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Bryson, Bill - On pathogens as agents of change

Identifier

018657

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

How is a species implemented – introduced?  There does seem to be evidence that a considerable number of design changes of some complexity have to be implemented together in order to implement a new species.  Is there a possible mechanisms of change that could achieve this?

Prior to the introduction of DNA there appears to be no mechanism other than the manipulation of the ‘software’ rules – which may in itself be sufficient.  Without observations here we have nothing to go on.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – Phenomenon of Man
First of all we can assume that, although they only occurred in the first instance at a single point or a small number of points, the first cells multiplied almost instantaneously – as crystallisation spreads in a super saturated solution.  For surely the earth was in a state of biological super-tension.
Or on the other hand; we can equally well suppose that the passage from mega molecule to cell took place simultaneously at a great many points.  The requisite conditions of instability being widespread.  Just as, in the case of mankind, great discoveries are often simultaneous

Once DNA had been introduced, we do have a physical mechanism, but the current scientific explanation for change is inadequate.  The biologists have generally posited the argument that any change is made by chance mutation and then spread via reproduction.  Bryson via his arguments and examples excluded any possibility of chance; species and major variant introductions are designed. 

Reproduction is a painfully slow and haphazard way of implementing a change.  As any plant breeder will tell you, any crosses or mutations often drift back to their original form or do not 'breed true'.  A mutant may not breed with another mutant diluting the change.  And the spread of a new species by reproduction is also against the laws of nature, as inbreeding eventually leads to failure of the species.  There is however a mechanism that is often overlooked as the mechanism of change – the virus, the pathogen and bacteria and Bill suggest below that tis may be one mechanism.

Viruses in particular could be the  agents of change.  Lyall Watson has been able to show that viruses can spread throughout the planet on air borne currents.  A targeted virus capable of causing a whole series of design changes to set existing species could result in some major functional changes and accompanying form changes.

We are apt to think that extinction events are related to physical phenomena – ice ages, meteor strikes, solar flares, weather changes and so on, but extinction events can also be the direct result of viruses and pathogens.  These sorts of extinctions are almost impossible to identify from fossil records, but there is clear evidence that some species have been wiped out in ways which cannot be explained by predation or climate change for example.  But we have witnessed the effects of pathogens on species in our life times enough times to be aware that pathogens and viruses can be killers on a large scale.  Just our species alone has been the  victim of a number of deadly and unpleasant pathogens ….

There are well over 5,000 known viruses  which affect just humans alone – in other words viruses which are not 'one-off's' .  These give us illnesses like influenza, the common cold, smallpox, rabies, yellow fever, ebola, polio and AIDS.

Only about 1 microbe in 1000 is a pathogen for human beings, that said, microbes are still the number 3 killer in the Western world.  Our history is also packed with one-off pathogens that have appeared and then just as mysteriously disappeared, for example, English sweating sickness appeared in1485 to 1552 and killed tens of thousands. 

One of the more fascinating aspects about pathogens as agents of change is that they have caused social changes.

After the War, for perhaps the first time , women obtained the chance to have jobs - to co-create in ways other than just the production of children, because there were not enough men or young workers.  In an odd twist of fate, World War I and the flu epidemic helped women.  World War II further aided the cause, as women proved that they could do all the jobs that men had been doing before the war, by simply taking over and doing them in their absence.

The bubonic plague similarly helped to end Feudalism.  It is almost as if the viruses and epidemics we experience as humans have a purpose in promoting some social evolution rather than species evolution.  Abstract non form based function change  rather than form based function change. This would seem to be consistent with the strategy, which is now at the stage of evolution achieved via co-creation and co-operation or symbiosis rather than physical aggregation.

A description of the experience

Bill  Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything

… Any bacterium can take pieces of genetic coding from any other – all bacteria swim in a single gene pool.  Any adaptive change that occurs in one area of the bacterial universe can spread to any other … from a genetic point of view bacteria have become a single superorganism.......

… a disagreeable Russian virus known as H1N1 caused severe outbreaks of flu in 1933, in the 1950s and in the 1970s …. Ebola, Lassa and Marburg fevers all have tended to flare up and die down again, but no one can say they aren't … awaiting the right opportunity to burst forth in a catastrophic manner...........

… viruses can do immense damage.  Smallpox in the 20th century alone killed an estimated 300 million people ...................

… the 1918 flu epidemic  is understood poorly …...one mystery is how it erupted suddenly, all over, in places separated by oceans, mountain ranges and other earthly impediments … A possible answer is that it was hosted and incubated by people who experienced no ill effects themselves, but spread the disease.  This accounts for the distribution, but the virus lay low for several months and then erupted explosively at more or less the same time all over the world...............

… The First World War killed 21 million people in 4 years; swine flu/Spanish flu' did the same in the first 4 months …. some estimates have put the final global total of deaths as high as 100 million..............

The source of the experience

Bryson, Bill

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References