When once you interfere with the order of nature, there is no knowing where the results will end.
– Herbert Spencer
It was great while it lasted: the age of antibiotics. Sure came and went in a hurry, though, didn’t it? Left me with a few questions:
- How did antibiotics run their course already in just 50 years?
- How did we get so sick?
- Where does all the money go?
- Why aren’t we making any progress?
- What’s going to happen now?
These are the questions for which you can almost never get a straight answer. Unless you look beyond Newsweek, beyond the San Francisco Chronicle, beyond 20/20, or Ted Turner, beyond the media which year by year seem to cater to an ever-dwindling level of literacy and awareness…
Questions like these involve some famous people: Pasteur, Bechamp, Koch, Bernard, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Fleming, all of whom we’ll mention. But before we launch off into all that, let’s turn back the clock for a moment and go back to 1350 A.D. Place: the European continent.
In less than two years’ time, the bubonic plague wiped out half the population of Europe. Fleas bit rats and then bit man, but no one knew it. An estimated 25 million people died. Some individual cities had a mortality as high as 90%. Bodies were piled into carts and dragged away to be burned in common graves. It was a most grotesque way to die: bleeding and screaming and having one’s organs liquefy. From infection to death took perhaps one week. Prior to that outbreak, bubonic plague had been absent for nearly 1000 years. Scholars of the day attributed the cause of the plague to evil spirits, divine retribution, etc. All this time, even up to the present, other scientists have been asking the question: why did some die and some survive? What made the difference? Today we know the answer.
Go forward now a few centuries to France in the 1870s. Three scientists were conducting experiments in the area of chemistry, particularly having to do with fermentation, yeast, and the new discovery of little organisms called bacteria. All were involved in similar research but there was much competition and “borrowing” of discoveries, always with the undercurrent of politics and influence, as usual. The men were Louis Pasteur, Antoine Bechamp, and Robert Koch, a German. These individuals were not colleagues, but worked independently. Each one knew that he was onto a whole new area of human discovery, and the race was on to influence the medical world.
It was Pasteur who won the race of politics and influence. Today students memorize that Louis Pasteur “discovered” the Germ Theory. Not only is this not accurate, and not only is the Germ Theory itself unsubstantiated even today, but Pasteur himself in one of the most quoted deathbed statements perhaps of all time, recanted the Theory and admitted that his rivals had been right, and that it was not the germ that caused the disease, but rather the environment in which the germ was found: “Bernard acail raison; le terrain c’est tout, le germe c’est rien.”
The Germ Theory
What exactly was this Germ Theory? Very simply, the Germ Theory stated that there were separate diseases and that each disease was caused by a particular micro-organism. It was the job of science, then, to find the right drug or vaccine that would selectively kill off the offending bug without killing the patient.
That would be great, but nature rarely is so black and white about things, ever notice that? For one thing, bacteria and viruses tend to be “environment-specific.” That’s why some people get colds and others don’t. That’s why some survived the Bubonic Plague. That’s also why some doctors and nurses seem to be immune to disease even though they’re surrounded by it every day….”