The reckless mass medication of Britain

by Robert Henderson

Note: I entirely agree with Robert. Most of the drugs handed out like smarties are decidedly iffy. Statins, in particular, are dangerous. Many years ago, I was commissioned by a drug company to ghost a paper on the benefit of putting the whole population on statins. In the course of my research, I discovered a mass of dissident literature on their side effects. I was in need of money at the time, so I wrote the paper exactly as my brief demanded. But I felt rather guilty when I saw my words quoted as gospel on the BBC website. My advice is to take vitamins and hope for the best. Certainly, you should never believe anything you read about medications in the mainstream media. It may have been written by me. SIG

The reckless mass medication of Britain

Robert Henderson

The reckless and even the enforced medication of the population grows apace. State bodies are pressing for widespread or universal medication. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends the universal use of statins by men over 50 and women over 60, ministers are considering making compulsory the addition of folic acid to flour and councils are being encouraged by Public Health England to put fluoride in the water supply .

That is direct government action. But there are many drugs with potent side effects which are being given out wholesale without any government interference. Potentially the greatest risk comes from antibiotics to which resistance is being built up all the time. The World Health Organisation warned this year that overuse was potentially creating a crisis more serious than Aids . Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security, claimed : “A post-antibiotic era — in which common infections and minor injuries can kill — far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.”

Antidepressants are being prescribed in record numbers and the side effects, which often make people feel as though they are going around in a mental fog, can make people feel the cure is worse than the disease. Moreover, they can be prescribed for people who either are not seriously depressed but suffering from a physical illness or people whose severe depression is the consequence of a physical illness.

There is also the problem of addiction to such drugs with severe withdrawal symptoms experienced by some people, symptoms such as these suffered by a patient identified only as Henry: “It was torture. I thought I was going to die, and I didn’t care. For two years, I was in severe physical pain and so weak I lay all day on the sofa. My cognition was severely affected, I was dizzy, with blurred vision, I couldn’t read a bedtime story to my son and couldn’t remember things that had happened just a few seconds previously.”

But even where there is no psychological problems or unpleasant but not immediately obvious damaging physical effects, drugs can have dramatic consequences. For example, aspirin is routinely prescribed to thin the blood, especially to those who have suffered heart attacks, but recent research found that aspirin’s daily use “ leads to 37 per cent increased risk of internal bleeding and 38 per cent increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke,” while the long term use of the contraceptive pill doubles the risk of glaucoma..

Probably the most controversial widely used medication in Britain at present are statins. Side effects can be extreme. Statins (which are used to reduce cholesterol) have been the subject of much complaint by patients I have taken statins for many since suffering a heart attack, I can I can vouch for the fact that they have powerfully obnoxious side effects

Luckily I did not suffer psychotic episodes such as those which afflicted the unfortunate Dr Allan Woolley before his suicide, which was attributed to the side effects of statins . However, I have experienced severe disabling symptoms such as intense aching, especially in the hands, a permanent fatigue and a diminution of mental function, especially of memory and concentration (I had to consciously concentrate on what I was doing rather than simply doing it without thinking, while my power of immediate recall, previously very good, became unreliable. There are studies which claim that statins have little or no side effects, but the catalogue of complaints against them is so huge that it is difficult to see how they could have come to such conclusions.

I only realised statins were responsible for such symptoms – for years I attributed them to the process of ageing and the after effects of the heart attack – after I read I read in 2007 several articles by Dr James Le Fanu who both questioned the general value of statins and described the side effects: ” Statins are useless for 95 per cent of those taking them, while exposing all to the hazard of serious side-effects and detailed the side effects….they seriously interfere with the functioning of the nerve cells, affecting mental function, and muscles.” (Sunday Telegraph 17 3 2007). He concluded that only those with a personal or family history of heart trouble should take them.

But even that advice is debatable. Eating an apple-a-day is as effective as taking statins according to a recent piece of research, viz:

“Prescribing either an apple a day or a statin a day to everyone over 50 years old is likely to have a similar effect on population vascular mortality. Choosing apples rather than statins may avoid more than a thousand excess cases of myopathy and more than 12 000 excess diabetes diagnoses. The basic costs of apples are likely to be greater than those of statins; however, NHS prescription prices and convenience may drive people to purchase their apples from a store rather than through a pharmacy, thereby reducing direct NHS costs, or the NHS may be able to negotiate apple price freezes (although defrosted apples may not be so palatable).23”

There are also doubts about whether cholesterol levels have anything to do with heart attacks and strokes, so the concentration on bring down cholesterol levels may be pointless.

