Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Intelligence: A Prerequisite for Fear.

What should you be afraid of?
How does your body decide what it should
be afraid of?
Why should your body be afraid of it in the first place?

These are questions that perplex me currently. But actually you might ask why didn't I think of them before? Well, I was not oriented this way. I somehow believed intelligence had nothing to do with basic survivial until I asked my self these questions.

I am not saying that my previous route was completely wrong; rather fear could only have evolved after some threat was realized. Therefore some work of cognition had to be done in order to realize. I would have been in a better position to answer these question if I knew inside-out how a bacteria or any other cellular organism lives. What gives them the phenomenon of perception? How do they sense food, etc?

In hope of finding answers I have started a discussion thread here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

FAQs Post: Oct 2005 to Feb 2006

This FAQs Post is the first of its kind. It is intended to give you a general idea of what I usually write here. These kind of posts are for those people who are new to my blog. They can read these posts are then go ahead to read newer posts. It will help them understand things better.

This FAQs relates to posts posted between Oct 2005 & Jan 2006

Q1. What is the meaning of survival?

Survival means staying alive. It also refers to the acts of staying alive and keeping ourselves unhurt, and free from danger (threat to life).

Q2. What is the idea of survival about?

Basically it is about staying alive. It is probably a phenomenon which has kept us alive and kicking of centuries, even before human beings came to appear on the face of earth.

Q3. What is the significance of this idea?

Think about this idea of survival as a vital program - software for life. Now without this program living creatures would know how to escape from danger or protect themselves from it. This could result in their extinction. There could have been many species that lived and died on earth not knowing what danger is; some of them we might not even know. But luckily we (human beings) are alive, and so are other plants and animals too. This means this idea has had effect.

Q4. But why did survival become the rule of life?

Life was not equated to the idea of survival. The idea of survival was not something taken for granted. It means it is ridiculous to assume that life was this way in the beginning. By default life could have been anything (or any number of things). Over time some things die while other live/survive on to the next generation. This is exactly the principle of natural selection. Survival is a phenomenon that exists because of natural selection.

Q5. What is natural selection?

It was an idea propounded by Charles Darwin. He used it to explain why certain traits were popular in species and others were not. There could be variation in a specie based on characteristics of its geographical location.

For e.g. cactuses. They are found in the deserts as well as on some coastal regions (geographically different areas). The desert cactuses have longer thorns to help them protect themselves from herbivores that would otherwise feed on them. Plus they are comparatively thin with respect to their cousin. This feature allows for low surface area so that water loss due transpiration is minimized. If you look at their cousin down at the beach, they are small, plump, and have small thorns. The small thorns could be the result of not having to face enemies that their desert cousins would normally encounter.

Q6. What is fear?

In extreme life-threatening cases fear is a reaction which would urge us to escape to safety. (Commonly referred to as 'flight' in evolutionary terms). It is again a program that helped us survive all along. Without it all of us would have been extinct or, we would have never existed at all!

Q7. What is feminism?

Normally this is a political term that refers to support to women's right, freedom, welfare, etc. In biology or with reference to evolution and the idea of survival, it is actually about members of the a specie becoming more concerned of rearing the offspring to adulthood.

Most male species exhibited polygamy. They mated with other females to increase their likeness in the community. Another reason for polygamy can also be to create a large army to protect the whole herd. The birth apparatus in most mammalian female species are generally not capable of giving birth as frequently as males copulate. Gestation or pregnancy is so critical that any abnormality or stress could result in the female dying. If the females die the chance of the species to produce the next generation also decreases, which could ultimately lead to extinction.

Feminism is also responsible for the males taking an active part in child rearing and overall child development.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nociception: Why we feel pain?

The word nociception means the perception of pain. The word is a combination of noci- (which in Latin means pain) and ception from the word perception (which means sight). These days I have been trying to find out if there was any evolutionary reason why most living things feel pain. We can't certify if all living things feel pain! We still cannot say if insects feel pain). We can't know for sure if an animal senses pain either! We only study the effect of pain on animals by noting changes in their normal behaviour.

Anyway carrying on with the reason behind why most living things feel pain, there seems to be no special evolutionary reason why we feel pain, however our evolution has incorporated this stimulus in our system. If you still want a reason, it goes back to the idea of survival that I have mentioned before...all living things want to live. No animal can self-destroy itself. Imagine that you strictly follow these two points. Now assume you are confronted by a grizzly bear for the first time. You or the other individuals of your species have not come across a situation like this before. Now if the bear jabs you with its paw, which is generally an unpleasant experience, you immediately feel the urge to run away from the bear as far as possible and stay clear. You feel pain and you would want to avoid a second possibility of that event. It is here that the idea of fear makes sense. Fear would not seem to fit in if it were not for something like nociperception.

