The Virus Wars. Change, Multi-species, Competition, Symbiosis.
Some people ask me for my opinion about the vaccine. Of course I have an opinion and as often it is one I seem to be standing isolated with because it is based on arguments quite different from what anti-vaxxers and vaccination-fans use in the raging discussions on the net. Also ,whenever Science and Politics have to go together both are very uneasy and their purity is lost ab initio! Now I know that “keep it simple” is popular but the issue is complex, so a serious opinion has to be explained from the basis, starting from the beginning and with argumentation following the logic of (scientific) reasoning. The result is not expected to be a cheap pro or contra decision but a weighing of the positive and negative arguments which will automatically show up in an unbiased analysis, and in that analysis one should try to consider all factors which have some importance in the decision, both on the specific medical problems and the global evolutionary biological context. The latter means that the position of the human species in the evolutionary competition has to be analysed from an unbiased point of view, for example imagine a world where 8 billion elephants have to live together! there would be no trees left and planet would be destroyed, same if the oceans would harbour 8 billion sharks. Yes, people are not elephants or sharks, although they sometimes behave like that, but when lions eat zebras biologists will explain us that this is the way of nature to keep the population of zebra’s strong and healthy, as another good example recently the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone nature reserve restored the biotope to its original splendour at the cost of part of the deer population. People in medicine do not apply the same rhetoric and methods because PLM, people’s life’s matter! Hence global evolutionary aspects, species aspects, population growth aspects, medical aspects, economic and psychological aspects, governmental aspects and social aspects…all of these are involved in the discussion. I do not intend to write a book about it here, but I guess it will be change from the usual yes-no shouting if I will try to get to a weighed opinion.
2. In the beginning there was “Change”.
We cannot escape reasoning with our cognitive system the way it developed through human evolution. One aspect of this is that we always look for structure or a system in order to describe and understand a situation. If in the beginning of everything there was such a system than it must originally have been some invariant structure where nothing happened until…there was a “change”. Now the human condition we are in is constructed using our observations and we only observe change, that is processes in time where something “is going on”. The creation of everything coming from change ordered by an irreversible time is by definition chaotic, except there is the chronological ordering. The nature of everything hence also of our being is that everything changes, everything is a process in time so as the Greek philosopher said : Panta Rei (everything flows, and a flow is somewhat different from a structureless change). But in order to see something as a process in time the something has to be identifiable, that is to have an identity and that should be a kind of invariant, let us say a pseudo-invariant, in the process of its evolution. If I throw you a ball and you catch it then-without a shadow of a doubt-you assume the ball you caught is exactly the same as the one I threw. I leave it to you to try to prove that assumption knowing you will hit the problem that you do not know really the identity of the ball in reality, its atomic structure and beyond.
Now Life is a part of the changing universe, chaotic in some sense but not completely, there is the chronological order in time and a “flow” of the structures. In some sense one may say that the invention of DNA stemmed from the desire to define the pseudo-invariant necessary to have a process of development of “something”. At the beginning of life there were single cells, archaea, bacteria and also viruses. I will not go into the discussion of RNA versus DNA and more genetic detail here. Let me just point out that the biological definition of Life is afunctional one, that is it gives a list of functions which should be present in some organism allowing it to be viewed as a living thing, one of those is having a metabolic system. Now a virus does not have a metabolic system, it is a parasite on the cell’s DNA, yet parasitic plants, like Hyobanche a root parasite in the broomrape family is not doing photosynthesis but is viewed a a living thing (using ingredients from the root of other plants is a metabolic system?). From my dynamic interval moment model of reality (cf. Time Hybrids, to be published by Nova Science Publishers) I have another definition of Life which allows to see viruses as living organisms. Anyway the definition of Life is rather arbitrary I would say, we are used to the completely materialistic definition of biology but it is easy to give a “spiritual” definition of life which would be less accepted by actual science but that could also be due to the underdevelopment of Science in the “spiritual” direction! A big jump in evolution was the rise of eukaryotic cells allowing the development of multicellular beings where for the first time cooperation of many cells and function specialization became active. This big event on the micro-level also has an equivalent on the macro-scale being the construction of herd behaviour and symbiosis, a way of rather close living together. The possible symbiosis of a bacteria invading some cell is one of the main hypotheses about the origin of eukaryotes and multi-cellular organisms.
Every organism develops a set of behavioural rules which benefit its survival, I call that the organism-moral and this can also be done by pseudo-organisms , let us restrict that to groups of organisms living together like a herd or a society, including species and even the whole Life. Individual-moral is different from species-or society-moral and certainly of Life-moral (more detail in my book Time Hybrids) and these morals have contradicting parts even. In people-with their creative thinking and the abstract world they constructed based on their concepts, meanings and theories-the society moral became very complex together with a moral supporting justice system. Even if the society moral is derived from the individual-morals of its members some of the individual moral principles are downplayed in the society-moral and different societies in the species lead to a species-moral ,given the contact they have in the modern world, where some of the local-moral aspects are downplayed (what leads to all the problems of integration of different cultures in the growing world-society)while the individual-morals become neglected (what leads to anarchistic groups, fake news, organized crime). The different behavioural rules explain the difference in reaction when the organism or pseudo-organism is attacked, an attack on, an individual or on society or on the species, does have a different meaning depending on respectively, the justice system, the politics or the solidarity among humans. What would an attack on Life look like? Well perhaps what humanity is doing now to planet earth in the last centuries could be an attack on Life on earth…then will there be defence?
