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Methusula's end

If you're considered by age to be an adult,
then the good news is that you're both younger--
and MUCH, MUCH older-- than you think you are...

...then there's the bad news...

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Almost everyone reading this knows (or think they know) that they're under 100 years of age. Yet it can be logically proven that we-- yes, you reading this right now, and I writing it to you-- have enjoyed a continuous stream of life of one kind or another for perhaps as long as four billion years.

No, that is no typo. And it's no mystic babble either. It's simply fact.

Were you aware that we're essentially 'reborn' every seven to sixteen years? Seven to sixteen years is how long the cycle of rejuvenation is in our physical makeup. It requires between seven and sixteen years for our bodies to replace most every single cell with a new one. The result is we're actually both (you and I) substantially different beings today than we were between seven and sixteen years ago-- literally!

"Some cells turn over each day. Others are replaced in 7-10 year cycles."

-- Can I tell how old I really am? [""] accessible online on or around 12-30-05

"...even if you're middle aged, most of you may be just 10 years old or less."

"...the average age of all the cells in an adult's body may turn out to be as young as 7 to 10 years."

-- Your Body Is Younger Than You Think - New York Times [""] By NICHOLAS WADE; August 2, 2005;

-- ABOUT FACE IN TIME AND SPACE [""], The "A" Files... A Column by Charles Miller, 1999, The Anomalist

Brains can indeed regenerate due to the existence of neural stem cells.

-- Brain can repair itself [10sep02] [",5936,5065799%255E421,00.html"]; Advertiser Newspapers Ltd

"...we continually form new nerve cells in our brain..."

-- How To Save Your Brain [""] from the Science show with Robyn Williams; Saturday 5 June 2004; interview of Professor Perry Bartlett, Director of Queensland Brain Institute

Brain cell production can be increased by anti-depressants, marathon running, sex, and pregnancy.

-- Fornicate and run marathons to beef up your brains [""] posted by Cory Doctorow; Friday, June 18, 2004

-- UCI study identifies how new neurons grow in adult brain [""]; 11-Mar-2004; Contact: Tom Vasich 949-824-6455 University of California - Irvine

-- MIT researcher finds neuron growth in adult brain [""]; 26-Dec-2005; Contact: Elizabeth Thomson 617-258-5402 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

-- Human brain can make new cells, study finds - Yahoo! News [";_ylt=AkdM7mv51GeN5tGGzOHcpqIDW7oF"] By Maggie Fox; Feb 15, 2007;

-- Study: Spinal cord can repair itself [""]; February 14, 2007; Source: Johns Hopkins University

"...mounting evidence that brain cell regeneration continues throughout adulthood in humans."

-- Brain cell regeneration sniffed out in adult humans - being-human - 15 February 2007 - New Scientist [""] by Roxanne Khamsi; 15 February 2007

"Here's a question: how old are you?...The correct answer, it turns out, is about 15 and a half....You might think that you have been around since the day you were born, but most of your body is a lot younger."

-- Your amazing regenerating body [""] by Gaia Vince; 19 June 2006; Magazine issue 2556;

Over 30% of college students in a survey stated they felt they were a different person now compared to who they were 8 years ago. This perception is called "diachronic disunity".

-- Many Feel They Are 'Not the Same Person' They Were By Keith Mulvihill; Reuters Health/Yahoo! Health Headlines; December 6, 2000

We may remember something that happened to us farther back than sixteen years, but that event occurred to a human body that pretty much no longer exists-- a body which we left behind like a snake shedding its skin, one tiny piece at a time, via dead skin cells falling off our exteriors to be left behind as dust, and dead cells from our insides exiting along with all our various secretions and excretions along the way.

We may think we're thirty or fifty years old or whatever-- but actually at a cellular level we're never more than sixteen, roughly speaking.

