Bacteria Reach Agreement For The Greater Good

Dr. Michael LaitmanIn the News: (ucsdnews.ucsd.ed): “Far from being selfish, organisms whose sole purpose is to maximize their own reproduction, bacteria in large communities work for the greater good by resolving a social conflict among individuals to enhance the survival of their entire community.

“It turns out that, much like human societies, bacterial communities benefit when they can balance opposing needs within the group.

“The discovery of this unusual behavior among bacteria in large communities, comes not from any inherent altruism among the bacteria. Instead, it ’emerges’ spontaneously from the community in which the bacteria grow.

“‘It’s an example of what we call “emergent phenomena”,’ explained Gürol Süel, an associate professor of molecular biology at UC San Diego who headed the research effort. ‘Emergent phenomena are processes that you cannot observe or understand if you are studying individuals. You can only understand the process if you look at the collective.’

“Süel and his colleagues observed this unusual phenomenon while carefully measuring the growth of a microbial community called a ‘biofilm.’ Such communities of bacteria and other microorganisms form thin structures on surfaces—such as the tartar that develops on teeth—that are highly resistant to chemicals and antibiotics.

“The UC San Diego biologists discovered that when the biofilm community reached a certain size, it suddenly began to oscillate in its growth. By complementing their experiments with mathematical modeling, the researchers discovered that these oscillations resolved a social conflict between individual cells that were cooperating, but also had to compete for food. The reason these biofilms are so hardy is that individuals within the community manage to resolve this internal conflict through coordinating their activities in space and time.

“The conflict is essentially this: bacteria at the outer edges of the biofilm are the most vulnerable within their community to chemical and antibiotic attacks. At the same time, they also provide protection to the interior cells. But the bacteria at the outer edge are the closest to nutrients necessary for growth. So if they grow unchecked, they can consume all the food and starve the sheltered interior cells.

“But that doesn’t happen, because the biofilm develops an ingenious solution to this problem that the scientists call ‘metabolic codependence.’ Essentially, the interior cells produce a metabolite necessary for the growth of the bacteria on the outside. This provides the inner cells with the ability to periodically put the brakes on the growth of outer cells, which otherwise would consume all the food and starve the cells they are protecting from attack. By periodically preventing the growth on the periphery, inner cells ensure that they have sufficient access to nutrients. By keeping the protected inner cells alive, the biofilm has a much higher chance of surviving antibiotic treatment.

“This strategy allows bacteria with conflicting needs to take turns, like drivers approaching an intersection from different directions. In many ways, the internal social conflict within bacterial communities is not unlike the conflicts that opposing groups of individuals must find ways to resolve in order to maintain successful nations or communities.

“‘The social conflict we studied is directly applicable to conflicts that arise in human societies,’ added Süel. ‘We all face the social dilemma where supporting others, even our competitors, may ultimately make our society stronger. We may be able to learn more about how to resolve our own social conflicts by studying bacterial societies.'”

My Comment: It is the same universal egoism that forces enemies to reach agreement in order not to “get lost alone.” Everything happens on the level of our world, so it is no wonder that egoistic and unconscious behavior like this among bacteria is clearly represented in every connection of egoistic elements, such as atoms in inert matter, for example.

All matter is egoistic, so all of its connections are no more than the same egoistic connection, but on a higher level. Whereas spiritual union, which is even higher, happens not for the sake of egoistic benefit, but above egoistic calculation and for the sake of a higher principle, the Creator. This higher principle, is perceived and understood only by a person who has been given a unique characteristic called the point in the heart, and only under the influence of the higher power, the Ohr Makif (Surrounding Light), the Light that reforms.

Related Material:
Bacteria Have Social Roles
The Strength Of A Group: Sustainable Altruism
Cooperation Over Competition

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