- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Jan. 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312180659
- ISBN-13: 978-0312180652
- Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.4 x 21.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,913,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Cheating Death: The Promise and the Future Impact of Trying to Live Forever Hardcover – 1 Jan 1998
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Examines every side of the dilemma of aging - from the promises of science to the consequences of living an extended lifespan beyond any previous experience. Topics include the science of aging and how melatonin is guiding the drive to extend life, new gene research, environmental concerns, gaps between poor /wealthy nations, religious concerns. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Not surprisingly, while most scientists remained extremely cautious in making any predictions as to whether an understanding of the mechanism of aging could lead us to figure out how to reverse aging, a few scientists along with quite a few sensationalists began churning out books that predicted the likelihood of life spans far beyond that of 120 years. Some of the most optimistic even suggested that it would be possible to live forever. And the truly optimistic confidently predicted that all this would come about in a few years.
Martin Cetron and Owen Davies were among the most optimistic, as is clear as soon as one opens "Cheating Death: The Promise and the Future Impact of Trying to Live Forever." That in itself is no reason to condemn the book, since there were other authors at the time who were making similar predictions in their own writings. That fifteen years later we are no closer to finding a way to permanently forestall aging than we were back then is not an argument that scientists will never achieve that breakthrough.
The main problem with this book is that it is weak both on its science and on the predictions it makes concerning what the world will be like in the future. If one is interested in looking at the mechanisms of aging, there are plenty of books that detail this, including Hayflick's own "Why and How We Age." If one wants to read up on the research being done in hopes of finding a way of forestalling aging and death, there are also a number of books that do a tolerably good job of this, including a couple by Michael Fossel. If one reads "Cheating Death" one will get no more than a very cursory account of this fascinating subject.
But, wait. Perhaps that's not the main purpose of "Cheating Death." After all, much of it is devoted to making predictions concerning what the world will look like in the future. Okay. Fair enough. And there are a whole lot of predictions in the book, enough to keep everyone happy. Some of these involved events that were supposed to have taken place by now. And the truth is that many of those have not come to pass. Well, maybe that's not a great big deal. After all, futurists (and Cetron and Davies consider themselves futurists) often go out on a limb, and one can't expect all of their predictions to come about.
However, this isn't the main problem. What is perplexing is that many of these predictions have nothing about them that is obviously connected with whether or not people live longer. Case in point: Cetron and Davies make a prediction about nations that were not part of the European Common Market in 1998 (the year of publication of the book), as to which ones would join and which ones wouldn't. Their prediction turned out to be inaccurate. However, this is not the issue. The point is this: What, exactly, does this prediction have to do with the purpose of the book, which is presumably to talk about the future impact of people living for hundreds of years? After all, isn't this what the subtitle of the book says it's about--"The Future Impact of Trying to Live Forever"?
This is not an isolated example. A significant part of the book is devoted to making predictions concerning the future. The vast majority of them have little if anything to do with the matter of the longevity of the human race in the future. It is almost as though the authors quickly ran out of anything to say about the anti-aging revolution and decided to fill up the space by discussing issues that are at best tangentially related to the apparent purpose of the book.