Why People Don’t Understand whatever they don’t understand, part five

10. Teaching. The ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher was told she would have to charge for ESL lessons or the students “wouldn’t appreciate it.” Riiiiigggghhht. It is usually necessary to speak English to get a job in this town, the students need a job to feed their children — and she believes they aren’t going to appreciate it? What world is she living in? Our world. A world where only rich people count and everything is measured by money.

And what will be the result? The students may or may not learn English, but they are certain to learn that Americans only care about money or about who is winning, and that is measured by money. And they, the students, will have to do whatever it takes to be a winner if they want to be accepted in our culture.

I thought I was quite restrained in my response to that idea. I said: “I disagree.” I didn’t hear anyone ask me why. In fact, I don’t think anyone ever asked me why the Peach Clubhouse. Not, that is not true. Two people specifically asked me what it is about. I had a hard time answering and it set me thinking; that’s a good thing. Otherwise anyone who cared must have just assumed that I believe what they believe, in spite of everything I have written (see number three above), they believe that I believe in the validity of our toxic culture.

So – everyone who participates IS alone in this culture of competition. We CAN’T listen to anyone else or even to our own deepest human gifts — and still be a winner in our culture. It’s our prime directive. It’s the price we pay.

11. Science. Have you noticed that the corposystem has all the scientists working for itself? Good jobs, too. Not like the jobs they give to most of us. The corposystem will jump at the chance to use good science to make money. And then it turns around to the public, the voters, and bad-mouths good science and prevents the media from showing good science and attacks it in the schools, even at college level. You probably are a product of this kind of education, so it will be difficult for you to understand the point. What we are teaching is about people – not about science. We are teaching nature study and social sciences (including religion and anthropology, physiology, anatomy) – all of which is homo-centric, and we are even trying to re-interpret physics on PBS. We are teaching that humans are at the center of the universe, and it simply is not true. And then the corposystem uses the uninformed opinions of the students/general public to silence the scientists by teaching the students that all opinions are equal. Nonsense. All opinions are not equal. See number 8 above (or below if you are reading this on the blog).

And the scientist is taught: “Don’t bother trying to explain it to them, they can’t understand it anyhow.” That’s an actual quote from an actual third-grade teacher years ago in South Carolina. Not about science, though, about “niggers.” Same phenomenon.

So at the same time the corporations are using good science to make money – pills and weapons and the like – they are brainwashing the public to hate both science and scientists — just watch how everyone treats me if I admit that I am a scientist — and chasing the scientists into the laboratory where they are safe from propaganda. And it’s working. We now have teachers who have been taught bad science, most (I am told) of our science graduate students are drawn from other countries where the information has not died, and the next generation of our home-bred teachers will not understand or believe in real science if the corposystem continues to induce the school systems to teach the corpo-curriculum.

And yet, without understanding how things work, we cannot have clean air and water, good rich earth, and food.

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Bill Moyers – What can you do about Citizens United?

Listening to Pema Chodron

Listening to Pema Chodron, while all around me people are dissing the miracle. What miracle? I only know one miracle for sure, and that is life. I know a lot about life. I know quite a few things about how a cell works. I know that it functions by all those little molecules in there interacting with each other. First are the genes that direct the production of proteins at the right time and place in the cell to do whatever jobs they are perfectly constructed to do. Next are all the other molecules that are already ready to help with whatever they are supposed to do. Then there are the things outside the cell that send molecular messages to help the cell select whatever action it needs to do to stay alive. All this is happening faster than we can decide on anything, and yet – it is us. Without a few billion cells doing this, there would be no me.

People say, in an abstract sort of programmed way, oh yes: “life is a miracle.” But mostly they don’t understand what they are saying. Think about the word miracle. What does it really mean? It does not mean technology. It means, really, that we cannot control it. We can change today, but we cannot control tomorrow. We can’t even understand it. Where did it come from? Where is it going? If we try to stop life – even if we destroy ourselves or our species – to life, it’s “no big deal.” The miracle will just flow around the roadblock and carry on into the unknown. And people keep telling me that technology can stop the reality of the miracle of life and “save us” from it. What nonsense.

We are in principle no different from the molecules that function in the life of a cell. We function in the life of life itself — interacting with other species — and without a few billion different kinds of species there would be no life at all, so far as we know, in the whole universe. Together, we are the flower of the universe – the miracle itself. And yet, as Pema quot ed: “It’s so ironic that so many of us have a deep disrespect and even loathing for ourselves . . .” But for me, whenever I look at a tree or the ground or any other living thing, I do think about cells and tissues and ecosystems and evolution and embryology and actions and reactions and causes and effects, and I do reflect that it is a miracle and it’s an even greater miracle that I can understand that it is a miracle. Next time I look out my window at that tree out there, I will think about xylem and phloem and the color green and oxygen and my beating heart and hemoglobin. All joined together in an enormous miracle. I am it, but without it I am not. Only empty space. “Emptiness.”

