Bare Bones Bology 363 – Community Revisited I

“Community” is a term that we fling around, along with “educating women” and “compassion,” and “overpopulation” — growth or degrowth — and “patriotism,” “rule of law,” as though any one of these social “solutions” might save us from our own excess.


Community is not so simple as that. Neither are any of those other world views, but I want to talk about community, because each world view gives rise to communities, each of which rallies around the flag of a common world view.


A community is a system. A naturally evolved system (each community, of course, being uniquely individual in some ways, and similar to all such systems in other ways). Community is probably our best answer to most of our biggest problems, but it is not a simple answer to anything.


Please read that sentence again and do not accuse me of “dumping on” anything. I do not adhere to the corposystem ethic that tells us that it is necessary to “win” anything (thus creating losers) in order to accomplish our goals. What I want is that we should consider ALL the parameters, especially the down side of everything we choose to do, so that we have a likelihood of long-term success.


This is why I spend so much of my activism energy in pointing out downsides. I hope to help save the communities that I think have the most power to carry us    successfully over this final threshold of human survival on the Living Earth. That is a definition of wise compassion. Wise, nonviolent compassion toward all of humanity. Mostly, humanity is merely offended by my compassionate efforts. However, that is not my problem. I do as I say, which is to give at least as much attention to the downsides of our actions as to the up sides. I do not lie about factual reality.


So, in my opinion, community is the most important special quality of humankind, after our super brain and our ability to share information. Humankind is characterized by its need for community, and I think it is instinctive, that is inherited in the DNA, a physical need, and so it is well worth discussing the upsides and the downsides of community itself, as a universal factual reality.


Speaking up-side and down-side, both together, what do we know about communities as naturally evolved systems? Naturally evolved, complex adaptive systems.


A system is a group of things (nodes), connected by processes/actions/energy/information that I will refer to as links. The links connect the nodes, and all work together to generate and sustain some special quality that has value to their environment. The basic function of a naturally evolved system is to sustain itself.


Importantly, we find that there is generally no center to a system. Often or usually there is a core of dense interactions, surrounded by a “halo” of peripheral interactions (Seth Lloyd –, but not one specific central node (thing). This means there usually is nobody to blame when the system goes off balance or when it cannot sustain its balance among the other systems. This is frustrating, because there is no individual entity that can “fix” it for us. We must take care of ourselves, together, collaboratively, and in my opinion that is the function of our communities, and one way our communities do this for us is to conform themselves to the reality of Life as it is on Earth at any given time and place.


If we humans have a problem (indeed we do) then it is very important that we analyze the underlying flow of information that informs and sustains the system. If the “problem” has a center or if it does not have a center, that makes a difference in how we respond to the problem. A systemic problem, for example might be a failure of communication within the system or between systems.


Instead of a center, or a neat hierarchy, systems, at least naturally evolved systems – we can think of the internet as an example — they have millions of links and nodes, all joined in intricate self-sustaining patterns by information that flows between and among them in the form of behaviors (including rules of operation), processes and sustaining interactions between themselves and their environments.


We who are focused on the common welfare, we who have a deep desire to bring healing to others, we often jump on one or other bandwagon/worldview, system of perceiving the world, such as those mentioned above (compassion, war, community, population, etc.) each of which consists of a system – a world view that is supported by its catchy memes. We believe in the systems because they represent our worldviews and we express them using appropriate memes, because the memes also make good sense. They do. The memes are logical within, and reinforce, the world view of the systems they represent, in the same way that a flag, or a protest sign, represents its accompanying world view.


The logic within the world views of activists working around each of these focused systems (compassion, Christianity, Islamic or Christian fundamentalism, technology), the logic does make good common sense within the system, and that logic expresses itself, in part, in memes. Thus each meme carries with it the world view from which it grew, and the logic is clear to the people who were raised in that system. When we share the memes among ourselves, we don’t have to think. Not about what the words actually say or imply in our time and place. What we do think about is the reality of the things we care about. And we can feel good about ourselves among our companions, all of whom understand the things we care about.

For all these reasons, memes are very useful for building community around conditions as they were, and they are more or less biologically designed to do just that. However, conditions are not always as they were. The difficulty arises when the conditions of our environment change. Then we must call upon our special human brain – the analytical part of it – for some deep thinking about the things we care about. Otherwise, the memes, flags and worldviews of the past may not lead us toward a positive future. Positive in this context refers to behaviors that are beneficial to us.


For example, the concept of growth, and in fact our entire political system, were built in a time of plenty when there were plenty of resources to accomplish the growth. This is no longer true. The Earth can no long supply resources for human growth without damaging its resource base, with the result that now, when we try to grow, the only way to do it is by “eating the seed corn.” Perhaps we can think of our current problems as though the Earth were trying to rid itself of the communities of belief that are no longer positively contributing to the whole and replace them with other human or nonhuman communities that can contribute to the welfare of the Life of Earth.

All human communities have their bases in historic and biological facts. Facts are, by definition, realities that humans cannot change.


We cannot just decide one day that we don’t like the community we are in and change the facts around to make it different. We might move to a different community, or do something that changes ourselves, but we can’t change facts, neither facts of history nor the laws of physics, mathematics and biology. Our effort to eliminate what was and “start over again” to make it better, can’t possibly work effectively in the short term, because all those thousands and millions of links and nodes that have already evolved – they all work together to sustain the system as it is now, or was yesterday.


