Tag Archives: life

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

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The Purpose of Life is Written into the Structure of Biology

A skin cell does many vital jobs over the course of it’s life. It is arguably part of the more defensive oriented aspects of our biological economy. Each cell lives and dies, in part, to protect the whole body that gave birth to it and nourished it to maturity. Skin cells share a common legacy with all cells, to serve nourishing and, or defensive roles in relation to the community, whose integrity depends on enough of that shared value for the interdependent community to survive, and if there is a sufficient commitment to that end, to flourish.

The whole process takes around 6 weeks, from being “born”, to being pushed up through the layers in about 4 weeks, to dying and serving even in death for about two weeks as part of the stratum corneum. (Outer layer of skin) Other cells in our body live much longer, but all that are significant (not antagonistic to the body) are also aligned around the purpose of nourishing and defending the whole community which also nourishes and defends them.

My guess is this statement made through this biological economy, happens on many scales. It applies to biological organisms like us in reference to the ecological economy in which we live and on which we depend as a species. Finding and serving this role of constructive service is also the difference between a significant life and a meaningless life for us. It seems to depend on whether or not we found and played a role, no matter how small, in leaving something more constructive in our wake than the sacrifices that had to be made for us to be here at all.

This understanding and constructive expression of significance strikes me as the key to a satisfied life. We appear to be biologically wired to be satisfied by finding and expressing our nourishing and/or defensive role in the context of the community. I am pretty sure this is why we never meet anyone who is both malignantly selfish to the parasitic and predatory exclusion of others, and satisfied at the same time. Again, as far as I can tell, this move toward constructive significance seems to make the difference between an existence that is both to the self and frustrated in terms of purpose, and one that is more reflective of recognizing and fulfilling a role that supports the relationship economy on which we all depend for our present and our future. It is also the way evolution makes selective decisions about what will continue forward in time, and what will be selected out.

I could be missing something(s)

The Integumentary System, Part 1 – Skin Deep

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

Exploring the Origins of our Social Nature

When we are in a stadium or a packed movie house experiencing something on the edge, do we feed on the mindset of the crowd? Do we lose our sense of individuality and become part of the group body? Can cultures incentivise the adoption of ideas; not because the ideas themselves are valid, but because they act as symbolic markers of inclusion? Do these ideas become the de facto currency of social inclusion, something we tend to adopt because we are biologically wired to seek inclusion as a primary drive?

Could this be how intense stress can act to spawn populist movements with fierce devotees that tend to act on more narrow and non nuanced principles? Could this natural tendency toward a desire for coherence make us convinced of an idea, not because of its validity, but because of our need to belong to a group for protection, especially under perceived stress? Is this what happens on differing scales of intensity as a function of our social nature?

Is this holding of ideas as a means of ritual expressions that cement social bonds something we may do without being consciously aware? Is it possible we are not in touch with because we’re lost in our own little words while actually being carried on biological currents that are far deeper and powerful?

This article might reveal a clue of the origins of this type of behavior we see at many levels:

๐—›๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐˜€๐—น๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฑ ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ถ๐˜‡๐—ฒ๐—ฑ

“… a unicellular organism that may transition into a multicellular organism under stress, has just been found to have a tissue structure that was previously thought to exist only in more sophisticated animals. What’s more, two proteins that are needed by the slime mold to form this structure are similar to those that perform the same function in more sophistical animals.”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110314172317.htm

Is there such a thing as a metaphorical truth?

 

A couple thoughts on this: Is it necessary for a story to be literally true in order for it to be a legitimate source with which to govern our lives? Is there such a thing as a metaphorical truth?

While many an argument grows from whether or not a traditional story is literally true or not, there is also another aspect of stories in general that sometimes gets ignored in heat of the battle over the authenticity of this class of stories. This conflation of authenticity, credibility and usefulness as equal partners distorts our perspective of ourselves. Those are malleable factors that shift emphasis depending on what context they are applied to.