Listening to: Nobel Heart, Pema Chodron
Graphic from Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook

Why People Don’t Understand (whatever it is that they don’t understand) – Part Four

10. Competition. I remember the year when we were trying to teach kindergarten children that “everyone can be a winner.” What normal kid would fall for that hogwash? If everyone were a winner, then everyone else would be a loser. You’d think the teachers could have figured that out.

Or, and I suppose that’s what they had to do, we could make-believe that the word winner is not about winning, or at least not about losing. But the fact is that is exactly what the word is about, and if anything it has become much more brutal since that time. And so here we are, in a culture where everyone is trying to be a winner because they believe it’s their “constitutional right,” though they haven’t read the constitution since 8th grade, and then they weren’t listening. Or were illiterate. I have some pocket editions if you want one.

And the people who you want to spend time with, because they share your interests, you can’t, either because you are trying so hard to be better than they are that you can’t share, or because it’s their profession and they can’t share. You have to spend money even to talk to them. OK, if you’re rich you can do anything you want, but I have had this experience many times, especially around horse-riding, but probably the most obvious was when I tried to share something with an attorney and she billed me for the phone call. Competition kills community in this and many other ways.

If you do try to share, rather than compete, you are likely to find yourself a stepping-stone on someone else’s road to winning, and this is fair only if it is honest, which – we wouldn’t say something like THAT to a person we are using for our own benefit. It does happen that two may be on the same road, but more often the result is very painful to one of them, because what we really crave is community, and real community is not compatible with a win-lose approach to life.

The other day someone who is more insightful than most people suggested to me that: “You are selling yourself short.” I’ll admit that I am trying to sell the fact that there are facts in this world, and we will ignore them to our peril, both personally and communally, if we try to change the meaning of the word fact. But that’s not short. It’s a real fact, and I gave up trying to sell myself. It’s an impossible and demeaning aspiration. It’s like cleaning house. You think you will get somewhere if you do all the “selling” that the culture tells you is necessary and you learn all the right ways to say things, and you do whatever else they tell you to become a winner, but you never end up winning, because mutual winning is only possible in the absence of competition. At least, cleaning house you end up with a clean house from time to time. Competition is all about the 0.01%. Everyone else loses.

Selling one’s self is basically impossible because nobody will listen anyhow (see part one of this series) unless you are better at something than they are and I don’t even want to do what they are doing. Selling myself is demeaning because it assumes there is something wrong with me that I need to hide behind a wall of propaganda; and because it requires me to gleefully participate in the immorality of our social system in which I would have to learn the whole complicated system of socially acceptable ways to “put down” everyone else so I can feel good about myself. Say that again? I’m not OK unless I can prove that other people are not OK?? That’s about it.

I know where that idea comes from, because I spent the whole first part of my life being told that I had the choice of being a secretary or a wife or a teacher. So I got a PhD in science. The PhD was easy, moving from California to Maine was not. Then I spent quite a long time being flown around to different places and interviewed for employment as a scientist.

I was finally hired because of the Rule of Law, which of course is why the corposystem is working so hard to destroy our Rule of Law. At that time they made a law called Title Nine that said they (the corposystem) couldn’t reject women applicants if their qualifications were higher than those of the male applicants. So I got hired.

Then the corposystem created “women’s positions.” Women would be hired and given a list of requirements for tenure and then they would be fired on the basis of not fulfilling a different list of requirements that they didn’t know about in the first place. And they would hire another woman into the same slot (because of Title Nine, they would have to) and do the same all over again. We didn’t know; we thought they wanted competence. It set the women competing against each other and relieved the pressure from the men. At least at first. But when I figured this out, I told the women who followed me, when I moved on, and the next time round we all made it in to the University, and the system of “women’s positions” started to break down. The corposystem hates tenure because people with tenure tend to not be slaves of the corposystem. That’s why the system was created in the first place. To carry the wisdom from one generation to the next so that the whole community could adapt to changes as they came down the pike.

So now the corposystem is resolving the problem by trying to make sure nobody gets tenure. It’s a part of their campaign to control the educational system – to use the experts for their competence, while at the same time keeping the real information inside the top ranks of the corposystem and not available to the general public.

