Bare Bones Biology 293 – Reinventing the Wheel

I am not a physicist. Far from it. I had to take calculus in order to be a good biologist, and I never did understand it until I was able to intuitively grasp what they were talking about, and even then I couldn’t actually DO it without going back to the book every time for the various mathematical expressions that I needed. Nevertheless, I got it mostly right, because, as Neil deGrasse Tyson is supposed to have said: The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” And I know his mentor, Carl Sagan, said something similar. And it is true, by definition.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Facts are facts.

Of course.

That is why many of us lean toward science. Well understood facts are completely reliable, and we can’t say that for many other things on this earth – even some of us choose “science” as our God.

That is a big mistake. First, most people do not understand that technology is NOT basic science. Technology is very powerful, but it is merely a manifestation of man the toolmaker, not man the omniscient god. Humans are not God, and if you want evidence of that, just go for a walk in any city. If you want power, technology is a lot of fun. If you want a future, then it is better to take a path that leads toward fact-based wisdom that combines the benefits of good basic science with the learned experience of human mistakes.

To be a physicist, you need calculus, but you only need to be about 25 years old or so to begin; for wisdom, you need experience, your own and as many generations as possible behind you, on top of your knowledge of the facts of history and of basic science, and that of course is why powermongers, first most quietly and now most forcefully, are overwhelming our sources of information with fake facts. Well, actually, it’s not possible to fake a fact unless the listener is not paying attention, but we seem to have a great lot of people listening to the media with their emotions rather than with their minds, and so the powermongers are succeeding elegantly in this country. They don’t even have to work very hard to pull the wool over our eyes. It’s what we want, so we the people are doing it for them, but that is another story.

This story is about humans choosing between wisdom and power. We have chosen power, I think largely based on a false meme: “Survival of the Fittest” is NOT how Life functions to stay alive, and it would take a little effort – not much, but beginning with a questing mind – to understand how evolution really does work to generate and maintain living systems. I’m not talking about technological systems that powermongers use to elevate themselves. I’m talking about real, sustainable systems that maintain themselves and us by balancing the interacting systems of which they are composed

How, then, do humans find wisdom – the elusive antidote to power? First we acknowledge the real facts and discuss their implications for the entire Biosystem, ourselves included — the root, rock-bottom facts that generated Life on Earth, that guide how naturally evolved systems interact with each other to grow better systems. Those processes do not change. The systems change, of course, but not the processes.

151224-XMasEve-ASC_0886RSsOnce we have the knowledge, then our wisdom challenge is more complex. We must of course acknowledge our human instincts and emotions, but we must go beyond that level of understanding to figure out how to navigate our path among the facts of today and into a sustainable future. We are not ants, that make their decisions instinctually, based on response to chemicals in their environments (or if we are, it isn’t working well). The gift of wisdom, when we accept it, is our ability to factor the facts into a wisdom tradition that suits the environments.

The facts give us power to make war over whatever we choose, but wisdom gives us the power to use the facts to make a future for ourselves within Life on earth. We probably can’t do both as our resources dwindle; it’s too bad we have chosen war over sustainability.

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


Bare Bones Biology 244 – Reality

“When no one listens, no one tells, and when no one tells, no one learns.”
Tibetan Proverb


Way late! Sorry to be so late this week, but we just drove from about 100 feet to 8000 feet (this requires some effort and some altitude headaches), stayed three nights in chemically contaminated motels (this requires nausea) and worked hard for 4 days.

Weather was very helpful, but upon arrival, I was not surprised to get stuck in the snowy driveway. In fact I was planning on it, ready to shovel out the deposits left at the entrance by snowplow and pull off the road. I was surprised not to find the recording equipment in the truck, and spent most of the day, between naps, rounding up a backup recording device, and practicing making th’s and s’s without my biggest front tooth — only to find no little recorder batteries, and the truck stuck in the driveway so I can’t go get some. Finally used the built-in equipment on the computer. All this I do for you.

Last week I re-posted one of my blogs on the subject of limiting factors, with the statement that we must organize our opinions around the unchangeable facts of Life if we want to save our Biosystem for future generations. Of course, that IF leaves out quite a few people. Some people do not believe the Biosystem is changing. Some don’t care much about future generations and are very happy right now, thank you. And some are just overwhelmed by the task. For the rest of us, I think we are now getting down to a place where we can discuss real issues. It doesn’t take everyone to make useful change, but, we can’t solve problems if we don’t know what they are.