However, if we will accept the fact that we are NOT defined solely by our present physical molecules, but rather by our unique DNA matrices and certain electro-chemical interactions we label 'memories', then sure enough, by some criteria we could rightfully claim to be the same beings who enjoyed a gathering with friends or family some seventeen years ago, rather than being merely strangers gawking at the experiences of someone else whenever we recollect the event.

This issue lies at the very heart of our existence. Who are we? What are we?

Humanity has established perspective norms for these questions based on very basic experiences and knowledge, down through the ages. So most of us are usually raised to believe that we are a combination of what we think, can remember, feel, and do. For better or worse, this perspective has led us to typically see ourselves as being creatures of only around 80 years lifespan, beginning at an event we call 'birth', and ending at another we call 'death'.

Only in recent history have we begun discovering fascinating ways that this conventional wisdom can be very misleading, or even outright wrong-- ways among which the seven to sixteen year cellular replacement cycle accounts for only one element out of many.

More and more, it appears the basic gist of who and what we are is information; information which, to be sure, does change over time-- but which appears to be the most durable thing about us, identifiably speaking.

The most reliable aspects of who and what we seem to be are our essential data patterns. Our genetic patterns, neural patterns-- things like that. These usually remain largely unchanged and intact for far longer than the seemingly more solid flesh and bone of our bodies, which essentially are replaced every sixteen years with a new set.

So the main continuity in who and what we are would appear to be information. Patterns. Not the medium the data is stored in, or imprinted upon-- for that medium is being constantly destroyed and recreated. Our individual patterns, our data, the information which makes each of us unique, is what survives mostly intact through each 7-16 year period of otherwise near complete regeneration. This information is what makes us who we are.

As we all know, the constant biological regeneration process gets less efficient as we get older, finally culminating in noticeable aging, increasing frailty, and finally, the calamitous incapacitation and physical breakdown we know of as death.

So a traditional summary of our life history might state that we're born, then regenerated a handful of times, before we finally die.

Not so fast. We can't sum up our life history that way, for the simple reason that it isn't true.

For one thing, we don't 'begin' living at birth. Our heartbeats and other vital signs can be detected long before we actually emerge from the womb. And other (albeit more primitive) proof of our vitality can be gathered even before organs like our hearts and brains have developed. So the true beginning of our existence as a living organism must be back-dated from our birthday to the date of our conception-- the fertilization of our egg within our mother, by sperm from our father.

a - j r m o o n e y h a m . c o m - o r i g i n a l

But even this doesn't take us to the true beginning of our life, technically speaking. Not if we wish to be accurate about the definition of life. And not for a being who is composed of, and defined primarily by, information. For if it did, the two components from which we were conceived-- the egg and the sperm--would both have to have been dead prior to their rendezvous. But they weren't. A fact we can prove because natural reproduction doesn't allow the combination of a dead egg and live sperm, or vice versa, to result in a living, fertilized egg.

So of course the egg portion of us, and the sperm component of us, were both alive-- before conception.

But perhaps both these elements came directly from dead matter, thereby breaking the chain of life?

Sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is no. The organs which created egg and sperm were both living masses of cells, existing as various parts of our parent's bodies, previous to the meeting in the womb of their various 'agents'. The 'parent' organs of both egg and sperm used nutrients from digested food as raw materials to build both themselves and the eggs/sperm they ultimately produced in order to create us-- so these organs (and their sperm/egg products) were essentially living in exactly the same way as the cells in our present day, fully formed bodies are, at this very moment.

We may have been split into two separate components at that stage, but we were most definitely alive, rather than dead.

The sperm and egg created by our parents both possessed (in part, anway) the essential information which defines who and what we are today-- our DNA. If they had not, we would not be here; and someone else-- a stranger-- would be reading these words in our place.

Where did the sperm and egg obtain their information? Where did they get the patterns which would serve to ultimately create us as we are today? From the other cells responsible for producing them in our parents. For virtually all cells within a human being contain a genetic blueprint to the entire organism-- and this is especially true for reproductive system cells.