But I had to take a few years off science to go the rule of law route. When I won, the EEOC put some requirements on the University, forcing them to hire some minimum number of other women. It’s true I would never have been able to do all those things if it were not for the some of the men who already were part of the corposystem, but nobody else did it. I thought I had changed the corposystem for the better. HA! By that time, the corposystem was turning out women for the jobs who were if anything worse than the men – oh, well, they were much better if the criteria have to do with toxic competition, rather than (or in addition to) good science. And then the women who came in after me started telling me I wouldn’t have had all those problems if I had been a competent scientist. (Read The Colors of Mice: A genetic network.” Wiley-Blackwell.)

So then I had a chance to actually do some science, after spending a few years getting over the trauma, and the whole next part of my life I actually got to do science. (Check out the genetic model I created that the government has preserved for future generations of scientists.) I am not selling myself short, dammit. Other people are happy to do that for me.

And now I am working full time trying to explain that competition is how the corposystem enslaves you. By making you believe that you should sell yourself on behalf of the corposystem. (Isn’t that known as pimping? I call it slavery.) I am able to do this now because of Social Security. That, of course, is why the corposystem, having nearly eliminated tenure, and co-opted the school system up to graduate school, now wants to eliminate Social Security and whole, intact communities. To separate the elders, the source of real wisdom in any community, from the uninformed, well-intended youth that the corposystem can easily control simply by getting them to compete with each other for prizes that do not exist, and getting them to explain to their elders that the same old process that didn’t work last time around, somehow will magically work this time because we have more technologies than we did before.

But if we do conform and compete, then nobody will be a winner, because everyone will be alone, surrounded by enemies, or at least surrounded by people who do not want what is in their best interests, and we cannot survive on that basis as human social creatures in an overcrowded world.

Now we are out in the streets stealing and killing, out across the oceans stealing and killing, because the corposystem tells us that these behaviors will solve the problems of our real, finite planet. That’s one way, and I can tell you, based on biological reality, that the result is most likely to be either our extinction as a species (that’s really how evolution works) or the perpetuation of a much smaller, much more Spartan and cruel human species.

A better way (defined as the least suffering) would be to recognize that life on earth is an interconnected reality that operates according to basic physical processes that we cannot change with ANY technology, and work together to resolve our problems by growing a more fact-based realistic humanity that understands that people do not really need or want to be better than each other, or to be better than all the other organisms on earth that create the air, water and rich soil. What we really need is to care about each other, and about the source of our life on earth. To be a significant part of that interconnected whole.

But we can’t become a significant part of that interconnected whole on the basis of fairy tales – there is nothing wrong with fairy tales. They are meant to explain and inspire. But they can’t change facts, and if we are using them to compete – to prove that we are better than other people or to make believe that we can control the whole of living nature so we don’t have to face up to our real responsibilities to life – it won’t work. Life on earth is an interconnected reality that operates according to basic physical laws. We do understand these laws quite well, and our current crises relate to our choice to try to compete with natural law rather than to fulfill our responsibilities to the community of the whole.

Bare Bones Biology 092 – Climate Change

I try not to be one of those snobby scientists. I know they exist. That’s why I try not to be one, and what do I get for it? Some of the politically active people who aren’t scientists try to prove that they know more about biology than I do. Perhaps I should think about them as snobby non-scientists. However, a knowledge of biology among non-scientists or other powerful people is really important. Likely it will make the difference between whether or not we humans have a future on this earth. And I’m speaking literally. But that’s not why I continue to try to make the information available. Extinction of the species is not such a big deal. I mean, who cares as long as I’m OK. The reason I keep writing these things is not about extinction. It’s about the amount of suffering that we are causing to ourselves and to others. We do not have the right to cause suffering for others.

So I gave him a book. If you want one, you can download it free on my website.

OK, I admit it, right now I’m thinking about one particular extremely snobby non-scientist, and you don’t know him, so I’m using him for an example of how to not solve problems. He didn’t understand a word of the book. That’s OK, nobody understands everything. Or more likely he didn’t try to understand it, and he also did not ask any questions about it; it wasn’t what he wanted to talk about. What he wanted was to kindly explain to me all of this biology stuff is only my personal opinion, and there is a debate about whether or not I am right about climate change. What debate? Me and Rush? Certainly no debate between me and other basic biologists. Some discussion, sure; no debate, and at least I read all that stuff about biology and understood most of it.

I mildly suggested to this fellow that he check the facts. Mine and his. I mean, it’s all there on the internet and in books and scientific papers, with the evidences. And his response? I quote: “I’m trying to teach you (that would be him trying to teach me) to THINK!” In all capital letters. He wants me to waste my time thinking about fake debates among people who have not even tried to read the evidences. Maybe he believes the ecosystem was put here on this earth to serve our needs and it never changes.

