[Coral-List] Thinking like a coral (or jellyfish)?

Thomas Goreau goreau at bestweb.net
Tue Sep 23 21:29:59 EDT 2008

Dear Gene,

Jellyfish, or corals or all coelenterates are not really radially  
symmetric but bilateral, as is known to all coral anatomists and  
embrologists. If you look at their embryonic development there first  
forms a primary mesentery, (or septa) around which the rest are  
inserted in cycles in which the position and sizes differ. It is  
therefore a pseudo-sixfold symmetry that retains the primary bilateral  
symmetry. Corals have basically the same set of genes for segment  
formation as the higher invertebrates.

So it is not clear that thinking like a jellyfish will prevent you  
being bipolar, even though I agree with you multipolarity would be  
very much better..........

Best wishes,

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
Coordinator, United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development  
Partnership in New Technologies for Small Island Developing States
37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
goreau at bestweb.net

Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2008 10:41:34 -0400
From: Gene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Subject: [Coral-List] Bill Pierce, Real Root Visionaries
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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I commend Bill Pierce for his philosophical approach to the root
causes of coral (and just about everything else) demise first brought
to our attention by Stephen Jameson.  In my simple-minded solution I
often resort to a line in Jimmy Buffet's Fruit Cakes song..." Humans
are flawed individuals, the Cosmic Baker took us out of the oven too
soon." But I do have a philosophical approach to human kind and the
strange things humans blindly believe in. Mine hinges on just two
kinds of people. And of course there are two kinds of people. Those
who will agree with my little essay and those who will not. Those who
disagree may still find some humor in the story and at the very least
I hope the "two kinds of people" will haunt them the way the old
man's statement has haunted me over the years.  So here goes. Enjoy,
or not enjoy. Gene

How Would Jellyfish Think?

     Back in my youth (when I was about 40), I was having dinner with
an older gentleman at a meeting in DC when he leaned over and said,
"You know, when you get down to it, there are only two kinds of
people." I just nodded not knowing what to say. Now more than 30
years later, I remain haunted by his comment. It's taken all these
years to decipher what seems to be the wisdom in the old man's words.
I have become increasingly aware as I get older that no matter the
issue, some will agree and some will disagree. Disagreement today
seems more rampant than in the past, but possibly I just was not
paying attention. Nevertheless, it should come as no surprise when we
consider our makeup. After all, we are bipedal with bilateral
symmetry. Two legs, two arms, two eyes, and we have a left and a
right brain. We describe and divide most everything into opposites.
Think, left/right, up/down, black/white, light and dark, in and out,
forward and backward, push/pull, on and off, good/bad, sweet/sour,
fast/slow, rich and poor, win or lose, and most basic of all,
male/female. One can go on and on with many examples of two-sided
opposition in our thinking. Even the computer on which this is
written works on the binary on/off principle. It seems only logical
then that, like the old man implied, we are simply preprogrammed at
birth to think in a binary fashion. So, when people clamor for a
third political party, as I have, I realize we just can't do that!
Both houses of Congress (why are there two?) are divided into two
sides by an isle down the middle. Just like our brains. And the House
and Senate often oppose each other on issues. We would have to
reengineer the House and Senate to add a third party. Even
Parliamentary governments are divided. It's called bicameral
government. Whether they are Whigs or Tories, liberals or
conservatives, they are always basically on opposite sides of the
     I felt vindicated and decided I need not disagree with the old
man's comment after reading the 25 July 2008 issue of Science. On
page 486, I read an article titled, "Voting: In Your Genes?" It said
that over the past 2 decades, numerous researchers have determined
that genes determine whether you are liberal or conservative on
political issues. The proof comes from studies of separated identical
twins that share the same genes. Fraternal twins are similar in their
views, but not nearly as much as identical twins. Well, that seems to
settle it. For a while, I thought it came down to just being male or
female, that is, givers and takers, or in tribal societies hunters
and gathers, or hunters and cooks. Who can deny that males and
females act and think differently no matter how society tries to
force conformity? To me, it's amazing that humans can agree as much
as we do. I suppose that's where our reasoning and upbringing tend to
overcome preprogrammed instincts. Of course, there are many shades of
grey in between, and luckily for us, overwhelming logic and facts
will often overrule our brain's binary software. But I tend to
maintain, like the old gentleman who brought this issue to my
attention, that underlying differences remain. One has to wonder if
when we are in the privacy of the voting booth just how often our
brain's preprogramming will override all the facts and figures. I
suspect that in many cases it does. We just can't help it if we are
indeed preprogrammed to be bimodal (sometimes bipolar?) in our
     I can't help but wonder what the world be like if we had evolved
bodies with radial symmetry such as that found in jellyfish and
starfish. How would we see the world? Sometimes I feel like a
jellyfish. Maybe when we can't make up our minds, it's because there
is still a little jellyfish in all of us?


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------

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