Are humans organisms or living ecosystems?

the emerging science of human-microbe symbiosis has an even greater implication. “Human beings are not really individuals; they’re communities of organisms,” says McFall-Ngai. It’s not just that our bodies serve as a habitat for other organisms; it’s also that we function with them as a collective. As the profound interrelationship between humans and microbes becomes more apparent, the distinction between host and hosted has become both less clear and less important?—?together we operate as a constantly evolving man-microbe kibbutz. Which raises a startling implication: If being Homo sapiens through and through implied a certain authority over our corporeal selves, we are now forced to relinquish some of that control to our inner-dwelling microbes. Ironically, the human ingenuity that drives us to understand more about ourselves is revealing that we’re much less “human” than we once thought.

Seed: The Body Politic

(Thanks Social Fiction)

See also:

The BacterioSphere

Networks, Bacteria, and the Illusion of Control


  1. People who are creeped out by this idea are sometimes strong defenders who gain life-long comfort and peace from the idea of having a ‘soul’ in the body. We pick our parasites and go from there.

  2. Necropsychronautron

    December 30, 2009 at 2:08 am

    I wonder how this is exclusive to we as humans as the headline implies, and not simply a trait of most organisms.
    They even mention using mice to study this notion.
    Are mice not also ecosystems? And the flea that lives on the mouse? Is he an ecosystem, or part of one?
    It’s good information to spread and for people to think about, but it sort of misses the point that “ecosystem” is really only a word used to imply a level relative to the observer of the fractal nature of reality.

  3. Thank you! I heard about this theory a long time ago and couldn’t find any info about it and I lost the original article. Now I have a thread to follow.

    what if we are a collection of entities rather than one specific entity? The implications are terrific! When there are transplants of organs, part of the consciousness goes with them, as many transplant recipients confirm. The whole health care system should be re-configured just because of this realization!

    It makes a terrific starting point for sci-Fi story lines as well.

    thanks again!

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