thematic terms:

Cosmos | Einstein on research | The White Plague | Galen | The SARs epidemic

The origin and structural organization of the world was called "kosmos" by the early Greeks.


              meaning          subordinate points

Gnosis, knowing



"the body (corpus) of information about what has been found out."

Feynman, The Meaning of it All.
Knowing the order of the material conditions of existence.
Order in Greek is Kosmos or cosmos from which is derived: cosmic, cosmogony, cosmology, cosmopolitan.

Four periods during which explanation of material order changed:
1. Ancient organum;
Hippocrates, Aristotle, Lucretius, & Galen
2. Medieval revolt;
Paracelsus, Fabricius, & Copernicus
3. Modernity arrives;
Kepler, Newton, Darwin, Mendel & Freud
4. Contemporary;
Einstein, Bohr, Franklin, Wilkins, Crick, & Watson.

"If scientific research crumbles , the intellectual life of the nation shuts down and, with it, numerous possibilities for future advancement. This must be prevented. . . . it becomes and obligation. . . to lend a hand in preventing scientific life from fading away."

Albert Einstein, Vienna: Neue Frie Presse. 12, 21, 1921

The White Plague

by Rene Dubos

Describes the understanding of a disease from the descriptive to the analytical stages of medical knowledge.
Symptomatic, descriptive diagnosis dominant means of determining therapeutic intervention.

Anatomical analysis of pathological formations as a means for recommended therapeutic action.

Identification of viral, bacterial, or fungal disease agent in the treatment of pathologies.


the quality of knowledge moves from observational descriptive, to instrumentally assisted, and then to empirically tested forms of precision diagnosis to better inform prognosis (predictive outcomes). But as the Dubos' reveal, anomalies persist in TB, "cancer," & mental health.

Cosmos | The White Plague | Galen | The SARs epidemic


Claudios Galenos, 129-199 AD,

Anomaly: the role of extraordinary exceptions to the pattern (dogma, theory or reigning beliefs)

Dialectical encounter:

( Sects for Beginners, by Galen, 2d Century AD )

Theory vs. Practice

theoria versus praxis

  Theory Practice
derives from
authoritative analogy
case histories

doctrine of the Four Humors experience observing patients


patient histories

Therapies were:

blood letting, homeopathy, water cures diet, exercise, hereditary malady, touch

environmental contagion

autoimmune response

bad places or air: "malaria" bruise, swelling, fever, sweats, expulsion
public hygiene

casting out spirits


Cosmos | The White Plague | Galen | The SARs epidemic

Current Science
related concepts: disease, bio-agents, ecology, evolution, fitness landscapes, prediction.

Nature, 11 December 2003

"The Role of Evolution in the Emergence of Infectious Diseases"

[Letters, pp. 658-659.]

News Summary:

"The recent emergence of SARS as a threat to human health has renewed interest in the question of why and how new infectious diseases emerge in human populations. The jump of a disease from animals to humans is clearly influenced by ecological factors. But new numerical simulations suggest that the function of evolution in the emergence of new diseases should not be overlooked. Specifically, if a pathogen can increase its ability to replicate in human hosts through mutation, it could eventually evolve (produce varied descendants) to a point that it can cause a human epidemic. The pathogen's initial ability to replicate in humans is a major determinant of whether it can acquire enough mutations to cause an epidemic.

{Letters. p. 658; News & Views. p. 609}

Five stages with regard to ecological factors implicated in initiating a disease cycle

contact with a causative agent
pathogen's ability to multiply:
in the human body,
(immune response and specific system infected, respiratory, urogenital.)
in a common host,
(fleas, mosquitoes, worms, etc, that carry a plasmodium or bacteria.)
in the biochemical milieu,
(fecal coliform in water, salmonella in food, HIV in fluids.)


"Epidemics-in-Waiting" News and Views


"Could the next SARS-;like virus reach epidemic proportions? Quantifying the likely threat of emerging diseases isn't easy, but evolution is a crucial factor that may tip the balance in favour of such human parasites."

"The role of Evolution in the Emergence of infectious diseases" Letters

It is unclear when where, and how novel pathogens such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), monkeypox, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) will cross the barriers that separate their natural reservoirs from human populations and ignite the epidemic spread of novel infectious diseases. New pathogens are believed to emerge from animal reservoirs when ecological changes increase the pathogen's opportunities to enter the human population and generate subsequent human-to-human transmission."


"The emergence of a disease combines two elements: the introduction of the pathogen into the human population and its subsequent spread and maintenance within the population. Ecological factors such as human behavior can influence both of these elements and consequently ecology has been recognized to have an important role in the emergence of disease. In contrast, evolutionary factors including the adaptation of the pathogen to growth within humans and the subsequent transmission of the pathogen between humans are mostly considered in terms of changes in the virulence of the pathogen (germs) , and are often thought to have a lesser role in the initial emergence of pathogens. One exception suggests that immunocompromised individuals might provide 'stepping stones' for the evolution of pathogens."


"The fitness landscape on which evolution occurs is important in determining the outcome."

Cosmos | The White Plague | Galen | The SARs epidemic