Evolution of Death
We speculate how life began and how it developed into the millions of forms it did. Often, we draw a line between ourselves and the other forms and just as often we don’t draw enough of a line and think of all life in terms we understand from our own experience. We think of life beginning as it does for us from two parents of different sex and as ending with death; death from old age, if accident, murder or disease don’t get us first. Neither this beginning nor this end is necessarily so.
If you think of single-celled animals, and plants as well, you will realize that they multiply when one divides into two. There was one ‘parent’ which has gone, but there are two ‘children’. Each generation is a fresh start and nobody dies of old age. But, when animals grew into many cells, we had division of labour and some cells were muscle, some nerve, and only a few got the job of continuing the race by way of eggs and sperms. They went on living in the new generations as their ancestors had, but the muscle and nerve and gland and bone cells couldn’t start new individuals, so they had no chance to begin again at the beginning and, eventually, as we all must, they grew old and died. That is, if accident, murder or disease didn’t get them first.
So the idea of death isn’t part of the idea of life; but if you stop to think what has been made possible by brains and muscles and all the specialized tissues we have, perhaps the ability to play the violin and to look out in wonder at the universe is worth the penalty. You wouldn’t want to be a protozoan or a bacterium, and I wouldn’t either.