Bare Bones Biology 263F – The Problem Is

Right now it seems as though we (as humanity) are running panic stricken, in all directions at the same time without any sustainable paradigm to guide us, each person responding in knee-jerk fashion, mostly trying to “fix” our social collapse, each according to his own world view and without respect to getting rid of the cause of the affliction. This is why I have not enthusiastically focused my energy on any of these separating actions, though many will


150615-Flood-ASC_7400sI bless the culture shocks that saved me from myself. Wisdom is gained, according to the Dalai Lama (Becoming Enlightened) by “analyzing the facts and discerning the actual situation.” He should know – he’s had enough paradigm shifts in his life, and I’m quite sure we would agree that this kind of wisdom, based in factual reality and gained through deep study and empathic participation — combined with wise (altruistic) compassion — is essential to long-term, reasonably rewarding human lives.


Before that I actually believed that we had dealt with the problem in the 50’s and 60’s. I knew I had, and that’s another thing about one’s own paradigm. Unless we have an opportunity to experience the logic of another’s paradigm, we just naturally tend to believe that everyone else thinks like we do. They don’t. They don’t even want to. They like their own.


We need to begin rational fact-based discussion of issues and stop fighting irrational wars (debates).


I bless the culture shocks that saved me from myself. Wisdom is gained, according to the Dalai Lama (Becoming Enlightened) by “analyzing the facts and discerning the actual situation.” He should know – he’s had enough paradigm shifts in his life, and I’m quite sure we would agree that this kind of wisdom, based in factual reality and gained through deep study and empathic participation — combined with wise (altruistic) compassion — is essential to a long-term, reasonably rewarding human paradigm.


Is it possible, given the chaos we are now creating, that our response to our social and biological collapse is not so much about the actual cause of the problem as it is about the necessity of “getting together” in order to “analyze the facts and discern the actual situation” in an effort to grow some wisdom around the problem? Is it perhaps that our World Views are pushing us apart, preventing us from getting together even to discuss the real issues?


I think it’s important for us to understand that all world views are or were logical in the circumstances of their origin, and to understand that culture shock is one of those painful blessings with emphasis on blessing, and to understand that we always have choices. We can cling to the seeming security of what we already understand, or we can choose to become a part of change, for the benefit of the entire community.


150614-Cabin-ASC_7341RLSsThe natural biological response to stress is indeed to generate diversity, but I think the wise approach, in this case, would be to benefit all of us by sharing and evaluating the world views of all in our effort to understand why we don’t just admit to the real cause of our pain so we can remove it. And then proceed to develop a more sustainable world view of the whole. In other words, to discuss the issues among the disciplines.


There is always a starting point for discussion, because we all are looking at the same problem happening in the same Earth Biosystem. We are not experiencing a bunch of different problems. We are in fact, every one of us, experiencing one common experience, the death of our species.


I think that’s worth a little time spent in problem-solving with others of our kind.


I believe paradigm change is the only hope for human kind in this age, and it is clearly happening, but extremely inefficiently. We could do more. We could consciously use our unique mental equipment to grow a new world view that is aligned with our current factual reality, which is overproduction, overpopulation and overshoot.


My goal is to grow or create a new paradigm that will result in a sustainable, reasonably comfortable human presence on this earth. What is yours?


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


A copy of the podcast can be obtained at:


References Cited:

Collapse, by Jared Diamond. Penguin Books, 2011.

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot by Tom Butler and William N. Ryerson. Goff Books, 2015.

Becoming Enlightened, by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Jeffrey Hopkins,  Atria Books, 2009.



Bare Bones Biology 253 – Answer the Question

We have come to an age in my country, where almost everyone we talk to is afraid of questions. It astonishes me when someone responds to my questions by bursting into tears, becoming stiff and defensive or, worse, angry over I know not what.

150310-Bitsy-ASC_5542RLSsBut wait. Come to think of it, people also ask ME questions, and yes there are times I get just a wee bit huffy about it. It does depend what kind of mood I’m in, and how I feel about the other person, and also how many times they have asked me the same question. And most of all it depends on whether I think it’s a real question or just something meant to fill the empty space between us.

Sometimes I ask dumb questions for smart reasons or sometimes smart questions for dumb reasons, and most often I ask questions that nobody knows the answers to, but different people have different answers, and if we got them all together some really exciting answers might come out of it.

I am a naturally curious person, and perhaps entering my second childhood, and I like questions because I like to understand more and more about how the world works. So I ask my questions, and what do I get?

