Did we evolve to die? That still won’t help you

There’s a theory in biology that’s strange on the surface.

Ageing isn’t inevitable, it says. It’s something we (and all other organisms) evolved to do.

We evolved to slowly fall apart as the years and decades drag on.

If you have a simplistic view of evolution, that makes no sense. How could an organism evolve to die – isn’t that what evolution evolves organisms out of doing?

Nope, because natural selection works on the genes, not the organisms.

An immortal badger is less successful than one that has five offspring, then dies. Five minus one is still higher than one.

Even so… wouldn’t a badger that’s immortal and able to reproduce do better than both?

Maybe not. Toxins, radiation, even stress all damage the genes. Maybe it makes sense for genes to implode after a while, wiping the organism out with it, rather than have damaged genes compete against fresh ones for resources.

Honestly, I’m not sure I buy it.

But let’s say it’s true.

That’s great news, right? All you have to do is find the gene(s) responsible for ageing and switch them off!

Haha, no.

If there are genes responsible for ageing, they are ancient, going right back to the origins of multicellular life. Genes that old don’t take kindly to tweaks – the rest of the genome tends to rely on them to do other things.

But even if it worked, it’s not the answer.

Stopping ageing would be a miracle, don’t get me wrong. But even if you replace an 80-year life expectancy with a 10,000-year one, that doesn’t make you immortal. If death can still strike at any time, this isn’t your solution to your fear of dying.

Really, no technology can be – not until you have perfect immortality installed and running.

Putting your faith in the Singularity – no matter how ‘within your lifetime’ you think it’ll happen – won’t help you.

Training yourself in Stoicism will.

And so will other ideas, techniques and philosophies, from Taoism, nature, modern neuroscience and a few other interesting places.

You can find them in the latest Phronesis Accelerator issue.

That is, assuming you subscribe before the deadline.

You really don’t have a lot of time here. That deadline is hours away, and not many of them:


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