Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Universal Order of Plants - by Form and Function

For an introduction, I have labelled this series of blogs with the label "Universal Order", where I am reexamining the theory of the Reflexive Universe, by Arthur M. Young, inventor of the Bell Helicopter. All of existence keeps repeating a pattern of seven, divided into discrete degrees of order.  Beyond space-time, subatomic particles, atoms and molecules, we now enter the plant kingdom. And as the order increases, so does the complexity. Botanists will disagree on certain categories, and as our genetic knowledge has increased the classifications have changed - some of them quite recently. But the key here is to pay attention to form, to discrete degrees of order. Here I want to take a look at how Arthur M. Young divided the plant kingdom into seven categories:
1. Phytoplankton (Single Cell - not sure on this one)
2. Algae (Colonies)
3. Embryophytes (Embryos)
4. Psylophytes (Vascular stem)
5. Pteridophytes (Segments)
6. Gymnosperm (Seeds)
7. Angiosperm (Flowers)

So is this correct? There are many ways to classify and subclassify the plant kingdom, so I decided to look around and grab some plant charts:

Here is another:

And another, which does not include the algae:

And another one:

The first difference I see is that botanists will just refer to the "Algae Kingdom", and not distinguish between wandering single cells, and cells that group together to form colonies. Phytoplankton are classified under the Algae Kingdom.

So what is the definition of algae? From biology online:
A group of aquatic, photosynthetic, eukaryotic organisms ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, and generally possess chlorophyll but lack true roots, stems and leaves characteristic of terrestrial plants.
In five kingdom scheme of classification, the algae, together with the protozoa, belong to Kingdom Protista. They are distinct from the protozoa by being photosynthetic. The algae are further grouped into various phyla: Euglenophyta (euglenids), Chrysophyta (diatoms), Pyrrophyta (dinoflaggelates), Chlorophyta (green algae), Phaeophyta (brown algae), and Rhodophyta (red algae). The Cyanophyta or blue-green algae, which are prokaryotic organisms, are traditionally included in this group but in modern classification, they are now grouped together with bacteria under Kingdom Monera.
Note the shifting of the classification of Cyanophyta.  Young divided the Algae kingdom into those that were unicellular, and those that were multicellular or which dwelt in colonies.


I was trying to find the taxonomy of unicellar plants, and this is where things got unbelievably complicated. Here is a diagram of the "tree of life":

In the above diagram, Eukaryota is misspelled, but I picked it since it shows viruses - science does not yet have an exact definition of "life", and it is debatable whether or not viruses are living or non-living. But this took me by surprise - I do not remember this diagram from my class in biology.  But I soon figured out why when I read up on bacteria. Here is what wikipedia says about "bacteria":
Once regarded as plants constituting the class Schizomycetes, bacteria are now classified as prokaryotes. Unlike cells of animals and other eukaryotes, bacterial cells do not contain a nucleus and rarely harbour membrane-bound organelles. Although the term bacteria traditionally included all prokaryotes, the scientific classification changed after the discovery in the 1990s that prokaryotes consist of two very different groups of organisms that evolved independently from an ancient common ancestor. These evolutionary domains are called Bacteria and Archaea.
So bacteria used to be plants. And now they are not. Arthur M. Young died in 1995, which explains the discrepancy with his theory. So what are Schizomycetes?  Here is one definition:
A class of unicellular or noncellular organisms that lack chlorophyll, comprise all the bacteria, and are prokaryotes, although formerly classified as fungi. Also called fission fungi.
The key point here is that bacteria lack chlorophyll, which is a key ingredient to the process of photosynthesis: the ability to convert light energy into food (there is one exception to that rule: cyanobacteria do make use of photosynthesis). But what is the difference between Bacteria and Archaea?  I had never heard of this.  From wikipedia:
In the past Archaea had been classed with bacteria as prokaryotes (or Kingdom Monera) and named archaebacteria, but this classification is regarded as outdated. In fact, the Archaea have an independent evolutionary history and show many differences in their biochemistry from other forms of life, and so they are now classified as a separate domain in the three-domain system. In this system, the phylogenetically distinct branches of evolutionary descent are the Archaea, Bacteria and Eukaryota.
So why the change? Its a different method of classification. Again from wikipedia:
For much of the 20th century, prokaryotes were regarded as a single group of organisms and classified based on their biochemistry, morphology and metabolism. For example, microbiologists tried to classify microorganisms based on the structures of their cell walls, their shapes, and the substances they consume. However, a new approach was proposed in 1965, using the sequences of the genes in these organisms to work out how different prokaryotes are related to each other. This approach, known as phylogenetics, is the main method used today.
In other words, instead of just depending on form and function, the classification is based on evolutionary history. The distinctions are however important when studying evolution:
The relationship between the three domains is of central importance for understanding the origin of life. Most of the metabolic pathways, which comprise the majority of an organism’s genes, are common between Archaea and Bacteria, while most genes involved in genome expression are common between Archaea and Eukaryota.
But we are concerned with order by form and function, not in how life evolved in particular on our planet earth. Life can evolve in different ways in different environments, especially on other planets. But there will always be a similar order, by form and function.  Here is another diagram showing the three domains:

