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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.