Here is a new look at sustainability recommended by our California tentacle.

And a valid commentary that was posted below it.
Good video. Except that the planet – and everything on it, including humans_ – wasn’t “designed”. It evolved.
11mxb 1 day ago

November 25, 2011 6:57 pm
Why doesn’t America like science?

Gillian Tett By Gillian Tett
Just three Republican candidates have declared that they believe in the scientific basis for evolution
Illustration showing the Republican party elephant and a triceratops

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, does not often hide his views. When he recently addressed an international economic forum at Columbia University, on the seemingly “dull” topic of science and politicians, however, his words were incendiary, even by his standards.

“We have presidential candidates who don’t believe in science!” he lamented, referring to the current field of people jostling to become Republican candidate for the 2012 elections. “I mean, just think about it, can you imagine a company of any size in the world where the CEO said, ‘oh I don’t believe in science’ and that person surviving to the end of that day? Are you kidding me? It’s mind-boggling!”
On this story

* Gillian Tett That’s 1,000 olives, please
* Gillian Tett Trouble in Richistan
* Gillian Tett Interrogation is not a social science
* Gillian Tett The great cover-up
* Gillian Tett Is there a shadowy plot behind gold?

It is a comment that many observers might echo, particularly among the ranks of American scientists. For while Bloomberg did not specify whom he considers to be “mind-boggling”, the list of targets is long. Thus far, just three of the eight potential Republican candidates have positively declared that they believe in the scientific basis for evolution. The rest have either hedged, or – like Rick Perry – claimed that evolution is just “a theory that is out there… [but] it’s got some gaps in it”. Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann, another contender, has actively called for creationism to be taught too, since she has similar doubts about the evolutionary science.

Newt Gingrich has cast doubt on the virtues of stem cell research, Herman Cain has questioned whether there is any scientific evidence behind homosexuality, and most of the candidates have queried climate change. Indeed, whenever any candidate has defended evidence-based science, they have suffered a backlash: witness the travails of Mitt Romney.

In some senses, this is not surprising. A recent survey by the National Science Foundation found that 45 per cent of Americans support evolution (barely more than those who actively reject it). There is similar scepticism about climate change.

The views that Bloomberg considers “mind-boggling” are not outliers, or not outside the coastal areas such as New York, where he resides.

But common or not, the spread of this sentiment is leaving many American scientists alarmed. Last month, New Scientist magazine warned in an editorial that science is now under unprecedented intellectual attack in America. “When candidates for the highest office in the land appear to spurn reason, embrace anecdote over scientific evidence, and even portray scientists as the perpetrators of a massive hoax, there is reason to worry,” it thundered. Some 40,000 scientists have now joined a lobby group called Science Debate, which was founded four years ago with the aim of getting more scientific voices into the political arena. “There is an entire generation of students today who have been taught that there is no objective truth – who think that science is just another opinion,” says Shawn Lawrence Otto, co-founder of Science Debate, who told me that the “situation today is much worse than in 2008”.

This is paradoxical. Historically, science has commanded respect in America. It was Abraham Lincoln, after all, who founded the National Academy of Sciences, and during the cold war, there was heavy investment in science, as America reeled from its “Sputnik moment” (or fears that it was being outflanked by the USSR). Innovation continues to be worshipped, particularly when it produces entrepreneurial companies and clever gadgets (think Apple’s iPad).

Nothing causes more fear among American politicians than the idea that America is “falling behind” countries such as China in science. And another recent survey by the National Science Foundation shows that more than half of Americans consider scientists to have a “prestigious” profession, a higher rating than bankers, doctors, politicians and priests. Only firefighters command more respect.

Why? Some observers might be tempted to blame this paradox on the rise of the religious right: while the craft of science might be respected, its conclusions are not. Others point to powerful commercial concerns (such as oil companies), who have a vested interest in twisting debate, and attacking science they dislike. Another line of thinking blames the polarisation of the media and political class: when there is an emphasis on partisan shrieking, there is less room for reasoned debate.

But Otto of Science Debate likes to blame another factor: the impact of social sciences. Since the 1960s, he argues, society has been marked by a growing sense of cultural relativism, epitomised by anthropology. And as post-modernist ideas spread, this has undermined the demand for scientific evidence. Today, any idea can be promoted as worthy, irrespective of facts – and tolerated in the name of “fairness”.

I suspect that this overstates anthropology: the discipline has been somewhat introverted and has little political power. But leaving aside that quibble, it is hard to disagree with Otto’s basic point – that in today’s political climate there is far too little evidence-based, reasoned debate. In that spirit it is worth noting that Otto himself is now urging scientists not to shun the Republican Party. On the contrary, “I am encouraging them to join”, to influence the debate, he says. It would be nice to think – or hope – it could make a difference. Maybe Bloomberg could donate some cash.


Try to ignore the ad at the beginning of this piece. I am working on figuring out how to delete the ads but haven’t yet. I like BBC reporting, but because of the ads I almost never show it. This one is worth it, but please do not buy a car. Cars compete with us for food.

