Most of the longest lived people in the world are short, generally no more than 5 feet tall. Most of the tallest people in the world die early - the tallest tend to die before age 50. If you could choose only one, would you rather be tall or long lived?
(Please excuse the formatting, it's my first LJ poll)
Would you rather be tall or long lived?
I'd rather be taller than average
I'd rather live longer than average
james_nicoll often adds "I would like to complain about this poll" to the radio buttons.
My answer assumes the present society, and that there is no hidden sting like "shorter people tend to live longer, but the extra years are usually spent in pain and with diminished capaity."
I suspect many more people faced with Achilles' choice picked the tents instead of choosing as Achilles did, but by definition we have no way of knowing that.
It's not intended to be a trick question. Obviously the "if you could choose only one" is a significant caveat - in reality, some people end up higher than average in both, others in neither - but I could not find any example of a supercentenarian (someone who lives to 110 or more) who was average or above in height, nor of anyone over 7'6" who lived to average age. Supercentenarians do often spend their last few years in a nursing home, but that's also true of people of average longevity; the proportion of their lives requiring assistance doesn't seem any higher than normal.
I suppose the poll might be better worded, "If you could choose exactly one" rather than "... only one", to acknowledge that there might be some who preferred to be short in both stature and longevity, but I didn't think there would be many people in that category.
Edited at 2009-12-03 04:27 pm (UTC)
Other facts might influence people's decisions. For example, taller people make more money on average. (They also tend to win Presidential elections - the overwhelming majority of people elected President were the taller of the two final candidates).
It would be interesting if taller people averaged having more children. Are you in this for yourself or for your genes/posterity?
Evolution does not select one way or the other for genes that only take effect after you pass reproductive age. A woman of 50 is almost certainly past that age, with men the issue is less clear.
I did intend for at least the nongenetic effects to be included; if one likes being able to see over peoples' heads at standing room only events, that should favor the 'being tall' option, and preferring more distance between one's head and the ceiling should disfavor it.
My original reason for the question did have to do with children, but not with genetics. Elizabeth and I wanted Margaret to be "tall, but not too tall" - see Elizabeth's post when we were still trying to conceive her - and as parents, we have some control over that, since height is to some extent a known function of diet. However, there's the quandary that size and lifespan are inversely related, which became clear to me as I got a better understanding of the data on caloric restriction. I originally posted the poll on another forum where it was likely to be seen by more parents, and it stimulated some interesting discussion, so I figured it might be interesting to post it here too.
A tangent, but with respect to evolutionary selection past menopause, you might want to google the "grandmother effect". There's evidence that human women stay healthy considerably further past menopause than other apes, and there is a theory that this is due to selection for grandmothers that help with the child care to free mothers for other work.