Bare Bones Biology 094 – Climate Change III

Oh, and yes, all these physicists who believe that they understand life because they have some convenient information about the basic laws of the universe. As far as anyone knows, life is not the center of the universe, and while life does operate according to the laws of physics, it is not studied by the science of physics. As far as anyone knows, life is the whole of the reacting, breathing, interacting earth, and physics says nothing about the higher Levels of Organization (and) beyond the properties of energy and matter. Well, not nothing. Physics is very important because it informs us about fundamental natural laws like gravity and energy that everything must obey.

Life couldn’t exist if it did not obey the fundamental laws. But of course, EVERYTHING obeys the fundamental laws, or it wouldn’t be here. That’s what fundamental means. And everything is not life. The purpose of biology is to learn to understand what is the difference between life and everything else.

Everything must obey the law of thermodynamics, so biologists study that. But all the non-life also obeys the laws of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics is not what makes life alive. It is necessary but not sufficient.

Biology is the study of life, and therefore biology is the study of the whole earth ecosystem and how the living earth and all its parts is different from non-life and – more importantly — how we can stay alive without causing harm to the whole earth ecosystem that gives us our lives.

The ecosystem stays alive because of interacting cycles of functions and properties, of energy and matter, because of the ability to transmit information by genetics so that the ecosystem can respond to change, and because of the ability to flow energy from the sun into plants and from plants into every other living thing. And the ecosystem also stays alive because of the ability of itself to recycle the key materials that it needs to stay alive – like carbon dioxide and oxygen and water. Carbon and oxygen and water recycle through the living earth just as they recycle through our own bodies. They are a part of life. They are the climate – the respiratory system – of the living entity we call the earth ecosystem. If they didn’t change – if the climate didn’t change – the earth would not be alive and we would not be here.

There is no debate among biologists about whether or not living things change. There would be no life if it couldn’t change in response to what is happening around and within it. That is the foundational necessity of being alive, and all illness, disease and death are the result of not being able to change in response to one’s environment. Climate change is real, the fake debate is about politics, not about life. And the function of the fake debate is to prevent we the people from figuring out what to do about it, because what we must do about it would diminish the preposterous wealth and power of the corposystem.

So what can we do to give a gift of fitness to our human future within our living earth? We have three options, at least. 1) We can do something useful to help humans — that is, to help the earth maintain a climate that is suitable for human life. That’s what most biologists prefer to spend their time thinking about. 2) We can do something that is harmful to the health of the living earth. That will cause devastation to the future of humans on this earth. Or 3) we can do nothing and let the climate rebalance itself without regard for our needs.

The trouble with doing nothing is that it will result in unimaginable suffering because of the vastly greater number of people, animals, plants and other living things that will be affected, and that’s why I prefer option number one, do something useful to help humans.

And the way to do that is to find a way to stop the growth that is causing the ecosystem to rebalance and readjust all its millions of cycles of life, in response to our waste products.

Bare Bones Biology 094 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended Readings: Bare Bones Ecology free download on my blog.

Bare Bones Biology 088 – Evolution and Creation

Until the corposystem started making up fake debates, almost everyone knew that evolution is real, whether or not they knew the word. Everyone still knows it, really, it’s common sense. I mean, we have been using the process of evolution for several hundred years to make domestic animals. What is the difference between a wolf and a pug dog? The pug dog was not created 6000 years ago, it is a product of evolution. Controlled evolution. Monsanto is actively evolving our food supplies. If evolution were not a real thing, life on earth would not keep changing.

The evolution argument is about human political power. It’s a fake debate generated by people who think that evolution is about survival of whoever has the most power. These people think survival of the fittest means working out in the gym until you can kick sand in your neighbors’ faces. Evolution is no such thing.

Ask a dinosaur.

For BBB blogs about evolution, see or listen to Bare Bones Biology 010 through 019. Also BBB 046.

So what I want to talk about today is, what is fitness really? Because what we can do to help the earth today is to give a gift of fitness to our future human generations. And nothing we do could be more important. But as long as we continue to believe that fitness is defined by some kind of competition, we will fail. Biologically, fitness is the ability to survive, as a species, not as individuals.

