Bare Bones Biology 215 – Thinking in Cycles

I remember when I first learned about Yin and Yang. What comes around goes around. The “good” and the “bad” of Life. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Everything has a down side (

EarthPhotoYinYangAnd I asked the question (
bare-bones-bio…g-in-questions/): “If God created Life, why not make it all good? And none of it bad?” And I thought about that for a long time. I wanted to know the real reason; not the stories told to human children not yet old enough to think.

First, as by that time I was a scientist (
bare-bones-bio…ke-a-scientist/), I thought about it factually, but the facts did not answer the question, and eventually I realized that facts are the Kindergarten of understanding. Facts are essential to our human survival. If we refuse to believe the facts, then we can only flounder in a fantastical world where our own dreams come to nothing whenever we bump up against any unchangeable reality of God’s creation. (

It is what it is, the Creation. We can’t change what it is. Of course we can change the phenotypes (find ref) and the objects (such as ourselves), and that’s part of the function of the “ objects” that are the “nodes” of the web of life – that exist at the intersections of the web of processes that IS Life. (Albert-László Barabási. 2002. Linked: The New Science of Networks. Perseus, Ca). As such we objects are not insignificant. Basically we, the “empty” things, generate the ever-changing biological environment within which the processes generated by the Law of Life function to maintain the balance of God’s Creation.

To do that well, it’s very useful to understand the facts of Life, and the gift of the scientific method helps us to know the difference between a Fact and a non-Fact. But facts are NOT about how we can change the functions of the Law of Life. We can’t change the Law. We can change the phenotypes, the objects, the way in which process expresses itself in our own level of Life, but we cannot change how the processes function to maintain the BALANCE that is the root miracle of Life (

The balance of Life is maintained by the Law of Life that creates, monitors and maintains CYCLES of Life. For example, the cycle of individual organisms (Life and Death). It IS all “good” because without it there would be no Life on Earth (ref). If we don’t like it – well, we are ignorant, uneducated children who are limited to memorizing facts but unable to understand that their functions – and the processes that create them – are the real tools of the Law of Life.

For example, the process of joining units of hydrogen and hydroxyl makes water, and when water achieves a certain temperature the process of its separation disappears the water and gives back the hydrogen and hydroxyl. Another turn of the cycle we get, again water, that is basic to all of Life on Earth. And clouds and rain, and rivers and our blood and bodies. The processes generate the thing that we are today, and the thing – all the things together — generate the environment in which the processes can respond by making more things that are suitable to maintain the whole of Life on Earth.

The System of Life contains more facts and more power than all the kingdom of man, and the Function of the Law of Life is to keep all those facts in balance within their own cycles of process and their interactions with other cycles of process. And all our objects /phenotypes/technologies cannot change the Law. It would be far better if we would stop trying – stop waging war against the Law, and put all that energy into contributing to the system of the Creation and maintenance of Life.

A podcast of this episode can be obtained at:
bare-bones-bio…7-human-hubris/ (bare bones biology 137)

Healthy Garden – 02

140726-garden-ASC_0501RLSss copyTime for Weeding and Thinning

Wow. I treked over to our organic garden expecting some casual sort of growth of the corn, beans and squash that we planted, and was pleasantly surprised to see they have leaped up from the “organic and natural“ soil in which they were planted. They did not do that in my garden. It must be the soil, because water and climate were similar. Dirt is one of those things that that wouldn’t exist without the Biosystem from which it comes, so it seems a bit odd to talk about people making it. There’s an excellent video of that title (DIRT) you would enjoy watching if you have a chance.

140726b-garden-ASC_0503RLSss copyAnyhow, we definitely can CHANGE dirt, and it’s past time to begin preparing some good healthy soil for next year so we don’t need to buy it. And to do that we need to have some idea of what is healthy dirt and what is not. And then do the work. There is a patch of really ugly dirt near the library, and there is also a patch in my back yard that I worked a bit last year, digging in some manure and turning over the plants that were growing there. This was not a success; in fact it was my first garden of the year, a spectacular failure that produced one carrot, a couple of beets, two bean plants and two broccoli plants. Not a healthy garden and nothing at all like the beautifully
healthy flowers and vegetables _______ ..

