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Apoptosis — The Secret Source of Mortality December 17, 2007

Posted by Michael in Religion, Science.

Some years ago, I read a Newsweek cover story on the stunning advances in the scientific inquiry into aging.  The basic point of the article is that we incorrectly think that the the human body dies because it “wears out” like a tired engine.  Not so.  It is designed to be a self-regenerating machine that could survive indefinitely, and functions in that manner when you are young.  The reality is that human bodies are programmed to die.    As I recall this article, your DNA deliberately shuts you down, and the maximum lifespan appears to be about 120 years.  Even with no trauma or disease, your body will just turn off, because it loses its regenerative capabilities.

That rang a bell.  In the early Genesis account, people (e.g., Methuselah) lived for centuries.  But then things changed, according to a curious (and variously interpreted) passage:

(Gen 6:1-3 NASB)  Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them,   that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.  Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

Since the 1990’s when I read that Newsweek article, there has (according to Wikipedia) been a lot of research into programmed cell death, now known as apoptosis.  For example, according to Wiki, apoptosis in the developmental phase sculpts human tissue, and its incorrect functioning may cause this:



So, I was interested in an item in my RSS feed today:  there is current research that focusses on the horned beetle as a striking example of the same phenomena:




Horned beetle species have evolved a stunning array of horn shapes and sizes.  Indiana University Bloomington biologist Armin Moczek studies the beetles with three goals in mind: to pin down genes that govern the formation of horns, figure out how programmed cell death (apoptosis) plays a role in horn shaping, and determine how key hormones and growth factors influence the size and location of horns.

The current interest in programmed cell death is possibly the most compelling quest of biology in our day.  If scientists can understand and control this process, it is possible that they can defeat death.

I’m not counting on it.



1. Retired Geezer - December 18, 2007

Somewhere I had heard that the prolonged years of the early church doods was possibly due to a ‘canopy’ of vapor covering the earth before the flood of Noah. The same canopy would filter out all the bad juju from the Sun.

2. Mr Minority - December 18, 2007

There are ethical problems with prolonging the age of humans. 1) Some people don’t deserve to live a long life. 2) Population control – It would be impossible to feed everyone if people aren’t dying off like they are suppose to. 3) Who decides who is to receive these types of treatments? The rich? Those in control of the drugs? What about people living in 3rd World countries? Do the Fwench deserve longer lives?

3. BrewFan - December 18, 2007

I have already conquered death.

4. Michael - December 18, 2007


5. kevlarchick - December 18, 2007


6. BrewFan - December 18, 2007


7. kevlarchick - December 18, 2007


8. BrewFan - December 18, 2007


9. BrewFan - December 18, 2007


10. lauraw - December 18, 2007

Mr. Minority,

1.) If this becomes possible, treatment should be as market driven as any other health care or cosmetic procedure. I can’t imagine anything more ghastly than some inevitably arbitrary and corrupt ‘merit-based’ system.

2.) Population control is unnecessary unless you assume that longer-lived people won’t be more productive over their longer lives, or if you assume that food or other necessary resources are finite and scarce.

3.) See #1.

11. Bart - December 18, 2007


You know, for Christmas.

If you’ve seen it already…stick it!

12. compos mentis - December 18, 2007

If scientists can understand and control this process, it is possible that they can defeat death.

Yes, but could they possibly control the affects of gravity on a three hundred year old guy’s nuts? Cuz I’m thinkin’ road rash is inevitable.

13. Dave in Texas - December 18, 2007

Hey, comm engineer talk! Here’s some more:

“what’s the status on that router”?

“tango uniform”.

14. Retired Geezer - December 18, 2007

How good is that pilot Geezer on harmonica?

He’s Sierra Hotel.

15. BrewFan - December 18, 2007

“tango uniform”.


16. kevlarchick - December 18, 2007

Charlie Foxtrot. I think I’ve used that one before around here.

My dad taught me that one.

17. Mrs. Peel - December 18, 2007

At work, my mentor (a decade or so older than I am, and a squid) said that a meeting would be “a cluster…uhhh…” and trailed off while looking at me sheepishly and apologetically. “Fuck,” I supplied helpfully, and added, “You can just say Charlie Foxtrot.” He laughed and said he’d used that one before, and people never knew what he meant.

I’ll actually miss my mentor and supervisor. I’ve just returned to my old group to rejoin my old supervisor and join a new project manager/mentor and a new Big Boss (above my supervisor). I’m not impressed with the big boss so far. I had a rehearsal of my intern pitch (for a promotion) last week, and he spent most of the meeting playing some sort of weird who’s-got-a-bigger-dick dominance game with me. What kind of person feels the need to act like that toward someone who is that far below him, less than half his age, AND female?

The guys tell me that he does that with everyone, so at least I didn’t rub him the wrong way or something. I just hope he’s not planning on submarining my promotion, which will be decided on Thursday. He’s part of the review board.

18. Bart - December 18, 2007

I give you mandles and you give me FAA lingo.


19. Michael - December 18, 2007

What kind of person feels the need to act like that toward someone who is that far below him, less than half his age, AND female?

The guys tell me that he does that with everyone, so at least I didn’t rub him the wrong way or something.

Would you have felt better if he treated you differently because you are young, far below him, and female ?

I give the guy credit for giving you the same crap he gives everyone else — even if it’s genuine crap. At least you’re not getting the soft bigotry of low expectations. He probably thinks he’s helping you prepare to stay cool under fire. That probably means he likes you.