Fitness really is pretty much the same as sustainability. Fitness is something about how the universe evolved from whatever it was, when everything was subatomic, to what it is now, with step by step levels of increasing complexity in all its parts. Fitness is a component of the process of increasing complexity that is and was the evolution that created the levels of organization of our universe and life and our living world.

There is a wonderful book (Linked, by Baribashi) entitled Linked that describes networks in terms of mathematics. I don’t understand it mathematically, but it must be talking about evolution. The changes of evolution are the increasingly complex networks. Every “advance” in evolution involves the formation of a more complex set of interacting networks. For example, you are a network of interacting organs (kidney, heart, etc), and each organ is a network of interacting cells and the cells are each networks of interacting molecules. That IS how the universe is organized, by networks interacting with other networks, and this book talks about the mathematics of the way networks form. For example:

“Each node is different. Each has some intrinsic quality compelling it to the head of the pack . . . Each node has a different fitness . . .”

I know this insight is very important, because when he says nodes, and I say species, and Buddhists say “emptiness,” we are all talking about the networks of which all of reality is composed. And when he says “fitness” he is not talking about competition. He’s talking about competence. It’s not the same thing at all.

I believe compassion has genetic roots in people, and that it is a component of our fitness on this earth, but compassion is not enough. If we only rely on our compassion, or only our spirituality, or only our technology or our power, we will be the node that fails to survive. Because the entire gigantic ticking clock of the creation is built of networks of networks of networks (that biologists refer to as levels of organization that I have discussed many times). (for example, BBB-051, 052, 056, 057, and more recently 070.

Any newly arising network — that would be us. If it does not FIT into the systems and the processes that have been the source of our creation – it will not survive, no matter how much power and glory it believes itself to have.

Bare Bones Biology 088 – Evolution and Creation
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Bare BonesBiology 080-The Golden Rule

Last time on Bare Bones Biology, I suggested that our best contribution to the future would be to live our ideals, beginning with the Golden Rule. I’m assuming our ideals are generally similar and involve having the “good life.” Buddhists say “happiness.”

These ideas are similar, and if they parallel your goals or wishes, then all the major religions have the same basic formula for achieving them. Karen Armstrong phrases it well in the first sentence of her Charter for Compassion that was created by consortium of scholars representing all the major religions. “The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.”

So all these religions that are mostly more than 2000 years old, they all have a very similar idea of the good life. Probably you already knew that, but maybe you are wondering, what that has to do with biology?

Biology is the study of life and living things. Living things can be as small as one-celled bacteria or as enormous as the whole living ecosystem. Or they can be us, you and me. We are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, and we belong to the group called animals (biologically, animals can be defined as multicellular living things that are capable of moving around to fulfill their needs such as food, water, housing and so on). We are among the group known as social animals. All social animals have inherited characteristics that are a part of their genetically programmed nature. Most social animals are also capable of learning, and in our case we have a spectacular capacity to learn and to create and to adapt. Our learning capacity is so strong that we sometimes forget that our deepest natural needs are genetically programmed. These qualities are not learned, but we can learn how to use them well or poorly.


I believe the need to give and receive compassion is one of these inherited human qualities, that exists deep in our biological makeup and drives us instinctually, way below the level of conscious thought, whether or not we are aware of it. I don’t know of any way to test this belief scientifically, but it’s not an original idea. Excellent books have been written about compassion in social organisms, and humans are very social. We live and work together and grow and create for the common good, and because we can work together so well, we are a powerful influence on the earth. The very fact that the vast majority of successful human cultures have core beliefs that center around compassion, or caring for one another, supports the idea that this quality is inborn. And surely it must be, right? Otherwise our societies would never have held together, as they have done, in the face of all sorts of obstacles, including other inborn traits such as a tendency to be competitive. If we are to continue as a part of this living earth, we need to understand our inborn traits and learn to balance them to give us the good life we desire.

