(warning – philosophical rant ahead)
Is aging a disease?? This question has been floating around quite a bit in the media lately; it really is an important question and not merely a fun topic to bandy about in the philosophical circles. – How we classify aging to a profound extent determines the way the medical community addresses it. And in my humble opinion their current protocol only treats the symptoms instead of the causes. In other words they are painstakingly patching the myriad holes in a leaky old boat instead of taking the time to fix it right. *
So how do you feel about it? Is aging a disease, or is it simply a perfectly natural, normal, (I can’t say healthy) progression designed by the almighty or the wondrous infallable model of nature? I say that it is a disease. And it’s the worse possible one imaginable. If you calmly and coldly analyze it, I think you’ll find that there’s no real disputing this conclusion!
To make the call we first have to ask, what are the characteristics of a disease? Obviously it must be something debilitating, very often fatal, an insidious condition that we will strive valiantly to overcome. It nails us with a host of nasty, painful severely limiting consequences: If a disease if far flung enough we will consider it an epidemic as it poses a threat to all concerned. Does aging fit these criteria?
The other important designating trait of a disease is it’s status as abnormal. You can contract it, that is you can suddenly get the thing, and usually unexpectedly. In this regard aging certainly is not a disease, because it is a so called rule of nature – as normal as any other biological action.
But unfortunately some interesting hypothetical scenarios can undermine the validity of this latter argument. Lets take a look back a few centuries. In the not too distant past people rarely expected to live past the age of sixty. That was thought of as very old – very aged. Yet now people blow right by this milestone and usually aren’t considered aged until they pass seventy at the very least. Often when someone dies in their mid eighties we wonder “what happened to the poor guy?” And who is to say that this shifting reality of advancing lifespan and aging is going to stop in the near future? **
Now imaging this scenario – it’s the year 2035, the average life expectancy has reached 115. If you were approaching that great age and your son suddenly died at the age of 90 would you think it was because of natural causes? Has he lived a full normal life?? What about the flip side of the coin – what if an incurable deadly disease suddenly struck everyone who attained the age of 50, would you then have to designate it as normal and not a disease because it was universal? It was the norm. All a perfectly natural plan of nature, right?
What I am illuminating by this is the importance of placing the weight on the first discriminating factor – the harm that the phenomenon causes. Whether it is a normal, so called immutable phenomenon that affects everybody shouldn’t carry as much weight as the fact that it acts as the worst possible disease out there – it is currently 100% fatal.
But the real tragedy of it is that if we were to look at aging as a disease, to address the underlying causes of the diseases inherent with aging we would eventually be able to cure aging itself, and illiminate all those horrible consequences.
Yes, we absolutely would. Our bodies are not composed of magical fairy dust. We are atoms, molecules and elements like any other form of matter. And over time with the ever progressing understanding of science we will eventually know enough to alter the mechanics of our biology enough to make the change. It has never stopped yet.
Of course, there are those who incredibly think death is a good thing – so we don’t overpopulate the earth. I say why not truly respect life by trying to keep people living and watch carefully how many new ones you add to the mix instead??? Makes a bit more sense. But that is a subject to bandy about in those philosophical circles!
* (I don’t mean to disparage the well-meaning and very substantial efforts of doctors and researchers. I am only challenging the current focus of the overall effort.)
** If some insist that the evidence of deaths universal nature implies that it is some “divine edict”, or simply “meant to be” , I say that the fact that we can change our lifespan as we have implies that overcoming these limitations is our true destiny!