Your Choice

OK. Here’s the deal. We are people – organisms. We are not God. We are not even atheists, because we all know that we are a part of Life. Whatever created the laws of physics – that’s what made life possible – it wasn’t us. Probably it was God; or maybe physics. Not the science or the word but the real thing.

So we people have pretty good brains. We figured out how the laws of physics function to make life possible in our biosphere. (OK, more or less figured it out, we know enough to do no harm.) So that means we can use the laws of physics to do things and make things. That’s technology. Technology can not change the laws of physics. It is also not God.

A lot of people don’t like what we have been doing with our technologies. Destroying things. A lot of people are blaming science, can you believe it? Science didn’t destroy anything. People and their technology did/are.

But we thought science had failed. We have to blame someone/thing, never ourselves, and so we switched to “social science” which is the study of how people function. This really is what we need to know, isn’t it. Because actually it is people who are destroying things, so we need to know how to benevolently control societies so the societies will stop using technologies to destroy things.

But that’s not how we are using our knowledge of either basic science or “social sciences.” Now that we have both, we are using both sets of knowledge to destroy things — when we could be using both to save ourselves within our bubble of life on this earth.

Obviously basic science is not enough and “social science” is not enough to save us. We need something more. I’ve spent the past ten (oops 11) years studying what that something more could be, and I’ve concluded it is something we had all along, if only we would believe in ourselves and educate ourselves. That is compassion. Obviously, compassion by itself is not enough, because we have had that all along. What could be enough – if we want it – is our innate compassion informed by an understanding of our knowledge of basic science of how life is possible, and our social science of how people function.

Now I am not God and you are not God. We agreed about that. And I also think we can agree that one of the most basic capacities contained within every normal human genome is compassion. It’s how humans always have related to the living world. So after all these millennia, the answer was right inside of you (and me) all along. But the problem is that compassion itself is not enough, because have added two levels of function between us and the ecosystem: our political structures (level two above us) and the corposystem (level three). These levels are not based in our “right brain” genomic/instinctive knowledges, such as compassion, hatred, fear and sadness. They are built around “right brain” intellectual learning. That’s probably why quite a few people don’t like intellectual, but in fact we live in it and we won’t be able to control it unless we understand it’s most basic qualities.

First, we (each) need to know the basics of how God set up the laws of physics to work. Because physics does not function according to the inborn human values – it is not written in our genomes as is compassion — and we can not stop the killing without knowing at least the most basic bare bones biology of what the living ecosystem needs to stay alive.

You think you do? Great, then add that to compassion unto the 7th generation and you’ve got the key to human survival on this lovely earth. It’s the challenge we each face, individually. To deal with our own selves (level one), our families and social contacts (level two), the corposystem (level three) and the ecosystem (level four), in ways that increase the benefits for all the living earth.

That’s enough of a responsibility for one person, and the hardest part is nothing to do with the God question. We are basically all on the same wavelength there.

The hard part is figuring out what is a “benefit” and what is a “harm.” We certainly cannot depend upon George, the government or the corposystem or any other single authority to decide what is best for us all. We must each do some study of how things really function at least at the level of the ecosystem (because without it we surely die). If we don’t use this “left-brain” knowledge to inform our compassion, we will end up doing good today that will cause harm for tomorrow. That’s what we have been doing unawares, and it’s time to change.

You can’t make anyone else do this, so it’s in your hands. You can decide what kind of world you want to live in and live your own life accordingly, understanding the impact that your decisions have on future generations. No easy answers, nobody to blame. But it is a choice that any person can make. The better part of our inborn human values, plus the better parts of our factual, provable human knowledge base even when we don’t like the facts, plus the courage to make the choice. That’s all there is to it.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that nobody wins an argument when both sides are right and they both want the same ultimate result, as when one side is concerned with the welfare of individuals, and the other is concerned with requirements for a healthy population. And the third side recognizes that the healthy population requires a healthy environment to live in. The only hope for a good solution is a positive “left-brain” discussion based in physical and emotional factual reality (including the “right-brain” emotions). Not compromise, but an effort to provide for all the most important positive needs of all the emergent parts of the organism. If this is not possible, perhaps because of the complexity of the interacting problems, then the whole interacting network is likely to crash. So the bottom line really is that good talk is the most important “action” that we can do, and bad talk is probably the most harmful. And good talk requires generosity.

