Archive for Craig Venter

Are Our Microbiomes Racial?

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2012 by Rob Wallace

Imagine…that all human bodies which exist looked alike, that on the other hand, different sets of characteristics seemed, as it were, to change their habitation among these bodies. Such a set of characteristics might be, say, mildness, together with a high pitched voice, and slow movements, or a choleric temperament, a deep voice, and jerky movements, and such like. Under such circumstances, although it would be possible to give the bodies names, we should perhaps be as little inclined to do so as we are to give names to the chairs of our dining-room set. On the other hand, it might be useful to give names to the sets of characteristics, and the use of these names would now roughly correspond to the personal names in our present language. –Ludwig Wittgenstein (1933-1934)

By an order of magnitude—10 to 1—most of the cells in our bodies aren’t even our own. We handle the indignity by assuming ourselves the ecological stage across which ‘our’ microorganismal visitors must mindlessly interact. Like we were gods looking down upon subjects so puny they didn’t know we existed.

As if our consciousness was synonymous with control. As if the quorum effects routinely documented in microbes couldn’t possibly include a distributed if insentient cognition, or, perhaps more disturbingly, in an ironic reversal, a sentience so unearthly we wouldn’t recognize it if it were staring us in the face.

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Evolutionary Investigations

Posted in Evolution with tags , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by Rob Wallace

A few notes on the relationships shared by evolutionary biology, religion, capitalism and the left.

1.1 Establishment evolutionary biology—lost in capitalist devotionals—uses the failures of its mortal enemies—say, creationist science—to defend itself against all other kinds of critiques. A category error.

1.1.1 “But you are giving aid and comfort to the enemy…” is a common refrain about such critiques, one that attempts to refute an argument solely by assigning guilt by syllogism: Creationism attempts to counter evolutionary biology. Therefore all attempts to critique evolutionary biology support creationism.

1.2 In other words, you’re with us, or against us. As in any war, however, evolutionary biology and religion are as much partners as enemies, rationalizing each other’s ethos in opposition, while sharing much in thought and practice.

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