It might be thought with the ever increasing range of medications available that overall life expectancy would be increasing and go on increasing . In recent years in the UK the trend towards greater life expectancy after the age of 65 has flat-lined for men and actually declined for women. “Life expectancy at age 65 in 2012 has been projected as 18.3 years for men and 20.6 years for women on average….In 2008 life expectancy post 65 was 19 years for men on average and 21.3 years for women on average. In 2010 it was 18.7 for men and 21.1 for women.”

This suggests that medication of the elderly is at best ineffective in extending lives on average and may even be a cause of the stagnation of increases in life expectancy amongst the old.

There is also a moral question, namely, how much medication should be given to a patient regardless of the quality of life they can experience? The idea that living is desirable regardless of the nature of the life is difficult to sustain morally. That is particularly true of the old. I have never encountered anyone over the age of 85 whose life I have known in some detail who has been averagely happy or physically comfortable. Almost invariably by that age the body has developed some serious malady whether physical or mental. That is not to say such elderly people generally want to die. Rather, it is simply that the life being led is normally miserable at worst and unfulfilling at best. If they are loaded down with medications, many or all of which will have obnoxious side effects, this may extend their lives by a few months or years, but the patient may well feel that there is a case for saying let nature take its course if those few extra months and years will be suffered rather than enjoyed because of the side effects of medication. .

But patients have problem with their doctors. Even if they do not want to carry on with a drug because of the side effects – and many commonly prescribed drugs have effects which make enjoyment of life seriously difficult – they find it difficult to refuse a doctor’s advice. That is not a simple matter of refusing a single treatment, because many patients, and especially elderly ones, will have a range of ailments and they may fear that refusing to take one medication may ruin their relationship with their GP or a hospital consultant, with a consequent diminution in the quality and scope of their future medical care. Even if unfounded , such fears will drive patients to carry on with medication which is causing them serious discomfort. Moreover, patients generally trust their doctors and are inclined to accept advice in the vast majority of cases.

Things could be improved if doctors were required to discuss the side effects of drugs with patients. The only warning I have ever been given voluntarily by a doctor about side effects is drowsiness, yet most drugs which seriously interfere with the natural workings of the body will have a list of serious side effects. For example, take diuretics, a very commonly prescribed drug to increase fluid removal from the body. Here is the BUPA guidance on their side effects:

Side-effects of diuretics include:

mild gastro-intestinal problems, such as feeling sick

a fall in blood pressure that is related to posture (postural hypotension), which causes you to feel faint or dizzy when you stand up

altered levels of salts in your body, such as low levels of potassium (hypokalaemia) and sodium (hyponatraemia)

Less common side-effects of diuretics include:

gout (a condition that causes pain and swelling in your joints)

impotence in men (the inability to achieve or sustain an erection during sex)

skin rashes


certain blood disorders, which can make you more likely to get infections

What can be done to reduce overmedication? First, if doctors explained the side effects to patients that in itself would probably reduce too ready prescription of medicines because the patient would be put off taking those with serious side effects simple by their recital by the doctor and doctors would be much less likely to prescribe such drugs unless they honestly believed a patient desperately needed them if they had to explain the side effects and overcome the resistance of patients who did not really need the medication.

Second, Incentives to doctors to prescribe certain medications widely, whether that be government authored or supported schemes such as folic acid in bread or drug companies peddling medicines to doctors, especially GPs, which materially benefit doctors should be banned.

53 responses to “The reckless mass medication of Britain

  1. Hugo Miller

    Remember the controversy over the MMR vaccine? The vaccine was made by Powderject, headed by a one-eyed bloke named, I think, Dowson or similar. He, or his company, had made a large donation to the then Labour government, after which Blair commanded that everyone subject their children to this vaccine. Following a further large donation, Blair appointed this same one-eyed bloke whose name I can’t remember to the post of Defence Procurement Minister. Purely co-incidental I’m sure, but a cynic might say………
    This is what happens when governments get involved in providing health care – or any other service for that matter.
    I wonder who makes statins, and whether they have made any political donations lately. I’d love to be a fly on the wall …..

