Monday, June 05, 2006
Bacteria are so important to key functions such as digestion and the immune system that we may be truly symbiotic organisms . . .
- By some estimates 90 percent of the cells on our body are actually bacteria; at least 50 percent of human feces, and often more, is made up of bacteria from the gut; and adults carry up to 100 trillion microbes, representing more than 1,000 different species.
- Bacteria help humans to digest much of what we eat, including some vitamins, sugars, and fiber and they also synthesize vitamins that people cannot.
- As Steven Gill, the molecular biologist who lead the study said, "Humans have evolved for million of years with these bacteria. And they provide essential functions."
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.
* Just as a side note, I've said it in public too, as can be seen from this post in the talk.origins 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.