Bare Bones Biology 304 – The Frame

All of our universe is composed of naturally evolved systems. I am a naturally evolved system; I am one unit of the human species that is also a naturally evolved system that consists of nearly 8 billion units and their environment. The corposystem (a social system) has evolved within the human species and is now our primary paradigm. The corposystem and the human species and I are all part of the naturally evolved Biosystem, which is a much more ancient and powerful naturally evolved system — but the Biosystem is not human. The Biosystem is a highly evolved natural system that consists of many “levels of organization” that all and each are naturally evolved systems.   All of this intricate naturally evolved balancing act involves interactions of many kinds among and between the systems at multiple levels.

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Evolution is not primarily about survival of the fittest, and it is not primarily about objects such as ourselves. Evolution is primarily about energy and information relationships among collaborating systems.


“Survival of the fittest” is a pitiful, woefully inaccurate meme that has damaged our creative response to Life as it is, and precluded our insights.


We humans are not at the top of that peak or any other, nor can we be. We humans exist at the level of individual organisms. We are composed of naturally evolved systems (example, the nervous system) and the systems are composed of naturally evolved cells.   If cells had not evolved, then a nervous system could not have evolved, and the various species of organisms could not have evolved. Thus the real world of naturally evolved systems is much more complex than four dimensions the physicists work with, or even the multidimensional approach to a mathematical description of the quantum world. It is very difficult to imagine. But it’s more worthwhile and less embarrassing than to use our naturally evolved brain to think in ignorant meme-imposed frames.


The real world consists of naturally evolved systems that interact with each other to generate more complex naturally evolved systems. The history of our Creation lies in the ability of these systems to function at all the systemic levels cooperatively so that I am alive because all my cells and organs and organ systems are alive and functioning together cooperatively to generate and maintain me; and my species, Homo sapiens maintains itself as a naturally evolved system so long as it generates (evolves) social systems that are beneficial to us all, and so long as those social systems also benefit the ecosystems of which Homo sapiens is a part.


What that means is:


1 – the naturally evolved ecosystem is the cutting edge where our species (at present our corposystem) gracefully submits to the needs of Life itself to maintain and support ALL THE LOWER LEVELS OF LIFE that are essential for the survival of ourselves and of the whole Biosystem – or not. Natural selection is the name we have given to that process of success or failure.   Either we fit our behaviors into the requirements for the maintenance of life of our environments — or humans do not survive, nor will any of the naturally evolved systems of which we are composed. This is how systems sustain themselves; if we can’t get with the program, we aren’t welcome in the game.


2 – if we succeed in aligning our behaviors with the ecosystem of which we are a part — so that we contribute to the welfare of that ecosystem and the entire Biosystem, then we can survive. If not – not.


3 – Right now, Homo sapiens is dying because Homo sapiens is an unfit species that is destroying itself by overpopulating. Overpopulation events of any species normally do change the environment of that species. THAT IS HOW SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST PRIMARILY WORKS! The unfit species destroy themselves by their inability to survive within the environmental changes they themselves have generated.


4 – If we continue to believe we are in charge of our environment, rather than the other way around, we destroy one huge opportunity — that sublime evolutionary breakthrough, to the next higher level of reality that could lead to a sustainable human future. We cannot do this by telling the ecosystem how it should function within The Life.


If we choose a sustainable life style for our grandchildren, we must live within this frame (paradigm/worldview). We could do it tomorrow, if we were willing to face our problems with courage rather than anger, fear and denial — and to inform our human compassion with the wisdom of Life and Death.



This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of A copy of the podcast may be downloaded at:



Definitions and Descriptions (we can probably improve these definitions):


Energy is classically defined as the “ability to do work’ using the Laws of Thermodynamics that study work and entropy. Work can be thought of as the cause of change, movement, or organization.   Entropy can be thought of as disorder or disorganization in the states of Energy and of Information.


Another modern description of entropy, Seth Lloyd. 2006. Programming the Universe. Alfred Knopf., page 191: “You can think of entropy as consisting of random junky bits and negentropy as consisting or ordered, useful bits.”  


Information was described by Claude Shannon as: “Information (theory) . . , though related to the everyday meaning of the word, should not be confused with it.”   And: The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point.” (Quoted in The Information, chapter 7, Information Theory, by James Gleick, pub. Pantheon.


The word communication, when applied here to naturally evolved systems refers to whatever processes may share information across whatever physical, social or functional boundary may separate the systems, for example the cell membrane, human skin, ecosystem climate zones, tribes, languages, species. These boundaries may be seen to represent the evolutionary history of the entity or organism, as for illuminated by levels of organization, an insight brilliantly proposed by Lynn Margulis in her lifetime, and the prior concept that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.”


Naturally evolved systems are self-organized, self-perpetuating units that consist of nodes and processes. Neither the nodes (objects, for example ourselves) nor the processes (any example will do, from gravity to hydroxylation) nor the environment in which the nodes and processes function (the environment is composed of other systems), none of these is paramount, though the environment is the most powerful, and all of these levels of systems are involved in the cyclic language of Life that evolves (adapts) and perpetuates itself by collaboration with other systems as it spirals through time.






One Response

  1. Lynn, I have read your post of March 25, which convinces me that we share a very similar vision of the world, even if our vocabulary differs. When you speak of ‘many levels of organization,’ and of systems within systems within systems, I am right there with you. Borrowing from Arthur Koestler, I use the term holon to speak of a self-bounded system; the word holarchy to suggest how systems nest within other systems (cell-organ-organ system-organism, and so on). I use the word holonomy to suggest the interdependent relationship that exists between all holonic levels. That is, holonomy is pretty much the reverse of autonomy. Nothing really stands alone.

    I used to speak of the Law of Holonic Reciprocity as a moral imperative built in to all systems. The idea is that you have to give back to the systems that give you life at least as much as you have taken from the system. Our culture denies this moral imperative: we think we have the right to take and take and never give back, but this is a grievous error.

    These days I speak of this same moral imperative in different terms. I now call this living in loyalty to the Whole, which seems to me a more intuitive and easily understood concept.

    Another concept that is central to my own understanding of Life and the world is that of autopoiesis and self-organization. This way of looking at things puts the emphasis on development from within rather than on external forces acting upon inert objects.

    I also agree with your take on cooperation and its relationship to competition. Competition may have short term benefits, but it is cooperation that makes systems hum rather than stagger.

    But I am having a problem with one statement of yours. You say: ’The corposystem (a social system) has evolved within the human species and is now our primary paradigm.’ My problem is: I’m not sure what you mean by this. As a longtime student of culture, I am not sure why you are using these words rather than culture. Nor am I sure what you mean by corposystem. For awhile now I have assumed you meant our corporate-dominated economic system. Now I’m not so sure. Can you clarify?

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