  2. With fluoride we can get no value with our milk teeth and our teeth tend to harden after the age of 30. So the side affects hit all if it is in the water whereas the gains might be had for the few years that fluoride can aid teeth on a personal basis without the side affects to all of the population.

    • I agree with David. Fluoride ions in water at low concentrations are quite harmless, and are present naturally to some extent. It depends where you live. But I don’t think I’d like to see states adding it (in who knows what concentrations?) without our knowledge.

  3. Paul Marks

    The Spectator magazine has a good section on health (including the pros and cons of statins) in this week’s issue.

    Drug companies should be allowed to make any claim they want to – as long as others (including charitable foundations, consumer groups and other corporate bodies, as well as individuals) are allowed to dispute these claims (hat tip to Milton Friedman “”Who Protects The Consumer” chapter in “Free To Choose” 1980). J.S. Mill was mistaken in “On Liberty” to say there was a difference between the state regulating what people can buy and regulating what business enterprises can sell (there is no real difference).

    As for compulsory medication and the spending of taxpayer money on such schemes – appalling.

  4. Corporate socialism is the cause of so many naff drugs being put forward–state “safeguards” that don’t.Proper Life Extension technology –as per Aubrey De Gray and others— is the way to go. The State has no interest in that however. If everyone was 21 for millennia even the dumbest would sooner or later see thro’ the state’s bullshit.

    • When my hypochondria took a turn for the worse a few months ago, I went to the doctor for a mass of tests. They all came back negative, except for marginally raised cholesterol. I was pestered about statins, and got some hard looks when I turned them down. I asked if I was in any reasonable danger of falling dead in the next ten years. When I was finally told that I wasn’t, I said I’d wait and see what other therapies might emerge in that time.

      It is possible that statins help people who have had or are in imminent danger of a heart attack. But the evidence is not conclusive, and there are undeniable side effects that range from bone damage to mental confusion. Also, the connection between raised cholesterol and heart failure isn’t proved beyond reasonable doubt.

      I think the problem is that, while the medical establishment is prone to mistaken views of cause and effect, the Internet is full of smooth-talking cranks. Finding out the truth in these circumstances is difficult. My suspicion is that we are all born with a use by date that is determined by genetics. You can bring this date forward as much as you like by falling into bad ways. Vitamins and moderate exercise can move it back slightly. Unless for patching you up after an accident, or killing germs, medical intervention has little bearing on how long you live.

      This is a shame, as we should by now be able to do much better. When I come to power as front man for a military coup, I will shut off all state funding of medical research. I will also deregulate everything in sight. I will instead spend the taxpayers’ money on offering prizes for cures. £1bn for anyone able to cure cancer of the whatever to the satisfaction of an honest judging committee – that might bring a return to the triumphs of c1860-1960. It’s an approach that worked with measuring longitude.

  5. And then the hour came when I felt, not without relief, that I might well fling all my notes into the fire. The fire was a very big one, and was burning up bigger things than such pedantic quackeries. And, anyhow, the issue itself was being settled in a very different style. Scientific officialism and organization in the State which had specialized in them, had gone to war with the older culture of Christendom. Either Prussianism would win and the protest would be hopeless, or Prussianism would lose and the protest would be needless. As the war advanced from poison gas to piracy against neutrals, it grew more and more plain that the scientifically organized State was not increasing in popularity. Whatever happened, no Englishmen would ever again go nosing round the stinks of that low laboratory. So I thought all I had written irrelevant, and put it out of my mind.

    I am greatly grieved to say that it is not irrelevant. It has gradually grown apparent, to my astounded gaze, that the ruling classes in England are still proceeding on the assumption that Prussia is a pattern for the whole world. If parts of my book are nearly nine years old most of their principles and proceedings are a great deal older. They can offer us nothing but the same stuffy science, the same bullying bureaucracy and the same terrorism by tenth-rate professors that have led the German Empire to its recent conspicuous triumph. For that reason, three years after the war with Prussia, I collect and publish these papers.

    -GK Chesterton

  6. As De Grey pointed out in his interview with some smug BBC hack and an audience of mostly idiots (its on Youtube) —Alzheimers,cancer, heart disease and almost everything chronic and non-infectious are functions of aging. Kick the shit out of age and we will get all of them in one go.

