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Bacteria can smell

zidanguszidangus Veteran
edited August 2010 in Modern Buddhism
Following recent research by scientists at Newcastle University UK, bacteria have been observed to react to the smell of rival bacteria which is in the same area. Therefore scientists believe that bacteria have 4 of the 5 physical senses that humans have, that is they can see by responding to light, they can feel by responding to physical touch, taste through direct contact with environmental chemicals, and now smell by detecting airborn molecules. They only thing they are missing is the ability to hear. Therefore it begs the question "Can bacteria be considered a sentient being ?"
I myself have never considered bacteria to be a sentient being, but it does make you think where the line is which defines life to be sentient or not.
Anyway interesting research a link to the story is below

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-10985313

metta to all sentient beings (where ever the line is drawn):)

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    If bacteria are good (like the ones which line your gut) then they are sentient.
    If bacteria are bad, (like the ones which cause food poisoning) then they re not.

    so make sure when you take antibiotics for an infection, that you only target the bad bacteria, and not the good.

    :rolleyes:
  • edited August 2010
    Is it possible to distinguish between living and sentient beings?
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    As far as I know, yes.
    From what I have learnt, a sentient being is one that may use logic and reasoning to determine action and reaction.
    if it's just instinct or involuntary reflex - they aren't sentient.

    But watch someone come along and prove me wrong....;)
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 2010
    federica;124402 said:
    As far as I know, yes.
    From what I have learnt, a sentient being is one that may use logic and reasoning to determine action and reaction.
    if it's just instinct or involuntary reflex - they aren't sentient.

    But watch someone come along and prove me wrong....;)

    That debate has been going on for a thousand years I think. :)
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    ....only....? :D
  • edited August 2010
    From Federica's link
    endowed with feeling and unstructured consciousness
    I'm not sure that helps to define bacteria or not. It would however include animals and even insects.
    If it required logic, most of us would only be sentient part-time :lol:
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited August 2010
    federica;124402 said:
    As far as I know, yes.
    From what I have learnt, a sentient being is one that may use logic and reasoning to determine action and reaction.
    if it's just instinct or involuntary reflex - they aren't sentient.
    I agree with you federica, the requirements you cite for a being to be considered sentient are fair enough. However a short point, just as every sentient being has the potential to become enlightened, then I think every living being has the potential to become sentient. For example, if you think that Darwins theory of evolution is correct (as I do) then under your requirements humans were at some stage in the past not sentient, but became sentient as they evolved.

    metta to all sentient beings.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    Ok, I'll do you a deal:

    When a being evolves from being non-sentient, to sentient, I won't swat it any more.

    deal?:D
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 2010
    According to wikipedia:

    Early scriptures in the Pali Canon and the conventions of the Tibetan Bhavachakra classify sentient beings into five categories—divinities, humans, animals, tormented spirits, and denizens of hell—although sometimes the classification adds another category of demonic beings between divinities and humans.[1]

    It does not say what scriptures though...

    According to Bhikkhu Bodhi on Accesstoinsight:

    "Abstaining from taking life" has a wider application than simply refraining from killing other human beings. The precept enjoins abstaining from killing any sentient being. A "sentient being" (pani, satta) is a living being endowed with mind or consciousness; for practical purposes, this means human beings, animals, and insects. Plants are not considered to be sentient beings; though they exhibit some degree of sensitivity, they lack full-fledged consciousness, the defining attribute of a sentient being.

    I wonder if there is an actual scriptural definition of "Sentient Being"?
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited August 2010
    seeker242;124774 said:
    According to wikipedia:

    Early scriptures in the Pali Canon and the conventions of the Tibetan Bhavachakra classify sentient beings into five categories—divinities, humans, animals, tormented spirits, and denizens of hell—although sometimes the classification adds another category of demonic beings between divinities and humans.[1]

    It does not say what scriptures though...

