Bigger ≠ better, and
Stronger ≠ winner.

Ask a dinosaur.

Long-term success requires
a sustainable and usable balance
between size and speed,
and between strength and agility.
And between income and outgo.

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the view from my mailbox

I do love the views in April

World View Three

There are some things about which we have no choice. Most of these are not human realities. Human realities often have a lot to do with matters of opinion, and so they can be changed if enough people want to change them. The things which nobody can change are not so very many, and they relate to the laws of nature that permit life on earth. The laws of energy mostly. They are easy enough to understand if we want to understand them, but we can’t change these by any of our human power ploys. Hitler did not change the laws of energy, and neither did the Buddha. This is good, because if the laws of energy were to change, life on earth could not continue. However, that leaves only one other option: people need to change whenever they run afoul the laws of energy.

The way it usually goes, some people will try to understand the environment well enough to benefit from it; others will try to dominate it. In the long run, the effort to dominate will inevitably fail. Humans can kill, but we can not dominate life.

Fortunately, people are very changeable. Mostly we don’t change; I don’t know why we would rather suffer than change, after we reach a certain age, but we can change if we care enough about something or other.

So the question is: are we better off to keep trying to understand the bigger picture, to keep modifying our world view closer and closer toward a reality we can never fully understand? Or to keep trying to reinforce whatever information and opinions we already understand.

I wonder if this question might go a long way to explain our current political situation. And if so, then I wonder why anyone would care enough to fight over a difference in world view, when we really all want the same thing and our common problem primarily has to do with our relationship with the immutable laws of energy transfer in the universe. I could see fighting, but I don’t understand fighting over something that is not the real problem. When we could be trying to solve the problem.

More World View


Even if it were true (and clearly it is not)
That everyone in all of history
Lived inside a dog-eat-dog world view.

That is not a reason for me to suffer
Inside their heads.

——————————

“If we always do what we always did;
We’ll always get what we always got.”

Mitosis

Inside the nucleus of each of your cells is an exact copy of the DNA that you received from your parents. As you know, every eukaryotic cell consists of molecules — water, proteins, lipids, carbohydrates nucleic acids and some other things — all organized inside a membrane. The membrane is referred to as “semi-permeable.” This means some things can cross the membrane and other things can not. In a normal environment, the cell controls what is inside and what is outside of itself. The organization inside the eukaryotic cell is complex, and includes many organelles. Organelles are lipid-bound structures that contain molecules organized to do specific functions, for example photosynthesis in plants, cellular respiration in nearly all cells, and my favorite, pigment granules inside pigment cells. Prokaryotic cells (like bacteria) are equally well designed, but they don’t have membrane-bound organelles inside themselves.

The nucleus of eukaryotic cells is the central core of the cell. It has two membranes around it, and it contains the DNA. DNA is the genetic material that is passed from generation to generation as a coded molecule made of nucleotides (we discussed in the last few posts). DNA is a physical molecule that is kept safe in the nucleus of your cells and copied exactly every time a new cell is made. It does not shift around or change its code (unless there is a mistake, which is very rare). It also does not leave the nucleus of the cell.

DNA has nothing to do with our political lives and is not found in our behaviors or our social structures — Bill Moyers notwithstanding, and if anyone knows Bill Moyers I hope he will read this little book so he can do a more accurate job of representing biology. Our understanding of the limiting parameters of biology (and our response to those limits) will determine whether or not humans on earth can continue the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed. So to Bill Moyers I say:

“Democracy does not contain DNA, and biology is not a whim of human language. Biology is a fact of  nature that will be here whether or not humans continue on this earth. It is far more important to our survival than either our democracy or our ability to make cute metaphors.”

Oh, oops, I got off on a rant, but you get the point. DNA is not a social reality. DNA in nature is designed to maintain the code of life and to regulate the biology of the cell. The DNA molecule carries the coded instructions for operating your body, cell by cell, and that’s all that it does. And that is one reason DNA is so carefully controlled in the cell, so it should not make mistakes in the code or wander out of the nucleus of the cell.

