minded thinking, the wording he uses to describe some research and attitudes other than his own can be... Read morePublished 9 months ago by S. O Rooney
The author keeps repeating himself, chapter after chapter. I finally put it down and into the donation box.Published 13 months ago by Elizabeth Sheridan
I picked up The Quest for Immortality because it was mentioned in the references cited by Raymond Khoury in his book titled The Sanctuary. Read morePublished on April 6, 2013 by euonymous
This book was recommended to me by a college friend. It was not the kind of book I thought it was but it's still rather interesting. Read morePublished on November 14, 2012 by Linda L. Lake
Many scientists with impeccable pedigree claimed that we could never harness the power of the atom, or land a human on the moon. And they were all wrong! Read morePublished on January 1, 2002 by nick d
I read The Quest For Immortality last spring with some expectation that my preconceptions about aging research would be seriously challenged. Read morePublished on November 24, 2001 by Ronald W. Garrison
Just shy of 250 pages the chapters include Death and Immortality Early Views, Sex and Death, Life Expectancy, the Public Health Experiment, Manufactured Time, Antioxidants,the... Read morePublished on June 20, 2001 by Elizabeth
The Quest for Immortality by Olshansky and Carnes was given to me as a gift by a friend who knows my obsession with aging and health. Read morePublished on January 31, 2001 by Jane from New York