Category Archives: Practice

A Wide Angle Lens on Life & Biology

My guess is the chief inhibitor to unlocking a clear vision of what the multivariate factors are that drive our experience of life is largely due to the linear reductionist lens we tend to apply when looking at relational systems such as ourselves. Linear reductionist lenses are like using a black and white crayon in an attempt to render a full spectrum image. While it gives us information, some of it quite useful, there is a diminishing law of returns which turns to a negative rendering value after a certain point of inflection.

Linear, fixed focal point lenses are not capable of rendering a full understanding of the workings of complex adaptive systems since, for instance, there is no inherent beginning or end to a given system, but diffuse nested fields of interrelated influences. As a consequence of using unifocal lenses, we often become enchanted with the linear images produced through it, albeit we also become blind in a sense, because much of the rendering is a function of the lens and not an accurate representation of the relational landscape it is pointed toward.

If we apply a systemic relationship lens to biology for instance, we then see a porous increasingly diffuse nested set of influences between organisms rather than distinct isolated organisms separated by fixed membranes. There is a porous interdependent set of relational bonds that lead to the same unified whole which we can detect by picking any point in a system. For instance; we can see the connections between the atoms, organelles, cells, and organs inside our body, and this inward coherency then extends outward to the microbiome, the local environment, the larger ecosystem, planet, star system galaxy etc. all the way to the whole of the cosmos. Were we to pick any other point in that nested collection we could also trace it from that focal point to the nested fields of influences which define that point, and extend again to the whole as well. In effect, linear images are useful, but have their limits. Whenever we choose a focal point, we also sacrifice the larger context.

When we use a systemic relationship lens through which to look at the whole biological economy, we can see with greater depth into the larger biological body of life in which we live, and on which we depend. What defines our local experience in terms of stability or instability in the final analysis is more like a cultivated commitment of a parliamentary nature than any kind of sovereign relational theme. Coherency is built on the strength of serving mutual needs of nourishment and defense. Our experience is cultivated on the preponderance of relationships that are sometimes necessary, sometimes laced with compromise, but always that serve purposes in relation to adaptation โ€“ that of remaining a coherent by way of sufficient nourishment and defense as an entity over time in the context of the environment. We realize this threshold of “being” by way of finding and maintaining this coherent equilibrium in the context of the larger environment. We see things like our individual identity and group sociality built on this same engine of nested influences. Understanding this is both the key to maximal growth, and a sustainable equilibrium in relationship to the carrying capacity of the environment.

I could be missing something(s)

Here is an example of the diffuse bonds of influence that conspire to shape what we experience as life and being.

Opinion: Microbial Mind Controlโ€”Truth or Scare?

Normal brain function may have evolved to depend on gut microbes and their metabolites.

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/opinion-microbial-mind-controltruth-or-scare-36352

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The Behavioral Theme of Biology is Nourishment and Defense

One of the major themes expressed through biological systems of all types on many scales is activity that lends itself to supporting coherence over time. The strategies are numerous, but pivot on the theme of coherence by way of “renewal” actions over time. In a variable environment with antagonistic agents that break down systems that need continual renewal to remain coherent, coherence sometimes means making sacrificial gestures that may not appear to serve from a short term perspective, but are necessary in when the perspective shifts to the long term. Here is one of those examples: *How a slime mold near death packs bacteria to feed the next generation* “…In the final frenzy of reproduction and death, social amoebas secrete proteins that help preserve a starter kit of food for its offspring.” https://www.sciencenews.org/article/how-slime-mold-near-death-packs-bacteria-feed-next-generation

Biological Influences on Identity Being and Personality

The influences that conspire to define what we experience as things like identity, being and personality type are built on a deep ocean of context based relationships which we have only begun to see with any real clarity, much less harness to our advantage. The currents of influence on which we ride have yet to be captured by the meager net of abstractions we feebly waggle into the depths in hopes of capturing something of value. Here’s a look at one tiny portion of this vast ocean of opportunity we have yet to discover and settle by way of leveraging our understanding toward progress.

