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Thread: A Theory of Everyone; a useful guide to reality (2)

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    Default A Theory of Everyone; a useful guide to reality (2)

    "The first cells lead a precarious existence. The environment around them changed continually, and every hazard presented a new threat to their survival. In the face of all these hostile forces -- harsh sunlight, meteoric impacts, volcanic eruptions, droughts and floods -- the bacteria had to trap energy, water, and food to maintain their integrity and stay alive. Each crisis must have wiped out large portions of the first patches of life on the planet and would certainly have extinguished them altogether, had it not been for two vital traits -- the ability of the bacterial DNA to replicate faithfully and to do so with extraordinary speed. Because of their enormous numbers, the bacteria were able, again and again, to respond creatively to all threats and develop a great variety of adaptive strategies. Thus they gradually expanded, first in the waters and then in the surfaces of sediments and soil." (Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life, 1996)

    Q: What are your creative responses to hostile forces and which adaptive strategies have you developed?
    Last edited by Corrie van Wijk; 18 April 2011 at 11:29 AM.

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    Nice question. Actually (i.e. I think :-) ) it's more apposite and accurate to ask that of a human than to apply it in the metaphorical way Capra does to describe the effects on the bacteria to events in their environment. Bacteria don't actually HAVE 'adaptive strategies' nor 'hostile forces', which imply a reasoning beyond the processing capacity they possess (is that correct?).
    It's not just Capra, it runs throughout the sciences - the anthropomorphism of observed behaviours. Taking a human social behaviour (warfare) and applying it to evolution - well, it's natural to describe things in terms we understand - and it's okay so long as we remember it's just a metaphor, not what's actually happening. There's the rub - I wonder whether the attempt to describe something systemic like evolution in the narrow terms of the human condition does not in the event cloud understanding?
    It's a lovely book though - great metaphors abound!

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    So, Phil, how much 'brain power' does a being require before it has adaptive strategies and hostile environments?

    Gradually anthropologists, zoologists and archao-palaeontologists are finding ever more intelligence in non-human species and in the ancient human.

    What if it is not a metaphor, but an actuality that everything is conscious? And anything that can move can then have adaptive strategies for hostile environments - With "time-lapse" photography, plant warfare appears very real.

    I agree we, scientists included, project our present perception into history and all sciences, which is the arrogance of the modern human IMO (and therefore mine too). And are some perceptions more accurate or valid than others?

    If they provide a better theory with a more accurate fit to the physical observables, probably - IMO.

    My opinion is that the modern human is the least evolved, most fragmented and least insightful of the many aeons of human existence, and that the likes of Capra are showing the spiritually dissociated a window into a wider world.

    And clean language, in its fullest diversity, is a powerful toolkit to help people experience more than the humdrum material world with a little metaphor thrown in!

    Happy Easter!

    Steven

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Saunders View Post
    With "time-lapse" photography, plant warfare appears very real...
    ... because we think in terms of warfare, not because the plants are engaged in warfare.

    I agree we, scientists included, project our present perception into history and all sciences, which is the arrogance of the modern human IMO (and therefore mine too).
    Arrogance? I think I'm saying that it is the natural and easiest way for us to model our world, by using what we know. It may not be the best way and it may be the only way to do it unless perhaps mathematics and systemic analysis can approach greater objectivity, I don't know. Perhaps it really is 'impossible to remove the observer from the experiment', as is much quoted - our observations always tainted with our own perspectives.

    And are some perceptions more accurate or valid than others?

    If they provide a better theory with a more accurate fit to the physical observables, probably - IMO.
    I argue that accuracy is precisely about fit to our perception of observables.

    My opinion is that the modern human is the least evolved, most fragmented and least insightful of the many aeons of human existence, and that the likes of Capra are showing the spiritually dissociated a window into a wider world.
    I like what I've read of Capra - I think of Web of Life and Tao of Physics rather more as Art than Science - and that's not a criticism.

    I think you're a bit hard on the human of now. I see no evidence that the present human is less evolved, more fragmented or less insightful than s/he has been (or would have been) in previous generations. I think we are doing exactly what any human in history would have done, given the same new power without the experience to wield it wisely, moderately and with a thought to the management of resources.

    What's different about humans is the context we live in. The pace of social change has accelerated many-fold with the explosion of technology and that almost unbridled power it gives us to affect our world at many more systemic levels., There's a risk that the rate of change will outstrip our capacity to adapt to new circumstances.

