Nature versus nurture and Jack LaLanne

The great fitness icon of the 20th century has departed this Earth at the ripe old age of 96.  My generation grew up with Jack LeLanne and, for a long time, his name was almost synonymous with fitness.  As if it were yesterday, I remember his boast that he would live to 150.
LeLanne belonged to an era when people believed man could transcend his genetic destiny if only he could control his behavior and what goes into his body.  Of course, not everybody in that era bought into this philosophy; it was mainly hippies and their sympathizers on the Left.  Certain members of my own family seem to have been of the opinion that they could live to extreme old age, and retain the rigors of youth indefinitely if only they maintained a vegan lifestyle and practiced enough of whatever physical discipline they favored.  All of those hippies are now growing old; in the end, their genes are proving to be the greatest determinant of how they age and at what rate.  A few still cling to dreams of immortality, but I am fairly certain that the vast majority have begun to notice the tell-tale signs that Mother Nature gives us as hints that our time is nigh.
When it comes to I.Q.,  stubborn tenacity is still the rule.  Despite all the evidence, the average joe on the street will tell you that nurture is the main determinant of I.Q.  Perhaps this is because, unlike aging, I.Q. does not manifest itself so clearly.  Lower I.Q. people often look just like higher I.Q. people.  I recently wrote about an amazingly intelligent girl and how even the mainstream media seems willing to admit that there might be a genetic component to intelligence in extreme cases of genius.   Perhaps, when it comes to extreme old age, their attitude will be the same.  Everybody agrees that those who die very young almost always do so mainly because of environment.  It might be that even the firmest believers in the dominant role of nurture will agree that genetics must play a vital role in those who live to be 115.  Just as environment tends to do more harm than good when it comes to longevity, so to would it take the leading role in making people retarded – but only a passive role in making a person a genius.  In other words, environment can make a retard.  It can only allow a genius.  It can cause an early death.  It can only allow old age.  When it comes to the good things, environment is most beneficial when it allows desirable genes to express themselves.
We can only guess how long LaLanne would have lived had he eaten twinkies every day, smoked and passed his time on the couch.  But I think the more important question is: would his life had had just as much meaning?  Since physical fitness was what defined LaLanne, there should be no doubt that he chose the right path for himself.

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3 Responses to Nature versus nurture and Jack LaLanne

  1. Steve Sailer says:

    I remember watching him on black and white TV about 45 years ago when I was a small child.. He must have been in his 50s then. It was always fun to read and article ever few years reporting that he was still going strong at some absurd age. Nobody seemed to enjoy his own vigor more.

  2. destructure says:

    I caught an interesting article criticizing the “father of fitness” for not making it to 100. Yet, how many people do? Only 1 in 15,000. So I should think 96 is pretty good. And he was in excellent health until a valve replacement last year. Indeed, anyone could die from pneumonia. Granted, it probably wouldn’t have killed him at 40. But if he hadn’t contracted pneumonia he might well have made 100.
    Anyway, this is an interesting article published in the Economist a few months ago. It discusses a lot of genetic research performed on centenarians. It basically says that longevity is largely determined by genetics. And they know which genes do it, too. Though they don’t necessarily know how the genes work yet. Still, the article suggests unhealthy living can cut one’s life short. And that a very healthy lifestyle can maybe give one an extra 10 years. I think 10 years is a long time. Considering a healthy lifestyle will also keep one looking and feeling good in the meantime it’s well worth the effort.
    The genetics of ageing, Methuselah decoded

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