OK, that’s a thumbnail sketch of a biologist’s opinion. Now what’s that got to do with living the Golden Rule? I am saying that you and I both live in a culture of people, now a world of people, all of whom are genetically programmed in the compassion department. You can’t THINK a feeling, and compassion is a feeling, an instinct. But you can think about how act out your feelings to bring you the most benefits. Whether or not you are religious, or even if you are a scheming scoundrel, I propose that you will get along better in the world if you understand the use of practical compassion that balances the short-term benefits of today with the long-term benefits for tomorrow and considers the needs of all the three biological levels of organization, the individual, the community and the whole living earth.

Bare Bones Biology 080 – Golden Rule
Transcript of audio spot on KEOS 89.1 FM
Available here, later this week on

http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

(Recommended reading, Toward a Kinship of Faiths, by The Dalai Lama, WWW.dalailama.com).

Bare Bones Biology 070 – Levels of Organization Again

I’ve done more radio spots on levels of organization than any other one thing, because I think it’s the most important and most neglected law of nature that we know about. The concept has two halves. The first half is that the higher levels of reality are made from combinations of simpler levels.

A simple example would be a pie, that is made of whatever pies are made of. Pie is pie. One level of reality. It is not even flour plus salt plus sugar plus – whatever. It’s made from all those things, but it is a unique and different entity from any one of them or all of them added up. That’s the first half of the concept.

The second half of the concept is that different levels have different characteristics, and also different needs. A mob of people has some characteristics that are different from all of the people in the mob, all added together, or any individual. The mob may have different emotions than its members would have individually. And it may have some different needs. I remember when I stood up for however long on the student side of an Aggie football game, and I’m very certain that group had different characteristics than I as an individual had. And different requirements.

Requirements for well-being are also different, one level to another, of living things. What is healthy for a parasite might not be healthy for the host that it’s living on or in. What makes people feel good might be bad news for the environment, but then the people require the environment for their own well- being. So the bottom line is we can’t have everything we want. If we do get what we want, the results may be a disaster for someone else. This gives rise to moral dilemmas of the tragic kind. What to do when all the options cause pain for someone else – whichever level we choose has tragic consequences for some other level. Or if we decide not to choose that also has its tragic results.

Sometimes I ponder these dilemmas while driving. The other week, while I was driving home from Dallas, I heard Diane Rehm interview Eric Felten about his new book called Loyalty, the Vexing Virtue. I haven’t read the book, but the interview was excellent and spot on. Nobody used the term levels, but that’s what they were talking about, even though Diane Rehm and Eric Felten used different levels from the examples I usually use. I usually talk about the individual, the population, the corposystem and the ecosystem. They talked about, in their discussion of the book, the individual, a friendship, a marriage, a family, an employer, a community, and a country. These are levels of organization, and the same sorts of difficult interactions occur.

Some of their examples, you can be loyal to your friendship, or to your friend, or to yourself, but not always to all three. David Kozinski’s brother had to choose between reporting his brother to the police or letting him continue to terrorize the community.

There is always tension among the levels of organization of living things. Eric Felten believes this is a “tragic flaw.” I think, on the contrary, the various kinds of tension within and between the levels of biological organization help to maintain the natural balance of life. Life might not be possible without this balanced disequilibrium. Levels are an essential element of the resilience that is necessary to the survival of all living things, individually and together.

Download audio at http://www.barebonesbiology.com

Bare Bones Biology 065 – Aintitawful

Right from the beginning, my blog has been about power, particularly it is about personal power – our power to build our lives around our own positive values. Of course we can’t do anything or everything that we want to do. Other powers exist that we do not personally control. The power of communities; the power of the corposystem; and most importantly for our survival, the power of the ecosystem. We can not directly control these other things, at least we can’t control how they respond to our mutual environment, and it’s better that we don’t try.

It is better to clearly understand the powers that we are able to control, rather than to stand around comparing notes about what we can not do. Or to cry and complain because we can’t have everything we want. It’s given away, that crying time. We could have used that time to grow our own personal power. When we spend time complaining about the corposystem, whether we hate it or fear it, all that time we are complaining about the corposystem we are actually growing the power of the corposystem, and they count on that help. They nurture it. They want us to believe they can control us. But it’s only true at level three. In the important ways, they can not control us at the level of personal power. Not unless we believe in the corposystem more than we believe in ourselves.

