Re: Why are we allowed to age?

I William Wiser (
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 20:31:01 -0700

Eric Forste wrote:
>Joao Pedro asks:
> > I would like to know your opinion about why are we allowed to age?
> > Why, after millions of years of evolution, we still age?
>genes don't give a damn if we age, as long as *they* keep going.
>From the gene's point of view, the biological struggle between the
>generations is very real, and once Mom and Pop have done a good
>job of getting the tyrannical little genes into young Boomer, then
>as far as the gene is concerned, goodbye Mom and Pop! Especially
>if they're competing with young Boomer for foraging territory.

Gee, that's in the ball park but...
Leaving aside the question of personifying genes, which in truth don't
give a damn about anything, I do think you are coloring them a bit
harshly. There is some advantage to the gene in keeping mom and pop
alive, especially as long as they can breed with fidelity, it just
isn't a strong enough advantage to change the genes quickly. Most of
human evolution took place when old age was not a common cause of death
so it really did not help a lot to have a long natural life span. It's
not so much that genes don't want old folks around as that it's just
not high on their priority list.

To pursue this question seriously I would suggest Michael Rose's work
selectively breading fruit flies for longevity, Caleb Finch's
_Longevity, Senescence and the Genome_, and a good book on the
mathematics of evolution. I have spent a little time with each of
these but not enough to really answer Joao's question.