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James MacAllister


“Think of a piece of monopoly money, and think of Michelangelo’s David.  Now imagine dropping a huge weight on both of them.  The monopoly money would survive, but is it truly more wonderful?”  This is just not the right analogy.  

You and I are communities not individuals. The word for our animal cells is the “holobiont”, the rest of each of us is our “micro biome” (our persistent microbial symbionts). The relationship of your animal cells to your bacterial symbionts is obligatory. You cannot live without them. Most of the metabolites in your blood are made my your microbiome including your neurotransmitters.–your thinking. It is the same for every organ system in your body. Your bacterial symbionts is that they outnumber your animal cells 10 to 1.  When we think of ourselves as individuals, that is an illusion (or neurosis). 


To judge anything requires that it be judged in relationship to something. But bacteria since they are the primary producers on Earth can not be thought of as worthless (like monopoly money) since they make all life on Earth possible. Since you and I and Michelangelo are all more bacteria than animal cells — a good argument could be made for their contribution to David as well.  I was saying that if you judge an organism by its importance to the Biosphere (which I would argue is the ultimate measure) than cyanobacteria (and bacteria in general) are far more important than people.  It is true that we carve statutes and write books, but then again, it is only we who look at statues and read books, so using those things as a measure is self-referential.  


Think of the Earth without bacteria, and think of Earth with only people and nothing else. Now imagine what the world would look like without bacteria (it would look like Mars but a lot warmer.) Now imagine the Mars-like Earth with no vegetation or water or oxygen atmosphere with just people on it. What would they eat? What would they drink? What would they breathe? They wouldn’t survive. I think the Earth that we have is a whole lot more wonderful. It is thanks to bacteria.

David Bohm had a wonderful saying, “Science is the search for truth [with a small “t”], whether we like it or not.”