The five papers in Nature are published as Brief Communications Arising, the journal’s way of flagging an important debate over a paper. The short papers provide new data to challenge a central part of a paper’s conclusions. The study’s authors, however, have responded to all five, defending their methods, especially their controversial decision to rely in part upon a visual inspection of mortality data in concluding there is a limit to human lifespan. Senior author Jan Vijg, a geneticist, told Retraction Watch:
What else do we say? It boggles my mind how people can come up with these stupid arguments. You see there’s a plateau; mortality [for supercentenarians, people older than 110 years] is not going down and we’re not seeing any new [age] records. After the 1990s, there’s no longer an increase in the maximum age of death. Your eyes don’t lie.
The study and the responses highlight a fault line separating different types of aging researchers: those who think there’s a limit to how long humans can expect to live —one that’s close to what we’re seeing now with the oldest of the old — and those who think it could be much higher, or that it’s possible the limit does not exist.More.
Dunno what to think. One of my (News’) grandmothers lived to be 101 without doing anything in particular except not dying. So I wouldn’t be a useful witness for either side.
Also, there’s this curious passage in the Book of Genesis:
Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
When that passage was written most human beings never reached anywhere near half that age. So there must be something about 120 years that feels right to people. It might be worth finding out more about why we think so before we continue with a witch hunt.
See also: The search for our earliest ancestors: signals in the noise
Early human religion: A 747 built in the basement with an X-Acto knife