Bare Bones Biology 045 – Palm Oil

(Audio Oren Lyons) Chief Oren Lyons, in an interview with Bill Moyers.

Dr. Martha Crouch understands our responsibility to the future. As long ago as 1990, Dr. Crouch, a well respected plant molecular biologist, published a paper in The Plant Cell (April, pages 275-277) discussing basic problems associated with monoculture and plant genetic engineering that were and are being funded by Monsanto and other multinational agricultural corporations. Dr. Crouch’s concerns are easy to understand (let me know if you want a copy, I have one here) but apparently nobody was listening. What she predicted is happening – and worse. In her paper, she used the example of palm oil.

Fourteen years later, in 2004, I had the pleasure of meeting a Maori elder, Pauline Tangiori. Maori is an indigenous group of people in New Zealand. Pauline described to me how a group of Monsanto salesmen had misled her people into giving over their property for a Monsanto palm oil plantation.

I asked Pauline why they had sold the rights for their precious land, and she said, approximately: “These salesmen were scientists. We thought they knew better than we did.” I tried to hide my astonishment. It turns out I was the naïve one, but at the time I really thought everyone knows to never trust a salesman. I said: “These people are salesmen, not scientists. The function of a scientist is to learn how nature works; the function of a salesman, or a corporation, is to make money. These are not compatable.” Pauline looked me square in the face and said: “How are we supposed to know that? If you are a scientist, and you know something that important, then you should tell the people who don’t know.”

And so that’s what I have been trying to do ever since. It turns out to be harder than it sounds. It takes at least two to communicate. At least one of them has to listen and the other one has to learn how to say it. Even then, it turns out that pretty much nobody wants to hear about the real realities of biology. Most people here in the USA would rather believe the lies, and in the 22 years since Dr. Crouch withdrew from her research career, and the seven years since I got my assignment from Pauline, the technologies, economics and legal tactics of Monsanto and other similar organizations are turning out probably to be more massively and permanently harmful to the ecosystem than any other single human activity except excessive growth. Maybe it’s time we all started to do some critical listening.

Because technology in the absence of compassion is shameful,
But technology or religion in the absence of good basic science is suicidal.

And the only thing powerful enough to stop the corposystem is the will of the people. Pauline says it like it is.

(Audio Pauline Tangiore at the Quest for Global Healing, 2004)

Bare Bones Biology 045
KEOS Radio, 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Transcript is available at

Should We Ban the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

Apparently a law has been proposed in Arizona to ban, among other “laws,” the law of karma.


I am almost speechless.

First, the concept of karma is a well formulated appreciation, developed by scholars over the past two or three thousand years, of a natural law. That is a law of nature. That means it’s how nature functions. Just as we also know that nature functions according to the law of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics and the laws of aerodynamics, we also know that nature operates by the law of cause and effect. That means if you do something — it will have an effect on something else. If you fall off a cliff, something will happen. If you throw a rock through a window, something will happen. If you hit something, you will get a reaction of some sort.

Now, we could try to repeal this law of nature, or we could try to repeal gravity so we would no longer be tied to the ground. Or we could try to repeal the law of thermodydanmics so we could recycle our energy. Among the many, many things that we do not know about nature, these are a few that we do know quite well. And I don’t think we can actually repeal them, so in the end we would be only demonstrating our inability to understand the law of cause and effect. If you don’t know what a law of nature is — people will think you aren’t very well educated. If you don’t know what karma is, people will think you haven’t studied what it is you propose to do. If you don’t know that the Bible says exactly the same thing — “As ye sow, so shall ye reap” and so does science, and presumably all the other disciplines that try to explain reality — people will think you are not a very good Christian. If you don’t know what happens when you sow hatred, then I expect you will find out that you reap misery.

And if you don’t know why the second law of thermodynamics is crucial to our decisions about energy, download the PDF of chapter one on the side bar to the right, and educate yourself.

Bare Bones Biology 044 – Proposal

For everyone who wants to know what you and I can do to help human kind and the ecosystem, here’s my proposal.

First, we need each to verbalize and state in writing and discuss together our long-term goals for the future of our children’s children. We need a goal for the same reason corporations do – to keep us on the same page and prevent us all running off in different directions at the same time – going nowhere. My goal is to make the world better, rather than worse, for my being here.

Next, it’s time to stop with the egos and learn to tell the difference between measurable facts, opinions, faith and propaganda. It’s time to understand that measurable facts (when they are available) are real things that are not affected by our opinions.

Third, we must start considering the multiple possible solutions to every problem and start discussing these – and stop arguing or fighting over false dichotomies. It doesn’t matter if we win or lose anything, because there isn’t one solution to any problem. Once we discuss our long-term goals, and our dilemmas, we will find that we the people mostly want the same things, and that most of our fights and arguments are being artificially generated by somebody else who has a goal that’s altogether different from our own long-term goal or the one we are fighting over.