Too often, shunned, attacked, shocked responses – too often answers that are not useful, and more importantly the person on the other end of this exchange also gets nothing useful. Or maybe it is that people will only answer the right questions, or questions that are asked correctly or appropriately.

Then you may say, as most people do say about corposystem rituals: “You are doing it the wrong way.” They don’t say the ritual is negative and causes harm to both the asker and the answerer; they say it would all turn out OK if I would do the ritual correctly – that the ritual is the ultimate right and I am wrong. And then they offer to kindly teach me how to do it right — without asking whether or not I had considered and discarded their method before they were even born.


My answer is: “So what do I care about the corposystem rituals? The corposystem loves to tell us that we are not OK unless we can become perfect at one thing or another. It’s a great technique because nobody can do it, and at the same time these rituals keep we the people occupied and focus our attention away from serious problems we are not supposed to talk about, such as overpopulation, for example, or the corposystem take-over of our political and educational systems.

Imagine raising children and they can’t ask questions. None of us ever stop learning, and in this age of incredibly rapid change, we need answers. If we can’t ask or answer questions – well then – we are stuck in our own history, and doomed to recycle that history. And that’s a really big problem that will not be solved by anyone being perfect or not perfect.

150409-Bitsy-ASC_6264RLSsSo, as for the questions, my goal is to find answers – not to practice someone else’s proscribed format until my performance is “perfect.” And in the long run, I will end up knowing more, and knowing more is both fun and useful.

We all are stuck with each other, so maybe it would be a good time to make do, swallow our fear or pride or that little tickle in the stomach that says: “I’m not good enough; I can’t handle this,” and just answer the questions. Or tell them it’s something you don’t want to talk about. Or ask a good, relevant question back. Because in any normal social situation, questions are not really a threat to anyone. And they can be incredibly useful to us all.

And anyhow, why this need to prove that you are better than everyone else? Questions are nothing more than children learning how the world really does work, and learning the answers is not an onerous task – it’s FUN! Not only fun, but good information increases your personal power in the world.

So why the angst?

Just answer the question.

This is bare bones biology, a production of and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM in Bryan, Texas. A copy of the podcast can be downloaded here:

Much better than starting wars or excluding others from important information. Or wasting our time on line trying to prove the un-provable — when we could be contributing information and attitudes that can benefit the future welfare of our communities.

Bare Bones Biology 125 – Adaptation

We all know that we cannot reduce pollution of our biosphere without reducing human growth on earth. Any more than a bathtub could contain an infinite number of marbles. The more we grow – the more we unbalance the healthy relationships between ourselves and the rest of the biosphere. The earth biosphere cannot change how it balances its parts (see Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook – ) in order to stay alive. It’s parts are energy and matter – just like our parts and all of life. Earth, air, energy and water. The big LIFE balances its parts very much like our parts balance, and all of life balances its parts. (See the Bare Bones Biology series on climate change that begins with Bare Bones Biology 092, on the website
We are not God. We cannot adapt the facts of life to suit ourselves. What we can change is our behaviors, and that would be enough if we would adapt our behaviors to suit ourselves to the facts of life. Instead of trying so hard to adapt the facts of life to suit ourselves.

The corposystem propaganda is once again trying to confuse us about how life works. This time they are claiming that we can adapt to the changes in the biosystem. Or – and I just found a real book authored by a famous reporter that has the title “earth” and is not at all about the earth. (If you want to hear about a book that DOES address reality, check out Eaarth by Bill McKibben.

This new “earth” book is not about the earth – not at all. It’s about people. This is really odd, given that people can’t make earth alive – it is the earth that keeps us alive. People wouldn’t be here at all if it were not for the whole earth ecosystem. And the way the Biosphere stays living is to keep all its parts balanced, and the way it does that is by the functions of all the millions of species that live on the earth.

The living earth must, like all living things, keep its parts balanced in order to stay alive. Just like ourselves, the earth can change how it does some things, but it cannot change what it must do. What it must do to stay alive is balance the earth and air and water – all the elements that recycle, for example oxygen and carbon – and the energy that it gets from food.

We cannot adapt our biology, because it is genetically programmed, and so is the biology of the entire earth ecosystem. Genetically programmed. Well-adapted species, such as the grasses in the photograph (right here in the back yard in New Mexico), fit every part of their life cycle to the conditions around them. This grass grows in a circle, in the dry, easily eroded environment. The grass roots and the little dam of its growth style help to nurture the soil by preventing erosion and also by capturing water when it does rain, and by retaining the little rabbit turds that will nourish the plant, as the plant nourishes the rabbits that eat the grasses. This is very much how our relationship with the biosphere MUST be if we want to be a well-adapted species. Living sustainably healthy lives. All these behaviors are genetically programmed. Any other kind of grass could not adapt to the same functions as this species of grass, and if the climate changes too much where it lives, the grass will die. Nor can humans adapt to changes in our environment outside of our physiological limits.

