Thursday, January 15, 2009

Are We Programmed To Die?

mourning angel
I read this delightful little book called Survival Of The Sickest by Dr. Sharon Moalem a few weeks ago (I have blogged on survival ... here and here.)

I fall back on this book yet again to continue with my latest obsession with death (here and here).

Ok! Question time ...

Why would you do something really stupid that will result in death in the long run?
Why do people resort to excessive drinking or substance abuse when they know that this will result in a painful death later?

Answer: Perhaps, to forget the pain of the moment.

This is hardly a trade off. You give up your future for the present. Really stupid right?

Surprise! Surprise! Turns out that your body does this all the time or rather evolution does this all the time.

We are diabetic because evolution chose diabetes over painful instant death if our blood were to freeze in cold weather - the sugar in the blood reduces the freezing temperature. (You really need to read the book if you want to understand this!)

Coming back to the original question.

The cells in our body are programmed to divide and grow only about 50-60 times. After that kaput! The cell dies. If the cell had no limit to reproduce we would not age nor die. Why would evolution choose such an end?

The answer: to prevent cancer.

What is cancer?

It is an uncontrolled growth of cells.

If the cell had no limit of reproduction, cancer would spread at the slightest pretext, as there would be nothing to prevent it from doing so (there are other inbuilt prevention mechanism but a limit to endless growth is the final defence against cancer.)

So yes we are programmed to die but it is for our own good. What a weird concept!

Note: The picture used belongs to Joachim Bär (See gallery)

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1 comment:

Janice said...

Survival of the Sickest was brilliant! I can't wait for Dr. Sharon Moalem follow up book.

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