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Tag:biology

Tag:biology

Those of us least inclined to anthrocentrism might even grant that other mammals with big brains possess self-awareness too. But bacteria don’t have brains, and neither do vegetables, so those forms of life, most of us believe, don’t percieve themselves and the world the way we do. They are basically glorified chemical reactions, that don’t have a sense of“self.” We don’t think twice about a salad’s feelings, but can’t bear the thought of hurting a human baby.

This division in how we think of lifeforms is very useful to humans -- it’s not at all helpful to feel sorry for lettuce, because we need to eat. Sympathizing with a vegetable does no good because the machinery in our brain that is designed to create feelings of sympathy is there to help us get along with pets and people, not peppers.

But the division between thinking and non-thinking organisms is somewhat arbitrary. Where is line that divides the aware from the vegetative? Those who accept evolutionary theory understand that all of life is part of a grand continuum. As Daniel Dennett said, there is no reason to believe that humans are the only lifeforms with “magic stuff” in their brains. We evolved from the lower apes, and the evolutionary chain stretches back to one-celled organisms.

Scientists have discovered that bacteria can think ahead.

Bacteria may be humble single-celled creatures, but they're sophisticated enough to anticipate regular events, such as the arrival of day, thanks to their internal circadian clocks. A new study shows that they can also anticipate and prepare for sporadic events, as long as the events are reliably preceded by a signal

Maybe what they do is not “thinking” as we experience it, but it accomplishes the same ends. Our brains process information and make decisions based on anticipation. Bacteria don’t have brains, but they make decisions based on anticipation.

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