----- Original Message -----From: [log in to unmask]>Karl RogersSent: 16 August 2006 01:49Subject: Re: Fungal inclusionalityAlan,Thanks for this. I would certainly like to read more if you have any available. Feel free to send it me personally or post it FoW, as you wish.It seems to me that your ideas about inclusionality and boundaries work nicely for symbiotic relationships, as well as for the beneficial role of parasites within an ecosystem, and I can also see how, once we take things such as nutrient cycles, etc., into account, the boundary between life and death is not fixed or clearly identifiable.But, I am still not so convinced about the case where parasites are harmful to their host. When we look at the relationship between parasite and host, where one or both are detrimental to the other, it seems to me that there is some boundary relation that seems to be asymmetrical in these cases. The parasite seems to attempt to dissolve or violate the boundary, which the host tries to establish and maintain, such as in the cases where the host actively tries to kill the parasite.It seems to me that there is a strong argument for the establishment of a natural relation of exclusionality, organically developed by the host, say the reaction of its immune system which tries to kill or expel the host, by identifying it as an alien which can be isolated from the rest of the organism, while the parasite attempts to maintain an inclusional relation by either bypassing or preventing the setting up of a boundary between itself and its host, by either making itself part of its host or by disabling the host's ability to form a boundary.I am not suggesting that such cases contradict your theory of inclusionality, because it seems to me that an excusional boundary would be the product of the interaction, should the host be successful, rather than a natural state which prexisted the interaction with the parasite.What do you think?Karl.p.s. Did you know that Murray Bookchin died last week? Have you read his theory of social ecology?
"A.D.M.Rayner" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:Dear Karl,Good to hear from you!Actually, I was trying to write something about this question just yesterday, in chapter 4 (Scales of Life) of the book I'm currently writing. The chapter I am about to write, concerning the vital role of death in life, is also relevant....I've pasted the relevant passage below.BestAlan-------------------------------------------Ecosystem Scalles - Partnerships and CommunitiesThe dynamic interplay between processes of differentiation and integration is as much in evidence amongst as it is within what we human beings have distinguished as different species. It is crucial to the organization and evolution of natural community life. But what is a natural community? Again, the impossibility of absolute definition has not deterred many from applying the building block metaphor, with in this case, the species as the basic constructive unit from which the whole is assembled.In conventional ecology, a natural community is defined as the living component of an ecosystem, consisting of diverse species that combine together within a particular place to form a distinctive functional unit. In containing diverse species it is not the same as what in common parlance is called a human community, which is more akin to what in biological terms would be described as a colony or society, a coherent grouping within a population consisting of members of the same species.Like human societies, natural communities are characterised by having at least some functional coherence, but, tellingly, this is not generally orchestrated around any obvious governmental structure or individuals such as a ‘parliament’, ‘king’, ‘queen’ or ‘leader of the pack’. Natural communities are what might be termed ‘self-orchestrating’ - their coherence arises from the complementary form and functioning of their members pooled together in space. For a natural community to continue to thrive, however, at least some of its members need to be ‘primary producers’, transforming sunlight or inorganic sources of energy into organic form. In many (but not all) situations exposed to sunlight, these primary producers are plants. They form the living and dying dynamic framing within, upon and around which heterotrophic organisms, incapable of producing their own food, dwell in dynamic neighbourhood.In the sense that they include identities assembling together from disparate immediate sources, the building block metaphor does apply more readily to natural communities and their inhabitants than it does to collectives emerging through differentiation and integration from the same immediate source. The basic principle underlying this assembly is, however, the same as I have already described in the special case of sexual conjugation. It is the attraction of ‘one’ to the receptive space of an ‘other’, which one way or another serves as its ‘host’. This ‘host space’ may be in the form of another organism, whereupon it gives rise to what is known as ‘symbiosis’, and it may be in the form of some geographical feature, whereupon it serves as the spatial context of natural ecosystems and their inhabitants.The word ‘symbiosis’ was first used in the nineteenth century by Anton de Bary to mean a combination of two or more organisms living together. The most fully developed forms of symbiosis are generally regarded as ‘mutualistic’, where each organism benefits