February 13th, 2006

alien chest burst

parasites + mind control = crazy delicious

i was indirectly turned on to this subject by sarah. i remember reading a speculative article about this awhile ago, but i lost the link and forgot about it, as i tend to do. but anyway!

so scientists are starting to think that maybe parasites are way more important to the ecosystem/evolution/life in general than we had thought. not your normal everyday parasites, like ticks, that just chill out and suck blood and cause gross diseases. we're talking about evil MINDCONTROL parasites here. there is plenty of info about parasites taking over other creatures - for example: some wasps make cockroach zombies which they steer into their burrows, where the roach will then docilely wait while the wasp larva eat it alive; this article talks about a barnacle slug thing that neuters crabs and pseudo-impregnates them (both male and female - it physically alters the males to be better hosts) with its babies which the crabs then take care of until birth, and a fluke that makes fish kill themselves and controls a marsh's ecosystem; worms that make grasshoppers jump into water and drown; a fungus that makes bugs go to the tops of trees and patiently sit until they explode; etc. not to mention the more blatant examples, like rabies making animals freak out and start biting everything. '28 days later' was essentially extreme rabies.
now, the question becomes: with all this craziness going on, are any parasites affecting human behavior? perhaps more importantly, would we know? caveat to the 1st question is that it has to be a beneficial change for the parasite. rabies gives people, among other things, delusions, anxiety, insomnia, and hydrophobia, but none of that is of any use to the rabies. i suppose, biologically speaking, this may not be an important distinction, but i am looking for puppet masters here. so anyway, the first question seems to be a fuzzy yes - it could be argued that a cold makes you sneeze to help it spread to other people, and there is some water-borne thing i forget the name of that infects people, who after incubation get sores which burn terribly, and when they put the sores in water to sooth the burning the sores burst open and the babies come out. (yes this isn't control per se, but it's close, and yes the parasites aren't consciously deciding to do any of this, but shutup it's cool).

BUT. what have we here?? are some people being secretly controlled by parasites living in cat poop? not just some people, THREE BILLION PEOPLE. that's almost half the fucking species. and according to doctor nameiforgot, "those infected... show a small, but statistically significant, tendency to be more self-reproaching and insecure. Paradoxically, infected women, on average, tend to be more outgoing and warmhearted than controls, while infected men tend to be more jealous and suspicious." so uhhhhh yeah this is an even less interesting effect than rabies, and about as useful for the parasite. maybe it encourages people to get more cats? you know, being too insecure to be with other people so they get pets instead. and the men's jealousy further decreases okay this is all bullshit. but, the reason this is interesting to me (and watch as i contradict myself here) is that not only are they possibly changing our behavior, but nobody has noticed. who knows what else we are unnaturally being forced into doing. maybe icecream is disgusting and we are tricked into liking it by evil cowbugs! or maybe depression is caused by parasites. or happiness is. but you get my point, there is no way to tell what's 'real' behavior and what isn't. or is there no difference? if the people doing it can't tell and the people they interact with can't tell, well what of it? after all, we're already full of parasites (no, there's another term for creatures that aren't harmful, but i forget it) that do wonderful things for us (oh, i remember, symbiotes! they are symbiotes). for example, our guts are full of various bacteria that help us digest all the weird shit we eat. i read once that if you count up all the various teensy organisms that live on/in us and do various things we're not consciously aware of but depend on, less than half of the functional DNA that controls our bodies is actually human. i'm not sure how accurate that is, but it's something to ponder. if we are more bug than human, if parasites are influencing us in who knows what ways, are we colonies more than people? forests more than trees?
if that's not enough, there are also some links being investigated between these catpoop parasites and schizophrenia. on that front i don't know what to say.

ah ha! here's a cite for that forests more than trees bit. "There are some estimates that say 90 percent of the cells on our body are actually bacteria."

sidenote: lactose intolerance is not a disease or condition, historically speaking. lactose tolerance is the mutation: most mammals lose the ability to digest lactose upon reaching maturity.