My pet peeve is well meaning but wrong interpretations of the Facts of Life. And I have to hold my tongue, because people who are working inside the corposystem don’t like to discuss the downsides of anything.  Now, I believe most people have begun to realize that this is not a game we are playing with the Biosystem, it is Life itself, and so now, I think, is the time to start fine-tuning our understanding of the Law of Life. Because, how can you solve a problem that you can’t see?

(I use a capital L when speaking of Life itself. For individual lives I do not capitalize the initial letter.) The most important fact of Life is, of course, that Life does change and respond to change.  Life is able to interact with its environment in order to change in a way that will permit it to stay alive. It is the miracle of the system of Life that it can and it does change by interacting with its environment

You only need look at your own life to know that life changes. For example, wounds heal. But many of us might not realize that the ability to respond to some (but not all) changes in the environment is at the root of the Law of Life.

I define the “Law of Life” as the interacting functions of those processes and capacities that are intrinsic to Life and give Life and living things the ability to change in response to internal and environmental change.

Nonliving things do not have these capacities. The capacities include: genetics, evolution, death, levels of organization, and all those together interacting with the environment. Environment is more than, but includes, other living things and the nonliving components of Life such as water, oxygen, climate, weather, temperature and all the limiting factors that we discussed in Bare Bones Biology 243, last week
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I posted a description of the Law of Life in Bare Bones Biology 197 (
bare-bones-bio…-and-evolution/) and several following blogs, in answer to Gary’s question. Gary’s question was a very good one, but was founded on a misinterpretation based based on one little bit of the Law of Life.

If we want to save ourselves, we must learn to listen to the facts and their implications about how Life responds to changing circumstances, and how changing circumstances affect Life.

My problem, during all these 244 weeks of blogging, has been that people would much rather hear what the corposystem has to say about Life than to share information about the factual truth.

The corposystem has told me many times that I must “tailor my message to the audience” –– and at the same time, the corposystem has trained the audience –just like training a dog, using reward and punishment — to not HEAR the critically important information about how the Biosystem functions, but instead to believe in the rote and ritual generated by the corposystem itself. No surprise, it is not possible to explain and discuss these Life and Death issues while at the same time writing in the ways the corposystem wants us to write.

Indeed, the function of the corposystem is not, as you have been taught to believe, to protect us. The function of the corposystem is to protect itself, and it will proclaim whatever it wants us to believe.

It’s up to us to dig into the known facts about the Reality of Life.

So I have decided, from now on, when I find well meaning but wrong interpretations of the Facts of Life, I will speak up.

I’m starting a new series today. It will be interrupted often, by the Healhy Living series and also by the Life is Beautiful series, but when I finish the How Does it REALLY Work series I will have a book that answers the REAL questions rather than the corposystem’s delusion games.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio 89.1 in Bryan, Texas. A copy of this podcast may be downloaded at:
bare-bones-bio…-no-more-games/ ‎

Bare Bones Biology 212 – Thinking From Both Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a half empty opinion:

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

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

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

A copy of this podcast can be downloaded at:

Bare Bones Biology 206 – How to LEARN What to Do

The scientist studies and studies to learn more and more about less and less until she knows everything about nothing. There is a core of important truth in that old joke.

Science began as the study of the facts of Life that we cannot change – how the whole system of Life functions to stay alive. Now the corposystem has converted – perverted the scientific method to the study of reductionist technologies in an effort to dominate and change the Laws of Nature. It won’t work. Science is the study of the facts of Life that we cannot change. Science is not the process of creating gadgets for the purpose of making power and money. That is technology.

I was a reluctant participant in the conversion of science into technology, as the corposystem sought to grow bigger and better weapons in its efforts to dominate the Biosystem. And now the corposystem is funding studies in the humanities in hopes of generating technologies to control we-the-people

140522-rainymorning-ASC_9164ELSss copyI also watched the rise of the “nonprofits,” and their incorporation into the corposystem, which is another long story, but briefly the general function of the nonprofits now is to wipe the behind of the corposystem. To clean up the messes that it makes, and in this way most of the nonprofits enable the abusive behaviors of the corposystem. Think about it. There isn’t time here to give examples, but almost every overworked, charismatic, nonprofit drama queen, along with her followers, is in the long term supporting the crimes against humanity that are being committed by the corposystem, because the nonprofits now are an integral part of the corposystem and are taking our money to accomplish chores that are the proper function of a government, while our tax dollars are largely used to make war.

