Faith, Madness and Spontaneous Human Combustion

The author, Gerald Callahan is an immunologist who holds a joint appointment in the department of microbiology, immunology, and pathology and the department of English at Colorado State University. He investigates interactions between the human immune and nervous systems, the immunological basis of behavioral disease, the behavioral basis of immunological disorders, and the public understanding of science.

In this book [with the strange, long title] Callahan uses analogy to describe the fascinating tasks the immune system must perform in distinguishing “self” from “not self” in order to keep our bodies from being consumed by the microbial world. This is not a dry text about immunology. It is a personal and philosophical story about the beauty and elegance of life. It is a story about lymphocytes and mitochondria, and the story about the human species’ perceptions, joys, pain, truths and lies.

It isn’t nature that abhors a vacuum, it’s humans. We humans don’t believe in the limits of human knowledge, even temporary limits. We don’t accept the spaces between what we know and what is. So we lie. We lie to fill in those spaces and smooth the fabric of reality. Otherwise this universe, this life, would be unmanageable, overpowering, and terrifying. We lie to make it manageable-all of us.

An excellent, excellent review of this book is here.

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