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Wednesday, February 4. 2015
Heard a good talk from a senior MD/Philosopher Prof yesterday.
His main point was that disease is historically normal and natural, and absence of disease is abnormal. He said we in America live in an abnormal golden age of artificial, unnatural well-being thanks to modern medicine, and have thus tended to be seduced into thinking of health as the normal and natural state. He said we are in a frenzy of labeling things as diseases these days which would have been viewed as expectable misfortunes, the risks of life, the price of aging, the tragedy of existence.
He claimed that roughly half of us in the audience would have been dead already, in 1800. Childhood infectious disease, childbirth complications, cholera, birth defects, tetanus, influenza, pneumonia, TB, polio, diabetes, war, mental illness, mental retardation, accidents, cancers, urinary tract infections, animal bites, bug bites, fractures, heart attacks, - you name it. All normal and natural thanks to a harsh and indifferent Mother Nature who seems to want to disable and kill you - and she will. God may love you, but Nature - no.
He asked us to try to remember how many old folks, and even middle-aged hobbled around on canes, or sat in wheelchairs and rocking chairs, maybe gasping for breath, were half-blind, or had chronic pain or disabling depressions, in our youth when they now would be playing tennis and skiing.
He made the statistical point that life expectancy has changed very little in the past 200 years - if you exclude the childhood and youth infectious deaths, and the trauma injuries which would have resulted in death - which distort the stats and give the mistaken impression that old people are living significantly longer. He said few humans in states of nature lived past age 40.
He also made the point that wild animals always seem healthy. Why? Because the instant they have the slightest problem, something catches and eats them and they are gone. Sooner or later, they all get killed and eaten because something always goes wrong. Animal life is fleeting.
A useful and humbling perspective, I thought, for those of us in the healing professions. Yes, including those in the mental illness and behavioral problem field. Excellent mental health cannot even be defined.
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There is a similar selection bias among those who lean toward "natural" solutions. It's young, healthy people with good genes, childhood medical care, and nutrition. Kids with CF don't join that movement.
So the young and beautiful congratulate themselves for being young and beautiful as if it were all their doing.
Absolutely! I've been saying this ..forever.
Without disease there aren't enough population controls.
Unfortunately, everything in our completely propagandized world is geared towards brainwashing us into thinking that disease is something we don't deserve, or shouldn't happen to us. Ever.
Partly because of the politician's ever increasing nanny state antics that "take care of us" in order that they can sieve more money into their own coiffers, and partly from big pharma (best buddies with politicians) in that the state of any type of discomfort is to be avoided with popping a pill. Which leads to more and more side effects..
"life expectancy has changed very little in the past 200 years".
Sorry, wrong. A 5% increase in lifespan for over 60yr olds is huge. Younger ages have benefited even more.
I can't understand how anyone could claim that life expectancy has not changed.
You have conflated the normality of death with life expectancy, which is wholly dependent on our struggle against nature (and disease).
If you cut electricity in Canada tomorrow, millions would die from cold, not from disease.
There is nothing abnormal about our golden age of health. We spend billions of dollars and a significant part of our lives in order to improve our health (and living conditions).
This situation will only improve as we learn more and become more efficient with the resources we have.
Adults do not live any longer in old age than they used to, pretty much.
No, the population control is shifting to fertility controls: late marriage, abortion, birth control, etc. That is why all the whining about aging populations in developed countries is just evidence of not understanding.
The 20th century was an anomaly as we beat back mortality controls, such as disease, injury, etc. the population exploded. But now, after a couple generations, the birth rate is lowered due to voluntary fertility controls.
"As Malthus argued, the only force strong enough to stand against the biological desire to mate and have children, was the even stronger social desire to live comfortably and avoid poverty. "
If you can't see it. The welfare state/socialism is in dire straights as it was premised on the anomaly of the population explosion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If the population starts to decline rather than continue expand, we get Detroit, on a national or international scale.
When my Granddaughter was christened in 1994 she was in a five generation picture. It is not that uncommon here in the industrialized west, but how extraordinary in terms of human history.
I don't remember where I learned this statistic and can't vouch for it, but the gist is that if you were born in 1900, you had a 50/50 chance of being an orphan by the age of 5.
Life expectancy at ages 65 and 85
United States Life Expectancy From Age (0, 20, 40, 60)
I pulled this out of a book actually on education. It was an anecdote used to suggest the idea of hooking up kids with old people for reading exercise. The book was published in 1909
At about that time one of my students, interested in the early history of New York, happened to call upon an old woman living in a shanty midway between these two schools. She was an old inhabitant, and one of the early roadways that the student was hunting had passed near her house. In conversation with the woman he learned that she had had five children, all of whom had been taken from her some years before, within a fortnight, by scarlet fever; and that since then she had been living alone. When he remarked that she must feel lonesome at times, tears came to her eyes, and she replied, "Sometimes." As he was leaving she thanked him for his call and remarked that she seldom had any visitors; she added that, if some one would drop in now and then, either to talk or to read to her, she would greatly appreciate it; her eyes had so failed that she could no longer read for herself.
Five kids dead within 2 weeks. Eyesight failing, when there was nothing to occupy a person alone but reading and their thoughts.
It seems more likely then not that we cannot simply keep increasing the population without either natural or man caused depopulation. If I remember correctly there were three major bouts of the bubonic plague in a hundred year period that all together killed more then 2/3rds of the worlds population at that time. I have read that the bubonic plague caused the civilization, such as it was at the time, to collapse. The plague killed the rich, the poor, the educated and the peasants. If 2/3rds of today's population were to die from some terrible disease or nuclear holocaust it would worse then biblical. And yet, it seems more then likely that our growing worldwide population is not sustainable and will one day probably regress towards the mean. After all until 1800 the worlds population was under a billion and since then it has dramatically increased.
Zachriel is correct. It is only recently that life expectancy has increased by actually adding years to the lives of adults, but it has clearly been happening in the last decades. Before that, increases did come mainly from the improvements mentioned in paragraph three. How the doctor could get that first part right and then make the claim about the last 200 years baffles me. A few people lived into their 90's in the old days - you can find them occasionally in the cemeteries. Now there are a fair number. The numbers are just plain there.
Much of the disease control comes from better sanitation than medicine. Clean water, sewage collection, and garbage collection are major contributors to modern civilization. Thank your city utility workers.
Indeed, public sanitation, and the education and social norms to enforce it, are the biggest part of increasing both the life span and quality of life for the first world, but the third world has yet to learn those hard lessons, and make them part of everyday life.
Modern, science-based medical practices and "big pharma" also play a large part; but for me, the epitome of modern civilization is indoor plumbing. That's it, just a sink, toilet and shower / bath tub, with hot an cold running water, and sewage disposal. I NEVER sneer at plumbers, I just give thanks that I can call one when I need one!
There are two ways to return the population to its sustainable mean. One is already, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, happening in the developed (modern) world through control of fertility. Read economists and some political writers, their recent panic is over aging populations and low birth rates in places like Japan, Europe and many demographics in the US.
Now for the developing world that is still pre-modern. Much of the Muslim world and large parts of Africa, they are having a population growth explosion as modern sanitation, medicine, disease control is beating back the childhood mortality. Either we withdraw these modern conveniences, they really don't have native capability to maintain the systems, or we seek ways to rush these areas into modernity. The most effective is via free market capitalism. Which means we must fight against the crony capitalism that most recent history efforts have resulted in in these areas.
Islam is a special case as control of fertility is mainly done by women and Islam oppresses women and works hard to keep them in a pre modern state. An abuse of women that the feminists in the West willfully ignore.