A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to us - and always will.
We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and try to remove whole kinds of life - parasites, bacteria, mutualists, and predators - to allow ourselves to live free of wild danger. Nature, in this new world, is the landscape outside, a kind of living painting that is pleasant to contemplate but nice to have escaped.
The truth, though, according to biologist Rob Dunn, is that while "clean living" has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others. We are trapped in bodies that evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. As Dunn reveals, our modern disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that immunologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and other scientists are only beginning to understand. Diabetes, autism, allergies, many anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even tooth, jaw, and vision problems are increasingly plaguing bodies that have been removed from the ecological context in which they existed for millennia.
In this eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and well-reasoned book, Dunn considers the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Through the stories of visionaries, Dunn argues that we can create a richer nature, one in which we choose to surround ourselves with species that benefit us, not just those that, despite us, survive.
Some readers may feel that the message biologist and noted science writer Rob Dunn conveys is somewhat unsavory, but no one can deny his delivery is outstanding. In other words, you won't want to shoot this messenger just because his assertions have a certain "ew" factor. With a brio and rakish good humor only a biologist can bring to the table, Dunn details exactly how "biological" we human beings are - even as we try our darnedest to separate ourselves from the microscopic, symbiotic critters he calls "mutualists." (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).
A pleasure to read. He is not a biologist moonlighting as a writer; he is both. Dunn also does a wonderful job interspersing history, research, and speculation with real-life human beings. He has a natural flair for drama and tension…a highly readable, informative mashing of ideas and disciplines.
Starred Review. [Dunn is] a master at applying the principle of administering a spoonful of sugar (i.e., humor) to make the “medicine” of complicated scientific information not merely interesting but gripping. Nothing less than an every-person’s handbook for understanding life, great and small, on planet Earth.
Adding touches of humor along the way, Dunn deftly explains complex biological systems for the general reader. […] Highly recommended for nature aficionados, this book should inspire many lively discussions.
Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University The Wild Life of Our Bodies is an extraordinary book about a previously little explored subject. With clarity and charm the author takes the reader into the overlap of medicine, ecology, and evolutionary biology to reveal an important domain of the human condition.
In an article in The Daily Telegraph, Dr. Roy Sleator, a lecturer at Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland, states that, "We are, in essence, only 10 percent human. The rest is pure microbe." In a June 2011 report, National Public Radio's Science Desk Correspondent, Robert Krulwich, agrees. Yes, he says, our bodies do indeed consist of roughly ten times more microbial cells than human cells. And they are, for the most part, not just handy but essential to our existence. Especially the ones inside our intestinal tract.
Krulwich goes on to report the recent discovery that different people the world over have varying sets of intestinal microbes. These sets of microbes have been found to determine whether or not we are susceptible to certain diseases, even whether we are prone to obesity. It all begins the moment we are born. In utero we are microbe free, a tabula rasa upon which no germ...
The ultimate journey to discover how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since.
Fortey introduces the reader to the extraordinary people, meticulous research and driving passions that helped to create the timeless experiences of wonder that is Londons Natural History Museum.
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