20060130

New Life and New Civilizations

If bacteria and our Archae-Protean single-celled ancestors evolved once, doesn't it stand to reason that new forms of life could be evolving ever since then, even now?

Maybe. But if new microbes were still coming into being, they'd be competing for the same or similar resources that the original ones were - all those free-floating atoms molecules that served as fuel for the first biological processes. Now, though, with an active biosphere and bacteria surviving in every imaginable environment (Deinococcus radiourans lives inside nuclear reactors), I'd venture that most of whatever could be turned into fuel is consumed by the organisms already present.

But structure seems to always be wending its way into the universe. It stands to reason that it is doing so now. Instead of microbes, though, I believe it's coming into being on different levels - in larger and larger groups of organisms that already are or are becoming already connected - in the form of nations, economies, and ideas.

Robert Wright wasn't the first author to notice the trend, but it seems he was the first one to codify it. No one I have heard of, however, has postulated that these new organizations constitute another kind of organism. Our definitions of life keep pushing the boundaries of what we think it is or can be, but I believe that a structure as complicated as an economy can be thought of as a super-organism: it consists of humans and their individual needs. We compose it: everything we buy and sell, consume and waste, is part of its veins and vessels.

I know, once you start with allowing definitions like that in the door, the entire biosphere becomes another organism. Well, we're not the first to think of that one, either.

20060112

Tard Tastic

When future biospheres are built, they will be built by people like Temple Grandin, autistic professor of animal science and prolific author, who spoke last night at a local bookstore on her new book, "Animals in Translation".

Woefully hewing to the standard look of Wyoming ranchwomen, she sports a dykey haircut, jacket adorned with wolves, and denim shirt with embroidered - oh god, are those Looney Tunes characters? - no, just cats.

I'm digressing, because I'm a bitch. The real impression she gives is someone who knows her shit (and has probably stepped in enough of it.) Wisely pre-empting the vegetarian issue with comments about how her work has calmed the fears of millions of animals headed for slaughter, she spoke about how thinking in pictures instead of words helps her commune with her clients - well, the pwned of her clients anyway. Nevertheless, the audience still tossed underhand pitches about the humane treatment issue. My friend wanted to ask some question about Lacannian theory until I slapped him.

What was more interesting was hearing her speak of the psychology of animals as she understood them, as if they were little different from people. (I'd love to see a candid-photo section at the back of some livestock quarterly, shots of Bessie angrily checking some horny bull, or caught in a snapshot adjusting her uncomfortable teat milker - "Livestock Celebrities - They're just like Us!")