Click on the link

Click on the underlined to get a nice video about earth science/art/philosophy

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Bare Bones Biology 083 – Imagine

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity that’s in the wrong hands . . . And so we must say to men, love God with all your heart, with all your soul and strength, but go on to say, love God with all your mind.”

That is edited from a speech Martin Luther King Jr. made on the subject of love and forgiveness. He was a well-educated preacher, talking to a group of Christian leaders.

I am a well-educated scientist. If I am talking with other well-educated scientists and technologists, let me ask how you respond to the word God in this speech. Does it make you feel uncomfortable, superior, more knowledgeable, better educated or scornful? Then I say you are the first person, before even the religious extremists, you are the first person who must examine your own ignorance of the real world and your failure to understand the uses of practical compassion.

Science is very badly needed to help guide our struggling culture today, but it is needed in the hands of people who are sincere and conscientious and compassionate and looking for real answers to real problems. Science knows nothing about God, one way or another, because science deals with measurable facts. However, scientists exist on planet earth in the solar system in the universe. This suggests that somewhere in our past there was a creation event. You, technical person, do not know any more than anyone else about the why and who of that creation event. There is nothing wrong with the word God, (or Allah, or other expresssions) of the power and glory and responsibility that it represents.

And for the religious extremist. If God created all this, then God created the things that are studied by the sciences. The fact that science – as an applied discipline – functions as much as possible without emotional content, that fact does not mean that scientists are either unemotional or irreligious. My high-level scientist colleague recently told me that of the eight people in her lab all are religious. However, scientists do have a lot of training in the use of measurable facts, and that probably does mean they can help us focus on how best to express our compassionate need to help our hurting earth in a way that might really help.

All we require, to accomplish our task of growing a better future for the grandchildren is a population of sincerely compassionate (fake compassion doesn’t count), ecologically literate voters, who are willing to discuss issues with each other. If you don’t qualify, there is nothing stopping you, now that we have access on the internet to all the knowledge of the world. But if all the world’s knowledge seems a bit much to tackle, you can start with the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook that you can download free of charge from the right side of my blog.

Let’s close with the words of Karen Brown of the Ecoliteracy Center, speaking last month at Bioneers.

“Here’s what Scott Carpenter said, and here’s the kind of thing I never heard from an astronaut when I was in school. ‘This planet is not terra firma. It is a delicate flower and it must be cared for. It’s lonely. It’s small. It’s isolated, and there is no re-supply. And we are mistreating it. Clearly the highest loyalty we should have is number two to the family of man, and number one to the planet at large. This is our home, and this is all we’ve got.’ And I’d like to think we have one other thing. A generation of young people who are healthy, well educated, ecologically literate, and who know how to be strong and powerful when they need to be strong and powerful, and how to be tender and caring when they need to be tender and caring.”

Bare Bones Biology 083 – Imagine
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM
Audio will be posted later at


Population Matters

This link is for people who doubt that there is a population problem. These are excerpts from a serious meeting that was held earlier this year in London. When I say serious, it was a group of professionals. I don’t mean professional communicators or propagandists. They didn’t even make a UTube link so I could show you the video right here, but if you click on the above you will find a very interesting overview of the meeting that consisted of a group of professional people whose lives are spent working in areas related to resolving population problems. Their opinions are informed by their work and their colleagues. More about the meeting is available at the web site.

Cause and Effect Denied

If you lose the cultural trappings and metaphors, the basic principles of Buddhism are totally compatible with Christianity. If you lose the trappings and metaphors of Christianity, it is entirely compatible with Buddhism. That’s because religion in its essence is a message from the past experiences of human kind that is intended to help us understand the natural law of cause and effect, and how it works in our relationships within populations and in the reality of how life functions. The laws of nature do not differ from one place to another or from one religion to another. In fact the laws of nature don’t know we exist. The laws of nature are what they must be if there is to be a universe, and if we choose to defy them or if we choose to understand them, the laws of nature don’t give a shit. They just are. So, the more we understand about them, the better we can learn how to get what we want in life. Religions are meant to help us toward more rewarding life by guiding us toward doing actions that have beneficial effects.

The basic law of cause and effect tells us things like – if you jump off a tall building you will fall. The evil that has been done to Americans mostly has to do with corrupting the concept of cause and effect, teaching us to believe in things that can’t possibly be, and so destroying our ability to use logic to make sense of our lives.

There is a basic law of cause and effect that we cannot change. The only way we CAN grow a long-term good life is to learn as much as we can about how the real world really does work – and the lies we are being told — and build that knowledge into our lives.

So the first step (“the first noble truth”) is to recognize that pain is unavoidable. The point is not whether or not you like that idea. The point is that if you try for a life that has no pain in it you will make it more painful than it really is. Bitsy’s caretaker’s mother has MS. When I picked up Bitsy yesterday, she was telling me how people don’t like to look at her mother and so they just turn away, and she said they would cause less suffering for everyone if they would learn to: “Deal with it.” Whether or not we like suffering is not relevant in our lives because it’s not one of the available choices. What gives us a better or worse life is how we deal with that and with the choices that are available. That’s what religion is supposed to help us to do more effectively. The more you know about the reality of cause and effect, the more effectively you can deal with it.

