In How we Die, Dr. Nuland lays out (among other nuggets) an interesting question that we don’t naturally guess. Do we die because our body is programmed to self-destruct and allow future generations to live their lives (which improves genetic diversity in a population), or is death something that occurs randomly as the result of a breakdown of a normal system of the body?
The recent death of a 115-year old woman and the subsequent dissection of her brain offers some hope for empiricism in this meandering discussion. Although she died of cancer, at her death she showed no signs of Alzheimer’s and very few other neurological defects. She also did well on qualitative tests, and had similar results to a healthy 60-75 year old.
Maybe cognitive decline is not an inevitability? Somehow I think this is good news for transhumanism.
W. den Dunnen, et al. No disease in the brain of a 115-year old woman. Neurobiology of Aging, In Press (2008).