20. sandy burger - December 18, 2007

I give the guy credit for giving you the same crap he gives everyone else

And that’s what I call faint praise.

21. Mrs. Peel - December 18, 2007

Actually, I’m not at all above taking advantage of the fact that men react differently to attractive young women. In this case, however, I meant that I can understand the dominance struggle thing against a male close to his age and position. Humans are pack animals, so it’s somewhat natural that men have to grunt and snarl and posture to determine the pecking order. I just don’t think it makes sense for him to play that game with me. It makes him seem like he’s really insecure. I mean, I’m not the least bit intimidated by him despite his age, accomplishments, and power, so why should he feel threatened by me? I’m ridiculously insignificant compared to him.

Now that I think about it, it wasn’t about me at all. It was about him establishing that he is The Boss. However, had he taken a few minutes to observe me, he would have realized that his posturing was totally unnecessary and in fact counterproductive.

(I am after his job, of course, but he’ll probably be retired before I make it to that point.)

22. daveintexas - December 18, 2007


This is a progression of fucked up.

oh, and I’m all over Sierra Hotel and Charlie Foxtrot.

Anyone gonna give up tango uniform? That one is funnay.

23. Mr Minority - December 18, 2007

tango uniform

Tits Up

24. Mr Minority - December 18, 2007

When I was a ET in the USCG, and when I was called to fix a non-existent problem for a Radioman, I used to write SBTHP in the log book.

Finally the First Class Radioman asked me what SBHP stood for, I told him – Short Between the Head Phones.

He didn’t get it.

I rest my case.

25. Lipstick - December 18, 2007

Sierra Hotel: Shit Happens

Anyone know FIDO ?


26. Retired Geezer - December 18, 2007

When I had unsafe equipment back on my Vegas Lighting job, I would cut off the power cord and write NFG on it.

27. Michael - December 19, 2007

Well, I sure am glad you all enjoyed my rumination on programmed cell death, Genesis and the mortality of the flesh as a biblical concept and divine mandate, and horned beetle research. You can’t get this stuff just anywhere.

28. Bart - December 19, 2007

I know how you feel, bro.

They dissed my Mandles, too.

29. Bart - December 19, 2007

Anyone know this one?


(don’t look it up, cheaters)

30. Dex - December 19, 2007

Michael, maybe if you’d thrown original sin in the mix… That always livens up the party.

31. Lipstick - December 19, 2007

Is this an ID ten T situation?

32. Michael - December 19, 2007

Yeah, Dex, you’re right. Original sin is always a hot topic, and a good excuse to quote from Romans.

33. mesablue - December 19, 2007

Hey, did you guys see my blog birthday?

One year old — http://moralauthority.wordpress.com/2007/12/17/happy-birthday-to-me/

And yes, this is going to be like Dave’s Christmas post. And, I’m doing it here for a reason.

I was a blog snob in the past, thinking that it was a media for newbies, like MySpace and not something that I should deign to waste my time on. As an IT consultant I should be above all this, you know. Until the Rathergate incident, I didn’t really read any blogs. None.

I got caught up in how quickly the information came out on LGF and AoS and many other blogs. I started hanging out on Wizbang — a decent place for decent people. I still found it a bit, um, lame. Good writing by a couple of contributors, but kind of vanilla.

I’d only been to AoS a couple of times and really didn’t get it. Weird posts, politics, dorks, and strange sandwiches that talked. But, for some reason I decided to hang around for a bit and started to get interested. There was a group of commenters that were on topic for about five seconds and then would proceed to insult each other and make light of the situation while making cogent and interesting, sometimes thought provoking comments while continuing the discourse. Oh, and the troll bashing — priceless.

So, as a six month newbie to the whole blog thing I waded into my first AoS flame war with my first comment at AoS.

At least three or four of the regular posters here ripped right into me.

I was home. Loved it.

After about a year of getting to know some of you at AoS , I got brave enough to try to come over and hang out with the “cool kids” here at IB.

Everyone was very welcoming. In a “who the fuck do you think you are” kind of way. Just kidding, you guys waited a couple of weeks to do that.

Anyway, the reason I decided to start my blog was because I enjoyed the time I spent on AoS and mostly here. I wanted to create my own little slice in the blogoshpere, that even if no one ever visited — I had at least done it. It would be mine.

Heh, looking back on that now I realise how funny that is. I was really worried about my first few posts. Now I’ll just throw up anything I feel like. I mean, singing crackheads?

So, thank you Bystanders. It’s been a fun year. I can’t believe I’ve gotten over 150,000 hits. 800 posts, yikes. Crazy. Half are probably looking for that funny cat post I put up, but it’s still fun to be linked on the AoS main page once in a while and see who is linking me.

Never would have done it if I hadn’t gotten to know you folks first.

Best wishes for the holiday season and my sincerest thanks for letting me hang out.

34. PattyAnn - December 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, Blog Daddy.
IB is and always will be my favorite hang-out place.
Someday, we should do a genealogy family tree. So many see to have *sprung* from here. Potent seed, I guess.

35. PattyAnn - December 19, 2007


36. lauraw - December 19, 2007

But, for some reason I decided to hang around for a bit and started to get interested.

You should really be telling this to your therapist.

37. Dave in Texas - December 19, 2007

Never would have done it if I hadn’t gotten to know you folks first.

Next you’ll be blaming us for your $400/wk crack habit and hair loss.

Oh, and HBD.

38. daveintexas - December 19, 2007

here’s an oldie but goodie….


repeat as necessary

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