Agings: the irreducible plurality of aging

The focus of our investigation here has always been on biological aging. In our recursive definition attempt the main suggestion is that out of the irreducible plurality of diverse but interconnected biological aging processes operating on the molecular, cellular and other sub-organismal levels, organismal, individual level biological aging can be understood and interventions can be designed against it.

But we need a step back here and acknowledge a more fundamental irreducible plurality of the aging concept, a sort of global version of the local plurality of biological aging , namely that the default aging concept has been used in several different meanings already. This global plurality comes first as aging usually presents itself in different variants depending on the domain we are talking about it.

We can talk about aging of living things but we can also talk about aging of non-living objects, natural (planets, rivers) or human-made (cars, houses, pipes).

Within living, biological organisms we usually talk about species level specific aging, out of which human aging is our default version, not surprisingly.

Within human or human-related aging we have many versions, some of them I captured in the figure below, and biological aging, the one with medical consequences is only one of them.

At the core of all aging concepts is chronological aging, the passage of time, that can be registered, measured. Since our mode of existence is temporal (spatiotemporal) everything we do, experience and observe has a temporal aspect, an aspect that gives rise to all of our possible aging concepts.

Some domains or subjects of human activity are relatively atemporal, here a good example is mathematics Continue reading “Agings: the irreducible plurality of aging”

The rabbit hole of temporal causation and biological aging

This is part 2 of my series on causation and aging. Last time I introduced the ladder of causation in aging where the bottom step of the ladder was also the most mysterious one that seems to be so intimately linked with all things aging that many people cannot think further: time. Our guiding questions were: How can time play a causal role in bringing about different forms of aging, and in our case, more specifically: can time be factored in as a cause in any conceptual or empirical sense of the diverse processes of biological aging? Here’s the edited slide I presented on this during my PhD seminar talk in Budapest. 

First of all, let’s note that the literature of biological aging research can provide several examples where the linguistic expression used to describe time’s connection to biological aging is suggestive of causality. Continue reading “The rabbit hole of temporal causation and biological aging”

The ladder of causation in aging

Starting a series related to causation and aging, this being part 1. Don’t expect super-systematic explication, more like inter-linked fragments.

My October, 2019 Philosophy PhD Seminar talk at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest had a twin-focus, one on a recursive definition of biological aging, the second on causation in aging. The two questions are conceptually interconnected at a level of figuring out whether the hallmark processes used to define biological aging can be considered necessary or sufficient causes of the overall biological aging process. My understanding of causation has been profoundly influenced by Judea Pearl & Dana Mackenzie’s The Book of Why and in general by Pearl’s causal inference handling technique, one source being Bayesian networks, another source being counterfactual probabilities amongst others. As a biologist am already indebted to a different Bayesian analysis method and as an analytically trained I’ve been using counterfactual type of analysis all the time, being at the core of thought experimentation. To my surprise, I’ve also managed to attract the attention of Judea Pearl himself on Twitter to the problematics and need for a proper causal analysis related to biological aging. Let’s see whether we can turn the attention into concentration.

The first several posts in the series is going to be a quick write-up of my slides I presented. The slides are available here.

Please see below how I consider at first the different, yet fundamental causation layers in the context of aging. I dubbed this figure as The ladder of causation in aging as an obvious paraphrase/allusion of Pearl’s Ladder of causation, and while there’s a lot of connection between the 2 ladders, there’s no strict mapping between the different shelves. Basically, all 3 ladders of Pearl’s causation ladder – association, intervention, counterfactuals – are aspects that can be examined, considered, excluded, applied in the context of the different layers in aging.

The bottom step of the ladder is also the most mysterious level that seems to be so intimately linked with all things aging that many people cannot think further: time. Continue reading “The ladder of causation in aging”

Slides of my Budapest ELTE Philosophy PhD seminar talk on aging definitions

Please see slightly edited slides – removed some basically – of my talk I’ve given at the Institute of Philosophy, Eotvos University, Budapest, on the 25th of October, 2019. The talk was a joint Theoretical Philosophy Forum (TPF) and Student and Faculty Seminar on Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics (LaPom). The seminar gave me a great opportunity to focus on the theoretical/conceptual problems concerning the biological aging/longevity complex, that is the underlying core of the Open Lifespan studies. I’ve focused mainly on 2 problems: the definition of biological aging and causation in aging. Concerning the definition I’ve already published the following posts:

Aging is agings: towards a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 3, Recursion

Aging is agings: towards a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 2, Explication

Aging is agings: towards a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 1, Definition

Now it’s time to start to focus on the causation part.

Aging is agings: a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 3, Recursion

In the first part of this study, Aging is agings: towards a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 1, definition the following definition of biological aging(s) was introduced:

Biological aging is agings underneath, the result of multiple, separate, diverse, interconnected, but malleable processes, eventually compromising normal functions of the organism at different rates and at all levels.

In the second part Aging is agings: towards a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 2, Explication we argued why the ‘need and must’ to come up with a consensus definition and that there’s strong reasons it should be a so called explicative definition a la Carnap.

Today we arrive at the heart of the heart of the heart our definition, recursion. 🙂 Continue reading “Aging is agings: a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 3, Recursion”

Aging is agings: a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 2, Explication

In the first part of this study, Aging is agings: towards a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 1, definition the following definition of biological aging(s) was introduced:

Biological aging is agings underneath, the result of multiple, diverse, separate but malleable processes, eventually compromising normal functions of the organism at different rates and at all levels.

Today it is explication time to build up the argument behind this definition. I have 4 points to offer today in the forms of questions and brief descriptive hints in the titles, here they are.

#1 What is the most confusing thing about biological aging? It’s diversity, plurality and broad-spectrum

#2 Why we need to come up with a good working definition of biological aging? Because current status looks like a prescientific and confusing mess

#3 Why we must come up with a good consensus definition? To acknowledge and further the emerging consensus framework within aging research

#4 What kind of definition we would like to come up with? An explicative one, both stipulative and descriptive, innovative and conservative at the same time Continue reading “Aging is agings: a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 2, Explication”

Aging is agings: a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 1, Definition

In the earlier post with the terrible title of What is the philosophy of biological aging research/biogerontology/translational geroscience/? Problems I listed the following as Problem #1:

What is a good working definition of biological aging, that is formally correct, scalable, yet flexible enough to incorporate new knowledge and can be used to design interventions to counteract it? 

In what follows I propose such a definition and it sounds like this:

Biological aging is agings underneath, the result of multiple, diverse, separate but malleable processes, eventually compromising normal functions of the organism at different rates and at all levels.

The definition of biological aging(s) proposed in this study

This definition of biological aging is a formally correct recursive definition, that is non-circular, consisting of a couple of bases cases serving to explain the more composite processes, being able to scale up at all levels Continue reading “Aging is agings: a recursive definition of biological aging(s); part 1, Definition”