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topic: design
first in thread: caro, design, 2001, 07, 06:15:46, Sundry Aversions
07 06:15:46Sundry Aversions
(caro)
design
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next in thread: tom2001_07_06:16:09
The human immune system is poorly designed, as are the defense systems of poisonous plants. Poison ivy and related plants cause allergic skin reactions. They are painful, itchy, and impossible to ignore. However, the skin reaction doesn't occur in the presence of the plant, but several hours to days after exposure, once the animal has surely forgotten what it touched. I'm not sure how this is supposed to protect the plant, but a simpler solution would be thorns, which many a better-designed plant employs.

The allergic reaction in humans is an even sillier design. A poisonout plant such as poison ivy causes hives to develop on the skin. The reaction does not occur immediately, so that an association is created in the animal's mind. But even worse than that is the histamine response. First, histamines are produced, causing the animal to itch. Second, the reaction to itching is scratching, which doesn't do anything to remove the poison. Third, scratching causes the production of more histamines, which, forth, causes even worse itching, which causes more vigorous scratching, which causes intense histamine production. The process easily and quickly leads to open, bleeding sores, which exposes the animal to infection which, in an unwashed, unscientific society, will lead to death. Death due to an ineffective response to an essentially harmless chemical found in nature.

Although this kind of vicious cycle occurs more frequently and in response to a greater variety of plants and substances in the individual whose immune system is "malfunctioning," poison ivy will cause this cycle to occur in every human being.

The question immediately arises, Where does the allergic reaction fit into God's plan for us?
07 06:16:09re: Sundry Aversions
(tom)
design
respond
responses
(previous in thread, caro) : ~
~ The human immune system is poorly designed, as are the defense
~ systems of poisonous plants. Poison ivy and related plants cause
~ allergic skin reactions. They are painful, itchy, and impossible to
~ ignore. However, the skin reaction doesn't occur in the presence of
~ the plant, but several hours to days after exposure, once the
~ animal has surely forgotten what it touched. I'm not sure how this
~ is supposed to protect the plant, but a simpler solution would be
thorns, which many a better-designed plant employs.

I believe the answer to this is that the skin reaction we experience is incidental. Plants like poison ivy are protecting themselves from bugs and molds and bacteria by being so noxious, not from big creatures. We just happen to respond badly to their defenses.

Histamine reactions (though not allergic ones) are like fevers--it would be nice to believe they served some purpose, but it sure isn't clear what it is.

Despite all the hype about genetic algorithms and the like, evolution is a grossly inefficient method for producing barely adequate solutions, although given that all it had to work with to start with was a bit of dirty water, it's done a pretty amazing job with the materials at hand.
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