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    • My guess is the chief inhibitor to unlocking a clear vision of what the multivariate factors are that drive our experience of life is largely due to the linear reductionist lens we tend to apply when looking at relational systems such as ourselves. Linear reductionist lenses are like using a black and white crayon in an attempt to render a full spectrum image. While it gives us information, some of it quite useful, there is a diminishing law of returns which turns to a negative rendering value after a certain point of inflection.

      Linear, fixed focal point lenses are not capable of rendering a full understanding of the workings of complex adaptive systems since, for instance, there is no inherent beginning or end to a given system, but diffuse nested fields of interrelated influences. As a consequence of using unifocal lenses, we often become enchanted with the linear images produced through it, albeit we also become blind in a sense, because much of the rendering is a function of the lens and not an accurate representation of the relational landscape it is pointed toward.

      If we apply a systemic relationship lens to biology for instance, we then see a porous increasingly diffuse nested set of influences between organisms rather than distinct isolated organisms separated by fixed membranes. There is a porous interdependent set of relational bonds that lead to the same unified whole which we can detect by picking any point in a system. For instance; we can see the connections between the atoms, organelles, cells, and organs inside our body, and this inward coherency then extends outward to the microbiome, the local environment, the larger ecosystem, planet, star system galaxy etc. all the way to the whole of the cosmos. Were we to pick any other point in that nested collection we could also trace it from that focal point to the nested fields of influences which define that point, and extend again to the whole as well. In effect, linear images are useful, but have their limits. Whenever we choose a focal point, we also sacrifice the larger context.

      When we use a systemic relationship lens through which to look at the whole biological economy, we can see with greater depth into the larger biological body of life in which we live, and on which we depend. What defines our local experience in terms of stability or instability in the final analysis is more like a cultivated commitment of a parliamentary nature than any kind of sovereign relational theme. Coherency is built on the strength of serving mutual needs of nourishment and defense. Our experience is cultivated on the preponderance of relationships that are sometimes necessary, sometimes laced with compromise, but always that serve purposes in relation to adaptation – that of remaining a coherent by way of sufficient nourishment and defense as an entity over time in the context of the environment. We realize this threshold of "being" by way of finding and maintaining this coherent equilibrium in the context of the larger environment. We see things like our individual identity and group sociality built on this same engine of nested influences. Understanding this is both the key to maximal growth, and a sustainable equilibrium in relationship to the carrying capacity of the environment.

      Here is an example of the diffuse bonds of influence that conspire to shape what we experience as life and being.

      I could be missing something(s)

      Opinion: Microbial Mind Control—Truth or Scare?

      Normal brain function may have evolved to depend on gut microbes and their metabolites.

    • Hi, Thank you. I'll check that out. I was thrown off by following threads not people. It's an interesting idea. I'll follow that thread and give it a read later on today.

    • My response here is on the linear view we often take for simplicity sake, because we don't understand the reality or as I say later - because we have no good alternative way to simple say it.

      I think biologists or certainly those who study evolution can't help but look for alternatives to the linear view. I would guess that it's simply an inherent bias in our brains that cause us to think in a linear sense though there have been cultural studies by anthropologists that provide some counters to this idea. So why are biologists looking for alternatives or more likely to be aware of the inherent flaws of a linear perspective? Because they understand things like there is no clear demarkation between one species and another. It's a complex branching continuum made even more complex as some of the branches recombine and grow back into yet another arm. Even those with a fairly basic understanding of evolution can't help but realize that linearity is often an artificial construct though it does exist in some forms. My ancestry for instance can be directly traced back to the first common ancestor on earth. One single unbroken line of ancestors. No separations of species and except for a few hybrids ancestors that likely came from closely related cousins, the branches that didn't lead to me are irrelevant to my linear history.

      I would add that this linearity has also caused science and technology historians to focus on certain people to make it seem that tech and science breakthroughs and development is due mainly to key people and has been linear in development. A cause for this is the lack of historic evidence to support unknown people and groups as being important to technological development. A book I'm reading right now called A People's History of Science (by Clifford D. Connoer) makes this argument.

