Bare Bones Biology 205 – Why?

Now at the end of a complicated series of blogs describing the Law of Life on Earth –Why do we care?

The whole blog series is a condensed outline, using mostly words that come from the mouth of a basic biological scientist, to explain how Life on earth functions to stay alive. But, I could just as well have paraphrased the same ideas using words from the Buddhist lexicon. In fact some of the ideas came to me from reading about Buddhist “science.” Or I could have used words from the old or new testament.

I don’t know very much about other religions, but if you want to read more widely, I recommend His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Middle Way; Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters; Karen Armstrong, The Case for God; Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Betrayal of Science and Reason; and Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook free on my blog.

These are not new ideas. Humans have learned about greed and human ego, and their relationship to the higher Life forces, over and over and over, and just because Western science has given us more powerful ways to measure and define Life – that does not make our wisdom any better, or essentially different, from the wisdom that we have learned and relearned so many times in the history of human kind. We are, in fact, in many important ways more ignorant because of our dependence on the power of technology (I won’t call that science), and we are headed for the biggest fall in all of human history because we have built the biggest tower of greed and self aggrandizement in all of human history, and we have built it on the foundations of ignorance passing for wisdom.

So why do we care?

I asked the question of a few friends: “Why am I thinking about a LIFE FORM – an individual life form, with veins of running streams and lungs of ever-flowing air – that is composed of species rather than organs?”

Here is one answer: “My guess would be that it’s because you are in favor of survival of the ecosystems that we know and love (that include us, but I don’t think that’s your main point). And because the corposystem keeps doing the stupid thing, against survival. Surely you wonder what has happened to our human belief system that we do the suicidal thing. Guess that’s murder-suicide.”
Yes, that’s a good answer except for my main point. Do my lungs say to my body that survival of the lungs is more important than survival of the body? That survival of the body is not the main point? In fact, the welfare of humans IS MY MAIN POINT. My main point is that we are working for the welfare of humans ONLY or mostly. Can we possibly believe that survival of the body of Life, the whole of Life is not important? That survival of one of its species is the main point?

In fact, our ignorant effort to promote humans uber alles is causing enormous and unnecessary suffering of humans. (And BTW, the word ignorant does not mean stupid – it means uninformed or uneducated — and there is a solution to ignorance, which is to educate one’s self). The suffering of humans and all sentient beings IS MY MAIN POINT. If there were no humans I wouldn’t care about the ecosystem. As another friend has said: “The ecosystem can take care of itself.” And it can, and it does, using the Law of Life that we just finished discussing; and it will, and the suffering will be vast.

140518-SIMPLELIFE-ASC_9086RLSs copyAnd then she went out and picked several gallons of nettles. I went out and watched the moon set before me on this frosty morning as the sun rose at my back and the energy of Life flowed down the hill toward me. And the birds came to the melting water, and even the leaves, reached, ever so slightly, toward the light.
Why do I care?

Why keep on with this blog in the face of its obvious futility and the hostility — no that’s not the right word — the rock-solid disinterest of most family, friends and bystanders? First, because it keeps my mind off my own tiny ego-problems. We are killing the Earth that provides for us; we are destroying ourselves. We are spitting in the face of the Creator of Life. What can I do? I cannot “fix” other people. That’s not one of the available options, but that is not a reason to do nothing. As far as I know, and I have looked, I have three choices (we always have at least three). The first is to opt out and pretend it isn’t so, or even invent scenarios to “prove” it isn’t so; the second is to participate enthusiastically in whatever effort makes me feel good; the third is to study and carefully consider my own actions and behaviors, and not participate in any action that causes more harm than good to human-kind.

I choose not to participate in any campaign or action that causes more harm than good to human-kind, and I work to evaluate all campaigns and actions according to the reality of the Law of Life before deciding whether or not they will cause more harm than good to human-kind.

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

A podcast of this blog can be downloaded at:

References:

The Dalai Lama. 2010. Toward a True Kinship of Faiths; how the world’s religions can come together. Doubleday.