    • I’m a cautious fan of De Grey.

      The major struggle is going to be- whenever it happens- that there will be furious, organised attempts to prohibit anti-ageing therapy by the usual suspects, and really anyone in favour of it (I am of course) need to start working out how to counter that before it happens. Remember, we’re up against Puritans, to whom the whole point of a long life is that it be as miserable as it can possibly be, so actually alleviating the misery of senescence will be a catastrophe from their perspective.

  7. Paul Marks

    Furious efforts to forbid anti ageing therapy? I admit the possibility that the possibility had not occurred to me – but now you mention it, I suppose there will be.

    “Why should the Koch brothers not have to age when the rest of us have to!” “Either we all must have this treatment or NONE of us should have extra life!”.

    The normal Social Justice crap.

    • They will not want it for anyone, Paul. They don’t want everyone up to a level, it’s always about holding everyone down. I think there are few more toxic mixes than a puritan and a marxist, though the mix that ended up as Nazism does admittedly do considerably worse and pure communism was a great horror we’ve discussed many times.

      Most of illness is due to ageing; young people rarely visit doctors (though of course some have chronic conditions, contagious diseases, etc). People really in the main need constant healthcare as they get older. I’m currently coming to terms with adopting spectacles more and more; which is hardly serious but nonetheless indicative of one part of my body failing due to age.

      And nothing traps people in the State like healthcare (except perhaps housing), once the State gets its grasping hands on it. Imagine all the power lost to the State if that becomes a minor concern. I swear that the people we are dealing with are so twisted, they’d rather age, suffer and die themselves than lose that power over the rest of us.

      I must admit that as a Libertarian part of my desire for genuine solutions to our health problems- anti-ageing people a prime example- is that I see little hope of truly freeing healthcare from the State until the need for it is enormously reduced. Whatever solutions we propose- and they are good ones- it’s an almost impossible hard sell to suggest that we should take away the right to dehydrate to death on a forgotten trolley in a corridor for free.

      • Erratum: should read “…anti-ageing being a prime example…” in the last para. Apologies, I’m getting old and my words get all mixed up sometimes.

  8. Paul Marks

    Ian – you are saying that they would try and forbid anti ageing treatment, even if it was dirt cheap and everyone could have it?

    If you are correct the statists are even more evil than I thought they were.

  9. Paul, it’s noticable that De Grey- who after all is doing very speculative science that may not pay off- gets considerable opposition already from “progressive” types. Many use the “playing God” argument (not relevant to our discussion, but I take the view that if God gives us a brain he expects us to use it to better ourselves) but many others use arguments based on overpopulation, green issues etc. I think there will be enormous opposition if his work or that of others pursuing the same goal starts to pay off.

    They are happy for us to rot in our old age in the bosom of the State, but if we had another 50 years of healthy, enjoyable life, I am sure there will be massive opposition.

  10. Paul Marks


  11. 50 years is a pikers ambition. 5000 is more like it.

  12. Julie near Chicago

    Paul, Ian,

    Of course they don’t want anti-aging therapies. First, social justice: It’s not fair for some people to be able to get them when others can’t. (Not just economics, either. Some people won’t be able to do the program, for one reason or another.) Second, the elderly need to be able to die so that Society won’t have to pay for their treatments. Third, the Naturalism thing. Nature has ordained that we shall die: This is not a condition to fight against. Besides, there are already too many people on the planet. The ideal global population is something like 700 million, going by Bill Gates’ statement.

    Glad we got that sorted out. :>)

  13. Julie near Chicago

    Ian, I just noticed. Who the heck do you think you are! Stealing my lines! “God gave us a brain. He expects us to use it.” I don’t happen to be a believer either, but I’ve used that to explain my own religious training several times. Furthermore, I believe it.

    Ya rat! :>))

    In fact, I’m pretty much in agreement with your whole comment. As for “playing God,” they don’t want US “playing God” by using the resources that Nature and Nature’s God have provided to make better, happier, longer lives for ourselves; by they do want THEMSELVES free to play God up one side and down the other.

    • Well Julie, I am not a Christian. But I do live in Christendom. And for my money, I prefer those interpretations of Christianity that see man[1] as an active agent rather than as a passive vessel, which is why I don’t like Calvinism very much :)

      It is hard to see why God would create thinking beings if not with the intention that they think for themselves.