In the past few posts we have given an overview of DNA replication. DNA replication happens inside the nucleus of each cell when it comes time for the cell to replicate (that is when one cell divides to make two cells). To divide, the cell gets bigger, stretches out longer, and then pinches itself in half in the middle. Before it divides, the cell must make another copy of the genetic code, and then it must have a way to make sure that each new cell gets one of each of the chromosomes (the genetic code), so the two new cells are genetically identical. So that is when DNA replication occurs. We explained DNA replication in the last couple of posts.

After the DNA replicates, then the cell has two exact copies of each chromosome. Each chromosome is one enormously long DNA molecules, plus some proteins and other things that cluster around the DNA. All the DNA in all the chromosomes are your genetic code.

Because it is so long, the chromosome has to wind itself up into a shorter space before it replicates. These shorter, wound up (condensed) chromosomes are what you may have seen in pictures. The original chromosome and the copy chromosome (of each) remain attached to each other, and they all are still in the nucleus of the cell. Then, just before the cell begins to pinch itself into two cells, the nucleus dissolves. The condensed chromosomes line up in a space like a flat circle that is referred to sometimes as a “plate” between the two ends, preparing for mitosis.

Mitosis is the process of cell division that gives rise to two identical daughter cells.

The double chromosomes line up across the middle of the elongated cell, so that one of the duplicated chromosomes faces each end. Structures (microtubules, they are made of molecules) form in each end of the cell that look like little strings. The copy chromosomes are still attached to the original. The microtubules from one end attach to one of each duplicated chromosome, and those from the other end of the elongated cell attach to the other of each duplicated chromosome. Then one of each different chromosome is pulled to the left and the other is pulled to the right. The cell pinches itself in the middle until there are two cells that each have one of every different kind of chromosome, a nucleus forms around the chromosomes, and they stretch out long again so they are no longer condensed. The two daughter cells are genetically identical to each other and to the original cell.

This is the process of mitotic cell division (mitosis) and I’m sure you can find it on the web and in many books, in great detail, with lots of names for all the different stages of division. The detail is not as important to us as the bottom line, which is:

1. Every chromosome must replicate its DNA so each new cell will have the exact genetic code as the parent cell;

2. The replicate chromosome stays attached to the original chromosome while they line up in the center of the elongated replicating cell.

3. One copy of each chromosome is pulled to the left and another copy is pulled to the right in the elongated cell.

4. If all these processes are done properly, then each new cell has an exact copy of the DNA code of the original cell.

People Are

When your world falls apart, it is because the reality of life does not fit whatever is your world view of life. It’s a form of culture shock. Your choice is to somehow find yourself a more logical world view — one that better fits the facts. It is hard and painful work. Or the other choice would be to is to clutch more firmly your illogical world view and withdraw into yourself. My world view has been trashed several times, a painful event, but one that leads to a higher level of understanding as we put the pieces back together in a more logical way. Here is my new one. Because I am a scientist, I always try to base my views in measurable facts whenever they are available, and so I begin with an extremely well documented fact.

1. It is a fact that the anatomical and physiological makeup of humans is determined largely by their genetics, and that they inherit their genetics from their parents. This fact is demonstrated in many ways, but the most obvious is that we are able to change genes. If a change in a gene causes a change in a phenotype (phenotype is a physical or physiological trait), then the gene must somehow affect the phenotype. And there are many other proofs. It’s a well documented fact.

2. It is a fact that humans have brains and it is also a fact that our brains do many things for us that are common to all humans (are inherited from our ancestors) and of which we are not aware. We know this in general because of what happens to people whose brains have been damaged. We do not know very much about the specific.

3. In other words, there are some common characteristics of all humans that are different from other organisms, and some of them are common to us all, even if we don’t know it.

