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Is Middle Age Evolution's Crowning Achievement?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the so-far-it-feels-sorta-ok dept.

Science 140

Hugh Pickens writes "Reproductive biologist David Bainbridge writes that with the onset of wrinkles, love handles, and failing eyesight we are used to dismissing our fifth and sixth decades as a negative chapter in our lives. However recent scientific findings show just how crucial middle age has been to the success of our species and that with the probable existence of lots of prehistoric middle-aged people, natural selection had plenty to work on. 'We lead an energy-intensive, communication-driven, information-rich way of life, and it was the evolution of middle age that supported this,' writes Bainbridge, adding that middle age is a controlled and preprogrammed process, not of decline, but of development. 'When we think of human development, we usually think of the growth of a fetus or the maturation of a child into an adult. Yet the tightly choreographed transition into middle age is a later but equally important stage in which we are each recast into yet another novel form' — resilient, healthy, energy-efficient and productive. 'The middle aged may not have been able to outrun the prey, but they were really good at working out where it might be hiding and dividing up the spoils afterwards.' Although some critics say that middle age is a construct of the middle aged, Bainbridge asserts that one key role of middle age is the propagation of information. 'All animals inherit a great deal of information in their genes; some also learn more as they grow up. Humans have taken this second form of information transfer to a new level. We are born knowing and being able to do almost nothing. Each of us depends on a continuous infusion of skills, knowledge and customs, collectively known as culture, if we are to survive. And the main route by which culture is transferred is by middle-aged people showing and telling their children — as well as the young adults with whom they hunt and gather — what to do.'"

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Hmm... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756123)

Intresting.

Re:Hmm... (3, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756189)

Boomer "science". :-)

"Look! We're still the center of the unverse! The reason for human existence!"

Calm down, Grandpa.

Re:Hmm... (3, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756327)

Baby boomers aren't really middle-aged any more. Depending on how you define "baby boomer," "middle age," and "old age," anyway. But if you were born five years after the end of WW2, you're old enough to start collecting Social Security this year.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756531)

I'm being a little bit farcical with my comment. Born in late '64, I am "the last of the boomers".

Close enough to understand and ID the foibles and phenomena, but also really keyed to what were "GenX/Slacker" milestones and ethos.

Heh! We were 20 somethings, that hated the 80's as the happened!

Re:Hmm... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756565)

Ah yes. You were one of those cynical, jaded people we 80's teenagers looked up to, because you'd seen and done it all. ;)

Seriously, I suspect your cultural milestones are a lot closer to mine than they are to Beaver Cleaver's. Considering that a fair number of your contemporaries were the children of people born in the immediate post-war spike, it seems really absurd to lump the entire group together.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756663)

If you were born in '64, you're an Xer. Boom is 1943-60; X is 1961-81.

Really, what cultural milestones would you have in common with Boomers? You were born after the Kennedy assassination, you have no memory of life before the sexual revolution, you were three years old during the Summer of Love, you were four years old when everything blew up at once in 1968, you were five years old during Woodstock, you went to college in the 80s, etc. Fast Times at Ridgemont High and John Hughes' teen movies, all aimed at core Xers, probably describes your teenage culture better than any movie aimed at Boomers.

Let me guess: when you were growing up, kids were treated like little devils to be scorned (X upbringing), not precious little angels to be indulged or nurtured (Boomer upbringing). You were probably neglected by your parents because they were busy spending the 60s and 70s finding themselves--a classic Xer childhood environment--and if you were one of the lucky ones that weren't, you certainly had several friends who were.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756887)

"Heh! We were 20 somethings, that hated the 80's as the happened!"

And only now are we glad that AIDS wasn't invented yet.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756573)

The Boom Generation is people born in 1943-1960, so Boomers are 51 to 69, which is late middle age and early old age.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756957)

Yeah! Rollover and dream about ways of living vicariously through your off-spring.