      [1] In an ungendered sense ;)

      • You’re a follower of the British monk Pelagius I think.

      • What I meant was, Pelagius thought that Man was not a “fallen creature” but could improve himself and better his condition in the Sight Of God by his own efforts in life. He could choose his own path to salvation – I use Pelagius’s own words as translated from Latin here. Sean will know.

      • Julie near Chicago


        1. I’m glad you understand. :)

        2. I’m glad you understand. ;)

        Cheerio-pip-pip! lol

  14. Do we really want to live forever?

    Robert Henderson

    Research into ageing is progressing to the point where a substantial increase in the human lifespan may become reality within a generation or two. In November 2010 Ian Sample of the Guardian reported ) on research at the John Hopkins University of Baltimore which has rejuvenated mice

    “What we saw in these animals was not a slowing down or stabilisation of the ageing process. We saw a dramatic reversal – and that was unexpected,” said Ronald DePinho, who led the study, which was published in the journal Nature.

    The question which humans need to consider seriously now rather than later are the effects , both on the individual and on society at large, of substantially increased lifespan.

    Greatly increased human lifespans are potentially profoundly dangerous because they will detach humans from the lifespan evolution has prepared them for. it is a mistake to imagine that few people live to be old until recently, the very low average life expectancies in the past and the third world today were and are primarily due to infant deaths before the age of 5 with very heavy mortality in the first year. If you got past 5 you had a good chance of reaching adulthood and if you reached adulthood a sporting chance of living beyond 6o, with significant numbers living into what even today we would consider extreme old age. In short,. There have always been people living to the outer limits of the natural human life span so that any substantial increase in longevity will mean entering into virgin territory.


  15. Don’t want to “read more”–it is standard Luddite and eco/ego-freak garbage. I think it was a bloke called David Seabury who said that you could ruin your life in half an hour by listening to such people.

    • The sound of Mr Ecks’ mind being firmly closed.

      • If Death is attractive to you Mr Henderson, you are free to jump into its jaws at any time.. You will still be free to do so in a future where vastly extended youthful lives are commonplace. If the authors of the crap article you so kindly direct us to have their way, neither you nor anyone else will ever have the choice.

        • Er…I wrote the article. So you don’t think living for, say, 1,000 would cause you problems of ennui, difficulties with relationships, that society would not be disrupted fatally if normal lifespans vanished? .

          • Robert – Things would be different if most people lived for a thousand years. I’m sure we would adapt. I’d certainly like the opportunity.

            • The peoples of the ancient world, Mr Henderson, might well have said the same about an average life span of 70-80 years. After you have lived a century or two and have decided you have had enough–you can always die. What’s the problem?

              If I drew a Glock and put it in your face with the certain threat that you had 10 seconds to live, can you seriously say that (unless you were holding fast to some principle you value more than life) for those 10 seconds you would have any other thought or wish than for a few seconds more life?. Why then write articles trying to nay-say a universal good?.

            • Sean – take just one of the major problems, breeding. There are 7 billion odd people now. Let us suppose that of those people were suddenly given an extended life of 1,000 years, perhaps by slowing down the ageing process so what happens in one year now takes ten years .

              Assume those seven billion produce two children each in the next 30 years, After thirty years the world population would be 14 billion. If the 7 billion of the second generation reproduce in the same way over thirty years after sixty years from the first extension of life the world population would be 28 billion. Clearly the world could not accommodate such population increases. That would mean there would have to be state control of reproduction. Still fancy a 1,000 year life if everyone else has it?

              • Robert – You are dragging me into territory where I throw off my conservative clothing and stand naked as a utopian libertarian. We have children for a number of reasons. They are an accidental cost of sexual pleasure. They are insurance for a future when we are incapable of looking after ourselves. They are part of a desire to keep something of ourselves going. They are often pleasant to have around. All but the last of these reasons is falling to the ground. The result will be a low birthrate. Even if the population were to rise to double or treble what it now is, there will be some very clever people among us, able to solve the problems of establishing offworld colonies. Mars and Venus can be terraformed. Artificial colonies are already technically possible in their own orbit. Even our home planet can be reshaped to make the hot and cold deserts more habitable, and the seas.

                Your mistake is to look only at 28 billion mouths. You are overlooking an only slightly lower number of minds and pairs of hands.