Well, it’s not the water and it’s not the location. I guess the soil we purchased must have made a very big difference in the health of the plants that are growing in it. So then, if healthy soil makes healthy plants, probably it would be a good idea to understand what is healthy soil. Would it be good to make some rather than buy it?

140726 – Morning Meditation

140724-morningmeditation-ASC_0404RLSss copyI rather like the below from Tricycle, except for one thing. No deer would be so stupid, and that being the case, parable or no parable, I really despair of even Buddhism making any kind of direct contact with real Life. The human brain – yes. But I do not want to lose myself in someone else’s idea of he human brain, because there can be no human brain without a human body and there can be no human body without a real, functional Biosystem that is composed of interacting processes that are, truly, ever-fluxing, but they are not mirages. Our metaphors deny the realities with which our youth must conform if we are to save our species. That is not the function of a metaphore. The function of a metaphor is to illuminate the humanly incomprehensible realities of Life itself. So long as we train up our youth in happily inaccurate metaphors, they cannot nurture Life, but only a homocentric vision of what we wish were true.

To the extent that Buddhism pursues the Western homocentric ideal, it can only cause more harm than good in the system(s) of Life, for the very simple reason that humans are NOT the center of the universe. There is no center to the universe, and there is no CENTER to Life. The entire elegant mechanism of the Law of Life consists of fail-safes that function to maintain a viable (Life-giving) Balance that can be sustained.

140723-morning-ASC_0465RLSss copy Personally, I have a great need to know the PURPOSE of Life, so I can fulfill my responsibility to it. But I don’t know and have never read or heard of anyone who understands the purpose of Life better than I do, which makes it difficult to move toward the reality. I suspect the author of the below knows a great deal less about REALITY than would a real deer. Or even my dog. Bitsy has today – after trying for a year or so — caught and killed a gopher. Perhaps it really is just that simple.

    Like a Mirage

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
Home › Magazine › Summer 2014 › Like a Mirage
Filed in Mindfulness (sati), Theravada
• brief teachings

• Distorted perceptions are like a mirage. Deceived by a mirage, a deer runs quickly toward what it perceives as water. As he runs, he sees that the water-like mirage is still far ahead of him. So he keeps running toward it to drink. When he is even more tired and thirsty, he stops and looks back. Then he sees that he has gone past the water. When he runs back, he perceives that the water is ahead of him. So he runs back and forth until he is exhausted and falls to the ground.
Distorted perception is like that for us. Pulled by our own attachments, we are always chasing phantoms. Terrified, we run away from monsters created from our own aversions. So long as perception is distorted, we are unable to see the true nature of what is in front of us—nothing but an ever-changing collection of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts or concepts. Moreover, nothing that we perceive has a self or soul; and nothing can bring us permanent happiness or unhappiness.
In essence, when perception is distorted, we perceive impermanence as permanence, suffering as happiness, something neither beautiful nor ugly as beautiful or ugly, or something not self as self.

From Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate, by Bhante Gunaratana © 2014 Wisdom Publications. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Illustration by Roberto La Forgia

Bare Bones Biology 214 – Thinking Like a Scientist

Science uses a highly specialized method of asking questions ( in a way that can be answered using measurable facts. A measurable fact is a measurable reality that does not change. People change; the environment changes; facts (by definition) do not change – regardless of some cute book titles. We seem to be able to understand this relative to the sciences of physics and chemistry. I heard on the History Channel: “The speed of light is not just a good idea; it’s a law.” But for some reason we find it very difficult to understand that the same is true of the Law of Life (

140418-flowers-ASC_0246RLSs copyThe scientific method is described below. This is not a universal law but only a tool devised by humans to help us understand the universal laws.

The scientific method acknowledges one of the most basic facts of Life, that Life is a system in which all the parts are processes, or do processes, or result from processes. And all the processes interact or interconnect at many levels to generate the whole, extremely complicated reality. To understand the complex reality, or parts of it, scientists use formalized linear thinking (and writing). Rather than describe the complexity of interacting cycles of Life, they talk or write about one tiny bit of reality at a time. And they control as many as possible of the variables (interconnections) that interact in real life, so that they reduce their questions (and therefore also the answers) as much as possible to their most easily understood simplicity.