How is that different from simply old age? (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756127)

Learning is an expensive process, the longer we're able to use those skills the better we're off as a group. I just think that middle age is not qualitatively different from old age, and it's just an arbitrary distinction.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (4, Interesting)

avgjoe62 (558860) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756177)

I am middle aged, nearing fifty. I (and my friends) can still hike a trail with my kids, keep up with them and show them interesting things, stuff I remember wondering about when I was their age.

My Mom, however, is 77. She cannot hike those same trails at our speed and she has difficulty remembering things. She stays back with the great-grandkids and the octogenarian dog, baking cookies while we hike.

There is a qualitative difference between middle age and old age, but that may not be readily apparent if you have nothing to compare to.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756243)

...and the octogenarian dog

That's an amazingly old dog.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756249)

Divide by 7.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756489)

so it's not really octogenarian, it's octogenaric-septadivisian?

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756359)

I am middle aged, nearing fifty. I (and my friends) can still hike a trail with my kids, keep up with them and show them interesting things, stuff I remember wondering about when I was their age.

I'm 47. I swim and I have been swimming (on a competitive level ) for decades.

I have watched my times decline in fits and starts downwards and I watch as teenagers on the swim team beat me effortlessly.

I am old.

That's OK though. I feel no need to make excuses, to compensate, and my goal is to become (hopefully) wizened really old guy - hopefully healthy, too.

I know my limitations and I accept what nature has given me and is leaving me. Unfortunately, when I express that I hear things like," You're NOT old!" or "Don't be so negative!"

What? Our culture is so old phobic that people just want to bury their heads in the sand. And that's why we have old guys hitting on twenty something year old women and not thinking they're making a complete ass of themselves.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (4, Insightful)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756443)

Our culture is so old phobic that people just want to bury their heads in the sand.

Yea, you're right, parts of the US culture is like that, certainly much of the media.

And that's why we have old guys hitting on twenty something year old women

Uh, no, dude, that's NOT why.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756557)

I wish I could find a twenty-something woman to share my genetic supremacy with.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756705)

You are obviously too fussy about it.

You just need to find one passed out or unable to understand what is going on around her.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39758347)

You are obviously too fussy about it.

You just need to find one passed out or unable to understand what is going on around her.

Yep. Been there, done that, made a t-shirt.

It's been the subject of a lot of my writing lately.

Getting older sucks, but there are advantages too. You just have to learn how to appreciate them.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (2)

avgjoe62 (558860) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756897)

I am old.

That's OK though. I feel no need to make excuses, to compensate, and my goal is to become (hopefully) wizened really old guy - hopefully healthy, too.

I know my limitations and I accept what nature has given me and is leaving me. Unfortunately, when I express that I hear things like," You're NOT old!" or "Don't be so negative!"

Yep. Been there, done that, made a t-shirt.

I actually am enjoying getting older. It's been the subject of a lot of my writing lately, even this that I posted yesterday. [blogspot.com]

Getting older sucks sometimes, but there are advantages too. You just have to learn how to appreciate them.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39757481)

"I actually am enjoying getting older."

That's because you're going senile and your cognitive capacities are declining. You simply don't remember the joy, intelligence and physical peak you once enjoyed. My horror is that despite my decline, I still have an excellent memory of what my youth was like. I desperately miss every nanosecond of it. I simply DO NOT see what is so great about aging, the decline of EVERY SINGLE function. I'm supposed to be happy about this?

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

avgjoe62 (558860) | more than 2 years ago | (#39758459)

I simply DO NOT see what is so great about aging, the decline of EVERY SINGLE function. I'm supposed to be happy about this?

And your alternative is...?

43 years old. The good and the bad (1)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39758005)

On one hand I have eight year old kids that remind me how to feel young and play. They haven't turned into rebelous douchbags and I still manage to be thier hero occasionally.

On the other hand it's tough watching my parent become elderly. The people who were a pain in the ass when I was a teen. I love them more than ever. It breaks my heart knowing I won't have them much longer.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (4, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756955)

From an evolutionary POV, it should be the older guys hitting on younger women (you might think that I'm above a certain age, I couldn't possibly comment).