    According to Bhikkhu Bodhi on Accesstoinsight:

    "Abstaining from taking life" has a wider application than simply refraining from killing other human beings. The precept enjoins abstaining from killing any sentient being. A "sentient being" (pani, satta) is a living being endowed with mind or consciousness; for practical purposes, this means human beings, animals, and insects. Plants are not considered to be sentient beings; though they exhibit some degree of sensitivity, they lack full-fledged consciousness, the defining attribute of a sentient being.

    I wonder if there is an actual scriptural definition of "Sentient Being"?
    While the classification of sentience is clear to me for the above examples, It is still unclear as to whether or not living organisms such as bacteria have a mind or are a consciousness, so as I said earlier the threshold for sentience is somewhat hazy in that respect. I think bacteria are not sentient but for all I know, they may actually be.


    metta to all
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited August 2010
    federica;124739 said:
    Ok, I'll do you a deal:

    When a being evolves from being non-sentient, to sentient, I won't swat it any more.

    deal?:D
    Ok, but just curious as to how you will judge if a being has become sentient ?, when they shout at you " PLEASE DON'T SWAT ME !!!!!" :tonguec:


    metta to all beings (even swat candidates)
  • edited August 2010
    I work part-time in a research lab and part of my job involves making proteins (i.e., forcing E. Coli to make our protein and then extracting it by pulpifying the little guys in a centrifuge and spinning at 39, 000 times gravity (10 times gravity kills a person)). I always wondered why there's no mandatory ethics for working with bacteria, but there is for mice, etc.

    When you think about it, the amount of bacteria I work with on a daily basis (and sequentially destroy) is about 1/4 the amount of cells in, say, a small rodent. So, cell for cell it's comparable.

    It's interesting to think about.
    federica;124387 said:
    If bacteria are good (like the ones which line your gut) then they are sentient.
    If bacteria are bad, (like the ones which cause food poisoning) then they re not.

    so make sure when you take antibiotics for an infection, that you only target the bad bacteria, and not the good.

    :rolleyes:


    We'll just stick with that explanation :D
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    In all seriousness, I will tell you how it is with me:

    For my own personal evaluation, a sentient being is one that can decide for itself whether inflicting harm or not inflicting harm, is a choice.
    Animals need to hunt, but I have seen countless programmes on TV where animals have been close to their prey, and have posed no threat, because the NEED to hunt and kill was not present. Therefore, volitionally, they made a choice to override instinct and kill, anyway. I believe mammals and other vertebrates are able to make these choices....
    I have also seen various programmes where animals actually unhindered, untrained and un-coerced, either lived alongside animals that would be considered their prey and not only existed in harmony but actually formed a mutually beneficial, (not to say symbiotic) relationship with them.
    For example, a lioness took a small deer fawn under her wing (pardon the metaphor - I hope the lioness would forgive me!) and actually protected it from other animals, and stayed with it for many years. They bonded, amicably.
    Cats and dogs do not always fight, and in fact, co-exist quite happily.

    Bacteria, stinging insects, and insects which carry diseases, cannot make this evaluation, in my opinion.
    A bacterium cannot think to itself, 'I'm not going to develop in this water tank, because ultimately, I would harm the person drinking, or bathing in the water.
    A female mosquito carrying yellow fever, dengue fever, Chikungunya and malaria, cannot think to itself, "biting this person is going to bring them great risk, and I really cannot bring myself to do it". Its instinct and means of survival is to suck blood. It cannot know it is inflicting pain, it just does it.
    Same with a fly.
    It vomits onto foodstuffs, then sucks up the resulting fluid, but given that it can extract nutrition form many places, it lands on all manner of materials (like :bs:) to feed. Then lands on our cheese sandwich.... you know where I'm going with this, don't you?
    Again, though - this is instinctual behaviour. It cannot prevent itself from spreading filth and disease.

    Ergo, I have no qualms about taking antibiotics, or swatting said insects.