from, and indeed may be dependent for its viability upon the presence of the other.In terrestrial ecosystems, the majority of multicellular plants would be unable to thrive without forming mutualistic partnerships, known as ‘mycorrhizas’, with fungi that enter and serve as absorptive accessories to their roots. The fungi extend out, as mycelium, into soil and thereby provide their plant partner with improved access to mineral nutrients and water in exchange for organic compounds produced by photosynthesis. The mycelium can also interconnect different plants – even of different species. By providing communication channels between the plants, mycorrhizal mycelia are thought to enable adult plants to nurture seedlings and to enhance efficient usage and distribution of soil nutrients. When we look at a forest or other stand of vegetation, we may be deceived by its superficial appearance into regarding it as an array of separate branching sticks in the ground that can do no more than bump into one another as they grow and sway in the breeze. But the reality underground, out of sight and out of mind, is that the plants are connected to varying degrees by complex, genetically diverse networks of fungi, like solar powered fountains linked together by hidden pipelines.Apart from forming mycorrhizas, the roots of some plants form associations with bacteria that are capable of converting atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia by a process known as ‘nitrogen fixation’. These associations have considerable importance in the generation and maintenance of soil fertility.Where larger plants are unable to establish in terrestrial habitats, then another kind of symbiotic couple, lichens, covers surfaces that would otherwise be bare. Lichens consist of a photosynthetic filling of green algal or blue-green bacterial cells sandwiched between layers of fungal mycelium. Being tolerant of extremes of temperature and water availability, they grow very slowly, contributing over many years to processes of rock erosion and soil formation, and are a source of a unique variety of chemical compounds.Not only terrestrial plants, but also many animals depend on mutualistic symbioses. The guts of many animals contain assemblages of microorganisms that both benefit from and can aid digestive processes. Some of these associations are indeed essential to digestion, and the activities of different members of assemblages complement one another. Such complementation occurs between the fungi and bacteria that inhabit the rumen of ruminant mammals, and the microorganisms that inhabit the guts of lower termites. Some animals even cultivate partners that can aid digestion: amongst insects these include the wood wasps, ambrosia beetles, higher termites and attine ants, which grow ‘fungus gardens’.Mutualistic symbioses are also of great importance in marine communities. The reef-building corals, for example, depend on the presence of photosynthetic ‘zooxanthellae’ within their tissues and so cannot exist below depths where an adequate supply of light can penetrate. The corals benefit through the provision of photosynthetic products and enhanced production of calcium carbonate (limestone) for skeletal support. The zooxanthellae obtain nitrogen and phosphorus from the food caught by the polyps as well as gaining shelter within the animal tissues.Mutualistic symbioses have the potential to become so intimate, with the partners so interdependent that they become literally inseparable, so that what originated as partnership between distinct identities becomes, in effect, one and the same identity. It is now widely thought that the cells of plants, animals and fungi arose in this way, and that their DNA-containing organelles like mitochondria and chloroplasts are derived from bacterial and blue-green bacterial ancestors. During evolution, transfer of genes from these organelles to the cell nucleus has enhanced their interdependence and mutual compatibility.It should be recalled, however, that partnerships brought about by self-integration of boundaries are potentially unstable if incompatibilities are not overridden, and that many mutualistic symbioses may evolve via a parasitic phase in which there is apparent benefit only to one partner. A number of degenerative conditions and male-sterility phenomena, for example, are thought to arise from dissonant mitochondrial expression.Parasitism is an extremely widespread phenomenon, which is usually viewed detrimentally from a human perspective, as a cause of disease and death. But is this view yet another illustration of our human tendency to draw one-sided conclusions out of dynamic context? Could parasitism, as it is viewed at one scale of life contribute to vitality at another scale?Both parasitism and mutualism are examples of the prevalence of a ‘cost-benefit’ approach to classifying symbiotic relationships, which is very revealing of underlying assumptions. For example, a common schema based on this approach classifies associations between two organisms into six categories depending on whether the outcome for each organism is beneficial (+), detrimental (-) or neutral (0): so we have ++, +-, +0, -0, 00 and – possibilities.Quite apart from the enormous difficulty of calculating what the net costs and benefits to each might actually be in any particular case, this approach confines its attention (like Newton did in his analysis of solar system dynamics) to two bodies at a time within