You can only really examine a man for his propensity for success - both culutral and genetic - until he gets out of his twenties. Alas, women have a certain reproductive shelf life. The inbuilt male interest in younger women is a reflection of this - older women are less likely to be fertile, more likely to have troublesome pregnancies, more likely to have children with birth defects. On the other hand, for a man to have reached his forties at all, let alone with all his faculties intact, was no mean feat for much of the history of the human race. A woman would have to weigh this kind of mate in the balance - the advantages of his experience and the proof of his superior genetic quality, versus the possibility that he'll peg out and not be around to provide resources for her - but you can see how a middle aged man is, from an evolutionary point of view, a much better bet than a younger man.

Perhaps the stereotype of the mid-life crisis is actually just a successful evolutionary strategy that just receives bad press. Or perhaps I'm just sucking on those sour grapes... :-)

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39758929)

Nice try, but Mother Nature sees right through [wikipedia.org] your clever ploy.

Really, as far as evolution is concerned we should all be dying in our early thirties after losing all our teeth and being unable to eat.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (2)

SternisheFan (2529412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757441)

I'm 53, so I've managed to survive 32 years longer than I ever thought I would (I used up my '9 lives' well before age 21!) I've mostly worked home improvement type jobs to earn my money, so I find myself in pretty decent health compared to guys I know who are in their 30's, 40's, & 60's. One 300lb. musician friend who has diabetes showed me the handful of pills he has to swallow 2+ times a day, some just to negate the effects of the other meds. He's even hooked on 'pain' pills (read 'heroin' in pill form), the 'pain' is just an excuse for him to go off into la-la land when he wants to. And I just moved from a house where one 60 yr old guy has been nothing but an angry a@@%#&e for his entire life. Now, with only maybe 2 decades left, he'll probably die an angry fool, having missed out on all the good that life had to offer him. All I could do was watch him explode, and think to myself, "I am SO glad that I'm not him!" So my advice to all the younger than me whippersnappers out there, take care of your health. Avoid drugs and alcohol as much as you can. Love deeply, and don't sweat the small shit that life hits us with. Learn to forgive everybody everything, just so you don't end up like that angry guy. Because when your're in your 80's, you'll look back at your life and realize, "It was ALL small shit!" Now go take your fancy iPod and go out and have some fun with the people you love and who love you. Because that's all that really matters in this life, the people that we have in it. Once they're gone you can't replace them. As opposed to things like cars and tech stuff, just replaceable metal and plastic, really. And instead of trying to 'get happy' with drugs, pills, or alcohol, try performing "random acts of kindness". Performing R.A.O.K. will make another passenger on spaceship earth smile and feel happier, which in turn will make you feel happier. It works, really! Have a nice day, slashdotters! ;-)

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39757777)

"I accept what nature has given me"

In that case, please get rid of these non-natural things:

- Running clean hot and cold water instead of dirty water

- Indoor plumbing instead of festering outhouses

- Air conditioned and insulated homes instead of drafty shacks

- Fridges full of sterile and nutritious food instead of hunting and gathering

- Cushy office jobs instead of back-breaking labor in the sun

- Pharmacies filled with skin creams and various potions

- Giving birth in hospitals

- Almost magical medical care (Seriously. Look at what medicine was 100 years ago)

- Antibiotics galore

- Medications for conditions previously considered "natural" aging now being controlled (strontium ranelate, AGE cross-link breakers)

And tell me again about how you feel about what "nature" has given you. Our energy-intensive technological society has given you a 47 year old body that is unlike a 47 year old body from 200 years ago. Yet I'll bet you're against life extension technology, even though you already benefit from a very technological extended life span.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39758369)

In that case, please get rid of these non-natural things:

- Indoor plumbing instead of festering outhouses

Outhouses aren't "natural" either, they're just a less sophisticated version of the same human construct.

