There Oughta Be a Telethon

Scientists recently announced the discovery of a stupid virus called ATCV-1. People infected with the virus score ten per cent worse on mental tasks than they did prior to being infected. This is a serious health issue. Not many people can afford to lose ten percent of their mental abilities. An awful lot of people I work with can barely breath and walk at the same time. Of course, maybe the stupid virus is already widespread. It certainly would explain a lot. It’s also entirely possible that there are other stupid viruses out there. National Geographic did an issue featuring mind sucking parasites. For example, a parasite called Toxoplasmosis causes rats to track cats’ urine and walk up to the cats. The parasites basically turn the rodents into a feline version of Domino’s. Since many humans also have this parasite, who knows what effect it has on us? Some research indicates ADD, Schizophrenia, and suicide are triggered by these protozoa.

We are walking zoos, as I have noted in previous columns. Sixty percent of our DNA actually belongs to the critters that live on us and inside of us. How much and to what degree do these critters control or at least influence our behavior? No one knows, but Exhibit A for this micromanagement is the recent discovery that it  is hard to lose weight because of the bacteria wars that go on in our gut. The donut eating bacteria are at war with the salad eating bacteria. And just like in Sumo wrestling, the fat-loving bacteria usually win. They flood our brains with chemicals telling us to eat more carbs. The more carbs we eat, the more carb-loving bacteria there are. It’s a vicious cycle albeit a delicious one. To reach a ceasefire in this war requires a year of a breatharian diet. Or perhaps a vegan one. Either way is not a satisfactory solution. Anyone who prefers tofu and kale to ice cream and donuts is not to be trusted. They are not fully human. From an evolutionary standpoint, listening to the cravings for carbs and fats not only feeds our energy hogging brain, but increases body fat for the winter and spring when food stores are at their lowest. It’s our evolutionary heritage and should not be tampered with lightly.

There aren’t many people who would argue with the premise that people, in general, are getting dumber. Pursuit of 72 virgins, singing plastic fish, and the wide acceptance of the economic policy that letting rich people run things is good for the other 99% are all signs of our declining brain power. Only in America is calling someone Einstein an insult. There is even widespread disagreement about what constitutes stupidity. For example, Conservatives think Liberals are stupid and Liberals think Conservatives didn’t get hugged enough as children. NASCAR fans think whoever is not driving their favorite brand of car is stupid. And all drivers think all other drivers are morons. I think that lack of agreement on what constitutes stupid is another sign of how depleted our neural networks have become.

But suppose there was a cure? Suppose that at least some of human stupidity is due to the bacteria / viruses / prions / parasites living in and on us? If there is an environmental cause for lower IQs, then perhaps there is a way to reverse the decline. One possibility, of course, is developing a virus that increases mental acuity. A Secret of NIHM sort of infection. Instead of Zombies terrorizing humanity, a plague of David Humes would assault our illogical thinking patterns at every congressional committee hearing.

But maybe it isn’t necessary to develop a new organism to spread the smart to fight the dumb. Maybe such a life form already exists. There is an illness called clostridium difficile infection that is quite debilitating. Until recently, there was no cure. A doctor, pondering the discovery that babies get their immunities and their gut bacterial colonies (called flora) from their mother’s breast milk, decided to try to introduce a healthy mix of flora to patients with clostridium difficile. First, the doctors obtained bacteria from a healthy patient. Then they used an endoscope to introduce the bacteria into the sick person’s intestine.

It worked. What is basically a poop transplant has successfully cured many people of this disease. It has been so successful that labs in Australia have developed a way to accomplish the therapy using pills instead of using machinery—special pills for a healthy colon. A similar approach might work for stupidity. Now I’m not saying that a fecal vaccination from a smart person will increase a stupid person’s IQ. But it could. Instead of “Got Milk” campaigns, we’d have “Got . . . .” Well you get the idea. A smart person’s ear wax, dandruff, or face mites could be the cure for stupidity. I think such research should be a national priority. Since the politicians in Washington have a vested interest in keeping stupid people around to vote, getting funding for this research will be difficult. In fact, the stupid virus may have been the result of a secret government project in the first place. Maybe we oughta have a telethon. Ron White could be the host. Of course, network executives and advertisers also want people to be less intelligent. I have faith, though. With the help of crowd sourcing or a rich guy who wants to spread his brilliance, I think we can get it done. We have nothing to lose except our chia pets and road rage.