Natures wonders: making spider silk (Introduction)

by dhw, Friday, August 22, 2014, 17:50 (2012 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: I simply don't understand why you insist on separating the genome from the cell. .... The whole point is that, if this hypothesis is correct, cells/cell communities are able to invent because they do have the equivalent of a brain (somewhere in the genome, if you like), which we are calling an inventive mechanism

DAVID: All I am saying is that individual cells cannnot act as you describe. But cell communities, as in whole animals can act to change phenotype, if an inventive mechanism is in the genome of that animal, as we have proposed.

I have stressed all the way along that cells must cooperate in order to produce innovations. It would certainly be absurd to argue that a single cell decides to make itself into a kidney!

DAVID: One would assume that the change is epigentic, not mutational in the Darwinian sense. This is what Shapiro seems to be driving at, although he has not dscribed such a mechanism as yet in his research.

The idea is simply an extension of the claims made by Shapiro, Margulis and Albrecht-Buehler that cells are sentient, cognitive, communicative, decision-making, intelligent beings.

dhw: I am relieved that you have now, at least for the time being, abandoned the hypotheses of preprogramming and dabbling in favour of what I have called the “intelligent cell”, although you still seem to dislike the term because you insist on separating the “brain” (inventive mechanism) from the “body” (the rest of the cell/cell community).

DAVID: I'm not separating it. I'm defining it more closely than your nebulous theory. If there is an inventive mechanism, of course it is in the genome, and is part of the total organism. And somehow the organism decides to tap into its abilities for change.

I'm delighted that you are now trying to find a more detailed definition, but I'm not sure that it's possible to go beyond the concept of “the intelligent cell”, at least until the mechanism is found (if ever). The total organism is a collection of cell communities, and so you might as well say it is the cell communities that decide to tap into their ability to change. “Somehow” is as nebulous as you can get, and it still boils down to cells.

Bearing in mind that bacteria are single-celled and according to the above researchers show every sign of sentience, intelligence etc., the process seems to me to be a logical progression. Some intelligent cells combine with other intelligent cells to create multicellularity (although other single-celled organisms continue to go their own way), and the intelligence which we have called the inventive mechanism within cell communities brings about an almost infinite variety of innovations as and when the environment demands or allows. I think it is essential to include “allows” here, but let's proceed one step at a time! Are you still opposed to the term “the intelligent cell” (not my coinage, of course)? Would you perhaps prefer “the inventive cell”?

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