4. I believe that one of these human qualities is our ability to make logical sense out of our environments. In all my past ten years of searching around the world including the USA, I have found that every person has a life-logic that makes good sense if we listen to the foundations for that logic. Many life-logics are extremely damaging to the self or others, but they all make logical sense. Our life-logic has been called a world view.

I believe our brains are always looking for a world view that is logical. Whether or not our world view is factually valid is another question. Some realities are not measurable; some world views conform better to measurable facts than other world views. However, all world views are logical within their own construct.

5. I believe, once the human brain has reached a logic that makes sense, it will protect that logic with everything in its power, and the greatest of these is denial. Denial is an automatic human response to anything that threatens us or (specifically because that’s what I’m talking about) our world view. Of this, I speak from experience, and again I believe it is a universal human trait. This has at least two results:

  • a. most people believe that every other world view is illogical and refuse to listen to what in reality is the logic of other people’s world views; and
  • b. because we are afraid of the emotional black hole that would exist if our world view proved to be wrong (and we know that all world views are wrong in some respects), we create cliques, clans and wars. This is not for the purpose of finding out what is true, but to prove that our own world view is correct. Unfortunately, this is impossible because no world view is 100% correct, so most of the time we don’t know what we are fighting about because fighting proves nothing about the relative accuracy of the various world views, and so we make small problems bigger in order to prove something that is unprovable. Politically, this means that the “pendulum keeps swinging from one extreme to the other and back again.”

6. It is a fact that a very large part of the unique quality of the human brain is that it can adapt to environmental circumstances. In other words, we are all the product of our own experiences, laid on top of the basic qualities of the brain.

7. I believe that a very large element of our American environment (our culture) is that we are taught to believe we aren’t good enough unless we are “winners.” It doesn’t matter what we win, so long as we win something, then we are OK.

8. It is a fact that the scientific method is based in measurable facts. This gives us the option (for those who have access to the method) to build our individual and collective world views on the basis of measurable facts. Undeniably, the scientific world view is more likely than, say emotions, to approximate the reality of things that can be measured. This is demonstrated by the reality of technology. If we didn’t have a good grasp of some real universal law, our airplanes would not fly. So it’s clear that we can (if we choose to do so) get closer to factual reality if we base a world view in measurable facts.

9. Any good scientist knows the difference between things that can be measured and things that can not be measured, and also knows how to tell the difference beween a fact and an opinion or other non-measurable belief. That is why scientists don’t argue with people who are not interested in sorting these things out. There is nothing to argue about unless both sides are willing to acknowledge the portion of information that is proven or provable. There is no point to a big argument over whether or not gravity exists, for example, and working scientists are among the most busy people on the planet just trying to keep hold on their careers. Such an argument is not relevant to their world view.

Most good scientists enjoy a genuine search for knowledge. Most scientists are very committed to the general welfare. Once they know how we are causing harm to ourselves, they want to help fix it. Technologists are not scientists, but most technologists feel similarly. The problem is that the world view of most technologists is that technology will save us from the laws of nature. Unfortunately that is not a viable world view relative to the facts. Most other people also are positively motivated, in the sense of helping humans, but their world views usually have more to do with the opinion that either religion or politics will “save us.”

10. I believe that — religion is to spirituality as technology is to science. In other words, religion and technology represent different efforts of humans to build logical world views with which to control the laws of nature. Unfortunately, we know factually that we can not control the laws of nature and survive, because the ecosystem is structured with the laws of nature as its foundation. If we pull out the foundation stone the whole thing will crash. It is like a cell in your body trying to change the way your body. If the cell wins, you are dead. Fortunately we probably can’t do this to the ecosystem. As a religious friend of mine says:

“Lynn, you should not worry about the ecosystem. God has created a living earth with checks and balances so that it can protect itself.” True, but the fix will be tragic for humans, and I was actually more worried about the grandchildren.