a discrete frame of reference. It therefore avoids the complexities of accounting for the simultaneous mutual influence of three or more bodies (the ‘three body problem’), which I discuss elsewhere in this book. Moreover it is purely transactional in that it envisages the exchange of some kind of currency between two primarily isolated entities. It hence effectively ignores the complex dynamic neighbourhood, of which these entities are inseparable inclusions, and so may seriously misrepresent their role in ongoing interdependent natural processes. For example, we may take a limited snapshot view of a powdery mildew fungus growing on one of our crop or garden plants as a ‘pathogen’, ‘attacking’ the plant and thereby feel compelled to rally to the defence of the ‘victim’. Perhaps we will do this by spraying the victim and its neighbourhood with fungicide or manipulating its genome, engendering ‘collateral damage’ of the same ilk as when in human warfare, we attempt to rid a host community of its pestilential influences.By making rash judgements based on one-sided quantitative analyses that fail to account for dynamic context, we may seriously mismanage our environmental relationships and, in effect, make pathogens of ourselves. How many of the ‘diseases’ that we seek to eliminate from our living space are ‘dis-eases’ of our own making? How much worse might our eliminative control measures make the situation? How many of us recognise the wisdom of Louis Pasteur’s deathbed confession: ‘Bernard avait raison; le microbe n’est rien, c’est le terrain qui est tout’ [‘Bernard was right; the microbe is nothing, it is the terrain that is all’].Perhaps we can turn our understanding around by thinking about what it really means to be a ‘host’. A host can be thought of as a provider of living space, an inductive, receptive place - an accommodative ‘hospitality suite’ that invites all comers to find shelter and sustenance.How does it feel to think, for example, of a tree in this way? Elsewhere I have already described a tree geometrically as a dynamic nested holeyness or neighbourhood of outer and inner spaces with permeable boundaries. It is a relational place, enveloped in, neighbouring and enveloping other places whose coupled inner and outer dimensions comprise a complex ‘self’ or ‘flow-form’.A tree is a great place for a party! Anyone who has thrown a party in their home will be aware of the rich creative and destructive potentialities of the situation! To close off these potentialities completely is to endure an isolated, dormant existence - no real ‘life’ at all. To open up these potentialities brings great promise, but also risk of damage to internal structure and function. The latter can, however, be minimized by mechanisms of ‘damage limitation’ that protect, repair and seal off vital partitions and sustain function, keeping the activities of guests within fluid bounds, perhaps aided by the guests themselves. Should these mechanisms fail, for example through inadequate resource supply or infrastructure, then the system may be overwhelmed and lose viability.Add to that that the guests in this host space are themselves complex flow-forms and there is scope for an immensely rich multiculture of relationships, whose character depends critically on circumstances. In this dynamic context we can begin to understand the extraordinary variety of life that finds accommodation within and without the tree’s dynamic boundaries as it grows, dies and decays. We can also begin to recognize the complex ways in which the guests may influence one another’s activities and in turn both influence and be influenced by internal and external environmental circumstances.In these terms, a tree forms the receptive space of an ecosystem. It embodies a community of flow forms playing complementary roles in the sustenance of a rich diversity of life, akin to its own tissues, organs and communicating pipelines as a multicelullar organism emerging from the receptive space of a seed. Moreover, this community is a dynamic inclusion, a distinct but not discrete identity within the distinct but not discrete community of the forest within the distinct but not discrete community of the biosphere: a holey communion of dynamic neighbourhood, nested over all scales.----- Original Message -----From: [log in to unmask]">Karl RogersSent: 15 August 2006 01:51Subject: Re: Fungal inclusionalityHi Alan,I have been meaning to join in on your discussion of inclusionality on the Friends of Wisdom site for some time. I have been working and travelling, so I haven't had chance to join in, but, given that I have enough familiarity with your ideas that I can say that I get it, I wanted to give more opportunity for others to join in. There are lots of questions that I would like to raise about your ideas on inclusionality, neighbourhood, and also how they apply to politics, including some of the draft chapters that you sent me.But, before launching into that, I was wondering about how you applied your ideas about inclusionality and boundaries to biological parasites. I can see how you ideas would apply nicely to case of symbiotic organisms, which actually benefit their host, but what about the kind that is harmful (and in some cases, lethal) to its host?Karl,
Try the all-new Yahoo! Mail . "The New Version is radically easier to use" – The Wall Street Journal
All new Yahoo! Mail "The new Interface is stunning in its simplicity and ease of use." - PC Magazine