The scientific method is a tool that functions to simplify our good questions so that we can get usable, understandable answers. The disadvantage of the scientific method is that it teaches us to believe in simplistic, linear, either/or solutions that are not true in real Life, and also allows us to believe that humans have powers that we do not have in the balanced universe.

My definition of modern basic science is: the study of measurable facts using the scientific method. Basic science is not about winning; good basic scientists really do enjoy learning the right answers to good questions, even if they have to change their own opinions to align them with reality. In fact, those changes are part of the excitement of good basic science.

This is not the popular idea of science, which is more about technology than inquiry. The two disciplines, basic science and technology, are fundamentally different in that technology is all about what people want, and basic science is all about how the universe functions.

140423-plant-ASC_0394RLSss copySome people have a problem when science uses “statistics.” We know that statistics are often misused, but it is not true that good statistics “lie.” Statistics is just another tool that’s useful for scientists in the interpretation stage of the scientific method. The challenge is to do the analysis properly and well. To do the work properly and well often requires more than one person, and that is one important reason for peer review of scientific papers. The work of every good scientist is open to review by other scientists who know equally as much about the topic. In fact, it is open to review by everyone. Including you.

Good scientists know that the scientific method does not tell us what is a true fact. The great power of the scientific method is that it tells us what is not a fact. In the case of climate change, for example, multiple scientists in many fields of expertise were convinced of the reality because of the consistency of all their results. In fact, they were convinced about 10 years before the media would even discuss the issue. And

before that, the same thing happened when AIDS was discovered. We lost ten years to denial, when we could have been dealing with the reality.

If we want to be effective activists, parents, voters, citizens, or if we just want to maximize our personal power in any situation, we should not limit our spirituality, art, or emotionality by tying them to measurable facts — fake or real – and we should not limit our understanding of factual reality by tying it to spirituality, art or emotionality. Instead, if we understand the difference between science and other disciplines, we can get the maximum benefits from all of these important fields of inquiry.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM in Bryan, Texas. A copyof the podcast can be downloaded at:

The Scientific Method

1. Someone has a question. For example. It seems warmer inside the city than at my house. I wonder if this is generally true? You will hear the word “null hypothesis.” A null hypothesis is a question worded so it can be answered by a yes-or-no experiment: “The average temperature in cities is the same as the temperature outside cities.” The next step is to try to see if the null hypothesis is false (because it is very difficult to prove that anything is always true).

2. Now the person must devise an experiment. Experimental design is an important skill. The good basic scientist wants to know the truth, her goal is not to sell something but to understand something. Therefore, she designs the experiment (as best she can) with no bias or preconception. To do that, she will make sure that all conditions of the experiment are the same except the one(s) she wants to measure. For example, if she is comparing temperature in the city with temperature outside the city, she will take the temperature at the same time of day, and in the same conditions of wind and shade. Thus she “controls” all the variables except one.

3. She then takes the measurements. She must do exactly the same experiment on different occasions, enough times for the result to be statistically significant. Usually that would be at least 100 measurements at each location and condition.

4. She then writes up the results in proper format. Results are reviewed by her peers (other people who are trained and experienced in the same field of study) to make sure the experimental design, the background discussion, and the statistical evaluation are correct, and that the discussion of the resuslts is logical according to what science already knows. Usually the peer reviewers spend time and effort helping to evaluate the data, or the presentation, so that the paper, when it is accepted for publication, is as good as it can be. This is because the goal of the basic scientist is to use the facts to discover the reality, and the reputation of each scientist, the one who does the research and the one who evaluates it, depends on accuracy and valid interpretations.

5. The paper is then published.

6. The process of basic science is not finished when the paper is published, because one paper is only one step in getting together all the information needed to grow our scientific understanding. After publication of an individual’s research, other scientists will be inspired to wonder in new ways about the same question and devise their own experiments. If enough people ask well designed questions in the field, the accurate answers will gradually emerge.