Fourth, we need to listen to each other, what we say. Not what you think I would have meant if I had said something that I didn’t say.

That’s the basics. Nothing new there. You may think these too trivial to actually do when we have important matters to consider. Maybe so. I think, if we just did those things, we would change the whole world. But its true that we need at least two more parts to grow a sustainable society: the first is a factual understanding of how life really functions, and the second is a commitment to kindness in all our activities.

First, every person with every goal, especially those involving human compassion or sociology, needs to learn the basic facts about what keeps physical life physically alive within the physical ecosystem. Especially, we need to understand that the ecosystem does not operate by human values. We can not grow a healthy physical environment using only our human values. And we cannot live without a healthy ecosystem.

Second, every person with every goal, especially those who deal in politics, science, economics or technology. We all need to learn everything we can about the best of our human values, that is compassion, or kindness — and we need to support, and learn to understand, the ongoing efforts of people like the Dalai Lama and Karen Armstrong, and hundreds of others who are working under the radar in your own area. And stop supporting the worst of our human values. Fighting can sometimes temporarily stop something, but hating never solves problems, and neither does fear.

If anyone tries to frighten you into compliance with any unhelpful act, think about the measurable facts of the situation, and about our common goal, and step up to the plate and be counted, individually, for a sustainable human presence with a rewarding quality of life, unto the seventh generation. Or the seven hundredth.

We have many uncomfortable choices in our one lifetime, because we do have free will. We also have our fine human brain, and a compassionate instinct that makes us want to help, so we really can’t do nothing. And even though we need to heal the ecosystem, and the ecosystem problems look humongous, you and I are not responsible for what we can NOT do, or for what other people should do. We are only responsible for what we CAN do. And anyone can do that. And I think we should.

Bare Bones Biology 044 – Proposal
KEOS Radio, 89.1, Bryan, Texas
After Tuesday the audiocast will be posted at
Meantime there is a link over on the right side of this page.


I heard that the Saint Mother Theresa used to pray for four hours every morning.
I heard (on tape) the Dalai Lama say that he does his meditation practice four hours every morning.

Is there a difference (humanly, I mean), is the human person doing a different thing when meditating than when praying? I doubt it. I’ve been told, when I tried to understand what we mean by meditation, because I wanted to do it, and every description seemed to be different. I was told: “There are many different kinds of meditation.”

“What?” I asked. “What are they?”

I think one of them is prayer.

Lately I’ve spent some time watching videos for a “book review” (OK, video review) group study.

I think television is also a form of meditation.

If so, we are in bad trouble, because the mass media are mostly teaching us art of suffering and how to cause suffering in the world.


Ladies, you need to expand your views beyond your own personal “human rights,” to include the real needs of starving and undernourished people around the world (including in the USA). The availability of family planning to the poor of the world was one of the first things that Obama restored when he took office. I think this effort to withdraw it again (see below I copied from must be the most important of any event to all of us if we care about starvation, immigration, economic and peace issues, and we need to say so. You know why this is happening. The corposystem uses uneducated people to push it’s agenda, because it benefits from all of the above, and so do the NGO’s that come to the rescue of the victims and have been incorporated into the corposystem. If this were not so, we would be concerned with helping people to a better life — not denying the necessary technology. It would conceivably be possible to use technologies to benefit the people rather than primarily to benefit the political/corporate domination of the people. And of course, the more desperate people there are in the world the more money is to be made off them in war, aid, propaganda and surveilance activities. If we would stop fighting among ourselves for a minute we would realized that we the people are being farmed like cattle, using our propaganda as a the management tool. We do not need more people-to-people hatred in this world. We do need to know that the corposystem is NOT A PERSON AND IS NOT OUR SPIRITUAL ADVISOR. It is an emergent entity of vast destruction to all human rights.

“We told you on Monday that the Republican majority in the House was poised to pass major restrictions on international family planning—including a cut of more than $200 million from current levels.
But now some members of the House want to eliminate that funding altogether. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) has proposed an amendment to the bill cut international family planning funding to zero. That’s right: the world Bob Latta envisions is one in which women and families in the developing world have no access to contraceptives to help them prevent unintended pregnancy. The extent of the misery and suffering resulting from such a cut is almost unimaginable. Today, thanks to U.S. support for family planning, more than 26 million women in the poorest countries in the world are able to delay or prevent pregnancy. Soon, if Bob Latta and his allies have their way, the clinics those women and their families rely on will close.
The Latta measure is not the only appalling amendment we expect to see. The Pence amendment, which bars all funding from Planned Parenthood, is expected to come to a vote as soon as tomorrow. Additionally, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) has filed an amendment to prevent the expansion family planning services covered by Medicaid—even though investing in family planning is one of the best ways to restrain health care costs. These amendments must not pass.
The far right must not be allowed use the rhetoric of fiscal discipline to pass their reactionary, irresponsible ideology. Please take a moment and send a message to your member of Congress: Defeat the anti-family planning agenda.”