Communities evolve, like any naturally evolved system, from the causes and effects of whatever happened before, and the natural laws that generate and maintain all naturally evolving systems. Systems can be modified, but they only “start over” after the crash, and even then, the crash itself becomes a factual part of the history of that community that cannot be changed.   A negative fact.


And yet, nearly every human community is trying to grow a future for the children and grandchildren “unto the seventh (or seven hundredth) generation to come.” (Oren Lyons


That task requires more than a bandwagon and a catchy meme. It requires deep consideration of the facts that we cannot change, and a broad understanding of what we can change, and especially it requires a mature analysis of the potential down side as well as the up side of whatever we do to bring about the change.


In a system, because it is a system:

  1. Everything is connected to everything else (more or less strongly). Every “thing” is a node, or a connecting-place in the system. Your computer, for example, can be thought of as a node in the internet.


A community is also a system. You are a node, a connecting place, within your community(s). You are linked to the other parts of your community by information transfer. Information is transferred by words, images, stories, body language, and also by all of our behaviors including the tools we use, processes, smells and all the things that we do.


  1. Every communication (transfer of information) is a link between your computer and (more or less) every other node in the internet.


All of your behaviors (etc.) are links between you and the other systems and nodes in your enviroment. Your environment consists of other systems and nodes.


  1. Every communication that impacts the system has both good and bad results. Every good communication from your computer is bad for some node(s) out in cyberspace.


To quote Joseph Campbell, “everything we do is bad for somebody.” (Campbell, Joseph and Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, PBS, DVD)


Every good deed that we do also has also a downside. Every glass is BOTH half full AND half empty, and if we ignore the empty half, either half, we are asking for trouble, because the more we understand the consequences of our behaviors, the better able we are to survive.


Survival must be one of the major functions of community, or we humans would not always find a way to band together in naturally evolved communities that help us to survive. Culture. Common values for the common welfare. Cultures of fear, cultures of hatred, cultures of compassion. These arise from the facts of life: 1 -The facts that are studied by physicists, mathematicians and biologists that determine how energy and the transfer of information drive community; and 2 – the facts of history. Facts that we cannot change. Facts to which we must adapt or die.

For humans, our cultures, our communities, our religions, our stories, are the memory-base of our facts of Life. We are designed to physically implant these cultural memories into the nodes and links (neurons and synapses and neurotransmitters) of our brains (Eagleman, 2015), and they stay there, or not, depending on our lifetime experiences, until we raise up our babies whose blank little brains (blank except for their genetic legacy of instincts) incorporate the same information and carry it on to the following generation.


When our environments change dramatically, we experience culture shock, and whether this is a good or a bad experience, it takes about a year to begin successfully to adjust our worldview and our behaviors (rearrange the links) to the new environmental realities. A year to inscribe a new logic into our brains so that we can operate with a degree of comfort in the new or changed environment. Physically inscribe it into the links and nodes of our brains.


Our environment molds us metaphorically like the proverbial lump of clay, or the blank slate. We start out with essentially only instincts, implanted by our common human physical evolution. We end up with opinions, woven inseparably among the instincts and directing our behaviors, which are our links with our environments. Our environments are physically, literally the other half of what we are. Both our birthright world view and its continuing change throughout our lives.


And our culture of fear, or hate, or compassion – or a wisdom that recognizes the reality of all these things – that fact-based history is passed on to the next generation, automatically, by the system that is us, it grows and is maintained within our communities, within the whole of Life.


And our worldview determines our behaviors, and our behaviors are the links between ourselves and the other naturally evolved systems of Life.


Our ideal communities consist of people who have the same cultural stories as each other.

These are the stories that explain the logic of our environment(s). Stories of fear, stories of hatred, stories of compassion. If I had such a community, it would understand me, help to generate my belief systems, empower my view of good and evil and my self-image, and support me to the grave.


The fact that you and I do not have those things is nobody’s fault, and we can be immensely grateful to the people who can see these gaps in our lives and try to fill them. The fact that they cannot fully succeed, that nearly all of us will lack the ideal community, is nobody’s fault. It is a function of our style and time in Life, that we live in a time of rapid change that is the physical and biological result primarily of five or six (more or less) millennia of human overpopulation that has unbalanced us and the millions, probably billions of other systems that make up the Life of Earth, and the fact that we chose to respond to the warnings given to us by the various biological Limiting Factors that stood in the way of our further overgrowth by trying to dominate our own other half, our environment, rather than align our communities with it.


And so we have been at war with ourselves for all these millennia, and that cannot go on forever, because once we choose war we have rejected the other possibility, which is collaborative, win-win relationships.


Now is the time that we must choose again, and our choices now are neither romantic nor desirable.


We can not change our instincts, but we can change our opinions, and our opinions direct our behaviors, with which we communicate with our environments. We are capable of saving ourselves by changing ourselves, because our behaviors arise from our opinions and we are all capable of wisdom if that is the path we choose.


Change always generates crises, and in a time of crisis wise choices are even more important. We live in a very complex and rapidly changing environment. In times of rapid change, the environment (our other half) throws up multiple and variable new systems. This response to change is automatic; it always happens in times of overpopulation because it is part of the interacting natural laws that we cannot change.


You probably will not find this reality discussed in our media, but it is primarily for this reason, that overpopulation is a deep threat to the Life of the whole complex of systems that make up the Life of Earth.


