Is having Purell everywhere really that good an idea?

No matter where you go these days there seems to be some kind of Purell (or similar product) dispenser because God forbid I get my cappuccino without eradicating every germ on my hands. My students are familiar with my “caveman filter.” No, this does not mean I’m a caveman, though that wouldn’t really bother me. It relates to how would our ancient ancestors have handled X or Y? For example, would they have needed to frequently shampoo and condition their hair? Chances are no. And I’ve proved this, at least in my non-scientific study of one (me). I had pretty annoying dandruff since I was a kid. I tried every dandruff shampoo out there. “Big Pharma” types like Head and Shouders or Selsun Blue as well as the overpriced organic offerings from Whole Foods. Nothing worked. I mean that literally. Nothing was what worked. Yes, I mean I do not shampoo my hair. And since the day I stopped I haven’t seen a flake of dandruff. I rinse in hot water, use conditioner and some jojoba oil and that’s it. Death to dandruff. Ok, maybe the caveman from whose loins I sprang thousands and thousands and thousands of years later didn’t use conditioner and jojoba oil, but you get my point. They did not clean everything in sight. And guess what, they survived and thrived in a time where survival was the biggest challenge of the day.

The same, I would surmise holds true for the ubiquitous appearance of Purell over the last 10 years or so. For those of you who can’t see gray area, I’m not suggesting you wash your hands in the toilet prior to flushing. I’m suggesting that killing all germs is probably not a great idea. It stands to reason that we are weakened when we don’t need to fight anything off because it’s already been killed for us. I’m about to start NassimTaleb’s book “Antifragile” which deals with this idea of disorder helping us improve and when everything is neat and tidy we are not as well off. It seems to me that a society which uses Purell by the metric ton would be better off getting a little dirty.


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