We Are Programmed to Die Early, and That’s a Good Thing


Image: JuliusKielaitis/Shutterstock
Complex systems theorists have created a model that overturns longstanding assumptions about the relationship between death and natural selection.

By Daniel Oberhaus | MOTHERBOARD

Since the late 19th century, evolutionary biologists have assumed that natural selection favors individuals with long lifespans. It makes some intuitive sense: the longer you live, the more time you have to get busy making babies, maximizing your reproductive potential.

As for what determines an individual organism’s lifespan in the first place, scientists have largely concluded that this is a result of a mix of extrinsic factors (such as predation, disease, or accidents) and intrinsic factors (the biological decay that eventually results in death).

„Lifespans are selected for and genetically programmed.“

But according to new research published earlier this year in PLOS One, these theories are wrong: it turns out it’s natural selection may have pushed organisms to have an internal time for how long they’re supposed to life. We are, in essence, genetically programmed to self-destruct.

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