bacterial intelligence: they signal electrically in biofilm (Animals)

by dhw, Monday, March 19, 2018, 12:43 (211 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Those mechanisms would have followed God's guidelines. You want God to be only partially in charge.

dhw: Since you believe in human free will, clearly you acknowledge the possibility that your God is prepared to allow some organisms to make their own way – i.e. in our case he is only partially in charge. I am merely extending that principle to the evolutionary bush itself, i.e. that he set up the mechanism, and then let it make its own way. I don’t “want” anything. I am simply trying to find an explanation for why things are as they are. This particular post suggests to me that the communal intelligence of bacteria might throw light on the communal intelligence of all cell communities, from individual organs to ant society to human society. The three sentences that I highlighted illustrate the point:

And like humans, who have succeeded in large part by cooperating with each other, bacteria thrive in communities.
This electrical exchange has proved so powerful that biofilms even use it to recruit new bacteria from their surroundings, and to negotiate with neighboring biofilms for their mutual well-being.”

[Shapiro] has argued that bacterial colonies might be capable of a form of cognition.

DAVID: I have stated that free will exists in humans who have brains. Don't try to stretch my point to single-celled animals; it won't work.

You complained that I wanted God to be only partially in charge. My point was that he CHOSE to be only partially in charge if he gave humans free will. I am not discussing the mechanisms of free will here, but the fact that your God is prepared NOT to be in full charge. An evolutionary free-for-all would also be in keeping with your own theory that he watches with interest.

DAVID: I suspect the ability for single-celled animals to cooperate is a mechanism given to them by God. The ability to use ionization electricity presages the appearance of neurons later in evolution, since one early stage set up advances in future stages, under God's control.

If one believes in God, then of course the mechanism would have stemmed from him, and there is no reason to assume that the mechanism is not an autonomous form of cognition. I like the idea of bacterial electricity presaging neurons – it establishes a clear evolutionary progression. Whether your God directed that progression or watched it evolve through the mechanism he had invented (allowing for occasional dabbles) is as open to debate as the question of your God’s existence.


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