Karen Armstrong. 2009. The Case for God. Alfred A. Knopf.

Huston Smith. 2001. Why Religion Matters; the fate of the human spirit in an age of disbelief. Harper One.

Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich. 1996. Betrayal of Science and Reason. Shearwater.

Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook. http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com. Right side of the page under Chapters. Free download.

Bare Bones Biology 204 – Gary’s Question #3, Evolution and Emergent Properties

Our goal is to build a human system (society) that is sustainable and reasonably comfortable within a healthy Biosystem. (Bare Bones Biology 195, http://FactFictionFancy.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/). That is reason enough to learn everything we can about the Law of Life (that is, the Law of Evolution and the many interacting processes involved with Evolution) Bare Bones Biology 197, http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/26/6601

140513-canyon-ASC_9026RLSs copyThis series of podcasts, beginning with Bare Bones Biology 194 http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/05/6548/ is meant to provide the most basic overview of the Law of Life, one of the laws of nature, along with the laws of thermodynamics, gravity, etc., that operate to maintain Life on Earth. That means Life itself. It does not mean human Life. Humans could not survive without the other parts of the system of Life on Earth. The earth will still be alive 50 years from now, but it is not clear that humans will continue to be a part of the Biosphere. It is the Law of Evolution that supports the positive biological systems and disposes of those that have negative impact upon the viability of the Biosystem (Bare Bones Biology 194, http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/21/)

Both the Biosystem and the human corposystem are systems. Systems are self-perpetuating, so long as they maintain their positive interactions with their environments, and each system grows around a set of core properties that together have a unique survival value within the Biosystem.

Six of the most basic requirements for Evolution to function positively are described in Bare Bones Biology 198 (http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/30/) and Bare Bones Biology 199 (http://Fact/FictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/04/08). They are:
1-Reproduction; 2-Death; 3-Inheritance of traits; 4-variability of traits; 5-transmission of traits to the following generation; 6-Interconnectedness of processes and “things,” or
objects. (Objects are organisms, cells, tissues — all the objects that are generated at all the levels of organization of Life and are maintained by the processes of the Life system). (Bare Bones Biology 199, http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/)(Bare Bones Biology 200, https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/04/17

140513-canyon-ASC_9028RLSs copyThere could be no Life without interconnectedness because there would be no way for the living objects to change in response to their environment. There could be no systems without interconnectedness because the function of a system is to maintain itself in the face of its changing environment. If the system cannot maintain itself as the environment changes, then it fails (dies), as our corposystem is now failing. It is the Law of Evolution that imposes the necessary balance between the need of a system to respond to its environment and the system’s necessary tendency to avoid change. (Bare Bones Biology 196m http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/21/ )

Response to environment in lower systems (individual cells or individual organisms) happens using physiology. This is the first function of the information encoded in the genes, or DNA (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/04/22 ,Bare Bones Biology 201). Many or most genes that are doing this first function, regulate processes that generate a living thing thing or object, such as yourself, or a tree, or a cell, or a kidney, by responding to the environment
embryologically or physiologically.

Response to environment in the higher life forms (species; ecosystems; the Biosystem) happens using Evolution. The nature of Life (the living objects at all the levels of organization (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/) results from balancing the needs of all the interacting systems as they respond to their internal and external environments (Bare Bones Biology 200, http://Fact/FictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/04/08). The function of Evolution is to maintain this balance.

Depending upon all the above factors, and more, the evolution of life forms responds to the environment in multiple ways, from very slow, step by step evolution to remarkably rapid jumps known as biological saltation or punctuated equilibrium (ref Wikipedia). This part of evolution is possible because of inheritance of traits that can be passed on to the next generation, and it is the second function of DNA — to make exact copies of itself (all the genes) to be passed on to the next generation in the sex cells and by fertillization (ref Wikipedia). The genes then use their first function in the new gamete by activating the processes that create new living “things” (cells, organisms, tissues, etc.). Evolution does not act directly upon the genes; Evolution acts upon the variable characteristics (phenotypes) of the things (organisms, tissues, cells, etc) that are created by the genes.

