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Wine Chat: "Thinking about the Human Microbiome: From Concepts to Therapy and Human Nature”

Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 6:00pm to 7:30pm

Civic Wines and Winery 50 E. 11th Ave., Eugene OR 97401

The Oregon Humanities Center’s first Wine Chat in May featured Nathalie Hester, Romance Languages, with an engaging talk about how Italians in Venice, Florence, Modena, and other city-states incorporated the conquest of the Americas in their cultural and political agendas. 

On the heels of that successful event, the OHC will host their second Wine Chat featuring biologist Brendan Bohannan and philosopher Nicolae Morar with their talk, “Thinking about the Human Microbiome: From Concepts to Therapy and Human Nature.”

The human microbiome is a complex system of microorganisms on and in our body that is crucial to many vital functions. The bacteria in the microbiome help digest our food, regulate our immune system, protect against other bacteria that cause disease, and produce vitamins. Approximately half of our cells in our body are human and half are microbial. The microbiome may weigh as much as five pounds. But what is the human-microbe system? Is it an organ? Is it an ecosystem? Is it a superorganism? Bohannan and Morar examined the concepts scientists use to think about our microbiome to determine the benefits and limitations of each. They discovered that none of the labels capture the complexity of the human microbiome. They conclude that the reason there is no clear description of the nature of the human-microbe system is that it is many things at the same time. It’s important to consider all concepts when thinking about the nature of the human microbiome and how it relates to our health and wellness. The way we talk about things gives us a window into reality. 

Bohannan is a professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon. His research focuses on the diversity of microbial life and the interactions between humans and microbes. Morar is an assistant professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon. His research focuses on bioethics, the philosophy of biology, and continental philosophy. Morar is a 2019–20 OHC Faculty Research Fellow. They embarked on this collaboration over three years ago and have recently published an article in the Quarterly Review of Biology titled “The Conceptual Ecology of the Human Biome.” Morar is teaching "Ethics in Life Sciences" this fall.

Civic Winery and Wines is a new urban winery, wine bar, and bottle shop housed in a restored 1930s building featuring reclaimed wood from Eugene’s historic Civic Stadium. The winery focuses on organic and biodynamic grape production aged on site in locally made ceramic amphorae.

The event is free and open to the public. Beverages and snacks are available for purchase. For more information call 541-346-3934.