Thesis #12 – Aging is a pattern of declining or de-tuned adaptation that is correlated with adult age only because adult age is at first strongly correlated with declining forces of natural selection.
We have all seen sunrise and sunset. In everyday language, we are describing a subjective experience of relative motion. But the sun doesn’t actually revolve around the Earth. It is just an optical illusion produced by the spinning Earth.
We have all seen the physiological deterioration of aging, or experienced it ourselves, which seems like a physiological process, akin perhaps to the filtering of our blood by our kidneys leading to their production of urine. Thus molecular and cellular biologists characterize aging in terms of hypothesized chronic physiological processes which are parallel to the production of urine. One of the most popularly hypothesized aging processes among such molecular biologists is free-radical damage, which non-biologists can think of as similar to rusting metal: progressive, cumulative, chemical damage involving oxidation.
In terms of the view articulated here, in the 55, this is as legitimate an inference as assuming that the sun revolves around the Earth. Aging seems exactly like cumulative damage, just like it seems to the uninformed that the sun revolves bout the Earth. Let me be clear. The Moon does orbit the Earth, as do many man-made satellites. You can suffer cumulative damage: your knee’s connective tissue will be progressively damaged if you repeatedly run marathons on pavement. So Earth-centered orbiting and cumulative damage are both processes that occur. The key scientific questions, though, are whether every celestial body orbits the Earth, and whether all the physiological impairments that accumulate during adulthood are due to cumulative damage. Most people know that the first hypothesis is false. Here the view is that the second hypothesis is also false.
We know why it seems as if the sun revolves about the Earth. It’s due to relative motion.
And some evolutionary biologists know why it seems as if aging is a process of cumulative chemical breakdown with adult age: Hamilton’s Forces of Natural Selection fall VERY predictably with adult age, ensuring that most animals will show palpable processes of deterioration. [The ones that don’t age effectively lack this fall in Hamilton’s Forces, for reasons we will discuss later.]
These conclusions don’t mean that there are no celestial orbits, or that there is no physiology involved in aging. A heliocentric solar system still has orbits, and the evolution of the aging still involves physiology. But aging is not a merely physiological, biochemically driven, process of cumulative damage. It is, instead, something else altogether. And the difference between these two views of aging is full of radical scientific consequences. And yet further, the difference between these two views of aging is fraught with still more radical medical implications.