"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.