Apologies for the slowness in answering comments and lack of podcasts this week, but I was dying and my voice was shot.
Gross talk alert: read no further if the word “mucus” disgusts you.
I read a book on evolutionary medicine in which it was admitted that nobody has yet figured out if it was more adaptive for the virus or for man that so much mucus is produced during a cold.
Mucus has a protective effect but it also embeds copies of the virus to which others in sneezing range of the cold victim are exposed.
My nose doesn’t just run, it gushes. I expel gallons of the stuff such that I am very well protected against further contagions during the course of my colds. The coating of the gunk is so thick that I could probably survive a nuclear blast. But it also means I’ve shed billions of tiny cold clones in my wake.
Oh, well. At least it’s one more bug to which I am now immune.
Then there is the fever, which is the body’s version of pouring boiling oil over the heads of invaders. The heat kills a few, but the press and relentlessness of the barbarian hoard storming your Gates of Immunity overwhelms your defenses.
And maybe there’s strategy here, especially when we’re young. Let a few enemies slip in and kill them off one by one, where their backs are against the wall. Good practice for the White Guard. What doesn’t kill us truly makes us stronger.
So, speaking of hot springs and their supposed curative effects, I wonder whether these baths are preventative not just or because of the various minerals and trace metals but because they are so damn hot that they kill off the ever-present film of germs that coat our hides.
But it’s too easy to tell these Just So evolutionary stories, a sharp criticism Stephen Gould was always wielding against the perhaps too creative legion of evolutionary psychologists, a gang who ascribe survival-of-the-fittest advantages to every human foible. Too much teleology and not enough experiment in this field.
Anyway, I yet live. The regular schedule returns next week.