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Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Efstathios S. Gonos
F. Gonzalez-Crussi

Mark Benecke

The dream of eternal life

Most of us see long life as a goal worth striving for. In 'The dream of eternal life', Mark Beneke has much useful information for those of us hoping to make it to the age of 100. The book covers a wide range of subjects, looking at different views on death and what can be done to avoid it. There is also discussion of the ethics of medical issues such as organ transplants and there is a chapter on the long term outlook for humanity (rather than individual humans), examining what can be done about environmental problems.

The trouble is that although the blurb suggests that the book is about living to 150 or more, and about what the problems of such a life might be, in fact these issues are hardly touched upon in the book. The book sometimes seems to go off at a tangent, and doesn't mention things such as mitochondria, which I would think of as being central to the discussion. Furthermore, Beneke's justification for his views seems weak - he often seems to have a negative outlook without any substantial argument to support his postion. If you like the 'broad brush' approach then you might find it worthwhile reading this book, but for a proper discussion of the possibilities and problems of greatly extending the human lifespan I would look elsewhere.

Product Description

Can we grow old without dying? Why do we have to grow old at all? In this fascinating book Mark Benecke investigates the biological meaning of life and death and the prospects for extending human longevity, or even achieving immortality.

The first section of the book discusses the biological fundamentals of why death exists and what modern biology, especially the biology of genetics, tells us about aging and death. Human life and death, Benecke explains, is shaped by cellular life and death, so he examines the mortality of the normal cell as well as the "immortality" of cancer cells. In the second part Benecke assesses the various ways that we humans cope with a finite life span and the looming certainty of death, including such topics as the link between sport and vitality, the legends of Dracula and the undead, melatonin, vitamin C, and "the French paradox" concerning the link between alcohol consumption and heart disease. The third part looks at the possibility for extending our lives through cloning, organ and brain transplants, live cell therapy (favored by Sir Winston Churchill among others), and deep freezing of humans for reawakening in a future age.

Finally, Benecke tells us what we can learn about the prospects for the human race from a study of the earth as a whole-for we can stay healthy only if the earth is healthy. Climate change, overpopulation, population "crashes," Gaia, and the possibilities of future emigration into space are explained and explored. The Dream of Eternal Life concludes with a look at the human genome project and developmental biology, and Benecke sheds light on what this knowledge will mean for us in terms of understanding the nature of human life and our place in the living world. Throughout, Benecke maintains a scientific and skeptical attitude to many of the claims and counterclaims made by countless experts and fellow scientists.