That is how evolution works, automatically. It is one of the Laws of Life that we cannot change, and (for those who doubt) it is easy to see it happening in the human communities around us, composed as they are now of peoples whose stories (facts of history) are so different from each other.

How we choose to use these differences will determine the future of humans as components of the Life of Earth. Because the Life of Earth now is very different from even our parents’ time, our communities will have to change. What, then are our options?


  1. We cannot change the facts of Life. We can use the facts of Life to make tools and technologies that function in the real world, but we cannot use our tools and technologies to change the facts of Life because that is not what tools are able to do.


  1. We cannot change history. No matter how hard our would-be political conquerors try to manipulate the information that is available in the media – in our textbooks and our television – they cannot change the “story” of fear or hatred or compassion that is written in the synapses and neurons of humankind, in the form of our natal worldviews, by our personal biological history(s).
  2. We can no longer change our environments without destroying our environments by cutting the links that evolved, were created over billions of years, among and between our ancestors and their environments. Communications, remember, include all of our behaviors, and our technologies are our behaviors, amplified. We can no longer make positive changes in our environments in this way because we have surpassed all but the final Limiting Factor that could have prevented the ultimate systemic catastrophe.


To any naturally evolved system, the ultimate catastrophe is — the system crashes and starts again, the complex interactions among the nodes and links that held it together as a functioning whole are bent and broken and dissolved, and despite the lengths that a system will go to save itself, when it no longer can do so, the result is predictably a resounding crash and the naturally evolved system falls apart and starts over again from wherever it began the first time. The Life of Earth began with living cells.


The Life of Earth grew over the space of four or five billion years, more or less, from cells, by creating flexible links of energy and information within their abiotic environments. These links gave rise to new kinds of cells, communities of cells within their environments, and yet more intricate links of energy and information between and among biological communities (organisms, ecosystems and the like) within the environments which, by that time, consisted of both abiotic and biotic other systems. All are held together by a miracle of collaborative links and nodes that direct the flow of energy and information throughout the whole.


Now, today, the balance between us and the nodes and links of the living Earth (that is the balance between our needs and available resources that are provided by our environments) – now that balance is so near to the edge of crashing that anything we do – any behavior or communication of information between us and our environments – is likely to “tip the boat.” This    means our technologies can no longer save us. They certainly could tip us over the edge of system collapse, and this is already happening. That’s what climate change is about.   We try to save ourselves using our science and our technologies, but cannot save ourselves using tools unless we use the tools to conform ourselves to the science.   Tools cannot change facts of Life.


We can use the facts of Life to make tools and technologies that function in the real world, but we cannot use our tools and technologies to change the facts of Life.


There are no more Limiting Factors. We are on the threshold now of collapse.

What, then, what can we do to save our future unto the seventh generation?


What we can do is to stop trying to control the systems and facts of Life over which we do NOT have any real control, and begin to control ourselves in ways that are Life affirming. Generate win-win collaborations between ourselves and the reality of the Creation as it is now. That is, listen to, share, discuss, control and integrate our own world views so that our effort is not to get someone else to save us, nor to blame something for not saving us, nor to attack the systems that are our other half and are actually here to warn us of problems that are arising within and among the systems of Life — but our effort – our entire effort – is to use our knowledge of the facts of Life elucidated by our basic science and mathematics (not technology, which we now are using in an effort to dominate the indomitable), joined with our wisdom traditions that have grown up around the facts of History and humanity, to collaborate with the other systems of life in our communal desire to empower the future of humanity WITHIN the whole of Life of Earth.


This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of

The podcast of this blog can be downloaded at:

© 2017, Lynn Lamoreux and Photos by Lynn

Report From the Road – 170530

News Flash – dead mouse removed from the heater fan!

Leaving for Chama tomorrow (Friday)

Report below –




I’ve known the man and his wife for maybe 20 minutes altogether, and we are sitting around the kitchen table writing up a receipt.

“Yes,” he said, “plastics give off smells.”


“—and glue and artificial fabrics and sprays and treatments, and that’s everything there is to the inside of a new travel trailer, except for some bits of metal, most of them painted, so that’s why I bought a cargo trailer. My idea is to get metal – – – ”


“It’s strange that we don’t have that problem with our trailer, and we have a – maybe ours is old enough to be before — .”

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“Some people are more sensitive than others, but those chemicals that make us ‘canaries’ sick are not good for anybody’s health. I’m surprised they let the companies use these materials without the proper safety testing. I remember when we had regulations that required testing materials before we live in them, and especially with children.”

“Wait,” he said: “I know how to fix it. Colloidal silver. Take colloidal silver and you won’t have any of those problems anymore. Where is that thing, I downloaded it from the internet. I used to get sick from dipping, but the colloidal silver took it all away, and my friend – – — etcetcetc.”


(Sick from chewing tobacco? You are telling me you take a harmful chemical so that you can take another harmful chemical and you are now happy because this makes it possible to take two harmful chemicals rather than none?) I didn’t say it. He would not have understood.


And that is howLadies and gentlemen, I came upon the recipe for colloidal silver, but it won’t save us from the pollution, either individually or collectively. The solution to the poisonous effects of man-made toxins is to stop making man-made toxins. Or at least stop using them. The solution to chemical sensitivity is not to apply more chemicals. It’s to take away the ones you already have used that caused the problem in the first place,


The solution to any problem is NOT to find a need and sell something with the claim that it will work and then claim that the claim is “research.”