An Ancient Virus Lurking in Our Genes Could Play an Important Role in Some Addictions

“…An unusual version of a retrovirus nestled between genes involved in brain chemistry is more common in individuals with a drug dependency than the rest of the population.*

https://www.sciencealert.com/endogenous-retrovirus-hk2-insertion-dopamine-gene-role-in-addiction

An Advance in Protecting the Brain from Dementia

Mitochondria is an organelle (tiny organ) inside our cells. One of the vital roles of it plays in the biological community is to produce a molecule we use as energy. It is like a central bank of our cells. It produces the currency by which things get done. The energy molecule is called ATP. (adenosine triphosphate) A loss of function in mitochondria can negatively impact our biological systems in a number of ways. ATP is not the only role of mitochondria. They also produce many other things by way of their own DNA. Among these biologically meaningful structures is a peptide called humanin.

Mitochondria communicate back to the cell and actively engage in determining major cellular policies in that larger context through signals communicated through structures like humanin. (these are called retrograde signals) Humanin, and many other signals are encoded in the nuclear genome of the organelle and play a crucial “voice in the choir” role in making sure the whole relationship economy functions. Humanin in particular plays a protector role in the cell against damage. (This is called a cytoprotective role). When the population of humanin, and other peptides that together provide for proper function of cells like ours (eukaryotic cells) becomes disproportionate the cellular needs, we suffer degradation of the systems we depend on. This can include dementia when it comes to brain function. Here’s a closer look at how the understanding of these roles can lead us to forming effective treatments.

๐— ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐—น ๐—ฃ๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ ๐—ฃ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—”๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜€๐˜ ๐——๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฎ

“…researchers to believe that humanin levels play an important function in the aging process and the onset of diseases linked to older age… Because of the beneficial effects of humanin, a decrease in circulating levels could lead to an increase in several different diseases of aging, particularly in dementia”

https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/news/mitochondrial-peptide-protects-against-dementia

Discovering Biological Friends and Foes

 

Not all viruses are dangerous. For instance; some are vital to how we function. The effects of endogenous retroviruses (those that stitch themselves into the human genome) are thought to have been essential for the evolutionary development of placental mammals as one example. Viruses can strategically trigger actions such as reproduction and, or go dormant depending on the biological climate at the time. The fact that cell replication in complex organisms like ourselves takes place and then goes dormant strategically may be due, at least in part, to the influence of viruses in the form of the genetic remnants of the traits that are now embedded in our genes. This, along with many other functions in human biology are parallel to, and could potentially be a result of, the influence of viral behaviors.

In addition to physiology, viruses are known to affect other behaviors such as those we categorize as psychological. The rabies virus is one well known virus that causes increased saliva flow and aggression in mammals. The borna disease virus can infect a number of animals, including humans. It has been known to cause hyperactivity, somnolence, depression and agitation. The point being; our experience as humans is built on a biological relationship economy that extends well beyond a stable set of genes. The relationship field from which we are composed can be cultivated, but it requires understanding how the whole process works. We have a long way to go, but we have made progress.

The spectrum of relationships in nature spans from constructive to destructive and that constructive vs. destructive trait depends on context. Some biological relationships contribute adaptive value, in these cases they are conserved. Viruses, like bacteria and so on can play destructive roles in the context of one system and a neutral or beneficial role in the context other systems. Like the role our various systems play from the respiratory system which carries nutrients in the form of oxygen to our cells, to the immune system which seeks out and destroys perceived antagonists, viruses also exist on this spectrum.. Some are lytic, in that they damage the relationship systems the host cell(s) depend on in such a way that the system is disrupted or destroyed. Understanding this destructive end of the biological spectrum, and how to remedy and or prevent these things from happening in the context of human systems is an important part of the further development of medicine. Here is a look at some of the work going on at the forefront of that discovery process:

๐——๐—ฒ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐——๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜€ ๐—Ÿ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€

“…Most people on the planet are thought to carry the HHV-6 virus, which doesnโ€™t cause symptoms in the majority of cases. Antibodies to the virus can be found in anywhere from 95 to 100 percent of healthy individuals, showing that most adults have become infected at some point. Itโ€™s thought to be harmless, but in people that have undergone organ transplant, take immunosuppressants, or get a chlamydia infection, the virus can become active… Two types of the virus exist; HHV-6B tends to infect infants and HHV-6A is usually asymptomatic. It does, however, integrate into cellular DNA, where it can remain for a lifetime. It has recently been suggested that the virus can reactivate and may play a role in a variety of diseases including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or Alzheimer’s… This work indicates that some prescriptions drugs might be able to reactivate HHV-6, leading to life-threatening danger for the patient. It may be very useful to identify these cases early.”

