Microbe Behavior and Purpose

About the shape and function of different specimens
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DonSchaeffer
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Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#1 Post by DonSchaeffer » Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:32 pm

I think we should begin to test the assumption that microbe behavior is purposive. Do microbes react socially? Is microbe behavior essentially random? These are the questions that animal behavior people have been asking since Darwin.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#2 Post by BramHuntingNematodes » Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:34 pm

I believe microbe behavior is adaptive rather purposeful in most instances.
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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#3 Post by DonSchaeffer » Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:37 pm

What's the difference?

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#4 Post by BramHuntingNematodes » Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:39 pm

Purpose implies some self recognition of what it is doing and why
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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#5 Post by DonSchaeffer » Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:41 pm

What do you mean by "recognition?"

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#6 Post by BramHuntingNematodes » Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:46 pm

Well if you act I'm a certain way to achieve some end and are prevented from doing so by some novel, unanticipated circumstance, you may be observed to cease or change your behavior to outmaneuver your new obstacle. From this observed behavior we can infer some idea of purpose. Do microbes do this, and to what extent
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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#7 Post by dtsh » Thu Oct 07, 2021 8:44 pm

BramHuntingNematodes wrote:
Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:46 pm
Well if you act I'm a certain way to achieve some end and are prevented from doing so by some novel, unanticipated circumstance, you may be observed to cease or change your behavior to outmaneuver your new obstacle. From this observed behavior we can infer some idea of purpose. Do microbes do this, and to what extent
I'm happy about this thread as it's a question that I've thought about; however, my ignorance and limits of time prevent me getting anywhere meaningful by my own efforts.
I understand how an organism such as the nematode C. elegans with just over 300 neurons can exhibit alterable behavior, but how does a Stentor, with it's single cell body, decide to detach from it's substrate and seek better pastures when it's tormented? How does it even sense it is being tormented?

On a related note, I am unaware of, but would love to read, anything covering rotifer behavior due to their reduced neurons in comparision with C. elegans, especailly learned behavior such as with classical conditioning. Anyone here actively raising and studying rotifers?

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#8 Post by Hobbyst46 » Thu Oct 07, 2021 9:31 pm

About 1-2 years ago, researchers confirmed the ~100 years old claim, that stentors learn from experience. Individually, not socially.

Appropriately designed controlled experiments can show if an organism, protists included, behaves "intelligently". Very nice to read about in research papers, and IMHO unlikely to reach any conclusion from occasional impressions from heterogenic groups of organisms.

Inter-bacteria communication is being studied in research institutes, as well as the collective behavior of animal cells in a tissue. A lot of computational and experimental effort is put into that. For example, image analysis reveals patterns of collective motion of cells. Probably there are similar studies in bacteria.
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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#9 Post by Greg Howald » Thu Oct 07, 2021 9:39 pm

I suppose one could say that all life, even microbes have one common purpose and that is to be fruitful and multiply. Awareness of being pursued may be a stretch, but they do react when they crash into one another or when an obstacle is in their path. They try this and that to move around a break free. In a recent (and rather bad) video I recently posted, something had attached itself to a paramecium and the paramecium looked like an act in a three ring circus trying to free itself. I'm sure the antics were meaningful to the paramecium,
Who seemed to be screaming lemme go! Lemme go!
Seems like there must be some method of thought involved, no matter how minor.
Greg

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#10 Post by linuxusr » Fri Oct 08, 2021 12:10 am

DonSchaeffer wrote:
Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:32 pm
I think we should begin to test the assumption that microbe behavior is purposive. Do microbes react socially? Is microbe behavior essentially random? These are the questions that animal behavior people have been asking since Darwin.
I think that "purposeful" contains a strong element of anthropocentrism. Humans use it frequently: "Purpose in life." I think that tropism)s) puts the matter on a scientific basis with respect to the behavior of microorganisms. I haven't made any study of the various tropisms and the mechanisms behind them but I think we've all seen, particularly in DF illumination, the way eukaryotic cells congregate around the edges of the coverglass. This certainly seems to be a heat avoidance tropism, away from the heat of the central axis of the objective . . .
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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#11 Post by linuxusr » Fri Oct 08, 2021 1:03 am

I just took a quick look at tropism in Wikipedia. This is a paraphrase of a few main ideas:

Generally tropism refers to plants but it may also refer to viruses and bacteria. No mention was made of protista or algae. When I went to scholar.google.com and simply entered tropism, most references were to viruses and bacteria.

A tropism is named after the stimulus, so a heat tropism is thermotropism. If the tropism is positive, the organism moves towards the source; if it is negative, the organism moves away from the source.