A small amount of genetic and phenotypic variation results from individual gene changes, or mutations. More results from many, many genetically controlled processes that work together. For example to make a jaw bone, or a tooth, tissues that interact with each other, requires many genes interacting with each other and with the embryonic environment in which the jaw is made. Variability of inheritable traits is necessary for Evolution, and the genes encode the traits. Therefore genetic variability is an important pre-requisite for phenotypic variability, and there are many processes that generate genetic variability, from meiosis of the sex cells in individuals to the maintenance of subtle genetic errors in the gene pools of species. We discussed these in (Bare Bones Biology 201 – https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/)(Bare Bones Biology 202 https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/)(Bare Bones Biology 203 – http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/05/09).

In all the millions and millions and billions of recombination and mutation events of genes, very rarely, some call it a singularity event, a unique COMBINATION OF genes—that encodes a unique combination of processes—comes together to generate, suddenly (on a geological time scale), an emergent property – a new functional sustem that sustains a new emergent property that provides a new and different way to survive: eating, flying, swimming, growing, a new way that can populate a whole new niche in the environment. This is a big jump in evolution; certainly it happens, probably it is what we refer to as punctuated equilibrium or saltation — and then it is followed by adaptive radiation.

However, unless you intend to live to be a million years old or so I would not wait around for a singularity event to save us from our own hubris (Bare Bones Biology 195, http://FactFictionFancy.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/). So I would suggest – instead of playing human mind games — that you join in the reality-based effort to sustain a Biosystem humans can live in — by using your talents to dig as deeply as you can into understanding and teaching the real Facts of Life and helping to discover how we can learn to submit to them by living sustainably. Rather than try to negate the Facts of Life based on your personal opinions. If you were to succeed – then what? No life.

On the other hand, if we could learn to conform ourselves to reality, we could conceivably build a new human social system with a different set of core properties – combined to form a new emergent understanding of Life — that are sustainable and provide reasonably comfortable life style for humans on a viable, living earth.

Win or lose, that is the most important effort that any human person could make.

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

The podcast of this episode is available at:

Bare Bones Biology 203 – Gary’s Question #3, Genetics

The process of evolution results in a change in the gene pool over time so that each species separately and the entire ecosystem, if it can respond to its environment, can stay alive. The ability to respond to the internal and external environment is the definition of being alive and of being a Life form, whether a cell, or an individual organism or a species or the entire Biosystem. That the Biosystem is a life form is not an opinion; it is a fact, or if you prefer, a definition.

140506-flowers-asc_8951SsIt’s also true that inheritable mutations are not altogether random, but we are not talking about mutations here, we are taling about evolution, and as I tried to explain previously in this series (Bare Bones Biology 201 – Genotypes, Phenotypes and Evolution), evolution works on the phenotype, not the primarily the genotype. The genotype is all the genes in one individual organism: the phenotype is the sum of the physical characteristics of an individual organism: Evolution is a change in the gene pool of a species (not an individual, that is impossible) over generations of time: the gene pool is all the genes in all the individuals of the species or of the ecosystem.

The process of natural selection, which is part of evolution, selects FOR survival and reproduction of phenotypes that function well in the environment. If and only if that genotype is heritable, then the entire gene pool may be change to favor one gene or, much more likely, a combination of genes, that are best suited to whatever environment is operating at any given time.

It makes no difference to evolution whether or not mutations occur, what those mutations may be and whether or not mutations are random. Evolution does not select genes; evolution selects phenotypes that function well within the Biosystem at any given time and place.

