If you're like me and have noticed this past year or so some pretty strange behavior going on at almost every level of humankind, then this column is for you. I have discovered through studious research, Netflix documentaries and personal observation the cause of why so many of our family, friends, neighbors, even politicians are, well to put it nicely, acting so weird. The answer is liver flukes. Well, the lancet liver fluke to be exact, along with its best friend, the Toxoplasma gondii.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking right now: Is this guy some kind of scientist? Well, my son-in-law just received his doctorate at the University of Arkansas in (wait for it) entomology, and although I did not discuss any of this with him, I'm sure if I did, he would back me up. Now where was I? Oh yes, liver flukes.
Flukes are parasites that need to get inside a sheep's intestine to reproduce. To do this they, as young adults, get ejected out into the cold, cold world via the sheep's bladder function. A snail eats some of the waste, and the little flatworm lives first inside the snail. The snail then deposits its waste, which happens to be an ant's favorite dessert. Here is where things get creepy. Once in the ant, the flatworm lodges itself against the ant's brain, turning it into its personal Uber. It makes the ant climb out onto the edge of a tasty blade of grass then bite down on the end of it. When the sheep comes along and nibbles the grass, mission accomplished. Spoiler alert: Yes, the ant dies.
The fluke's partner-in-crime, the Toxoplasma gondii, is even more vicious. It likes to hatch its eggs inside cats. Mice will eat cat poop where the teenage gondii then works its way to the mouse's brain, giving it a false sense of bravery and disdain for cats. The mouse confronts the next feline its sees and yes, once again, mission accomplished.
Here is where my research has taken me. It seems clear this parasite gang has set its sights on the ultimate prize: human beings. To do this they first made sheep become entirely domesticated and outsourced all their needs to humans. The cats, similarly infected, did the same. Think about it: sheep and cats have now succeeded in having us take care of every aspect of their life. All this, of course, to get their zombie parasitic masters closer to their real target -- us! Based on my field research, they have been successful beyond their dreams, starting with some in my immediate family!
What can we do? According to cognitive psychologist Dan Dennett, feeling like you know everything is contagious. Just surfing the internet can make you feel like an expert. When that sense is paired with ignorance, that can be a recipe for disaster. Much of what we believe actually depends greatly on those around us. "We must learn to distrust our intuition...human solidarity is what has got us this far."
Or it really could be those dastardly liver flukes. So next time you see someone acting a little crazy, think to yourself: "I bet I know what's eating them."