Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 10

In the previous excursion I broached the subject of human-microbe symbiosis, a promising yet unexpected new direction in microbial research and science.

I say "unexpected" because it has the impact of redefining what the nature of our physical being is, redefining what it is "to be human" physically, and, as I will point out in this post, mentally as well.

One of the areas of focus for this new research is our "gut microbes", a symbiont tiny world within us, and so I naturally wondered about the notion of "a gut feeling", a subject we touched upon previously:
I have a "gut feeling about this" is a common utterance amongst some people.

Once upon a time we would chuckle or giggle at the question: "Is a 'gut feeling' a signal from your microbes?"

But more and more a "yes" answer to that question is looking neither fully impossible nor fully improbable, according to experts in this field of human-microbe symbiosis ...
(On The New Meaning of Human). As it turns out, some macro-level psychological research was finding its way into a book at about the same time some microbiologists were preparing papers to reveal incredible details about their new discoveries.

Let's break from the subject of our physical gut to notice some comments from one book review of that psychological research:
There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Kahneman, a winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, distils a lifetime of research into an encyclopedic coverage of both the surprising miracles and the equally surprising mistakes of our conscious and unconscious thinking. He achieves an even greater miracle by weaving his insights into an engaging narrative that is compulsively readable from beginning to end.
(Financial Times). Another take on that same book presents a quiz so that you can see your gut feelings at work, even as it ties the subject of our gut to the subject of our mind:
The questions in this quiz are designed to trigger System 1, which relies heavily on intuition to provide us with answers that we perceive to be correct. Whenever you find yourself “going with your gut,” that’s System 1 — often standing in the way of rational thought. It’s no wonder that the word “heuristic” has its root in the word “eureka.” Go ahead and take this quiz, based (loosely) on Kahneman’s four decades of research; follow your gut and see just how wrong you are.
(Vanity Fair, emphasis added). That book review leaves no doubt that cognition is clearly being linked to our physical gut, in terms of types of reasoning.

I should add that Kahneman’s book ties in nicely with the work of Lakoff, whom we have pondered at times, and who notes that probably "98 percent of your reasoning is unconscious - what your brain is doing behind the scenes" (The Toxic Bridge To Everywhere).

We have also noted that symbiont microbes even take part in the construction of our brains as well as the construction of our genetic material (Hypothesis: Microbes Generate Toxins of Power).

And for the science-fiction aficionados, there are some indications that some of the microbes on Earth may have originated elsewhere in the solar system, then were deposited here on Earth by meteorites or comets:
So, we have scientists telling us of not only microbial influence on the functioning of human thinking and human genetics, but that that science is now followed up with the staggering potential that some of that microbial influence on human thinking may come from microbes from another world.
(A Structure RE: The Corruption of Memes - 4). If microbes do some of our thinking for us, it behooves us to ponder the nature of microbes, as we also ponder where we might be taken by them, seeing as how we are evidently partnered with them in a symbiotic relationship.

Now we can continue the discussion about how symbiont microbes dwelling within all of us may do a lot of our "thinking" for us.

Let's do so by contemplating the subject of "global warming", which some scientific skeptics have recently changed their minds about, to now agree that global warming is real and is happening here on the Earth.

The battle lines in the global warming storm are drawn along the contours of the subject in the form of a debate as to whether human civilization is causing that global warming, or whether or not it is a purely natural phenomenon which will happen no matter what human civilization does or does not do.

That "debate" is not dispositive of the problem, because there are a host of other forms of pollution, not directly related to global warming, which are causing concern about ecocide.

International discussions, international interaction, and international cognition as to how to deal with ecocide is increasing.

We looked into one aspect of international thinking in the post Is Insanity A Valid Defense to Ecocide?, where some embryonic international development for trying to deal with the subject is beginning to surface.

The two lines of discourse or belief concerning global warming and ecocide contain stark contrasts.

Those who conclude that certain human behavior is endangering human civilization, is endangering its very existence by ecocide, are in the majority of scientific consensus.

The minority side of that discourse does not believe that humanity can have a fatal impact on human civilization by causing ecocide.

The tweaker for the day, then, is the question: "what kind of microbe would want to destroy the Earth's environment, and what kind of microbe would not?"

Can we can entertain a notion that alien microbes (UMO - unidentified microbe organisms), as well as Earth born microbes, influence (not control) human reasoning, and that the alien microbes are the only ones that might want to destroy the life on Earth?

Further contemplation of that subject is here and here.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

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