The function of the genes has primarily to do with the survival of the individual and of the species, and it is two-fold. First, the genes turn on and off during growth, development and survival in response to cues from the environment. These actions are studied by cell biologists, physiologists, developmental biologists. This level of activity is what you referred to as epigenetics – that is how genes know what is happening in and around your body so they can activate the appropriate responses. This is how we stay alive, day to day. It does not change the genes; in fact the basic function of the genes is to not change but to provide the information necessary for the organism to respond to environment, and the second function of the genes is to pass on all of that information to the next generation without changing the genes but reorganizing them, so that each individual has a slightly different phenotype. The variability of the phenotype is the connection between the genes and the process of evolution.

The most common kind of genomic variability is recombination of genes. Recombination ensures that every individual organism in a species is slightly different from every other organism in that species. Another way that variability is generated is by mutation.

140506-flowers-asc_8953SsGiven that every cell in the body has a full set of genes, and all these genes are copied billions of times, it is not surprising that mistakes (mutations) occasionally occur. It would be surprising if they did not. Some of the mutations can be passed on to the next generation. Therefore every organism does have a small percentage of mutations and every species carries a large number of mutations in its gene pool; should any of these ever become useful to the survival phenotype of the species – evolution will select for those mutations.

This whole story of nested processes is the language of Life, as it has been created. Unlike the languages of man the Language of Life is completely honest, and yet it is far, far more mysterious and empowering and glorious than the concept of personhood, which places God and his works subordinate to the narrow mind of man.

To download the podcast of this blog:

This is not yet the end of the story. I’ll talk about punctuated equilibrium next week.

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

Bare Bones Biology 202 – Gary #1 – It’s a Natural Process and it Takes Time

Gary said:

“Lynn, when I took a class in evolution some fifty years ago the dogma of the day was that evolution was very slow and gradual and that change occurred due to random mutations. Random never made any sense to me at all, and now we have the new science of epigenetics, which, as far as I can see, gives the lie to random. The fossil record shows punctuated equilibrium, not slow and steady–and yet I believe these two “scientific” doctrines are still taught as gospel. Have any opinions on this?”

140424-SnowySunrise-asc_8884RLSs copyIn answer, Gary, you have presented two good ideas as though they were alternatives. They are not. For the first, aside from being a bit hokey, there is nothing wrong with Tyson’s account of dog evolution in his second Cosmos program (http://www.cosmosontv.com/watch/195050051992). I did not hear him say that slow and steady is the only kind of evolution, and of course it’s not.
For the second, punctuated equilibrium (biological saltation) is also a reasonably well established concept. For example, one fairly recent scientific publication in Nature – a high-level scientific journal:

(Nature 463, 349-352 (21 January 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08630; Received 18 August 2009; Accepted 29 October 2009; Published online 9 December 2009. Phylogenies reveal new interpretation of speciation and the Red Queen).

Wikipedia is a source of facts about science and evolution, but it may not be very helpful in explaining why random mutation seems to be counter-intuitive, or how all these facts fit together into a description of how the Law of Evolution maintains Life on earth and why it’s important for us to understand.

Science is about facts; not dogma and not debate. Dogma and debate are human problems, and facts are not human. They just are. Basic science is a very effective method of finding out what they are. Basic biology wants to know the facts about how Life works/functions to stay alive. And basically Life works/functions according to very consistent, rigid, unemotional natural laws. The natural law of evolution uses interacting genotypes, phenotypes and processes to maintain Life (http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/

Why doesn’t everyone understand how the facts fit together to describe the process of evolution? Mostly because, if we are scientists, we don’t know everything about all the steps in the processes we are studying. Or, if we are educators, we fail to explain steps in the process that seem to one person self-evident and to another person counter-intuitive. The third reason for our unquestioned dogmas is Corposystem de-education.

Basic science does not lend itself to soundbites or to linear thinking, nor does it function in outline format. Basic science asks how the Law of Evolution functions to make Life stay alive. The answer to that question is complicated; it is all interconnected – all about balance. It is the corposystem that promotes dogma, human opinions and debate. The corposystem does not teach about our biological context — and certainly not about facts. Nevertheless, facts are facts. Facts are not debatable; only our human opinions are debatable.

