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Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Make Us Who We Are Paperback – May 12, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
I don't have much bad to say about this fine book - but I did feel that some topics were missing. One was cultural evolution. Any proper study of parasitism needs to include both the organic and cultural realms. Self-encrypting computer viruses just don't exist in the organic realm - and this is the tip of an iceberg of interesting differences. As an example, the book discusses the hypothesis that the obesity epidemic is caused by parasitic bacteria. However it is hard to evaluate this hypothesis without comparing it to the competing hypothesis that manipulation by memetically engineered parasitic advertising memes is responsible for the obesity epidemic. In both cases obesity can be expected to spread from one human to another - and result in a plague of obesity (as we observe). However these hypotheses involve different vectors - and it should be possible to tease them apart experimentally. However, step one is to have them both on hand. Marlene systematically fails to consider any hypotheses involving cultural evolution.
Another thing I felt was missing was the future of parasites. For example, humans are trying to wipe out many parasites - and in a few cases they have actually succeeded. This epic battle between parasites, and science, technology, hospitals and medicine is interesting - but it gets little coverage in this book. Will we wipe out the bacteria that cause tooth decay? Will the HIV virus evolve to become similar to the similar viruses in chimpanzees? Issues like these don't get much coverage in this book.
Probably my favourite bit of the book was the last chapter - about parasitic mind control. I've looked into this topic myself a little and Marlene's coverage was great - again, except for the total failure to mention cultural evolution. For humans the number one parasitic mind control agents are memetic - not genetic. Ignoring marketing, advertising, patriotism, propaganda and indoctrination in favour of toxoplasmosis seems like a failure to prioritize to me. Also, memetic mind control agents are much more interesting to study - since they have direct access to the mind's software. Organic parasitic mind control typically works at the level of messing with neurotransmitter levels. Cultural parasitic mind control is a much more subtle and interesting subject. It was an opportunity missed.
Highly readable and doesn't run out of steam all the way through.
Interesting and thought provoking with insights into the causes of diseases that appear to be genetic.
I have bought copies for my son and friends.
I promise you, you won't be disappointed.