While some of us elevate certain traditional texts to the status of sacred and or literal, whether or not a story or stories are true does not take away from the fact that we humans believe in many stories that are only true by virtue of our faith in them. Money, law, human rights, government and various institutions like businesses are all stories, and our belief in them powerfully influences our experience. Whether we like it or not, they are, in a sense, reified by faith.

If we were to dissect a human, or the whole cosmos for that matter, we would never find a “human right”, or a “law” or a โ€œcorporationโ€. We would also not be able to find our past, the episodic stories we use to define our identity, and yet, these stories, like the reading of a Harry Potter novel, or the reading a scripture like the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible or Zoroastrian Texts have the capacity to frame our perception and steer our lives by virtue of how we use them as a currency for action – and that is the real power of the story – no matter whether we believe in their literal or metaphorical truth.

I could be missing something(s)

The Ties that Bind Us

There are any number of relationships, which transcend species lines, that are nonetheless vital for the proper functioning of the individual organisms within that biological relational field. These groups of organisms, or sometimes specific processes within these organisms, can form obligate (necessary) bonds that have the same characteristics as the relationships between the collection of vital organs in a singular body.
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The relationships that define the integrity and continuing function of any single organism extends far beyond that singular organism’s membrane. Each organism exists by way of an extended network of mutually nourishing and defensive relationships that collectively nourish and defend the integrity of that community. This relational lens is far more useful to see the foundational principles of biology than is a reductionist, organism-centric lens.
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The same community principle is what defines the strength and integrity of any complex adaptive system from a single cell, to organ, to the larger relationship economy we see expressed through ecosystems is also true of interpersonal relationships, families, groups, society and civilization itself. This is the underlying message communicated through the processes that define the biological economy – that forging mutualistic nourishing bonds, and by extension, a common defense, defines the level of adaptation any complex adaptive system will have to negotiate the environment.
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Here is an example of one such inter-species relational bond that illustrates the type of bond that nourishes and protects a body of life, the same way organs in a multicellular creature relate to each other:
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๐—ก๐—ฒ๐˜„ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—น๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐˜€๐˜†๐—บ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ด๐˜‚๐—บ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ป๐—ถ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ป-๐—ณ๐—ถ๐˜…๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฟ๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜‡๐—ผ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐—ฎ ๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐—ถ๐—ณ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ
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Balance is the Key to Sustainable Systems

 

Balance is the key to sustainable systems. Even vital substances like water can become harmful when they are out of balance. Too much, or too little water, T too high or too low a temperature and so on is harmful. The correct range is key, and this range is determined by the environmental context. When it comes to complex biological systems like ourselves, many forms of balance come into play. How many and which type of cells, proteins and so on are part of the biological economy that has different players with different attributes, but all operate under the unified purpose of nourishing and defending the integrity of the whole system. This principle is echoed on many scales, for instance; we must seek our nourishment, but we must also defend against antagonists as a social community, as a species, and we must nourish and defend the planet if we are to continue. The point is, this nourish and defend in the context of the community principle is what defines a stable and sustainable system. But even these “nourish and defend” traits also must be in balance; proportional to the context of the environment, otherwise they too become harmful.

The same way we go into a highly reactive mode when stressed or faced with a perceived mortal threat – this fight or flight mode, where we try out behaviors that we would never consider in any other context goes into effect. It’s part of the innate systems embedded in our biological systems that go into effect as a means of defending against the loss of the integrity we depend on to remain coherent.

Our individual cells are equipped with these same defensive mechanisms on a smaller scale. When our cells are faced with stressors or mortal threats they also try out radical strategies in an attempt to hold on to integrity as well. These radical adaptive expressions that attempt to stem the tide of destruction can sometimes result in cancer, which produces a radical class of “survivalist” cells, highly focused on, and able to rapidly, adapt. Once they gain a foothold of fiercely adaptive cells in the context of our body, which requires a certain cooperative mutually nourishing relationship climate in order to function, it threatens the integrity we depend on at that larger biological community scale.

