Friday, November 25, 2005

Scientific Thinking in Everyday Life - Part 3: Biology

I tend to view humanity wholistically - not as a species, but as a single organism. An organism with the ability to reemerge even when a single set of "cells" (read "a male and female human couple") survives - and possibly in the future it will gain the ability to survive and reproduce with the help of a single "cell" and technology. It's an organism that, like a single human being, grows and evolves not only biologically, but cognitively as well - it matures in different ways, it sometimes learns from its mistakes and sometimes repeats certain behavioural patterns, sometimes has to run and sometimes has to fight, sometimes just sits around doing next to nothing and sometimes is really proud, or ashamed, of what it just did. Sometimes it's ill and sometimes it feels pretty well but illness is just around the corner. And sometimes it exercises and becomes stronger, faster, more flexible, more defined, more able, or just stiff from not stretching before and after exercising.

I understand and treat humanity as a single person. A person with its own occasional wants, needs, fears, motivations etc. On an overall level, of course, which emerges from the relative influence of the wants, needs, blah blah of each of its component "cells". And in order for this living organism to survive, each of its cells are arranged into organs, and tissues, and clusters. They are, in fact, able to switch between these groups almost at will, according to their environment and/or their own goals, almost like stem cells, but regarding each and every specific task they voluntarily or involuntarily have a role to play in the general order of things.

And every kind of tissue is practically necessary, and influential in one way or another. From brain cells which just sit around thinking or storing and sorting memories, eating up their share of resources, to muscle cells which do all the manual work and are quite simple in form and function, being directed and controlled by the neural cells automatically (through reflexes) or case-specifically. And there's also the immune system, which checks to see if all the tissues and organs and separate cells are doing their job right, and if they aren't, it acts accordingly - either taking care of the problem discreetly, or, in extreme cases, letting the organism know that something is wrong so it can help. And in cases where the immune system runs wild, or gets out of hand or out of focus, you get allergies, or autoimmune diseases (in which case you're usually screwed).

So, thankfully, the humanity-organism is much more effective and strong than the human body, as it has proven in oh so many cases in history (or the present). And it will most likely survive to live a long, productive life. But it's still a kid, so cut it some slack.

1 comment:

Atalante said...

It's funny, I just answered the exact same thing in a forum, to the question "Are we going to hell?".
My answer was much smaller, of course. I hope they get it.