If humans were designed to live beyond age 100 and remain free of many of the diseases and disorders associated with aging, we might have looked like short, stout elves.
This conclusion may be drawn from illustrations that accompany the article, If Humans Were Built to Last, by UIC Professor S. Jay Olshansky and his colleagues in the March 2001 issue of the magazine Scientific American.
Our bodies evolved to survive long enough to reproduce and raise our young, says Olshansky, professor of biostatistics in the UIC School of Public Health and noted demographer of aging. Human ingenuity has made it possible for us to extend our lives well past our reproductive years.
Had our bodies been crafted for extended operation, we would have fewer flaws capable of making us miserable in our later days, he writes. Evolution does not work that way. Instead, it cobbles together new features by tinkering with existing ones in a way that would have made Rube Goldberg proud.
The article, written with Bruce Carnes, senior research scientist at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and Dr. Robert Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York City, outlines design flaws that lead to bodily malfunctions as we age, and the hypothetical, evolutionary design fixes that would allow us to enjoy good health well into our postreproductive years.
Humans can live for a long period of time in good health because the harsh environments of our ancestors forged a human-body design that is robust, said Carnes. But the seeds of self-destruction sown at conception become more obvious with the passage of time.
The article includes illustrations of what humans might look like if we were designed for health and longevity. For example, some of the extended-use features might include rewired eyes, bigger ears that are mobile, a curved neck, forward-tilting upper torso, extra-padded joints, larg
Contact: Jody Oesterreicher
University of Illinois at Chicago