The wisdom traditions that are actually useful do not tell you that you can get whatever you want by magic or prayer or wishing or buying something. (For example what I said – if we keep doing whatever we are doing our lives won’t change very much unless of course there is some big change from outside.) If we want to change our lives, then we need to change our behaviors, and we also need to know what does NOT work. For example the American Dream does not work. It claims to benefit the entire population, but it can’t because that goal is biologically impossible using the methods – or behaviors – that we are using. We would be far better off to stop doing what we know is not working. We can’t live without air. We can’t eat without good earth to grow the food in. We can’t destroy the earth and still feed all the people. We can’t be fulfilled human beings by spending our time competing with other people, rather than growing sustainable communities. Those are the things we need to know if we want to find a sense of satisfaction.

The trick of living is to understand what we can NOT do and stop trying to do it. If we do the things that can’t give us what we want – we won’t get what we want. No matter what self-help make-believe someone is trying to sell us. If we want to grow a better future for ourselves or for anyone else, we need to consider the law of cause and effect and the ways in which our behaviors of today are most likely to affect our future(s). We humans know enough science to understand the basic biological realities. What I like about the principles of Buddhism is that they are a useful recipe for the human realities.

I got interested in the principles of Buddhism when I heard the Dalai Lama say just what I said in the paragraph above. I already understood the law of cause and effect as it is studied by science. He recognized this and compared it with Buddhism. Buddhism studies the law of cause and effect as it applies to human behaviors. But the other wisdom traditions also give us essentially the same useful recipe.

We cannot avoid the results of the behaviors of our society, but we don’t have to believe the lies or live out the false claims of the propaganda. The more useful alternatives are well understood.

Mr. Pockets in his Pouch

Met at the Jewett Flea Market

Bare Bones Biology 082 – Compassion

Practical compassion, energizes life-affirming behaviors. Sometimes known as win-win, practical compassion requires us to understand the needs of the others, and to use that understanding to develop mutually rewarding long-term outcomes. This is not easy when we interact with other living things that aren’t human, because many of the needs of other organisms are different from our own. That’s where science can help us out.

But, you may well say, we have given up on science. We tried it and it clearly didn’t do what we wanted. I would agree completely if we were talking about technology. We have mostly used our technology to despoil, not to affirm life. Especially in recent time. But I’m talking about science, not technology. Science doesn’t do things. Science is a method to learn about the laws of nature and how they function. To learn about light, for example, or how does energy work.

But science doesn’t do anything, therefore science does not promise anything. It simply tries to learn about the laws of nature. The laws of nature are not our responsibility. If we use our knowledge of science to do something or make something, that would be technology. It is our responsibility how we use our knowledge. There is no way that humans can change the laws of nature, but what we humans decide to do with our understanding of the laws of nature is our human responsibility, and I agree with you completely. For the most part our recent uses of technology have not been life affirming. We have failed in our responsibility.

“Nature does not forgive. It is caught in the finality of its impersonal structure.
Nature must be true to its immutable laws. When these laws are broken it must
go on down its path of uniformity.”

In this excerpt, Martin Luther King, Jr., is describing the basic law of cause and effect. For what we have done by misusing our knowledge of science, we are paying the price. We can’t stop the effects of what we have done any more than we could un-throw a rock. But we could stop throwing rocks if we are interested in growing a better future for human kind.

We could stop fighting over our ideas and start collaborating in a compassionate search for a better way of life. We could use our scientific knowledge to inform our practical compassion that I described last week
– and we could use our compassionate human values to inform the way we use our scientific knowledge.

Instead, we continue to fight over ideas. Like – what is more true – science or compassion.

What hogwash – it’s all true. We are human. We are compassionate beings. Our cultures function best when they affirm our compassionate needs. That doesn’t mean EVERYTHING functions better when we affirm our own compassionate needs. Science is not about compassion. Science is a way to study phenomena without the added confusion caused by our emotional needs.

Scoffing at religion because it centers around our emotional needs is self-defeating. Scoffing at science because it does not center around our emotional needs is also self-defeating. We can do better than either of these.

I think every scientist and every technologist should be responsible to learn and apply the basic principles of practical compassion. I also think that every person who claims to be compassionate, or caring, should be responsible to learn about the basic functions of our living world and use her understanding to inform her politics and her good works. Everyone else should do both.

Otherwise, the efforts on all sides, no matter how well intended, will end in ever more wars (OK, you call them debates) over silliness. Science versus compassion. Me versus you. Individual versus the population, and the population versus the whole living, breathing earth. And the result will continue to be lose, lose, lose, lose, lose and lose.

Bare Bones Biology 082 – Compassion
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM
Audio will be posted later at