Bare Bones Biology 132 – Community Environments

Joseph Campbell said: “The ancient myths and rites were a means to put the mind into accord with the body, and the way of life into accord with the way nature dictates.”

Homo sapiens
, that’s us, we are a social, communal species. We aren’t the only social species. There are many, and each is different, because they are each genetically adapted to a particular environment or niche in the biological community.

The biggest difference between humans and other social species is our brain. Humans have a marvelous brain that brings us at least four qualities, or aptitudes, that are important to human survival and welfare. We use all four, and the better we use them to help fulfill the biological needs of the living earth ecosystem, to “bring our lives into accord with the way nature dictates” — the more likely we are to survive as a species, and the more fulfilled we are likely to be as individuals.

The first and most basic function of our nervous system is to control our autonomic (automatic) life processes. Breathing, eating, nursing and so on. These activities generally can proceed without our conscious attention because they are genetically programmed to respond to the environment.

Second, the human brain generates our emotions. Our emotions are very important, because they are at the heart of our social communities. Emotionality is also a genetic characteristic, coded by our genes. We know this, basically, because all human societies have the similar emotions. We can’t change the fact that we have emotions, because that portion of our human-ness is encoded in our genes. We can’t even describe all the genes that control our emotional reactions and interconnections, because there are too many genes acting in too many different combinations. Believe me; I have some experience with genetic engineering. Or – better yet – don’t believe me. Study it for yourself. The point here is, if we want to grow better human communities, trying to change our genes would be a worse idea than frontal lobotomy. It won’t work; therefore we should spend our energy on something that will work. We need to learn how to use what we’ve got. Fortunately, the third and fourth qualities of the human brain are eager to learn to do just that.

The third important quality of the human brain is its ability to learn, and that brain is absolutely obsessed with learning. It does not need to be taught or told to learn; it never stops learning. Whatever is out there in the environment, that’s what the brain is learning, and squeezing into its world view, integrating the new information with its emotions, which is one good reason to not watch television.

Babies, of course, mostly learn to use emotions to benefit themselves, but as soon as they are old enough they tag around after whatever moves and copy whatever it is doing. This enormous capacity for learning molds the child to the normal behaviors of his environment. If he is growing up in a stable, sustainable community, then he will grow behaviors that mold his use of his emotions so that they contribute to the welfare and stability of that community. The problems arise if the community is not stable or sustainable.

The fourth important quality of the human brain is our intellect. Intellect is a very human and elegant tool for figuring out what went wrong if problems do arise. It’s a miracle, really, our human logic that can recognize and interact with the universal law of cause and effect to solve novel problems. And human creativity that can generate novel solutions to the problems. And human communication that can share our learning throughout our communities and through the generations, in the form of myths, religions, rituals, works of art, textbooks, literature, and even Facebook.

At this point in human history, we need mostly to educate our intellectual brain, and the first thing we need to understand — we are not God. We do not understand the infinite meaning of life, nor can we control it. Our need to control, our ego, our desire to grow life in our image, whether the image be evil or even if it is a good image – that is the source and cause of most of our disasters.

Lynn Lamoreux

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at


Question for Discussion
: What is a community? What is your community?

Suggested Action
: Purchase a $20 copy of the movie Economics of Happiness, or borrow a copy from the Peach Clubhouse. Find a couple of friends who have not seen the film. Invite them to dinner, a viewing of the film, and discuss the question above. Better yet, go to The Economics of Happiness second annual convention in March — in Australia!! And/or, join The Economics of Happiness networking hub http://www.theeconomicsofhappiness.org/

Recommended References:
Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. PBS. http://www.jcf.org/new/index.php?categoryid=83&p9999_action=details&p9999_wid=765

Bare Bones Biology Ecology Handbook – https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/
On the right side of the page click on the link under “Chapters” to download the PDF.

Thanks to the Red Wasp Film Festival for use of the Photos by Lynn.

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