Viruses, Humans, and the Dawn of a New Pandemic Age

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stanford biologist Nathan Wolfe looks at the history of viruses and human beings. He explains how deadly viruses like HIV, swine flu, and bird flu almost wiped us out in the past; and why modern life has made humans vulnerable to the threat of a global pandemic in The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age.


Nathan Wolfe

Comments [3]

Kalyan Ganguly from Brooklyn, NY

An interesting program on the evolution of human beings in the context of viruses and went on to touch upon the horizontal transmission of microbes from humans to other vertebrate species and vice versa. One intriguing question is whether the evolution, if one may label as parallel evolution, has made the viruses and other microbes smarter to outfox the so called highest evolved species, the Homo sapiens? The latter is becoming increasingly vulnerable to a number of drug-resistant varieties of microbes including HIV.

Oct. 12 2011 03:35 PM
Henry from Manhattan

Leonard seemed to imply that reducing meat production and consumption is exclusively a “vegetarian argument.”

One doesn’t need to be vegetarian to suggest that our flagrant quantity of animal protein could stand reduction without really affecting anyone’s perceived quality of life and would yield positive social benefits. Again, not a “vegetarian argument,” (implying that it is erroneous) the data is out there from a multitude of reliable sources.

Bush meat aside, since we can’t really control that, the situations with factory-farms is abhorrent and everyone knows it. Massing livestock together in unsanitary conditions and feeding them antibiotics is a great was to create an antibiotic resistant pandemic. I’m surprised this wasn’t mentioned in the interview.

Finally, Leonard said:
“Cows are vegetarians.”

No. Cows are not vegetarians. They are herbivores.

Cows don’t eat pigs, but not because cattle are attempting to keep kosher. Even if you put a yarmulke on a bull’s head and push him into a synagogue, that doesn’t make him Jewish.

Vegetarianism is a socio-political description; something non-human animals are incapable of subscribing to. Yes, health and diet concerns are related, but that’s not what motivated the first Vegetarian Society to organize in 1847, nor was it the soul motivation for ancient vegetarians ranging from Western Pythagoreans to Eastern Hindus and Jains. There’s more to it than just “not eating meat.”

Herbivore or herbivorous is the correct scientific labeling for animals that don’t generally eat meat.

Oct. 12 2011 01:04 PM
Laura from UWS

Pronunciation note van Leeuwenhoek is pronounced in Dutch more like
"fun LAY win hook":

Thank you for this segment.

Is there an updated version of The Microbe Hunters?

Oct. 12 2011 12:14 PM

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