Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bacteria Communicate According to Golden Rule

According to the Simple Explanation, all Units of Consciousness, no matter how primitive or complex the material they govern, reach out to one another with information and shared intent in order to build something bigger than themselves for the betterment of their world. The Simple Explanation calls this the basic meme of the Golden Rule. Here's how it's defined elsewhere on this site in the article "The Simple Explanation's Golden Rule":

This goes for all Units of Consciousness, from sub-atomic quanta up through cells and organs to organisms and beyond. Every physical manifestation links up with others of its kind (atoms link together to make molecules; molecules make cells; cells make organs; organs link together to make organisms; organisms link together to create societies, and so on) to become the building blocks of the next level of hierarchical aggregation.

When I speak with some scientifically-minded folks about the Simple Explanation, I find great resistance to the notion that there is any sort of conscious decision-making for non-humans, certainly not for such primitive things as bacteria, for instance. Whereas I tend to think of bacterial communities as imbued with conciousness, intent, cooperation, and communication; fully capable, in other words, of behaving according to the Golden Rule.

I've just read an article which fully upholds the Simple Explanation's view of complex behavior in very simple critters. I'm happy to report that the article is not by some "kook" but by Bonnie Bassler, MacArthur Fellow and Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University.

Dr. Bassler's lab has discovered that bacteria talk to each other, that they work together in the manner of a single, larger, organism, that bacteria can distinguish self from other, and that they develop integrated strategies for community survival and enhancement. Bassler joked during a presentation for GE's TED lecture series, "Doing things together because it makes a difference," speaking of bacterial communities. Sounds a lot like the Golden Rule, doesn't it?

If you have 20 minutes, I highly recommend you watch this video of Bonnie Bassler's TED talk on the topic of bacterial communication.