Some behaviorists refer to apparently non-random movements towards or away from a stimulus as a taxis.

So let's stick with purposeful or seemingly purposeful until and if we find the correct scientific term!
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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#12 Post by DonSchaeffer » Fri Oct 08, 2021 1:47 am

Edgar Chase Tolman, an important behavioral psychologist coined the phrase "persisting until" to describe behavior that continues until some goal is met. This is the first stage in the essence of purpose. It's not complicated. If an organism has a need and persists in trying to satisfy the need until it is satisfied, we can see the purpose.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#13 Post by BramHuntingNematodes » Fri Oct 08, 2021 1:55 am

I'm not sure how useful Tolman's first stage is in this case you could use it to say that a marble is pursuing some purpose while rolling downhill.
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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#14 Post by MichaelG. » Fri Oct 08, 2021 6:35 am

Greg Howald wrote:
Thu Oct 07, 2021 9:39 pm
[…] and the paramecium looked like an act in a three ring circus trying to free itself. I'm sure the antics were meaningful to the paramecium,
Who seemed to be screaming lemme go! Lemme go!
Seems like there must be some method of thought involved, no matter how minor.
Greg
I think it’s worth comparing such behaviour with the antics of a simple trundling robot … either a ‘line follower’ or a ‘recoil from obstacles’ device … either type will display what might appear to be intelligent/meaningful behaviour; but neither machine is sentient.

MichaelG.
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Note: [for the avoidance of doubt] this is the type of simple line-follower that I have in mind:
https://www.learnrobotics.org/blog/robot-line-follower/
In this tutorial I will show you how to make a simple line follower robot. Normally these type of robots use microcontrollers and complex logic to track and follow line. But today I will be showing you how you can make a simple line follower without a microcontroller. Before we start making the robot, let’s understand what a line follower is and how it works.


… Strange how complexity has already become the new Normal :?
Too many 'projects'

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#15 Post by DonSchaeffer » Fri Oct 08, 2021 5:09 pm

The idea about the marble is a true Touche'. Did you ever see the Heider-Simmel movie? Google it. Our judgement about motives, choice, and "personal characteristics" is itself instinctual or early learned. Our judgement about what is alive and what is sentient is very complicated. Microbes are a excellent source for this discussion.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#16 Post by Harold » Mon Oct 11, 2021 10:30 pm

These kinds of discussions can get very slippery when you begin to ascribe abstract characteristics like "purpose" and intelligence" to simple responses to environmental stimuli. In many cases, these responses are the result of simple chemistry and physics and little else. If we start interpreting consistent behaviors that produce a predictable result as and indicator of some sort of intelligence, we could say chemical elements have an intelligence because they behave only in certain ways in the presence of certain other elements. Now, when you get to something as complex as organic compounds capable of reproduction or encoding chemical reactions, it gets very interesting very quickly. For instance, what is it that attracts neutrophils to localized inflammation? Purpose or intelligence or good old dumb as a box of rocks chemotaxis?

Frankly, I think the answer is 42.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#17 Post by Greg Howald » Mon Oct 11, 2021 11:53 pm

Good point Harold. Reaction to stimuli does not translate into thought.
A frog's leg reacts to the stimuli of electro magnetic force. No thought there.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#18 Post by Harold » Tue Oct 12, 2021 12:29 am

Greg Howald wrote:
Mon Oct 11, 2021 11:53 pm
Good point Harold. Reaction to stimuli does not translate into thought.
A frog's leg reacts to the stimuli of electro magnetic force. No thought there.
Exactly. A lot of folks a whole lot smarter than me have been wrestling with the concepts of consciousness, sentience, and intelligence since Turin, and no one seems to have come up with a viable definition of those terms, let alone a reliable list of hallmarks to identify them. Hence my flippant reference to "Hitch Hiker's Guide..." It's reminiscent of M.C. Ecsher's "Drawing Hands"

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#19 Post by DonSchaeffer » Tue Oct 12, 2021 2:00 am

It is sometimes a matter of language. Organisms move toward an oxygen source. We can say they NEED oxygen. Can we say they WANT oxygen?

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#20 Post by Harold » Tue Oct 12, 2021 3:57 am

DonSchaeffer wrote:
Tue Oct 12, 2021 2:00 am
It is sometimes a matter of language. Organisms move toward an oxygen source. We can say they NEED oxygen. Can we say they WANT oxygen?
Semantics do play into it. "Need" is again a very anthropomorphic quality. We can say that obligate aerobic organisms will die if deprived of oxygen. Since these organisms have had billions of years to evolve, and clearly those capable of detecting and moving towards the one substance they cannot survive without were winners in the Darwinian crap shoot called evolution. Again, no intelligence, consciousness, or sentience required.