One other small point to note here. You can think of fear as a program, but nociperception cannot be thought of in that way. Fear is a kind of behaviour. We are able to perceive it with one or more of our senses. The effect of fear is visible. On the other hand nociperception is hidden. We only come to feel pain. Nocipercetion induces a behaviour. It could be anger, fear or sometimes even laughter! However I am linking the phenomenon of nociperception to fear.

You may want to ask if fear is a consequence of this phenomenon called nociperception. The answer is
no its not
. I don't think it is logical to think of it that way. I'd rather believe that the combination of nociperception and fear resulted in a successful genetic make or a genotype. This logically means if you had a genotype with only one of either the chances of that type becoming successful in evolutionary terms is relatively low.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A new hobby

Hi. You might be wondering why I have not been posting for a long time. The reason for that is I have been learning some biology. However I cannot call myself 'a bio student'; I have not undergone a formal education. At school I must have learned some preliminary topics, but the last of that I can recall was probably 7yrs ago.

So what is it like learning biology now? Hmm. Well it is real slow. Not exactly perpetually dragging, but real slow. If I were to study it in some institution things would have moved on at a faster pace. The only thing that I'd brag about then is the lack of time devoted for certain important topics. (Yeah, what can I say. My ego rules!!).

The motivation behind this new hobby is to understand the processes that created life. Research into this area still requires more exploration. I mean there are still things (life processes) out there we need to have a good understanding of. (At least relatively in my case!). Well, you might be interested in things that I have found so far.

Hmm well I feel there is nothing new. Everything was once long ago told. But however I find it all fascinating. I have learned about the different kingdoms of life - Monera, archaea, protista, plantae, animalia & fungi. There is another classification - prokaryotes & eukaryotes. But strictly speaking the latter classification pertains to cells, I think.

I next learned about cells. How do you call something a cell. Here what fascinated is the ambiguity regarding viruses. People don't think is a cell in a strict sense. Because they are only active when they feed/destroy other cells, i.e. their metabolic activity is dormant until they find a host cell to feed on. But like other cells they reproduce and divide themselves. Most importantly they have no form unlike a cell (which has a cell wall).

But how and why did these living organisms become? And that question takes us back to the oceanic soup from where life once sprang! But wait a minute - what is this thing about a soup? Well, one point in the history of earth, long before any sort of terrestrial creatures evolved, life was present - in the oceans!! Water was the mother of all life back then. How did life become in these oceans? It is hard to say exactly how but theories say that under immense physical conditions (high temperature & pressure), and under strange combinations of various molecules life could have formed. It is hard to simulate such conditions in a lab because we don't have a clear knowledge of there conditions (and reactions), and there is no technology that could simulate such an environment.

Anyway there was a time where cells became...Almost all living things need food, oxygen, etc. In a population that consisted of such cells. There were parasites. These organisms like all organisms needed food, oxygen, etc. But they relied on a host to get a source of energy. So in an environment like this viruses must have come about.

Well, thats the story of viruses. There is more - protein synthesis, reproduction, DNA sequencing etc. If you click on the title of this post you'd be directed to a tutorial site. If you are interested you can pursue from there. If you have never ever really touched biology, then this is probably a good place to start. It is never too late for change.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The concept of God

You might find this post odd. This is probably the first time I am discussing about an abstract subject - God. However it is not without reason. The idea behind life seems incomplete with out some discussion on this subject. But why is this subject so important? Even before science was established in societies it was religion or rather the concept of God that shaped almost all the ancient religions. My guessing is that almost all the concepts of God (i.e. most of the religions) map to the same thing - the One who created this universe.

However so many questions come to surface while we are even thinking about this concept. Like for e.g. why would you think that there is only one force? The concept of God was not founded on logical arguments, but rather on observations of phenomena that people had no way of explaining in the ancient times. Child birth and death. Archaelogical evidence has hinted that people who lived in civilizations that are 3000 yrs old even paid respect to the dead. This fact is amazing. But why would we want to pay our respects to the dead? We do it even today?!

Earlier I guess people believed in after-life, i.e. life after death. This was the main reason the egyptians mummified great kings and queens. They somehow believed that they would be reincarnated somewhere in the future... This was the fundamental belief of the egyptian civilization.