      I think what's needed is a metaphor or word imagery that can replace the linear perspective. Saying "If we apply a systemic relationship lens to biology" just isn't going to work. It certainly explains what you are talking about but we need some way of supplimenting the linear perspective idea with another one that people can easily visualize and understand. I can't think of one at this time and maybe that's because reality is too complex and simply has too many interconnections of various strengths and of varied influence.

    • I think a word that might fit is rhizomatic, but as far as I know, the words we use as tokens to explain the thing is not as important as the thing itself. Our map is not as important as the journey. Besides, even precise language can be like trying to pop a basketball with a wet noodle depending on the topic. One of the many problems I have with too much reliance on words is the fact that once a verbal token or concept develops social currency, it is typically co-opted by others to lend power to their own agendas, and in so doing, it deflates the value of the token as a precise referent. Ironically, the word nice used to mean stupid, so meaning's relationship to abstract token is a moving target. We're always redrawing the map.

      Here's a slightly closer look at the rhizomatic (or network) model you may find interesting. I would suggest isolating the word and the concept of rhizomatic thinking from the larger body of work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, where it was coined and to which it was attached when formed in the book; A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. I recognize I may be guilty of co-opting the word here. :)

      You said: "My ancestry for instance can be directly traced back to the first common ancestor on earth." True, from a certain perspective, but the coherence of those nested entities identified as ancestors was contextually dependent on a myriad of relationships that extended beyond that categorical frame of "ancestor". The porous lines between species you mentioned is just one of those aspects of contingency.

      The advantage of categories is the focus they bring to specific aspects or points within a system. The disadvantage is that it can artificially isolate contingent aspects of the rest of the system, and the tokens do not necessarily have a property within themselves to clarify whether they are a self referential artifact, or an actual property of a system. (Many of us treat the artifacts produced by the lens as actual entities because they are convincing renderings that are indistinguishable from reality) Further, they have no property within themselves to clarify whether they are an emergent symptomatic aspect of a relational field, or a causal agent, or part of a causal chain. This mushy ground of varied clarity that we gain by using abstract tokens as a net to identify systemic behaviors sometimes fools us to remember we collapsed a wave into a particle. (So to speak) It strikes me as arbitrary to isolate a symptom of a much larger system without remembering that larger context on which that expression of symptom depends.

      I think a more effective approach would be to use linear and what I would call systemic thinking in proportionate measure in relation to what most effectively extracts maximal clarity .(Whatever that is as language only has so much carrying capacity across certain domains) The same way the disproportionate application of what we might consider a virtue is destructive - say too much empathy can destroy a child's development for instance, just as the disproportionate immune response to a perceived antigen can cause an autoimmune disorder, we must be vigilant to context if we want clarity in our understanding that corresponds to reality, and context seems to be what gets sacrificed on the gradient altar of increasing emotional attachment to things like fear. The nuance that clarity demands also gets sacrificed on the altar of communication at the herd level - which explains a lot of our muddied wranglings in the public forum.

      I could be missing something(s)

      On another note: Thank you for this rich and challenging exchange. I appreciate the perspective, and I apologize if it takes me a while to digest the value of the points you are making. People's History looks interesting. I am going to sniff around there a bit.


    • I think you'd be more successful in selling your ideas to a postmodernist stylized journal within the sociology of science than to evolutionary biologists. My background is in the sociology of science and technology.

      Certainly talking about a species such as humans as single beings separate from the plethora of partners we had along the way is a simplification of how things are but then again so is everything. I don't think it's such a simplification that it's an arbitrary decision to call a human a separate species. The function or purpose of the term human effectively conveys what I am implying and to further complicate things by bringing light to the other 'partners' we've had along the way is simply to obfuscate and confuse the matter. Now in certain circumstances I would say it is very important to recognize the complexity of reality and the associated parts of the whole but in this case human will suffice.

