dennis westler

San Francisco, CA, United States

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dennis westler
Posted almost 3 years ago
Why evolution could never solve aging?
Nothing's DNA structure remains unchanged for millions of years. Homo sapiens sapiens has probably not existed as a species for millions of years (I noted in another post that the average life of a mammal species is only one million years).. And we were not "made" to live in any specific environment. We arose as a species in the emerging savanahs of Africa, but obviously have experienced great success in colonizing vastly different environments. There are no goals for or purpose to evolution so the ideas ot it "chasing its tail" or "searching for the perfect organism" is meaningless. There is no perfection, and no species is static genetically. Even cockroaches or dragonflies, which have persisted as Genera for millions of years have not been spared the slow changes (and the birth and death of whole species) brought about through evolution.
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dennis westler
Posted almost 3 years ago
Why evolution could never solve aging?
To a certain extent evolution can be seen as an artifact of the existence of genetic material. It mutates, it accidentally doubles itself, it becomes corrupted by bits left behind by virus and bacteria and so on. That is the stuff of evolution. And an unstable environment ,that exerts pressure on organisms that are trying to reproduce and successfully raise (or simply leave behind) their offspring, is the engine that drives it. Incidentally, species appear to have discrete lifespans. For a mamalian species the average seems to be one million years, though some may last as long as 5 or 10 million. They either diverge, or the lineage simply stops. At no more than 250,000 years old, we probably have a ways to go yet, but who knows. All too often people indulge the notion that there is some grand purpose for our species, or that we represent the apogee of evolution. This is hubris and nothing more.
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dennis westler
Posted almost 3 years ago
Why evolution could never solve aging?
We don't "evolve technology". We develop it, and perhaps that technology might get "better" as we (if we) evolve greater intelligence. Evolution ia not a directed process and it has neither goal no rintent, so it is not clear that in our current environment greater intelligence confers reproductive advantage. Such things as resistance to cosmopolitan diseases and shifts in psychology that make us more comfortable in dense crowds would perhps confer greater advantage. It is a random process of mutation, and selection through increased reproductive success if the mutated gene confers some sort of advantage. And the selection pressures that work on us are often subtle, and not necessarily descernable. . I don't think that in any evolutuionary sense aging is a "problem" that needs to be solved. In fact the older organisms need to die off for any shift in the prevalence of alleles to take place in a population. If longevity is increased radically through medicine and technology the ultimate result will probably be to reduce the gene pool, as individuals who can afford the treatments would consume an inordinate share of resources and leave little for others. They would probably stop reproducing themselves as the desrie for self-replacement would be lessened. And those who were relegated to the underclass serving those who had long lives would be selected (by the upper class) for a servile nature and lessened intelligence. A dreary future indeed!
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dennis westler
Posted almost 3 years ago
Why evolution could never solve aging?
This kind of belies the research showing a connection between teleomeres and physical ageing. Even things like perennial plants which rejuvenate themselves through the production of new vegetative growths each season seem to suffer a loss of vigor over time that not even division can reverse. I think that the idea of ageing and death as a "disease" is simply incorrect, it is a part of a healthy ecosystem because it supports the cycling of nutrients and ongoing evolution.
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dennis westler
Posted almost 3 years ago
Why evolution could never solve aging?
This may well have an advantage in a very stable environment like it does with cleistogamous orchids (where all individuals self pollinate, often before the flower even opens) But it leads to an inability to adapt to environmental stresses. Clones may live a long time, but the population will succumb easily in times of stress.
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dennis westler
Posted almost 3 years ago
Why evolution could never solve aging?
Unless an organism produces offspring through its entire life (and specifically unless it produces a greater number of offspring as it ages, which is almost never the case) there is no selection pressure towards longevity. Indeed, the number of surviving offspring this would lead to would very likely be detrimental to the environment and cause negative selection pressure. Increasing lifespan decreases the need for replacement of the individual through reproduction, and probably slows the changes in alleles in a population that might confer longevity. In humans increases in longevity are the result of better nutrition, standard of living and health care. these things probably prevent selection for the very kinds of changes that would increase longevity in a "wild" population. It seems pretty clear that genes for better eyesight, genes for more efficient immune systems, genes for better problem solving abilities (Jarrod Diamond addresses this) are NOT being selected for, while genes that predispose us to degenerative disease and birth defects are not being selected against. These two things have a definite affect on longevity.