A Trace of Emergence

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  • Title: A Trace of Emergence: Human Social Behavior as a Sign of Microbial Metabolism
  • Author(s): Judy Kay King
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies
  • Keywords: Social Behavior, Cultural Inventions, Collective Intentionality, Microbial Metabolism, Emergence, Gut Microbiota-Brain Axis, Cognitive Neurobiology, Biosemiotic
  • Volume: 14
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2019
  • ISSN: 2327-008X (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-2554 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-008X/CGP/v14i01/57-79
  • Citation: King, Judy Kay . 2019. "A Trace of Emergence: Human Social Behavior as a Sign of Microbial Metabolism." The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies 14 (1): 57-79. doi:10.18848/2327-008X/CGP/v14i01/57-79.
  • Extent: 23 pages


Collective intentionality maps a microbial metabolism within the human body to our external observable environment through social behavior, giving rise to the process of life and cognition. To understand interactions between cultural evolution and biological networks, this socio-ontological inquiry examines the nature of collective intentionality and social behavior during the last 12,000 years. The question is: does the ancient metabolism of Escherichia coli interconnected to a viral genetic circuit act as the inherent organizing tendency ordering cultural evolution, in support of the hypothesis that microbes shape social behavior? Building on an historical underground tradition and a transdisciplinary theoretical foundation of systems thinking, this article considers life’s origins, the theory of symbiogenesis, and cognitive neuroscience advances while defining a research-based microscopic model for reasoning the macroscopic phenomenology of social behavior out of the model’s microscopic dynamics. Drawing from this evolutionary and cognitive context, as well as psychological theory, this analysis identifies a set of shared system functions in microbial metabolism, major cultural inventions, and selected social subsystems that support emergent evolution guided by the bidirectional gut microbiota-brain axis.