The Usenet Clam

Subject: Re: As I thought, the CLAM is a joke - The net and urban legends
From: (Robert Matthews)
Date: 1996/08/21
In article <>, Aaron Lynch  wrote:

> > It's not even original.   David Brin wrote a story not too long ago called
> > "the Giving Plague" about a virus that made you want to give blood.
> > But so far there aren't any diseases that alter conscious behavior in order
> > to assist their spread, that's still in SF as far as I know.
> Sometimes fiction is even stranger than truth.
> There indeed ARE diseases that alter conscious behavior. The "Memes and AIDS"
> section in my book THOUGHT CONTAGION discusses how HIV has evolved to shatter
> relationships through terror, sending the freshly infected and the
> "well" and sick partner back into the open mate market. The virus goes
> spawning thought contagions that send people running from
high-prevalence to low
> prevalence areas, spreading the virus and the memes as a synergistic system.

     What about a physical sickness that directly encourages you to pass
it on? We're not talking about a disease that causes your body to react in
a way that insures the disease's spread, as coughing when you have a cold
or bleeding profusely when you have Ebola, either. We're talking about a
disease that makes you *want* to spread the disease further.

     Syphilis untreated can lead to a mental disturbance called paresis.
(An older incarnation of this word meant a partial paralysis, but since
it's derived from the Greek for "to let go", it was adopted to mean the
mental laxity caused by late-stage syphilis.) A mild form of paresis, not
especially uncommon among prositutes in the olden days, was known as
"Cupid's Disease", because 1) it came from the act of love, and 2) it made
you feel giddy and happy and, most tellingly, horny. Neurologist Oliver
Sacks has written about this novel sort of paresis.

     So what we have here is a disease that alters your *mental* function
in such a way that you would want to go out and spread the disease further
(exactly as The Clam is reputed to do). It doesn't get more direct than

Robert Matthews

"[Even] the dullest person, after all, has gleaned from mere observation that
highly intelligent parents often produce offspring so stupid that they can
barely breathe. (And, much more interesting from the eugenic point of view,
that the opposite is also true.)"                             --Christopher Hitchens