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 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”

List of criteria to qualify as a central concept/process of biological aging

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 #2:

Problem #2: 2/A. What are the criteria for a biological structure/dynamics to qualify for being central in organismal level, multicellular biological aging? A corresponding question (2/B) concerning the translational aspect of geroscience might be: What quantifies/qualifies as a central biomedical structure/dynamics for being used as a medical application in counteracting human biological aging and to inform both diagnosis and treatment? A related background question: Is it possible and desirable to cut across biological pluralism concerning translational geroscience?

In my perspective paper called Cell lineage trees: the central structure plus key dynamics of biological aging and formulating the limiting problem of comprehensive organismal rejuvenation, I worked out a possible list of such criteria and provided an answer for question 2/A. Here is the corresponding, standalone excerpt from the ~30 page perspective paper.

What do we expect from a central concept, structure, process of organismal biological aging? This question is about the potential expressiveness, explanatory, predictive and modelling power of a scientific tool. We list 10 requirements, grouped according to 6 bigger concepts, highlighted in bold. Continue reading “List of criteria to qualify as a central concept/process of biological aging”

What is the philosophy of biological aging research/biogerontology/translational geroscience/? Problems

After the Introduction into the emerging field of philosophy biological aging research/biogerontology/translational geroscience I promised some actual questions, problems. I list different questions under different problems but otherwise do not differentiate questions from problems by now. 

In a way, the perspective papers, opinion pieces, review studies published in peer-reviewed literature about biological aging contain a lot, mostly implicit, formulations already that can be called philosophical problems and arguments. But time to make these more explicit and reflect to them as such.

Here is my starter list of problems and questions.

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? Continue reading “What is the philosophy of biological aging research/biogerontology/translational geroscience/? Problems”

Upcoming Talk at Eötvös University in Budapest on aging vs agings and the limits of biomedical definitions

I was invited to give a talk at the Institute of Philosophy, Eotvos University, Budapest, on the 25th of October. The talk is going to be a joint Theoretical Philosophy Forum (TPF) and Student and Faculty Seminar on Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics (LaPom). I’d like to thank Professor László E. Szabó and András Máté for the invitation. The nature of the seminar gives me a great opportunity to focus on the theoretical problems concerning to the philosophy of biomedical sciences, so on the aging part of the aging/longevity complex, that is the underlying core of the Open Lifespan studies.

Please see talk, abstract and short bio below.

Aging vs agings: limits and consequences of biomedical definitions

Abstract

Currently, most people spend the last decades of their lives fighting multiple, chronic, age-associated diseases, compromising their life plans. Continue reading “Upcoming Talk at Eötvös University in Budapest on aging vs agings and the limits of biomedical definitions”