The web link is on the right

I Believe in Physics

On a recent snowy morning, on my way in to work, I heard a refreshing interview with a politician, who said, “When people ask me if I believe in global warming, I say I believe in physics.”

This is the sort of practical, science-based reasoning that is so hard to find these days among the rhetoric of media personalities and polarizing politics found in our national and state capitols.

Kevin Knoblock
Union of Concerned Scientists

Good one, I suggest you use it and then go on to explain the biology of the carbon cycle on earth that is, itself, necessary for our survival.


Yes, the person will remain nameless but she is nobody you know. An interviewer who, with scorn in her voice proclaimed: “Some of their adherents predict a drastically reduced standard of living in the wake of the global economic collapse and we should be storing food and . . ., but there are a lot of people in the world, and I am one of them, who need more things, need more financial security. We’re not going to hear a ‘you’ve got to learn to live with less, power down lower your expectations’ kind of message.” Then she goes on to talk about people who are poverty stricken.

Please someone bring back Bill Moyers and I will start donating again to public radio, TV and internet. Oh. Of course. That’s why the corposystem is trying to get rid of public media.


What I say to her is THIMK! Her own words display her ignorance and (much worse) selfishness. She needs more things! She won’t accept less! So? Where is she planning to get them? From those impoverished people? I think we already took pretty much all they have to give.

It makes no difference to the outcome whether she is willing to “hear” the message, except it will happen faster. Who does she think we are trying to save, if not her? Certainly not me. I already have more things and I don’t plan to be around when the shit hits the fan, but I bet she will be.

If I were not such a kind and compassionate person I would be having little daydreams of how she will feel when she really understands what’s happening and that she is IT. Reportedly, the fundamentalist preacher Rev. Richard Sizik, of the National Association of Evangelicals has recently noticed that these facts are real facts, and the realization reportedly shook him to his religious roots. I say it’s about time; thank you God and why wasn’t Sizik listening to the messengers of God’s green earth in the first place? Never mind, we do not need to fight over this. We need to fix it.

So I’ll at least try to include both the silly twit and the reverend in my morning devotionals. May they be happy.

For the past few years I have been working more than full time and spending retirement money on the effort to explain to people that we are in a real biological emergency of unpredictable magnitude. (If you don’t agree with this, you are not well informed and you should come talk to me, but that’s another story.) So in my daily life, I don’t have time nor inclination for politics, unless it is a real emergency where it seems I can make a difference. Why? Because I do not believe that war of any kind will improve our human predicament, biologically or otherwise. And our American politics today is not a lot different from war. So rahrah let’s win this battle slogans only depress me. Nobody ever wins in a war. Not even the rich capitalist.

But there is hope. Today I heard two programs, in one day, in which people actually discussed real issues that could change this roadblock that America has thrown up against biological sanity. First was on Sierra Club Radio, where the moderator was so courageous as to use the word “growth” as problematic. Second was New Dimensions on the subject of sanity in politics. Meaning. People actually talking to each other and discussing issues. Hooray for both.

Bare Bones Biology 043 – What Won’t Work

There is no point waiting around for a simple answer. There aren’t any. Our cultures are emergent properties (BareBonesBiology 017), arising out of their complexity, and our goal must be to rearrange the components until we find a combination that is life affirming rather than life destroying. I have tried to imagine the most simple and straightforward scenario that could result in a life-affirming culture to grow from the one we have. Next time I’ll talk about that. This time, I’ll mention just a few of the approaches that clearly will not take us where we want to go.

First, complaining about the past, present or future will not make the future better. Whatever action we’re doing right now, in this immediate moment of time, is the action that we are passing on to the future. What you are thinking and doing right exactly now is this moment of your legacy.

Second, winning anything, working heroically, suffering, or striving will not make the future better if what you do unbalances the balance of life (BareBonesBiology 008).

Making more babies than the earth can support and then sending them off to be killed in the effort to win anything will not rebalance the earth. Mostly it only makes some rich persons richer and helps some politicians win something that is not relevant to making a better future. In the short term certain communities benefit in the production and sale of weapons, and in the rescuing and saving of victims, and in the medical treatment of the unfortunate. This may appear to be sustainable, if we can continue to produce enough victims and soldiers, but only to the person who believes that life is a bottomless cornucopia of victims, soldiers, saviors and other consumers.

