Chimeras and Consciousness

Evolution of the Sensory Self

Chimeras and Consciousness begins the inquiry into the evolution of the collective sensitivities of life. Scientist-scholars from a range of fields—including biochemistry, cell biology, history of science, family therapy, genetics, microbial ecology, and primatology—trace the emergence and evolution of consciousness. Complex behaviors and the social imperatives of bacteria and other life forms during 3,000 million years of Earth history gave rise to mammalian cognition. Awareness and sensation led to astounding activities; millions of species incessantly interacted to form our planet’s complex conscious system. Our planetmates, all of them conscious to some degree, were joined only recently by us, the aggressive modern humans.

From social bacteria to urban citizens, all living beings participate in community life. Nested inside families within communities inside ecosystems, each metabolizes, takes in matter, expends energy, and excretes. Each of the members of our own and other species, in groups with incessantly shifting alliances, receives and processes information. Mergers of radically different life forms with myriad purposes—the "chimeras" of the title—underlie dramatic metamorphosis and other positive evolutionary change. Since early bacteria avoided, produced, and eventually used oxygen, Earth’s sensory systems have expanded and complexified. The provocative essays in this book, going far beyond science but undergirded by the finest science, serve to put sensitive, sensible life in its cosmic context.

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword

    John B. Cobb, Jr.

  2. Preface
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. Introduction: Life's Sensibilities
  5. I. Selves
  6. 1. Valuable Viruses

    Frank P. Ryan

  7. 2. More Like a Waterfall

    William Day

  8. 3. Alarmones

    Antonio Lazcano, Arturo Becerra, and Luis Delaye

  9. 4. Early Sensibilities

    Kenneth H. Nealson

  10. II. Groups
  11. 5. Smart Bacteria

    Eshel Ben-Jacob, Yoash Shapira, and Alfred I. Tauber

  12. 6. Ancient Architects

    Wolfgang E. Krumbein and Celeste A. Asikainen

  13. 7. Others

    Laurie Lassiter

  14. 8. Nested Communities

    James MacAllister

  15. III. Earth
  16. 9. Cosmic Rhythms of Life

    Bruce Scofield

  17. 10. Life's Tectonics

    Paul D. Lowman Jr. and Nathan Currier

  18. 11. Evolutionary Illumination

    Peter Warshall

  19. IV. Chimeras
  20. 12. Symbiogenesis in Russia

    Victor Fet

  21. 13. From Movement to Sensation

    John L. Hall and Lynn Margulis

  22. 14. Packaging DNA

    Andrew Maniotis

  23. 15. Lemurs and Split Chromosomes

    Robin Kolnicki

  24. 16. Interspecies Hybrids

    Sonya E. Vickers and Donald I. Williamson

  25. 17. Origins of the Immune System

    Margaret J. McFall-Ngai

  26. 18. Medical Symbiotics

    Jessica Hope Whiteside and Dorion Sagan

  27. V. Consciousness
  28. 19. Animal Consciousness

    Jessica Hope Whiteside and Dorion Sagan

  29. 20. Brains and Symbols

    John Skoyles

  30. 21. Thermodynamics and Thought

    Dorion Sagan

  31. 22. "I Know Who You Are; I Know Where You Live"

    Dorion Sagan

  32. 23. Cultural Networks

    Luis Rico

  33. Bibliography
  34. Appendix A: Major Groups of Living Organisms
  35. Appendix B: The International Geological Time Scale (Time-Rock Divisions)
  36. Glossary
  37. About the Authors
  38. Index
  39. Color Plates