Why Do We Die?


We have spent centuries wondering about “What happens after we die”. We have talked about life and death over and over again. We have tried to make sense of it all many a times. But one question that hasn’t been asked much is, ” Why Do We Die”?

Both, Science and Religion, have tried to make sense of Life and Death in many different ways.

When you ask someone that question, one tells you we die because our heart stops or brain function ceases, etc. But that is the answer to “How”, not ‘Why”!

We know how we die. There are multiple causes of death.

But one question still remains: Why do we die?

There are many Myths as to why we die.

Myth 1: We die to make room for younger generations.

Genes are selfish, and each individual body is a vehicle for a collection of genes. These genes are selected to favor the survival of copies of themselves. Since parents and offspring use the same resources, the death of a parent creates room ecologically for just one offspring. Each gene in the parent has a 50% chance of appearing in this offspring. But it has a 100% chance of appearing in the parent, because it’s already there. It’s never, then, in the evolutionary interests of a parent to die so an offspring can replace it.

But one scientific reason why we die is:

When we age, it is because our cells slow down; when we get ill, it is because our cells mutate or stop working. In simpler terms, we die because our cells get “Bored”!

I know “Cells getting bored” is not too scientific, but is a simple way to explain things.

All of life shares a common set of cellular mechanisms. Many people believe that we share a common ancestry with all of life, including bacteria, weeds, meerkats and blue whales. Together, we are all one immortal life only divided from one another like a mother from her child. 

You are ancient and everywhere.  

The cells I am referring to above are called germ cells because they are capable of giving rise to individuals and they are different from the cells in the bodies of those individuals, which are called somatic cells, or soma.  In most organisms, the germ cells are synonymous with eggs and sperm. But some cells that make up the bodies of individual organisms are immortal as well. Hydra is a multi-cellular water-dwelling organism that can regenerate its entire body from any portion of its cells. As far as we can tell, a Hydra never dies from old age.  

Some cancer cells are immortal as well. Henrietta Lacks is the source of one of the most well-known immortal cell lines, which have continued to reproduce from her cancer cells long after she passed away (in 1951). Some estimates claim that laboratories have produced over 20 tons of her HeLa cells since her death. They have even been flown into space. HeLa cells have contributed to medical breakthroughs in cancer, AIDS, radiation and exposure to toxins. Her cells do not age and efforts have been made even to claim them as a new species.  

Though our germ cells are functionally immortal (otherwise you wouldn’t be here), our somatic cells (the stuff that makes up our bodies) do eventually wither and die like autumn leaves. Why is that? Evolution explains this death of our somatic bodies. In fact, it explains the death of all living organisms by explaining the length of their lifespans. 

Overtime, the rate of regeneration of our cells keeps slowing down and eventually reaches an extreme low. And all those who die of old-age and not by any other cause like an accident, etc. basically die of “Boredom“.

Categories: life, science

9 replies

  1. I don’t recall the citation, but there was a research article in Medscape about a protein that triggers stoppage of cell duplication — an actual mechanism that turns off cell growth.

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    • There is no mechanism.
      With aging, cells become senescent.
      A factor that causes senescence is the length of a cell’s telomeres, or protective caps on the end of chromosomes.
      Each time a chromosome reproduces, telomeres get shorter and eventually, cell division stops altogether.

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  2. “Bi-centennial Man”? Is it boredom, depression, or fatigue? My grandmother lived to 93 and as such formed several cycles or friendship. Watching all of these cycles pass on, bringing some level of pain and loss each time. Two days before she died, she said “I’m just tired, I wish God would please take me home”. She died peacefully in her sleep. I was told 5 years ago I had 3 months to live with no hope of surviving. Yet here I am. All cells work together in us to create our soul. I believe that there is one God for all the universes, and God is eternal. We as humans cannot comprehend eternity. I have no fear of dying. And if we walk with God, nothing in this creation, can touch our soul. It is immortal. And God’s will be done!

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