                I may not get it for myself. But I want life extension.

                • There is an additional point; it has become received wisdom, thanks to apocalyptic romantics, that the Earth is beyond its human carrying capacity already, and doom is just years away. This is simply not true. In pure practical terms, the Earth’s carrying capacity for humanity is not even stressed yet. There is not even any real calculable measure of it, until perhaps we are all shoulder to shoulder.

                  Part of the Malthusian miserablist approach is a vast (and apparently deliberate) misrepresnation of just how vast the Earth’s surface is, and just how much stuff there is, and just how much capacity there is. On most of the Earth’s surface you can walk for miles- even tens or hundreds of miles- and not see another soul. Alone in a desert or jungle or even on the rolling plains of the USA, or on a life raft in the boundless ocean, then one might get a grasp of how empty our planet is.

                  There is no rational reason to believe that population is a problem, or will be for the foreseeable future. Famines and “resource struggles” exist purely among those who do not rationally exploit the resources they have and who have not joined modernity in terms of economic behaviour. If you pick up an AK47 and resolve to steal your neighbour’s stuff, there will be resource wars. If you sit down and use what gifts you have to make something to sell, you don’t.

                  One must also add that people who live to 500 years of age will probably not rush to procreate in the first 30 of them. My own only dystopian fear for a future of immortality, or greatly extended lives, is the fear that children will virtually disappear, and the idea of that i find rather sad.

                  • trying2b-amused

                    “My own only dystopian fear for a future of immortality, or greatly extended lives, is the fear that children will virtually disappear, and the idea of that i find rather sad.”

                    Well, at least we won’t have to listen to any more of that “It’s for the CHILDREN” rot . . . Seriously, though, if you are correct about there being fewer children if life spans are radically extended, which I think you are, unless it goes to an extreme that I don’t think it will, ie, below population maintenance level, it will be an entirely good thing, not least for the children themselves. Their chances of receiving a decent upbringing will be greatly enhanced, the pernicious Lord of the Flies culture in education, and generally, will be eliminated, as will the infantilization of adult culture.

                • OK, Sean, suppose the generation first given a 1,000 lifespan each have two children at the normal age, anything between 18 and 40. Those children cannot then have children until the first generation with extended 1,000 year lives is nearing the end of their lives if the population is not to get out of control.

                  The example I gave in my previous post .was only for three generations by which point the the world population would be 28 billion. By the fourth generation the world population would be 58 billion, by the fifth, 108 billion, by the sixth 216 billion, by the seventh 412 billion, by the eight, 812 billion, by the ninth generation 1.625 trillion. (And that would only be 270 of the 1,000 years accounted for).

                  How could that population threat be managed apart from state control.?

                  • Robert, you are still looking at this only from the arithmetical progression. You seem to be assuming that people will breed unchecked to the point where all x trillion of us spontaneously fall dead of hunger. Without off world colonisation, however, the price of child care would rise to the point where people limited their procreation.

                    I agree with Ian B that the world is currently empty. I also believe that much of the Solar System can be made habitable. Once we have done that, there will be no natural limits to population growth. 20 billion on Earth, another 20 billion on Mars and Venus, 40 billion more dotted elsewhere, all living for a thousand years give or take accidents – the thought inspires me to go out and spread the good news of libertarianism far and wide. The only horror is that we may not live to see it.

                    • Well said Mr Gabb

                    • Sean – it is not a question of restraining births on an individual basis. If the first 1,000 year lifespan generation have two children per couple then to maintain the population at 14 billion – in itself highly problematical – their children would not be able to breed until their parents’ generation had died because as they chose because if they have two children per couple the numbers would rapidly get out of hand. That again would probably be biologically impossible because by the time the parents began to die the children would be approaching 1,000 themselves. You might argue that technology will improve to allow children to be conceived and carried to term at that age, either in a artificial womb or in a sexually rejuvenated human body, but is that a world you would want to live in?

                      Whichever way you cut the numbers the population would have to be controlled not by individual wills but group action. .

                      Here’s a question for you. You are one of the first 1,000 yearers. You have your two children by the time you are 30. That would leave you some 970 odd years to know them. How do you thing you would get along with that?

                    • My Dad died in 2005 and my old Mam last year. It is a problem I would like to have Mr H.

