Wednesday, February 18, 2015

But I look good on the outside!

"The Almighty must love parasites. He made so many niches for them".  - Me

You notice the male of the species, in situations were limited resources or access result in a one-on-one dueling tradition, develop weapons. Horns, antlers, beaked and spiked protuberances for struggle.

Elk, deer, beetles, all sorts of critters do it. And thing you notice is, you get an evolutionary arms race going.

You end up with these ridiculously huge weapons, as large as the biological cost to the individual will allow. In deer, antlers require so much calcium and phosphorus that the male cannot obtain through forage. Especially during rutting season when they spend more time fighting than eating. To get the antler growth, individuals will borrow from their own skeletons. Not exactly the best strategy for an individual to survive, creating what is basically osteoporosis at the one time - rutting season - when you would like to have strong bones. Worse, rutting and mating season comes before winter, and after all those struggles and woundings and exhaustions, a male is hard pressed to gain back all that lost infrastructure through foraging before winter sets in.

Most don't. Most die. Most don't even get to reproduce to justify the huge expense.

There is the classic tale of the Irish Elk, Megaloceros, misnamed as it was a giant deer, neither Irish nor elk. It could stand seven foot tall at the shoulder, and have a rack of antlers up to twelve feet across. And the story goes that the Irish Elk took the arms race too far with it's ridiculous huge rack and went extinct. More probably, climate change was the cause of it's extinction rather than stupidly huge weapons.

It occurs to me that we see an analog of giant antlers in being apes with ridiculously large brains. Near 20% of our metabolism is devoted to feeding these giant brains, despite our relatively large body size, as mammals go. If true, if our large brains are the result of a dueling tradition of evolutionary arms race, who was dueling whom? Could it be, despite protests from Bishop Dawkins that group selection is heresy and blasphemy, that there is a mechanism of group selection that would explain these giant brains? Maybe.

Of course, there is also another mating strategy that males can employ. Males that are not quite up to snuff in the weapons department can employ deception. Sometimes up to 40% of the offspring are not the dominant males'. (Females also hedge their bets by sleeping around). Small horned dung beetles will dig a side tunnel into the tunnel a large horned male is guarding to get to the female. Small male cuttlefish imitate female cuttlefish, and can swim past the big guardian males to mate with the females.

Some would call this strategy "cheating", but taking advantage of a loophole in the heuristics of mating can hardly be called cheating. It's just another tactic.

Is there some equivalent of this with us Irish Elk antler brains? I think so. Pretty boys, I think you call them. I don't know if it is true. I don't know if there is a correlation between being pretty, or musclebound, and being dumb. We make jokes about it, but... I don't know.

What I do know is I'm gonna die, and sooner rather than later.

The title of this essay was a joke my doctor made during my last physical examination, when we went through the whole litany of faults and flaws I possess as a biological organism.

Warranty expired just this year, and definitely going to die, and sooner rather than later. I'm not all that upset about it. I did a lot hallucinogens in my youth, and as a result have no (real or lasting) fear of death. I don't believe in the survival of consciousness after death. (Probably just as well, as I figure the odds are even that in the next world, you're on your own anyway). Still, the idea of nonexistence would make you think I would treat every waking moment as precious.

Nah. That's what I call the Lazy Atheist's conundrum. Here you are, occupying what amounts to a free neutrons persistence of existence in a vast and interminable cosmos, and you spend your time watching TV. Or some other time wasting activity. Shame on you! Nah. Those moments pass regardless, they are your precious moments to waste, What the fuck do you care?

(Free neutrons - unpaired neutrons outside the coddling environment of the nucleus, last about fifteen minutes before they decay into protons).

So, fear not. Death is soon for me, but not immanent. I'm pursuing this more as a philosophical exercise than anything.

I am probably looking at a radical nephrectomy this year or next, to get the nonfunctional kidney out. But I see this as fixing the barn door after the horse is gone, as the right kidney stubbornly tries to take up the metabolic load. But the latest sonograms suggest it's going to go south pretty soon as well. In which case, dialysis and/or transplant is my option.

I'm not gonna do dialysis. Just not. I say that now. I may change my mind.


  1. Chicago is a world unto itself, big enough that it's guaranteed to be a couple dozen folks there who can tell you specifically what brought about the demise of your left kidney - and - specifically what you need to do in order to stave off a repeat of that with the right one. Allopathic medicine is so much in awe of its own technical proficiency and so specialized and insular that its little stovepipes don't work well in parallel.

    Just off the top, have you considered consulting a chinese
    practictioner and/or an allergist?

    1. You are right. Allopathic Silos. I haven't I should. But dude, aside from constant ache, I feel great. So sorry for being dramatic.

  2. Listen, I've had problems with my knees for years, beginning in my late twenties, and stemming from overtraining my back in the weight room. that makes no sense, right? but it's true, compounded by diet-induced inflammation. Once I isolated and addressed those causes, I was able to fix my knees.

    Well, to every single so-called sports medicine physician I visited, I have never once gotten a root cause explanation for my tendonitis issues. Rather, I'd get ibuprofin (which I can't stand) and/or a conversation about various support and surgical options. Fuckers were clueless and arrogant at the same time, and utterly useless to me. I had to seek out my own root cause explanations and then take momentary leaps of faith in the good faith expertise of their sources.

    Now, I'm sorry if I'm overgeneralizing and none of this applies to your experience with your specialist care physician(s). But I searched Random Walks on this topic, and everything you've written to date recounts current-state assessments, rather than root cause explanations. You've BEEN past due for some root cause diagnosis and preventative prescriptives since you first learned your left kidney was in distress. If this hasn't happened, then you haven't been adequately served by your physicians, leaving you with no alternative but to helplessly accept your fate (fuck that) - or take matters into your own hands and seek out the root cause analysis and information that you need in order to alter your current trajectory.

  3. I rather agree with CNu. Medical doctors have no training in root cause, they only deal with symptom relief and surgical intervention all rolled up with arrogance. You might also consult a DO. I would definitely investigate other forms of health care before I just gave up and succumbed to whatever comes. I also have no fear of death (also did many hallucinogens) though I do think something survives, our core after we shed this personality. If I'm wrong I won't be around to care.