And if we ever want to use the real facts to do something more useful than debating soundbites out of context we must defy the corposystem, stop debating, and start studying and discussing the facts within the factual context of process. That’s including us good guys. Especially the good guys.

140424-SnowySunrise-asc_8867RLS copy 2I have been kindly advised many times in recent years — how to “do it right.” That is, how to modify the facts of Life (or at least the context) in my writing so that people will want to read what I write. That’s the corposystem model (fight, win, earn). It’s not the scientific model, but it is what most people do to win money, arguments, awards – or in the belief that simplified (reductionist; soundbite; devoid of its nonhuman, unemotional, factual, implacable context) information will provide a more useful education. What it really provides is confusion and division (divide and conquer the people). If we only listen with the ears trained by the corposystem, we cannot understand science no matter how it is presented, because it does not make sense within in the human corposystem belief system. If we cannot think of the corposystem as a nonessential component of the Biosystem, then we cannot understand science. Because science studies the far more powerful and implacable system of Life itself.

The power of good science for humans lies in our ability to build a human society that is sustainable and reasonably comfortable unto the seventh generation and beyond (http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/OrenLyons with Bill Moyers AccountabilityB.mp3)
To this end, human “female power” (“Powers of the Weak”, Elizabeth Janeway) tries to use science to align itself with the power of factual reality and thus to enhance its total power; human “male power,” on the other hand, tries to use science to dominate and win. Most of us today seem to prefer human baby power: if you cry hard enough someone will give you whatever you want.
Our corposystem – our culture — is based in the model of human male power feeding human baby power.

140423-canyon_DSC9815RLSs copyGod and His created Laws of Nature are not only for human males, not only for humans, but for Life itself. Life will survive; the corposystem probably will not make it to 2050 — humans perhaps a big longer — even though it only would take a little reverence, and a little humility and compliance, to embrace our place within His awesome works.

If we want to empower ourselves “unto the seventh generation” – or more. We need to study the biological facts that we already understand, and discuss how to use them for that purpose. https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/

Oh well. I got distracted by the context again. Next time let’s discuss why nothing is perfect, and why random mutations are not counter-intuitive.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM 98.1, Bryan, Texas.

http://www.cosmosontv.com/watch/195050051992
http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/OrenLyons with Bill Moyers AccountabilityB.mp3
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/

Nature 463, 349-352 (21 January 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08630; Received 18 August 2009; Accepted 29 October 2009; Published online 9 December 2009. Phylogenies reveal new interpretation of speciation and the Red Queen. To get this reference you need a library.
Thom Hartmann, “Cracking the Code,” Berrett-Koehler Pub., Inc, San Francisco, 2007.
Elizabeth Janeway, “Powers of the Weak”
http://www.amazon.com/Powers-Weak-Elizabeth-Janeway/dp/0394406966/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325785263&sr=1-1

Bare Bones Biology 201 – Genotypes, Phenotypes and Evolution

Living things have the ability to respond to their environment. That means both the internal environment and the external environment. For example, you as a living thing – your physiology and your behavior change if you get too hot or too cold. An ecosystem also responds to heat or cold. It is also a living thing, and it responds to its environment by changing the species of which it consists.

Organisms respond to change using the processes studied in embryology, physiology and behavior — the ecosystems and the Biosystem use evolution to respond to change.

Your physiology, and also your embryology and development, and behavior, are regulated by all the genes in your body interacting with your internal and external environment, so that you can take food and air and water, and use them to become what you are. In that way the genes, responding to your environment, produce you as a “thing,”

Put into my model of Life that I described in last week’s Bare Bones Biology blog, you can be thought of as a node produced by the network of processes that maintain your Life. The processes can be thought of as the invisible Life force, and you are the solid object that results. Solid objects (nodes, things) have phenotypes.

