Ben Bova's Immortality book.

Duane Hewitt (
Sun, 25 Oct 1998 17:39:27 -0700 (MST)

I have prepared a review of Ben Bova's new book that I would like to share with the extropians list.

I had eagerly awaited the opportunity to read Ben Bova's new book entitled "Immortality:How Science is extending your Life Span and Changing the World". I had envisioned that this book, with Bova's name recognition, could substantially extend the audience for the topic of anti-aging research.

However I have been disappointed in several respects even though this is a book which covers many of the basic themes underlying current anti-aging research. The book seems to lack focus in that Dr. Bova covers topics that are peripherally related to aging and covers them at a very basic level suitable for a high school student. Sometimes the explanations that Bova supplies are simplified to the point of being misleading if not in outright factual error. I would expect a better standard of accuracy from such a widely published author.

I strongly contend against the belief that a "cure" for the aging process is imminent and/or inevitable. I am of the opinion that such a belief engenders a complacency that may act as a self-averting prophecy and will abort the extension of the human life span in the near future. This is not an easy problem. Cancer and AIDS are both relatively simple compared to the aging process and they have each confounded us for decades.

The only way that substantial extension of the human life span will be attained is through acknowledging the difficulty of the problem and allocating resources accordingly. Bova, on the other hand, implies that current research programs are enough to deliver significant benefits within a short time frame. I would prefer him to be correct but I am not going to count on it. I am hoping for the best but preparing for the worst

The fact that "Dr." adorns this cover prominently when it does not appear on many of Bova's other publications strikes me as a cheap marketing ploy. It is later made clear in the preface that Dr. Bova is "not a scientist by training" nor is he a medical doctor as the unsuspecting might believe due to the byline. This is also made apparent by his limited grasp of the concepts that he attempts to explain.

The lack of depth in his research typifies the journalistic approach to these topics which prefers sound bites over substance. The hyperbole adorning the dust cover is comparable in exageration to that of Michael Fossel's book "Reversing Human Aging".

He seems impressed with the research into human Growth Hormone (hGH) but fails to provide any supporting references. To be fair, however, Bova does touch on the broad issues and points of aging research but I still would have to recommend Steven Austad's book "Why We Age" or James Goczewski's "Aging" or even Fossel's book over this one.

Duane Hewitt
The art and science of life extension.