Note: above diagram is out of date - Archaea are no longer considered part of Prokaryotes.

The important point out of this is that among the three domains of Bacteria, Archaea (formerly Archaebacteria as in the above diagram), and Eukaryota, is that plants and animals evolved from Eukaryota cells.  And what distinguishes Eukaryota from the other 2 domans?  Eukaryota have a nucleus which contains the genetic material. Bacteria and Archaea do not. For reasons I will explain later, lets consider Bacteria and Archaea as the first subclass of the plant kingdom, as in the former classification.


And now for the unicellular Eukaryota.  Included in this is the Protist kingdom:
They are unicellular, or they are multicellular without specialized tissues, and this simple cellular organization distinguishes the protists from other eukaryotes, such as fungi, animals and plants.
The term protista was first used by Ernst Haeckel in 1866. Protists were traditionally subdivided into several groups based on similarities to the "higher" kingdoms: the unicellular "animal-like" protozoa, the "plant-like" protophyta (mostly unicellular algae), and the "fungus-like" slime molds and water molds. These traditional subdivisions, largely based on superficial commonalities, have been replaced by classifications based on phylogenetics (evolutionary relatedness among organisms). However, the older terms are still used as informal names to describe the morphology and ecology of various protists.
We see here a general trend where biologists are moving away from form and function, and classifying organisms based on genetics. While genetics should be used, classification should still be by form and function. Based on genetics, many classifications are currently in flux, and its a bit frustrating as I cannot find one definite answer. We are looking for discrete degrees of order, which will tend to follow the evolutionary chronology anyway.  The key here is that unicellular organisms in the Eukaryota domain can be divided into two classes: "animal-like" protozoa, which have independent movement, and protophyta, unicellular algae which have the ability of photosynthesis.


And now we hit another problem with Arthur M. Young's classification of plants: the "Psylophytes".  What is this?  Here is the Wikipedia entry for Psilophytopsida:
Psilophytopsida is a now obsolete class containing one order, Psilophytales, which was previously used to classify a number of extinct plants which are now placed elsewhere. The class was established in 1917, under the name Psilophyta, with only three genera (Rhynia, Horneophyton and Psilophyton) for a group of fossil plants from the Upper Silurian and Devonian periods which lack true roots and leaves, but have a vascular system within a branching cylindrical stem. The living Psilotaceae, the whisk-ferns, were sometimes added to the class, which was then usually called Psilopsida. This classification is no longer in use.
Ok, its obsolete. And primarily it was used for extinct plants. But the intention of Young was a category for vascular plants. So Young's theory really does need to be updated with our current knowledge, but still pay attention to the form and function.