Look around you folks. It changes all the time, but only in response to physical cause- and-effect realities that are on the ground. The earth ecosystem does not care about anyone’s opinion. Opinions do not change anything except your mind. Sometimes. That’s why the facts are so important.

The ecosystem we live inside of was not put here on the earth. The ecosystem IS the living earth and all its parts. It is alive. That’s a definition of life. The ability to change in response to changing conditions. When it’s cold we shiver, because we are alive. When the living earth changes over time, the name for that change is evolution, and climate change is all about evolution.

Climate change is about life — biology, because this earth would not exist – but maybe I should define biology. I just realized you might be thinking about technology, or medicine, or physics, or physiology or biochemistry or even sociology or politics. Nuhuh. Biology is the study of life and how it stays alive. Biology is not physiology, which is primarily the study of humans, nor is it sociology, which is primarily the study of humans. All of those things we study are primarily the study of humans, as is anthropology and – well almost every study we do is primarily about humans and that is NOT ABOUT LIFE ITSELF. Because humans, contrary to the common perception, are not the center of life.

For about 500 years we have known that the earth is not the center of the solar system.

And neither are we.

These are two facts that will not change regardless of how anyone learns to think, or what anyone believes.

Bare Bones Biology 092 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References: Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook free download on the lower right side of my blog.

Why People Don’t Understand (whatever it is that they don’t understand) – Part Three


7. We often assume there are only two answers to any situation. There are always more than two answers to anything. If we don’t question everything and base our questions on real facts that have been developed by people who have expertise in the field, we will never get what we say we want. If we can only see two alternatives in any situation, we are trapped in our own minds.

8. “Everyone has a right to his own opinion.” Or, “We must keep an open mind.” Nonsense. We have an obligation to evaluate opinions that are important to the community. If the outcome of a particular opinion would be harmful to the community, we have an obligation to speak up and explain why we think it would be harmful. Based in common humanity, everyone does NOT have a right to his own opinion, because there are a great many opinions out there that cause real harm — most importantly and subtly by leading us away from understanding the biological and social boundaries of our human rights. But more obviously, if you want an example, I think some of Hitler’s opinions should have been challenged a bit sooner than they were. If we can’t talk about our opinions, stories and metaphors in a discussion format, but only by two-sided debate, then it is almost certain that our opinions are causing a great deal of suffering in ways that we don’t even imagine.

9. We are afraid to ask questions. Where did THAT come from; it is intensely un-American. I was taught that it’s OK to discuss anything, but it is not OK to do cause harm or suffering to others. Now it seems like it’s OK for anyone to say or even do whatever indecency or atrocity, but nobody should question or discuss the harm caused.

Why People Don’t Understand (whatever it is that they don’t understand) – Part Two

5. I have been told several times that “the facts keep changing.” The facts do not keep changing. That is the definition of a fact. The stories keep changing. Facts are facts; stories are metaphors. To be useful, stories must represent fact. Therefore, as cultures change, stories change, but the facts do not. The moon and the earth keep going around. Will they forever? I don’t know, and that is not the point. The point is that we need facts about our environment in order to stay alive, and unless the stories help us to understand reality they are not helping us to stay alive and healthy and to raise our children in harmony with reality. That’s why facts are more powerful than the stories for growing a sustainable lifestyle. Originally, biologically, that’s what human stories are for – to grow behavioral guidelines that keep people out of trouble by emphasizing that bad behaviors will have bad results. Like – don’t jump off a cliff; don’t eat up the seeds for next years planting. And many behaviors that are much more subtle but amazingly wise. That’s what stories are for in human societies. That’s why the corposystem wants to keep the real facts for itself, and control the stories to project the image they want you to believe in, to entertain, divide and emasculate the people with a belief system that aligns them with the desires of the corposystem excess, rather than the reality of biological limits to our behaviors.

6. The indiscriminate use of metaphors. Words are also metaphors. I think this nonsense phrase – “The facts keep changing” – came out of a popular book about science that was written by a nonscientist who thought it was a cute phrase. It certainly is a radically unscientific phrase. I think everyone involved with the media, and also everyone else, has an obligation to not say things that aren’t true, whether or not they are cute. Even if they are Bill Moyers talking about the “DNA of culture.” The whole point of DNA is that it is NOT changed by culture. Geneticists took about 100 years figuring that out. It’s important to know what can and cannot be changed by culture. It’s part of our job to figure out whether our heroes know what they are talking about before we believe what they say. We can’t have a culture together if the words we use have wildly different meanings for different people.