If you want to hear of another situation, check out the story of some of the “keystone species” such as the sea otters, or mountain lions, how they fit into the biosphere (, This describes real biological adaptation. It requires that all the species in the area nurture each other. That is the whole point of an ecosystem. And it takes hundreds or thousands of years for all the genomes of all the species to gradually evolve into a connected whole ecosystem.

With the exception of organic farmers, humans are making almost no effort to fit into the ecosphere, and I wonder if the organic farmers realize they are destroying the smaller local ecosystems that had evolved in place, in their desire to make a “better” ecosystem that serves primarily humans and not the whole of life itself. Without asking why better and for whom. (I once asked an economist turned organic farmer; he got very angry with me.) The idea seems to be that we should change the ecosphere — not fit into it so that we can be sustainably healthy. I think organic farming is probably a good thing, but I also believe we are not doing it for the welfare of the whole, but only for ourselves, and – again – we are not God who created the whole, and we may not know what is better – especially if we don’t even bother to ask the question.

Bottom line is that we cannot change the basic laws of nature. What we could do is the real meaning of adaptation; that is, change our behaviors so that we can fit helpfully inside the biosphere.

We live on earth only so long as we obey the laws of nature; we can change our behaviors, but we cannot change our physiology – we can’t change how our heart beats and what things poison our cells, or how our bodies use the breath of life to stay alive. Neither can we change how the biosphere stays alive by balancing the air, water, fire and earth within its living self. Most people know this.

Most people do want to move toward a more compassionate and sustainable relationship within the biosystem. Even so, I have been to meetings of many groups, from organic farmers to community organizers to politicians to religious or spiritual groups, all of whom know these things are true, and they care very much about the biosphere and our humanity within the biosphere, and they are trying to organize a new set of relationships that will bring a better balance between the biosphere and human needs.

What I have not recently heard talked about in this sort of meeting, whether it be organic farmers or community organizers or religious/spiritual organizations (and I have been looking hard among groups who claim to be concerned about the health of the biosphere) – what I have not heard is any effort to understand and honor what makes the biosphere sustainable. Nothing about the welfare of the biosphere itself. For its own good health. All we talk about lately is how can we force our will upon the earth ecosystem with our human technologies.

The answer to these ideas is that we are wasting a lot of time trying to do impossible things. We cannot force our will upon the ecosphere. We are not God, who created the heavens and the earth and breathed life into them.

What we can do is learn to understand what the earth ecosystem needs to be healthy, and change our behaviors to give the earth ecosystem what it needs. What does the ecosystem need to stay healthy? Minimally it needs us to re-balance our populations so that we are not consuming more of earth air fire and water than the ecosystem can provide — nor producing more toxic effluents than the ecosystem can tolerate — so that we are not unbalancing the cycles of air, water, healthy earth and food energy that make up the healthy earth ecosystem.

Frankly, I am not interested in any opinions about technologies as a cure, because that route is so chancey and the real solution is so simple. (Simple to understand, not easy to do, but we DO understand it, and it is not impossible; changing what the biosphere requires to be healthy IS impossible. Difficult is easier than impossible, so why are we holding back the solution to the problem?) Simple to understand. Our technologies have unbalanced our nest until we have more people than the earth can feed sustainably. The cure (also simple to understand) is to reduce the overpopulation as quickly and as compassionately as we possibly can to a level that the earth ecosystem can support without changing its climate to the point where humans can no longer live here.

So long as we refuse to use the technologies we already have, in combination with education about how the biosphere functions to stay healthy, we will continue to decline in all parts of our societies. So long as we continue to try to change the world to suit ourselves, and we refuse to change our behaviors to suit the world — we can not take the big step to evolve (adapt) our behaviors into more compassionate, sustainable and rewarding societies. Because starving people cannot learn to be compassionate or peaceful.