Just as two files on a computer's hard drive contain all the information which would be contained in a single file merge of the two, so too did our father's sperm producing cells and our mother's egg generating cells contain direct references to who and what we are today.

So where does our life begin and that of our parents leave off, in our investigation of our existence? There is no such discrete point, because it is all a seamless process.

Our fathers themselves were born with at least part of the genetic blueprints required to produce us, and our mother as well. Indeed, female embryos carry the eggs of their own potential children inside them before they themselves are born.

Every woman at birth already possesses the cells which will eventually become her own roughly 4000 eggs.

-- What's the point of men? by Conrad Lichtenstein; Guardian Unlimited; Guardian Newspapers Limited; October 5, 2000

Before we were each conceived we consisted of a sperm and an egg. Before that, we each consisted of the two genetic codes which defined the sperm and the egg, respectively. These codes, as we can easily see and prove, existed continuously in our parents, all the time within and as a vital part of living cells, for years before they came together in our conception. Our DNA, the most essential, most important, most defining parts of us, were living for many years within our parents, long before we were born. And since these patterns don't normally change very much, these parts of us, which lived within our parents, performed all the same, typical tasks of living as any other cells within our parents' bodies at the time-- as well as the cells in our own bodies now, as we sit reading this.

In short, those parts of us were alive and well as certain elements within our parents, for many years prior to coalescing into our own present physical form, separate from our parents. Indeed, they were there, and living from the very moment our parents themselves were conceived.

But of course the trail doesn't end there. Our living, working patterns can be traced back generation after generation, from parents to grand-parents, from grand-parents to great-grandparents, on and on, all the way back to the very first human beings to evolve from the lesser primates.

A combination of sciences (population genetics and archaeology) looks to soon provide humanity with a family scrapbook detailing many aspects of the past 50,000 years of human history.

-- The Origin of the Europeans By Nicholas Wade; The New York Times; November 14, 2000; DNA Sciences, Inc.

Note that the precise cellular patterns from which we are derived today never actually experienced death first hand over all this time-- for they always managed to escape their former hosts (our ancestors) by way of reproduction before death could stop their determined march through time.

It is an undeniable fact that if our personal progression of cellular generations had experienced death even once, we would not be here today. The individuals we are today are each the result of a string of reproductive successes millions of years old, unbroken by a single case where either parent died before successfully insuring the creation of their immediate descendent-- a descendent leading eventually to us.

In all the evolution of humankind, our own particular line of living, cellular reproduction has never once failed to dodge death so far.

Do not be deceived by the teeming masses populating the globe today; all of us are the survivors of a terrible attrition across the ages, a gauntlet of starvation, predators, and warfare which perhaps a thousand billion other potential human beings did not manage to make it through.

The profound nature of this realization is difficult to accept on the face of it. But its truth can be carefully traced back across time, by those who care enough to pursue it.

If humanity has existed on Earth for one million (or five million) years, then some part of you and I-- some part of each of us alive today-- has survived continuously on this planet for at least that long.

Perhaps then, in light of this, we might amend our life summary, to say that each of us alive today possesses at least some living elements which are a minimum of one million years old? And therefore we are, technically at least, each of us far older in absolute terms than we have ever previously suspected?

The archive of human DNA contains a library of information about human evolution from the beginning of the human race itself, up through today's modern peoples.

-- The Human Family Tree: 10 Adams and 18 Eves [""] By NICHOLAS WADE, May 2, 2000, The New York Times Company

-- The Royal We [""] by Steve Olson; The Atlantic Monthly | May 2002

No. Sorry. This too does not tell the whole truth.

For mankind did not spontaneously appear on this planet (no matter what the Creationists with all their hysteria would have us believe). We evolved. Evolved from more primitive animals, which in turn evolved from still more primitive life forms, a process which can ultimately be traced all the way back to the primordial soup of some four billion years (or more) ago.

And, if only we were smart enough (or sufficiently well-equipped), we could track our own specific genetic pattern evolution back that far as well.