The solution to a problem is to find the cause and fix it; research is finding the cause, not the fix and not any meme.


Change the subject away from finding the cause of the problem, because that subject makes us uncomfortable for some reason (any reason) – then find a cure for the subject that didn’t cause the problem in the first place. That is the story of pollution, of climate change, and very likely of the end of humankind.


Or take colloidal silver, give it to the children and adults who are dying of –


But wait, we were talking about pollution. What happens with pollution while we are taking the colloidal silver, or sniffing herbal essences, or whatever we decide to do to treat our symptoms.


Of course, while we are sniffing, the pollution keeps getting worse. 15%, 25%, 40%.


What happens when 50 percent of all the people are affected? Vomitting is the least of the symptoms, but my mind gave me a picture of the social event of the year, as 50 percent of the residents of a city are upchucking in the public restrooms on a particularly bad day in August.

Wouldn’t it make better sense, rather than building bigger and better restrooms, wouldn’t it make more sense to do something about reducing the level of pollution?


Anyhow, by that time it will be very hard to pretend that they will all be OK if we give them colloidal silver, but if you want the recipe, let me know. He gave me a copy.


This is Report from the Road, a production of

Bare Bones Biology 361 – Air

I tend to sleep in the afternoon, especially if it’s hot and I’ve been working. Bitsy woke me up. Was someone here? Or was it the redbird perched in the cedar tree outside the open window? I don’t know. Sleep hard; half-deaf; Bitsy was trying to tell me something, but I don’t know. One day when that happened I didn’t wake up at all, and later found a note by the place where the door should be. I imagine Bitsy having a conversation with our visitor, but I didn’t get to.


In our safe place in the mountain canyon, it was snowing yesterday. My closest neighbor (about half a mile) phoned. She was snowed in, two inches, temperature below freezing, and called to tell me not to try the road. It’s washed out at the culvert. The sky is blue-blue; the air is clean, clear, crystal. And cold.

And here was I at the Little Thicket, in the Brazos Valley of Texas, sitting at my little table with the door open, watching the wrens flit to and fro and the Biosystem breathe.


Or try to.


It was sticky-hot the day before, and my skin said somewhere above 90 and maximally humid. Cars drove with lights on; you could see the yellow air, see into it, but not through it. Like Los Angeles used to be.


The whole Earth Biosystem is breathing, and this morning – maybe it was trying to cough out the hot, sticky Gulf air, sick air full of homo-toxins from Houston and Mexico City and the Valley of the Shadow of the Oil well that runs all the way up the left-center of Texas and the right side of NM nearly to the mountains, and from the Gulf of Mexico where the water flowing into the Gulf is so toxic that residents who can afford it buy distilled water to rinse after washing.


But the Biosystem can’t cough. So then this morning, the cool front of relatively clean air from the northwest, from the direction of our safe canyon, swept overhead, releasing the power and energy of its going as it dug under the warm air from the Gulf, pitched it up, swung it around, and pushed it back upon itself. Layers. Cool clouds rushing southeastward overhead; warm clouds higher up, rushing in the opposite direction. Everything moving, swirling, thrashing, and me out there with the new camera to my new eye, I had to regenerate my video skills, trying to catch the power, flow, excitement of the event.

Within an hour the inflow, downflow, cleansing, pushed on through and the sky is blue for a brief time. But tomorrow or the next day it will turn the color of skim milk, and then dirty cream as that yellow air filters back back northward, slowly, infiltrating the houses, hovering over the open fields, flowing around the little remaining pockets of woodlands where the trees and bushes are making oxygen faster than the bad air can filter in, until we have another day of heavy smog, and then another, filling my lungs again with homo-toxins, until the earth takes anoher breath, with the next cold front, and shoves it back down south again.


With every breath in the summer the air is warmer, and pushes farther up and north, until it pushes me and Bitsy back into our traveling rig and up to our safe place in the cold, clear, clean of the canyon.


This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of


A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:


Bare Bones Biology 359 – Report from the Field

I like learning things. Always have. You learn a lot in a college towns, and there is something charming and uplifting about people of college age – setting up a table with a chalkboard and scientific diagrams that explain all about God. Or supernovas. Or poor people who live somewhere else. Or photographing themselves next to a dog who patiently perks up his tired ears for each picture while he sits in front of a loudspeaker that nearly cracked my hearing aid. While nobody notices the squirrel running to and fro in the background with mouthfuls of leaves for the nest she is building.


Across the street is the bookstore, Barnes & Noble. I like to hide in a big puffy armchair in the far back corner and watch the people, where nobody knows I’m there and I could stay all day, nobody would bother me. Or sit at the front with a computer and a cup of coffee, thinking about Book 25, watching the people go by, and occasionally being recognized and squealed at:


“L Y N N N N N!”


But today I have an appointment with the ophthalmologist, so I gathered up bags and computer and coffee and pushed out the door, to find that someone had parked so close to my pickup, on both sides, that the door would barely open.


I placed the cup of coffee on the hood of the pickup – where I could see it, not to forget and splat it on the concrete as I normally do when I put it on the roof — I opened the left side door as far as it would go without scratching the next car, about six inches, maybe six and a half, squeezed all the bags and the computer onto the floor under the dash, put my right foot on the step and grabbed the overhead handle with my right hand so I could SQUEEEEEEZE myself into a six-inch thick flexible flab, squishing backward between the door and the seat. I settled myself in the seat and moved the computer and bags onto the other seat, heaved a big sigh of accomplishment, and looked out the front window at my coffee cup on the hood of the pickup. Way out of reach.