In other words, the cancer begins to exercise this highly adaptive “try any and everything adaptive strategy” as the cancerous cells begin to multiply. The cells begin operating as an adaptive agent in its own right, with dynamic adaptive aims that separate from the unified purpose of the body which spawned the cells. It is like a speciation within a single body. Rogue maundering raider cells pillaging the body to continue to exist, not recognizing that this tax will destroy the foundation on which they depend.

Because the hyper active highly adaptive capacity operates without regard to the integrity of the larger system in which the cells reside is why cancer cells, once they develop a communal relationship with one another, are so destructive, and why they are so difficult to eradicate once gain enough ground. Their capacity to adapt by developing radical strategies on the fly makes them a particularly foe to eradicate. In this case, lung cancer develops a digestive system.

Scientists Discover a Tiny Stomach Hidden Inside Lung Tumours, Because Cancer Is Changing

Cancer cells will do whatever it takes to survive.

https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-discover-a-tiny-stomach-hidden-inside-lung-tumours-because-cancer-is-changing

Cultivating Adaptive Relationships: A Key to Survival

Relationships that can form between organisms that generate adaptive traits that would otherwise not exist, traits which are sometimes crucial in the context of the environmental conditions, can mean the difference between continuing forward through time and extinction. When these adaptive capabilities emerge in the context of environmental pressures, long term mutually beneficial relationships can then be conserved meaning maintained over time. This “forging of mutually beneficial relationships” that nourish or protect a local biological economy in the context of the environmental pressures is another form of what we call natural selection.

 

At one time these relationships formed by chance, and accumulated as a result of how they contributed to adaptation. Understanding how to cultivate these relationships, along with actively facilitating them where they can serve that adaptive purpose in the context of the larger body of life we live in and depend on in a constructive way is part of the technological lever we have as humans to influence our present and our future. Here is an example of this emerging application of evolution that may make a crucial difference in our continuing survival.

Sharing is the Recipe for a More Intentional Life

We humans have the advantage of knowing a greater swath of nature’s inherent proposition; that our position as a continuing entity is frail and precarious and that we must either tend to the blended duties that service our remaining coherent over time, or we cease to remain coherent.

As we push the envelope on drawing this map of understanding the relationship economy we depend on, we also unlock the corresponding opportunities that come from it. We do so by way of sharing our discoveries of the relational economy that defines our experience of life with each other. It becomes the catalyst for our ability to move more intentionally in a nourishing direction toward our full potential. Like the many droplets of rain that can ultimately collect into a massive lake, each small discovery, and the sharing of it, contributes to our strengthening potential to more effectively steer what we experience. Without this wealth, we are prone to be carried by the whims of circumstance, rather than be able to steer toward intentional places.

Among the recent discoveries we are beginning to map with more clarity – and that has shown much promise in giving us the ability to effective steer these relational waters we exist in – is the increasing awareness that individual organisms are inseparably networked to many other biological and physical entities in an interdependent relationship economy, and that nourishing or disrupting this relationship economy has a powerful defining influence on the experience of life of the participants in that biological economy. Our microbiome (the many organisms that live in and on us) is one of the the first tiers of influence in that wider biological relationship economy that we are mutually dependent on.

These microbial creatures we share the ride with in our local biological economy are a prime example of the extended interdependency that defines our experience of life. (and theirs) Our individual potential for a vibrant and dynamic life, or an impoverished one, is directly tied to how we negotiate the biological and physical economy we are baptized in. Here is an example of one of the potential ways we can now steer our experience more intentionally because of the exploration, discovery, and sharing of these finds with each other. What would have once been a situation we had to negotiate with little more than hope and complaint can now be intentionally influenced.

Precision editing of gut bacteria: Potential way to treat colitis

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-01-precision-gut-bacteria-potential-colitis.html