Body and Mind. Biology and Humanity, Science and Religion. The corposystem seeks to control them all, and now the corposystem is poised to take final control over our last source of good information, the internet. These, my friends, are examples of ways that a system functions to maintain itself. In this case a social system.

So why not just let the corposystem take charge? Why do we need good information about how things work, when the solution to the evils of the corposystem is to simply stop doing the wrong thing and begin to do the right thing? Stop pollution; stop war; learn how to live a nonviolent life style; recycle; become better producers; stop over-consumption.

140526-SimpleLife-ASC_9202RLSss copyGood question. Good idea. I’m for it. But it won’t work. It’s not enough, because humans are not the center of the universe. We live in and on the Biosystem, and we must also serve the needs of the Biosystem or we cannot survive within the Biosystem. That is one of the bits of information that we need to internalize if we want to give forward to the future generations of humans, and it is one of the bits of information the corposystem is suppressing in its efforts to make us “happy” so we will not try to genuinely understand the real world outside the corposystem and will simply let the corposystem decide what is right and what is wrong (please read or reread the classic novel “1984” by George Orwell).

We need good information about how the Biosystem functions, in order to avoid being removed from the Biosystem by the natural results of our own behaviors. Even good behaviors can and do cause long-term harm.

We already know these things. They are in the sciences and the humanities. We know what is the “right thing,” the necessary thing to do for human survival, and that is to conform ourselves to the laws of nature, rather than continuing the effort to conform nature to our preferences. We have no choice in any case. The corposystem cannot dominate the power of the whole system of Life on Earth and neither can our preferences. The result of the effort will be a dreadful blowback upon our children and grandchildren. We know this. It has already begun.

And so why don’t we all get together and do something to prevent the blowback? We easily could, and that is why we need good information. As long as we the people don’t understand how the Biosystem functions. Or if we believe what the corposystem has taught us to believe, rather than making the effort to study and internalize the factual truths about the system of Life. As long as we don’t know how these things function, we cannot stop the dysunction.

No human can understand all the reductionist details about how Life functions, but anyone can understand the basic principles — and then expand that knowledge to apply to individual practical situations. It’s quite simple. Life is about balance among all the parts of the Biosystem. From the perspective of the Law of Life, we humans are only one of the parts, and we are not the part that creates fire, food, air, water, and the good earth.

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Bare Bones Biology 185 – Fiction

Every human person arrives with an inborn mental capacity and a phenomenal ability to integrate experience into a logical world view ( Personally, my brain seems to prefer pictures and holistic patterns rather than the details of fact or fancy. Supposedly, my kind of brain belongs in an artist, or a story-teller, rather than a scientist. And it’s true, my colleagues seem to be much more devoted to details than I. So it’s difficult to understand why I chose to become a biologist.

Maybe it’s because I also know, I feel like I have always known, that it’s better to start with real facts on the long journey of life, and use those facts to integrate one’s self into the patterns and pictures of the whole living earth. Facts are universal. Therefore, it’s safer to build one’s life around facts than around individual opinions – but only if the facts are integrated into the patterns and visions of the reality of the whole living earth. Individual facts — out of context – no. They box up our brains into one or other category with no escape – no way to join the flow of Life — as in reality it consists of the emergent confluence of billions of factoids.

Historically, story-telling has transmitted the factual wisdom of the generations – teaching behaviors that empower the communal welfare within the superior powers of the environment. On the contrary, for the most part, the stories that are raising up our children today teach behaviors that are destructive to community, and assume powers that humans do not have. Listen to Carl Sagan, an author/scientist.

“We live in an age based on science and technology with formidable powers, and if we don’t understand it, by we I mean the general public, then who is making all the decisions about science and technology that will determine what kind of future our children will be living in? Just some members of congress? There’s no more than a handful of members of congress that have any knowledge of science at all. . . This combustible combination of ignorance and power, sooner or later will blow up in our faces. Who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it. And the second reason I’m worried about this is that science is more than a body of knowledge. It’s a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallability. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions — to interrogate those who tell us that something is true – to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan political or religious supremacist that comes along. It’s a thing that Jefferson laid great stress on. It’s not enough, he said, to enshrine some rights in the constitution. The people have to be educated, and they have to practice their skepticism and their education. Otherwise, we don’t run the government. The Government runs us.”

