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.

Growthbusters, and check out the movie

If I could figure out how to repost things, I would, but I think if you click on the below link you will enjoy the Growthbusters page as much as I do, and especially the latest blog.


World Population Day 2014: I’ll Have What She’s Having
Jul 09, 2014

Two months ago today, South Park producer/animation director Eric Stough –addressing the 2014 graduating class at University of Colorado – offered some life-saving advice (at 13:48 in this video):
– See more at:

Bare Bones Biology 212 – Thinking From Both Ends

“Some people (cling) to angst as if it were a virtue. I let it go with relief. Optimism (is) a gift at birth. Bottles (are) half full, not half empty.” (Dick Francis, “To the Hilt”)

140624-snake-ASC_9468RSss copyIn fact, any bottle or glass that is half full is also half empty, and if, for example, you live out-of-doors in rattlesnake country, as I do, you would be wise to look first to the rattlesnake’s fangs, and then to its beauty. (This picture is not a rattlesnake. Upside? We are keeping it to eat mice. The mice are very cute. Downside? Hanta virus, and there was a very serious recent case of someone who did not KNOW about Hanta virus.)

Here’s a small example of withholding the half-empty information in order to influence decision making and sell stuff. Take a look at the hybrid sunflower seeds I bought last week in Santa Fe. Pretty picture on the front of the package. Writing on the back explains that these sunflowers are better than most, because they “do not drip pollen on your beautiful tabletop.” OK, that’s the good news. Now tell us the rest. No such luck. The package does not mention the downside. Everything has a downside.

I assume the downside of these hybrid sunflowers is that they cannot make viable seeds. At least that is a common result of hybridization. Like a mule, which is also a hybrid organism. Mules are very useful animals with special talents, but unfortunately they are sterile and so cannot make more mules. These seeds, I assume, are also sterile. That’s why they don’t make pollen and that’s also why they probably don’t make fertile seeds.

I’m not saying we should mope about in “angst” because we don’t know how to make wise decisions. But we do need to take responsibility for both ends of each problem. The good and bad, the yin and yang, the half-full and half-empty. Find ALL the information you need to make wise decisions, which is all the good and all the bad – fact check the information – discuss it with people who have genuine expertise and with people who will be affected by your decisions — and make a plan.

We cannot grow a healthy community when some people are not willing to look at the downside; other people are getting rich by withholding the information we need to make wise decisions; and everyone else is confused because they don’t see the connection between the upside and the downside. Or they choose to ignore the fact that everything has a downside. And that’s the kind of human interactions we are promoting today.

So what are we doing instead? We are fighting it out, which is the same as not deciding. When we choose to not research the downside and the upside, or in other ways avoid our responsibility to make wise decisions – we are deciding to not decide. Not making decisions is a choice; that’s why I say there are always more than two choices attached to any problem. When you choose to not choose wisely, you are in fact choosing to let someone else choose for you. You are choosing to be the victim of other people’s choices.

Here’s a really big and very important example.
First I’ll give a glass-half-full opinion:

“We should encourage growth of the human population because population growth maintains economic growth.”

Here is a half empty opinion:

“We should try to avoid human overpopulation because in the long run the economy will crash from not having enough resources to feed the growth AND because human over-growth kills off other parts of the Biosystem that create the resources.”

There are data to support both answers, but if you are fighting on the side of either answer by claiming the other is not true — rather than studying and discussing the problem from both ends – then we all are losing forever our precious opportunity to make wise choices now.

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

A copy of this podcast can be downloaded at:

Meanwhile, Somewhere Near the Continental Divide

Just now I looked up from my typing to see the wild turkey family jerk-step across my yard, halfway up the hill. The mother leading, followed by a new brood of young on wobbly stilt-legs, and a couple of dispensible males behind. My camera was in the car and of course they were gone by the time I had it in hand.

A few days ago, before my recent overnight trip to Santa Fe, I looked out the side window to see a breath-takingly beautiful snake cross the yard and disappear into the wild oats beyond. Sharp, clear concentric colorful stripes. Not a rattlesnake, obviously, but I rushed out into the yard nevertheless to get a good look at its tail, and to make sure the stripes were not red, white and black – so it was gone before I could get a picture. Fast. Big. I think it was a King Snake. Maybe. It’s amazing how many and various are the snakes. I have two inadequate snake books and it seems that all the species have multi-various color phases and patterns. Actually our one resident snake (one that I know of, living under the morning porch of the cabin where there was a rattlesnake last year), we have coffee every morning while it appears with the sunrise and moves on to its daily chores under the cabin, even that one snake – I think it’s one snake – seems to be of different color and pattern under different conditions. I think it’s a garter snake maybe.

