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What's the biggest design flaw in the human body?

ZindaihasZindaihas Member UncommonPosts: 3,662

I was curious about this when I was eating a meal the other day and got some food stuck between my upper teeth and my cheek.  I was thoroughly frustrated when I was trying to dislodge it with my tongue and failed miserably.  I finally gave up and stuck my index finger in my mouth and ripped it out manually.   And that's when I thought, "why doesn't the human body have a better system for removing annoying food stuck in your mouth?"

So does anybody else have an observation where the human body comes up short?  Feel free to share what you think.  And if you say something silly like, "Why doesn't the human body have wings so we can fly?"  that's fine too.

Comments

  • IlliusIllius Member UncommonPosts: 4,142

    Not too long ago I watched a vid of Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about intelligent design and one thing he said really stood out for me.

    What's the deal with our reproductive organs... it's like they built an amusement park in the middle of a sewage treatment plant...

    Ever since then I've always wondered why we get it on with parts that serve multiple purposes...some of which are not as arousing.

    No required quests! And if I decide I want to be an assassin-cartographer-dancer-pastry chef who lives only to stalk and kill interior decorators, then that's who I want to be, even if it takes me four years to max all the skills and everyone else thinks I'm freaking nuts. -Madimorga-

  • kb4blukb4blu Member UncommonPosts: 717

    Actually I think it is the spine.

    It was never designed to be vertical.  Think about it.  I supports the upper part of the body with only muscle to keep it straight.

    Also according to a MD that I know, Over 80% of people will have back problems as they get older.

    I am one of those 80% (:

     

  • RobokappRobokapp Member RarePosts: 6,201

    the human standing is very...imbalanced.

     

    it takes a lot of systems working together very well to keep your balance.

     

    meanwhile a dog or a cat ... no many ways to slip and fall :)

     

    I think centaurs are the future. really though, geometrically we're vertical adding a lot of stress on everything. it doesnt make us faster, as most animals outrun us. it doesn't make us more agile as we're quite unflexible due to the need for muscles and fairly unflexible bones to hold us vertical.

     

    I think having 4 legs and two arms would've been a better design. of course it'd also make us bigger and we'd acucpy more space, however.

    image

  • KurushKurush Member Posts: 1,303

    Oooo, evolutionary biology.  This is one of my favorite topics of conversation.  Not an expert, but I like to read up on it.

    I'll start by addressing two comments already made here.

    The "multipurpose" nature of some of our orifices, to begin with.  We're actually on the opposite end of this spectrum.  From the perspective of the modern human, due to our natural aversion to waste products (itself probably an evolution which has reduced our susceptibility to the pathogens that breed therein), we'd rather have wholly separate orifices for excretion and sexual activity.  In reality, though, compared to the organisms we evolved from in the past, and even some relatively recent evolutions like birds, mammals have a remarkable number of purpose-specific orifices.  We have a nose specific for breathing which lets us breathe while filtering air, a mouth which allows for both eating and high volume breathing, an entire mammary system largely unique to our clade which allows us to feed our offspring, and separate orifices for excreting liquid and solid waste.  Even our urinary and reproductive tracts have limited overlap in one sex.

    So the real question isn't why are things multipurpose.  That answer is pretty simple: we're evolving away from much simpler organisms which had even fewer.  The real question is why are things so specific.  And the better question is why our genitals are so pronounced at all.  That's the truly unique human trait.  And that's where things actually get interesting.  This is a good illustration of how you sometimes have competing evolutionary goals pushing the "design" of a species in different directions.  You might have survival traits, sexual success traits, and success raising offspring to maturity traits all pushing the organism in slightly different directions.

    I could go into this question, but the answer I had here (before I cut myself off) was longer than the entire rest of the post, so I decided to spare you guys.

    Oh, and standing.  People don't realize how much of an evolutionary advantage this is.

    This is one of the great fallacies which people have concerning evolutionary biology.  We wrongly believe that humans have no unique physical advantages, that there's nothing we're the best at physically.  We think our evolutionary advantages are purely mental.  And I can understand why people would think so.  We think of speed and realize that most four-legged animals are vastly faster.  We think of strength, and we realize we're grossly outclassed by even smaller primates like chimpanzees, which have many times the strength of a human.  Aside from our hands, which have special adaptations over other primate hands allowing us to transfer more force into thrown or hurled objects, it doesn't seem we're anything special.  But our strength isn't really that we do anything better.

    Our big advantage is that we do it more _efficiently_.  When we started attacking the question of bipedalism from an engineering standpoint, we realized this.  Researchers from MIT (I believe it was MIT, anyway) actually conducted some interesting experiments which did just this.  What we've found is that, in terms of moving long distances, humans don't do it the fastest, but we burn the least energy doing it.  So it's actually not standing at all.  It's the fact that we walk on two legs.  Why?  It's because of how our body bears weight.  It's actually incorrect that we're muscle-supported when we stand.  Our skeleton bears the vast majority of the total load of our weight.  We're not muscle-supported, simply muscle-stabilized.  By contrast, many four-legged animals genuinely have to support parts of their body weight via constant muscle exertion, and they have enormous caloric requirements for movement alone, as a result.