That is why I stated, when I began this series, that I would not deal in metaphor, but in measurable facts. We surviving humans need to face the facts of life so that there may be a human future. Instead, we are hiding our heads in fictions that are not viable. Our youth have ended up believing that the facts are metaphors and the metaphors are factual.

normal_ian-symbol-danaus-plexippus copy

But today, for the first time, I am praising a work of fiction. Barbara Kingsolver, another scientist/writer with perhaps what we would traditionally consider a more feminine perspective, has written a lovely piece of fiction entitled Flight Behavior. Flight Behavior is a holistically beautiful book that is built upon biological facts and human truths that invite us to deal with life and death realities. And with skepticism and education.

And it’s a good read.

This is Bear Bones Biology, a production of and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM, in Bryan, Texas. For a podcast of this week’s program go to or click on the link below.

Prof. Sagan quote is an excerpt from the Charlie Rose Show. I recommend you listen to the full version of the interview:

Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver, was published by Harper and is also available as an unabridged audio book published by Harper Audio.

The Real Answer

In this day and age, the corposystem has taken control over the education system and is teaching us basically the reverse of what I said yesterday (Bare Bones Biology 174).  It is teaching us that happiness is the goal of human life – rather than the contentment of a job well done – and it is teaching us that we humans can control the Laws of Nature (therefore there is no point to studying the needs of any other part of the Life system.)  It is teaching us that we do not need to know the basic laws of Life on Earth; that all we humans need is humanism.

If that were the case, then our happiness would be easy, but in fact humanism is not enough, because humanism today believes in the dominance of humankind over everything else, and that is not really true, so you begin and end with a lie that benefits the welfare only of deep pockets (the corposystem, defined below) and causes irreparable harm to the balance of Life (the Biosystem/Ecosystem defined below).

The ideals that are taught by the corposystem are a lie, and we can’t align ourselves with a lie because the reality is that we simply don’t fit in, and we always know that we do not fit.  Knowing that we do not fit is not happiness and provides us no way to do a job well done.

131022-Chama-ASC_6784RLS2Thus humans generally don’t have the information they need to align themselves with factual reality, and therefore human-kind is always looking to buy something to make us happy.  Or, if one aspires to the upper classes, finding something to sell.  The current generation seems very hung up on trying to prove they each are better than the other – another impossible goal – or yet more incredibly trying to prove that we know more about what the Biosystem needs than even the Biosystem “knows.”

And so the Corposystem is in a constant impossible war for dominance against the Biosystem, and humans are constantly engaged in impossible wars for dominance over each other.  Confusion creates war creates money, and the function of the corposystem is to make always more money, without regard to the welfare of the people, or rather using the fake image of welfare to activate and reactivate that imitation welfare-money-imitation welfare-money cycle.

Entirely to the contrary, the function of the Biosystem is to maintain Life.  And that is what my blog is all about.

If you followed Bare Bones Biology from the beginning, I have progressed over the 3+ years, beginning more or less with facts about the whole of the Biosystem, and then working more toward study of facts, realities and truths at the level of biological and social communities, and lately I’ve been talking more about individual human realities.

During that period of time, the corposystem has co-opted some words that I need and changed their meanings to support the corposystem modus operandi – which is to generate confusion.  Also I have received more inquiries about the definition of corposystem.  Therefore, over the next three or four blogs I plan to define the terms I use, and then proceed again to answer the question “what can we do?” but the short answer is that we will never understand what/why we need to do until we as individuals learn how to align our own opinions with the Facts of Life, and then use that knowledge to the benefit of the 7th generation to com.


I provide these definitions, not to start another corposystem war over whose definition is better (who cares, we need words to talk with and we need to talk if we are to avoid more wars).  My hope is, if you will understand my definitions (or yours) then we can both talk about the same things – worthwhile things — and not just argue over unimportant things while the balance of Life around is us is being destroyed by us.

Biology.  The study of Life (all of Life, and the laws of nature that make Life possible on earth) using the scientific method.  The scientific method requires study of measurable facts.  If you aren’t using the scientific method to study measurable facts, then you technically are not a biologist, even if you know more about something than someone else who is defined as a biologist.

