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The Intelligence of Microbes …

 

‘Science’ (25 November 2017) published a story I thought both weird, wonderful —’Seeing the Beautiful Intelligence of Microbes …’ — and strangely familiar. [1]

The Intelligence of Microbes. Collectively, bacteria may attain a complex structure. a

As this Pseudomonas biofilm expands, it develops a more complex internal structure. Bacteria in different parts of its mass may also develop more specialized functions.

The story begins: “Bacterial biofilm and slime molds are more than crude patches of goo. Detailed time-lapse microscopy reveals how they sense and explore their surroundings, communicate with their neighbors and adaptively reshape themselves.”

Authors John Rennie and Lucy Reading-Ikkanda continue: “Intelligence is not a quality to attribute lightly to microbes. There is no reason to think that bacteria, slime molds and similar single-cell forms of life have awareness, understanding or other capacities implicit in real intellect.

“But particularly when these cells commune in great numbers, their startling collective talents for solving problems and controlling their environment [2] emerge.” The intelligence of microbes “may be genetically encoded into these cells by billions of years of evolution, but in that sense the cells are not so different from robots programmed to respond in sophisticated ways to their environment. If we can speak of artificial intelligence for the latter, perhaps it’s not too outrageous to refer to the underappreciated cellular intelligence of the former.”

Aroutioun Agadjanian—the father and his son

It may be ten years since I sat in a Toronto coffee shop, talking to a young scientist and science writer, Aroutioun Agadjanian [3] about his father – also named Aroutioun Agadjanian. The father had spent much of his career studying the ‘intelligence’ of bacteria and other organisms at The Armenian Institute of Scientific and Technical Information. Agadjanian (Senior) describes some of his work under the title, ‘Experimental Studies of Information Transmission Between Killed and Surviving Individuals of the Same Biological Population as Representation of Species Consciousness and Its Evolutionary Role.’ The author presented some of this material at a conference in Tucson, in 2003. [4]

Agadjanian (Senior) describes experiments by Heal and Parsons [5] in which a Petri dish was divided into two compartments. The only connection was a five millimeter air gap between the top of the dividing wall and the glass lid of the dish. One compartment contained drops of E.coli bacteria, with several antibiotics. When the other half of the dish was left empty, the E.coli in the other compartment died, killed by the antibiotics. However, if thriving colonies of E.coli were placed in the formerly empty compartment, the first group of bacteria survived.

But, If the gap between the compartments was sealed, the bacteria in the first compartment died. Heal and Parsons concluded that the bacteria in the second compartment must have sent some kind of airborne “survival” signals to the first group of bacteria dying from antibiotics, which helped them to survive.

The Intelligence of Microbes

Agadjanian writes, “From the perspective of local species consciousness the results can be understood completely logically. The consciousness of one colony of E.Coli in the presence of a huge dose of antibiotic was not able to ‘think’ of what to do to survive. When another healthy colony was put near this dying colony they would together comprise the viable ‘living’ network with common consciousness, which had enough information and resources to be able to ‘figure out’ how exactly to react to the threat factor.” But, “when the air gap was closed these colonies again become two separate colonies with separate consciousness and resources resulting in the death of the colony exposed to antibiotic. Quite possibly by blocking the air gap, chemical information transmission was blocked, but some unknown weak electromagnetic information transmission got through, for which that barrier was impermeable.”

At this point I asked myself: Did the experimenter try using a sheet of lead as the barrier? It might have blocked ‘weak electromagnetic information transmission’.

The intelligence of microbes: Pseudomonas aeruginosa form a structured community.

In a high-magnification scanning electron micrograph of a Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm, the individual rod-shaped bacteria are interlinked by hairlike structures called pili. Bacillus bacteria secrete an extracellular matrix that encases the cells and helps them form a more structured community. Image: Roberto Kolter and Steve Minsky (Bacillus).

