Tag Archives: relationships

In-Groups and Out-Groups: A Biological Perspective

There is a certain fungus that is able to control certain ants to serve as a vehicle to further its own reproductive ends. The ant, in this case, dies in service of reproducing the fungus. There is also the case of the bacterial parasite T. Gondii which edits rodent brains to be attracted to felines so they get eaten, which helps the bacteria to enter its spawning grounds, which is in a feline gut. (it also edits other mammal brains in different ways) There are numerous cases of parasites and viruses that have the capacity to influence other organisms in service of their specific ends. It could be said that this is the norm in nature – competing influences that ultimately result in emergent behaviors that we typically identify as belonging to “an organism” but are in fact based on the collective property of many organisms.

When we consider that we are also a collection of various organisms that are influenced by each other, each with various agendas and various means of carrying that agenda out, we can begin to see that what we call our choices, and what we think of as our identity, may in fact be a byproduct of the parliamentary constellation of influences that rises from the pool of biological organisms that define us. We may be a reflection of the relationship field from which we are composed which extends beyond human genetics.

A recognition of this, at least from the parasitic sense, there is a now “theory” on the block called ; “The parasite-stress theory” which sees our personal and cultural identities through the lens of the parasitic creatures that influence us to service their various needs. In some real respects, it posits that our cultures in large part are an emergent property of the parasitic microbes that influence our behaviors.

The evidence for this idea is the strong correlation between the strength of parasites in the relationship field of the people in a given culture and their relative state of peace or conflict in addition to whether or not the culture is conformist or individualistic etc. In other words, what we see as culture may be a mirror effect of the relationship field between organisms.

According to this video; the parasite-stress theory may be a general theory of culture and sociality. In a nutshell it acknowledges the fact that the various strategies organisms have to influence other organisms to serve its purposes do have a role in defining this thing we call us. My thought is that it would be a more accurate lens if it looked at the full spectrum of organisms, some of which are on the mutually beneficial range of influence – commensal organisms having a stake in the success of the community it depends on – and doing what they can to offer benefits such as stability, defense, long life and so on. In other words, I think this theory is on to something, but is not yet complete. If we factored in the full spectrum of influences, (rather than just the parasitic segment) we would be able to understand that our opportunity for cultivating an intentional experience of life, rather than riding ignorantly on the winds of biological chance, is rooted in whether or not we intentionally tend the biological relationship field of which we are, on which we depend and that defines this thing we call “us” to be inclined toward the commensal, mutually beneficial segment of the spectrum of relationships.

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The Battlefront between Order and Chaos

The level of depth perception coupled with the predatory behavioral inclination of cancer produces a number of intricate strategies to advance its agenda to make itself the center and overtake the carrying capacity of the community of cells in which it lives, destroying the community (and itself) in the process. Cancer is like a seditious saboteur bent on destroying a nourishing sustainable system of relationships. This predatory antagonistic bias toward the relational harmony an organism depends on and the concerted effort of that community of harmonic relationships to defend against these destructive agents is a clear illustration of the battlefront between order and chaos we see expressed throughout nature.

One of the more intricate destructive strategies employed by cancer is to cause a kind of black flag type operation, where it tricks healthy cells into producing false viral signals so that they look like they are the problem to the immune system. This diverts the healthy system’s immune response resources toward a false problem redirecting energy that might otherwise be directed at the cancer, enabling it to carry on its work of seizing more resources for itself at the expense of the larger biological community.

Here is an article detailing this process:

Researchers Now Know How Cancers Force Other Cells to Make Fake Viruses

http://www.sciencealert.com/researchers-now-know-how-cancers-force-other-cells-to-make-fake-viruses

How our Personality is Wired

Today’s wake up word is Myelin: It is a fatty insulator that surrounds the axon of some kinds of nerve cells allowing signals to pass through preferentially over those channels. When we learn motor skills like an instrument, our body responds by mylenating certain channels to make that happen easier over time. This is why we become competent at tasks. Myelin is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Myelin is the reason habits form (including what we call our identity and character in many respects) and why patterns of behavior are harder to break once established whether in an individual or a culture, and why these rituals may serve us or imprison us depending on how they are wired and how that wiring serves to help us navigate the variables of our environment.

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

The Relationship Economy that Defines a Coherent Body of Life

The article link below describes how a single species of gut bacteria can reverse autism-related social behavior in mice.

The fact that a single organism can have so much influence on mouse behavior and experience is also a glimpse not only into the powerful biological drivers that result in what all organisms experience as life, but indeed what life experience is founded on. Our behaviors and experience, including whether and how much we are social, as well as whether or not we remain a coherent part of the biological economy over time and so on are based on the relational climate that forms as a result of a parliament of organisms and environmental conditions which together operate as a coherent body which influence behaviors and experience on multiple scales.

The notion that we are an individual species, defined by our local genetics and completely separate entities from other species is dissolving as a useful means to clearly define biology. A lens that sees biology as a relational economy that transcends our notions of individual species – one that renders the image that a coherent biological body consisting of organisms of many different genetic makeups networked together in diverse ways, forming a meta body, complete with a coherent integrated metabolism and the defense mechanisms to defend that integrity in the face of antagonists – is a more appropriate lens.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160616140723.htm

On Free Will, Awareness and the Nature of Being

Many of us think we have agency – the capacity as individuals to perceive a certain portion of the local landscape of reality and use that as the basis to act independently, making our own free will choices. It comes as a surprise to some of us to discover that while an element of that perception of reality and corresponding response using a component of agency may be a piece of the puzzle, it is a small piece, if a piece at all.

