|muses on cell death
||[Sep. 12th, 2010|04:55 pm]
studying is screwing with my head - is screwing with all our heads. yesterday, at lunch after ifg, we were talking to the m1s about... anatomy. hoho. |
and the more i study about cells, i begin to think about them as people. it's quite amusing, actually, because there is no basis for comparison (people are made of cells) but ohwell, my brain goes to strange places to better remember certain concepts.
and as difficult and complex as cells are, people are so much harder to understand. for instance, let's discuss their fears, esp with regard to death.
1. fear of death - cells are right, it's irrational to fear death! death is natural, normal. without cell death, you get cancer. so cells die. they die good deaths, which we call 'apoptosis'. nice, neat deaths, where it's taken apart, whatever's useful is recycled, and whatever's not useful is phagocytosed (cleared away). no damage done. and on a larger scale, some cells die in order for us to live better. for instance, our hands started off as one big blob akin to a piece of roti prata, but 4 columns of cells died, giving us 5 fingers, with which we do so much, for instance typing this blog post now. can you imagine how much more limited our lives would now be if those 4 columns of cells had not died?
2. fear of scarcity - we people store and store and store. money, food, everything. but our body's organs simply take what they need from arterial blood and send it back to the venous blood. trusting the heart to continue pumping fresh oxygenated blood to them. do you know what'll happen if cells keep arterial blood to themselves and refuse to let it drain away? hyperaemia. leading to necrosis. which is the medical way of saying 'bad death'. a very bad death, where cells rupture and contents spill out, and the cell dies while damaging many cells around them, possibly causing their neighbouring cells to die too. very very bad death.
i would say cells are wise, but that'd be quite an odd thing to say, because they act the way they do not because they want to, but because they were designed that way. so i'll say He who created cells (and humans) is very wise (:
last year, studying normal anatomy and physiology, it was easy to see God's hand in everything, in how beautiful and intricately woven our body systems are, how neatly the different organ systems work together to allow us to effortlessly live each day and do so many amazing things with our lives.
this year, studying abnormal physiology, it's a little harder, because in every lecture, we study about what happens when our created bodies turn against us, break down, sometimes even attacks itself, and dies. it's hard to see how a perfect and infinitely intelligent Designer would create something so imperfect.
but i only have to think of how much of the body processes we still don't understand, to see how beautiful we still are - even with the flaws. and sometimes, flaws are necessary - like how central tolerance cannot be too perfect, otherwise, too many of our T cells with affinity for self-MHCs would be negatively selected against, and our pool of T cells would be too little to fight against the diversity of antigens our bodies can be infected with. - in simpler terms, immune cells that bind to and remove our own cells are removed and not released into our body, so that they won't cause autoimmune diseases. at the same time, our immune cells need to bind to our own cells with some degree of strength in order to work together and fight infections, so it's a trade-off.
and so, perhaps, the flaws that we see are necessary trade-offs for other essential functions, all in order to maximise our ability to survive.
why do we need to have trade-offs? why can't a perfect God think of a way for us to have the best of both worlds? perhaps the solution is to look at humans not at an individual level, but as a 6+billion strong whole. while some die young and some die at their prime, most thrive, and with the help of medicine today, live increasingly lives. it's quite amazing, actually, considering how many things our body has to do each day to keep us alive and breathing, and how much more it has to do to keep us thinking, moving and functioning - not just surviving but living our lives doing the things that gives living its meaning.
and then think beyong our 6+billion strong current population, and think of the centuries and millenia before today, the hundreds and thousands of generations who have lived their lives before us. the world then and the world today has changed so much, and evolution must be such an awesome mechanism in order to ensure the continued survival of our species in spite of the scarcity and overcrowding and pollution and million other problems that plague our world today.
and just think about it - in order for evolution to work, diversity must be created. that way, the strongest can survive to continue to populate the world. yet not all the weakest can die, because he who is weak in one environment might prove to survive best in yet another environment or in another lifetime.
so this diversity of people is constantly being created, and in the process some people die because they're simply not suited to survive. but their death, esp if before reproduction, saves a whole generation of his descendents from potential disease & suffering, because they too would have his unsuitable genes. and some fall ill and die a little later in life, after reproduction, so they pass on supposedly "bad" genes. so their descendents continue to die younger than most, but as mentioned earlier, perhaps these "bad" genes would become useful centuries later, and these people will be the ones to populate the world when the environment favours the survival of people of their genes.
and so it goes on, a system made to create diversity, a system made to ensure the survival of not one person, but the survival of the whole human race. and perhaps, when we think about it that way, death is not so bad. just like some cells die so that others may survive or that we might live better (think about your fingers!), our deaths are merely the normal process of biology, a small part of the bigger processes that ensure that humans continue to live on.
i believe that we live on through our children and our grandchildren and our descendents to come. and living that way is much preferable to surviving on in sickly, diseased, degenerating bodies, overcrowding the world and using up too much of the world's resources, resources which would be better used in developing the future of our human race.
Disclaimer: that said, i love old people. i love their wisdom, their experience, their resilience, because they've seen so much of this world and have so much to teach us. i just feel that if i were old and aged and have lived well, done my part for society and given whatever knowledge and service i may have to my future generations, i would not try to prolong my life, would not fight death, but would rather, find peace in departing. because death is not scary at all. and cliche as it may sound, i'm departing to a better place indeed. (: