Tag Archives: Community

How Smell Shapes Our Lives

There is no thing that we do on a macro scale that does not exist on a micro scale. Recurring echoes of self similarity with a blend of melodic dissonance is what makes up the magnificent symphony of structure we call biology. Smell is no exception:

The Problem With Deception

Our assumptions form a lens that renders a convincing image in our mind. The lens can then begin to calibrate the relative value of evidence we see so that it reinforces the assumption. Because the lens produces certainty, but not necessarily accuracy, we may end up in a convincing cocoon of certainty even though it is potentially false. The problem with deception is, if we are deceived, by definition we are unaware of it. Many of us appear to confuse the certainty rendered through the lens built on our assumptions with the truth. The real tragedy is when we use that certainty to dismiss, disregard and even dehumanize each other… If we ride on the winds of our false certainty to diminish each other, we also become the the authors of our own poverty.

Here’s a more detailed look at confirmation bias: https://thewisdomoflife.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/confirmation-bias-what-is-it-why-is-it-important-and-what-can-we-do-about-it-2/

The Social Life of Plants

Plants have any number of methods to communicate both internally and externally in order to keep themselves informed and respond to their environment and developmental needs. They use this vast array of capacities to negotiate their way toward maturity and reproduction among other things. As it turns out, plants have a rich social life. They are for instance able to forge relationships with various benefactors in the plant and animal kingdoms and coordinate their effort, including the recruitment of other creatures, to ward off antagonists. They sense, and think without the means of a brain as we understand brains, yet they have the capacity to perceive and respond on remarkable levels which we are only beginning to understand. Here is a documentary on some of the recently discovered attributes of plants.

Cultivation Vs Domination

Science is increasingly recognizing that nature presents the most effective strategy as cultivation rather than domination – that the target is to cultivate a relationship field that attends to nourishing and protecting a community bound together with mutually beneficial ties as well as a willingness to defend the fruits that come from that community activity. We would do well to begin to apply this same cultivation vs domination principle to all aspects of life, from farming to interpersonal relationships to business and government, since our common ground is Earth.

From the article: “We have long believed that “good” immune cells recognise and defend against “bad” invaders. That’s why a large proportion of medicine has been directed at killing microbial enemies and conquering microbial infections.

This militaristic understanding of immunity reflected the culture of the 20th century, which was dominated by nation building and world wars between “us” and “them.” …a radical shift in understanding the relationship between humans and microorganisms occurred with the discovery that only 50% of the cells in our bodies are human. The rest are microbes, such as bacteria, yeasts (members of the fungus family), viruses, and even insects. Together, these make up the microbiome… Because we have evolved with microorganisms inside us, we now have specialised communities in our guts, on our skin, and in our mouths. Our microbes are understood to be so critical to our existence”

For more information: https://theconversation.com/essays-on-health-microbes-arent-the-enemy-theyre-a-big-part-of-who-we-are-79116

Chemistry is Language

Just because we are not consciously aware of the influence of chemical communication signals that inform and direct our behaviors does not mean they are not present in abundance. The same way chemical signals like hormones within the body inform and direct the behaviors of various cells and organs, chemical signals also do this between us. Pheromones are chemical signals that change the behaviors of other animals of the same species.

Pheromone actions in humans have been investigated, but the evidence thus far is generally considered weak. While the evidence of pheremonic communication among every other organism is staggering, signaling such things as alarm, where food sources are, triggering sexual arousal and behaviors, bonding behaviors, repulsion and attraction and so on, somehow we have resisted acknowledging this same communication channel happening among humans.

My guess is this area of science has been historically stagnated by false assumptions and wishful thinking. Perhaps a desire to keep humans in a special class, perhaps due to the fact that we idolize verbal awareness so much we confuse our meager, error prone , but convincing verbal map with the actual territory, but the evidence that we are just like every other biological organism, the product of a complex tapestry of communication on multiple levels, which we only get to see a fragment of, is now emerging with more convincing vigor. Here is one such study along those lines:


Where does Intelligence Reside?

The one on the left is a wasp, the one on the right is a moth. The question is; Where, how and on what level does the intelligence by which this mimicry takes place reside?


If we define intelligence as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, examples of mimicry like the example detailed in this story (linked below) have always left me wondering how a biological organism would be able to perceive and respond, at whatever level it takes, to recognize and assemble this cloak of deception without some capacity to sense “other minds” as well as a capacity to carry out a morphological change in response to that recognition of what’s going on in the mind of the other species…

For this moth to drape itself in the cloak of a wasp is a remarkable event, which we seem to be able to adequately describe, but our descriptions are certainly not explanations. In terms of explaining the event, what we typically call out, (adaptation, which is a description, not really an explanation) seems inadequate on its own without some kind of recognition of a sophisticated capacity for conceptualization and response embedded in the biological framework going on at some level that produces this sophisticated expression of adaptation. Just thinking out loud here.


