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Anti-longevity Literature

Not everyone, however, found these statements viable or the prescriptions likely to meet the desired results. Even in the eighteenth century, anti-prolongevity writers questioned the wisdom of increasing the proportion of aged individuals in a society. For Thomas Malthus, for example, such pronouncements only further intensified the question of overpopulation. Already concerned that available resources could not support a geometrically increasing population, he hardly endorsed the notion of additional generations of aged individuals.

Others found the data on which the prolongevity advocates based their claims to be highly suspect. Biblical life spans were discounted as metaphor; even the case of Thomas Parr, as well as that of Henry Jenkins who supposedly lived to 169, found numerous critics. "The theory based upon their supposed abnormal longevity," wrote critic William Thoms in 1873, "necessarily falls to the ground." He seemed amazed at the "simple child-like faith with which men of the highest eminence in medical science accept without doubt or verity statements of the abnormal prolongation of life." Moreover, as statistician Edward Jarvis noted in 1872, little evidence existed that progress meant a rise in the average life span. Instead, he argued that an increase in mortality, and a decline in longevity, actually accompanied the urbanization of England.

In addition, some critics believed that even if longevity were lengthened, they doubted that the ills of old age would ever disappear. Questioning whether the weakness and debilitation of old men and women could ever really be eradicated, they dismissed the notion that individuals could live in perpetual middle age. For them, the promise of longevity was simply the threat of scores of needy and diseased aged individuals making increasing demands on society.

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Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 3Prolongevity - Early Prolongevity Writers, Scientific Prolongevity, Anti-longevity Literature, Conclusion