-- Life in the Inferno: Researchers Identify Factors that Determine Where Microorganisms Can Survive in the Hellish World Deep Underground, EurekAlert! [""], 16 DECEMBER 1999, Contact: Mary Beckman 208-526-0061 Idaho National E & E Laboratory,

-- Despite periodic pummeling, conditions on early earth were ripe for life, 15 DECEMBER 2000, EurekAlert!, Contact: Tom Rickey 716-275-7954 University of Rochester

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What are some implications of all this?

One, our present physical form-- its basic cellular structure and the core genetic patterns from which it is derived-- has never known or directly experienced death over four billion years of living-- only its 'disposeable' launching stages of each succeeding generation-- 'parents'-- did so, performing their job of boosting our essence, our living matrix of genetic information, to ever greater heights, before falling by the wayside themselves. All along our successive sets of parents have done for us something similar to what the Saturn V rocket did for the Moon Shot in the sixties; they served to free our pattern from the constraints of life as it was in their day, so we could make it to the Here and Now, to each exercise our powers as a full-fledged human being for the good and welfare of ourselves and all the life forms which served as our springboard-- the biosphere of the Earth, our planetary home. In any true rating of our biological age, we would be judged roughly as old as the Earth itself (if not more-- but that's fodder for another article).

We are each of us living today as old as life on this planet.

Two, this long string of personal survival success is about to be finally broken, as having evolved our way to the pinnacle of our own personal genetic potential-- a full-fledged human being-- and having operated as a human being (or some part of one) for a million years or longer, our personal span is now up-- for whenever that unique set of characteristics which defines each of us as individuals surfaces as the primary conscious guiding force of the vast cellular organization we call our bodies, right then and there we personally are doomed to face our own ultimate end-- personal, individual death. Never before and never again will we face death-- just this one time. But that will be enough to end a life four billion plus years old, which has experienced virtually every aspect of living struggle on this planet, as both predator and prey, plant and animal, single cell and complex human being.

The so-called 'junk' DNA in the human genome actually contains a "fossil record" of the past.

-- Junk DNA May Not Be Such Junk, Genome Studies Find By Maggie Fox; Reuters/Yahoo!; February 12, 2001

"You and I simply represent unique rearrangements of ancient atoms that are themselves billons of years old. We are really composed of billion-year old atoms, so we might actually claim to be immortal!"

-- Leonard Hayflick, Ph.D., author, How and Why We Age

-- Can I tell how old I really am? [""] accessible online on or around 12-30-05

Three, any biological basis for reincarnation is largely absent from this evolutionary journey. You'll just have to be satisfied with being four billion years old, and having spent the majority of your life as something on the level of a bacterium (for vertebrates like modern fish and animals are fairly recent developments as Earth life goes). The combination of genetics, upbringing, and general living conditions which resulted in producing the person you or I are today simply is a one-time event, as unique as it could possibly be in terms of probability (in this universe, anyway. Expand the argument to include an infinity of universes, and virtually all uniqueness falls by the wayside. But that's another article-- Champion of Destiny explores that possibility).

But let us examine a best case scenario for reincarnation here anyway, from the perspective of this article: To have any biological chance at all (and ruling out spiritual schenanigans) reincarnation of the same personality would have to occur within a common genetic lineage, where the original ancestor and subsequent reappearance of a particular reincarnated personality could be chronologically and regressively linked; to my knowledge none of the otherwise most believable cases for reincarnation uncovered to date have fulfilled this condition. Another requirement in a best case scenario for reincarnation would be that it be very recent in nature-- with direct succession (i.e., parent-to-child) being the most probable way for it to occur. Why? Because the total genetic code package itself shifts and changes over generations in significant ways (as it is, after all, a largely random combination of maternal and paternal DNA in a child), rarely if ever naturally resulting in a pattern absolutely identical to one parent's-- and offering ever so slighter chances of regressing to an even earlier state, such as that identical to a grandparent. So in order to get the correct code, a reincarnate would needs be recent in nature, not far removed from the original in generations, and preferably an immediate, direct descendent; else the code would be too different to allow precisely the same person to emerge a second time.