Bitsy barks at rattlesnakes, and backs them into corners. These snakes don’t back up like a rattlesnake. They run. So far this year we only have killed one rattlesnake in the yard. Last year we had to do away with six, one of which was heartbreakingly lovely. Like the pink rattlesnakes in Tony Hillerman’s novels.

Anyhow, we are trying to encourage the non-venomous snakes to stick around and eat the mice and rats. Better to have a colony of garter snakes than the alternative residents. And we do have a few remaining Peromyscus (which may or may not carry Hanta virus and/or plague). I hope no more pack rats. I’m trying to concrete up the major entries from outside the cabin, now that I’ve discouraged those that lived inside, and hoping to ease out those in the outbuildings while preferably demolishing the Assasin Bugs that live in those nests. That may or may not carry Chagas disease.

No pictures. All the best pictures get away, either because they happen too fast or because I am too busy thinking self-defense. Except for the mountains that stand forever – at least in human time.140630-canyon-asc_9799RLSss

Bare Bones Biology 211 – Looking for the Right Answer

There is no right answer. There isn’t even a best answer for all time because conditions keep changing in the environment. THAT is one reason that it’s so important to discuss our decisions before we act on them. In fact this is so important that we probably still have laws requiring that we use the Precautionary Principle in our decision making, and before that we had a method for democratic decision-making, and before that we had town councils and the like, and before that we had tribes with various tribal methods of decision-making that relied on ancient wisdoms combined with discussion of one sort or another
bare-bones-bio…riginal-wisdom). Because we are a social species.

140620-canyon-ASC_9443RLSss copyThe GROUP contains the higher wisdom. The individual — in spite of the amazing arrogance of our current generations who believe they know all the answers – is relatively ignorant. It’s simple arithmatic. One brain cannot contain as much knowledge as many brains. Therefore, the best way to generate better answers is by discussion of the many brains among themselves, based in honest history and the knowledge of the difference between facts and opinions. That is why social species exist. The selective evolutionary advantage of social species is the emergence of wisdom. Wisdom is not about right answers. Wisdom arises from experience (history), knowledge (facts and opinions) and discussion. History and opinions change. Therefore, wisdom is not a right answer for all time.

Life is not about “right” answers; Life is about balance; it depends upon conditions. If we want to participate successfully in Life, we do not need CONTROL over that balance because one of the facts is we CANNOT control the fact that life is all about balance — because we live in a Biosystem that is constantly striving to maintain its balance in order to stay alive. Therefore, wisdom must also be about balance. Balance between facts that we cannot change and opinions that help us decide which of many possible answers is best in this time and place. So let’s forget about waiting around for the right answer and instead work together to grow a wise answer for the future of human kind.

Try this approach. Begin, of course, with good questions. Then put the same good questions to each major level of organization that is necessary for human welfare. You will get different right answers. We know that because we see every day people writing ignorant rants on the internet because they believe that FIGHTING over these ignorant beliefs is the only way to accomplish a sensible balance. It’s not. There is no only way, but the best way for humans, because our special talent is training our brains, is discussion.

Our good question is based on our overall long- term goal, which is to build a reasonably comfortable human presence within a healthy biosystem. Our good question for discussion is what do we need? Now we apply that question to each level of organization that is necessary or dominant in our current human social system. What do I and my family need? What does my community need? What does the corposystem need? What does the Biosystem need?

Make a diagram of the results and you will find that everyone needs everyone else, more or less, but when you get specific there are differences. For example, the corposystem believes it must have population growth or it will crash; I say population growth will CAUSE the corposystem to crash by causing irreconcilable damage to the Biosystem.

Next questions – What must we change to rebalance this particular problem? Fact – We cannot change what the Biosystem needs (which is balance), because we have no control over the basic Law of Life that determines Biosystem function. That means we must change our own minds to align with the Law of Life. And if we can’t reach a balance in ourselves between the arrogance of certainty and the irresponsibility of not participating in this serious discussion – the Biosystem will eliminate the corposystem from Life on Earth, and as we are the corposystem – that means us.

I seldom recommend PBS any more, but I suggest you watch the program I happened to catch today, entitled “Salmon,” if you want a fine example of how everything relates to everything else, and why corposystem technology should not try to over-ride biological reality.

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

The podcast of this program can be downloaded at: