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Sci Tech    H1'ed 6/23/16

Fundamental Shift in the Science of Aging

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Where This Book Is Headed

Aging is the very antithesis of what Darwin called "fitness"- the competitive vigor and reproductive potential of organisms. If aging is governed by genes that cause us to become frail, to lose our fertility, and to die, then how did those genes prevail in evolutionary competition? How could aging have evolved?

That is a central question in this book. The answer is that natural selection is not just the life and death of individuals but also the rise and collapse of local populations and of entire ecosystems. Evolution is about cooperation as well as selfishness, and aging has evolved as part of the dues owed by an individual for participating in a stable ecosystem. Evolution and ecology have inscribed a death sentence in our genes. We literally pay with our lives to protect ecosystems, as increased death rate via aging prevents the sort of wild overgrowth that presages wholesale population collapse.

Aging appears to be caused by an explicit genetic program. One consequence of this is that medical science will have to approach the diseases of old age with a different attitude. We can't use "natural medicine." We can't help the body to heal, because the body isn't trying to heal-it's trying to destroy itself. Instead, we must decode the signals that trigger self-destruction and replace them artificially with the signals of youthful vitality.

Another consequence is that the selfish gene version of evolutionary theory is not the whole story. Mothers teach their children to take care of themselves. What mother wants her child to be indifferent to the welfare of others? Mother Nature, like all mothers, has counseled her children against excessive selfishness. She wants them to take care of themselves to be sure, but because she wants them to get along in the world, she has tempered selfishness with altruism.

This seems to be an intuitive truth, easy to grasp for anyone who does not have an advanced degree in evolutionary biology (and to their credit, not a few professional evolutionists have figured out that the selfish gene version they learned in school was a tortured picture of reality).

Ripe for Scientific Revolution

The science of aging is a very active field, expanding in scope, with new labs, new techniques, and an influx of creative young talent. The field is not at all moribund, but it is flailing. At meetings and in journal articles, the puzzling mismatch between experimental results and theoretical expectations is everywhere apparent. Some researchers try to paper it over, and their explanations come out as incoherent or obviously flawed. But most are presenting the data with an honest admission, appending such comments as:

We don't understand why this happens.

There is some kind of dysregulation here, a failure of the body to do the right thing.

It's strange that the damage the body suffers seems completely avoidable, and yet . . .

What they are seeing--or refusing to see--is the body destroying itself on a schedule.

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Josh Mitteldorf, de-platformed senior editor at OpEdNews, blogs on aging at http://JoshMitteldorf.ScienceBlog.com. Read how to stay young at http://AgingAdvice.org.
Educated to be an astrophysicist, he has branched out from there (more...)
 

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