Thursday, June 5, 2008

Multiplication

Depending on your point of view, sexual reproduction was either part of the plan by an all knowing power, or an adaptation that arose in the course of evolution. So it's either an idea or it's not. Clearly, though, sex is an important idea for many people, whether for reproduction or recreation.

Either way, sexual reproduction had a profound impact on biology. Two separate organisms could produce a third, with genetic properties based on those of its forebears. This is what allowed evolution to really take off, since it provided a mechanism for change, mutation and adaptation. Before this, organisms reproduced asexually, basically by splitting in half. Each half had genetic properties identical to the original, so they never had to argue over what to watch.

There's another important consequence of this, however, one that may have had a profound impact on our way of thinking and the things we think about ... mortality. When cells simply split in half, the material lives on in both halves, which eventually split again and again. Effectively, they're immortal. In the case of sexual reproduction, though, entirely new organisms keep being made. Eventually, some have to die, or the population grows forever and consumes all possible space, food and other resources.

But the fact that we die eventually may be the most important influence on our art, literature, philosophy, ethics and society, and even our science. Would you want to start a book or movie, knowing that it was never going to end?

No comments: