Lice, Tigers, Worms and Microbes! O My! Rob Dunn’s utterly delightful tome, The Wild Life of Our Bodies, reveals some strange and wonderful interconnections that you can’t wash away no matter how many soapy showers you employ.

 

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“Utterly delightful” — yes, I mean that with all sincerity. Admittedly the delight will depend on your sense of humor. If we’re on the same laugh track then all will be in tune. If not, then, ah well, you might not laugh but you still will learn from this highly accessible science writing. Unless you’re in the ranks or trenches –or the trees–with the likes of Rob Dunn, then I assure you there are things to learn in his The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today.  Okay none of that “oooo yucky parasites” business. Time to put the fear of all the unseen creepy crawlers aside and learn about the garden of our bodies and who’s living in it. This is not an exhaustive inventory of all the strange critters lurking in human stomachs and intestines. That’s not what Dunn is about in this book about very important interconnectedness of all living things. Yes, that’s what this book does–it explores our forgotten interconnections with other living creatures and the natural world at large. Sufferers of Crohn’s disease should read with care–in other words, be careful with whatever ideas you get about worms from Dunn’s book.  If you’re into sustainable living and green cities then read Dunn’s text provides a serious foundation for the argument of urban farming on multiple levels. If you’re a “doctor” then it’s time to find out what’s been going with the work of the research scientists Dunn, a scientist with a penchant for ants, connects with all the glee of someone who has a vision of the bigger picture of life from the ant world on up.  If you’re ill–or healthy–here are some serious ideas to consider as to why.

Got skin care on your mind? Rethinking your hair–everywhere? Consider what fur is for.  Remember that supposedly useless appendix? Turns out it’s not so useless at all. Who says “milk does a body good”? I think it’s all the folks who mass produce that white stuff that is passed off as milk. It’s not. It’s something else entirely in my opinion. Is The Jungle Book one of your favorite stories? If so, I think you’ll enjoy The Wild Life of Our Bodies even more. Yes, it does have a tiger story in it–a real one about man/woman eating tigers. Ever wonder about the connection between our sight and our biology? Why do we behave as we do? Some tantalizing ideas are planted in Dunn’s mind garden–and they’re well worth watering.

Are you simply looking for some very good science writing with comic relief? Apparently Rob Dunn has a sense of humor and is not afraid of sharing it in his writing.  This is a very cool thing because it makes Dunn’s writing so very engaging rather than stiflingly pedantic. This is truly an accessible book about very serious science. Do not be afraid of it! Dunn is not out to clobber readers with a massive ego. He’s trying to sow some seriously potential seeds for hope for our future survival as a species. Part VII of his book, “The Future of Human Nature” focuses on “The Reluctant Revolutionary of Hope”  — Dickson Despommier. If you read no other part of this book except the last 26 pages–well then let it be these 26 pages.

If you care to read more than twenty-six pages other delicious tidbits await to tantalize your tongue (oh yes, you will learn a few things about tongues and taste buds too):  the story of Tim White’s discovery of Ardi; Debra Wade’s struggle to deal with Crohn’s; why the “bubble boy” died; Reynier’s long, long-term research in Paris to create a germ free world; an appendectomy performed in a submarine –complete with spoons and fingernail clippers; why we’ve done the weird thing of breeding beautiful roses without scent (a choice which baffles me to no end); a great deal about human fear of snakes–and quite a variety of other things–including the ways of leaf cutter ants.

If I were writing reviews for employment, and therefore funds, I’d give Rob Dunn’s The Wild Life of Our Bodies a full five-star rating (as in five out of five possible stars). I don’t currently write for monetary rewards. So there’s no cash incentive for me to praise Dunn’s personable writing, vision, and thinking. But praise I do.  Having read enough deadly dry scientific texts in another life I can appreciate what Rob Dunn offers–science ideas presented in a manner that entices one to explore further rather to retreat after being bludgeoned by a massive ego swimming in incomprehensible jargon.  Go forth and discover The Wild Life of Our Bodies–read, learn, and share widely. Please! How our future as a species unfolds may well depend on such seeds.

“The secret that runs throughout this book, the one I hope to have shown more than I have discussed, is that our bodies and our lives only make sense in the context of other species. Only by looking at other lives do we really understand our own.” Rob Dunn

 

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2 Comments

  1. November 28, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I’ll look for this book…it sounds up my alley. Did it mention how much of our physical weight comes from the microbes in our guts?

    • November 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      I do not recall any mention of stats regarding weight from microbes, Al. But there is A LOT of very interesting information in this very readable book. If you do read it, please share your thoughts. 🙂


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