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Public Service Announcement

So, the next time that I hear someone say that parasitoids are evidence that nature is horrible and cruel and the worst thing ever, or the next time I hear a bloody creationist or a bloody atheist tell me that there is no way that God can possibly exist, or that parasites and disease are evidence for the sinful nature of Man and the Fallen Nature of the world, because no good God would ever design things like eyeworms and parasitoids and ticks and therefore God does not exist/Man is fallen, so help me God, I am going to kneecap someone.

Here is the thing.

Parasites are amazing. They are critical components of ecosystems, and if they didn't exist, the entire global food chain would collapse. Yeah, those fucking caterpillars that everyone always feels so sorry for in the ichneumon-vs-caterpillar struggle? Do you know how much those motherfuckers eat? Besides, ichneumon wasps are actually dreadfully beautiful creatures, with absolutely amazing evolutionary adaptations to live inside, locate and overcome their hosts. For fuck's sake, ichneumon wasps have evolved a symbiotic relationship with viruses, which live inside of the wasp's cells, and commandeer caterpillar immune systems when the female wasp goes to lay her eggs. That is fucking amazing shit.

Did I mention that they're beautiful?

Female Ichneumon, by Goshzilla

And holy fuck, do you know what parasites do for food web connectivity? I mean, seriously, if you took the goddamned parasitic flatworms out of a salt marsh, and replaced them with an equal amount of charismatic megafauna, by weight, you could put in an entire herd of elephants.

And, yes, it sucks when people get parasitic diseases. I've been on the receiving end of a couple, so trust me, I know (and I'm just as much pro-malaria-control and guinea-worm-eradication as anyone). But the thing is that those parasites aren't evil, and they're not evidence of any capriciousness, maliciousness or inherent evil in the way that the entire fucking universe is structured. They're evidence that when niche space is available, something will evolve to fill it, and the way in which it evolves will probably be unexpected and wonderful and completely amazing, even if you'd rather that it chose a niche space other than the inside of your red blood cells to amazingly occupy. And once those niche spaces are occupied, they are actually, in fact critical. Disease, including parasitic disease, is an absolutely integral part of ecosystem function, and of keeping this planet in balance, and the organisms that cause disease, the organisms that develop inside the living flesh of another insect before gnawing their way out into the sunlight, are no less wonderful and beautiful and incredible than the goddamned fluffy motherfucking bunnies and pandas and snow leopards that everyone loves so much.

So, what I'm saying is, if you want to provide evidence that the universe is a shitty place to live, and if you want to go for the argument-from-evil to either argue against the existence of God, or for the sinful nature of the world, leave the parasites out of it. There's more than enough evidence from human behavior for that. But there's no need to go around anthropomorphizing the poor wasps, who are amazing, beautifully adapted little buggers, just because you think that their developmental sequences are distasteful. I'm sure that termites, were they able to think, would probably be horrified at a species that pretends to be social, but won't even share its gut flora through communal coprophagy.

Also, David Pearce can suck it.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 14th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
I can't quite find the words to respond to this, except: You are so, so, so awesome, and I'm forwarding this to a few friends of mine, if you don't mind.
Jun. 14th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
Sure, but you'll have to copy it, since it's f-locked. :)
Jun. 14th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
Never mind. I unlocked it, since I wanted to forward it to people, too.
Jun. 14th, 2010 06:27 pm (UTC)
Amen to this entire thing. I'll also be forwarding this to a couple of friends who will wholeheartedly agree with you.

One of these days, I'll learn to word things as wonderfully as you do. ♥
Jun. 14th, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
Er. Thank you, I think. <3
Jun. 15th, 2010 02:07 am (UTC)
HEY so I don't have time to update Real Blog at the moment- would you like to post this as a guest post this coming Sunday? :D Include links to your Real Blog, of course.

Otherwise I'll just wind up linking it. :P
Jun. 15th, 2010 04:18 am (UTC)
I could clean out all of the "motherfuckers" and send it to you with slightly better science and slightly less ranting, if you'd like.

Or you could just link it. You know, whatever.
Jun. 15th, 2010 08:35 am (UTC)
I'm down with motherfuckers, but if you want more science, that's also fine. It's mostly the anti-atheist/religious bullshit angle that would suit a Sunday post. So leave the ranting in. *grins*
Jun. 16th, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
Well, between my sister graduating and me going to grad school, this week is super, super, super busy. So, uh, bearing that in mind, I might write an expanded post for you, or I might not.

Fair enough?
Jun. 16th, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)
Absolutely. Thanks. :)
Jun. 15th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Taking all that into consideration
I still vehemently hate ticks. And chiggers.
Jun. 15th, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Taking all that into consideration
Well, I have massive tick phobia, so I get whee you'e coming from on that.
Jun. 25th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
Parasites freak me the hell out, but thinking rationally, you are 100% correct.

The same thing about evolving to fill niches also applies to, say, how much the life of Antarctic penguins kind of sucks from a human point of view (which I've also seen as an argument for the non-existence of $deity).
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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