    Now, I don't know whether my reasoning makes me correct, and I'm not suggesting I am right.
    I'm merely telling you all how it is with me.
    While I appreciate that while these 'beings' are alive, and need to do what they do in order to remain alive and multiply - I do not consider them sentient, because what they do has no logic, reasoning or essential cogitation.
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited August 2010
    federica your post reminds me of the story of christian the lion, a lion cub bought in Harrods by two guys in the 1960s, and raised until it became to big. After being released into the wild, christian still remembered his two friends and even still played with them. Brings a tear to my eye everytime I watch it.
    Here is the video below and wiki post with the full story for anyone interested.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvCjyWp3rEk

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_the_lion
  • edited August 2010
    lol so basically what your saying is what you find beautiful and cuddly it is definitely sentient. But if it crawls and grosses you out it must be killed. (in all honesty i am just joking but it does kind of look this way)
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited August 2010
    People confuse the terms sentience, which means having senses like sight and smell, with others like sapience (reasoning) and consciousness.

    Bacteria, animals, plants and fungi are all sentient to one degree or another.
    In animals the input from the senses are processed through some form of neural ganglia, this is what allows them to negotiate their world rather than simply exist in it as non-motile organisms do.

    Bacteria, plants and fungi have senses such as photoreceptors which allows them to monitor and react to light levels, and chemoreceptors which allows them to react to the presence of chemicals. This information isn't processed, there is no reasoning, thought or consciousness that elicits any response.
    In the case of a bacteria, if it chemosenses an increasing nutrient gradient on one side, then the flagellum (think tail) will move them up the gradient automatically. Non-motile bacteria will undergo cell division up the gradient so that their descendants are closer to the nutrient rich environment. It's not thought based behaviour any more than plants turning their leaves toward the sun is. It's automatic.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    Brandon;124813 said:
    lol so basically what your saying is what you find beautiful and cuddly it is definitely sentient. But if it crawls and grosses you out it must be killed. (in all honesty i am just joking but it does kind of look this way)
    I get you're joking....

    hahahahahahahaha.


    no.




    :D

    I saw that video of the lion before..... thanks for posting it, it's kind of what I meant.....
  • edited August 2010
    Did you know that there are more individual bacteria living in your body than there are cells in your body? About 5 times as many actually. Did you also know that bacteria and other microorganisms make up more than half of the biomass of the planet? It is estimated there are 10+30 (1 followed by 30 zeroes) microorganisms on earth. Humans are basically walking bacteria farms, as are all "sentient" beings!

    Palzang
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Palzang;125514 said:
    Humans are basically walking bacteria farms, as are all "sentient" beings!
    It's more than that, technically we're symbionts. We cannot survive without our gut bacteria partners.

    Did you know that you have little mites living in the hair follicles of your eye lashes? That little fact always makes me shudder for some reason.
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Palzang;125514 said:
    Did you know that there are more individual bacteria living in your body than there are cells in your body? About 5 times as many actually. Did you also know that bacteria and other microorganisms make up more than half of the biomass of the planet? It is estimated there are 10+30 (1 followed by 30 zeroes) microorganisms on earth. Humans are basically walking bacteria farms, as are all "sentient" beings!

    Palzang
    There is no doubt about the vast number of bacteria and micro organisms present on earth and indeed maybe the universe. But do you consider them sentient ? For instance do you think that the bacteria in a humans body has a choice to be in that body and what it does in that body or is it kind of just following a set program given in its DNA.
    I tend to think the later, but again this is without any evidence to back me up, its just my gut feeling :)

    Metta to all sentient beings
  • edited August 2010
    zidangus;125554 said:
    There is no doubt about the vast number of bacteria and micro organisms present on earth and indeed maybe the universe. But do you consider them sentient ? For instance do you think that the bacteria in a humans body has a choice to be in that body and what it does in that body or is it kind of just following a set program given in its DNA.
    I tend to think the later, but again this is without any evidence to back me up, its just my gut feeling :)

    Metta to all sentient beings

    This kind of thinking is absolutely true for some like, say, a virus - nothing more than a molecular parasite, no more complex than two proteins and the genes that code for them. (compared to 10,000+ protein in humans)

    As far as bacteria goes, what separates set programming in bacteria from set programming in plants/fungi? In flies? In Fish? In Humans? We're simply a mass collection of single-cell organisms (with the great invention of the nervous system, of course!). Really shows just how hazy the line is between sentient and not-sentient.