    This has actually been one of our greatest boons.  It allowed us to proliferate across the entire planet in a relatively short time period.  It allowed us, as a species, to migrate away from adverse environmental factors before we had developed the technology to allow us to overcome them.  This was the human edge before the human mind allowed us to dominate our environment.

    In fact, it was this efficiency which arguably allowed us to develop greater and greater capability mentally.  Bipedalism is a trait which many of our less mentally-developed forebears had, after all, when examine the development of homonids.  It came first.  And remember, advanced brains are an extremely hungry biological system, from a caloric standpoint.  You actually expend an enormous amount of energy just to keep the thing between your ears running, compared to most organisms.  Why did we have so much energy left over to begin with?  Why did no other animal develop in this way?  This is one potential answer.

  • HazelleHazelle Member Posts: 760

    As I get older my eye brow and nose hair is getting longer.

    Also, I have ear hair.

    If I didn't need it when I was 20 what good does it serve me now?

  • BarbarbarBarbarbar Member UncommonPosts: 271
    Originally posted by Illius

    Not too long ago I watched a vid of Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about intelligent design and one thing he said really stood out for me.

    What's the deal with our reproductive organs... it's like they built an amusement park in the middle of a sewage treatment plant...

    Ever since then I've always wondered why we get it on with parts that serve multiple purposes...some of which are not as arousing.

    This is this Manhattan hedge guy, that is so outspoken against the concept of God. Then I saw him being interviewed and asked, what sciences ultimate goal and challenge was. He thought about it and answered: To create a Big Bang.

    So, he envisions becoming God himself. And if it can be done, what in his own story compels him to think it hasn't been done already.

  • RollieJoeRollieJoe Member UncommonPosts: 451

    I think our poorly designed Telomeres are probably our biggest design flaw.  They are basically the reason humans aren't virtually immortal.  We have these protective "caps" on the ends of our DNA that get shortened as cells replicate (aging) and due to oxidative stress.  Once the caps get too short or gone, the cells can't replicate properly and die or lead to cancer, etc.

     

    If we could extend our telomeres as-needed, and took very, very good care of ourselves (avoiding heart disease, accidents, being murdered by criminals fleeing during a high speed chase, etc.) we would live to be hundreds of years old.

  • BarbarbarBarbarbar Member UncommonPosts: 271
    Originally posted by RollieJoe

    I think our poorly designed Telomeres are probably our biggest design flaw.  They are basically the reason humans aren't virtually immortal.  We have these protective "caps" on the ends of our DNA that get shortened as cells replicate (aging) and due to oxidative stress.  Once the caps get too short or gone, the cells can't replicate properly and die or lead to cancer, etc.

     

    If we could extend our telomeres as-needed, and took very, very good care of ourselves (avoiding heart disease, accidents, being murdered by criminals fleeing during a high speed chase, etc.) we would live to be hundreds of years old.

    The Telomeres in our body is a barrier to prevent immortalisation of a given cell. This is basically our main defense against cancer, as a cancer cell undergoes "immortalisation". Basically starting to act as if it is a single individual, and not a part of an organism. And so it kills its host as it goes autonome and divides uncontrolled.

    When our cells can divide about 64 times before telomere shortage means the cell goes dormant, then yes it has alot to do with the reason for our aging. But it is also a necessary evil for a many celled organism even being able to ophold itself. It is to prevent the cell from beckoming a cancer cell basically. And so nature apparantly made a tough decision. You get to be 120 years maximally, telomere shortage more or less hardcaps our age there . On the other hand, you might just get to be 10-20-30 years old without getting a deadly disease.

    In many ways, making changes that would let you live closer to the age of 120, is something more within our possibilites atm. Fiddling with telomeres is very likely not going to happen any time soon.

    As a small anecdote: It is in the Bible actually, that after the flood of Noah, God states that man shall live for 120 years. Before that, they lived upwards of a 1000 years like Methusalem. As science agreed with God on this subject after it's telomere discovery back in the 70's, it's a little tidbit of an eye opener in one of the more hard to envision parts of the bible.

    Edit: Just googled something here: http://myth-one.com/chapter_19.htm )

     

     

  • AelfinnAelfinn Member Posts: 3,857

    Too many to list, much less decide between as to the "biggest"

    -exceptionally long reproductive cycle that produces unusually undeveloped young. The birth itself is also unusually difficult on both our young and their mothers.

    -Poor to nonexistent regeneration capabilities for several critical portions of the body. Spine, nervous system, and joints in particular.

    -Metabolism that consistently fails to adjust to changes in lifestyle

    -Systems are too susceptible to changes in internal temperature. Increasing that particular range by only a few degrees would help survival rates for disease considerably.

    -immune system is too easy to fool. Between its hypersensitivity to harmless items, and the wide range of pathogens it is incapable of detecting and/or dealing with...

    -Our mouths are maintenance nightmares, full of easily infected, easily damaged, and irreplaceable (by natural means) components that rarely grow in properly to begin with

    I could list more, but I have other matters to deal with, also, before someone says something, yes I'm aware that most of these are evolutionary compromises. Doesn't change the fact that they are flaws, and it certainly does not mean they are incapable of being fixed.

    No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
    Hemingway

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