Monday, June 05, 2006


Gut Feelings

Okay, this is something that I have been telling friends and relatives* for some time, well before this report in the journal Science:

Bacteria are so important to key functions such as digestion and the immune system that we may be truly symbiotic organisms . . .

Among the facts leading to this conclusion:
Another way to think of it is that an alien biologist might well look at humans (along with all other creatures with alimentary canals) as mobile food gathering and shelter providing machines bred by bacteria for their use. After all, we are the dependent partner in the symbiosis, in as much as we can't get along without them but they can get along quite well without us (which is why we dig latrines down stream).

But, hey! If that bothers you, just remember what Stephen Jay Gould said:

[O]ur conventional desire to view history as progressive, and to see humans as predictably dominant, has grossly distorted our interpretation of life's pathway by falsely placing in the center of things a relatively minor phenomenon that arises only as a side consequence of a physically constrained starting point. The most salient feature of life has been the stability of its bacterial mode from the beginning of the fossil record until today and, with little doubt, into all future time so long as the earth endures. This is truly the "age of bacteria" - as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.

We're the allies of the only true winners in life's contest and should thank our lucky stars that they're willing to help feed us.
* Just as a side note, I've said it in public too, as can be seen from this post in the newsgroup from back in 2001. Incidentally, the person I was corresponding with at the time was Roger Schlafly, the son of Phyllis, head of the excruciatingly conservative Eagle Forum.
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