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that is playing this week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. The podcast can be downloaded at

    Recommended References

Bare Bones Biology Energy Handbook
– freely downloadable, no strings

Click to access pages_std-portrait-barebonesecology100627-finalfinalprinter.pdf

(First blog in this series)
(Second blog in this series)
(Third blog in this series)
Bare Bones Biology Climate Change Series is BBB-092 through BBB-100.,,


Travel, for me, is mostly an opportunity to be understood. At home, I am trapped in other people’s perceptions. If I want something, “Suzy” assumes I want the same things she would want. She can’t imagine that I do not live in her reality. She can’t listen to me, but only to herself. It’s a friendship that can’t exist; a gulf that can’t be crossed; a prison without walls. Her prison or mine I’m not sure, but “Suzy” is almost everyone I meet here, so from time to time it’s a great pleasure for me to get away to a place where people know they don’t know what I’m thinking, and we can get to understand each other much better.

What is this river of mis-perception that flows constantly over and around us? Why are people so incurious about other people’s realities? How to cross that gulf? One way is with words; that’s why I really do want to know what people mean by what they say. That’s also why I care about definitions. The fact is that everyone does NOT mean the same thing by the same word, even other English speakers, and the dictionary is only a starting point written by someone who also doesn’t know what I want to say.

So yesterday we discovered the Dalai Lama’s definition of the word patience, which is quite a lot different from mine, and much better because his patience is the antidote to anger. Anger feels yucky, so I want to understand what he wants to say. If I get it wrong, the antidote might not work. I’m glad he cleared that up because I have been trying for about a year to figure it out.

In a broader sense, the goal of Buddhism is to reduce suffering and achieve happiness — and patience is one of the six most excellent behaviors that should help us to reach that goal. So now I wonder about the other five excellent behaviors. These are generosity, ethics (I’m sure this one also doesn’t mean what I think it means), meditative concentration (there may be a whole lifestyle/skill in this), wisdom (which seems to mean a knowledge of the Buddhist texts, which is also different from my definition of the word) and joyful exertion, also known as endeavor. Joyful exertion seems the easiest and most fun, so I’ll try to understand that one today. According to the Dalai Lama, “Joyful exertion is finding joy in doing what is good.”

I’m for that, and I assume when he says “doing good” he means choosing behaviors that cause the least amount of suffering. Easy, right?


In our prison of culturally defined perceptions, figuring out what is good means defying most of the propaganda of the political system, the NGOs and the corposystem. Whatever we think is good is ?????? Whatever we want? Or admire?


Think of the economic crash. That was mostly caused by people doing whatever they thought was good, according to our river of mis-perception, without thinking about the consequences. Is it “good” to be able to “buy” a house that costs more than you earn?



Or the next crash will be very much worse, because technology can not change how the earth functions to grow our food, and we can NOT grow either our economy or our population beyond the ability of the earth to support. If we try, we will only have bigger and bigger crashes, caused by lack of food resources for ourselves and our machines.

That is not reducing suffering, no matter how “good” we believe our behaviors to be.

A Must Read

As always but more so — Dot Earth

0: Can we outgrow growth?


I was not planning to watch The National Parks on PBS for such a silly reason. Two reasons. First, I have come to disrespect PBS as a source of enlightenment, and I’m bored with the silly, culture-serving pap that they mostly now produce. It’s tolerable, while the rest of the wavelengths are not, but it’s not something I would rather do than watch the clouds roil up over the back pasture. And then some idiot changed it all to digital that I mostly can’t get, so I don’t watch TV anymore. And then I have never seen a Ken Burns film, but I have seen the “Ken Burns effect” used in nausea-producing — I should say misused, because in the hands of Ken Burns it is life itself, speaking out of the boob tube. I never knew the TV could actually be beautiful. Or maybe it was the jet lag. Two in the morning, sitting on the edge of my bed with my roots alive in my better memories and tears running down my face as the TV introduced me to myself, and the spirit of God moved over the land.

This is why I became a scientist. For the honor and the spirit. Naïve little creature that I was. I thought other people “knew” something I did not about the root, trunk and vine, and all the time there I was out on a different branch. Looking up — for — something?

I know that we all want the same things.

I’m sure we are all pursuing the same spirit — artists, philosophers, scientists and religious.

So why do we hate each other so? Why not just — look up together?

Instead of filling our minds and souls with little bits of mud and clay?


The Scientific Method

(The following is a paraphrase) In science we have an ethic. We argue from evidence based on publicly available information. When you become a scientist you agree to be bound by that, even if the evidence goes against your own theory. To do this you must first have disagreement before you can devise a theory to test. A problem is not definitively solved until we have evidence from experiments. Lecture at NSF, Leo Smolin, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Physics in trouble, why the public should care. Podcast on the Research Channel.

090926TGT_dsc4358SsDr. Smolin is a physicist highly trained in the use of the scientific method to differentiate between measurable facts and hypotheses. He is qualified to speak about the scientific method, the universal laws of physics and the various theories and facts therein.

