You cannot die-of old age, that is. The federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) forbids it. On official documents stating why a person has passed away, neither the word “infirmity” nor “senescence” should appear as the cause of a persons final demise. There is actually a handbook explaining what words can be used on a death certificate. Words like “heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza, kidney disease, accidents, or infection” must be used (C.D.C.).
But what culprit causes those eleven life ending scenarios? Because of my own age, I was extremely curious as various bodily functions seem to be prophesying that sooner or later, my own end will arrive. I mean, why go easily? Since I’ve always been curious about everything in life, why not be equally curious about something as morosely devastating and all-conquering as death.
After some research, it seems that science is not at all clear on the subject of human mortality. It has landed men on the moon and brought them safely back to earth; it has invented vaccines for any number of diseases that stop them cold. Right here in Pittsburgh alone, Dr. Jonas Salk (1914-1995) created a vaccine for polio, a life threatening disease of childhood. Of course, Dr. Salk eventually died (Picture 1).
From what information I’ve gathered, it seems that we die when enough cells in a major body organ fail so that the organ itself and/or its support system fails. This causes an unstoppable catastrophic domino effect, with other organs and systems throughout the body, and life ceases.
But, you might ask, what causes such a major breakdown on the cellular level. After all, body cells are quite small. One needs a microscope to see them. Yet these tiny interconnected blobs of life, bazillions of them, all work together to produce life and consciousness.
In the very beginning of life, a single egg cell and a single sperm cell unite, rapidly dividing and multiplying until another human being forms, capable of separating from the womb. These formative cells that divide and multiply also pass along a mysterious information code that tells an arm where to grow, or a leg, or a head, an eye, the torso, the brain.
And once outside the womb (Picture 2), this mass continues to grow in length, breadth and strength until its sexual organs reach maturity. Evolutionists usually point to this latter growth period as the apogee of human life. Throughout these growth years of maturation, body cells continue subdividing passing along information appropriate for the organ or body part they are creating. As cells wear out, they are replaced by others. If the body is injured in some way, damaged cells get replaced by newer ones and the body becomes whole.
However, research shows that after maturity, when each cell divides to create another, stretches of DNA found at the tips of each chromosome are slowly clipped away. These specialized caps called telomeres (Pictures 3 & 4)eventually become so short that they cannot pass on cell division information (socialtext.net/wired-mag). In a very real sense, the telomeres act as a clock that determines just how many times a cell can divide-how many times it can reproduce before it dies. As a result a supply of new cells to replace the old is limited (abc.net.au/health/features/stories).
When cells within the human brain die, they do not reproduce easily. Instead, the brain shrinks to replace those neurons and a fibrous material takes its place. Autopsies of Alzheimer’s victims clearly show both the shrinkage and the fibrous-matted material (Picture 5). In addition, certain proteins which give elasticity to such tissues as artery walls, ligaments, or even the lens of the eye, begin to form hardened links interfering with their overall function.
So in the end, we might liken our bodies to a huge structure made with several decks of playing cards. Cards are placed on their sides leaning against each other for support at a 90 degree angle. With four walls thus in place, we add two cards for a roof. Then we begin to add on, lengthening the structure and carefully setting cards atop the roofs of the ones below. It actually grows much stronger. Very carefully we build up a castle several feet high.
Now imagine each flat card is a living body cell. It might be possible to slide out one card and replace it with another as long as that card is not a critical attribute for support. If we continue removing cards, however, sooner or later, a single card is removed whicht causes the entire structure to collapse. Thus it goes with life. Our bodies last just so long until one or more telomeres within the cells of a critical organ fail to reproduce sufficiently. Information has not been passed on. The cells don’t know how to reproduce. The organ fails; our house of cards falls-we die.
If this is any comfort, ask a physicist why you die. S/he will probably answer: That’s simple, “It’s the second law of thermodynamics. Everything, be it mineral, plant, or animal, a Lexus or a mitral valve or a protein in a cell wall, eventually breaks down” (socialtext.net/wired-mag/index).