    And clean language, in its fullest diversity, is a powerful toolkit to help people experience more than the humdrum material world with a little metaphor thrown in!
    If you like!
    Happy Easter!
    You too!
    Cheers

    Phil

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    Warfare - the extension of politics, meaning the determining of land ownership/rights by force of arms. It may be because of one's perspective, but plants do aggressively compete for light and root space, even unto killing others in their desire for space. How about both; we think in terms of warfare - certainly the Japanese look at business as warfare, and also the plants 'compete aggressively' for light/soil/water.

    The thing about moving from hypothesis to theory is the predictability of the theory - predictions can be tested, and experiments reproduced. Prediction+observables fitting => objective criteria. E.g. the isomorphism between starting conditions and finishing using emergent re-scaling. This reveals the accuracy of reading the signals along the way.

    I guess you see no evidence, whereas I see abounding evidence of ever-greater, more numerous fragmenting of humans given modern life. Perception is as it is.

    There is a risk, the answer is 'no-mind' ... as in martial arts ...

    Steven

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    Hi guys,

    Thank you for this interesting dialogue!

    Steve: "Bacteria don't actually HAVE 'adaptive strategies' nor 'hostile forces', which imply a reasoning beyond the processing capacity they possess (is that correct?)."

    To have adaptive strategies doesn't necessarily imply a reasoning beyond the processing capacity: in fact, humans and other possibly intelligent animals also process most of their behaviour without any conscious thinking. The metaphor of warfare Capra uses may be inadequate: an organism may also avoid confrontation by finding another space, unless it can't move.

    The first plants lived on the bottom of the sea and could only have their leaves waved by the current of the water in order to catch as much food as possible. It was a huge advance when organisms developed feet so they could move to a more nutricious environment.

    To continue the story:

    "Archaeicum: 3,800 – 2,500 million years B.P.
    Bacteria in the sea form the first life on earth. They are single-celled organisms, that are supposed to have come into being near deep sea volcanoes, where warmth and nutrients were released." (From the exhibition in Naturalis, Leiden, translated from Dutch by me.)

    Q: who released the warmth and nutrients that made you come into being?
    Last edited by Corrie van Wijk; 02 May 2011 at 02:27 PM.

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    Early and mid-Proterozoic (2,500 – 900 million year B.P.)

    Bacteria colonize the shallow seas. They form thick, red structures at the bottom of the sea (stromatolites). During their metabolism they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Because of that the oxygen content in the atmosphere rises. In order to utilize the food as good as possible, some bacteria incorporate others. They help, for instance, to digest food. That’s how the first single-celled organisms with a cell nucleus come into being, which are in fact the distant ancestors of our body cells.


    Q: which others have you incorporated in order to help you?

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    Well, Corrie, it's time to pass some nutrients by my internal Coral ... it is not interesting that our gut lining is coral-like and we pass nutrients past that, rather like the way corals place themselves where nutrients pass in currents?

    Is it not also interesting that out body is still that of a saltwater creature; we die without salt or water?

    And, are we not also quite like worms? Mathematically human topology is a ring doughnut with a few sphincters.

    We can maybe empathise more with the worlds of fauna and flora by considering how much our bodies have similarities with them all.

    And on that note ... I'll wonder what next in your evolutionary journey?

    Steven

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    "Who are you texting with?", the mechanic asks.

    "Steve."

    "Who's Steve?"

    "A friend."

    "What kind of friend?"

    "Like a little brother."

    "Where is he?"

    "In Mexico, possibly on some other hilltop, wondering what next in our evolutionary journey; just a second, let me get this message down:


    Late Proterozoic (900 – 540 million years B.P.)

    As a result of the activity of the stromatolites the oxygen content in the atmosphere increases. In the sea various multicellular organisms have evolved, which are called Ediacaran fauna after their orginal deposit, first discovered in 1946 by R.C. Spriggand Sir Douglas Mawson in South Australia. These special animals live in shallow, warm costal seas. They look very much like jellyfish."

    "I'd rather have some advice on this elevator."

    "Among many other qualities, he's an engineer."

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    Q: Of which multicellular organism are you a part?



    Cambrium (540-500 million years B.P)

    No plants or animals yet live on the land, but bacteria and fungi colour the rocks. In the warm costal seas the animal life increases explosively. Most current-day animal groups are already present. Many new species have a body without internal skeleton; some of them have an external armour that protects. A number of these new animal species die at the end of this period, others form the basis for the physique of the present ones. There is even a little animal with a spine: Pikaia, which is at the basis of the development of the vertebrate animals.





    Q: What kind of armour protects you?




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    Ordovician (500- 440 B.P.)

