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Study suggesting human life span limit of 115-125 years draws fire

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From RetractionWatch:

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

and

Early human religion: A 747 built in the basement with an X-Acto knife

6 Replies to “Study suggesting human life span limit of 115-125 years draws fire

  1. 1
    timothya says:

    News:

    “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.”

    Yup. I think you aren’t a “useful witness”.

  2. 2
    tribune7 says:

    Are the ones arguing for a longer life span Biblical literalists? 🙂

  3. 3
    News says:

    tribune7, I gather the conflict is around whether the human lifespan is plastic or whether it is governed by physical factors that technology cannot change much.

    I suspect the answer is, somewhere in the middle. Conquering cancer would lead to longer lifespans but eventually the system will just fall apart.

  4. 4
    tribune7 says:

    News, I suspect that’s true but it would be irony if the materialists prove the Biblical literalists correct.

    Of course, you can argue that they sorta did that with the discovery of DNA.

  5. 5
    J-Mac says:

    I’m no bible scholar like some on this blog but I’m pretty sure there were more than few people who lived longer than 120 years after this quote from the book of Genesis…

    So, what would be the alternative explanation? Some claim that this could have been the date of the flood (120 years from this bible verse) but then the bible chronology doesn’t add up either…

    According to the bible, after the flood, many people lived hundreds of years. But scientists also claim that not that long ago the average lifespan was only about 30 plus years and centenarians are very recent phenomenon…

    BTW: Doesn’t the bible say that 70-80 years is human lifespan?

    PS 90:10

    “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.”

    I knew I’d seen it somewhere… 😉

  6. 6
    LocalMinimum says:

    J-Mac:

    120 seems to be set as an upper limit. Maybe Psalms is referencing more practical/commonly observed limits?

    Also beware of mixing life span with life expectancy. If you’re just taking the mean lifetime from birth you’ll get really low numbers; but if you take it from those who survive to adulthood you exclude a lot of influence from causes that have nothing to do with actual system failure due to aging/wear and tear.

    Even current day hunter-gatherers can expect to live close to or intersect with modern lifespans once they get past a certain age threshold.

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