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It's all about us, right?

Here's a comment that someone posted to the entry for C-Realm Podcast episode 100: Interfacing with the Panopticon:
at 11:32AM Tuesday on June 03, 2008, Doc Ecology said:

I’m a new listener and enjoyed the show—I’ll have to go back and listen to the older podcasts now.
But I just had to comment on this topic, as it is one I have decided opinions on, for what they are worth. (Forgive the long comment here, I tried registering on The Grow Report forum but was not successful).
Specifically, on humans being the goal of earthly evolution and the pinnacle of development. I must argue hat other possibilities exist for this award. I am sometimes awed at another group of life forms on our planet that have implications for space travel, and have very well accomplished a vast “Genesis Project” of their own of this planet, transforming it from a molten early rock soup to our livable atmospheric green and blue Earth.
I am talking about bacteria and even more ancient Archaean life forms.
Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said, “On any possible, reasonable or fair criterion, bacteria are—and always have been—the dominant forms of life on Earth. Our failure to grasp this most evident of biological facts arises in part from the blindness of our arrogance but also, in large measure, as an effect of scale. We are so accustomed to viewing phenomena of our scale—sizes measured in feet and ages in decades—as typical of nature.
…Not only does the Earth contain more bacterial organisms than all others combined (scarcely surprising, given their minimal size and mass); not only do bacteria live in more places and work in a greater variety of metabolic ways; not only did bacteria alone constitute the first half of life's history, with no slackening in diversity thereafter; but also, and most surprisingly, total bacterial biomass (even at such minimal weight per cell) may exceed all the rest of life combined, even forest trees, once we include the subterranean populations as well. Need any more be said in making a case for the modal bacter as life's constant center of maximal influence and importance?” (http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_bacteria.html)
We seem to always measure superiority by intelligence, but I argue that for sheer survivability, these micro-organisms are vastly superior to us. They have been found thriving at 650 degrees F in deep sea vents, some even living on the surface of hot coals. Other kinds thrive 4.2 miles below the Earth’s surface in oil deposits and rock sediments. Others live in environments as harsh as concentrated sulfuric acid, including our stomachs where they cooperate in digesting our food – 100 trillion bacteria live in our stomach alone, and the total dry weight of our bodies is actually 10% bacterial organisms. Chemical traces of them have been found in rocks 3.8 billion years old, when our planet was a hot methane-ammonia hell.
You can’t kill some of them—one bacterial species is super-resistant to radioactivity and has been found growing in the interior of an operating nuclear reactor. More amazing to me, Raul Cano of California Polytechnic State University has successfully revived bacteria encased in fossil amber that is 135 million years old (the age of dinosaurs) – humans can’t do that with our brains, and our geneticists are still trying to figure out how this is possible.
While our space station’s toilet breaks down for weeks, bacteria are true space travelers without technology. NASA reported that after Surveyor 3 returned from its Moon landing in 1969, bacteria were found to have hitchhiked inside the otherwise sterile camera lens of the spacecraft. About 100 bacteria survived the 2.6 year trip in space vacuum, radiation exposure, 20 degrees above absolute zero, no water, food, or energy source.
Now I think this qualifies these little guys as superior life forms, perhaps the goal of evolution that has already been achieved long ago, and perhaps these organisms have already or will seed and colonize space. Who needs a big brain?

I haven't actually read it yet. I'm placing it here so that I remember to get back to it.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
peristaltor
Aug. 31st, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
Y'know, now that I think about it, that Panopticon guy really bugged me. He used your interview almost exclusively to plug his book and ideas, most of which I found ridiculous for the same reason as Doc Ecology. He seemed quite the asshat.

Gould's Full House takes some of the themes mentioned in the cited essay and roles with them in book form. His argument about the conditional nature of evolutionary progress and the dominance of single-celled creatures is worth considering.
ankh_f_n_khonsu
Aug. 31st, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
Schopenhauer's misanthropy was a lot more sensible.

Proliferation is not necessarily a sign of superiority. Bacteria aren't capable of compounding information external to their genome, and are therefore inferior in comparison to conscious organisms.

If someone presented a petri dish that could create art maybe I'd reconsider...
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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