    At the end of this era a glacial period occurs, in which many species become extinct. Much seawater is then stored in the form of land ice. On the land only fungi, bacteria and algae are found. In the shallow coastal seas life develops further. As well as trilobites especially sea lilies, moss animals, graptolites and lamp shells occur. The first fish are animals without jaws. To protect themselves from larger predators – like sea scorpions – they dash into the mud. A bean carapace around the head makes these fish less vulnerable. Together with free floating algae little plants develop in the sea. They settle in shallow coastal areas.


    Q: Where do you dash into to protect you from larger predators?

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    "You’re welcome", the mechanic smiles.

    I look puzzled.

    "You were humming a tune."

    I resume my humming and try to find the words to the lyrics:
    "top of the world … creation … explanation … just put me on the top of the world."

    The way he smiles at me reminds me that I am a woman in France.

    "I could sit here for hours, but I need to go back to my home at the bottom of the sea. Let me buy you a hot chocolate first."

    I climb down the ladder of the little elevator building back to the platform. The mechanic picks up his gear and follows me down.

    "Now, have you figured out yet what’s wrong with the elevator?"

    "Yes, it has a time-lock. You’re not supposed to use it after sundown, to prevent people to do stupid things in the dark."


    Silurian (440-410 B.P.)

    Because the oxygen rate in the atmosphere is rising further, an ozone layer develops, that protects the earth from ultraviolet radiation. Invertebrates, for example giant scorpions, now are able to colonize the tidal zones. In the sea many soil animals live, like moss animals and lamp shells. Also many jawless shellfish grub about looking for food. All these animal species live on floating plants and animals, which they filter from the water. The protecting ozone layer makes the land suitable for vegetation. The first plants on the land protect themselves from dehydration by means of a wax layer and stoma. These prevent evaporation. The conquest of the land initially is restricted to areas along the coast and alongside lakes and rivers, because the spurs of the first plants on the land do need a damp environment to germinate.

    I look around the corner of the coffee corner at the clock: seven minutes to go. There is no way I can get to A1 without running into E, who I am trying to avoid at this point, so I take the elevator to the third floor and walk across the flagstone tiles, just like the ones in my own hallway, to the glass stairs, which look like glacier ice. If I am to walk down that mountain I better get some exercise first to prevent my muscles from hurting.

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    Devonian (410 - 360 B.P.)

    A great variety of fish and invertebrates, like ammonites, develops. At the end of the Devonian many animals and plants die out as a result of cooling down and a drop in the sea level.

    The First amphibians originate from certain fish, Coelacanths. Instead of gills they have lungs to be able to breathe on the land. To reproduce amphibians still have to go into the water. The land plants become bigger and more numerous. Some now develop real leaves. As an alternative to spurs some plants get seeds for reproduction (seed plants). These are more resistant to dehydration and can be carried by wind and water to germinate elsewhere.

    The BBC gives me a bird’s eye view as the sun sets on the Glastonbury festival site and among thousands of little lights I recognize the illuminated St. Michael’s Tower on Tor Hill. If only I could look down on the festival or on the others: Windmill, Chalice or Wearyall, where Joseph of Arimathaea planted his staff, which grew into a hawthorn like the one we planted in Jennifer’s backyard in honour of David. He used to go to Morrison’s at the foot of the hill to read their wide variety of newspapers.

    Q: Which of your thoughts carries you by wind and water to germinate elsewhere?

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    Carboniferous (360 – 290 B.P.)

    The oxygen rate in the atmosphere reaches a record level. The rate of carbon dioxide decreases to the present level. Almost all main groups of the present plants grow on the land, except the flower plants. Just like today the tropic areas have a lush vegetation. Around the poles vegetation is rare and plants show stunting or drop their leaves in winter. Avalonia lies in the northern part of this landmass. Because of its position on the equator the climate was tropical. In the coastal areas of this continent luxuriant swamp forests are formed, that buzz with activity. Especially the giant insects catch the eye. From certain amphibians the first land animals develop, who do not need to be in the water for their reproduction, because their eggs are resistant to dehydration. Thus they can conquer the land further.

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    Q: how are your ideas protected from dehydration and predators, so they can conquer the world?

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    Permian (290 – 250 million years B.P.)