This area, the plant kingdom, requires a bit more research on my part. But it is quite apparent that Young's classification is a bit out of date, and slightly incorrect. As particle colliders has begun to find more and more subatomic particled, Wolfgang Pauli said "Had I foreseen that, I would have gone into botany." Enrico Fermi told once told a student: "Young man, if I could remember the names of these particles, I would have been a botanist." I disagree: particle physicists have a much easier job classifying the particles, and its all based on math. This classification of plants is beginning to look like sociology and psychology: based on someone's opinion. The problem here is complicated: there is such an explosion of diversity in the plant realm. But, if we pay attention to form and function, we end up with the following generic (and tentative) subclasses of the plant kingdom:
1. Unicellular or colonial, with no nucleus (Bacteria and Archaea)
2. Unicellular or colonial, with no nucleus, ability of photosynthesis (Cyanobacteria)
3. Unicellular or multicellular, with nucleus, not highly organized (Algae, Fungi, Lichens)
4. Embryo Sporophyte (Embryophyta)
5. Vascular plants (Pteridophytes, etc.)
6. Seeds (Gymnosperm)
7. Flowers (Angiosperm)
So this is looking a bit better. First, lets classify by form and function.  I am avoiding the taxonomy terms because these classifications are constantly in flux, as genetic research is increasing our knowledge in the evolution of plants. Not only is the taxonomy in flux, but older definitions shift to something different as they acquire a new meaning. It also removes Young's artificial division of the vascular plants. The Embryophytes have now shifted from the 3rd to the fourth subclass.  He had identified the 3rd subclass with "identity".  But let me point out the following correspondence.  Take a look at the seven planes of existence:
1. Space-time.
2. Subatomic particles.
3. Atoms.
4. Molecules.
5. Plants.
6. Animals & Man.
7. (an unknown plane of existence)
In the third stage of plants, the cell gets a nucleus. That corresponds to the third plane of existence: atoms. Atoms also have a nucleus! Same word, different level of order. A nucleus corresponds to Young's idea of "identity".

I would like to talk a bit about Cyanobacteria. I have put it, rightly or wrongly, in a classification of its own. In the old classification, it belonged to the Algae. In the newer taxonomy, its placed among the Bacteria. I have put it in between according to the probably evolutionary history. It is an important subclass, as it is thought that the the ability of all plants to photosynthesize light came from Cyanobacteria. It is also thought that Cyanobacteria helped earth obtain its oxygen atmosphere. And, by correspondence, it corresponds to the second plane of existence, which is light.  This is not something Young would have noticed. Since he placed light in the first plane of existence, he incorrectly put photosynthesizing plankton in the first order of plants, if I recall correctly.


Swedenborg stated that the process where life becomes more and more complex originates from the spiritual world, where the "template" or "class" of these animals and plants exist.  And there are many more in the spiritual world than the ones we have seen in the natural world.  They all have a correspondence to spiritual ideas, thus its important to recognize the discrete degrees of order according to form and function. There are many things that can be said here, so I will just include one account of Swedenborg concerning a botanist:

A certain one who was renowned and celebrated in the learned world for his skill in the science of botany, heard in the other life after his decease, that flowers and trees are there also presented to view, at which he was astonished; and as that had been the enjoyment of his life, he was kindled with the desire of seeing whether it was so. Being taken up therefore into the paradisal regions, he saw most beautiful plantations of trees and most charming flower gardens of immense extent. And as he then came into the ardor of his enjoyment from affection, it was permitted him to wander over the field, and not only see them in detail, but also to gather them and bring them to close inspection, and to see thoroughly whether they were really so.
Speaking with me from thence, he said that he had never believed this, and that if such things had been heard of in the world, they would have been classed as paradoxes. And he related further that flowers were seen growing there in immense abundance which were never seen in the world, and which would be scarce comprehensible there by any perception; and that they all glowed from an incomprehensible brightness, because they were from the light of heaven. That the glow was from a spiritual origin, he was not yet able to perceive, that is, that they glowed because there was in each one of them something of intelligence and wisdom, which were of truth and good. He said further that men on earth would by no means believe this, for the reason that few believe there is any heaven and hell, and they who believe only know that in heaven there is joy, and few among them believe that there are such things there as eye has never seen, and ear has never heard, and mind has never conceived; and this though they know from the Word that stupendous things were seen by the prophets, and more by John, as recorded in the Apocalypse. Yet these were nothing else than the representatives which are continually being presented in heaven, and which were seen by John when his internal sight was opened.
But these things are comparatively of little moment. They who are in intelligence and wisdom itself, from which these things are, are in such a state of happiness that the things which have been related are to them among those of little importance. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4529).
If I recall correctly, this is not the only account.  I believe I read a book by Mary Baxter describing her Near Death Experience, and was surprised to see a flower in such detail in the other life. What is more important here is to recognize that in the structure and order of plants, certain spiritual truths can be discerned. So it is good to have a strong foundation first, but starting with what we know from science.

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