    I would say sentient requires a nervous system of sorts, something more than involuntary reaction to cause/effect.
  • edited August 2010
    I have to be honest. When I first read the thread title "Bacteria can smell" I immediately thought of my goalie equipment and said to myself...no kidding!:lol::o
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Shutoku;125633 said:
    I have to be honest. When I first read the thread title "Bacteria can smell" I immediately thought of my goalie equipment and said to myself...no kidding!:lol::o
    haha very good, I just remembered when I was a kid, the smell of my football socks after I used to bring them home after a game and leave them in my room for a week, my mam used to go crazy when she came for the washing ! :crazy: not nice !!

    Metta to all sentient beings
  • edited August 2010
    federica;124739 said:
    When a being evolves from being non-sentient, to sentient, I won't swat it any more.

    I'll save spiders...throw 'em outside sometimes. But cockroaches and ants...sorry, they get squished. :crazy:
  • edited August 2010
    Well, that cockroach may have been your mother in a past life!

    As for bacteria and what is sentient and what isn't, I don't know. I don't really spend a lot of time thinking about it. Life is life. Whether it is "sentient" or not is kind of irrelevant to me. Life is a web in which all parts make up the whole. Focusing on which parts of the web may be sentient or not is, to me, just another way to cling to the delusion of "self" being separate from everything else. The reason I brought up the fact that there are more bacteria and other microorganisms in our body than our body has cells was to point out this fact, that what we think of as "self" is not separate from the rest of the world. We wouldn't be alive if it weren't for these bacteria. They're part of us even if they're not technically part of us. You follow? The same goes for our very cells. Did you know that mitochondria, the little energy generators in virtually every cell in our body (OK, not RBCs, at least not when they're mature), are actually a symbiotic bacteria that moved in to stay millions of years ago? Now they have become an organelle of the cell, but yet they maintain their own DNA.

    So where does "self" end and "other" start? Basically there is no answer. Even the depths of our bowels are "outside" the body.

    Palzang
  • edited August 2010
    zidangus;124384 said:
    Following recent research by scientists at Newcastle University UK, bacteria have been observed to react to the smell of rival bacteria which is in the same area. Therefore scientists believe that bacteria have 4 of the 5 physical senses that humans have, that is they can see by responding to light, they can feel by responding to physical touch, taste through direct contact with environmental chemicals, and now smell by detecting airborn molecules. They only thing they are missing is the ability to hear. Therefore it begs the question "Can bacteria be considered a sentient being ?"
    I myself have never considered bacteria to be a sentient being, but it does make you think where the line is which defines life to be sentient or not.
    Anyway interesting research a link to the story is below

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-10985313

    metta to all sentient beings (where ever the line is drawn):)
    they are simple organisms... how can they smell :confused: they can't even feel... if you cut them, they just grow into two. :confused:
  • edited August 2010
    justme;126067 said:
    I'll save spiders...throw 'em outside sometimes. But cockroaches and ants...sorry, they get squished. :crazy:

    cockroaches ... yeah. ants -- no.
  • Mr_SerenityMr_Serenity Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Rinsing with Listerine twice a day is recommended if you want to be a bacteria assassin ;).
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Mr Serenity;126297 said:
    Rinsing with Listerine twice a day is recommended if you want to be a bacteria assassin ;).
    that must be like a poison tsunami for bacteria :eek2:
  • edited August 2010
    Mr Serenity;126297 said:
    Rinsing with Listerine twice a day is recommended if you want to be a bacteria assassin ;).
    LOL that would definitely work .
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