Life is not a bottomless cornucopia of resources. Neither victims nor villains nor other kinds of resources. Life is a balanced system or it does not stay alive. It is an incredibly arrogant human mistake to believe that humans can control life according to our limited perceptions. Especially human economists who have no knowledge of biology or the ecosystem, but only some inaccurate daydream about survival of the fittest. Life is not about survival of the fittest. Life is all about sustainable balance. Ask any cancer patient.

Saving every person who is threatened by natural or manmade disasters is neither heroic nor useful, even to the persons who are saved, unless we can ALSO provide some plan, some hope for them and for us all together, for a sustainable, viable future with a reasonable lifestyle that does not include starving babies and dodging bombs.

These above are only examples of what I have referred to as reductionist problem solving (BareBonesBiology 040). That’s when different groups of people battle against different individual symptoms of a syndrome, but nobody is interested in curing the root ailment that produces all these victims for us so gallantly to save. That’s why I don’t get all excited about individual problem solving UNLESS its advocates are ALSO willing to talk knowledgeably about how their effort will contribute, everything considered, positively rather than negatively to the balance of life. We need solutions to many, many individual problems. I am not suggesting we should drop everything and hide. We must, however, ALL also understand the probable long-term effects of whatever we are doing, so that we can direct our work toward helping to rebalance the ecosystem.

The root ailment that causes all these symptoms, and more, is overpopulation. For a discussion of this see the January 2011 National Geographic. I am NOT saying we would have no problems if the population were within the range that photosynthesis can support. I AM saying you cannot succeed with whatever positive goal you are trying to accomplish if we continue to unbalance the ecosystem. The many individual efforts to address the symptoms are necessary, but they all will fail unless we all, or most of us, also address the bottom line.

Bare Bones Biology 043
89.1 Radio, KEOS, Bryan, TX
A podcast will be posted here
and at

Down on the Farm

It’s a beautiful day down on the farm. The birds are fighting over nesting sites, we now have predator birds moving in so the cat has to stay inside all the time or maybe move over to the studio, and the elm trees are thinking thoughts of spring. Assuming they can think, which of course they can not in the way that we do. But they must do something, or otherwise how would they know it is spring?

It reminds me of young human sprouts who have never seen the back end of a horse in front of a plow, and they are trying to tell me all about farming, or gardening, or the fabulous tomato they just ate. I mean, just because they just figured out where veggies come from doesn’t mean it’s a new story for me. I looked at it. Obvious supermarket tomato.

I stopped eating fruits and vegetables from the grocery store about 20 years or so ago, and meats soon after. The meat and milk because someone was injecting hormones into the animals, and while I don’t SO much mind them experimenting on farm animals, I resent it when “they” begin feeding me hormones. I happen to know something about hormones, too. I know quite a few things, folks, but that is another story.

A few years ago I tried another garden, and the tomatoes tasted pretty much the same as those in the supermarket. Sort of like cardboard impregnated with some essence of unripe tomato. It costs more than a McDonalds hamburger, which is made mostly of ketchup and relish. The ketchup and relish still taste pretty much the way they always did, a lot better than the tomatoes or the meat, so now we know why people mostly eat fast foods. The prepared food from health food stores mostly all tastes romantically of sage, rosemary and thyme, which is good if you lake sage, rosemary and thyme. There was a time when food tasted good.

No it’s not because I keep getting older; it’s because the food tasted good when I was young. I know this because some really smart persons started saving heirloom seeds about 30 years ago, and you can still buy them through the heirloom seed catalogs, and their fruits still taste good.

In the meantime, though, before I figured that out, I stopped gardening because the plants they sell us to grow the vegetables in our back yard produce veggies that taste pretty much like the ones in the grocery store. The only advantage is that mine have no innate pesticides or herbicides. They still don’t taste good, so why should I waste my time? It started with tomatoes, that were bred (the old fashioned way) to never get ripe and to stay round and firm and fully packed for the automatic tomato pickers (these look sort of like one of those big green cotton pickers, but for tomatoes). Now they can breed any kind of plant or animal more or less any way they want to, without waiting for the old fashioned way, by genetic engineering, and I especially do not want to be growing genetically modified soybeans or corn or anything else in my yard, so. And the government just approved alfalfa. Who knows if they have done spinach or not? Like I said. I stopped growing a garden.

So what brought all this up? Besides the young sprouts trying to tell me their tomatoes are good tasting? I was in the Producers’ Coop this morning and had a random whim of an idea to maybe grow some spinach. So I asked them if their spinach seeds were genetically modified.

They don’t know either.

You know what’s maybe better even than spinach? That I know of, and there is a lot I don’t know, this time of year the dock plants have really tasty young leaves. They just all froze off, but they’ll be back in a week or so. And later on the mustard greens are sharp and full of flavor. And they don’t cost a cent.