Bare Bones Biology 124 – Education

Last week I said: “We begin by taking the responsibility to educate ourselves about all the many sides of the population issue.”

I said this because one of the favorite corposystem power ploys is to distract us from our goal and occupy us with fake debates that do not interfere with corposystem desire to do whatever it wants to do. This is just another version of the old “divide and conquer” ploy. People who are fighting with each other cannot solve problems, for at least two reasons. One reason is that the solution to any problem is many sided.

Debates are two-sided sound bites and fun games, if we think life is nothing more than a game of winners and losers (that is not, by the way, how evolution functions (Bare Bones Biology 088 to 091) but debates do not resolve problems. Instead they prevent people from even evaluating and discussing problems — even problems that threaten their own futures — which is the second reason that debates don’t solve problems.

So what are the many sides of this overpopulation problem? I could begin by making a huge list of human opinions about overpopulation, but, human opinions cannot change the natural laws that permit our biosystem to survive. God the creator made the biosystem to function the way it does function, and that IS how nature works. Life feeds death and death feeds life.

God’s very breath is the breath of life and lifein the biosystem, whether we like it or not, and I think that’s why we don’t like it. We want what we want for ourselves – we want to use the earth for our own selves, and we don’t really care how many other species we kill off, and we don’t want to hear about it.

The trouble is, those species ARE the biosystem. They are what God breathed into the biosystem to make our air, water, fire (energy) and earth. That is how life on earth, the biosystem, functions to stay alive. God is Life – or God created Life.

That’s why I mention levels of organizationlevels of function of the biosystem) every chance I get. Individual level, population level, and all of life, the biosystem. If we are to make wise decisions, we must consider how the other levels affect us. If we could once realize that ONLY solving human problems is NOT the solution to human problems we would be far better off. Because humans cannot HAVE everything they want without causing irreparable damage to the biosystem. And anything that damages the biosystem is harmful to human individuals and human populations and even to the corposystem.

Every person on earth, except the most isolated, the sociopathic, or the super-spoiled, knows that we must have a balance between the wants and needs of individual humans and the requirements for community welfare. Individual humans cannot have everything they want if whatever they want causes harm to the community. Society is a constant readjustment between individuals, families and populations, in which nobody ever gets everything they want. We could paraphrase Mitt Romney’s recent “joke.” Obama wants to help the biosystem; I want to help you.

This is ignorance generating ignorance, because right now the biosystem is (check the facts, please) maxed out of earth, air, energy and water that we need to stay alive. Therefore, nobody can help anyone unless we all help the biosystem. The best way to learn how the biosystem stays alive and healthy is to read widely, and discuss the issues, and then check the facts. I’m talking about everyone – especially those who believe they already understand the biosystem. Most of us don’t. And then come back to the political arena and help to change our own behavior.

Debates do not solve problems; they only result in everyone trying to prove they are better than everyone else.

They aren’t.

And while we are playing ego games, the bottom line is we cannot continue to live in the biosystem unless we also reduce the numbers of people who are draining away the breath of life from the biosystem.

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 later this week at

Recommended References

Bare Bones Biology Energy Handbook Download

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

(First blog in this series)
(Second blog in this series)

Bare Bones Biology 020,
Bare Bones Biology 021,
Bare Bones Biology 022,

Power Ploys 066, corposystem-power/

Bare Bones Biology 009 to 019 and 088 to 091


Levels of Organization…d-population-i…-population-ii/

Levels Yet Again

I’ve done more radio spots on Levels of Organization than any other one thing, because I think it’s the most important and most neglected law of nature that we know about. The concept has two halves. The first half is that there are levels of reality that are made from combining simpler levels. A simple example would be a pie that is made of whatever pies are made of. The second half of the concept is that different levels have different characteristics and also different needs. A pie is definitely different from salt, even though salt is one of the ingredients.

