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eden's picture

"Of all the things I've lost..."

I love evolution. I think it's great, and just outrageously interesting, so I think about it a lot and try to incorporate it into my mindset when I’m pondering things. Well. I was reading this book about music and the ear, and the author was describing the myriad of ways that hearing can be lost. One of the primary sources of hearing loss was age. As you get older, hair cells in your inner ear become less and less sensitive. You lose the ability to hear sounds in the upper register, and individual sounds, say, the difference between a B and a B­ flat, become less distinct.

Thinking about this in terms of survival, evolution, and sensing the environment, I come across something that weirds me out, or at least smacks my sense of significance upside the head.

When I first think of evolution and why we have such complex brains and sensory organs, it makes perfect sense. Complex brain = better able to sense and interpret environment = more likely to survive and reproduce. Okay, sounds great. Yay Evolution. But what’s crazy is that because physical evolution (not talking about culture, which of course does impact evolution in its own way) really just wants us to have lots of babies and then doesn’t give a rat’s what we do after that, we aren’t really “built to last.” AND THE FREAKY THING IS that means our brains too. We actually lose our ability to sense our environment, as in the case of hearing above, and many older people even begin to lose the ability to interpret their world. I once read this article about all these different physical characteristics that would be totally different if we were “built to last,” like having knees that bent backwards instead of forwards, and I thought it was so fascinating, but I never really thought to apply it to MY very own brain as well. I find it very odd and deeply disturbing that, evolutionarily speaking, our brains are just as expendable after we finish up reproducin’ as our ability to run away or climb trees. If our brains degrade just like everything else, where does that leave our “self-ness” when we are old? I mean, where does it go? I honestly will have to think about this some more, because seriously, that’s just kinda weird. Way to stab me in the back Evolution.

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