Another person makes a pertinent point on this: “If viruses
control us then we as a species are doomed due to our disposition to
Yes, and that’s the point. Viruses act to cut and past across a spectrum of DNA to constantly inform the DNA of each species. While we consciously seek to organize and establish unchanging identities for ourselves, we act in parallel to the immune system, which seeks to maintain stability and order even as it seeks information from the environment. The organisms within a species are constantly forced to identify and adapt to these viral invasions.
It is, in fact, these constant viral invasios that cause the immune system to “take stock” and re-assess its “identity” in the environment. The process of viral invasion is basically simple: A protein encasede virus discovers a n interlocki ng “port” o n the outside of a cell, and “docks” with that cell. The cell then allows the virus to enter, where it is then escorted to the nucleus, which then exposes the cellular DNA to the virus. We may compare this to sex in a remote way, with the cell, in female-like fashion, exposing its DNA “naKedness” to the viral DNA. Both cellular DNA and viral DNA combine, creating a union of the two, providing a RNA “blueprint” which then replicates itself in the cell, which then ruptures and allows other such “mutants” into other cells, which then take this modified RNA/DNA mix and replicate more mutant verisions, until the immune system identifies and tags the invader, creating antiodies to recognize all such invaders and neutralize the damage to the organism.
Two positive things occurred:
1.The immune system has increased its “intelligence” by enlarging its “databse” of invaders, thereby creating its identity in such a way as to react and overcome its environment. The identity of the organism, its overall reactions, bridge the effects of the invader. This “bridging” is a kind of “analog” response to a “digital” invasion.
2. The behavior has been altered in the organism, since the immune system has developed a new repertoire of responses to the viral DNA
Otherwise, their reproduction would probably become cancer-like , replicating but not responding to external environment, since the organism would be forced to replicate with no information from the external environment to process. Overspecialization. In the same sense, based on the insight of the Tower of Babel story, a culture that has only one language and one way of justifying its world is extremely overspecialized and unable to adapt.
The approach of the organism is a kind of “best guess” process, in which the immune system has to respo nd to its environment by the latest available i nformation. If there is no viral DNA with which to interact, the immune system will allow cellular reproduction to occur in cancer-like fashion, as cells that have no regard for their surrounding environment.Howard Bloom describes this “best guess” process in “Global Brain“:
“The immune system contains between 10 million and 10 billion different antibody types. Each one is a guess, preconfigured to snag the weak points of an enemy. If one antibody isn’t properly shaped to lock onto an invader, another will have to sink its specialized hooks into the raider. It’s vital for defensive flexibility to have numerous fallback antibodies on the scene.”
This massive “database” of antibodies are applied until a pattern is matched, so we see the same basic process of intelligence working in the immune system as the brain. It is said that chance favors the prepared mind. It also favors the prepared immune system. Humans accumulate knowledge for future reference and application, connecting to those external references the same as the immune system keeps “junk DNA” as a database for connections with viral invaders. The brain empowers itself with this enhanced database, just as the immune system is empowered by cross referencing and connecting to new DNA configurations. This is a very basic function of intelligence.
Empires and god-kings formed from Egypt through Rome, as human bodies developed immune responses sufficient for them to band together and organize. Their capacity to overcome their environment, however, was dependent on forms of organization that discouraged diversity , and reduced everyone to similar patterns of behavior. While this succeeded short term, it failed long term as populations grew and spread, and encountered other central population s with their own empires and god-kings. The response was not individualist infoltration and adaptatio n as we see with viruses, but collective processes of war and collective destruction, with resulting empires overcoming and a bsorbing smaller kingdoms.
It became beneficial, in fact, for large bodies of soldiers to ignore their own personal survival and act in unison for the good of the empire. Philip Slater poi nts out in “EarthWalk” that this “machine-like” response in the face of danger had no value until men began to make war on each other, so that war, the machine, and sacrifice to one goal had an evolutionary effect on civilization. This form of war-like, sacrificial behavior is cellular in nature. Like cells, individuals sacrificed themselves for the greater growth a nd power of the nation or empire, but the problem was that as the empire absorbed these diverse populations and cultures, it experienced “indigestion”.
The new cultures and behavioral processes provided new reactions and required more recognition of these practices from within the empire. It was not the conquest, but the absorption of these alien forms of behavior that allowed the empire to adapt and grow, or be forced to die if it could not properly absorb the cultures. In this fashion, conquest of other cultures acted in a general pattern similar to invasion of viruses in an organism. Either the empire developed new forms of adaptive response, or it ceased to exist. It is probably true that the law or code of Hammurabi was one such generally adaptive response, giving “universal” guidelines for cultural behavior. Behavior and adaptation for organsims were now generalized and externalized for cultural maintenance. This cultural maitenance required strategies of defense. Just as the immune system deployed strategies for recognizi ng and detecting the “other”, so now cultures had to deploy strategies for controlling and limiting behavior and separating it from the “other”. This means that strategies for replication and reproduction that were internalized were now rapidly becoming externalized. Cultural “self” and separation from “other” which was practiced by the immune system, now became externalized and deployed by the culture as an immune response. In this immune response, men could behave “mechanically”, and sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the culture. The growth and development of cultures became dependent on mechanical, externalized, lawful strategies. Humans subordinated personal survival drives to collective survival drives, which meant that former strategies of individuals became the strategy of the culture, empire, or state. As such states or empires grew, strategies were developed consciously for the recognition of diversity. Individuals, like viruses, were absorbed and neutralized unless their “DNA” was important for expansion of the system.
War, proselytizing, religion, narcissism, these became qualities of the successful growth of human empire and power. As we see today, however, these very processes of growth and centralization are threatened as individuals themselves are once a gain empowered by telecommunications, and the adaptive repsonse moves away from the nation-state.
The externalization of immunity that allowed for human development over centuries is now being internalized again in the form of telecommunications across borders and individual empowerment. This means that the individual, wherever s/he finds him/her self, will have to learn adaptive strategies at the individual level which transcend the formerly successful collective level. Whether we are “doomed’ or not depends on a simple point:
Can we begin to respond to this emergence of individual empowerment and challenge the collective destructive power of the nation-state, or do we allow the nation-state to destroy us in its effort to preserve itself?