The requirements for welfare are also different, one level from the other, in the levels of things that are alive, so that sometimes it is not possible to have all the requirements that are needed at all the levels. We can’t have everything we want. This gives rise to moral dilemmas of the tragic kind. They are tragic in the “Greek Tragedy” sense, because we can’t avoid them. We must either decide to honor the one level — and that has tragic consequences — or the other level and that also has tragic consequences, or choose to not decide, which also has its tragic results. But aside from the Greek tragedies, it’s really hard to find understandable examples of this law of nature.

Then — as I was driving home yesterday, I heard Diane Rehm interview Eric Felten about his new book “Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue,” that seems to be mostly about this kind of thing.

The Diane Rehm interview was excellent. Nobody used the term levels, but actually the whole thing was about that subject, and Diane Rehm is obviously familiar with the idea. She kept highlighting it. She and Eric Felton used different levels in their discussion than I have in my simplified system.

Mine are:
Individual, population, corposystem, ecosystem

The levels they used on this show:
Individual, friendship, marriage, family, employer, community, country

Some of the examples they used — you can be loyal to your friendship or to your friend or to yourself, but not always to all three. If you are Bernie Maddoff’s son, you cannot remain loyal to yourself and to your community and to your father’s behavior all at the same time. David Kuzinski’s brother had to choose between turning in his brother or allow him to continue damaging the community welfare. The “first responders,” such as firemen, whose obligation is to serve the community, all run off to help their own families (when the tornado hits).

And the one I never forget, though I don’t even know if it is true – the jewish mother hiding from Hitlers’ death squad who smothered her squawling child to save the community she was hiding with.

Eric Felton believes this natural law, the levels of organization around which the universe is organized is a “tragic flaw” of reality. I think, on the contrary, that all natural laws are perfect just the way they are – because, of course, there would be no universe without the natural laws that make the universe function the way it does function. I think these relationships are organized the way they are so that the levels of reality can stay balanced among themselves. If you are a religious person, you must believe that God made these laws for a reason, if we do or we do not know the reason.

If we want to live in this world, we can not insist that the universal laws, or God, should step aside so that we can re-organize it more like what we think it should be. That is not one of the available choices. And to pretend that any human or group of humans completely understands either the science or the will of God is an outrageously egotistical, powermonger stance. We don’t even know what all the levels are.

Any power that we have for the good of ourselves and our communities, now and for the future, must come from understanding more and more exactly how the universe — and especially the ecosystem that gives us life – how it really DOES function and fulfilling our obligations to that reality.

The Ten Commandments

When the Israelites accepted the Ten Commandments from God at Mount Sinai, they committed themselves to following a moral code of behavior.

The Ten Commandments
1. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.
2. You shall have no other gods but me.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
4. You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.

The rabbis teach that the first five sayings, on the left side of the tablet, concern man’s relationship with God (belief in God, prohibition of improper worship, prohibition of oath, shabbat, respect for parents). The second five sayings, on the right side of the tablet, concern man’s relationship with other people (prohibitions of murder, adultery, theft, false witness, coveting). Judaism teaches that our relationship to our parents is akin to our relationship to God because our parents created us. Disrespect of parents is considered an insult to God. Thus, respect for parents is included on the right side of the tablets with the other sayings that concern our relationship with God.

Judaism also teaches that the two tablets are parallel. In other words, our duties to God and our duties to people are equally important. If, however, one must choose between performing a duty to God or performing a duty to a person, one should first perform good deeds for another a person.

Texas State Board of Education

Over the past year or so, we folks in Texas have been carrying our share of the effort to provide quality textbooks for the nation. This is because Texas buys more textbooks (more of everything, right?) and so the publishers listen to what we want to have in the text books. It sometimes feels like they listen more to the State Board of Education than to the people who write the books. I mean the scientist who writes the book about science — not the editors who change what he wrote.

An upcoming article in the New York Times explains this odd situation rather well. Our State Board spent most of last year in an effort to determine whether or not we would teach religious creationism in our K-12 science classes. I recommend you read this article, no matter where is your school system, because our State Board has a big effect on what will or more likely what will not be in your textbooks. Real science? Or not?

