Thursday, January 22, 2015

Proof it's not all about me?

Did you think this was all about you?

If some evolutionary biologists are correct, the simple fact that you are aging is evidence to the contrary.

I caught this blog post from Josh Mittledorf yesterday. He explains his view that the aging process itself evolved as a mechanism for shutting our bodies down after we got past reproductive age:
"Diseases of aging have been treated as if they were something that goes wrong, something we have to help the body to fix. But in fact, the evidence accumulating in recent decades is that aging is not something that goes wrong, and the body is not trying to fix it. Aging is natural. It is the body shutting itself down, putting itself out of the way after it has done its job, finished reproduction."
This makes sense. It's kind of like the leaves falling off an oak tree every fall--senescence, a kind of hard-wired altruism.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that humans would be driven by two primal motivations: reproduction and sustenance of our offspring (and by extension, society, and that means we are all motivated by compassion and love). If Mittledorf and others are right (and their views are controversial), that just lends more with to the concept that we reall are not here for ourselves.

I have two things to say at this point:

1. This shut-down mechanism seems to be a bit, shall we say, outdated at this point in time, which is why I'm totally OK with treating it as something that needs to be fixed. As I mentioned in my last post, older folks have a lot to offer.

2. #1 raises a question about Mittledorf's theory: Why wouldn't it be beneficial to have a bunch of healthy, more experienced, wiser individuals around to support their offspring? Why not skip this whole shut-down thing. I'm sure there's a lot I/we don't understand about resource allocation, environmental considerations,  and so on (why do oak leaves fall every fall?) and not all species age the same way. How about that oak tree? It is just as reproductively active (more so) at 100 than it was at 18. So we clearly don't have enough info at this point.

But I have a hunch that the basic gist will hold true: Being human is not about being for me--it's about being for others, my own offspring, theirs, extended family, friends, and beyond--the whole race (and beyond?).

What if the "goal" of human life was simply to expand the reach and success of humanity as a whole?

How would that change our lives, our governments, our schools, our classrooms?

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