Air conditioned and insulated homes instead of drafty shacks

Shacks aren't "natural", unless you draw an arbitrary line between what you consider a "natural" human house and one that isn't.

Cushy office jobs instead of back-breaking labor in the sun

Do very primitive societies living what one could reasonably call a "natural" lifestyle (hunter-gatherer?) have "back-breaking labor" in the sense that you meant it?

Yes, agriculture requires "back breaking labour", but agriculture isn't "natural".

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (3)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756505)

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (3)

rthille (8526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756739)

Heh, a recent FB status of mine was "I'd like some Tree of Life Root about now." Of course I'm probably too old at this point and it would kill me, but I'm definitely feeling like evolution is done with me and I'm supposed to die off soon to make room for the younger and faster.

And I'm 44.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759111)

to make room for the younger and faster.

And I'm 44.

Considering the BMI of your average American 4th grader, you're almost certainly faster than mommy's precious little lardball.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (5, Funny)

ankhank (756164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756521)

It's a match made in, er, evolution:

Little children love to hear the same story repeatedly, over and over, using exactly the same words.
Old folks repeat the same stories over and over, and if they get the words wrong, the children correct them.

Perfection.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

avgjoe62 (558860) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756915)

You just described a night at my house during the holidays to a "T".

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (4, Interesting)

Oswald (235719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756185)

I would agree that any attempt to define middle age solely in terms of calendar age is bound to be arbitrary. But the summary hits the important distinctions with "resilient, healthy, energy-efficient and productive." At some point for each person (who lives long enough) the advantages of experience can't make for the physical decline, and we transition from "middle age" to "old age."

Of course these terms are pathetically vague, and we need better ones that say what we mean, but the distinction itself is real.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756217)

The eventual death of every individual benefits the species. It ensures that packs don't overpopulate their territory, and that outdated knowledge doesn't persist for too long.

Of course, this isn't of much benefit to the individuals who die, but they have no say in the matter.

At least, not yet.

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (4, Insightful)

Cat_Herder_GoatRoper (2491400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756273)

Not buying that outdated knowledge does not persist. For example Religion!

Re:How is that different from simply old age? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757337)

Another example: Carl Marx and related philosophies.

We're all still children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756325)

What allows anyone to conclude that our current state of techno-cultural 'advancement' is sustainable at our ecological burn rate?

We're only beginning to acknowledge the fact that our species is engaged in global ecological deformation or that the extinction rate resulting directly from homo sapiens' behavior is on par with 5 major paleontological mass extinctions.

Biologically, unregulated growth is cancerous, and left untreated, cancer results in increased morbidity. If 'we' decide to treat ourselves (and our environs) responsibly, one day perhaps our descendants will be able claim that we evolved.

Author is middle aged (3, Informative)

sideslash (1865434) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756137)

Author David Bainbridge [wikipedia.org] is 44. And 25 years ago he wrote a book claiming that teenagers are the pinnacle of human existence.

(OK, so it wasn't 25 years ago. But that would have been funny.)

Re:Author is middle aged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756329)

Take *that* Bainbridge scholar.

Re:Author is middle aged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39757977)

>> dividing up the spoils afterwards

Sounds like a consultant, politician, or Deer Tick.

Middle Ages (1, Funny)

openfrog (897716) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756197)

For a moment, I thought this was a libertarian article about the Middle Ages being the crowning achievement of human evolution, or civilization...

I hope I am not giving them an idea...

Re:Middle Ages (4, Insightful)

grahamd0 (1129971) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756297)

You seem to have a gross misunderstanding of libertarians.

Re:Middle Ages (0)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756337)

Libertarians are illiterate anarchists. (Or Liberians with poor spelling skills).

Re:Middle Ages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756515)

You shouldn't call anyone illiterate if forming proper sentences and using parentheses is a challenge for you.

Re:Middle Ages (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756333)

No, libertarians want to bring back 19th Century industrialism with all its convict leasing and chattel slavery.

