Sunday, May 14, 2006

Humanity's Off Button/Kill Switch

About 100,000 years or so ago, at least two mammalian species nearly went extinct, and against all odds survived. One was the cheetah, and the other was an upright ape called Man. Almost every cheetah you meet is an identical twin, they are that inbred. Humanity was a bit luckier, may be 100 individuals survived, one measly tribe or clan of naked ape. This is why there is almost no difference between me and an Eskimo genetically speaking. Why does this homogeneity (uniformity) matter? Because humans are not only unique for our minds and brains, but our immune systems as well. Almost every species of monkey, ape, and cat that I know of has a retrovirus like HIV. Monkeys and chimps have SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus), every species of cat has FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). They all tolerate the virus well. It doesn't kill any of the animals or make them sick (practically speaking since life spans are pretty short in the wild). You have to make an SIV/HIV chimeric virus and inject it into chimps to kill them. SIV doesn't phase them in the least. HIV is fatal in humans. This is indirect evidence that something isn't normal about the human immune system.

Some human volunteers nearly died during a drug trial. They were testing a monoclonal antibody derivative called TGN1412. It binds to the CD28 T-cell receptor. Basically, this drug, which was given in a very low dose overstimulated the men's immune systems to the point where two of them had multiple organ failure and would have died without life support. Animal and monkey trials showed that the drug was safe even at very high dosages. However, one major difference between human and every other mammal's immune system that we know of is that humans are missing Sialic acid-recognizing Ig-superfamily lectins (Siglecs) on their T-cells. Siglecs seem to moderate the immune response in animals, but since we lack these receptors, our immune system in response to certain challenges turns on into high gear instantly. One take on this is this entry in The Loom.

So what? Big deal. We have immune systems that ramp up quickly and try to kill infectious diseases and maybe kill us in the process if we are unlucky. The one thing Nature hates is overpopulation of a monoculture. Mankind is now a global species. We are spread all over the Earth, turning the planet into an island in space. Almost every spot on the globe can be reached within 24 hours via aircraft from any other point. We are cutting down the rain forests for lumber for building our civilization and rain forests have the greatest biodiversity of any ecosystems on the planet. They also have some of the worst tropical diseases on record. CDC's worst nightmare is an Ebola-like virus being spread by airline across the globe, but now I understand. If we destroy the rain forests, likely some virus or combination of viruses will emerge and will kill us. Just one good plague and the human race is in check again. If it's a fast plague, something that kills in 72 hours or less and is highly contagious, then our public health systems would be unable to cope. So, the lack of Siglecs to moderate our immune systems is our Achille's Heel or "Off Switch" -- Nature's last chance to bring everything back into balance again if we are too stupid to do it ourselves. We and the cheetah have much in common. The cheetahs are dying off in the wild. What about us?
I think we humans are the center of the Whole, nothing can really be destroyed around us unless it is part of the Intent that we are becoming. But I do think that we have some free will to make the 'becoming' more or less pleasant, but I don't think we can alter it. It is a Kabbalistic concept that the Soul, a piece of which is in each person, is being refined and purified toward the peaceful and perfect 'nature' that the Intent has been all along. I think you said this to some degree. I agree, I would we would do it more rightly and peacefully, I personally am fed up with the trade off of so much harm for a little good.
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