Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Microbial Languages: Rehabilitation of the Unseen

Some of my best friends are Germs
The Fourth Tenet of The Tenets of Ecocosmology urges us to recognize that microbial and other small life forms are useful as well as mandatory for our own existence and betterment.

In modern times this tenet has been considered to be an alien concept in Western Culture, especially in the Western medical sciences, so, in today's post let's discuss an emerging revolution in those general concepts of Western Civilization concerning perceptions of what it means to be "a human" and what it means to be "a germ."

Yes, let's reconsider the general concepts which without reservation tell us that the anti-biotic wars without any reservation have been a good thing, that consider microbes to be something to exterminate, and that are ignorant of what it actually means to be human in the biological reality of the planet Earth.

The text of the Fourth Tenet currently reads as follows:

The seeds of intelligence (genetic and memetic clues) required to successfully perform The Test are distributed into all species, races, religions, sciences, creeds, and genders. Thus, all individuals should be respected as carriers of some quanta of the seed of intelligence required to pass The Test, lest a fundamental quantum of necessary intelligence be lost.

(The Tenets of Ecocosmology, emphasis in original). The meaning of the word "intelligence" as it is first used in that text is enhanced by the later use of that word in the section of the text that reads "intelligence required to pass The Test" (compare: What Kind of Intelligence Is A Lethal Mutation?).

Which begs the question, what is "The Test"?

That question that is answered by the first three tenets to be the survival of species on planets near central stars.

Stars which eventually change in ways that mandate travel to another star system.

That is to say (taking our star the Sun as an example) that species on planets orbiting near the Sun are naturally destined for utter extinction and obliteration when the Sun enters its final phase.

Our star, early in that final phase, expands out to, or near to, the orbit of Mars, vaporizing or otherwise destroying those inner planets in the process (see Tenet One Basics).

There are other intermediate threats to species on habitable planets in our solar system, which we call "extinction events" (Asteroid Killed off The Dinosaurs, Sixth Mass Extinction?).

The sixth mass extinction is currently underway.

It is being caused by current human civilization.

The first five mass extinctions were primarily cosmological and other non-human events.

This brings us to the recent scientific discoveries in the microbiological sciences which focus on our new understanding of what it means to be human:

... the fields of medical and environmental microbiology have begun to merge. The resulting hybrid discipline embraces the complexity of a larger system; it’s integrative rather than reductive, and it supports the gathering view that our bodies, and the bodies of other animals, are ecosystems, and that health and disease may depend on complex changes in the ecology of host and microbes.
...
“We’ve all been trained to think of ourselves as human,” he says. Bacteria have been considered only as the source of infections, or as something benign living in the body. But now, he says, it appears that “we are so interconnected with our microbes that anything studied before could have a microbial component that we hadn’t thought about.” It will take a major cultural shift, says Karasov, for nonmicrobiologists who study the human body to begin to take microorganisms seriously as a part of the system.
...
Equally challenging, though in a different respect, will be changing long-held ideas about ourselves as independent individuals. How do we make sense of this suddenly crowded self? David Relman suggests that how well you come to terms with symbiosis “depends on how comfortable you are with not being alone.” A body that is a habitat and a continuously evolving system is not something most of us consider; the sense of a singular, continuous self is a prerequisite for sanity, at least in Western psychology.

(On The New Meaning of "Human" - 2, see also On The New Meaning of "Human"). Those two posts are a couple of years old, so let's look at a couple of more recent writings which show that this new science is moving along rapidly:

Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford, suggests that we would do well to begin regarding the human body as “an elaborate vessel optimized for the growth and spread of our microbial inhabitants.” This humbling new way of thinking about the self has large implications for human and microbial health, which turn out to be inextricably linked.
...
Our resident microbes also appear to play a critical role in training and modulating our immune system, helping it to accurately distinguish between friend and foe and not go nuts on, well, nuts and all sorts of other potential allergens. Some researchers believe that the alarming increase in autoimmune diseases in the West may owe to a disruption in the ancient relationship between our bodies and their “old friends” — the microbial symbionts with whom we coevolved.
...
Human health should now “be thought of as a collective property of the human-associated microbiota,” as one group of researchers recently concluded in a landmark review article on microbial ecology — that is, as a function of the community, not the individual. Such a paradigm shift comes not a moment too soon, because as a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota with a multifronted war on bacteria and a diet notably detrimental to its well-being. Researchers now speak of an impoverished “Westernized microbiome” and ask whether the time has come to embark on a project of “restoration ecology” — not in the rain forest or on the prairie but right here at home, in the human gut.

(Some of My Best Friends are Germs, see also Smithsonian - Microbial Revolution). The Fourth Tenet has to do with the survival of human civilization long enough to develop the behaviors and skills necessary for space travel away from this solar system before the Sun extinguishes all life on Earth.

Living in harmony with the nature around us and in us is a fundamental prerequisite --because if we make critical life forms extinct, we thereby make our species extinct at the same time.

Living in harmony may also require us to do "remedial rehabilitation of the unseen", as the title of today's post suggests.

By that I mean to rehabilitate the microbes that have experienced past mass extinction events that utterly upended their world.

Which may have caused some of them to thereby end up going rogue and to then eventually become ill behaved parasites (Are Microbes The Origin of PTSD?).

Perhaps by learning to communicate with the rogues among them we will thereby be able to talk sense into some of the microbes that have become killers, maimers, or otherwise harmful?

The next post in this series is here.

The following video illustrates how we are beginning to understand the tiny language of the unseen world where most living things dwell.
 

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