The recommendation for this book came from vidicon, in a conversation we were having about some of my far-flung theories on human evolution. I have been looking at immunobiology and it's role in our specie's development since I read The Seven Daughters of Eve in 1995. I personally think that inherited immunity/resistance and it's role on societal development is vastly overlooked by historians and anthropologists alike (Jared Diamond notwithstanding).
Where it really hit me was the first time I seriously researched the black death. In the wake of the current news feasts on the influenza (both avian and older varieties) I've been mulling it over heavily again. Over the years I've gone through a couple of black death kicks, mostly because I feel it was such a pivotal event in the formation of Western culture, but, when you step back from it, also in Eastern culture, particularly in regards to how the relationship between the two evolved. Beyond the sociology, however, is this thought:
Why didn't everyone die?
The same holds true for the flu.
What allows certain people to move on normally, healthily, or perhaps just mildly ill in the face of pandemics and epidemics which eradicate slews of other people? In the case of retroviruses, there is little chance of any "miracle survivors", but aside from HIV/Aids, we haven't had mass-fatality epidemics which were related to retroviruses (something which speaks volumes, in my mind, to the possibility of it being a manufactured disease).
There are two possibilities, clearly. Either the survivors had a built up immunity to something else which allowed them to skirt major infection, or the victims all shared a demographic deficiency which made them susceptible. Given the broad range of victims in past events, it seems unlikely to me that the second possibility is the strongest (though still possible).
So that brings me to the door frame of my problem with out classification system in modern science. Modern revisions in biological systematics, as it relates to "other" species. However, because of our contentious past as a culture when dealing with issues of race, particular racial inferiority/superiority, scientists are loathe to explore the sub-species potentials of our genetic lineage. My theory is that the black death targeted not an environmental subsection, but rather a European-based sub-species demographic of humans. I think the survivors were people who were not as succeptable to the pneumonic or septicemic outbreaks of the black death.
I think that moving forward, many of the other "under the hood" traits of the surviving subspecies have been pivotal in the development of Western culture. This all links into bigger ideas I have about humanity, our development, and what makes us different on multiple evolutionary points from most of the other species on the planet.
It doesn't have to do with opposable thumbs, it has to do with memory, emotion, and the refinement of social patterns and triggered hormone release.
I wonder if I'll ever get any further past the musing and outlining phases with any of this crap.
I could go on for hours about this (ask people who know me, they have heard me do it), so I'll spare you the long-winded ramble. Read the book if you've ever been curious how your immune system works. Revise the axiom "Don't judge a book by it's cover." to "Don't categorize a book by jacket and genre, but rather by font, content, author, country of origin, paper type, ink type, page count, printing and binding method, as well as edition, revision, cover art, and condition."
If you read through all this, or learn anything from my inane ramblings, please comment - I am really trying to coalesce a little on these ideas, and other people's opinions are helpful in that endeavor.