Our responsibility to education is to elect members of the school board who are more dedicated to effective teaching than to the promotion of personal religious bias. If we want to be and train effective parents, voters, citizens, we need learn how to use both science and the wisdom disciplines, each in its proper place, so that we can get the maximum benefits from both. Our students will not be prepared for the world we are leaving them if we fail to teach them how to use the scientific method, or if we muddy up that teaching by introducing a different skill set that should be taught in the philosophy classroom. The same principle is true of other disciplines.

Below are the two candidates most closely involved with the current school board election (yes we elect them, no qualifications required). On the left is Mr. McLeroy, on the right Mr. Ratliff, the back on the far right is Teddy. This was taken during the debate at KEOS, Bryan, Texas. The debate will be uploaded to the KEOS web site ASAP.

A quote from Outside the Circle in production

In absence of reality, genuine beauty
can not exist
because all is make-believe.
Lacking beauty, truth is unattainable
because beauty encompasses truth.
Without truth, honor is inconceivable.
To want honor, is to want pride.
Lacking pride, we destroy ourselves,
And others

Toxic Tolerance

I had high hopes for that meeting, and I had worked up my nerve to make a very important point during the community discussion period. My concern was (and is) based in my career knowledge of 30 years (good grief 40 now), with the very best of concerned intentions toward the welfare of our human community. The person who followed me debunked my opinion with a disrespectful statement. Her expertise was a glance out the window of an airplane As you can tell, I am still very angry over that. I was not angry that this woman was an ignorant fool. Ignorant fools are an abundant fact of life. I was angry because the so-called “discussion” format provided no opportunity for discussion. Everyone had an equal right to say whatever they wanted to say, so long as they were reasonably polite, and I therefore had no opportunity to support my opinion with facts.

We must find better ways to talk with each other that make possible the exchange of positive ideas that are based logic and demonstrable fact. If any. With compassion.

In the meantime, we must not leave the impression that we are too chicken or too uninterested or too few to deal with people who spread toxic lies that have the potential to permanently damage our cultural well being. It doesn’t matter why they are doing this; our job is to not permit it to damage the long-term welfare of our communities and our youth.

The bottom line is we were raised on tolerance. Tolerance worked, actually, until we forgot to train the youth the difference between toxic and benign differences of opinion, and until the bigots learned how to use our own tolerance against us and our communities. But anything can be carried too far.

The fact is, contrary to the California mantra, everyone does NOT have a right to his own opinion. Some opinions of individuals are extremely harmful to the community as a whole, and the welfare of the community is more important than the opinion or even the welfare of any one individual citizen. This is our current challenge. We must find a way to stop indiscriminantly tolerating any kind of off-the-wall behavior and language, but at the same time we need to avoid giving up the basic rights of the community. We can’t do this by sitting on our keesters, and we can’t do it by behaving as they behave. And we don’t really know how to do it but we must begin or we will lose the chance.

What do You Want?

There is a stretch of road between College Station and Waco that is two lanes wide — one lane in each direction. They are widening it now, but it was about 50 miles of two-lane road with fairly heavy traffic. So, we were driving along at the speed limit, which was reasonably fast, so we kept a reasonable distance between ourselves in case someone had to stop unexpectedly.

And this honking big pickup — maroon in color — worthless for real work, but only for show — would come up on our tail and drive along ten feet behind at 60 mph or so for miles and miles until he found a way to pass. So we would slow down a bit, just in case someone had to stop unexpectedly he wouldn’t run us over. Eventually he would find a stretch of road where he could see ahead for at least 40 or 50 yards and he would go flying by.

He believes he will be happy if only he can make it to the head of the line.

Some day he will figure out the line never stops. There is no head to the line, and when he destroys his beautiful honking big pickup and takes four or five other people to the grave with him — he will leave behind all his chances to find what really would give him what he wants in life. Getting to the head of the line, even if it were possible, won’t.

Town Hall Meeting

I wish we could have a real town hall meeting here in Texas, but I don’t think we know how. The whole point of town hall meetings is to discuss the issues that affect the entire community and arrive at a solution that will provide the best solution for the community — not what is best for “me” and certainly not what is best for whoever is spreading the lies. Presumably that would be either the insurance companies or just some people who like to make other people upset.