Scientific Method.
  The scientific method is the study of measurable facts followed by a formal review system that makes sure the discovered knowledge is available for discussion by the human community.  Contrary to common usage, the study of Life without using the scientific method is not science.  By definition, science and scientists use the scientific method to study measurable facts.  It is entirely possible to study reality without using the scientific method, but then your results may or may not be measurable facts.  There is nothing wrong with things that are not measurable facts.  They aren’t science, but some of them are a lot nicer than science.  The reason to keep these defined categories is the same as the reason for definitions.  They are a great help to us in our efforts to align ourselves with realities of life, and so grow a satisfying world view, as discussed in Bare Bones Biology 175.

Basic Biology.
  This definition is the same as the above, but specifically refers to the learning to understand the natural laws that make Life possible, not to how we use these laws after we understand them.

Applied Biology. is the same as biological technology.  The technological use of our scientifric (biological) understandings to make or do something that we want to make or do.  Usually, in the modern corposystem, to make money.  This includes technologists such as physicians, wildlife management professionals, etc.  Any technological application of biology is applied biology.  Most biologists in today’s world do not realize that applied biology is not basic biology.  Applied biology can cause great harm to the Biosystem if its basic applications are not fully considered.  Overpopulation is a perfect example of this fact of Life.  Too many of one life form can unbalance the Biosystem in which it lives — so that species eats up all of its food and crashes that system.  This is natural, but if we don’t want to crash our own system we should be considering the relationship between “saving lives” and the future welfare of the system of which we are a part.

we cannot make conclusions about “good” and “bad” behaviors without considering the long-term expected results of these behaviors or we are likely to accidentally cause great harm.  Applied sciences that do not consider the basic science usually make this kind of mistake.  For this reason, technology is very dangerous without consideration of basic biology, and debates over what is right and what is wrong do not solve problems that are caused by ignoring the basic facts of Life.

Earth Systems Final2 copy 2Facts.  Facts are things that we cannot change.  There are at least two kinds of facts.  First are historical facts; things like your date of birth; we can lie about them but we cannot change the reality, and anyhow, I’m not talking about history; I am talking about the laws of nature. The Laws of Nature are facts like gravity, weight, thermodynamics, measurable energy, evolution and death. The whole of human history and human power have grown in the human mind that wanted to understand the facts of Life IN ORDER TO SURVIVE into a comfortable future. That is, until the last few generations. Now, it seems, we no longer believe that our survival depends upon the facts of Life. Instead, we have come to believe that we can change the facts to suit ourselves. We even write books about it that I will not reference, but we actually believe them.

For these authors, the unfortunate thing about facts is that it doesn’t matter what we believe, the facts keep on going just the way they always have done, because a fact is not something humans decided to believe in. A fact is something that would be here even if there were no humans, and the bottom line fact is this — humans cannot survive without the living earth that gives us life – it is the forever facts that created the living earth Biosystem — and competing with that which gives us life does not make us big and wonderful and powerful; it makes us dead.

But of course we would be dead anyway, sooner or later, so the more important reason to understand the facts of Life is to avoid causing misery and suffering by fighting wars against realities that we cannot change, and to know the difference between what we humans can control and what we cannot control.

Community.  The biological definition of community is very different from the social sciences definition. Biologically, a group of any one species (such as a group of people), the biological word for that is not community – it is population.  The population of humans in College Station.  The population of goatweeds on my ranch.  The population of a certain kind of mosquito in the Brazos Valley.

The biological definition of community is: The system that is composed of all the plants and other organisms that live in the same area and interact with one another.

131020-dng-CanyonASC_6779RLSsSo biologically, a community is ALL the organisms. Because they all do interact with each other, either directly or indirectly.  All the populations in the Brazos Valley. The population of goatweeds and of mosquitoes and of humans – all those populations of organisms together form the community of the Brazos Valley, along with all the millions more populations of organisms. When I say millions, we must consider the good rich soil of the bottom-land and all the other places where there are – yes – millions of different kinds of micro-organisms contributing to Life, if we haven’t killed them off, and all the plants and all the insects, the spiders that used to live here and everything else that is alive. That is the biological definition of community.

So it seems that everyone who is using the word community is not talking about the same thing – but we all are right. Whenever everyone is right, and they are all using the same words to mean different things, that is a perfect setup for arguments. But why argue? We do want the same thing; we only need to know what it is.

