Thesis #21 – Multiple pharmaceutical substances or nutritional supplements will only ameliorate aging to the extent that they achieve genome-wide tuning similar to that which natural selection achieves when its forces are strengthened at later ages.
So how best to use the range of candidate anti-aging substances? It is not my view that such substances should never be used. There is nothing magical, on my view, about aging. It is a result of evolution by natural selection failing to provide the physiological machinery that could indefinitely sustain the lives, and thus health, of organisms. When evolution builds organisms that can live indefinitely, it does so using perfectly ordinary biochemical machinery. In principle, there is no reason why biological science cannot emulate this feat, supplying similar machinery to keep humans alive indefinitely.
The challenge is that when natural selection builds the adaptations that sustain health, it uses quite complex biochemical machinery. This biochemical machinery is certainly not intelligently designed, because evolution always builds adaptations based on preexisting features of organisms. Evolution can’t start with a blank sheet, and make elegant design decisions. The more you learn about how organisms function, from the visible machinery of organs and tissues down to the processing of individual molecules, the more you will see what a patched-together contraption your body is.
But that patching-together, that progressive tinkering, proceeds by fine-tuning hundreds of biochemical pathways in concert, not one or two. Thus the problem of intervening in the tuning of adaptation with adult age necessarily involves emulating what natural selection can accomplish. Such “anti-aging” intervention might not have to be quite as complicated as what evolution does, but it would have to be comparable in appropriateness and utility.
Thus radical anti-aging intervention requires acquiring a great deal of information about how our genomes tune our health as a first step. Then the goal would be to change that tuning so that health can be sustained. While this might seem to be a virtually impossible task, there are research strategies that can disclose how this should be done, research strategies that we will be reviewing later in the 55.
For now, it is important to keep firmly in mind that, whatever our hopes or fears, aging is not a simple problem at the level of physiology. It is instead an extremely complex problem. It is only simple from the standpoint of evolutionary theory, as I have outlined, and, as we will discuss, evolutionary experimentation.