Sometimes things just work the way they do because there's no other way they could based on the events and conditions occurring a few very chaotic seconds after the big bang.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#21 Post by DonSchaeffer » Tue Oct 12, 2021 8:59 pm

I know your opinion in this matter is sacrosanct. All is anthropomorphy and illusion. But I think it's only because we don't have certain critical knowledge about the nature of life. You are making the kind of error the Skinnerian--no minds needed--theorists made in the 1940s and 50s. I remember those arguments well.
Anthropomorphic language is the best way to describe behavior.

Take a look at this and describe what's going on.
https://www.bing.com/search?q=heider+si ... 7b6602ced0

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#22 Post by Harold » Tue Oct 12, 2021 11:44 pm

I agree that we lack critical knowledge about the nature of life. Hell man, we can't even define consciousness or reality. So I believe it's all opinion and none of it is sacrosanct.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#23 Post by apochronaut » Wed Oct 13, 2021 12:32 am

Yes, it is mostly opinion. Opinion has degrees of validity though, depending on the amount of effort put into acquiring information , the quality of assessment in determining the type of information to acquire , and the expertise applied to examining the information. When it comes to microbes: I would add, the length of time over which the information has been gathered and the quality of instrumentation used to gather that information. It is not an easy task to put that all together and assemble an opinion based on a continuum of those requirements.
I have been looking at microorganisms for 58 years and I have no evidence that microorganisms at the cellular level have volition but: I have seen events that raise that possibility and are unexplainable outside of that plateau.
Outside of some of the expetiments pointed out by Hobbyst46, there has not been a lot of designed studies focused on simple organism behaviour. Hard to design one that excludes variables.
A lot of stymies.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#24 Post by Dubious » Wed Oct 13, 2021 3:02 am

Some interesting philosophical questions raised here and I have no real answers, except to note that in terms of problem solving, our type of self-conscious intelligence is sometimes overrated, being more suited to worrying about problems then solving them. We now know that Jennings was correct in his observations of S. roeseli's behavioral responses, but what does that mean? In an analog to the Turing Test, you could indeed limit the test for volitional behavior to what a viewer observes the Stentor do in response to various indignities and conclude that it must be a thinking creature because it seems to act like one--first trying one thing, then when that doesn't work, trying something else, etc. But stepping back a bit and considering both the limitations of the Stentor and those of the test provides the more likely explanation that what was observed is a "complex hierarchy" of programmed avoidance responses, each selected by natural selection as having some value as a possible solution to the threat. It's still quite amazing behavior for a single-cell organism, and given that we really are not sure how the Stentor accomplishes what it does, there is almost certainly a lot more about the "intelligence" of microbes that we don't yet understand.

As the authors of the interesting paper linked to below conclude, "Jennings’ avoidance hierarchy presents the same challenge as self-organization. It reveals unexpected depths in the cognitive capabilities of singly nucleated cells. We should explore these more broadly in their natural context and unravel their molecular underpinnings."

A Complex Hierarchy of Avoidance Behaviors in a Single-Cell Eukaryote
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/a ... 14319#app2

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#25 Post by DonSchaeffer » Wed Oct 13, 2021 7:56 am

Maybe we should point to the rigidity and stupidity of microbe behavior as a sign that they are more similar to human beings.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#26 Post by BramHuntingNematodes » Wed Oct 13, 2021 8:42 pm

DonSchaeffer wrote:
Wed Oct 13, 2021 7:56 am
Maybe we should point to the rigidity and stupidity of microbe behavior as a sign that they are more similar to human beings.
I actually agree with this
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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#27 Post by DonSchaeffer » Wed Oct 13, 2021 10:14 pm

Lol thanks, Bram.

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#28 Post by Rossf » Thu Oct 14, 2021 11:44 pm

I imagine the old natural selection comes into it a lot as well-the way a lot of flagellates have that ambling “duck waddle” probably keeps them a moving target as well as bumping into food sources-has anyone seen the flagellate that from my observation seems to grab food and attach it to its back-possibly to eat later or maybe a protective coating-very messy looking-if there was a microscope version of Snoopy it would be the Pig Pen character…I tend to think of microbe behaviour as imprinted “code”-situationally they act on “if not this then that” if they show what looks like avoidance or other complex behaviour-but who knows!

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Re: Microbe Behavior and Purpose

#29 Post by DonSchaeffer » Fri Oct 15, 2021 3:14 am

The first issue is perceiving them to be alive. They don't move like machines. After we decide that they are alive we can attribute motives to their behavior.

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