“Self” has many definitions. Science has demonstrated that 90 percent of the cells in our bodies are bacteria—we are in many respects more non-self than self. In “Lousy Sex: Creating Self in an Infectious World” Gerald Callahan explores the science of self, illustrating the immune system’s role in forming individual identity. Blending scientific essay with deeply personal narrative, he uses microbiology and immunology to explore a new way to answer the question, who am I? Through stories about the sex lives of wood lice, the biological advantages of eating dirt, the question of immortality, the relationship between syphilis and the musical genius of Beethoven, he creates another way, a chimeric way, of seeing ourselves.
Gerald Callahan is a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology and the Department of English at Colorado State University He is the author of “Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes;” “Faith, Madness, and Spontaneous Human Combustion: What Immunology Can Teach Us about Self-Perception;” “Infection: The Uninvited Universe;” and “River Odyssey: A Story of the Colorado Plateau.”