But why is it that people think of God? Is it to find the meaning of life? Is it to define some purpose for life? Is it to say, God created the universe. Then why is it that we are so interested in living?

Sounds like madness doesn't it?

Then would you want to believe in my philosophy rather and believe that life on earth was co-incidence?

This was where I wondered what makes our mind behave so special. Special in the sense why we relate to spiritual things... Of course we can construct a scientific answer, but then you'd hate life for that! I ventured in trying to realise a model for our brain. I tried to understand concepts such as memory. I was going literally crazy at one point of time. My current model of the brain is simply a network of neurons designed to either instigate signals due to some brain chemistry or to propogate signals from nieghbouring neurons, or inhibit them. It is not a complicated model.

I tried wondering what if this model was subjected to some strange signals? What strange signals? Seeing something out of the ordinary - like miracles or seeing a ghost etc. When we see some object our neurons work through predefined channels and propogate signals. At the end of this process there is always a result. Either an action or response. These responses can be chemical in nature. These chemical can in turn influence brain activity by making other neurons that are normally dormant to fire. When this happens there is no regularity in the way the neurons direct signals; there is no particular channel. Its like chaos. There are many channels that are normally not supposed to be there. Somehow I feel that this particular condition is the same as fear. Fear of not knowing what happens next.

Although this is only a hunch. The pattern when one sees a miracle is the same as that of fear. This was what I concluded from the above discussions.

The concept of God. Back to square one. Miracles are the back bone of faith. Not everyone will agree with this view. And those who don't believe in this view are truly considerate people. They think about religion at some point in their life. Now was the concept of God born out of chaos in the mind? Could be; we don't really know.

All that I've discussed here are not the result of lucubrative scientific studies. Rather it is the output of probably preconceived thought. It could have come to my head before.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


You know this is actually an interesting subject!

You are probably wondering what am I talking about?

Yes, its the word called altruism from an evolutionary perspective.

But what is the connection? How will this add up?

I began wondering about patriotism. To me patriotism is the act of sacrificing life for the welfare of the nation or a group. This idea of patriotism is usually linked to human beings. Because you can cite numerous examples of people actually sacrificing their life for their country or nation. But this is also quite true in the animal kingdom too. Imagine a pack of wolves defending their territory from a bear that has strayed into their LoC. [Line of control] ;)

But then the very idea of patriotism is against the laws of survival. Evey individual is prompted to live and increase its chances of survival. This is something selfish but it is vital. This notion is hinted in the phrase survival of the fittest. Because its those who compete and succeed thats wins the race. But how does this idea support the phenomenon of patriotism?

The answer is altruism.

First of all you should differentiate the use of words patriotism and altruism. Patriotism is almost always commonly used by man in the context of politics. Therefore I believe it will confuse some people. To avoid this ambiguity I chose to use a more scientifically sounding word - altruism.

Even my understanding of this concept is incomplete. It seems there were a lot of revisions into the idea. People have used statistics to come up with proofs that are vincible. I have not quite followed that trail of thought. In fact I popped a question relating to this at Yahoo answers and received links to web pages that dealt with this subject.

However, to begin with, it is an idea better understood from a 'gene expansion' standpoint, rather than from an individual's survival standpoint. It is the gene that is trying to favour its selection by maximizing its trait. This is what I understand of it at present. However if you are interested in research check out the following links:
my yahoo answers question

Saturday, January 13, 2007


While I compose this post there are many things I want to tell my readers. The first thing is that I have become more philosophic in certain ways. I have started thinking about religion. However I have not become religious. Even if I have become religious people still will say that I am an atheist. Because I think in that fashion. However to be exact I am an agnost; I can't know about God or any other supreme power. I can't truly define 'what is God'.

Since I do think about subjects like God and religion the thought about how these concepts came about are also lurking in my head. Why have these concepts come about? This is something I choose to find out. May be the answer is out there. But as of now I do not know about it. I intend to discover it. However I have not renounced the scientific temper that I have. I still rely on some evolutionary principles to start explaining some concepts about life. And if you are thinking how I am balancing myself between religion and science: simple; they are one and the same thing in terms of goals they want to establish. Now while I use science to look into some things it might seem that I am ignoring the importance of religion, and vice versa. This fluctuating tone is what you are going to get.

Finally these blogs are going to include a much wider scope. It is going to discuss religion, philosophy and science. I personally feel that these things should be discussed as they somehow give a more or less complete perspective. Or in other words they complete the perspective. Or at least they give you an illusion that they complete the perspective.