Friday, January 30, 2009

Little things mean a lot

A lot of my ideas for things to write about come to me when I'm in the shower for some reason. Most of the time it's random, but occasionally, it actually has to do with the act of showering. There I was scrubbing away at my stomach and chest and thinking about something I read in an article somewhere about how essentially our bodies are a horrid mess of bacteria from our navel to our knees because that's where our intestines are, and they are the storehouse for some of the most powerful bacteria we have.

Actually, I think about this a lot, but suddenly I made a connection to another article I had read. You see, while it's true that there's a lot of bacteria in our intestines, we really have a lot of bacteria overall, and in fact I had read that scientists are now saying that the human body contains more bacteria cells than human cells. That's something to think about. Really, historically we've thought of bacteria as some sort of invader of the human body when in reality, we're living in a symbiotic relationship, for the most part.

And they are really a part of us. One researcher came to the conclusion that some people suffering from obesity are really having a hard time dealing with what are profoundly hungry bacteria that keep sending out hormonal messages to the brain, saying "FEED ME!" How else do you suppose our lives are affected by these microscopic life forms?

Then the thought took off, and I made the connection with another article I'd recently read, which is saying that biologists are starting to rethink the validity of Lamarckism. Lamarckism is the idea that things that an organism does in its lifetime has an effect on its offspring in a way that carries on through generations, sort of like a variety of fables about how a particular animal did some action, and that's why hippos have wrinkly skin, or rats have smooth tails. For some time, biologists had pooh-poohed the concept of Lamarckism, saying that it was our genes that define us. What if they're only "sort of" right?

Think of those hungry bacteria causing obesity. Maybe scientists are looking at the genes of obese people looking for a genetic marker for obesity, and they just can't find it...but it turns out they were looking in the wrong place? Perhaps it's not the genes of the humans that causes obesity, but the genes of the bacteria they carry.

If this were so, could there be more to it than that? No article this time (not that it matters, as I'm giving no references), but I have noticed, like several people, that married couples seem to sometimes look very much alike. As they grow together in marriage, sometimes they look more and more like each other over time. Could this be the result of bacteria affecting other physiological changes? When you sleep together in the same bed, when you're sharing bodily fluids, when you eat together, you're sharing your bacteria. Could that be molding us? Or on the other hand, when people talk about having "chemistry", could they sometimes mean that they sense that they have compatible bacteria?

This is all quite theoretical, of course, and I'm combining thoughts from a number of disciplines about which I only know the slightest surface ideas. Yet think of the implications if this is true, and it may very well be. In the debate between nature and nurture, between behavior patterns being learned and inborn, what if there is a sort of third option? I've said before that I don't believe that sexual orientation is in a person's genetic makeup, yet I wouldn't suggest that it is a chosen path, either. Could it be possible that sexual orientation is acquired as one acquires a cold? Certainly not so simply, and not something that I even think one would "cure" through antibiotics, as I do think it has been shown to have something to do with the structure of the brain, but it certainly the brain structures could be caused by physiological influences that we as yet know nothing about.

What makes us act and look the way we do? Our science fiction authors tell fantastical stories about people being controlled by alien beings, but what if we're already under the control of non-human life forms? If so, should we be creeped out by something that after all is completely natural?

41 comments:

倒數 said...
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Brucker said...

你怎么能垃圾邮件?

Brucker said...

这是非常好的。现在离开。

Brucker said...

What is it about this post that attracts Chinese spammers?

怡芳 said...
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Tricia said...

Hey, I really like your blog, so keep blogging :) And I get strange Chinese spammers too... it's sad because you see that you have a comment, get excited, then see the Chinese characters, and your heart sinks a little. Anyway, this comment is as American and unspammy as they come.

王妍妮 said...
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RexTemples0217 said...
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FrederickBove98787 said...
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QuinnJ怡潔 said...
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kittycha said...
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Brucker said...

Heh, I think I'll let that spam stay.

志穎志穎 said...
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美方 said...
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麗珠麗珠 said...
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琬安琬安 said...
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莉真詹詹莉真詹詹 said...
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基韬 said...
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淑昆珍昆珍君 said...
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怡屏 said...
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Brucker said...

Awesome! Blogger has installed automatic spam detection!

Brucker said...

Short but interesting article about bacteria:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/insidenova/2011/02/less-than-one-percent-human.html

marauder said...

I get plenty of spam in Chinese characters, but I've never once received spam about how to recover Christians who have been lost or misplaced, nor about landfill real estate. I feel so cheated.

And today's word is midervig. It's not as fun as dolumbs, but it does sound vaguely Nordic. I have expect Thor or one of the other Aesir to carry a lump of midervig around with them.