Just at that moment, a cute young Aggie (that’s a student of A&M) march-stepped around the corner. Straight-faced, he took in the situation, and without pause he executed the solution, picked up the cup, handed it to me through the open window, said:

“Here you are ma’am,”

and marched on in to the book store.

Life in College Station is more fun.

People do nice things, as though it were perfectly normal.

People smile just because you look at them.

On the way to the ophthalmologist, I stopped at Denny’s, for lunch and to use their wifi, and the waitress asked if I do all my computer work there.


No, I said, only the emails. I do everything else at home.

“I’m writing a book.”

 “What’s it about?” And she sat down in the booth opposite me.

So I told her it’s about how systems of Life communicate among themselves. How survival depends on the systems working together, rather than competing against each other, and we have more than three systems to organize: Ourselves, our social relationships, and

“Yes,” she said: “Oops, gotta go.”

Later she came back to tell me she’d been thinking about it, and systems makes very good sense and then she told me all about her own systems. I was glad to hear systems becoming real in her life and put one of her examples in book 25.

The last chore of a busy day was the ophthalmologist. I smiled at a woman who stood at the corner where the historic Planned Parenthood building is now occupied by a “Pro-Life” organization. She wanted to explain Jesus to me, but I said we already have met and walked on past, thinking that squirrel is more likely than Jesus to be top dog at A&M in the end times if the pro-life and the pro-choice can’t figure it out — that they both want the same thing – and it would take only a little study, heads together, to get what they both want. But they are having more fun pretending to care; believing that they care about the people, and what they really care about is the game. Playing the toxic game harder and harder and harder – if we can only try hard enough we will get what we want. Sorry – maybe in the corposystem, but that’s not how Life itself actually works to keep itself going. We don’t need more of that game; what we need is Jesus’s game for real.

And so thinking, I pushed open the door to the ophthalmologist and looked over to the left where the receptionist cheerfully greeted me, and at the same time I felt something soft and squishy moving under my right hand.


I leaped away, pulled my hand back, looked the little old lady in the eye and without thinking I said:

“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were a chair!”

And went inside to get my eyes examined.


This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of, and it’s all true except that I moved some of the locations to slightly different neighborhoods.

A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:

Bare Bones Biology 356 – A Woman is Not a Family

Women’s rights, and specifically women’s suffrage is an excellent model for a number of society’s ills and it also usefully models the ignorant kind of linear thinking that causes many of those ills.

Don’t misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with being ignorant; it is the normal human condition. The word simply means uninformed. We all are ignorant of one thing or another, and it is far the best to know it, rather than to stumble around in the dark, false belief that we are well informed about important issues that we do not fully understand. And the women’s suffrage struggles of the past can make us a good example.


We were mostly taught to reason from top to bottom and from bottom to top, as though the universe were based in those hierarchies — or to reason from side to side, as though all the things and processes in our lives were parallel and comparable. Either kind of image leaves most of the rest of the universe, outside of ourselves, mentally invisible, because Life, in particular, is not that simple, and instead is a complex of evolved self-perpetuating systems, none of which are linear or strictly parallel; but more accurately all of which are nestled together within, around, between, and intimately encompassed among other evolved systems. The older metaphors more nearly parallel the systemic reality (say, more than 10,000 years ago, ref. Joseph Campbell). The Creation as Life, nurtured in a womb.)


At this time of overpopulations, extinctions and climate change, it is important that we know how things fit together naturally to enhance each other, and recognize that man-made destruction does not represent our power over nature; it represents nature’s power over us


The fact is that not women nor families, nor our human social systems are linear, not from top to bottom not from side to side. Not linear.


Earlier women’s suffrage arguments, as they relate to biological reality, can give us a good example, as reported by Prof. Pamela Radcliff, University of California at San Diego, in a series of lectures, mostly lecture number 6, that is available from The Teaching Company, entitled Interpreting the 20th Century: The struggle Over Democracy, course number 8090, in 2004.


Dr. Radcliff explains that, during the struggle over women’s suffrage early in the 20th century, one of the arguments against women as voters defined women as not individual persons, but as a component of a different entity — the family.


Well – of course women are components of the family, but so are men. And children. And dogs and cats. And sometimes goldfish. And the environment in which the whole family operates is also an integral component of the family. Woman as family or even woman as a component of family, is not meaningful in relation to decisions about who is an adult, human, participatory citizen. Women participate in all sorts of things – and so do men. Whether or not they are components of the family is not a difference between women compared with men. They both are, if they are and aren’t if they aren’t. That’s probably why it didn’t fly, because that argument doesn’t make logical biological sense.


I’m guessing the logic behind that particular argument was a false belief that biological systems are linear – that is, top-down organizations, sort of like a Russian doll, consisting of a man who directs the women who directs the children. In those days, most Western people did think that Life, and the Universe, are ordered that way. Now we know better.


A family is an evolved, complex adaptive system. Actually, so is a woman, but a woman is a different kind of evolved, complex adaptive system from a family and a similar kind of system to a man.

A woman, or a man, is a system composed of organs, tissues, cells and the environment in which all of those things can exist and with which they interact to maintain Life.