https://www.labroots.com/trending/microbiology/12741/detecting-dangerous-latent-viruses

The Relationship Engine that Defines Biology

 

If we step out of our structural model of โ€œorganismโ€ and โ€œgeneticsโ€ and look instead through a relational model that defines biology in general, we see a relationship climate in the biological landscape spectrum that spans from obligate (necessary) mutualism, through commensal relationships that benefit both parties, all the way to predatorily competitive where one benefits and the other is destroyed. Through this lens we begin to see the basis for the emergent intertwined systems we see in biology.

With this model a full spectrum of behaviors would happen in the context of a single organism for instance. Our own system has certain obligate mutualistic relationships such as that between our vital organs. We have commensal relationships with microbes that provide valuable services for the proper processing of food and get to flourish themselves as a result. We also have an immune system that predatorily looks for antagonists and seeks to destroy them.

Systems that align themselves around coherence through the acquisition and support of sustainable nourishment and defense of that coherence through the destruction, or compensation for antagonistic factors (pathogens) that are perceived to threaten that coherence. (Autoimmune diseases would be an example of a disproportionate response in this process)

This twofold relational axiom (Coherence and defense of coherence) is what defines adaptive biological systems. When we look through this coherence lens, the membrane that defines sustained coherence is not defined by genetics, or by the skin of any one organism, neither is it based on a singular organism. It is defined by an adaptive array of relationships across the spectrum that lend themselves to establishing and maintaining coherence. These various relationships are threaded through many organisms and sometimes only parts of other organisms which together define a single relational system.

A sustainable relational economy is one that is adapted to the environment with a proportional amount sampled from that full spectrum. In other words, nourishing coherence and defense of coherence is threaded through many creatures that form a collective body.

Here is an accidental discovery that happened to discover one of these defensive systems in plants which occurred when trying to study the effects of gravity on plants.

๐—”๐—ป ๐—”๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜‡๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—›๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐—ช๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ฎ ๐—ฃ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—š๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—›๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐˜, ๐— ๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—บ ๐— ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ฆ๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ถ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—”๐—ป๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—น๐˜€

“…When plants are under attack… their defense systems are raised in other parts…. plants use the same signalling molecules that animals use in their nervous system… the signals as they travel in waves through plants in response to a stressor… there’s this systemic signalling system, and if you wound in one place the rest of the plant triggers its defense responses… if a plant gets wounded, an electrical charge fires, propagating across the plant. In animals, an excited nerve cell releases an amino acid called glutamate, which triggers a wave of electrically charged calcium ions that propagate to cells farther and farther away from the site… what happened to the plants is… Waves of light flow out from the source of the wound, spreading through the plant… once the wave hits, defensive hormones rise in that region of the plant.”

https://www.sciencealert.com/plant-damage-response-defence-calcium-ions-glutamate-fluorescent

The Map of the Journey We’re On

The structure of the cosmos seems to clearly communicate that some local relationship economies bear fruit and some do not. In other words; we can count the seeds in an apple, but not the apples in a seed if it is cultivated properly. Of course there are many conditionals in that cultivation, but this is the general theme.

Cultivating opportunity depends on any number of contexts, but is rooted in recognizing and applying that which lends nourishment and protection to that which satisfies first basic needs, then nourishes some expanded potential, this latter aspect requires some abundance to service growth. This means actively cultivating the opportunity in the environment. (which happens to be one of our needs that satisfies us once it is met) Diminishing or destroying potential, or being exposed to antagonistic factors that are beyond our control can thwart or destroy that potential.

This need to cultivate motif sets the tone for the relational economy we must negotiate if we are to realize our full potential: Are we participating, or basking in an environment that nourishes and protects the cultivation of our fullest potential? If not, what, if anything, can we do about it? These are the questions we must ask to have any chance to realize our opportunity.