Re:Middle Ages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756493)

No, libertarians want to bring back 19th Century industrialism with all its convict leasing and chattel slavery.

You're a bit confused. I think you meant to say that liberals want to bring back 18th Century pre-industrialism with its leaseholds and serf slavery.

Re:Middle Ages (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756537)

For a moment, I thought this was a libertarian article about the Middle Ages being the crowning achievement of human evolution, or civilization...

I hope I am not giving them an idea...

I had this thought, with the logical support that since the Middle Ages humanity has increasingly protected the genetically weak and infirm and thus stopped the "survival of the fittest" evolution.

Of course, today we're selectively breeding by different criteria....

Re:Middle Ages (1)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756893)

And what are the fittest? If memory serves, Darwin et al considered those most able to accommodate change as the most fit to survive. That is, in a given species' population, those individuals who can both adapt to changes and pass on their genes increase the likelihood of the survival of that species.

Rather puts the "survival of the fittest" arguments in a different light, no? My observation is that the concept is mis-used or abused by people pushing their own agenda or trying to justify an otherwise indefensible action.

One wonders how robust were Gutenberg, Brahe, Galileo, Newton, any of that ilk out and about over that span of centuries.

Except... (5, Interesting)

gQuigs (913879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756257)

My very limited understanding was that evolution really could only work if the survivors were of reproductive age. If they are great at surviving and making children then it would work, otherwise not.

Ah.. fine I read the article:
"The probable existence of lots of prehistoric middle-aged people means that natural selection had plenty to work on. Those with beneficial traits would have been more successful at nurturing their children to reproductive age and helping provide for their grandchildren, and hence would have passed on those traits to their descendants. As a result, modern middle age is the result of millennia of natural selection."

So really it's grandparents that this article is really getting at. Middle aged for the purpose of having your offspring's offspring survive. That actually makes sense.

Re:Except... (3, Insightful)

Jessified (1150003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756405)

So really it's grandparents that this article is really getting at. Middle aged for the purpose of having your offspring's offspring survive. That actually makes sense.

That makes perfect sense when you consider menopause.

Evolutionarily, when does it ever make sense for a species to "willingly," as it were, make oneself infertile? In our case, the advantage is that the females stop reproducing and focus the remainder of their energy on their current descendants, rather than produce babies up until death and spread the resources thin.

Re:Except... (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756673)

If limited resources were the main issue, I would expect andropause to have a similar "shutdown" phase instead of just being a decline. And having copious offspring to compete against other groups over limited resources would be advantageous.

It seems more likely to me that the evolutionary advantage of menopause is from preserving the life of the female (thus allowing her to help her grandchildren survive). Older females are much less likely to produce viable offspring and much more likely to die in the process than their younger counterparts.

Re:Except that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756911)

Older women, even when they seem physically fit, bare children with a greater likelihood of birth defects, particularly in the realm of cognition. And it doesn't happen at the same age for all women. Menopause may very well be Mother Nature's way of saying it's time to stop attempting to conceive and gestate because your system has been compromised.

But who knows, perhaps it's just God's way of getting back at men, and that's why the bible blames Eve and not Adam for eating from the tree of the knowledgeable serpent. Of course if the Sumerians had worshiped newts and not serpents, then it would have been the swamp cabbage of knowledge and not the apple.

Re:Except that... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757421)

God's way of getting back at men? Because just when we get used to planning our lies around the moon (including the go fishing/overtime week) we have to shift into dealing with completely random bombs and hazards?

Think about it. They can't get away from themselves.

We've still got it easy. Y is still the winner of the chromosome lottery.

Re:Except that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39757551)

I find your ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Except... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39757773)

So really it's grandparents that this article is really getting at. Middle aged for the purpose of having your offspring's offspring survive. That actually makes sense.

It makes so much sense that the monkeys do it, and probably orangutangs and gorillas as well. This is not only about the grandparents but the society, or the Pack, at large.

