Applying Kuhn’s Structure to biological aging research, part 2: the First Paradigm Hypothesis

In the first post, Applying Kuhn’s Structure to biological aging research, part 1: initial questions I formulated some naive and direct Kuhnian questions apropos of philosophy and history of aging research. It’s time now for some history and philosophy of science provocation though. Let’s get to the point quickly in the form of forming a bundle of propositions which I call the First Paradigm Hypothesis of Aging Research. It is currently made out of 5 different claims (the number of propositions can change in the light of further analysis):

  1. Biological aging research finally has the first functioning paradigm in place.
  2. All the existing research on aging so far (=<20th century) was not really based on an easily extractable paradigm, so it can be considered pre-scientific in that respect. It belongs to the pre-history of aging research. (2. is corollary of 1)
  3. Aging research is inherently political as it centers around human application.
  4. Pre-history of aging research was characterised by political oppression, taking fixed, non-malleable nature of aging granted. (this is 3/A so applying 3. to pre-history)
  5. The new first paradigm is political too, but it is now actually enabling research and amplifying it. (this is 3/B so applying 3. to current events).

Arguing for the following 5 propositions demands different strategies. Thesis #1 is the most scientific, Thesis 3 and 5 are philosophical, while Thesis 2 and 4 warrant historical investigation.

I provide some orientating but not strictly argumentative comments on the 5 of them below.

Comment #1 Real, scientific history of the field has only just started under the enabling axiom of the malleability of biological aging. Actual historical periodisation goes something like this: <1980 sporadic results. 1980 – 2013. Research leading up to First Paradigm. 2000-2013 Build-up to Hallmarks view, concept of systematic regenerative medicine, epigenetic reprogramming. 2013 new paradigm, acknowledging malleability of aging. Longevity industry.

Comment #2: Too many variables.

Comment #3: This is big difference compared to most of fundamental physics, say. It also asks for investigating the limits of the applicability of Kuhnian concepts, supposedly focusing on ‘pure science’. This impression can also be phrased and generalised as the normative interpretation of the proposition, paraphrasing Dobzhansky: Most things in (human) biology/medicine makes sense in the light of biological aging.

Comment #4: The official ageist stance helped to cement the understandable scientific under-developed nature of the research and discouraged maverick pioneering research, going after anomalies, and exposing deep underlying problems. Aging research concerning humans was not allowed to become a separate research topic in itself but forced into researching particular diseases, the rest are comparative evolutionary research approaches, detached from actual human applications. 

Comment #5: Most of valuable research is now pretty tied up with longevity industry and with companies, even if those results are generated in academic labs on the surface.