    All continents now come together and form one big land mass: Pangea. Because of its big size Pangea has a land climate and is very dry. Also because of the very low sea level the biggest extinction in history occurs. The seed plants conquer the continents. Tree varieties adjust to the drought by dropping their leaves in winter or by forming little, leather like leaves. Many amphibians become extinct. Their dominant role is taken over by reptiles. Reptiles evolve that are better capable to regulate their body temperature than the then current amphibians and reptiles. They are called mammalian reptiles. The sea level is extremely low. The swallow coastal seas have dried up and many animal species die out, like tribolites and certain coral groups. Out of the lamp shells and ammonites only some species manage to survive. Along the coasts vast sediments of salt are being formed.
    France2 takes me on a motor cycle over the mountain passes. I have driven each and every little road myself, but had to keep the traffic rules and drive on the right. Because of the Tour we are allowed to go down as straight and fast as possible. It’s great fun!

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    Trias (250 – 210 million years B.P.)

    Reptiles exist in many environments. In this era the first flying reptiles have evolved and the first dinosaurs. On the land from the mammalian reptiles, the first mammals breastfeed their young. The vegetation is dominated by firs, Cycadales and gingkos, which drop their leaves in winter. These plants bear the draught very well. Their seeds are resistant from dehydration. The sea level begins to rise again when at the end of this period the continent Pangea breaks into smaller continents. In the sea the dramatic decrease of the surface of swallow coastal seas has taken its toll: many animal species have become extinct. The open places are filled with other groups. In this way the present day coral groups come into being and there is an enormous increase of the number of species of mollusks. The ammonites succeed in recovering themselves after the difficult circumstances. In an arms race between preys and predators new animals species evolve with an ever faster way of moving on.

    Q: How do you stay ahead of your competitors?

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    I move from the coffeecorner to the edge of the hall. I consider to have a shat with E and wait for him, but he doesn't show up. We are running out of time, so I might as well move close to A3 and sit in the middle of the hall next to the door. I stare at the colourful tiles of the hall. "Where do you go to when you look over there?' Philip once asked in a demo. I know they were mined in South-Africa and no matter how worn out they get or how much damage they suffer, they will always show their true colours, which may be different from the top layer.

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    Jurassic period (210 – 140 million years B.P.)

    The dinosaurs form a dominant group of animals on the land. They exhibit many different forms and ways of living. There are fast hunters and slow herbivores. From a certain group of dinosaurs the first birds develop. The flower plants evolve as a new plant group; their seeds are surrounded by nutritious fruits. With scents and colours these plants tempt insects and other animals, that play a role in the pollination and spreading of seeds. The sea level rises, which causes big parts of the continents to inundate. In the nutritious, swallow coastal seas life is diverse. The arms race between preys and predators, that existed in the Trias period, continues unabated. There are especially many reptiles; sea reptiles are now fast hunters, that live on fish and octopus.

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    Cretaceous period (140 – 65 million years B.P.)

    A greenhouse atmosphere exists. Reptiles still dominate on the land. Especially dinosaurs are numerous. Some species follow in big herds certain migration routes searching for food. At the end of the Cretaceous period the dinosaurs die out, as well as several other life forms, like ammonites. This coincides with an enormous impact of a meteorite. The mammals are shy animals living in holes and trees. Usually they live at night. The flower plants that came into being during the Jurassic period, develop into a wealth of varieties. The sea level is several dozens of meters above the present level. A greenhouse atmosphere exists.The sea provides a living environment for many reptile species. Because of the extremely high sea level many coastal areas have been submerged. These are warm, nutritious areas, where hunting reptiles guzzle fish and octopus.

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    Palaeogene (65 – 25 million years B.P.)

    The greenhouse effect decreases. After the very high temperatures of the Cretaceous period the earth slowly cools down. The sea level drops. After the extinction of the dinosaurs, the mammals, that had always lived in their shadow, conquer the available living areas. Flying mammals evolve (bats), whereas other mammals move to the sea, like whales. Because of the warm climate plains with deciduous trees stretch close to the polar areas. The tropic zone is broader than nowadays. Many mammals look different than at present, for instance the ancestors of the horse were nimble little animals.

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    Neogene (25 – 2,5 million years B.P.)

    The composition of the atmosphere starts to resemble more and more today’s. The temperature decreases, but it is still higher than at present. Swampy areas provide food for a big variety of plants and animals. During the Neogene the big stretches of grass arise. From nimble forest animals fast hoofed animals evolve, that have adapted to the life on the steppes. The African plains are the habitat of the first homonids.
    Now, which of all the above is true?

    Right here all that is happening are my fingers typing the symbols that make up the words that form the sentences that represent my thoughts, in English, for you to read later. My genes contain the information of all the generations of organisms that evolved before me. My brains store everything I learned from conception to present. This computer has access to anything available on the world wide web. We live in a virtual world and our memory and imagination allow us to go beyond the present.

    It makes me wonder how much of our problems are really true?

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