11. American politics is about winning at any cost, whether or not it is for the general welfare. People in power know that they do not have the power over millions of other people. Therefore, people in power, whether they be corporate leaders or politicians, control the masses by creating false world views that they proceed to “sell” in any way they can.

  • a. They can not sell a false world view using all of the real facts because people are by nature logical and would smell a fish;
  • b. People are by nature logical, and will rebel if they can’t have a logic;
  • c. Therefore people in power leave out factual steps in the logic they provide to pacify the people. They replace these with bullshit that sounds more attractive than the real facts. Thus they give the people two things that people by their nature want very much: a logical world view; and a happy story to go with it.

The problem for the people is:

  • a. The leaders do have access to the facts;
  • b. If the leaders can seize control of communications and education so that they can falsify or leave out important measurable facts, then the world view of the people will not approximate factual reality and that of the leaders will, with the result that the leaders will have the major control over the power. Factual reality holds more power than the logic of one’s world view because you can make real physical things work with factual reality, whereas world views are mostly composed of subconscious or emotional realities;
  • c. The facts have three levels of physical reality that are different from each other.

Level One – individual comfort (I won’t give up my world view no matter what) – refusal to listen to other people’s equally logical world view.

    Level Two – The human group welfare (this would usually be a clique, clan or worldview sort of group, but also could be any human political group) – whatever worked for my father is obviously best for my son and everyone else’s sons. Peer pressure and mob behaviors are included. This is where the pendulum swings but no progress is made toward success.

    Level Three – over-all reality, which in the case of us is the whole ecosystem because we can not survive without it.

      Thinking about our world view in terms of levels is very useful. It explains some realities that otherwise appear to be in conflict. For example, evolution.

      Successful evolution is a sort of negotiation in which the basic needs of all the levels are met. Take cells for example. At level one, the cell that eats another cell changes nothing of significance to evolution, but only to himself. And then someone eats him. At level two, the cancer cell appears a big (political?) winner over all the other cells in the body. But as a result the body dies, along with all its cells, eliminating them all from further participation in any kind of life. At level three, the cells work together to keep the body healthy and thus are able to pass on their genes to another generation of bodies and cells. So if anyone tried to tell you that evolution is an exercise in “tooth and claw” their world view logic is somewhere between level one and level two and represents only a small part of the real picture.

      Unless human kind can develop level three social skills, we will end up like the cancer cells, because the fact is that the overall ecosystem is a good deal bigger than any or all of us, and is probably not listening to any of our world views. Like all living systems, it will do whatever it will do according to the laws of nature (we do know how this will happen in a general sort of way) to save itself, so if we genuinely want our politics to benefit our sons we should find out what the ecosystem genuinely requires in order to stay healthy, and not what some economist (or military general, or president) says it should need according to his very logical world view that leaves out several important facts at the very base of its logical structure.

      And this is why scientists don’t try to talk to people who won’t listen to real measurable facts of level three.

      The fact is that level three will determine the true quality of life for our sons, and at level three we all want the same thing, which is quality of life. Therefore, it is a complete waste of our valuable logical brains to spend them unnecessarily muddling around in levels one and two when we could, instead, listen to the various ways in which we all express exactly the same needs, wants and desires. We could be using all that information to work together at level three to get what we all want, need and desire.

      We will never get these needs fulfilled by killing off competitors at level one, or overrunning elections or the ecosystem at level two, because we cannot force level three to do what we want her to do. Our only option is a level three evolutionary compromise in which we adapt our fairy tales to the factual, physical, measurable needs of level three survival — if we decide that is more important than our own need to believe we are more powerful even than God. We are not more powerful than God, and I do not believe God wants us to trash His beautiful living ecosystem.

      And unfortunately for our fairy tales, God’s laws respond to our behaviors — not our world views.

      I wonder what the person said the next day after he chopped down the last tree on Easter Island? “Oops, shouldn’t have done that!”