Thursday, October 16, 2014

Life expectation and happiness

First, the news.
Headline: For sheep horns, biggest is not better
Text: Sometimes it pays to be mediocre. A new study shows that sheep with a 50/50 blend of genes for small and big horns pass along more of their genes than their purely big-horned brethren, who mate more often... The results, published online August 21 in Nature, reveal that while biggerhorned sheep mated most successfully
each season, small-horned sheep survived longer... and mated more successfully than those with the smallest horns.
My comment:

At the beginning of this century, many humans in our cultural environment seem obsessed by the desire to live as long as possible. The indices of happiness with which different countries are compared often include life expectancy as a very important criterion, as though living longer were synonymous with being happy.
Is it always better to live a little longer? For the rams in the Nature study, it may be so, since thus they outweigh the advantage of their long-horned brothers, but this conclusion has been reached starting from a different consideration than the duration of life, namely, the success in gene transmission to offspring.

For humans, who combine biological evolution with cultural evolution, the cultural heritage (the memes, if you want) must be taken into account, in addition to the genes. In fact, success in life has always been considered to depend on something more than the fact of living many years. Would anyone dare to say that Mozart did not leave an important legacy, because he died at 35? Or that Tom Dooley did not have a happy life because he died of cancer at 34? Dooley was the founder of Intermed (a society for medical support in developing countries), and kept his humanitarian work in South East Asia until 15 days before his death.

The same post in Spanish
Manuel Alfonseca

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