Lewis Thomas: “I Am Considerably Less Intelligent Than My Liver”

I am in awe of the immune system. The more I read, the less I understand. And yet it works. It works really well. It’s almost as if it has an intelligence of its own.

Which reminded me of this passage in Lewis Thomas’* book, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974). (Download a copy for free at the Internet Archive.)

Just replace “liver” with “immune system” or really any organ!

If I were informed tomorrow that I was in direct communication with my liver, and could take over now, I would become deeply depressed. Nothing would save me and my liver, if I were in charge. For I am, to face the facts squarely, considerably less intelligent than my liver. I am, moreover, constitutionally unable to make hepatic decisions, and I prefer not be obliged to, ever. I would not be able to think of the first thing to do.

Lewis Thomas

* Lewis Thomas was a physician, immunology researcher, dean, poet, etymologist, and essayist. … He became Dean of Yale Medical School and New York University School of Medicine, and President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute. His formative years as an independent medical researcher were at Tulane University School of Medicine.

He was invited to write regular essays in the New England Journal of Medicine. One collection of those essays, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), won annual National Book Awards in two categories, Arts and Letters and The Sciences (both awards were split). He also won a Christopher Award for that book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s