Species Consciousness

“The hypothesis about the species consciousness of a local biological population might add new insight to the understanding of these experimental results. For example, it could explain the last studies by Heal and Parsons from a consciousness point of view. In these experiments the Petri dish was divided into two compartments, connected by a five-millimeter air gap between the top of the wall and the lid. In one compartment drops of the bacterium E.coli were placed, together with various antibiotics. When the other compartment was empty, the bacteria died – killed by the antibiotics. However, if thriving colonies of E.coli were placed in the other compartment, the first group of bacteria survived. If the gap between the compartments was sealed, the bacteria in the first compartment died. Heal and Parsons concluded that the bacteria in the second compartment must have sent some kind of airborne ‘survival’ signals to the first group of bacteria dying from antibiotics , which helped them to survive. … From the perspective of local species consciousness the results can be understood logically. The consciousness of one colony of E.Coli in the presence of a huge dose of antibiotic was not able to ‘think’ of what to do to survive. When another healthy colony was put near this dying colony the two communities would together comprise the viable ‘living’ network with common consciousness, which had enough information and resources”—the intelligence of microbes—to be able to ‘figure out’ how exactly to react to the threat factor. When the air gap was closed these colonies again become two separate colonies with separate consciousness and resources resulting in the death of the colony exposed to antibiotic. Possibly, by blocking this air gap, chemical information transmission was blocked but some unknown weak electromagnetic information transmission passed through.

‘To you from failing hands we throw the torch …’

Agadjanian interprets the intelligence of microbes, thus: “The killed individuals in each species transmitted, by physical or chemical signals, general information about the fact of their violent death and specific information about the nature of the deadly factor to the survivors of the same group. Based on this received information, the collective consciousness of this population employed both nonspecific and specific defense mechanisms in order to survive the deadly threat. First, as a nonspecific defense, the population increased its rate of reproduction, a response which was observed in all of the above experiments …”

That’s interesting and, at first reading, incredible. There’s more. Agadjanian has not finished.

One defense is to breed

“The most stunning conclusions based on this hypothesis and on some of the above experiments might be drawn concerning the human species. Non-specific defense mechanisms of the human consciousness obviously continue to function unconsciously, effecting the behavior and reproductive patterns of people despite the intelligent awareness of individual human beings.

“That is why during the 20th century, as a direct result of the two most devastating wars in the history of human civilization … the human population increased dramatically (Agadjanian et al., 1990, and Agadjanian, 1999). Another interesting conclusion based on this theory, is indirectly confirmed by the results of the above experiments on the intelligence of microbes by Heal and Parsons (Heal et al., 2002), is this. Any chronically ill person, in addition to having the necessary conventional treatments, might benefit from periodically spending time at public events with gatherings of many thousands of healthy people, like sport games or concerts (Agadjanian, 1999).”

So, we not only have the intelligence of microbes, but a component in the subconscious intelligence (intuition?) of higher animals. Let us all live our life with each other to the full.

• • •

[1] For a list of appropriate references to the intelligence of microbes and other species, see: http://www.cheniere.org/correspondence/041903.htm

[2] ‘Swirling Bacteria Linked to the Physics of Phase Transitions’ https://www.quantamagazine.org/swirling-bacteria-linked-to-the-physics-of-phase-transitions-20170504/

[3] The information God: The modern pragmatist’s guide for connecting to God (2009) is a book written by Aroutioun Agadjanian, the son, not the father.

[4] Aroutioun Agadjanian (Senior) presented Part of this material at the 2003 Quantum Mind Conference in Tucson, Arizona.  JNLRMI Vol. II Nr.2  July 2003 (The Journal of Non-Locality and Remote Mental Interactions)

[5] Heal, R. D., & Parsons, A. T., (2002) Novel intercellular communication system in Escherichia coli that confers antibiotic resistance between physically separated populations, Journal of Applied Microbiology, 92, 1116-1122.

 

 

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