I believe a human community is a group of people who interact with each other in an emotional and social system that is very much like the physical system of a biological community. The function of biological communities is to promote the welfare of Life Itself, or one could say to maintain Life in environments that change.  The biological community does this using the sustainable physical system of biological interactions.

The valid function of human communities is also to serve Life — so that Life may provide for us the earth, air, fire and water that we require to maintain our human communities.  However, in practice, human communities in our culture primarily serve their own vision of human welfare, and they do this using emotional and intellectual interactions among humans, in addition to physical interactions.   Our current culture unfortunately is not based in a sustainable system, which is why I keep on writing this blog.

Sustainable.  This is a very interesting word.  It does not mean that everything stays the same.  It can mean that the essence survives indefinitely.  The essence of Life is – Life.  Life is sustainable on earth (so far) even though individuals cannot live forever.  Well, really, BECAUSE individuals die (and for a lot of other reasons) and because life forms (species) that cause harm also become extinct, therefore Life on earth is sustainable.  To understand sustainability one must begin with the core essence of a thing.  The core essence of our culture is profit gained from growth.  That is not sustainable on earth. Human social systems have been successful so long as the earth could provide enough resources of food, air, water and soil to support the human communities, but they are not sustainable (Diamond, Collapse).  However, our economic system could be made sustainable if we were to rewrite all the corporate documents to require biological and economic sustainability as the prime directive, and enforce that directive with a sustainable rule of law.

What is a System?  According to the dictionary, a system is “a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole, in particular, a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network.”  I was once advised, by a university professor with whom I was discussing some improvement that should be made in the educational system:  “The function of an organization is to perpetuate itself.”  I have remembered this comment because I believe that it is very true – if it cannot maintain itself, it’s not a viable or sustainable system.

I believe a system perhaps originates as a singularity – a rare and fortunate coming-together of a set of processes that function well to maintain an emergent (new and useful) process that contributes positively to the whole. The creation of the corporation might be an example – or the creation of Life on earth.  The emergent function of the Biosystem is to maintain Life; the emergent function of the corposystem is to grow wealth.

In my own definition, a well-established system has at least two additional characteristics that  make it more likely than not to perpetuate itself.  The first is the ability to respond to modest changes in its environment.  Climate change is a fact-based reality — an example of the Earth Biosystem/Ecosystem responding to change in the human populations.  The second quality that systems develop to perpetuate themselves is protection from outside influences that might tend to cause disruption or require change.  An example of this sort of thing might be human belief systems that protect social systems from disruptive ideas – for example, the climate-change deniers’ belief system permits him to continue believing in his life-style without change.

So my definition of a system is a group of processes that function together as parts of a complex interconnected whole that generates a specialized useful emergent property or function and is organized to perpetuate itself by balancing processes that ensure stability with processes that ensure variability.

The unique emergent property of the Biosystem is Life.

The unique emergent property of the Corposystem is its growth-related profit mechanism.

Emergent Property.  An emergent property is a characteristic of a system that results when all the parts of the system function together, and is different from any of the parts separately.  For example, the emergent property of Life results from a particular combination of things (molecules) that are not alive.  An emergent property of water is that it is a liquid at room temperature.  Water is made of oxygen and hydrogen that are gases at room temperature.  There are many liquids, but water is a unique liquid.  So the emergent property of water is the unique and very specific characteristics of water.

The whole earth ecosystem is an evolved system that uses the energy from the sun to maintain and increase complexity of life in a universe that is flowing toward entropy in accordance with what humans refer to as the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.  To accomplish a balanced, sustainable stability of Life, the billions of earth systems must be able to respond to change, within and without itself, and that capability is achieved through the Law of Evolution, or the ability to balance its billions of interacting processes in response to changes within and without itself.  This is accomplished by the exquisite balance of the interacting web of limiting factors.  In times of little environmental change, the limiting factors discourage variability by selecting processes or organisms that function to maintain stability.  In times of environmental disruption, the limiting factors permit and select for biological variants (mutants).  Whenever variability is increased, the system has more options to select forms that are able to function more effectively in the new or changed environmental conditions, so the whole system becomes more capable of change.

Potentially, limiting factors are each of the interacting factors that are required for Life to survive.  For example, Life requires food; if there is not enough food, then food is a limiting factor.