I hear quite a few people grabbing some untested or inadequately tested idea that physicists are throwing around and presenting this idea as a fact in some book or in their practice. This is fun and it is probably as comforting as the various ideas about God, spirit and spirituality, but it is not science. Science is the study of measurable facts using the scientific method. (And by the way, this does not mean we got the answer we want in one isolated experiment, even if that experiment was published. The scientific method requires more than one result as proof.)

Spirituality and religion are sometimes fun and sometimes comforting and sometimes a way to sell books. Mostly they are fine and beautiful and real. But they are not science, and I think it’s sad when we use fake science rather than real measurable facts as we try to deal with the measurable, solvable problems that we are now facing in our culture and our environment.

It’s time to learn the difference between spirituality and science so that we can get the maximum benefit from both. We should not limit our spirituality by tying it to measurable facts — fake or real. On the other hand, we will never solve factual problems if we aren’t willing to acknowledge and deal with the facts.

God, Me and My Bladder

There is no point arguing about God, because God is everything, or God created everything, and we are just the tiniest part of everything.

090903Bali_dsc3122ScompsFor us to argue about God is like a couple of cells in our bladder trying to influence our spiritual agenda. To the extent that all living things are manifestations of God, they and I have a common spiritual base. However, these cells have their own existential imperative, which is probably about living and dying in the bladder. I do not go to them for advice about how to operate my computer.

Life probably does have a common core of being, but that doesn’t mean everyone/thing is the same, nor does it mean that the ethical imperative of a cell is the same as mine, nor that mine is the same as God’s.

Full Moon Festival

090904Bali_dsc3320sToday we hiked up 250 steps to be blessed at a Balinese temple at the top of a holy mountain. At the end of the ceremony, we received rice. From the few grains of rice in our hand, we were to pick the three very best.

The first represents right thinking.
The second represents right talking.
The third represents right doing.

090904Bali_DSC3360sSo I thought about this all day, wondering how to know what is right, and I decided the answer is to think, say and do what is right for the community. That would change, depending on the time, the community and the problem.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that human needs could be met if we were to acknowledge and respect the needs of the ecosystem. The basic need of the ecosystem is to maintain the balance between cycling materials, the flow of energy through the system, and the flow of information through the system with time. The basic human needs are to cycle materials (the molecules of life), to maintain the flow of energy through the system (food), and to exist within a compassionate community, doing meaningful work, preferably with a creative connection to the higher forces.

090903Bali_dsc3123SsThe conflict between the human and the ecosystem has primarily to do with how we interpret “meaningful work.” Because we are human, and not the omniscient God who understands the entirety of everything, therefore it is important that we do not try to evaluate the needs of the ecosystem only by our human needs and ethics.

Just as the cell in the toe of my foot does not understand my human need for meaningful work, so we as individuals or as the whole human species — only one species in the big toe of the ecosystem — can not fully understand what drives the largest unit of life on earth, the ecosystem. Therefore, we must make an effort to evaluate the relationship between what we do understand (the ecosystem requires above all balance) and what we believe to be meaningful work. The most meaningful thing that anyone can do for her community is to avoid throwing the ecosystem out of balance. No matter what else she may do.

And here we have a problem, because we get caught up in the idea that “everyone has a right to her own opinion.” Absolutely that is not true. The opinion of a person such as Bill Gates (if that opinion were wrong) could cause enormous harm, because he has enormous power to generate change. Therefore he, and every one of us who is driven to support our community welfare, has an obligation to very carefully evaluate what we do in our good works. Personal opinions and human ethics are not enough to help the ecosystem stay in balance. We must do our best to understand her needs, and that is where science can help because science is specifically designed to AVOID being swayed by personal opinions.

The function of science is NOT to make technologies that will defeat natural law. That would be impossible. If we defeated natural law, we would destroy the construct that created life and so we would destroy life itself. 090904Bali_dsc3257s The function of science is to supplement our gut feelings, emotions and opinions with measurable facts. Measurable facts are not opinions, they are not spiritual, they do not differ among cultures, and they do not rely upon our emotional state for their validity.

We can not change the laws of nature, but we can measure them, and in that way we can know when we are destroying the balance of nature. In this way we can balance the human ethic against the basic needs of the ecosystem. I believe it is the obligation of any person who wants to serve his community with meaningful work to spend serious effort evaluating that work. The needs of the community today must be evaluated against the factual, measurable survival (balance) needs of the ecosystem so that we can preserve human community for tomorrow.
(painting by Made, Ubud, Bali)