Healthy Living

140418-flowers-ASC_0254Rs copyThe three of us decided to make a healthy garden. Healthy for us, because we plan to eat the food and smell the flowers. And healthy for the community because – we realized right away — we can’t make a good healthy garden without the help of our community, at least not the first year, because there are some things we must buy. We also want to contribute to the cycle of community health.

And healthy for the Biosystem because we will grow our garden inside the Biosystem. There is no other place to grow it. We need good air, good water and organic energy to make the garden grow. And the Biosystem makes the air, the water, and the organic energy.

organic-ASC_0256RSsThis year, we began late. We bought stuff and trusted it to be healthy because it was labeled “organic” or “heritage” or non-GMO. We got potting soil that contains no poisons. No herbicides (plant poisons), no pesticides (bug poisons). Then we bought non-GMO heritage seeds (or plants) whose ancestors survived in the high desert country for hundreds of years. And finally, we planted them together in combinations that humans have used for thousands of years because the plants help each other to grow.

Mostly. For this year we chose seeds that grow to maturity in two months, even if they weren’t heritage seeds¬¬.

organic-ASC_0257-RSsThen we stuck the seeds in the soil and added water. They popped up in about a week, and now we can watch them grow while we prepare to make an even more healthy garden
next year.

140418-flowers-ASC_0260RLSs copyFirst question – what is healthy?
And Why?

© 2014, FactFictionFancy

In the Garden of Life

My yard is a garden of Life. At various times, rattlesnakes, our resident garter snake, a King snake, the Rock Wren, the thistles, grasses, a plant that I don’t know the name of that next year will have a spear covered with seeds they sell at the Farmer’s Market as medicinal herbs, the lizards, a rabbit, a rock squirrel, lots of moths and butterflies, ants, bees, hornets, me, my dog, my solar oven and my solar electricity panels, and the climate. And more and more. Most of these things would be very healthy without human interference in their cycles of Life. Looks like our snake is in process of shedding. She has been basking all day, which is not her usual pattern, and her eye is glazed over.

140715-snake-ASC_0206RLSssThis morning the climate is based on a thin veil of filmy clouds between us and the source of energy to drive all of this Life. My camera and my nose are buried in the purple thistle blossoms, which in the early morning is one of the sweetest perfumes made by man or nature (and not chemically harmful).

My question for this morning is: “How many Life cycles depend upon and/or benefit by this wonderful thistle?” Or maybe it’s not such a good question, as clearly I will never be able to learn the answer. And of course the thistle is only a small part of my garden of Life.

140712-plants-asc_9911SssFirst the thistle benefits itself by making seeds that can float out over the earth, plant themselves, and bring their legacy into the future of Life. It also benefits from all these various insects that feed on its nectar and pollinate its eggs so they can grow into those seeds on a time frame that cycles according to the genetic programming of the plant interacting with the climate and weather of the ecosystem.

140714-bugs-ASC_0171RLSssBut then – looking closer – there is a garden growing on the stem of the thistle, nurtured by a tribe of ants. A garden of aphids that live on the “climate” of the thistle stems, drawing food energy from the plant and producing a sweet substance savored by the ants and also a great many other insects, including the fly shown here holding a glob of the sweet stuff. Check it out, the ants nurture the aphids, rather like we nurture cows for their milk. And the aphids feed a multitude.

So my thistle is growing in the garden, and on the thistle is another garden of aphids that is nurtured by the ants. And inside the aphids?

140714-bugs-ASC_0152RLSssYes indeed, gardens of micro-organisms are nurtured by the climate that the aphid body provides for their needs, providing the biochemical cycles that produce the sweets. It’s rather like we are growing inside the Biosystem. And the whole shebang is only a tiny part of the biological system that is supported by the climate. And all this together produces the sweet substance of Life. Without which there is no us.

That’s how nature stays alive, with gardens of life within other gardens of life, and that is how we must learn to think if we want to survive as part of Life on earth.