The cells, tissues, organs are things. Their behaviors maintain Life. Life is not a thing, it is a quality or characteristic that can only be maintained by the behaviors of the cells, tissues and organs within a compatible environmental system. We can refer to the cells, tissues and organs as subsystems. They are also systems; less complex systems.


Most of us already knew that people are made of cells, tissues and organs. The more difficult concept is that the whole system (the woman – or any other evolved system) is NOT ONLY the sum of all her parts. She is more than that. The whole woman-system consists of all its parts (things); plus all the functions and behaviors that the parts do as they interact with each other; plus the environment that sustains the whole woman-system; plus the emergent property that is generated by the functions of the parts as they interact with the environment.


For example, one of the parts might be a stomach. That is a thing. What it does (its behavior, or function) is to digest food. The food comes from the environment. All are connected with each other and with all the other parts of the woman-system. When all of the components of the woman-system do their jobs at the right times and places relative to the requirements of the environment, the result is LIFE. The woman remains alive. LIFE is one the emergent properties of that system. LIFE cannot exist without its interacting behaviors.


If one of the subsystems – it doesn’t matter which one, imagine the stomach again – if one stops doing its behaviors in a correlated fashion, then all the parts of the woman are still there, but the woman may no longer be alive. All the subsystems may still exist, but the emergent property is no more. The woman is dead.


So to summarize, an evolved system consists of: (1) the subunits of the system and (2) their correct behaviors, interacting with each other and (3) with the environment and (4) the emergent properties that result.


A woman is an evolved system composed of organs and tissues and cells and their behaviors in their environments. So is a man. So is a child.


A family is not. A family is an evolved system, sure enough, but nearly everything in our universe is an evolved system of one kind or another, and the family is a different kind. It is not an organism. It is a social system and its subsystems are not organs; they are people. People who do behaviors together (and in their environment) that result in the emergent social system known as the family.


A family is a higher-level system that is maintained by the behaviors and functions of the organisms of which it is composed, interacting with their environment. Its subsystems are men, women, children and other. Higher level means more complex. More complicated, because it is composed of people-systems in addition to their organs, tissues and cells.


We do not need to know these facts in order to understand how evolved systems maintain our lives, but if we consider these differently ordered relationships – different from what we were taught — as we contemplate the inconceivable complexity of the millions of systems of which we are a part, the knowledge gives us a more accurate image of the reality of how the Life of Earth manages to stay alive. This can be useful if we want to stay alive in joy and compassion.


Life is not a Russian doll in which one entity dominates another entity that dominates or nurtures another entity. Life is not basically a competition, nor is it “survival of the fittest” as that meme is usually interpreted.


The whole of Life nurtures the whole of Life. If not, it gets excluded from Life.


A family is not a Russian Doll with a man nurturing a woman who is nurturing the children. A family is not even a man plus a woman plus the children. A family is a whole separate higher-level system, and unique, each family a little different from every other family, but the whole of one family (any and every family) is generated by the physiological and behavioral interactions among ALL its subsystems (that is the people and other organisms who make up the family) and the environment in which it is able to survive.


If one of the subsystems — that is, one of the people or the environment — any one of them — stops doing its behaviors in a correlated fashion, then all the subsystems may still be there, but the emergent nature of a well-integrated family is no longer viable. The family “dies.”


Joseph Campbell elegantly described the family as a separate, emergent entity that is more than the sum of its parts. He commented that when one member of a family makes sacrifices on behalf of the family unit, she is not sacrificing to another individual, but “to the family” itself, as a separate and more complex emergent entity. (Campbell & Moyers, Power of Myth, DVD).

This is how evolved complex-adaptive systems stay “alive,” including human social or professional systems. The system is more than the sum of its parts, and it has emergent properties with which it interacts with all the other systems around it, so that entire the community of systems is benefited. Evolution is the fundamentally cooperative Law of Systems.

A woman is an individual organism, one component of a family. The other components are often a man and one or more children and the environment in which they are able to exist together.


The woman is not the family. The man is not the family. The dog is not the family. The children are not the family. The family itself is an emergent property that arises out of the relationships AMONG those three (more or less) entities and their environment. If these relationships are more collaborative than not, the emergent result will be more productive and pleasant. Or not.


If the relationships arise out of the flawed, linear “world view” that man dominates woman, who is the family, then half of adult humankind doesn’t get to vote, and the result is conflict and suffering at the individual level and at the family level and also at the level of the entire society, assuming it is a society (environment) that is based on voting.


A woman is not a family; it is an organism defined by the code in its DNA.

A family is not a woman, but a social system that is defined usually by local custom or law and by the interactions among its members.


A brain is not a cell (even though it is made of cells);

A cell is not a brain (because one cell by itself cannot do what brains do).


A corporation is a human social system that is defined by, and evolved around its corporate charter and composed of people and their existing environment.

A person is not a corporation, is not defined by any kind of human charter, but by its own DNA, and is not composed of organisms, but rather of organs.


A corporation is not a person, by any valid definition.

A person is not a corporation.


A cell is not a tissue, and a tissue is not a cell.

A person is not a cell, not even a zygote, which is a single cell.

A cell is not a person.


All the systems of Life are made of subsystems, from the whole living Biosystem to the smallest cell. And no complete system or subsystem operates in linear fashion.


