[permaculture] Pernicious, infectious memes--OT

John D'hondt dhondt at eircom.net
Fri May 4 17:20:34 EDT 2012

Steven, what I have learned over a good many years is that reality is often 
so complex that it can not be caught in an over simplistic dichotome 
approach. (black or white, yes or no, either this or that) I have seen 
enormous discussions about whether your character is determined by nurture 
OR nature while obviously both are in play.

It is the same here; "health paradigm" VERSUS "disease paradigm" is doomed 
to bring an intelligent understanding of complex reality. The Prof drinking 
a jar full of cholera microbes is a nice story but it does not convince me 
since I would be prepared to repeat it as a stunt. And I do have a few 
health issues. I am not even a 100% healthy for a start.
Explanation : a billion microbes sounds like a lot but that is still less 
than a milligram of microbes. Most will be killed by stomach acid and the 
few that get through into the small intestine will find a microbial 
ecosystem there that has more than a million (probably more like a trillion) 
times more other microbes in it in a few hundred different species.

Now bacterial ecosystems are most often regulated by "census quoring". All 
different species release specific messenger molecules in their environment 
enabling other bacteria to sense how their own and how other species are 
doing in the mixing bowl consisting of all bacteria. In other words, Vibrio 
cholera specimens reaching the intestines are aware that they are an 
infinitesimally small minority.

As a rule pathogenic bacteria only turn nasty, releasing toxins,  when they 
become aware that they are plentiful enough and able to get the upper hand. 
In other words they don't start a war until they know they can win. And they 
know because of the ratio of messenger molecules from their own and other 

A once off drink of cholera solution is therefore quite safe unless one is 
desperately unlucky. And in all this luck and chance play a role as well 
making it even more complex.

People develop cholera through drinking chronically infected water. The 
first few days will not make many sick but eventually microbes that reach 
the intestines will find an environment that has some messenger molecules of 
their own species and that will make them bold enough to start multiplying 
faster and pump out more messenger molecules themselves that will encourage 
others of their tribe that follow. Only when there are enough of them will 
one develop cholera disease because then toxins are released that force the 
cells of the intestine to pump water, salts and nutrients into the lumen of 
the intestines.

This is the story for cholera. There are many other messenger molecules that 
will for instance warn pathogens that the immune system of the host is on to 
them and that they better move to safer areas of the human body such as the 
nervous system, or change the antigen molecules on their coats to remain 
undetected. Sometimes it tells new entering parasites that there is no more 
room for them and that they better leave without doing damage.

Of course, all this does not mean that you are wrong but only that reality 
is more complex than you thought. There is no need for a flue vaccination if 
you have sufficient vitamin D coursing through your blood for instance. But 
if you got infected with a new virus you never had contact with before this 
might not be enough.

And I do happen to agree with Francis Chaboussou's research results into 
plant health. Residues of the chemical industry do indeed put one on the 
never ending thread mill of needing to buy more chemicals that will 
aggravate the problems. And yes, thankfully permaculture is questing for 
real answers.


> Toby,
> Many doctors I have had the privilege to learn from talk about the health 
> of
> a plant or animal as the determining factor in disease, not necessarily 
> the
> infective agent.  In agricultural theory Albrecht's work on soil health as
> it relates to plant and animal health  makes some very strong arguments 
> for
> a health paradigm versus a disease paradigm.  He was forced out of 
> academia
> because of his unconventional broad based referencing to other disciplines
> in his work as a soil scientist.  Francis Chaboussou's research into plant
> health is another eye opener.  He was forced out academia because he 
> proved
> that the toxic rescue chemistry industry was essentially creating the
> disease and insect infestation through improper fertilization in order to
> sell the solutions; insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, at great cost to
> the farmer and our biosphere.  Thankfully Permaculture is questing for 
> real
> answers!
> Keep it coming!
> Steven
> -----Original Message-----
> From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
> [mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Toby Hemenway
> Sent: Thursday, May 03, 2012 4:08 PM
> To: permaculture
> Subject: [permaculture] Pernicious, infectious memes--OT
> Okay, I'm still thinking about this because these arguments are used to
> promote such dangerous memes (a form of infectious virus), and I love the
> way logic demolishes them. Here's what's up with, for example,
>>  an infection is always a secondary illness; infections arise after 
>> tissue
> has been damaged, by malnutrition or intoxication.
> This relies on circular logic: "a virus can only infect a damaged 
> organism,
> because if an organism gets infected, it must be damaged or that would not
> happen." It assumes what it intends to prove, and you can't get out of 
> that
> one until you see it is circular. It's certainly true that healthy 
> organisms
> tend to get fewer infections. This is because their immune systems work 
> much
> better. But it does not then follow that an organism must be unhealthy in
> order to be infected. It does not undermine the fact that viruses alone 
> are
> often sufficient to cause infection, and mountains of evidence exist to 
> show
> this. The only evidence against it are some thought experiments ("then why
> does X happen?") and some circular reasoning like that above. The main
> reason that viruses do not routinely infect healthy creatures  is because
> viruses have been in an arms race against the immune system for eons. The
> immune system is full of machinery to block viral and bacterial infection.
> Viruses are f  ull of machinery specifically designed to evade the immune
> system (like, they've stolen receptors from the immune system so they can
> neutralize immune boosting hormones; they wouldn't do that if they weren't
> infectious). Sometimes one wins, sometimes the other. To claim that not
> getting an infection is a sign that viruses don't infect is to confuse
> statistics with function. Viruses would not contain that machinery if
> evading the immune system--infecting a host--were not critically important
> for them. And the immune system would not mount a huge response, every 
> time,
> to viral challenge if viruses by themselves were not a big threat to
> organisms; that machinery would not exist.
> In my experience, virologists tend to be smarter than the people denying 
> the
> viral model, and they understand well-reasoned arguments much better.
> Many people cannot develop or make it through chains of reasoning like 
> this
> and so they fall for cleverly crafted zombie arguments, like those of the
> Creationist/Intelligent Design propagandists. Our school system 
> specifically
> discourages critical thinking so that we will be compliant and susceptible
> to corporate and government memes ("humans aren't in charge of climate"
> being a good example), and one side effect is that crackpot theories like
> "viruses don't cause infection" and "life requires a designer" get far 
> more
> traction than they would in an educated society. We owe it to ourselves, 
> the
> planet, and our children to learn how to think critically.
> Toby
> http://patternliteracy.com
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