I have spoken often about levels of organization, including levels of power. I am not the ecosystem (level four in my system of categorizing). I am not the corposystem (level three). I am not the community (level two). But I am me, level one, and my personal power is my own to claim and use for the benefit of myself or of humankind or for whatever I choose to use it. I can give it away, but nobody can take it away from me. It lives in the choices that I make right now. Every breath, every millisecond of life, contains a choice – what to do – and whether I think about it or not, whether I believe it or not, what I do with the choice of this moment, including doing nothing, is my personal power (or my weakness). If I choose to spend this moment moaning over the negative power of the corposystem, then I am growing a future, for myself and for other people, that will be one long moan.

The Peach Clubhouse exists because I could not find enough expressions of personal power in the other places where I looked for them, including some educational and progressive groups. What I found instead was a lock-step re-affirmation of the power of the corposystem to rule our lives unhampered.

That’s hogwash.

But it’s easy to understand.

Because it’s hard to see around our training.

For example, I came THIS close to making the Peach Clubhouse into a nonprofit organization, before I realized what that means. The nonprofits are the scavengers of the corposystem. They’re part of the corposystem. Like a buzzard or a maggot, they support the corposystem by cleaning up after it, cleaning up the harm that it causes. And more importantly they support the corposystem mantra. Success is growth – selling, fighting, growing.

Well, damn, selling, fighting and growing only creates more messes, and it defines the nonprofits by the same toxic charter that defines the corposystem. Were I to buy into this system, I would betray the whole purpose of the Peach Clubhouse — this emblem of my personal power — by allowing it to be swallowed up into the corposystem, defined by the greed, fear and hatred of the corposystem. As our media, and our rule of law, have been swallowed up, and even – you can believe this or not – the corposystem evidently thinks it can swallow up the ecosystem. Well that won’t happen, because none of us can live without the ecosystem. And neither will I throw the Peach Clubhouse into that black hole.

Bare Bones Biology 065 – Aintitawful
KEOS radio 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
Transcript at FactFictionFancy.wordpress.com
Audio later this week at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Bare Bones Biology 061 – Fracking II

“A lot of the issues that affect this industry, every industry is having problems, and that goes into agriculture, that goes into everything. This is not just a problem for this industry, this is every single industry. How are people in my generation who are completely apathetic and feel there is nothing we do that matters . . ?”

Yes indeed, every industry is having problems. Of course they’re having problems, because industries are not more powerful than God, and they’re not more powerful than nature. And for at least the past 200 years, they’ve been behaving as though they think they are. The question is, what do you propose to do about it?

If you want what you want, regardless of what the living earth needs, then you will make it worse. Whatever your reasons, emotions, opinions, intentions, desires, wars, tantrums, Presidents, cannot change what the earth needs to stay alive. The living earth does not operate according to whatever people want.

If you mean to force the world to operate the way you think it should, then the answer still is that you cannot. If you mean how can you have yours, regardless of who must pay the price, that behavior will end soon, because the corposystem has already destroyed a large portion of what the earth needs to provide for your needs, and your generation is about to pay the price.

If you mean you are very angry because the corposystem — your culture, in which you deeply believed – probably still believe – has been lying to you, then I don’t blame you. So am I. But being angry will not change what we have done. Neither will blaming someone nor griping nor apathy nor doing nothing. No living thing on this earth has ever had the power to get whatever it wants, over the long term, without doing what is required to get it. And that requires first knowing what you want, and second knowing what is the problem, and third knowing what is possible and what is not possible on the small surface of this tiny living planet.

I’ll take up those issues next time. This time, I’m blowing off steam.

We can not improve life on earth using the laws of physics or engineering or mechanics or technology to suck the life out of this living planet. The living planet is many levels of organization more complicated than physics or engineering or mechanics or even the new biological technologies. If we ignore the requirements of life because we think physics is more powerful or less complicated — then physics will survive because physics represents a real law of nature. But life will not survive.

Physics functions just fine on the sun and the moon and earth, but life on earth is more than the laws of physics, and it will not survive if we take away what it needs to survive, which is mostly a balance among all its parts.