Linear logic, therefore, vertical or horizontal, cannot arrive at logically consistent conclusions about how life functions at any level. Linear logic can (and has) given us bits and pieces, but that is the best it can do, and if we want to survive in this world we must pay attention to the other half of ourselves (the environment that we are destroying) and to our subsystems, because they are as much a part of our own selves as is our emergent Life.


This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of


A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:


© 2017, M. Lynn Lamoreux, PhD, Photos by Lynn



References Cited:


Prof. Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers, Power of Myth, PBS, DVD.


Prof. Pamela Radcliff, University of California at San Diego, in a series of lectures, mostly lecture number 6, that is available from The Teaching Company, entitled Interpreting the 20th Century: The struggle Over Democracy, course number 8090.



Bare Bones Biology 354 – Diary Edition


Bitsy and I have nearly moved to New Mexico, with an equal split remaining in Texas, so last Saturday we celebrated our arrival and our leaving (next week) by photographing the local balloon festival, and it celebrated by landing in our back yard. What fun! I will post some of the pictures on the blog.


We have been nearly moved for about three years, but we now have almost all of our self-defining stuff, all in the same location. Only today, the email sent an invitation to buy an upgrade of a computer program and my brain went click/click – and remembered where the original boxes are now stored, that were in the studio when someone else was living there and got moved to the smaller of the two storage lockers and are now nearby, so we could check the parameters be fore deciding how to respond to the ad. It turns out the old paint program we had was for the Amiga computer that is now up for sale as a precious and irreplaceable antique. The raw beginnings of a new sense of control over my life.



We celebrate because, after a couple of decades of not actually having a home to live in –well, we had a home, but other people were living in it, and we were living in other places, for work mostly, and because our home was making us sick from
fracking, so whad to stay away, we became so scattered over the face of the globe that we could not FIND anything.



Of course, computers never were important, except in the last 20 years or so, and that’s when I wasn’t there, at the studio — and the internet is a very fragile system; your personal records are not safe on a computer – and of course they keep disappearing from where you put them, which hard copies never do; the only problem with hard copies is that you must remember where you put them — and the computers and the internet and the corporations and the storage media and the lodgings and friends and storage lockers all keep changing. At higher and higher speeds.


Now we have one place for all the stuff, and have been able to sort through enough to know more or less who and where we are. Though we liked ourselves much better in Japan, and wanted to stay there, or Bali, or France, or Texas, or England, or any of those other places. But we yearned the most to stay in Japan, and cried when we had to leave, and only came back to organize all that stuff for which we were responsible, I mean some of it was living stuff, like an entire irreplaceable mouse colony.

And then, just when we were about to start looking for a way to go back, Bush and bin Laden demonstrated their partnership in world crime and I decided to stay home to defend our democracy from itself, bin Laden was never a threat to the United States of America, for all the good that did anyone.

My weapon, for both defense and attack? One vote that counted approximately as zero, because I was voting in Texas. And now we are here. We had a fine communal celebration last Saturday around the coming and going and being who we are. Having fun.


While it lasts.


This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of


A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:

Lynn Lamoreux PhD
© 2017, Photos by Lynn








Bare Bones Biology 355 – Conversation

A pair of crows swoop low over the frost-dimpled sparkle of old snow in our front yard, looking for a handout, maybe, or just doing their sentry duty; watching Bitsy, in her blaze-orange vest, sniffing out the trail where our flock of wild turkeys stilt-walked single-file, at sunrise, across the strip of bare dirt, on the hill below our neighbors’ houses, where the snow has melted since we left yesterday.


Yesterday, Bitsy and I loaded into Old Silver, slid out the driveway in four-wheel drive to follow a snow plow to the main road, and drove South, watching the sky-glow come to life behind the lower layer of snow-clouds and the climate gradually change from winter into almost spring at the lower altitudes.


Santa Fe was warm and friendly, as it usually is. Bitsy waited in the car, while Deborah and I had a long, slow, organic lunch at (la? el? maybe le? or the?) Vinaigrette, and a good conversation in the cozy privacy of too much noisy talk around us. Everyone being nice to everyone else. A warm treat in a cold world, and some serious conversation about the difference between an individual person (or crow, or turkey, or pet dog) as a unique system/organism; and a human social system consisting of many humans; and the whole of Earth, animal, vegetable and mineral, organized to make an incredibly complex, whole system of Life. Because those relationships are so beautiful that they tug at our heartstrings, if we ever stop to think about them, and so important to our survival that we are responsible to ourselves for their welfare. Good conversation.


Good conversation is not about what hurts and who did what to whom, though that kind of chit-chat can be important; and it’s not about who is bigger or more powerful than whom, because that is always a waste of time, especially in a time of world crisis. Good conversation is about how things function and how to fulfill our individual responsibilities to the welfare of the whole. Ourselves, our whole families, our social organizations, and the Biosystem that sustains the life of all of Earth.


At one point Deborah said that she felt these things strongly, but she had no the words to say what she felt, and I remembered Shodo, who can share emotionally — wordlessly — or mostly wordlessly; she has words for some of it. I did have words – I do have words – I thought I had the words, but eventually I figured out that “they” (I meant people of the corposystem ethic) “they” can’t hear my words because, as I said to Deborah: “They have stolen my words. When I say something to them, they do not hear what I said, but rather something different that comes from their own world views. What I say means something different to them then what I meant, using the same word.”


Evolution for example, no longer means to “them” what it really does mean, and that is mostly what I talk about. They hear something that is not the reality we must discuss if we want to survive as a human system within the Biosystem. “They” hear something about domination and human power; but that is not how naturally evolved systems primarily operate; not by domination and power, but by cooperative interactions, and therefore, in our efforts to save ourselves from climate change and other natural crises, we must talk together about cooperative interactions among the systems – and the different needs of the different systems – different from our needs as individual human organisms.


We must learn to “talk to the trees and listen to the answers,” both at the level of scientific fact, which is cold and inexorable and absolutely necessary, and at the level of warm human compassion, that is our choice, among ourselves.


So finally I understood that, whenever I am thinking about saving our species from extinction, and I use the word evolution, “they” are “hearing” domination, technological domination of the processes of nature, which is the opposite of what I am saying. I am saying that the domination ethic, applied to our relationship with the Biosystem, is what caused our current emergency in the first place.



What to do?


Well, of course “they” say they know better than I do, and then of course “they” want to argue, and the next thing they are in a red-faced purple rage if they cannot win the argument that has turned into a competitive debate. And then someone wins and they think they have won something worthwhile, but on the contrary they have lost the game by winning the debate, because human arguments cannot change the laws of nature – gravity, thermodynamics, nor the Laws of Life such as evolution and the ways that naturally evolved systems maintain themselves – that is, stay alive. They stay alive by cooperating with the systems around them – especially the systems that are more powerful than they are, and arguing over that point won’t resolve the problem.


Human dominance relationships cannot change the biological facts of Life. Arguing just uses up a good person’s energy in raging over things that cannot be changed, when he could be using his energy to make positive change toward human survival in reasonable comfort within our families, our social systems, and most importantly the Biosystem. Children of abuse and crisis should know this, having lived it; but they never seem to. Rather, they more often choose some form of abuse as their own weapon of choice. I suppose this is because it works for some people, within the human social systems, but it cannot work in a confrontation with Mother Nature, for many reasons that I have discussed in other podcasts and blogs.
The important point here is that good discussion could change that kind of toxic relationship. Good discussion among ourselves (humans) and between ourselves and our environmental systems, especially the corposystem and the Biosystem; but good discussion requires good listening, not arguing.



Good discussion requires good questions; making sure we are all using the same words to mean the same things; understanding what is a fact and so we cannot change it, and what can be changed and what is likely to happen if we do change it; understanding the down side as well as the up side of whatever we want to do, how the systems function to maintain themselves, and how the different levels, the different systems that we live among, how the different systems have different requirements for their welfare; and then listening each to the needs of the other and talking about how we can arrive at win-win-win solutions to our problems, rather than beat each other over the head to see who can beat the hardest. Cave-man style head-bashing, (according to the comics, I’m not sure that was actually true). Simple head-bashing can only work in win/lose situations. We require win/win/win solutions to our root problem, and that cannot be accomplished with simple head-bashing, or with simple knee-jerk compassion. It could be accomplished with wise conversation. Wise compassion.


In fact, in our corposystem world, most people have been highly trained in the many ways of winning, but are not taught problem solving skills other than the modern style of the win/lose “cave-man.” Most of us are so well imprinted with the idea that winners are the good guys that we can’t feel good about ourselves unless we can prove to ourselves that we are better than someone else; preferably everyone else. This is impossible, because we aren’t, and so we mostly only fool ourselves, because our “winner” skills are mostly just excuses (and techniques) that we use to avoid listening to anyone outside our own world view. Interrupting, yelling, lying, changing the subject, and other defensive behaviors – are loser skills. You hear them in systems that are falling apart – becoming losers.


Instead of asking to hear more about opinions we don’t understand, we “hear” them as attacks. We “hear” questions as contradictions or debate or arguments, and sometimes, we even “hear” praise as condemnation. It’s true; sometimes if you agree with them, some people will imagine you are putting them down. And sometimes they will do anything, for fear of losing, to avoid good conversation. But good conversation is not about winners and losers; it is about partnership behaviors.


We waste our words, our communication – that most precious of human inborn gifts — crying about things we can’t change, without actually trying to find various other ways to deal with the problem as it is. Or more simply, we talk in circles instead of using our time to understand the facts as they are, and the true cause of our problem, so that we can behave in ways that have a chance of fixing the problem. As a result, we keep on doing the things that created the problem in the first place and it just gets worse and worse, and we try harder, and it gets worse, unto the end.


Usually the first reason that the problem is getting worse is because we waste our powerful gift of conversation rewinding our excuses to not talk about the cause of the problem.


Or we don’t have the words. Most of us humans truly cannot see or hear things or ideas that we cannot say. I don’t know why this is, but it’s like that “lightbulb” experience when we suddenly recognize something that seems obvious once we see it. It had been there all along; we just didn’t have the words to see it with. Maybe our neurons connect around our words, I don’t know, but good conversation really does help clarify realities, by giving us the words to say them. That’s why modern propaganda tries so hard to change the meanings of our words.   And in addition, of course our minds are full of ideas about things that are not real, are not true, and never were.


If we think or act as though reality is not true, or behave as though fantasy is true, then bad things happen.



Good conversation can sort out the realities from the fantasies — in our families; in our communities; and good conversation, rather than war — with the crows in the front yard, the turkeys prancing through the snow, the neighbors, the social system,    and the whole system of Life – good win-win-win conversation is our obligation to the welfare of Life itself, and ourselves within Life.


This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of


A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:




This blog was made possible by a good conversation with Deborah, who gave me some of the words.