090810_dsc2689sI do know people are listening to and believing the lies (lies are statements that can easily be proven wrong by, for example, reading the proposed legislation) from the few conversations that I had at this meeting. I did not encounter anyone who was lying to me, or hostile, but listening is another matter, and a town hall meeting where nobody is listening to anyone else is pointless, isn’t it. We are not at a town hall meeting to convince everyone else that we are right. That would be impossible because nobody is completely right about everything.

The whole point of a town hall meeting is together to figure out what IS right for this community at this time. We meet together to share our knowledge, because a bunch of people with different skills and information together know more than any one person or group. And we don’t need Chet Edwards to do that. The minute we establish a true community consensus he will be listening and we will all have a common goal toward which to work individually and collectively. Or probably I should say we already do have a common interest and the purpose of the Town Hall meeting is to find it. Not to blame someone else because they won’t do what we want them to.

If we care about the future of our children we will listen to other people who also care about the future of our children and who understand things we do not understand. Nobody knows everything, but we really do all want the same thing, those of us who care about the children. By the time a real town hall meeting is finished everyone knows more than when it began. The value of a town hall meeting is to concentrate all the knowledge of the whole group into a decision-making activity.

If we only care about winning there is no value to it at all.

Fourth of July

090520TGT_dsc1170s 090704

Buttermilk Pie likes to run out the door when the sky pinks up in the morning and we both set back on the front porch to listen to the birds wake up.

After the fresh brewed Ethiopean Harrar coffee, I enjoy an early morning ride on Mahonia before the day starts to sizzle. Mahonia would rather eat, but we don’t work hard. Just a nice ride, and then breakfast for us both.090208_dsc8819LSs

On a July past, when I came home after a long, sad search for my lost American dream, I was ill in body and mind. Several Julys later, I am now well and happy, and on such a pink-sky morning I can sometimes believe that I should have looked inside myself for the Dream. That it might have been hiding there the whole time — unrecognized.

And so I sit with BP over the second cup of coffee, relaxed and refreshed from my morning ride, listening to the Mockingbird sing from the top of the cedar tree:
“It’s a wonderful life; it’s a wonderful life.”

And I could almost recapture the Dream. If I would just stay right here on my own paid off property and collect my well earned social security.

And then I remember who paid the bigger price for my security.
Other lives around the world,

Whose nightmares paid off

my American dream.

(Bottom photo by Zoriah)

Bio-Milk, Bio-Ethics

“We had a professor at Stanford who thought milk was manufactured.” Dr. Paul Ehrlich.

(For all you city folks, our commercial milk comes out of cows, and cows eat grass or hay to get the energy they need to stay alive and make milk, and the grass or hay gets its energy from the sun. The important point here is that we can not eat sunlight — all animal life on earth gets the energy it requires to live – that is food – from plants. The number of plants is limited.)


The subject of this blurb is ethics, the ethics of scientists who have not been telling people these important facts, and I want to quote Dr. Ehrlich because I agree with him:

” . . . I prefer to think of ethics simply as shared values, and one of our ethical tasks should be to try to speed the evolution of the values of biologists. I think the vast majority of my fellow scientists already share the value that we should give our fellow citizens the benefit of our best counsel on issues at the interface between science and society. That already fits under one dictionary definition of ethics—“the principles of conduct governing a profession.”

(Some references are omitted here that appear to no longer be available on the web, see modern versions below. LL)

“I’d like to see bioethics evolve further, toward all biologists considering it their duty to report to the public (which supports them) the essential findings of their research—and toward training their graduate students accordingly.”

Additional references:

You can get the entire letter above, in pdf format from Dr. Ehrlich’s web site:
Ehrlich, P. R. 2004. Values and bioethics (letter). BioScience 54: 484. [pdf]

The letter was written to and published by American Institute of Biological Scientists (AIBS)

It was a response to a discussion of “Scientific Integrity in Policy-Making” on the web site of Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS