A&O – DEEP – PHYSIOLOGY (6-05-2017)


13 c. medieval medicine – veins




Every living thing is a sort of imperialist, seeking to transform as much as possible of its environment into itself… When we compare the (present) human population of the globe with… that of former times, we see that “chemical imperialism” has been… the main end to which human intelligence has been devoted.  (Bertrand Russell, 1960)

 “La fixité du milieu intérieur est la condition d’une vie libre et indépendante” (“Constancy of the internal environment is the condition for a free and independent life,” (Claude Bernard  1865)

Physiology emphasizes the continual dynamic flux of countless interacting processes




There are many systems in the body which, because of misuse or misfortune, may have their services to the organism as a whole so altered as to be actually harmful.  Thus vicious circles of causation become established which may lead to death… The development of pathological functions in a system is quite consistent with its usual performance of normal functions…  The problem is presented of attempting to learn under what circumstances the transformation occurs.  And so, in an examination of the bodily changes which characterise the strong emotions, we may admit the common utility of the changes as preparations for action, we may admit also that such changes may become so persistent as to be a menace instead of a benefit, and we may also be stimulated by this contrast to attempt to understand how it may arise.”  (W.B. Cannon, Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear, and Rage).

The INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY of BEHAVIOR involves the coordinated activities of four broad areas (as biologists study them): DEVELOPMENT, ECOLOGY, EVOLUTION, and PHYSIOLOGY and how they are brought to bear on BEHAVIOR (“DEEP ETHOLOGY”


DEVELOPMENT is both a consequence as well as a cause of physiological activity which begins at the subcellular level as genes are activated and deactivated ..

ECOLOGY  is concerned with the environment in which an organism finds itself and with which it must cope to meet its BIOLOGICAL NEEDS.

  • STRESS: Any challenge–real or perceived–to meeting a biological need evokes a generalized response that reallocates energy to the processes that might cope.  The response can be graded to match the seeming urgency of the coping response: it can range from increased motivation (as in coping with cognitive dissonance) to a pitched emergency response.  COGNITION plays to this only when “lower” mechanisms (such as local reflexes) seem inadequate.


modification.  [see the DEEP ETHOLOGY GLOSSARY entry for EPIGENESIS also DEEP ETHOLOGY NOTES for epigenesis].


(an aside about TRAITS:  The organism possesses millions of traits, hierarchically organized and more-or-less interconnected within and between hierarchical levels.  Physiology, unlike descriptive morphology or cytology represents DYNAMIC traits.  They are the “manifest processes that sustain the health of an organism.”  We can typically take only a snapshot of a process although technology in recent decades has enabled multiple high-speed snapshots (movies, videos).  So it is always more-or-less of a fragment of the processes.  That may seem sufficient for an immediate question, but future questions will require more accuracy and precision.   This dynamism: always in flux or at least poised for rapid action is the essence of  the organism itself, but is is something we cannot yet capture.  See the DEEP ETHOLOGY GLOSSARY entry for TRAITS