We may inherit more from our parents than just DNA. Epigenetic instructions from the previous generation may (at least sometimes) serve to 'localize' or 'temporize' a given genetic blueprint with selective scheduling of activation, non-activation, and/or degree of activation of various genetic options in the following generation. These instructions, when passed, may have been formed in one or both parents due to some traumatic environmental condition during their lives prior to conceiving children.

If this is the case, then human beings and perhaps other animals could sometimes adapt much more quickly to changing circumstances than previously believed possible.

-- Hidden Inheritance by Gail Vines, NEW SCIENTIST, [Archive: 28 November 1998

Possibly the most optimal situation of all for 'natural' genetically-based reincarnation would involve a child born of incestuous reproduction between a pair of identical twins who somehow managed to be born of different sexes themselves. Even greater genetic purity (and chance of purposeful reincarnation) may be attained if such twins had themselves been conceived by an incestuous sibling relationship, and their parents before them, and so on and so forth. But of course, the more inbreeding that was a part of such lineage, the greater the probability not only of biological reincarnation, but gross deformity and other ills as well; perhaps even still births. So, in this one way at least, it would appear that nature itself has erected formidable barriers to willful reincarnation, as well as the accidental kind. I personally haven't heard of any claimed cases which came anywhere near these conditions.

(Of course, advances in genetic manipulation and artifical gestation could overcome these biological obstacles in decades to come, allowing an identical biological and genetic clone of a single adult person to be created)

Another demand made by logic is again one of immediacy; the reincarnate would in most cases require a similar environment to grow up in as his or her predecessor, in order to make probable their development into precisely the same individual as before, even if they do possess the same precise genetic code. Achieving similar living conditions for successive generations in a world advancing technologically and economically as quickly as ours would have been difficult in decades past, and is fast becoming near impossible in light of the changes expected down the road. So successful genetic reincarnation appears to be rapidly receding in probability, from the necessary environmental requirement alone.

Four, You and I ourselves are now caught in the same 'disposeable' launch stage as our parents were before us; i.e., we are primed and ready to create our own children, to perpetuate our code and continue the evolutionary process. The success of this action will insure that our bloodline continues at least a little further, enjoying the same tick up in probable survival odds that it received from our own parents and theirs, as they performed similar acts in their respective generations. Unfortunately, this capability results from our reaching the end of our own personal existence, and four billion year lifespan; some small part of us may continue on in our children, but you and I personally face the end of the line, in a way we've never had to before, in four billion years of living. Unlike our previous millions of brushes with death, as small parts of various ancestors (in which we always managed to dodge a fatal blow) the coming encounter allows for no artful escape on our part. It is final. The thoughts in our heads, the beliefs, the knowledge, the wisdom and skills, many of the things that make us who we are, will be snuffed out within a few more years or decades. Indeed, this is just about the only certainty we have in a life that has been spent (for many of us, anyway) searching for certainties of one kind or another.

Five, there may be far more secrets hidden away in human DNA than scientists presently realize, packed as it is with the results of four billion years of living experience; 'cellular', or 'genetic' memories are a real possibility here, once our computers and software achieve the power necessary to extract and interpret them. Just imagine the thrill of witnessing 'first hand' the way the world was shaken by the planetary impact which exterminated the dinosaurs-- from literally millions of different vantage points all over the globe, from zero hour through the months, years, and centuries which followed...

-- Junk DNA May Not Be Such Junk, Genome Studies Find By Maggie Fox; Reuters/Yahoo!; February 12, 2001

Surprise, surprise, Methusula! Just as you discover you've been around much, much longer than you ever dreamed possible, you also learn it's all about to come to an abrupt end.

Isn't that just like life?

All text above not explicitly authored by others copyright © 1993-2011 by J.R. Mooneyham.
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