I’m sorry we must add another uncommon word to this story, but the word phenotype is important. Your phenotype is everything about you, from your red hair to your behaviors to your physiological responses to the environment. Mostly your phenotype is caused by the processes that are regulated by your genotype, and those processes are studied in the science of Genetics. Accidents (amputation for example) can influence your phenotype but not your genotype. Accidents are not inheritable. Your culture can be inherited, but only by your training, not by your genes.

140227-tree-ASC_8143RSs copyHigher Life forms, such as an ecosystem or the Biosystem, also respond to change in the environment. Their responses to change are regulated by evolution, the natural Law of Life. Your body uses processes regulated by your genotype to grow and respond to change (and so be alive). The ecosystem uses all the phenotypes in the system – interacting with five other processes we discussed in order to grow and respond to change (and so be alive).

It was Darwin’s genius to recognize that living “things” (he was looking at organisms, but it could have been cells or ecosystems) all have slightly different phenotypes – color, behavior, health, any characteristic of a “thing” can be selected for or against, and so long as it can be inherited by the next generation it is a selectable phenotype that can respond to the power of the Law of Evolution.

In the Cosmos example, tameness was the phenotype selected for. This is the portion of evolution that Darwin recognized and we have come to think of as “survival of the fittest.” That term is nothing more than a silly reductionist sound bite, good for the human ego, but if we want to understand how evolution really does function and conceivably save ourselves by conforming to the Law of Life, survival of the fittest will be of no use to us. For one thing we are very far from the fittest species, because we would rather have money than survival. We will have to modify our own phenotypes (behaviors) so that we affirm and support the Life of the whole.

But that’s an aside, what we want to explain today is that natural selection or artificial selection act upon phenotypes, and most phenotypes are generated by genotypes. The genotype of each living thing is unique because of the way genetics works, which we are not discussing today. At all the various levels of organization of life from the most simple cell to the most complex Biosystem.

Genotype → Phenotype -→ Evolution

But remember that the processes of evolution can only use phenotypes that are inheritable from one generation to the next.

And we said all that so we could answer one of Gary’s original questions about epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence.

Epigenetics is not relavent to evolution. Epigenetics is relevant to genetics, such as how genes are mixed around in cells, and how genes are regulated in cells to turn on and off. We have not been talking about genetics except to say that any trait or phenotype can be used in the process of evolution if it is inheritable.

To download the podcast of this blog, the direct download URL is:

traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_201_-_Genotypes_Phenotypes_and_Evolution.mp3

Bare Bones Biology 200 – What Depends on What?

Here is the direct download of the podcast from a question posed by Sheila.

If you want to go to the podcast, I cannot make the link work here, but the address is: traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_200_-_What_Depends_on_What.mp3
and in front of that you must put http://

The blog is quite a lot more inclusive and will be posted on this weekend.
Sorry to be late, but Bitsy and I are moving to a location that has no internet access and this requires adaptation.

HERE IT IS

What does a system depend on? The answer is that everything in a system, more or less, depends on everything else in a system, and if the system changes, then everything else in the system must rebalance itself. This is what is meant by sustainability, and it is a definition of Life that we have been using in the past few blogs. If the system cannot rebalance itself, then it crashes – or dies.

The other question is “How did the system originate, so elegantly balanced?” And the answer is that the Law of Evolution creates sustainable systems. That’s what it does, and how it does this is fairly well understood in the disciplines of embryology, evolution and ecology. I certainly cannot explain it in 600 words, but I keep on biting off chunks of information that – if you keep trying to understand them – will ultimate convince you that systems evolve by maintaining their balance when conditions change. (Or they die if the conditions change so rapidly or dramatically that the system cannot rebalance.)

That information does not answer the God question, of course, but in my opinion, if God created the universe, then God created the universe to function the way it does function . I do not claim to understand God, but I do know a lot about what God has created, and I would far rather study and try to understand the works of God than the products of the human ego. If God created the universe, then God created the laws of nature to work the way they do work.

