Bare Bones Biology 236 – We

We got home to our Winter Palace yesterday, after a fairly challenging 1000 miles with heavy load on old pickup. We dropped the reins, so to speak and left the whole thing out in the snowy driveway, came into the house, turned up the heat, walked through to the big picture window that displays our higher level Biosystem in its winter glory, and then we sat in the lean-back chair and fell asleep.

141209-Moving-ASC_3017RSs copyI don’t know about Bitsy, but I woke up thinking about Sponge-Bob Square Pants, which I have never seen, but I imagine to be composed of one of those two-sided dish-washing sponges made of blue plastic.

Sponge-Bob does not live here, because Sponge-Bob does not live. He is a figment of a fertile imagination. Life is hard to imagine, but it is defined by its ability to do metabolic processes to recycle materials, to release energy from food to stay alive, and to reproduce it’s own kind. Probably Sponge-Bob only requires a pen and paintbrush in the hands of an artist to stay alive in our imagination, but real living things are real and alive whether or not we can imagine them.

Real sponges that are alive are made of living cells each of which can perform the metabolic miracle. So are we. So are the trees outside our window, and the little chipmunks that dash about in the summer and the sunflowers they like to eat and the chickadee that sat on my front step and looked me square in the face this morning. We all together are Life.

141210-Winter Palace-ASC_3035sReal live sponges can do something even better than we can. If you take apart their cells, completely apart but don’t kill the cells, and put them in a dish of water, all the little microscopic sponge cells know how to come back together to make a sponge again.

Sponge Bob can’t do that. He isn’t real, nor a cell, nor an organism. He makes money for the corposystem, but he’s not alive just like the corposystem is not alive. No cells, no metabolism; no reproduction of their kind.

We humans can do metabolism and reproduce our kind, and also the cells of which we are made can do metabolism and reproduce their kind, but if you take a cell apart it cannot come back together, and if you take a person’s cells all apart leaving only the living cells, the person cannot reconstitute himself.

A person can do without a few parts, arms, fingers, that kind of thing, but not without the important metabolic functions that recycle the oxygen and nitrogen and carbon and water and other materials, and use the energy from food to do the work and maintain the balance of staying alive and reproducing our kind.

We can do without a few parts, but we can’t reconstitute, because we have evolved to be so unitary that all our cells together add up to — One person, indivisible.

141210-Winter Palace-ASC_3037sI thought about these things – I often think about strange things — and then I looked out the window at the trees and grasses and the chickadees and other birds and me and Bitsy and – well, you already know, we all make up the living Earth Biosystem.

Similar to humans, the Life of the Biosystem can do without a few of its parts (species), but it cannot do without the important metabolic functions that recycle the air and water and soil and food and maintain the balance of resources that is necessary for Life to stay alive. Because the living Biosystem has evolved to become so unitary that all its species and all their cells together add up to — one system, indivisible.

So what happens if the bits and pieces of the Biosystem, the different species that make up the whole, are taken apart, reorganized, redesigned to suit our human imagination?

It would be a really good idea to know the answer to that question — before we decide for sure that we want to do it.

But nobody does know.

And just look what happened last time we decided that we know more than Mother Nature knows about what she needs to stay alive and balanced.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM in Bryan, Texas.

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