    • What are your other main interests or research topics within science? Most people have several key areas of interest or research. I'm very curious to hear more of what you are interested in learning about.

    • Yes. My guess is you are sincere in your view of your understanding of what I am saying's inability to serve in any relevant capacity. I accept that. No need to beat that now dead horse any further. We exchanged our views and differ. I am fine with that. I hope you are too.

      As to my interests, like the scene in Mr. Holland's Opus where he explained that he would use any music from rock and roll to Mozart if it would help a kid develop an appreciation for music, I explore as wide range of things from physics and mathematics, to biology through psychology and philosophy and so on as I am capable of, and do my best to share the portion of things I see as valuable in cultivating a better experience of life for a number of reasons, but prominent among them is we're all in this together as far as I can tell.

    • Interesting and some parallels with my interests. I find your ideas and way of thinking intriguing and I certain don't disagree with you for the sake of disagreeing. I want to see humanity continue to develop a deeper understanding of the natural world and I love that people like you are working on ideas to do just that.

      As far as the lense or framework of understanding thing goes, maybe if I saw something that used the framework to explain in depth some scientific thing in a way that deepened our understanding then I could see it in a new light. It's one thing for us to talk about it more theoretically as a potential framework but quite another to utilize it in a deep and meaningful way. Have you done this? I'm be up for reading that if you did.

    • The biological wing of what is currently a far too dense and impenetrable an attempt at a tome needs quite a bit of polish before I would feel comfortable sharing with the expectation that it would be prepared for the task of conveying the message sufficiently. Even if there was sufficient interest, I don't want to get caught in a quagmire of clarifying points on something that will never be leveraged as constructively as I think is possible anyway because it will be co-opted in service or reinforcing existing views, not leveraged as a constructive springboard for action.

      I don't think I can expect a culturally inflamed topic like biology, which has unfortunately been co-opted in a mud wrestling match between things like religion and science, to the tune of facts and assertions of faith and values becoming arrows in the quiver for a fight between two totally separate domains of perspective, one subject and the other object, as if the two were compatible at all, and not one an attempt to use abstractions to craft a non literal map of what is communicated through the other, each domain useful in its own right, but only in their own contexts.

      I have no strong interest devoting my energy to an unwinnable fight with a prize of lessor consequence that bleeds precious energy off what could otherwise be, if that energy were more constructively applied given the constraints of a pluralistic culture in its current stage of development. If my analysis is correct, it will not be the first time we were the authors of our own poverty on the visionary heels of a clear and definitive image rendered through the filter of our prejudices, which we accept as reality. Thus concludes the eulogy for the dead horse. We'll see if there's a resurrection someday on the thermals of the emotional bladder control that comes with maturity. Until then, I will do as I do, share it tacitly, so that people who are able to see can nod agreement in private, while carrying out the obligatory bow to orthodoxy in public so as not to commit academic suicide.

      I don't think it is tactically wise to bleed energy from other efforts which I consider a higher priority, not because of their ultimate potential for realized value, but because of their potential efficacy in the context of our current cultural prosody. We can only absorb so much "new" without resisting from an emotional basis using mere reasons masquerading as sound reason - we all seem to have an innate ideological autonomic immune response.

      I have another lens that I am guessing can be applied to the "is" portion of ontology in a more palatable way than ectosymbiosis given that a crucial portion of the context required for success is buy in. In that light, something I call coherence theory (which is currently a hypothesis, strictly speaking) is of more merit. I may elaborate on that later.

    • So you haven't done anything applied yet and/or don't have anything polished enough and don't want to waste time trying to convince people who don't buy into it right away. Fair enough. My suggestion if you want your lense to have a fair chance of being taken seriously by the scientific community would be to make your science writing less verbose and superfluous. The whole idea is for it to explain reality better not to obscure it further. Your ideas may have merit but they're shrouded in obfuscation. For the record I'm not trying to take a shot at you but being serious about what may help you further your message. Certainly your motivations are legitimate and your reasoning sincere.