There are several laws of nature that are studied in different disciplines. The natural Law of Gravity describes some properties of matter. Matter is things that have mass and/or weight. The natural laws of Thermodynamics describe how energy functions. Energy does not have mass; energy is the ability to do work, and work is done, basically, when something happens. Energy is required for processes to do work. The natural law of Evolution describes how living systems maintain themselves, using matter and energy. Last week I described six qualities that define both Life and the Natural Law of Evolution, which is the Natural Law of Life https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/04/08

To appreciate any of these natural laws it is important to think of ourselves, and all of Life as systems, rather than “things.” A system is a group of processes that function together, each supporting the functions of others in the system, to maintain the whole system.

Life on Earth is a system, the Ecosystem, or Biosystem. Ecosystems are the subsystems of the entire Biosystem. Populations are subsystems of ecosystems. Individuals, such as you and me are subsystems of populations, but even we are not independently “things,” because we could not exist without the Earth system of which we are a part, and we could not exist without the subsystems that are a part of us – our lungs, kidneys, heart, digestive system – and those are systems composed of living cells.

A system is a network of interacting processes that function together to maintain the whole system. “Things,” such as ourselves, are simply temporary nodes – like the jewels in the metaphorical “net of Indra.” Or like the nodes (web pages and other nodes) of the internet. “Things” are objects with phenotypes. Things (nodes, objects with phenotypes) are necessary to maintain the integrity of the processes and to cause the processes, as I said above to function together, each supporting the functions of other processes — rather than each process functioning randomly or separately. Evolutionary selection acts upon the nodes (things, phenotypes) of the network and the network of processes generates the things.

For example, an airplane is a thing that brings together all the processes necessary for commercial flight. If you take away any of the processes, or change the configuration of the processes and/or the environment in which they function, the thing may not work.

A system consists of processes that do the functions (actions, behaviors) of the network of which the system is composed, and “things” are the nodes, connecting points, intersections of functions that join together the processes so as to maintain the integrity of the system. My favorite metaphor of a system is one of those stick figures that can be generated by a computer.

The stick figure is a model, usually a cartoon, that can move and change its shape. It consists of dots (representing in this model, things, nodes, jewels) joined together by lines (representing processes). All the processes work together to maintain the functions of the whole, while the nodes represent the ways in which the processes interact to maintain the integrity and the phenotype of the whole, so it is able to respond to the law of Evolution and thus maintain itself.

This model is applicable at all the levels of Life. Each node of a complex system represents a subsystem that is also composed of processes linked by things. For example, you are a system. One of the nodes of you as a system is your heart. Furthermore, at all levels, the things (nodes) are also subsystems. Our heart is a self-sustaining system consisting of things (nodes) and processes. Thus, everything interacts with everything else at the nodes, and in a way that maintains the balance of the whole complex of interacting systems.

I believe this may be the meaning of the mathematical concept of a multidimensional universe. I have no way to check the math, but that’s OK, because for me it makes a whole lot more sense to study the reality of Life itself. Especially as we humans have reached the point where the things we create are destroying the balance and the links that maintain the integrity of the nested set of process that is Life itself.

If you have trouble imagining this you should realize that NOBODY CAN understand the balancing interactions of the whole system of Life itself. There are far more links and nodes in the whole of Life than in our brains and computers combined. This is why we should not try to change Life systems without using the precautionary principle – that is, we should look at ALL the possible results of our meddling, both good and bad, because all actions cause both good and bad results. That is a very important meaning of yin and yang – the balance must be maintained or the system will change itself into something we won’t like, and that is indeed happening, partly because our culture is more interested in controlling what we believe to be bad – or pretending that it does not exist – than dealing with the reality.

