05 August 2012

Plagues & Peoples ~ McNeill's Epidemiologic!

Meeting with visiting friend Hector Hernandez, who researches extremophiles and more at Masdar, reminded me of the epidemiological epic Plagues and Peoples by historian William McNeill. Just to give you a taste of the subject matter...
"One can properly think of most human lives as caught in a precarious equilibrium between the microparasitism of disease organisms and the
macroparasitism of large-bodied predators, chief among which have been other human beings. Microparasites are tiny organisms -- viruses, bacteria, or multi-celled creatures as the case may be -- that find a source of food in human tissues suitable for sustaining their own vital processes. [There's lots of variety.] Macroparasites exhibit similar diversity. Some kill at once, as lions or wolves must do when feeding on human or any other kind of flesh; others allow the host to survive indefinitely. [...] Simple cause-and-effect analysis is inadequate for such systems. [...] But the conceptual and practical difficulties here are enormous."
That's what McNeill tackles, so read the rest! Highly recommended.

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