DNA的解释是对的，但可能只解释了衰老机制的一小部分，如果只考虑这一点，我们的衰老过程会大不一样，最近读到Steven Pinker引述了George Williams的一种解释，非常精彩，简单的说：基因组在维护人体健康的投资策略上，严重偏向于早期阶段，而不惜以牺牲后期健康为代价。
以下文字摘自Steven Pinker: The Language Instinct, p295：
Even if there is some utility to our learning a second language as adults, the critical period for language acquisition may have evolved as part of a larger fact of life: the increasing feebleness and vulnerability with advancing age that biologists call “senescence.” Common sense says that the body, like all machines, must wear out with use, but this is another misleading implication of the appliance metaphor.
Organisms are self-replenishing, self-repairing systems, and there is no physical reason why we should not be biologically immortal, as in fact lineages of cancer cells used in laboratory research are. That would not mean that we would actually be immortal. Every day there is a certain probability that we will fall off a cliff, catch a virulent disease, be struck by lightning, or be murdered by a rival, and sooner or later one of those lightning bolts or bullets will have our name on it. The question is, is every day a lottery in which the odds of drawing a fatal ticket are the same, or do the odds get worse and worse the longer we play? Senescence is the bad news that the odds do change; elderly people are killed by falls and flus that their grandchildren easily survive. A major question in modern evolutionary biology is why this should be true, given that selection operates at every point of an organism’s life history. Why aren’t we built to be equally hale and hearty every day of our lives, so that we can pump out copies of ourselves indefinitely?
The solution, from George Williams and P. B. Medawar, is ingenious. As natural selection designed organisms, it must have been faced with countless choices among features that involved different tradeoffs of costs and benefits at different ages. Some materials might be strong and light but wear out quickly, whereas others might be heavier but more durable. Some biochemical processes might deliver excellent products but leave a legacy of accumulating pollution within the body. There might be a metabolically expensive cellular repair mechanism that comes in most useful late in life when wear and tear have accumulated. What does natural selection do when faced with these tradeoffs?
In general, it will favor an option with benefits to the young organism and costs to the old one over an option with the same average benefit spread out evenly over the life span. This asymmetry is rooted in the inherent asymmetry of death. If a lightning bolt kills a forty-year-old, there will be no fifty-year-old or sixty-year-old to worry about, but there will have been a twenty-year-old and a thirty-year-old. Any bodily feature designed for the benefit of the potential over-forty incarnations, at the expense of the under-forty incarnations, will have gone to waste. And the logic is the same for unforeseeable death at any age: the brute mathematical fact is that all things being equal, there is a better chance of being a young person than being an old person. So genes that strengthen young organisms at the expense of old organisms have the odds in their favor and will tend to accumulate over evolutionary timespans, whatever the bodily system, and the result is overall senescence.