Just submitted the following abstract to International Conference on Philosophy of Sciences and Technology happening in Prague, 2020. Not sure whether this is the place to go with stuff like this, but giving it a try.
Title: Aging is agings: towards a consensus recursive definition of biological aging(s)
Abstract: Current clinically focused biological aging research, or translational geroscience is going through incredible progress. There’s finally an emerging scientific consensus about our understanding of the major molecular and cellular hallmark processes driving biological aging.
Yet, this consensus is not reflected in a consensus definition of what biological aging is. In the literature, for some reason, almost all scientists feel compelled to come up with their own introductory definitions of aging usually as the first sentence, or part of the first paragraph, of the introduction of their respective papers. Not too surprisingly these opinions on what biological aging is differ a lot, yielding highly idiosyncratic ‘definitions’ that were never accepted as consensus views within the research community. So the problem is while the underlying science goes strong, the conceptual top level, acknowledging this situation, is strangely neglected.
How can the philosophy of science help here with its sophisticated conceptual and logical toolset? By suggesting a good definition!
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?
The following definition is proposed: 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.
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. This definition is flexible enough to include all the currently proposed hallmark processes, yet it is open to incorporate yet unknown processes. By directly including an element (‘at different rates’) capturing the deeply temporal, longitudinal nature of biological aging, and an unambiguous temporal directionality pointing towards complete collapse of an individual living organism/system amounting to death at the limit (at all levels’, ’eventually’), this definition at the same time gives us hope in terms of the malleability of the base processes and suggests a temporally consecutive (longitudinal), sliding window protocol of interventions able to counteract, slow down, stop and potentially reverse all these processes via a ‘divide and conquer’ approach.
This definition is deeply appreciative and timely concerning the current new paradigm of aging research/biogerontology/translational geroscience as it takes the emerging consensus hallmark framework within the field and turns it into an actual and actionable definition, from just a simple list, offering clues on how to develop this framework further.
keywords: biological aging, translational geroscience, philosophy of biology, biogerontology