Skeptic’s Guide to Debunking Claims about Telomeres in the Scientific and Pseudoscientific Literature >>
- Widely-accepted claims about telomeres predicting mortality are contradicted by some quality meta-analyses and large-scale population-based studies.
- Predictions of future onset of chronic illnesses from telomere length have not been reproducible in meta-analyses and large-scale population-based studies.
- Even when found, the associations in large scale, quality studies between telomere length and outcomes like disease onset and mortality are quite modest.
- Associations claimed between exposure to stress and telomere length have not been reproducible in large scale studies.
- Cross-sectional associations of telomere length are often not borne out in prospective longitudinal studies.
- Telomere length is reliably associated with age, sex, and race. The association between telomere length and clinical variables is reduced or disappears when age is statistically controlled for in large scale studies. Older people have shorter telomeres than younger people, and males have shorter telomeres than females. This corresponds to life expectancy. But wait, whites have shorter telomeres than nonwhites. So, they die earlier? No, of course not, and this robust association needs to be ignored if anyone wants to claim consistency of findings about telomere length and aging.
Life as we know it >>
Lichtenberg Figures: A. R. von Hippel, 1951 by Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Photographic enlargement on particleboard
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries
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More at NYRB Classics
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742-1799
“(Lion) fell in love in his tenth year with a boy named Schmidt (best pupil in the school), the son of a tailor, liked to hear him talked about and got all the boys to converse with him, never spoke to him himself but it gave him great pleasure to hear that the boy had spoken of him. Climbed up on a wall after school to see him go out of school. Now he still remembers his physiognomy very clearly, and he was far from handsome, a turned-up nose and red cheeks. But he was first in school. I should be sorry if by this free confession I should increase the world’s mistrust, but I was a human being and if happiness is ever to be attained in this world it must not be sought through concealment, not at all, nothing firm can come about in that way. Lasting happiness is to be found only in uprightness and sincerity…” From The Waste Books, translated by R. J. Hollingdale
“Lion” is one of the names Lichtenberg adopted when he wrote about himself in the third person, i.e. objectively.