Pulling Our Strings

It is old news that when we have an infection, our bodies do things that are of no value to ourselves but considerable value to the vectors of the infection; “coughs and sneezes spread diseases”, just as our mothers taught us, and that is why they happen. The disease makes us do things in its own interest. Where does this principle stop? It would be advantageous for a sexually-transmitted disease to make its host hornier; either this is already the case but has not been studied, or else it is the next big mutation. There is no reason in theory why a STD should not affect the brain so as to make infected persons into nymphomaniacs and satyrs bonking in the street; for emotions are merely neurochemicals and “volition” is merely the brain’s ex post facto cover story.

The ease with which this could be done is demonstrated by the way some agents cause outright suicide in the interests of the disease vector. For example, there is a parasite that makes ants climb up to the top of a blade of grass, clamp down with their jaws and hang there, waiting to be ingested by a grazing sheep. What benefit is there to the ant? None whatsoever, but the parasite gets to transfer to a new and larger host. A similar parasite called Toxoplasma gondii causes rats to lose their natural fear of cats. The rats then act recklessly around felines, and behold! the parasite acquires a luxurious new home. We may wonder whether the rats were debating whether their new, courageous behaviour was the result of free will; and what human behaviour might be the result of other orders of life pulling our strings in their own interests. Indeed, people infected with Toxoplasma gondii also exhibit significant personality changes. There is thus ample biological precedent for animal behaviour being manipulated by infectious agents; which brings us to meme theory.

Posted on April 19, 2009 at 08:29 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion As Design Fault

3 Responses

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  1. Written by Urban Djin
    on April 19, 2009 at 17:32

    “which brings us to meme theory.”

    I know you are trying to be pithy, Hugo, but this smacks of leaving us hanging until next week as the train approaches our heroine tied to the tracks.

  2. Written by Hugo Grinebiter
    on April 19, 2009 at 18:32

    Let me twirl my mustachios a little…. Was that right?

    It’s nothing to do with pithy, it’s in my original files everything is in a distinct sequence, and occasionally squibs don’t entirely stand on their own feet, but are best seen as linkages.

  3. Written by Urban Djin
    on April 19, 2009 at 19:48

    “Was that right?”

    Precisely right.

    The long running serial “The Perils of Pauline” would be the locus classicus for that set of images, but certainly not the urtext. Commedia del Arte, perhaps? They didn’t have trains, of course, but they sure did have stereotypical bad guys, victims, and a host of other characters in stock situations. And they knew how to tell a story through gestures.

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