Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Biology knows best? Not so much

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

It’s a common misconception that natural is always healthy and “biology knows best.” But biology does not always know best! Evolution is a wondrous but surprisingly awkward process that leads to many compromises, tradeoffs and sacrifices, and absurd unintended consequences like an eyeball structure that is obviously second best, an unnecessary 4-metre detour for the recurrent pharyngeal nerve in giraffes, or completely non-functional inflammation caused by our immune systems mistaking exposed mitochondria for invaders. Friendly fire!

Biology is optimized for reproduction early in life, and that only partially aligns with our interests — and less so all the time, as the human lifespan gets longer. Suffering is a natural consequence … and sometimes it makes sense to interfere with it. For instance, by taming inflammation a bit with icing for pain control — which was the specific inspiration for this post.