Tag Archives: Sociology

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

Advertisements

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 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

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.
ย 
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.
ย 
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.
ย 
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:
ย 
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
ย 

We’re in this Life Together

Like so much of the choreographed biological relational dance that defines our own being – this place in the cosmos that we have only just begun to capture in our meager abstract net of words – the monarch butterfly lives a life of connectivity to itself and nature that steps far beyond it’s own capacity to grasp. When we witness this spectacle of the monarch life cycles, we can only marvel on the sidelines and partly describe the processes as one of nature’s mundane acts of profound expression unfolds before us. Like us, the monarch butterfly cannot sufficiently explain the intricate depths of its own being, and yet it is somehow aware at some level how to navigate the environment that would swallow it if it did not press back proportionally with an effective strategy to negotiate the perils. The monarch cannot explain why it eats what it eats, why it is equipped the way it is, or breeds successive generations, each with specialized roles and specialized understanding, geared to migrate a partial leg of a journey that spans a number of monarch lifetimes and thousands of miles through a myriad of environmental variables and challenges. It cannot explain the depths of its own genius – to act as a singular cohesive unit in the face of variable challenges with a collective body that spans lifetimes and acts in unison to preserve the species as a whole.

The Monarch butterfly carves out its cycle of life in part through a 2500 mile journey every year over four specialized generations of travelers, each lifespan lasting 2 to 6 weeks, except for those that wait through the winter to make the journey again. Like the monarch, we carry the torch for the larger body of life in many ways we do not understand. The degree to which we can make sense of this journey we are on is perhaps rooted in the theme that is expressed through all biological forms; that the mark we make, like ripples in this common pond in which we all swim, get carried forward in time depending on how much valueย  they contribute to the extended journey we’re all on. While the significance of our lives exists mostly beyond our field of vision, we can see that what we are is seated on the continuing nourishment and protection of this delicate economy of mutually nourishing relationships from which we all spring.

An Incredible Journey: The Monarch Butterfly Migration

https://www.isfoundation.com/news/incredible-journey-monarch-butterfly-migration

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.