Humans are Part of a Much Larger Biological Parliament of Relationships

We humans are part of a much larger biological parliament of relationships. It is this wide context of relationships that transcends “human” and includes the other life forms we live in the context of is what defines how we experience our life. It is the whole community, not any isolated part that defines what we call “us”. Injuries that impact this larger biological parliamentary body of relationships we are composed of can powerfully shape us over time. Minor injuries for instance can heal without any long term effects, but deeper kinds of injuries can echo for long periods. We commonly know that serious wounds to our physical body, or severe trauma experiences can reshape our brain structure and define how we respond to the world from that point forward,. What is not as commonly known is that injuries to the collection of microbes that live in and on us (called the microbiome) can also affect the way we see and respond to the world for a long time. In this case, research done in mice indicates that a mother under stress can result in injuries to the microbiome we depend on for many aspects of development. This can cause cognitive defects and anxiety in the child, and the effects of these injuries can persist all the way through adulthood.

Life is an interconnected tapestry of relationships that requires certain conditions to be cultivated in order to be able to realize it’s full potential. Recognizing these the widely dispersed cause and effect cues in this complex relationship field is the key to being able to shape them intentionally.

Click here to read further “Stress During Pregnancy Negatively Impacts Fetus, Microbiome may Explain Why

The Two Primary Drivers of Biological and Social Order

Any coherent unit of order, no matter if it is biological or social from an organism, to a group, to organizations and communities, or nation states are established by two primary behavioral drivers. The first driver is a collection of coordinated activities that establish the integrity of the unit. A group needs a cementing bond to identify “self” from “other”. Self behaviors are aligned around the community. In biological terms, an individual organism is built on a framework of shared genetics and common epigenetics that form a cohesive bond. In the case of complex creatures like ourselves, this coordinated effort extends to specialized organs that coordinate activities to maintain integrity, and the ability to collectively obtain and metabolize nutrients that also maintain the integrity.

In social terms, integrity also has bonds, these bonds may be formed with a set of ideas. It could be the love of a sport, or the behaviors that support the commonwealth of the community. In all cases, the global principle is that there is some form of cohesive glue that establishes and maintains the integrity of the group, thus establishing a metabolism social order.

Behavioral expressions are the way a social group demonstrates and reassures itself that it is maintaining integrity as a cohesive unit. These behaviors are how a group nourishes itself. This can come in the form of ritual behaviors such social nit picking in chimpanzees, or in the case of humans, it could come in the form of uniform clothing, symbols, the wearing of hats, common language, saluting a flags, the saying of pledges, or taking of oaths either formal or informal. These things, and how they are valued determine the strength of the bonds that maintain the metabolism of the group.

The second primary driver of group cohesion is the development of a kind of “behavioral immune system” that has the capacity to reject any behaviors or contend with situations that are perceived to be potentially harmful or destructive to the integrity of the group. This social immune system that provides a defensive group cohesion engine is not unique to humans by any means. In fact, we are but one expression of this global biological driver that is threaded throughout the entire web of biological life from top to bottom. We see its expression biochemically and socially.

Here is one small example of this principle at work in the case of ravens, those that cheat are excluded from the protective network of cooperative birds. Ravens are able to cooperate when, for example, mobbing predators, but they exclude cheaters because they free ride on the assumed risks the others take. Here is more detail on this group cohesion behavior in ravens.

Phylosymbiosis: Cooperative Relationships as a Matter of Survival


It has become increasingly apparent that larger organisms like ourselves cannot live alone. A certain community of bacterial associates must live in, and on a host organism. This relationship is sometimes essential for the host’s well being as well as that of the the microorganisms. Different animals have a specific array of microorganisms that function in roles that offer adaptive advantage in the context of the environment. These roles include digestion, protection from destructive pathogens and so on. They have also been shown to play roles in reproduction and sociality among other things.

This relationship between host and microbial organisms should perhaps come as no surprise because complex organisms such as ourselves arose from cooperative ties between microorganisms and viral components. We are, from a certain perspective, a microbial community ourselves as we are composed of a community of like cells, differentiated slightly into various organ roles that operate as a community. This same principle applies to the more fluid, extended microbial community in the environment.

How this community of relationships forms and develops between a host and the microbiome has been the focus of recent studies on the cutting edge of evolutionary biology. It appears that the relationship between host an microbiome can and does shape the evolutionary path of this collective “community”. Each organism plays a role as a voice in a choir, and the persistent demands of the environment is the choirmaster. The fact that there are severe fitness disadvantages in hosts that don’t have an appropriate blend of microorganism companions is an indication of how crucial this cooperative communal role is to develop. Together, the host and all the corresponding microorganisms that live in together are called a metaorganism.