Information from a time-independent perspective (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756275)

Jesus said, "The man old in days will not hesitate to ask a small child seven days old about the place of life, and he will live. For many who are first will become last, and they will become one and the same."

--Thomas

Hey, it's what I do here.

it's a good thing (3, Interesting)

haemish (28576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756279)

As an aging geek, and as much as an aging body sucks, I wouldn't trade my wiser more developed brain for my younger body.

Re:it's a good thing (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39758271)

Even when you start forgetting what you installed Linux on?

This must be why there are so many job postings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756281)

Help wanted: software engineer
Required skills: EJB, Spring, Java core, MySQL, Hibernate, JAXB, Struts, Hadoop, Cassandra, Python, Perl
Optional skills: C/C++, multithreading, high volume server side distributed programming
Experience level: 0-3 years

wtf?

Re:This must be why there are so many job postings (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757577)

I have 0-3 years experience in all of those skills. Where do I apply?

BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756283)

I'm 47 and I feel and know that I'm over the hill. Life's something that takes place before you're 30.

Re:BS (4, Interesting)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756361)

I'm 47 and I feel and know that I'm over the hill. Life's something that takes place before you're 30.

REALLY? I am 45 and can still ski and hike with the best of them. I don't feel close to being over the hill. My son is 18 and skis like a maniac, but I can still wear him out. Old is a state of mind, and "middle age" or 40s/50s is definitely NOT old. My father played tennis into his mid/late 70's.

I hope you are just trying to provoke conversation, if not, I really feel sorry for you.

Re:BS (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756613)

I had an assistant manager when I worked at a grocery store in college. He was 22 years old, had a wife, 2 kids, house, and a career that was "going places." His boss, the store manager, was just like him but 15 years further on - making six figures and managing one of the highest traffic stores in the chain. That man, 37 years old, looked like he was 65, and acted like he felt he was 65. The way the cocky 22yo am was going at things, chain smoking, creeping around corners to "keep tabs" on everyone, blowing a gasket when things didn't go his way, he was going to look worse than the gm by the time he hit 35.

The gm was starting to mellow out, only worry about the important stuff, didn't really ever get mad anymore, he was much more effective than the hair-trigger assistant - but it was a hard lesson for him to learn.

On the other hand, I know a guy who's about 62, owns his own company of 100 employees, comes to work 3 or 4 days a week for 5-6 hours a day, does what he likes, treats everyone more or less fairly, and is having a great life. At 62, he's in much better shape than the 37 year old general manager who learned the hard way what stressing out really does for you.

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756797)

If you don't eat healthy, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking/rugs, then you will experience a physical and cognitive decline in your 40's. Genetics can shift this period by a few years, but how well you care for yourself has a huge impact on how well you age.

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39757399)

I'm 49, my dad is 74. He can out-ski me any day of the week.

Of course he lives near a ski resort and I don't.

Re:BS (1)

BryanL (93656) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757455)

Totally. I am 48 and this morning I ran a 5K with my 80 year old neighbor. He wasn't fast but he ran every foot step. He has several other 5Ks planned for the year. Age really is a state of mind.

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756413)

I'm 47 and I feel and know that I'm over the hill. Life's something that takes place before you're 30.

Would you kindly STFU. I'm 28, and the cutoff had damn well better be closer to 45. It may be all the same thing for you, but it's a hell of a difference to me...

Re:BS (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756809)

Relax, you're over the hill only when you think you are. Many a new career began at midlife ( I notice that's around the age for people to start their own business/profession, and not work for others as much) - especially artists and writers, stuff where you have to live a bunch of years of experience in order to create.

You may not be doing all stuff you did in your 20s, but that doesn't mean it can be no less exciting.

Re:BS (2)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757075)

Bah! I'm 59 and STILL not over the hill. Now get back to work so you can pay into Social Security! I want some money to be there when I start collecting it. :p

Crowning achievement are MILFs (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756319)

Sure, without middle age there could be no MILFs. Therefore, middle age is evolution's crowning achievement indeed. QED.