Some of us are infected with pathogenic structures, and or environments, either physical, mental or both, that prevent us from realizing our potential. Sometimes, even though we have the opportunity to bend our activities more directly toward growth, we are nonetheless inclined us to actively participate in activities that do not nourish and defend that fruitful relational engine that leads to our full potential. Self sabotage is common among us. It comes in many forms such as learned helplessness, or lacking the courage to sever parasitic and predatory relationships and forge new mutually beneficial ones that are more nourishing and protective of not only our potential, but that of the interdependent community that emerges from that fruitful relational soil.

To reorient a self defeated life we must recognize that engaging in parasitic or predatory activities such as developing or maintaining social relationships with persons who do not nourish and defend our potential, but feed on or stagnate it, or failing to cultivate the opportunities within our reach must be replaced. We must find and develop mutually beneficial relationships and activities to the degree we are able to cultivate them. That means we look for valuable things to bring to the table, and we also look to invest that contribution where it has an opportunity to return more value than it consumes. This is the recipe for a reality that is more inclined to work in our favor. Engaging in the pursuit of short term pleasures at the expense of long term satisfaction, or staying in social relationship climates that will never nourish our potential and the like is a recipe for a reality that is more likely to work against our favor.

There are any number of complex variables that can go into the barriers to potential, some of which are outside our local control, but the segment that is within our control is our only opportunity, and it is that climate which we must devote our abilities in order to cultivate our most satisfied potential. This is no different from any other organism, and it is one of the foundational statements made by way of how the cosmos is structured as far as I can tell.

I could be missing something(s)

The Art of Communication Has A Long Tradition

Collections of cells working together as a unified body, producing specialized behaviors that lend adaptive advantage on a group scale which include some sacrificial acts that benefit that larger community is not unique to complex multicellular organisms like ourselves. It is more of a relationship theme that that has been threaded into biology long before multicellularity as we know it emerged. It involves perceiving necessities, and communicating these necessities across a biological domain so that effective behavioral responses can take place. This community principle, complete with communication across a wide biological landscape has been present, and conserved throughout our biological history – a unified purpose among different biological entities that arose out of necessity long before multicellular (metazoic) creatures emerged. Here is an example of how this takes place among microbes:

How Microbes Communicate Over Long Distances

“…Percolation is familiar to anyone who brews coffee, and it helped researchers at the University of California San Diego understand how bacteria communicate with one another over long distances. Communities of bacteria, sometimes called biofilms, arenโ€™t just a clump of bacterial cells. It seems they can send signals to one another with ion channels, promoting the survival of the community and protecting it from attacks. New findings on that communication have been reported in Cell Systems.”

 

Link to full article:

https://www.labroots.com/trending/microbiology/12216/microbes-communicate-distance

Biology is a Symphony of Variations Built on a Coherent Theme

 

Any coherent system in nature has some combination of self similarity with other systems as well as some unique points of differentiation. In other words; nature has themes, and variations on the theme. Biology is no exception to this rule. When we consider the mind boggling complexity with which the relationship economy we call biology is expressed on many scales, we can easily get lost in the complexity. In order to understand it with a maximally useful perspective we must be able to tell the difference between the self similar themes and the mind boggling variations on those themes.

With an understanding of the difference between theme and variation, we can then identify the key leverage points which influence various systems more intentionally and effectively. As we ferret out the principle axioms on which complex systems rely – the simple rules behind the complexity – the global properties threaded through the biological economy – we then have tools to more rapidly see the many variations on the theme, and with this clarified vision, we are also poised to more effectively influence the nature of the processes and by extension our experience of life.

The heartbeat of the integrity on which biological systems rely is a relationship economy built on a cultivated harmony of mutually nourishing relationships, along with a proportional attendance to defending that nourishing relationship field from antagonists. This two stroke relational engine is facilitated by various means of perception structures that are aimed at identifying nourishment from antagonist, as well as a repertoire of corresponding behaviors that relate appropriately with each type of perception.

Biological systems must acquire information and act appropriately on that information – information related to acquiring nourishment while avoiding and or destroying antagonists. Acquiring nourishment in service of the mutually nourishing relationship field that defines its continuing coherency, along with an immune system to protect that nourishing social economy is the theme. Acquiring and sharing information to this “nourish and protect” end, along with manufacturing structures that facilitate a proportional response, is how biological systems are “expressed”.