3. Evolution from Multi-cellular to Multi-species, cooperation and competition.
The principle of cooperation stems from more complex life, say at least at the level of multi-cellular organisms. There has to be some forms of contact between cells, recent research about for example the quorum-sense of bacteria (and the ability of some viruses to decode this communication between bacteria)as well as the chemo-electrical communication network between cells, shows there is a lot more to be discovered about the communication methods at the micro-level. We know stem-cells act like planning personnel in organisms. The most apparent law of Nature is “the will to survive”, whereas the splitting of single cells may be seen as a way of handling overgrowth and a surplus of available energy rather than a strategy of procreation the invention of sex by more evolved organisms started a planned strategy of survival with DNA playing the role of a banner of identification but also a symbol of the identity of a species. This also meant that competition for energy, food, living space, became planned and while earlier invasions of cells by others was accidental and without plan in the sense that there was not an intended outcome, now the invasions were part of a strategy of survival. Of course I use words like, invention, plan, strategy,…, which suggest some cognitive activity but clearly a seriously developed brain was not available at the moment when some of these “strategic” activities started to happen. For example bacteria communicating about the number of them present in the neighbourhood before attacking some host cells, the so-called quorum sense, so they can postpone the attack if there are not enough to get the job done, is one of the behavioural aspects of the bacteria-moral for that species depending on some chemical communication stemming from some product produced at the splitting of the cells. When competition gets tough cooperation gets stronger and alliances are made, thus from multi-cellular beings we jumped to multi-species beings, a step in evolution not appreciated enough I would say. If we think a human being is just a single being in a species we ignore the trillions other beings which are part of us, bacteria, fungi, even viruses. Perhaps the most essential are the gut bacteria, not only do they play a role in the metabolic system ,they even communicate with the brain, for example it is one of the reasons for the development of some form of Parkinson disease if that relation malfunctions and the gut bacteria prompt the brain to start producing nucleine instead of dopamine. There are even viruses in the human system and in the DNA there are parts of viral DNA being discovered. What is the contribution of that viral DNA to our human activities, as far as I know this is not understood yet, but just imagine what it would mean if the big jump (cognitive?)in human evolution of about 50000 years ago would have been triggered by that. The contribution of viral DNA to very important human characteristics may have been much more important than we can imagine! Obviously this process is very slow and unobserved by us, but this is a first point about our war on viruses we have to remember: if we had prevented all interactions with viral DNA we would not be as we are today, it could even be that we would be as rare and smart as mountain gorilla’s. Even the placenta, once thought to be completely sterile does contain gut bacteria to be transferred to the growing baby, so our multi-species nature is dominantly present in our being even before birth!.
One may wonder whether the evolution towards multi-species beings will go further. Horizontal gene transfer, for example genes from the food you eat may enter the genome system, suggests it is certainly possible, so Life seems now on the way of destroying our simplistic ideas about species as separately evolving things. I do not conjecture that there will be some mixed forms of humans and rats (perhaps in behaviour, not physical) for example, but from the micro world a lot of new friends (as well as enemies)may come to live with us to stay forever. A priori it may not be clear this will have positive effects, but in the Life-moral it will by definition of life-moral being the rules protecting survival, so up to a few rare mishaps the global result may be expected to be beneficial, does it?
4. The Role of Medicine.
In the competition for energy in Life species develop weapons, humans use medicine a lot and in our days it is a scientific version of medicine which began to grow starting from the cradle of humanity. What are the aims of medicine? 1°. Reduce the symptoms and ease the pains. 2°. Cure the disease and if possible prevent it from coming back. 3°. Prevent future diseases which you are likely to get in your life. 4° Heal the body but also the mind.
Of these four aims I would say that only the first is realized to some satisfactory degree, the second is half-realized ,the third is starting to be developed, the fourth is a problem not entirely falling in the area of medicine. The global problems with these aims are: A)The side effects of medication, B)Relative inaccuracy of diagnosis in practical situations, C)Failure of world-wide health care for everyone with local successes destroyed by global inequalities. D)Unbalanced distribution of specialization over teams in hospitals and actions of individual specialists not integrated in a team. E) The commercialization by the pharmaceutical industry and the role of patented research. F) Creation of private and social medicine again financially defined. G)Inadequate cooperation between politics and medicine on the organizational level. H) Inadequate developing countries aid, left to brave volunteers and NGO’s. I) Failing of a worldwide organization through a more powerful WHO. J) Lack of financing of a worldwide structure with local facilities( reduces arms development) so pay for a global healthcare system. K) Develop a sufficient first line care everywhere. L) Raise the recognition (salaries etc…)for the assisting personnel (nurses, social workers,..)
It is not difficult to understand the necessary actions to cure the failures and solve the problems mentioned, the main change needed is a change of attitude and it has to be a deep one. Looking at the flows of money in our society, for example in arms economy, sports and entertainment, artificial products and the money in advertisements, it is clear that health care gets peanuts but everybody at some moment in life states that health is the most important good! Why do we not invest a larger part of funds in the expansion of the health care idea, insurance is one thing but only a small detail in the problem, if health care is really a basic fundamental human right then we have to treat it like that! It should be free! Well I am not going to write a manifest with suggestions to solve the problems, anyway as I suggested above the solution is clear but needs the solidarity of a vocal majority of people, maybe I can come back to it later, but I will focus on the virus war which is now raging.
to be continued in War on the Virus II.