Re:Crowning achievement are MILFs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756389)

Sarah Palin is a GMILF, so she represents an evolutionary breakthrough.

Oblig. Calvin and Hobbes (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756411)

Crowing achievement? No. That would be Calvin [gocomics.com] .

Doesn't make sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756507)

This doesn't make sense. Does middle age, or indeed has middle age, make it more likely that a person will pass on their genes? Not really. Most people reproduce before then. Culture and technological advancement are all very nice, especially if you come up with some great idea at 65. But if it doesn't get you laid, and you don't pass on your genes, then it means diddly fuck to evolution, at least as far as your germline is concerned.

Re:Doesn't make sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756533)

Also for most of our evolutionary history we died well before we hit 40. There simply wouldn't have been time to select in beneficial mutations for middle aged people.

Re:Doesn't make sense. (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756727)

it's not reproduction, but having your genes go on

being alive in middle age means you can take care of your grand kids while their parents work and give them a chance to have more kids. if you look around the cultures with the strong extended family traditions like latinos and asians seem to have more kids

a lot of the english/irish/italian/ kids can't wait to move halfway across the country as soon as they can. in other cultures where you stay closer to your parents you can have more kids if they help take care of them

Re:Doesn't make sense. (4, Insightful)

IdolizingStewie (878683) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756757)

Yes, but if you can live long enough to keep your kid from dying at 15 while he's still showing off trying to get laid, then you've helped to pass on your genes further. If you can watch your grandbabies while your kid is out hunting, you've helped to pass on your genes further. The continuation of your bloodline doesn't stop with your first red-faced, squalling brat.

Re:Doesn't make sense. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39757347)

I read a little blurb years ago by a guy who was in the peace core in the Caribbean. In a little village, 200 people or so. There was one really old guy who was eighty or some such. He was long past being able to do much more than gossip and look after small children. Till the day they heard over the radio that a hurricane was coming. Most people didn't really know what a hurricane was, but he did. He'd been through one when he was a young man. And all these years later he knew what to do. He had young men go into the forrest and bring back logs, showed them how to brace the insides of homes. To board up the windows, block the doors. Use rope to tie down the roof. Ordered families to just abandon badly constructed huts. Cut down and remove trees that were likely to come down. People were busy and a little grumpy but did what they were told. Hurricane hit in the middle of the night, 120 mile an hour winds. Most of the poorly constructed houses got knocked down, the ones that were reinforced survived and the people in them. No one died, not in that village. Some other villages, they didn't do anything, and houses fell down, people died.

So the thing is, the old man had already passed on his genes. By living long he was also able to use and pass on hard won knowledge and thus insure that his children. grand children and great grand children survived.

Re:Doesn't make sense. (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757359)

This doesn't make sense. Does middle age, or indeed has middle age, make it more likely that a person will pass on their genes? Not really. Most people reproduce before then.

Because contributing to the knowledge, skills, and security of your children -- those who will be carrying your genes forward -- in no way influences the likelihood that those genes will persist.

Knowledge is key (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756535)

Without the more aged and experienced to teach the next, there is no perpetuation of knowledge, experience and wisdom. Without it, we only have instinct.

Re:Knowledge is key (1)

Wraithlyn (133796) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756791)

Using pretty absolute language, aren't we?

We haven't had to rely exclusively on direct verbal perpetuation of knowledge/experience/wisdom since the invention of writing. One may make qualitative arguments of course.

Re:Knowledge is key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39757719)

Which explains why half my college professors are younger than I am and I'm not middle aged yet.

http://www.ncl.ac.uk/iah/ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756569)

http://www.ncl.ac.uk/iah/

OP is true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756617)

And the main route by which culture is transferred is by middle-aged people showing and telling their children [...] what to do.

Which is why "Now get off my lawn" will never die. ;)

Thank God for rationalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756745)

At this age ... more important than sex.