Biology can be viewed as a collection of structures that must perceive and share information across the network of mutually nourishing bodies, as well as structures that can act on these perceptions. We see this theme at the cellular level, between cells, at the organ level, between organs, and at the species level, and between species. The same way varied expressions of musical communication can be generated from a basic theme of 7 notes, the overarching theme of the biological economy is variously expressed by way of simple thematic foundations – variations on the theme.

This “perception and response” theme that facilitates the axiomatic core of “nourish and protect” behavior is itself the thematic nucleus of biology. If information needs to be shared, it is accomplished by way of structures purposed toward a specific “meaning” that fits into this thematic core. If a defense requirement is perceived by way of structure, it is also expressed behaviorally by way of structure. Structures in the context of biology convey meaning.

These meaningful structures from which biology is composed also have self similar themes. Many established structures are variations on the theme; “perceive and respond to nourish and protect” โ€“ established structures are frequently repurposed to accomplish many different things in service of the perceiving and communication engine in service of nourishing and protecting.

With all of this in mind, we can then see that the way communication is facilitated by way of certain structures in the brain may be an expression of an isomorphic theme โ€“ a representation of the way organisms communicate between each other in the form of viral “communications” in the brain may also be seen as the means of carrying out the functions of perceiving, nourishing and defending in the larger biological body of life. Bacteria share information by way of structures, and viruses are certainly worthy of being considered as a potential means by which perceiving, nourishing and defending goes on in an ecosystem. The reason this may be worth consideration is because “thoughts” in the form of viral like structures is the the physical form of the information economy within the brain. When we consider this pathway for information sharing, we might ponder how this same structural process might play out in the larger body of life, using viral like particles as the means of sharing information, nourishing and or protecting integrity.

Brain Cells Share Information With Virus-Like Capsules

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/01/brain-cells-can-share-information-using-a-gene-that-came-from-viruses/550403/

The Backfire Effect: Plain Truth Sometimes Increases Ignorance

 

The backfire effect is a name for the human social phenomena that exists where when we are given evidence counter to our already established belief, even if that belief is a hope, desire or the like in disguise, we tend to not only reject the conflicting evidence, but believe even more strongly in our original proposition as a result of the encounter.

This makes the many self appointed “rational warriors” in our culture agents of increasing cultural ignorance when tactics of persuasion that include things like ridicule, and loudly speaking what is perceived to be “important science” to what is is perceived as “the unwashed masses” are employed. Rather than agents of increasing rationality, ridicule and brutal honesty are not effective, regardless of whether or not they may be true.

We see this cultural phenomena in the anti vaccine movement, and other beliefs that require a vigorous denial of plain evidence to maintain. My guess is the reasons for this are at least partially rooted in the fact that, generally speaking, we are social-emotional creatures with a small capacity for rational thought. We are not rational creatures who are also social and emotional. When sincere efforts to combat ignorance simply use fact, and do not also accommodate those emotional-social realities, they tend to backfire fortifying ignorance among those of us who perceive we’re under attack.

Our personal identities have their own ideological immune response system and like our biological one, we become more able to fend off “attacks” over time as we’re exposed to them. Additionally, we can develop what amounts to an ideological autoimmune disease in our perception faculties, where we retreat to a belief matrix that is increasingly divorced from pragmatic realities.

The methods by which we communicate, including the social-emotional subtext of those communications, become part of the means by which things are accepted or rejected. This is the reality of the social economy. Genuine persuasion appears to be built on trust, and that trust sometimes must be established over time, especially when in the context of a prior relational strain stemming from perceived disrespect, or a history of prior emotional strain related to the topic on the part of the person(s) being communicated with. The capacity to communicate in the context of ideological differences requires more than an economy of facts. It must also include a baseline of respect at the very least as a starter for any real communication to have a chance to take place.

*France’s fact-based approach to teaching the public about Lyme disease has backfired*

From the article: “Rather than quieting the concerns of Lyme advocates, Franceโ€™s national plan is further entrenching two extremes.”

https://undark.org/article/france-chronic-lyme-disease/

 

More information on the backfire effect:ย https://medium.com/homeland-security/the-social-psychology-of-the-backfire-effect-locking-up-the-gears-of-your-mind-a79d4e6e8061

 

There are some who think the backfire effect is not real, or at least exxagerated. Here is an article about this.

http://mashable.com/2017/05/06/oatmeal-backfire-effect-comic/#Py0CmJZf3iqr