Hey @Combine_Advisor !
I was listening to The Language of God podcast interview with Jeff Hardin earlier today. Hardin and Stump were talking about cells rearranging themselves as part of embryonic development. In their discussion they needed to contrast the anthropomorphic metaphor we use casually that implies intelligence in cells, against the cell’s abilities to be responsive to stimuli that indicate changes the cell needs to make in order to continue proper embryonic development. I copied the part I thought was pertinent below in case it helps answer your question. Sorry the transcript didn’t have time stamps.
An interesting question of yours.
When your story is ready for publication, let us know, will you?
I don’t think of cells having a collective consciousness or something like that. When I say cells need to know which way to move, it’s because cells can emit signals, which are received by neighboring cells using receptor molecules on their surfaces, which act like molecular antennae to allow a cell to receive that signal. Then it’s pre-programmed, in some ways, with a limited repertoire of responses to that signal. That’s very cumbersome what I just said. So it is true that sometimes, with in a popular discussion, we’ll use words like know and sense or something like that in a way that might lead some people to think that there’s some overarching, intelligence exerting effects on individual cells and rearranging them like checkers on the checkerboard or something. But really, scientists don’t think in that way about how embryos develop, it’s really better to think about the unfertilized egg having molecules in it, when that egg is fertilized, it sets in motion, a set of chemical reactions inside of that cell that leads to molecules being moved to different locations. As cells divide then different cells have different properties that allow them to communicate with one another. Eventually, in the period of morphogenesis, when the cells have to move around, we are thinking about chemical influences on the surface of cells leading to changes within cells and involve building blocks, assembling into chains of molecules and doing all those kinds of things. So we use shorthand that sounds teleological, we didn’t actually define that word. This is the notion that there’s a directedness to natural processes.
You may also be interested in the novel Blood Music. It shows up in some discussions around here, if you haven’t already seen them.