Saturday, June 26, 2010

Contemplating Slugs

One of the most important offerings of real science is the shift in perspective that allows a person to break free in the most radical way from a persistent and pernicious plague in human thinking. This is the illusion of central position. We as a species are not in a special location like that, not when you add in the real science. For example, measured in biomass, by far and away the most successful life on the planet is single celled. It is the oldest and still the most prevalent. We can rarely see it but science has revealed it. In fact, it is in us in critical ways and also in cells like we have in critical ways. The mitochondria are symbionts so deeply involved in us that they have been part of the cells that make us longer than we have been human by far. There is a separate line of descent too. The mitochondrial DNA is separate from cellular DNA. Cellular DNA traces both the paternal and maternal lines. Mitochondrial DNA is exclusively maternal. There are no mitochondria in sperm, but mitochondria are part of the egg.

In fact one writer has pointed out that it makes more than equal biological sense to turn this thing on its head and assert that more complex life forms are the single celled community’s experiment in creating ever larger biological environments for their use. We are farms for the care and feeding of bacteria, viri, and fungi.

It is difficult after really grasping that point to hold so strongly to the crown of creation theory. The level of complexity of the single celled creatures is already beyond easy comprehension. The order of magnitude in difference is not between humans and mammals or mammals and eukaryotes. The order of magnitude is life and non life. Even there, the actual dividing line has been fuzzed out and it is difficult to figure out where in the biochemistry life starts.

There is something though. The Buddhists assert it is a privileged position in relation to spiritual topology. For some reason life exists. It is not hard to suspect a divine spark and nothing in science denies it. Science merely challenges the data trying to see how far back in the chain of consequence you can go without being forced into the divinity game. This discipline of mind has been very successful. However, there is no reason to leap to the claim that there is no need for the divine, just that we can explain ever more data as chains of consequences. If that was all there is to God, then maybe it is game over but there are other directions, other needs than explaining how the world works.

But we humans, no longer the crown of creation, are privileged as a matter of position in another way. We are oddly close to divinity in more than one way, not only because of the divine spark at the heart of life but as well in terms of the availability of a path nearby our neck of the woods. This is a feature of the journey, which not only we are on but also the one celled and all others. If these paths appear elsewhere it does not appear that any creature before us has availed himself of it. So the Buddhists think it likely that there are few of these paths, maybe only one, the one near us. It is suggested that we exercise our privilege, but it is not necessary. The special path seems to be a shortening of the journey but the journey will take us there anyway. Hmm. This is quite far from some ways of thinking about such things. It is however not incompatible with science, just that thinking like this lies in areas in which science can have no opinion. Some of the other religious explanations unfortunately conflict more or less directly with science. This is no longer sane. Science has been way too successful to be ignored. There will never more be a time when the knowledge base which supports technology can be denied.

The complexity of a slug is different from mine but it is not less than mine. Period.

Contemplating Slugs

The point is how this
simple creature is so far
ahead in some ways,
as if two creatures in one,
that it is too hard
for me to sit here
any more like I'm the top
of the pyramid.

June 11, 2009 12:37 PM


  1. Farms for bacteria? Hmmmm. Interesting notion. True though, that the simple survive more easily for they are more self reliant, and the complex more needy. My old '62 Chevy was never in the shop. The newer cars always got something wrong with their computer systems and such. And the damn slugs are everywhere still.

  2. It's strange to me that science and belief don't go hand in hand. I'm thinking that it is the ego that gets in the way. To me it is common sense, afterall, here we are in these physical bodies obeying all of these scientific mechanisms, and I'll be damned, when science fails us, these very corporeal bodies fail as well. Seems pretty easy to me actually. What isn't so easy to see, but easy enough for me to accept, is that somewhere along the field of science, there is a zigzagging of something more elusive. Energy. Others can call it what they might, really, it is just a name, but we too often get stuck at the threshhold of names. This energy can even be a part of science, afterall, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It is this energy that allows us some form of transcendence. Now, here again, we can't dangerously hold to the egos we so readily want to hold to. We have to let go, otherwise it's like holding the cement brick to the rope as we toss it over the side of our own boat.

    And too, I think, we need to be less afraid of being wrong. Why do we always cling to right? Why can't we throw our hands up and say, here I am, show me in time? And I don't mean to say don't try to understand in the meantime, but be present during the duration, at least.

    I become less afraid when I come and lay out what it is that I believe. I recognize that fear I have in dying isn't for myself but instead for those who will be left behind. That is very helpful.

    (Hey you. It's been a few long days since I've read you. Don't think I've gone when I don't come. I'm just distracted. You are a part of my vocabulary, Christopher.)



The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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