Most of what we perceive and experience can be more accurately characterized as being “along for the ride” on a wave of relationship dynamics that occur on many scales, including molecular scales which are driven by the trillions of microbial life forms that live in and on us. In other words, we do not experience things due to what’s going on solely in our head, we experience things that stem from any number of sources known and unknown for which we manufacture what is in our mind a plausible explanation for those experiences.

Our capacity to produce plausible explanations is the real talent of our brain – producing things that are useful, but not necessarily things that are accurate. These explanations are inaccurate at best and often miss the mark completely, yet they produce a convincing picture, leaving us embraced in the comforting delusional cocoon of beliefs that may serve us, but do not correspond to the reality of the situation. Here is a small glimpse at the real world we so rarely get a glimpse of with our minds:

http://neurosciencenews.com/gut-bacteria-emotion-7013/

How We Develop Our View Of The World

Our development environment has critical periods where we are imprinted with what the world looks like based on a snapshot of whatever is going on at that time. If that picture we receive during critical periods of development is distorted, we can then become trapped in a prison of living in the context of responding to that distortion for the rest of our lives, even though it may no longer bear any resemblance to our current reality – an echo chamber of trauma is one example of this phenomena.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-06-early-stress-confers-lifelong-vulnerability.html

Dealing with the after Effects of Trauma

If we look for a common property in a wide variety of mental dysfunctions that arise as a result of trauma, we could say they reflect a hijacking of our capacity to use our higher order thought processes to govern our lives in proportion to the current circumstances. They put our thought processes on a more reactionary, less rational level. People with short fuses, or those who respond out of proportion to the reality of current events, or obsess over people, topics or things out of proportion with reason are typically expressing the after effects of trauma.

The traumatized brain is characterized by the thinking center (frontal cortex) being underactivated and the emotion regulation center as well as the fear center being overactivated. With this in mind, we can see the challenge to assist someone suffering the echoes of trauma or to cope with them if we suffer from the effects.

When we look at the array of thought disorders that commonly plague human (and animal) culture, we can see this common thread. Obsessive compulsive disorder, for instance, is expressed through repetitive thoughts and behavior rituals that crop up to the point where they invade the cognitive real estate we need for dealing with reality on reality’s terms. This can cripple the individual (or group’s) capacity to see what is currently going on clearly. As a consequence, the behavioral response may appear rational to the individual (or group) experiencing the effects of distorted vision, but the perception and response are not proportionate with what is currently going on.

Hoarding disorder is another example involving an extreme reluctance to separate with possessions to the point of the hoarding increasingly closing that person off from the outside world because of a perceived, however irrational need to save things. The common core of this, and many other thought and behavioral disorders is that our cognitive processes, the ones that, if functioning well, help us perceive and respond to the world in a proportionate and rational way, are either taken over, or diminished because an exxagerated proportion of mental energy is being devoted to reactionary faculties. In other words, we’re reliving the trauma over and over in symbolic form.

Whenever we see someone responding out of proportion, either by not being concerned about serious dangers, excessive dominance or cruelty, or in any way exaggerating unimportant things to monumental proportions, we are probably seeing the echoes of trauma.

Here’s some resources that offer deeper look at the symptoms and potential approaches to begin helping with, or working these things out.

https://www.unh.edu/counseling-center/dealing-effects-trauma-%E2%80%93-self-help-guide

http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/four-steps-to-erasing-trauma-of-painful-memories-061214

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/ptsd-overview/basics/symptoms_of_ptsd.asp

 

The Relationship Economy Expressed through Nature

The relationships that are woven into the fabric of nature stretch across a spectrum from predatory and parasitic all the way to mutually beneficial, and in some cases the relationship can become necessary. (Obligate) The common thread throughout the biological relationship economy is that the relationships that take root and survive over time either provide a benefit in terms of what was necessary at some point to survive and propagate in the context of the environment, or at least those that do not prevent survival from happening.

When we consider how relationships emerge in this context we can see that thin times would be inclined to produce behaviors where higher risk in exchange for nutrition would be part of the process, bringing about relationships at the parasitic and predatory end of the spectrum. More fruitful times would incline a more mutually beneficial relationship economy to develop – one that improves the adaptive strength of the whole relationship community. This range of behaviors that emerges in the context of environmental cues over time can then become ingrained as the adaptive strategy until and unless this strategy becomes a selective disadvantage, in which case there will either be a behavior change, or extinction. The behaviors that emerge over time develop multiple levels of complexity because of fluctuations in the availability of nutrients and climate conditions etc. In this climate pockets of mutually beneficial behaviors such as organs in a body can exist inside a predatory organism which also needs to hunt and kill other organisms as a predator in order to feed.

The link below illustrates an example of a mutually beneficial relationship that developed between fruit bearing trees and elephants, where the elephant gets fruit in exchange for spreading the seed of the tree and producing a “fertilizer” package in which to plant it. This relationship strengthens the adaptive advantage for both organisms, making them in effect part of a singular relationship climate – interdependent. The tapestry of relationships expressed through nature communicates what is possible in climates of cultivation vs. those of domination as well as how the spectrum of relationships shape what a given organism will experience as life.

It is significant to note that we humans have the capacity to shape the environment. We are not simply destined to react. We can participate. If we leverage this ability effectively, we can shape our experience by shaping the relationship economy in which we exist to be mre inclined to produce “fruitful” relationships.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/amazing-african-elephants-may-transport-seeds-farther-any-other-land-animal

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.

https://phys.org/news/2017-02-biologists-years-textbook-wisdom-explanation.html