  16. Greatly increased human lifespans are potentially profoundly dangerous because they will detach humans from the lifespan evolution has prepared them for.

    And this is the argument that gets trotted out; basically the Naturalistic Fallacy.

    The whole point of progress is to free ourselves from the life nature made for us; that life consists of living in small tribal bands and dying in our forties- if we get that far considering the male violent death rate is upwards of twenty or thirty per cent.

    The “danger” of being detached from the nature of primitive mankind is what our ancestors have struggled and died for. Bring it on.

    • Again, I couldn’t agree more with Ian, even if I stressed myself out to try.

      Although primitive ?-Life On Earth-? [as that bloke in the spaceship said…”as we know it”] requires death to exist as a process for recycling scarce planetary molecular resources, so that “life” – whatever that may be described as – can “go on”, something esle can come into play.

      Once we are freed as a species from the constrains of Socialistic/pre-capitalist/tribal-barbarian/hunter-gatherer-diversity-coordinating/Nazi Earth,
      Space is In Our Hands.

      The resources of the Universe are, for even a large complex warm-blooded vertebrate with a brain, functionally-limitless.

      Once it has come into being, then why should any human being’s consciousness and selfhood do something so banal – so accidental and avoidable, almost – as “die”…in other words, cease to be?

      All that trouble and effort on the part of the Universe to get you to this point, and then – you “die”. What a bummer.

  17. The hoohah-WHO business over antibiotics is, if I might suggest, somewhat overhyped.

    Firstly: all antibiotics are toxic, which is their job. It’s why fungi produce the things – to prevent their degradation beyond viability by ordinary bacteria, which are everywhere (there are at the very least 5 x 10^30 of the things her, it’s their planet, and there may be a lot more) and to assist fungi in inter-specific competition for nutrients in a habitat under competitive stress.

    But they are not appreciably toxic to humans in the correct doses. Secondly, any self-respecting bacterial species will contain individuals able to be resistant to a particular antibiotic.

    If a resistant bacterial clone doesn’t appear inside about three or four generations (about two hours in a lab) it is a cause for surprise. Ordinary wild-type penicillin began to be resisted within three years of first use.

    But we now know so much about bacterial biochemistry that we can find ways round their workarounds as fast as they decode our drugs. Happily, ChIndoJapanEsian scientists, of which there are millions already and there will be many many more, as we grow less and less, will take the baton of research from us as we go down in the coming Endarkenment.

    As to the other medicines mentioned, because they are mostly crap, I agree totally.

  18. Julie – sadly a good summing up of the enemy position.

    Nick – yes God (if He exists) created reason to be used. If people can ward off old age (and live healthy lives till the have an accident or something) so they should.

    David – you may be thinking of me (I am a Semi Pelagian) I do not think Nick has ever expressed a theological position.

  19. Paul, David’s reply about Pelagius was to me. Who do you mean by Nick? There are no Nicks in this thread…

  20. I meant you Ian – I am getting tried (well even more tired than normal) I will have a little walk the Tesco to clear my brain (well what is left of it).

  21. Sorry to be, as so often, late to the party. But I want to say a big thank you to Robert for this essay, because I am just about to have the statin discussion with my doctor, and this will supply me with much needed ammunition. Thanks also to Sean for his excellent comment on 9 June, 2014 at 12:26 pm, and to all the rest of you for a most interesting discussion.

    • Nice words of praise. Of course, if you are advised to go on statins, you must do your own research. They may have some use.

      • Yes indeed Sean, I’ve already done some digging. Just following a few of the Lancet and other references from the Wikipedia article on statins is both instructive and concerning. But as you yourself say, “finding out the truth in these circumstances is difficult.” That is why Robert’s first-hand view is so valuable.

  22. Robert Henderson seems to read The Ultimate Resource (1981;II 1996) Julian Simon, as he seems to know no economics, apart from Keynesian or other protectionist claptrap, etc.

    Note the potential of stem cell replacement.

    As Ray Percival said after reading Simon, “the more people there are the easier it is to feed them”. Progress is just the legacy of larger populations so had none died in the two world wars we would have a more advanced civilisation today. Had we got seven milliard people in the world earlier then we would have had rocket science earlier.

  23. Seems to need to read Simon’s book. Like Ian, I am making errors here. It is about the best book I have so far read!