Evolving Beyond Germ Theory

Evolving Beyond Germ Theory

Evolutionary thinking - Diversity, systems and evolution. 

The germ theory of disease states that germs, known as pathogens, can cause various diseases. This was a ground-breaking, life saving hypothesis, the application of which altered the course of human history, alleviated much unnecessary suffering and achieved a great deal of good, including much learning. 

The germ theory, however useful it has been, is only partially true and without evolving this idea, it is no longer serving the evolution of humanity, or supporting us to live in greater harmony with life on earth. 

We have reached the point whereby we need to refine, iterate and evolve the germ hypothesis in order to access a more accurate view of health and disease.

Pathogens do indeed cause disease, but all organisms, even those considered beneficial/friendly carry the potential to cause disease, because all organisms carry the potential to go out of balance, if the necessary conditions arise. It is not the ‘germ’ that is the real issue, it is the factors that contribute to the development of an imbalanced state. 

We now need to step back and re-align our thinking to a deeper, more complete view of why some microbes become pathogenic in some organisms, under certain conditions, yet  remain benevolent, or even function beneficially in others.

The key to moving forward here is the ability to see life as an intelligent, ever-evolving and self learning collection of organisms,  always expressing in ways that better support a rapid return to, and maintenance of, greater balance and homeostasis. 

In other words:

Life is always seeking to evolve towards achieving and maintaining balance and we need to work with evolutionary processes and not get in the way of them.

Based on our germ theory of disease, our approach to diseased,  imbalanced living systems is to fight, kill, or control the organisms we consider to be responsible, but little is done to identify the cause of the imbalance. Through using this approach we inadvertently contribute towards creating more imbalance, which only leads to more good bugs turning ‘bad’ in the long run.  

Through using a partially true hypothesis, we are taking action that is inadvertently destroying previously stable and life enhancing evolved processes, through reducing the diversity in organisms present. This can only lead to more suffering as life further loses its capacity to maintain or restore a balanced state. 

When there is a reduction in diversity and destruction of previously well established evolved mechanisms in nature, the natural world falls back on mechanisms that remain intact. This is like restoring a corrupt system back to the nearest default setting, losing all updates in the process. 

Yet as anyone who has lost the last few years worth of updates on a computer system will tell you, it is very difficult to go back to older default settings, that are unable to run various systems. It’s like trying to remember and work with  huge chains of code, because all the condensed more efficient code have suddenly been destroyed. Functionality and performance is lost and overall the system can no longer operate.  

It’s the same in nature. Wiping out more evolved, condensed and efficient code in a computer system is like wiping out the complex functions and relationships in nature. Without them, the system collapses and can no longer function to support the diversity of life processes. This inevitably causes the mass loss of species, as well as decreasing the capacity for surviving organisms to maintain balance, which then leads to further disease and so the cycle of destruction continues.

To summarise:

  • The Germ theory of disease was a major advancement in our understanding of disease and continues to save many lives. 

  • We now need to refine and evolve germ theory further to continue developing our understanding and adjust our approach to dealing with pathogenic microbes

  • Pathogens do cause disease, but every organism is capable of causing disease if it goes out of balance (so it’s not the organism itself that is the cause of the problem).

  • The real issue to be addressed is the underlying contributing factors that cause a system to become imbalanced in the first place.

  • Life is always finding ways to create and better maintain homeostasis, that is - a state of stable equilibrium. 

  • Destruction of pathogenic organisms without addressing the cause of an imbalance always seeds further imbalance and sets up a negative cycle. 

  • Destroying diversity in a system and previously stable processes cause life to regress and default back to less evolved mechanisms

  • Regression of life supporting systems in nature, leads to mass loss of species and a reduced ability to maintain balance. This is what is happening on the planet right now. 


We now need to create a new germ theory - one that positions pathogenic organisms as a side effect of imbalanced systems. This will allow us to direct our attention towards solving imbalances instead of permanently getting stuck in a never ending feedback loop of fighting, killing or controlling the consequences of our own  interventions.

In a world of collapsing ecosystems, we will inevitably see many good bugs turn bad and if we continue to target the wrong cause, we will find ourselves fighting a losing battle, as we keep causing (and dramatically worsening) the very problem we are trying to fix 

We must begin to appreciate the role of diversity in natural systems and stop taking actions that destroy diversity further. We must attempt to restore diversity within nature and get out of the way of evolution creating greater complexity and balance. 

Our future is bright if we chose to focus on the real problems, instead of the wrong ones, but if we do not evolve our thinking, we stand to destroy our very choice to do so. 

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