Aging and Group Selection

Via ScienceBlog, an argument for aging as an evolutionary adaption rather than a tradeoff: "Aging is taken to be an adaptation, but one that benefits the community, not the individual. This is 'group selection,' and most theorists have been skeptical that evolution can work this way. ... Mitteldorf claims that population crashes constitute an exception to this rule. Animal communities can't afford to go consuming food and reproducing as fast as possible - they would end up starving their own children. This leads to a mechanism of group selection that is swift and ruthless. Aging has evolved as one way to limit population growth. Mitteldorf calls it the 'Demographic Theory of Aging.' It is the first theory to regard aging as an adaptation since August Weismann abandoned his ideas in the 1890's." Given the level of scientific backing for the present consensus view of evolution and aging, Mitteldorf has an uphill road ahead.


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