It's being studied (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39756783)

http://www.ncl.ac.uk/iah/ has plenty of information

I don't get it (0)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756845)

How does being fat, weak, wrinkly, and near-sighted aid in information transfer? Insofar as it doesn't, it appears he really means that man's longevity, even taking into account such problems, provides a benefit to the species. This has nothing to do with the problems of aging, which if anything, inhibit information transfer. You can't teach something you can't remember.

Dolphins live to middle age (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756977)

...But do not have opposable thumbs, I thought that's what made us special. I would assume that humans are going to have to survive as a species several more millenia before being crowned as the most successful on an evolutionary scale. If we don't, then perhaps "middle age" will be determined to have been what doomed us.

Look @ a picture of the bones in their flippers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759127)

You MIGHT be surprised -> http://capelookoutstudies.org/images/skeletondiagram.gif [capelookoutstudies.org]

APK

P.S.=> A thumb, or a "vestigial remainder" is there (sort of like our human tailbone @ the end of our spine seems to be the vestigial remains of a tail)... & that's not even a GOOD photo really... apk

"Middle" age? (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 2 years ago | (#39756999)

>"dismissing our fifth and sixth decades"

Middle implies the center of a group of three or more. To me "middle age" is the period around the middle of average lifespan. So I think middle age is probably more accurately ages 30-50.

50-70 ("fifth and sixth decades) are not middle age, unless one thinks the average lifespan is 120...

Who makes up these strange definitions?

Re:"Middle" age? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757517)

First Infant, then child, then youth, then young.

Is 18 0% of 80? Is 20 young?

That said 70 is not middle age. But 59? Depends on the person, everybody loses it at a different age. BTW your first decade is 0-9, second 10-19, third 20-29...sixth 50-59.

Losing it?

Re:"Middle" age? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39757525)

The same people that decided that the term "solid state" now means "no moving parts" when all it ever meant was that conduction occurs in a solid instead of a gas, plasma or vacuum. Or that "digital" means MP3, and that CDs are somehow not digital too. Etc. Besides, life only starts at around 20, time before that is "booting up" time.

middle age is 45 (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757205)

if 90 is the lifespan. "middle-aged" is what you are called by people 10 years younger than you. when i was 15, 30-year-olds were creepy old. really bad creepy old. not middle-aged.

Recent scientific findings show (1)

onebeaumond (1230624) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757211)

Exactly what? The authors don't offer a testable prediction of their hypothesis. For example, one would think that biological limits to maximum lifespan would be affected. What phenotype emergence mechanism is being proposed? This sounds like group selection, which has specific testable, limitations as well. Alll in all, I would really hesitate to use the term "scientific findings show" to describe this hypothesis.

Bollocks... (1)

Anonymousslashdot (2601035) | more than 2 years ago | (#39757689)

Kids don't give a damn about what the middle-aged-pricks say. "The main route by which culture is transferred" is TV.

Herd dynamics (1)

Beeftopia (1846720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39758105)

I always wondered why women stopped being fertile in middle age, yet live longer than men, if their only (evolutionary) purpose is to squeeze out progeny. So obviously, evolution has indicated something more for them. That something is probably assisting the health of the herd, allowing more members to thrive and procreate, assisting the herd in making decisions that increase its health and/or numbers.

The same would apply to males who become decrepit yet hold on for decades.

When understanding human evolution, one has to look at the human in terms of the herd or pack (pack is probably a better description), and not just standing alone.

Evolution: (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39758259)

"And tell those neanderthals to get off my prairie!"

Middle age is awesome (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#39758943)

Not plagued by youth stupidity and desire to hump everything, still able to hump everything with cold mind, rich, lot's of free time to explore world, give back to humanity, ability to support higher education for children.

I am 45 and I am living the best time of my life.

Well, duuh (2)

frisket (149522) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759081)

That's why a senator is called a senator ("senex" is the Latin for "old man"). Used to be that a senate was a body of older, wiser, experienced heads who could advise on what to do because they had likely seen it all before, and remembered how to handle it. The last thing you want in a senate is young people with no experience.
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