The Biosystem is the Life of Earth.  Life of earth is stable when all the interacting factors of its environment are stable.  Life is sustainable because it can change when the interacting factors of its environment change.  Life changes mostly by the process of evolution.  Usually that involves responding to environmental change (change in limiting factors) using positive and negative selection by means of limiting factors.  Useful species survive; harmful species become extinct.

131022-Chama-ASC_6790RLSsThe corposystem is a system that uses energy resources provided by the earth ecosystem to generate continual growth, and the function of the growth is to make profits that are used to make more growth.  The corposystem operates by Ponzi economics, and therefore is neither stable (because the continual growth generates constant unbalancing and reorganization of the limiting factors) nor is it sustainable (because nothing can grow forever unless it has unlimited resources).  At the current time the corposystem operates as though the Law of Evolution (which humans cannot change) is based in competition and power.  It is not, see the above; evolution functions by balancing the limiting factors; the corposystem operates by growth, which unbalances the limiting factors.  The modern human corposystem is defined by human laws and by-laws that require growth of both money and population, and we are now at the point where the earth provisions are not sufficient to accommodate this requirement.  Therefore, the earth ecosystem is coming unbalanced, throwing up a myriad of different sorts of variables (climatic, genetic, social, economic, species extinctions) that wlll VERY soon, maybe 20 to 50 years, make our Bio130902-Monero-ASC_5831RLSs copysystem unfit for human habitation.

We could make the corposystem both stable and sustainable if we would change the corposystem imperative (growth), and there are quite a few economics books available on this subject that are written by trained economists.  I have not read them, but I do know it is biologically possible to grow a stable and sustainable human presence within Life of Earth if we were to balance the limiting factors of the corposystem and align them with the needs of the Biosystem.  I also know if we choose not to do this for ourselves, then the limiting factors of the Biosystem will do it for us and we will become extinct, and Life will start over as it has done several times over the millions of years of its evolution.

Compassionate Earth Walk

Walk route as of April

Check it out! A smallish group of Americans and I think Canadians and Native North Americans is walking this summer, in protest and with an educational goal, along the northern part of the route of the Tar Sands Pipeline. I’m posting the route here, but be sure to go to the web site of the Compassionate Earth Walk at:

Bitsy can’t wait!

130408-Bitsy_Niko-ASC_3011LSLFs copy

Bare Bones Biology 145 – Community Education

This is the third brief discussion edited out from my conversation with Stepháne last year in Silver City.  I was lucky to meet Stepháne.  I have been saying we should discuss important issues together, but he has been doing it and studying it.  He knows how.

But before we begin I want to be clear that, in this little excerpt, Stepháne and I were not quite on track, talking about the same thing.  He was talking about the abortion controversy.  I was talking about Planned Parenthood, which the State of Texas found out last year is not an “abortion clinic,” but is primarily our most efficient low cost health care provider for women

If that sounds like a controversial or confrontational statement, it’s not meant to be. It’s just that statistic changes the argument a bit,  but for this blog, I defer to Stepháne’s discussion of the abortion issue, and I was able to find information about the dialog that he describes, which was called Public Conversations, and clearly states both sides of that issue, each from the perspective of well-informed and concerned leadership

Picture-Globe-LargerApparently based on the work of this group is an ongoing project of the same name that provides guidelines for developing a discussion group about any important topic, with an interesting new project arising out of it.  More than one actually, but this one caught my eye Below is my discussion with Stepháne:

Lynn said:  “Well, I would love to put you on the Planned Parenthood issue.  I did a study on that, and I did not see any way that they could possibly talk to each other.”

Stepháne:  “Back in the 90’s some doctors were being shot and killed.  And that caused people to feel like something’s turned terribly wrong in our debate, and now it’s become horribly violent.  These people (see above) sat down and said, something’s really disturbing here.  Let’s see if we can talk.  And they formed kind of a process where they brought people on seemingly polar opposites, and they were motivated by this crisis, that they cannot afford to have this violence.   People came together and they formed some sort of format for dialogue between people at polar opposites of this debate about abortion.  And it really caused new consideration to open up; new thought, to where it wasn’t so easy to see sides.

