Many sci fi movies produce interesting ideas and technologies that we seem to be able to realize in real life at some point. "Lucy" was not one of those movies.

But Morgan Freeman's speech in the movie on cell evolution did interest me.

The speech claimed that cells in harsher environments evolve towards immortality, while cells in favorable environments evolve toward reproduction.

Is this idea accurate?

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    $\begingroup$ Just for the pleasure to hear Morgan Freeman's arguments, can you please link the video of his speech? $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ How would you compare survival to immortality? There are many examples of adaptation for survival, but immortality is a stretch. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b I would like to; I welcome someone to find this clip - It doesn't seem to live on Youtube yet. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse I think "immortality" isn't meant literally. It's a dramatization for increasing lifespan. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ You may want to read a bit about the evolution of ageing. This post for example is very interesting (it won't necessarily answer your question though). $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:52

1 Answer 1


You'll see that in many cases, when any sort of cell enters a zone of intolerance or zone of physical stress, the replication machinery gets put on the backburner (and thus replication). Expression of stress-response proteins like heat shock proteins is increased as a result (1). If a cell isn't within acceptable parameter to undergo division at G1 or G2 (anoxic environment, etc.), you'll find mechanisms like G0 phase or sporulation are preferred until the environment returns to something less stressful (2). I wouldn't say cells would rather be immortal, per se, but longevity or even apoptosis/entosis/etc. would be preferable to replication if nothing is going right (3, 4).

To be clear, when we're talking about evolution that's a tough one. Sure, some sort of stress-response transient signal could induce some lasting cell memory selecting toward a specific function. I simply don't have the data to quote you in that aspect, however.

  1. Biology of the heat shock response and protein chaperones: budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) as a model system.

  2. Slonczewski, J., & Foster, J. (2011). Microbiology: An evolving science (2nd ed., p. 143). New York: W.W. Norton.

  3. DNA damage-induced apoptosis

  4. Cellular Stress Responses: Cell Survival and Cell Death

As a footnote, while replication does occur in sporulation, the replicated chromosome is destroyed in the process of forming the actual spore.


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