Communication

Commentary on the Facebook Discussion below.

Talk about a melting pot. We are it. We are in process of learning how, and I especially appreciate the input of “A” who expressed that reality so effectively — and maybe more importantly expressed the difference between “me and you as individuals” contrasted with “all of us as a population.” There is a big difference between these two levels of function. Recognizing this difference we can also recognize that the things we do not like about some population are emergent properties of the population level. I use that term because I want to emphasize that we are biological entities, and biology is organized according to emergent properties. Emergent properties are not labels to pin on any one member of the group they characterize. However, they may be characteristic of the group itself and therefore they may be very harmful (or helpful) to society. If they are harmful, we do need to recognize the harm that is being done. And, within our own groups, we also must recognize that whenever we behave according to the dictates of our group, we ARE (or may be if we don’t think about it) honoring and perpetuating ethics that we deplore. That’s why change is so difficult. For example, fighting for an end to war will never achieve the goal. Sorry all you rabid peaceniks but that’s a reality. Too many wounded losers remain. And it’s almost impossible in a warrior culture to get anyone to listen to what you are saying unless you are willing to fight for it. Or die for it without fighting. Then people notice.

A- “I didn’t realize when I joined the progressive movement that hatred and intolerance would just apply to different groups. I ultimately changed political affiliations because of views held toward my LGBT brothers and sisters and my mixed race family, as well as a host of other human rights issues. I just don’t understand how it is much different here on the left, sometimes. It’s US vs. THEM. I love my Christian friends. And although I hate the commercialism of the season, if it brings them joy to go to mass at midnight, how is it okay for me to stereotype them all as misled? Just trying to understand. If they are, as a group, insufferable, I still believe that I cannot judge each individual on advance. I hope for each that their belief system brings them peace and promotes peace. That is all. And it is possible.”

B-“My opinion is that (for reasons I don’t understand very well) our whole culture on all sides has bought into the idea that our problems are dichotomous, that we can resolve them by “winning” whatever argument (that, of course, is the essence of hatred and intolerance), and that the problems are serious enough that we have an obligation to try to resolve them. The latter is clearly true — both of the former ideas are easy to debunk, but most modern activists act as though they believe that our win/lose cultural ideal is the only way for us to save ourselves. In my opinion, this is no different from war, only on a more moderate scale. Maybe that’s how the ethic got started. I do remember when we ramped up the violence and war movies on TV over the past couple of decades. Ideas like this are imposed upon us by the culture – not invented by individual activists. And so it is all the more important that you are expressing a contrary view.”

A-“Well, thank you, Lynn (oops, that would be B) for not attacking me. I am an observer. I am often just trying to understand my observations.”

B-“You are welcome. I almost never attack people. However, in my opinion we are losing our country — especially our revolutionary rule of law that was set up to handle disputes in a way that would mostly avoid attacking people. That and our fetish with winning that gets in the way of our solving big problems. (Because no big problem is ever two-sided.) And we do have big problems, bigger than losing our country. I think these big issues are more important than little issues — important enough for us to discuss, and my comments I try to make discussable. If that were to happen (discussion), I think it would be worth the effort, even if people often assume I am attacking individuals when I am not (or I am unskillful and unsuccessful in making my points). If ever we were to all get together to try to resolve these issues rather than participate in them, then I think it would be worth punching a few holes in everyone’s half-full glasses (including mine). What’s the use of social media if we don’t use it to make the society better than it already is? I rejoice in the fact that most of my friends are really very tolerant of most of the things I try to say, and sometimes even try to help me say them.”

Happy New Year!

