If we step out of our structural model of “organism” and “genetics” and look at biology through a relational lens 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. The perception and response engine that defines biological behaviors is built on this nourish and or defend coherency model. Through this lens we begin to see the basis for the emergent systems we see intricately intertwined throughout biology on many scales.
With this model, a full spectrum of these behaviors, from destructive to nourishing can be seen happening in the context of a single organism. Our own biological system has certain obligate (necessary) 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 recognition, acquisition and support of sustainable nourishment behaviors and defense of that coherence through the avoidance and or destruction of antagonistic factors (pathogens) that are perceived to threaten that coherence is the engine that defines coherent biological systems. (Autoimmune diseases would be an example of a disproportionate response in this process) It is also the engine that defines coherent relational models of all kinds from coherent social relationship bodies, to other organizational forms like atoms, molecules, planets, stars, galaxies and the like. Things that lend themselves to the nourishment and defense of coherency tend to be what we see as coherent bodies.
This twofold relational axiom (nourish coherence and defend 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, nor by the skin of any one organism, neither is it based on a singular organism. It is defined by an adaptive array of relationships that is bound by this nourish and defend relational bond. 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 to the point of equilibrium. As an example of this relational model in the area of defense, we see Killer T Cells as part of the human immune system, which probe for signs of antagonists that threaten the coherence of the biological body, and eliminate them with a cytotoxic venom.