Modern programmed (adaptive) theories of biological aging contend that organisms including mammals have generally evolved mechanisms that purposely limit their lifespans in order to obtain an evolutionary benefit. Modern non-programmed theories contend that mammal aging generally results from natural deteriorative processes, and that lifespan differences between species are explained by differences in the degree to which they resist those processes. Originally proposed in the 19th century, programmed aging in mammals has historically been widely summarily rejected as obviously incompatible with the mechanics of the evolution process. However, relatively recent and continuing developments described here have dramatically changed this situation, and programmed mammal aging now has a better evolutionary basis than non-programmed aging. Resolution of this issue is critically important to medical research because the two theories predict that very different biological mechanisms are ultimately responsible for age-related diseases and conditions.