The host organism actively cultivates a climate to identify microbial friends from enemies. One of the things that emerged in terms of understanding how these communal relationships are forged is that the host’s is able to recognize phylogenic similarities between itself and the various microbial genomes. It does so using its immune system as the sensor to differentiate friend from foe. In other words; the host’s genotype is in part responsible for the composition of microbiota which the metaorganism consists of. The more distantly related species, the less preferred it is. Of particular note is the fact that self similarity in the collective genomes between host and microbe are tied to their inclination to service each other’s needs. Phylogenetic similarity is what appears to incline them to confer advantage toward each other. In other words, the more similar, the more likely their behaviors will center on cooperation.

The host’s immune system is the vehicle that cultivates specific relationships from the environmental microbiome. It is this recapitulation of host phylogeny by microbiota that is called phylosymbiotic relationship. Over time, this relationship field in the metaorganism inclines toward a host-bacterial homeostasis that collectively offers adaptive advantages and in some cases, obligate (necessary) relationships, without which the communal social system would break down.

For more on this, see Seth Bordenstein’s talk on the topic.

What is Important?

This video is a perspective on what’s important.

Here is a text of the narration:

What is important?

What is important? How would we measure it, and how would we know the measure was accurate? Although there are many possible ways, if we use a scale of things that have the most profound influence on our ability to realize our full potential, and use that to measure what we currently apply our energies to as a global culture; we can see the gap, the gap between what’s important, and what we do.

Somewhere in our not so distant past, on some day we couldn’t pinpoint because we weren’t watching, we crossed a critical threshold. We crossed the threshold where we no longer live in a world where people starve because we can’t feed them; we now live in a world where people starve because we don’t feed them. We have the skills and resources to make this a plentiful world, but we do not yet have the focus, nor the will – to do what’s important.

We have the capacity to cultivate a world brimming with potential – potential that can only be realized if we have each other’s backs. Instead we live in a world where, acting out of fear, we have to watch our backs – a world where we have to defend ourselves from ourselves. Maybe we don’t recognize this is the recipe for self made poverty – maybe we are suffering the echo of our collective traumatic past, where a veil of ignorance forced us to be at the mercy of a frightening and often cruel environment, and as a result, we learned to exploit each other, to dominate, or be dominated… This is a past we need to navigate away from if we’re going to cultivate our full potential. Until we do this, we will continue to rob ourselves of what’s important.

What’s important is you – the family, who shapes the lens through which the child understands reality by the way you treat them and each other. You forge their developing identity in the fires of the relationships you expose them to, and this defines whether that fire will refine them, or destroy them. You are the port from which the child launches, and you define what that child will be equipped with to navigate the wider social seas, and how they will influence those they touch – for the rest of their lives. You are what’s important.

What’s important is you – the teachers, who have the wheel that steers the future as you pass the torch of knowledge to the next generations. You’re not merely an installer of facts, but a primary cultivator of the tools that will determine whether we will capably face the challenges that lie before us, or sink under their weight. You have a powerful hand on the rudder that steers this Earthen ship of ours through sometimes troubled waters. Together with the family, you set the tone for the direction we will travel. You are what’s important.

What’s important is you – the friend, who doesn’t have to be asked, but actively seeks to offer your best. Your behavioral vocabulary doesn’t include apathy. You willingly act on behalf of your friends – ready to deliver a comforting word, a helping hand, or a stinging challenge depending on the need – your purpose remains constant – to serve each other. You have a powerful hand in the stability of this Earthen ship in which we all ride. And your aid through the storms, and companionship in fair weather, makes this journey we’re all on worthwhile. You are what’s important.

What’s important is you – the stranger, who may not be familiar with those in other ships that pass by, but know that they are full of kindred kinds – you who understand that it takes all of us, communicating through actions big and small, that we’re in this together, that we share the same waters – and that sharing what we have of value with each other is the reason for the abundance we have. You are the one that opens the door without being asked – you don’t hesitate to act to strengthen the larger community of life on which we all depend for breath because you know you are part of that same body. You are what’s important.

And what’s important is Earth – it is our common ground and our greatest teacher. On it we can stand together and flourish – or divided we can fall back into the soil which once generously gave us this opportunity for a plentiful life. Earth has given us what we need and taught us by writing its lessons into the fabric of who we are – like the need to strike a balance between give and take that’s written into our breath… and how all it asks in return is that we recognize that using that breath to cultivate fruitful relationships is what’s really important.


0003-What Is Important