Bare Bones Biology 213 – Thinking in Questions

We-the-people of the New Ethic are willing to learn new ideas and discuss solutions to communal problems. Last week I said we must ask the right questions — or we won’t get useful answers. Before we start to argue, we need to agree on what is a useful answer. “Useful for what?” Or we might end up with answers that do not support our own long-term goals. The questions we ask must relate to our communal goals. That’s why we nced a fruitful discussion with others who also are serious about growing our new ethic, the good questions will arise out of a good ongoing discussion that includes inquiry. That is, learning about things we didn’t already understand rather than fighting over things we do already understand.

140628-Territorial-ASC_9678RLSssTwo-sided debates are very satisfying for some people because fighting over simple questions shows that they care – they are willing to fight and suffer to accomplish the goal. And they are. But caring about problems does not solve the problems. And all that suffering is wasted if we fight for an answer that ends up causing more harm than good. So maybe that’s why another correspondent said:

“I think survival of the individual, the family, the group, the country, is the four dynamics we should begin to evaluate first.”

This is a very good subject for discussion, and better yet it includes a plan of action. But again, we can’t discuss anything without agreeing about what we want our action to accomplish, so instead of beginning with an action — let’s begin with :

1. A long term goal, and

2. Good questions that relate to that goal.

My goal is to help grow a reasonably comfortable, sustainable, human community within a healthy Biosystem on this earth. For the grandchildren.

Now, let’s restate the readers’ opinion in the form of a question, because answering good questions is a challenge in which we all can participate, whereas beginning with a plan of action tends to generate arguments and debates, rather than questions. Try this question:

“Should we begin by evaluating survival of the individual, the family, the group, the country.”

And then we must ask: “What do we need, as individual humans, families, groups and country, if we are to survive?” Not what we want or what we think is good, but what do we NEED?

So now, I stand at the blackboard, you tell me everything we need, I write it all down, and when we have finished we will realize that we need two sets of things. One set is provided by human-to-human interactions. The other set is provided by the healthy Biosystem and cannot be obtained in any other way. Think what you would need if there were no other people on earth. Those are the things that must be obtained from the Biosystem as we know it. Air, water and food. Those are the human survival needs. Those physical needs have now become the limiting factors ( ) of human life on earth.

Then the question becomes: How can we live without destroying our air, water and food. That is the good question of our day, and our answer will be our human legacy to the grandchildren. “Can we grow a healthy biosystem for the grandchildren?” Then – of course — the next question is: “How?” Beginning with whatever the Biosystem requires to maintain its balance as it is now, making air, water and food. We won’t find the answer to that question on the television, which is all about what people want to watch, and we won’t find the answer by discussing what people want, and we won’t find it by how clever are human technologies. The only answer to that question is another question we are NOT ENGAGING because we are too busy fighting for our particular human conviction.

‘If we can only get enough energy we will be OK”
Not if we use more than our share. The Biosystem also needs energy to survive.

“If we only can win this war we will be OK.”
The Biosystem is not interested in this war.

“If we only we could be happy we would be OK.”
We can’t be happy if the Biosystem can’t fulfill our needs

“If we teach nonviolence it will solve our problems.”
Not unless nonviolence can also resolve the problem of Biosystem health.
Which is not impossible.

And who is asking: “What does the Biosystem NEED, in order to be healthy?

I didn’t say what humans believe it should need. I said what does it need really? The question without which we can’t answer any of the other questions. What the Biosystem needs, bottom line, is fewer humans sucking the life out of it.

Only when we understand that, can we address the problem of human dynamics.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM, 89.1, Bryan, Texas.

A podcast of this episode can be downloaded at:

The Facts from Earth Policy Institute


Thistle in Bloom

The moths, butterflies, flies and ants are eating and courting on the thistle blossoms. The hummingbirds got here too early. Last year we had hummingbirds eating and nesting in their embrace.

140712-moths-asc_0027RLSs copy140712-moths-asc_0018RLSs copy

In a stable, sustainable culture, one of the most amazing phenomena is the way that the thousands of life cycles mesh with each other, regulated in large part by the climate, so that the creatures are born when the food is available.