Books on Microbes

As research increasingly shows remarkable behavior in microbes, the idea that they might have a form of mind has begun to be incorporated into some scientists’ theories about how human mind developed from lesser proto minds. The books by Dimascio, Penrose, and Nunez, who all consider microbes to be sentient but do not write specifically about the behavior of microbes, are included in other resource sections, specifically section 1, The Human Brain, and section 8, Where Is the Mind?  This section recommends books that are specifically about microbes.

The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds by John Tyler Bonner, is a summary of the field by an emeritus professor who has studied the remarkable amoebae for decades. Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell by Dennis Bray, and Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life by Carl Zimmer are both excellent books about the worlds of microbes, where many unusual behaviors and capacities are described. Neither book claims sentience in microbes, and Bray’s book, which so clearly shows characteristics that one might interpret as mind, adamantly denies mental capacities in microbes.  A Planet of Viruses by Carl Zimmer is an excellent introduction to the world of viruses whose unusual behavior is just beginning to be elucidated. In a book espousing a grand theory of life on earth, Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, Howard K. Bloom has a chapter on microbes comparing their group communication to that of insects and humans.

Lynn Margulis is unique in the history of modern biology and is an expert in microbes.  She has pioneered the theory that much of evolution is from symbiotic combining of different microbes with each other and with other organisms. While her theory that our mitochondrion and the chloroplasts of plants originated with smaller cells integrating into larger cells has now been fully accepted by all biologists, her continuing defense of the radical implications of symbiosis are disturbing to many biologists. Despite all of this she is a very prolific writer and all of her books are brilliant, and challenging.  They all include the notion that microbes have some form of mental capacity.  The two books, Acquiring Genomes: The Theory of the Origins of the Species by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan and Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, are specifically about microbes and include an enormous number examples of microbe intelligent behavior.  Her very recent book Chimeras and Consciousness: Evolution of the Sensory Self by Dorion Sagan, Lynn Margulis, Celeste A. Asikainen and Wolfgang E. Krumbein tackles the notion of mind throughout nature.

The other books, Molecular Genetics of Bacteria by Jeremy W. Dale and Simon F. Park, Bacterial Signaling by Reinhard Krämer and Kirsten Jung, and Intracellular Niches of Microbes: A Pathogens Guide Through the Host Cell by Ulrich E. Schaible and Albert Haas are highly technical but show the great complexity of microbe function and communication. The field of viruses is probably twenty years behind other microbes. Increasingly, remarkable behavior is demonstrated in viruses, which service as a critical change agent in all of nature. The books Studies in Viral Ecology, Volume 1: Microbial and Botanical Host Systems by Christon J. Hurst, and Studies in Viral Ecology, Volume 2: Animal Host Systems by Christon J. Hurst are an excellent summary of this young scientific field.