The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why I Don't Believe - The Great Chain Part 9 - Beyond Humanity

Level 11 - Pieces of You

It seems highly likely that you care about your organs.  It is equally likely that you also care about the organs of those people with whom you meaningfully associate.  I know I care about my organs.

The human body is composed of an incredibly complex and magnificent system of specialized structures that work together to allow us to do all of the things we want to do and about a million other things we are completely unaware of but are nevertheless necessary to keep us alive.  Our organs clearly associate with one another in myriad meaningful ways, from transmitting data, to transmitting fluids, to supplying energy, to supplying oxygen, the various systems of the human body are a marvel of both complexity and simplicity.

Our organs are also capable of meaningfully associating with us insofar as their successful functioning will cause us to feel a sense of pleasure and well being while their failure will cause us all kinds of problems, ranging from discomfort to pain to death.

Our organs are also capable of meaningfully associating downward to the levels of the specialized tissues that comprise them in the sense that acid on the specialized tissues of the stomach will create an ulcer which will effect the stomach which will, in turn, effect the unfortunate human who has too much stress in their life.

Now, depending on the specific tradition, some religions actually tell their adherents that the God of the Great All, the Great Author of everything is actually interested not only in humanity as a whole and the specific religious community in particular and personally interested in you as an individual, but also in your internal organs and that the God of the Great All will actively intervene on behalf of your heart or kidney or gall bladder and will actually expend the effort to notice and fix whatever ailment is currently afflicting the troubled organ.

Some traditions are SO certain that this is the case that they actually FORBID their members from partaking in the fruits of modern scientific medicine.  Some are so crazed, and I do not use the term lightly, that they will actually refuse treatment even when doing so will mean certain death for themselves or their loved ones.  While that kind of resolve might be admirable under different conditions, under such circumstances that kind of resolve is monstrously and horrifically misguided.

For the sake of argument, however, let us assume that the God of the Great All is not only obsessively interested in your moral adherence to the tenets written down on a piece of parchment several thousand years ago, but is also interested in and will actively intervene on behalf of our poor benighted organs.  One must assume then, that as our organs are made up of specialized tissues, that God is interested in them as well.

Level 12 - Specialized Tissues

While you may actively consider the well being of an individual organ, it is highly doubtful that you spend much of your consciousness energy on your body’s individual specialized tissues.  If you are aware of them at all, it is likely that your awareness is a dim memory of a long ago biology class rather than any sort of present-day awareness.  Indeed, we are normally only concerned with our constituent parts when something goes awry.

Nevertheless, the specialized tissues that make up your individual internal organs, your skin, your eyes, your muscles, your heart, your stomach, your bones, your central nervous system, everything, are all capable of meaningful association both with the organ they comprise and your body as a whole.  Indeed, most diseases are actually begin by damaging or destroying portions of these specialized tissues.  Diseases like Cancer are essentially conditions where the cells comprising specialized tissues undergo some manner of mutation that causes rapid growth and replication of mutated and useless cells.

While specialized tissues are capable of meaningful association upwards to the level of organs and the organism as a whole, in an organism as large as a human, specialized tissues do not normally associate in any meaningfully way with the individual cells that comprise them because of the colossal number of cells involved.

So let us assume, for at least the next few moments, that God is capable of caring about your specialized tissues.  Not only yours, but everyone else’s as well, or, if you are a member of some incredibly narrow minded religious tradition, at least the specialized tissues of those members of your particular community.  Is it possible that the God of the Great All actually cares about your individual cells?  Is it possible that the God of the Great All could actually care about something as insignificant as an individual cell?


Far below our specialized cells, lives a microscopic world.  And entire ecosystem dwelling on each one of us.  A menagerie of strange, wild, wonderful creatures crawling on our skin, coating our eyes, filling our bowels, reproducing in our mouths, festering in the air we breathe.  We are scarcely ever aware of this world.  Indeed, individual existences in this world are utterly meaningless to us.  It is only when those individuals aggregate in the billions and attacks us in come concerted way that their existence impinges on our consciousness.

Humans dwell on the 10th level of existential association.  It is necessary to use a microscope to even be aware of the denizens of the 13th level of existential association and necessary to use an electron microscope to see anything on the 16th level or below.  Indeed, humans were largely unaware of the existence of the microscopic world and its potential effects on our health and welfare until the mid 1800s.

Even today, most humans are completely oblivious to the microscopic world except on those relatively rare occasions where millions or billions of microbes that have replicated themselves in our bodies make us sick.  Even then, however, our interest in, and ability to associate with individual microbes is virtually non-existent.

Once one goes below the level of a single celled organism, our ability to meaningfully associate with anything smaller is virtually non-existent.  Individual cellular components, amino acids, individual molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles are so incredibly small that they simply do not register with any of our senses in any meaningful way – it is only in the aggregate that any portions of the microscopic world is capable of being known or felt on our level of existence.

Do you care about your individual cells?  It’s okay if you say no.  Understand that simply by rubbing your eye or taking a shower you are killing thousands if not millions of your very own cells, condemning them to certain death without you.

I would like to think that I care about my cells.  They are ME after all, but I confess that I regularly murder millions of my cells without a sparing even a moment’s thought for their well-being.  I rarely, if ever, consider whether my cells are good cells or bad cells.  I rarely consider whether they have behaved admirably or poorly and never bother to ask them whether they have adhered to whatever manner of code of ethics cells have.

Why would I bother to care about my individual cells when I have 50,000,000,000,000 to 100,000,000,000,000 of them?  How can I possibly be expected to care about such a trivial and meaningless organism, even when in the aggregate, those organisms comprise ME when there are so many of them?

It is highly doubtful that you care about your individual cells any more than I do.  We can’t be bothered with worrying about their welfare because quite frankly they are beneath our notice.  They are irrelevant to us as individual because of the sheer number of them and because we simply dwell on an entirely different level of existence.

How much less do we care about such cells when they are NOT our cells, but those roaming out in the wild, or congregating on our skin, or our teeth, or our bathtub.  Indeed, the videos below capture in stunning detail, the microflora and microfauna that inhabit the world right in front of our eyes yet are utterly beneath our notice.

In the same way that such organisms are beneath our notice, is it not possible, nay plausible, that the Creator of the Great All, who is sovereign over the entirety of the Universe would view us in the same way?

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