Lynn:  They’re not violent in Bryan.  It’s not a violent movement, but they don’t talk to each other, either.  Planned Parenthood in Bryan is a building with a fence around it, and a gate to go through.  The volunteers sit up here and escort clients in and out, and the sidewalk is here, and the protestors are on the sidewalk, and the most violent thing they are likely to do is run up to the clients, if they can, and yell at them – not yelling at them, but yelling information at them.  So I did a small study.  I didn’t do anything inside, but I got permission to talk to the volunteers and the protestors and ask their opinions.  And I wrote it all down.  They did not spout obscenities about each other.  That’s not what I asked them, for one thing.  I asked why are you doing this.  And all of the people on the volunteer group were all doing it for community reasons – for the welfare of the community.  And all the protestors were doing it for individual reasons – to save individual life.

Stepháne:  Before I got into the field of mediation over this past decade, I had been involved in nonviolent peaceful protest, organizing as an activist, and participating.  And there are some interesting things there also.  It’s different from a dialogue, but there are also aspects of communicating so that you are heard.  It appears to me that if someone is shouting at somebody going into a clinic.

Lynn:  You roll up the window, you don’t listen.

Stepháne:  If I focus and think for a moment, I want those people to hear my point of view.  Then you begin to think, well maybe shouting isn’t a very good way for me to be heard.  How else can I be heard?  People do nonviolent actions to where they are heard in a new way.

Lynn Lamoreux
Photos by Lynn

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at:

Questions for Discussion: You know better than I what questions we need to discuss together. The question is who how to do it and who has the courage.

Recommended References
Plus Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook downloadable under Chapters on the right side of this blog home page.

Bare Bones Biology 143 – Education

Last week I introduced Stepháne Luchini, whose expertise is in communication techniques as they relate to community and justice. This week and next, I want to air a bit more from his commentary. Unfortunately I had to edit out some car noise, but I think the message is his, and I want to present his message because so many people ask me “what can we do?” or sometimes they tell me there is nothing we can do. My answer, for about the past three years, has been that we must discuss the issues together.

TarSandsHoustonASC_1752sIn fact, we now have factual data available to discuss, relative to our basic communal issues, and of course the purpose of discussion is to bring our opinions to the facts and to each other. If we only discuss with people who agree, that’s almost the same as not discussing, and it generally ends in a big session of “blame-placing” or “aint-it-awful,” or both, which can relieve our own sense of responsibility but does not result in improving the mental health of our communities. That’s one reason I was so interested in Stepháne’s comments about debate, dialog and community. Here’s Stepháne:

“You were interested in exploring the difference between debate and dialog. I think dialog is a conversation between two or more people. It’s one that facilitates people taking into consderation others. Debate’s a contest to see who can win over the other. I don’t think that really helps to facilitate consideration. I think it develops division, competition.”

“Dialog helps take into consideration all beings. I think to consider all beings, we have to consider who is going to be part of the dialog. I think dialog suggests that we have to think of who else will be part of the dialog and invite those others into the dialog. A specific example is if we say at a public meeting about what’s going to happen with water issues in the town of Silver City, who should be at that meeting? Who should we invite? Maybe it’s not that we should decide in a quiet back room of the corporation, Ok who do we want to talk with about water issues because we have a bias toward wanting to make some money. Or as it was in Bolivia, where people needed a new water system, and a US based corporation comes along and says we’ll put in a nice new water system. The people were really happy until they started to get these horrendous bills to charge them for water that was always free, and they revolted. That didn’t work out for that company apparently, because nobody paid.

”We have a system that perpetuates harm and hurts, I believe, with our criminal justice system right now, and I think a lot of people go into it with a feeling that they really want to fulfill the needs of justice. They feel tired, or discouraged, or know that it’s actually causing more harm, and are really seeking what better we can do. People who are district attorneys, people who are judges. So I think there’s room. I think people in criminal justice, professionals, many or most of them, if they saw a new way that could promote healing and true accountability, they would embrace it. My experience with restorative justice suggests that people in our community, if given an opportunity, would embrace an alternative way. I think people can take up dialog. I think we can take up dialog in our politics than our debate. I think we can do more with our efforts to promote community. I think people are ready for it.”

Lynn Lamoreux
Photos by Lynn

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will playnext week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas.
Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at:

Recommended References:

Questions for discussion.
(1) What is the most important need in my community and who should be involved in a dialog about that issue.
(2) How does this need differ from the needs of the ecosystem? How do you know what the ecosystem needs? Which is more important and why?
For a free copy of the Bare Bones Biology Ecology energy handbook, go to the right side of my blog, under chapters. Be sure to let me know if it doesn’t work, or if you find something in the book with which you disagree.