In fact, life on earth is not surviving in good health, as you clearly describe when you say all the industries are failing. But I think your focus is failing. Water is not an industry; air is not an industry; soil is not an industry. These things are the products of a healthy living earth. Yes, they are failing, because the living earth is not healthy.

If you want all that living ecosystem to stop being sick and suddenly start to do what you want it to do? Ahhhhh, should we try force? A revolution? A war against the ecosystem? We’ve been doing that for the past 200 years. For 100 years at least we have very clearly understood the problem. We have known what we have to do to fix it. We don’t want to do it. So we just throw another technological tantrum and complain because it only makes the earth sicker.

I don’t blame you for being angry; I am angry too, knowing all my life how we could help this earth back toward health and watching our children throwing technological tantrums because – they want what they want – but they won’t do what it takes to get it.

Bare Bones Biology 061 – Fracking II
KEOS radio, 89.1 FM, Bryan, TX
Download at http://www.factfictionfancy.com
Later this week.

Bare Bones Biology 057-Levels and Population II

Last week I told you about my little informal research project that involved talking to protestors and supporters of our local Planned Parenthood organization. What I learned from that was that the basic goals of both groups are — both right. At levels of organization one (that’s individual people), and two (our human communities), respectively. Today I’ll talk about level four (which is the ecosystem), and level three (the corposystem).

First I will remind us that the ecosystem is a living entity of which we all are a part. We cannot survive without the ecosystem. The ecosystem provides the food energy that we eat to stay alive. There is no other source for our food.

Second, I affirm that humans need compassion for their welfare but the ecosystem does not require compassion. It requires balance. When it becomes unbalanced, the ecosystem responds by trying to reset its balance points, so the carbon cycle and the water cycle and all the cycles that make food all try to stabilize in a new balance. We are adapted to the old balance. Any new balance will end up producing less food for one reason or another; when there is not enough food there is always more violence, war and genocide, and we are also growing epidemics of new diseases that cannot be controlled by the corposystem.

The question is, then, which life is more important – my life or the life of the ecosystem? It’s time for us to begin discussing that question, because the productivity of the earth is already maxed out. So – what is stopping us from getting together and resolving this problem? Primarily the corposystem is stopping us from getting together and stopping the growth, because the corposystem – to continue without changing itself – requires growth. The corposystem (in a “free” country) controls our thinking and our behaviors mostly in two ways. First is by taking control of the media and our school systems – dumbing down the people so they don’t have the knowledge to recognize the lies. Second, it spreads the lies and uses them to organize groups of us to fight with each other over relatively unimportant problems that the corposystem doesn’t care about. (That’s the old divide and conquer, we’ve all heard about that – here’s the modern version.)

This example first came to my attention when one of the protestors in my study referred me to a movie about population growth. The movie was pretty disgusting, with lies and false hate talk and fake statistics. It was made for conservatives and tried to convince us that dreadful things will happen if we don’t grow more. Actually, dreadful things are already happening that are CAUSED BY growth over the past couple hundred years. The movie claims these are caused by lack of growth. Now we can not change what happened before, and the you-know-what is hitting the fan. So it is all the more critical that we have good information. So I turned to another movie which was made for PBS and presumably for political progressives, and that’s when the light dawned. The only difference between the movie made for conservatives, and the movie made for progressives, is the style of presentation. Conservatives got a movie based in hate and fear; and progressives got a movie designed to appeal to those who believe technology will save us. As an aside, technology could help to save us if we were to use it to reduce growth, but of course that was not the message, and also that’s not what we’re doing.

So if you look at both movies, one right after the other, you end up pretty discouraged. The PRIMARY goal of both these movies is to get their respective audiences to continue fighting with each other so that nobody is talking or doing anything about the overwhelming need to stop both population growth and economic growth within this living earth ecosystem.

Folks, we humans all want and need the same basic things. We need food energy to stay alive and we need the compassion of supportive communities. We won’t get these things unless we are willing to define them as our goals and work together to get them. Instead of fighting with each other over something else. And the later we get started the worse it will be for everyone.

Bare Bones Biology 057 – Levels and Population II
KEOS Radio 89.1, Bryan TX
Audio available at http://www.barebonesbiology.com