I just arrived home after a nice Christmas celebration and a reasonably calm drive from Fort Worth, and sat down to read a few lines of Buddhist philosophy that explained to me that my suffering can be controlled by my own mind because it is caused by my own thinking. I made a couple of notes that reflect on the suffering of other people through no cause of my own, took a nice hot bath, and toddled off to bed with the latest National Geographic and opened it to: “This month we begin a series of stories about population that will run through the year.” Damn I wish I had waited till tomorrow morning for this.

OK. I’m suffering. It could very well be that I am suffering needlessly, given that I can’t change the facts, but my state of mind duplicates that several years back when I read on the United Nations web site their promotion of “sustainable growth.” I was horrified to the bottom of my roots. That one moment changed my future. It’s one thing to live with a looming problem while trying to resolve it. It’s quite a different matter when important, rich entities promote a disaster for individual gain, group gain, or for any other reason including mistaken dogooderism. We have an obligation to evaluate the long-term consequences of our behaviors in light of available knowledge. Especially if we have the power to take big actions.

There is no such thing as sustainable growth of human population or economy. Any intentional effort to make more people, on the excuse that the economy requires growth, is nothing more nor less than farming human kind. Like we farm the cows that live over my back fence. The end result of such efforts can only be more physical suffering for more people and the eventual collapse of both the economy and the lovely social structures that I helped to build in this “land of the free.” Or to quote Richard Heinberg: “Social liberals and progressives who fail to talk about population and resource issues and to propose workable solutions are merely helping to create their own worst nightmare.”

Smithsonian Magazine, NOVA, and some more disreputable sources have lately published articles on the subject of population growth, all of them either overtly or more subtly, promoting the growth of the population for the benefit of the economy. I have cancelled Smithsonian and written them the strongest, most honest letter that I could devise. My own best publication on this subject, among several, was not written by me, but by my colleague, Dr. Dorothy Bennett.

I am delighted that the article in National Geographic is an effort to write a genuinely balanced report of the world we are now entering, thank you very much National Geographic, you have not destroyed my faith in you. Every responsible person must read this January 2011 issue and consider its implications. Happy New Year – we can finally deal with this problem together, with honor and honesty.

Nobody is perfect, of course, and the author can’t cover everything. He seems to think we should be encouraged by the fact that we humans have weathered such crises before. I do not agree with that assessment. I believe every time we deal more or less effectively with another limiting factor, that effort increases the probability of catastrophic crash when we approach the next one. My reasoning is very briefly explained in Bare Bones Biology 035 (KEOS 89.1, Bryan, TX), that aired the week before Christmas. It is also posted on my blog and I will make the audio available on line ASAP.

The other reality that we tend to ignore is the extent to which the ecosystem requires balance to maintain its own viability (without which we are cooked geese). This aspect of ecosystem health is discussed on pages 32-37 of Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook (available at the Brazos Museum of Natural History and at Brazos Natural Foods), and also in my blog post, Levels of Organization.

The concept of sustainability and the concept of resilience, as proposed by Rob Hopkins, both emphasize the need for multiple species to maintain a healthy balance of the ecosystem, as does the certainty of unknown emergent properties. These considerations make the devastating extinction rate of our species a real but unpredictable danger, as well as tying global warming with overpopulation, a connection that the author seemed to doubt.

And at the same time National Geographic has so neatly initiated the more honorable conversation, we also have finally a truly excellent, no-hype book that outlines options for our individual actions and group actions, relative to the many, many problems raised by our population crisis. (The Post Carbon Reader, available at their web site, or I have a few extra if you want to get in touch with me.)

I offer my differences of opinion because I hope they will help in a small way to lead toward the solution of our common problem. Opinions will be needed and are helpful, so long as we honor the measurable facts, that do not change, and maintain our common goal, which I assume is to provide a long-term future for human kind on earth, with minimum suffering. No more farming people. No more growing the economy to save the world. No more self-serving politics and no more toxic propaganda. It’s time to get down to business and – as the Buddhists keep saying – work together for the benefit of all living things.

Christmas Tree

Here indeed is the Christmas tree I promised.

Happy Christmas

I still prefer my Christmas tree as is, and will show you the picture if WordPress gets its act together. In the meantime, a little gift of music from Bare Bones Biology