NOTE: for the image, go back to a previous blog and refer to the chart of levels of organization:

The function of our corposystem is to use biological links and nodes to make money. These links and nodes evolved to exquisitely regulate Life itself – not for profit. We humans are redirecting the interactions of Life to the purpose of making money, and this unbalances the links and nodes that are necessary for Life Itself to exist on earth. And so, the re-organization of the nodes and links changes Life, because that’s what is unique about Life. It changes when its environment changes – because that’s how the Law of Life (evolution) maintains Life. If it cannot change using the links and nodes it has available – it dies (crashes, as our corposystem is now crashing as a result of imbalance.). And then a different system grows by the coming together of a different configuration of links, nodes, environment and overall function. Evolution does not change existing systems that are unsustainable. What it does do, if the existing system is unable to respond or (as we are doing) tries to fight against the needs of nature — is get rid of the existing system and start over using evolution to build a whole new set of interacting nodes and processes beginning with lower levels of complexity – such as a more primitive animal, or even the cell.

This is really good (really hard) question contributed by Sheila and produced by FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas.

Next week the other really hard question that we have been working up to, from Gary: If evolution acts as described in Cosmos and in nearly all basic genetics courses, then why doesn’t it operate gradually?

https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/04/08

Bare Bones Biology 199 – Evolution

In Bare Bones Biology 198 (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/) and in the blog that was posted to FactFictionFancy the following day (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/yesterday-2/), I listed six characteristics of all living things that make them responsive to the world outside of their own bodies.

That is an important definition of Life. Life and living things are responsive to the environment, and their environment is everything that is outside their own bodies. They are also responsive to the internal environment, which is everything that is going on inside their own bodies. Within physiological limits, Life is able to respond to change. If it can’t – it dies.

Most people notice this and think it is ordinary – of course — ! It is ordinary to us. We are alive. We eat, we walk, we talk, we try not to run in front of cars. But in the universe, so far as we know, the interconnected systems that can reproduce their own kind and recycle the materials of which they are made, and find food and use it to do those things – this is not ordinary.

110825droughtasc_3018sls-copyIt was the greatest and most marvelous event after The Creation itself, when a group of processes came together, to form a unitary system that was able to respond to the environment by moving toward food or moving away from noxious things. It was the creation of Life. Life is a system composed of a set, or sets, of processes that function to respond to the environment in which it lives by reproducing its own kind.

Six qualities that make life possible, that I listed in those last two blogs are: 1- Inheritance of traits; 2- Variability of traits; 3- Reproduction; 4- Death; 5- Transmission of traits to the following generation; 6 – Interconnectedness of the processes of one living system with all the other living systems on earth.

Those qualities are essential for all living systems and their subsystems — all species – to maintain Life on Earth. And the original “invention” of Life was the coming together of a group of processes that maintain life by responding to the environment in which they live.

Evolution is the Law of Life on earth; Evolution makes Life possible because Evolution is how Life responds to its environment. Without evolution there could be no Life as we know it on earth, because Life and living things must be able to respond to their environment or they could not stay alive. Think of the first breath of air that a newborn infant inhales. Think of the color of your eyes, or of your skin, that you inherited from your grandparents, or great-grandparents. If there were no evolution, Life could not respond to conditions in the environment and there would be no Life.

A living thing is a system that is able to respond to its environment to find food, water, air so that it can reproduce itself and continue staying alive generation after generation. It is the natural Law of Evolution that guides and balances all these processes of Life (and a myriad more) within all organisms and between all organisms and all other systems on Earth as the entire interacting set of systems continues to use the energy from food to respond to the environment and so to stay alive.

Evolution is NOT primarily survival of the fittest. Evolution is the natural process that permits living systems to respond to their environments and so to maintain and BALANCE all the processes that are required for living systems to stay alive — including life and death, reproduction, using food energy and cycling the water and nutrients through the whole interacting set of systems and subsystems. Therefore – if you still think of Evolution as “survival of the fittest,” or any other sound bite that is more simplistic than the holistic balancing act that Evolution actually is, you cannot understand climate change, and regardless if you are one of the bad guys or one of the good guys – if you win or if you lose — you cannot help to make wise plans for the future of humans on this living earth.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM 98.1, Bryan, Texas. A copy of the podcast can be downloaded here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_199B_-_Evolutiona.mp3