Education

For what it’s worth on a slightly peripheral issue (science teaching), my interest in school, as a student, was the way in which knowledge empowered my understanding and therefore my ability to function using my own resources instead of as a tool of the system. I have seen this happen to a small percentage of my students every year when I was teaching (college level).

We have replaced science in the curriculum from the bottom up we have replaced it with nature study and “fuzzy bunny” (feel-good) compassion lessons. In fact realistic compassion often doesn’t feel good, and nature study is not science. Neither the appreciation of nature nor that nice fuzzy feeling leads to empowerment. I doubt if most teachers want their students to be empowered to know how to function and learn without the help of a teacher.

It is not appropriate to teach students critical empowerment tools for thinking until they are about 12 or 14 years of age, because that’s when they begin to “get it.” However, in our school system now (and we in Texas are working on continuing this into college) we do not teach students how to learn for themselves. We the teachers are “God,” the student must memorize and believe what we say. Only last week I had a friend (college graduate) rant on for about half an hour about how he was taught the names of all the humanoids in his anthropology class, and then they changed them all. Therefore you can’t believe anything in science. He never let me answer, but it is obvious that he was never taught any science. Science has nothing to do with memorizing the names of anything (except you have to have words to talk about things). Science is about learning how things work so we can be empowered not to throw a spanner in the works (spanner is british for wrench). The way to win an argument in that world where only words are real is to believe whatever you believe and don’t let anyone else have a chance to change your belief. The way to grow one’s understanding through science is to discuss/evaluate the issues based on the differences between measurable facts and opinions. To avoid talking about anything because it doesn’t feel good to be wrong — that is the outcome of teaching feel-good “science.” (I’ve had other people tell me “the facts keep changing” and I know very few people who actually know what a fact is, as differentiated from an opinion.)

There is no better tool in our arsenal than real science, starting with the basics, to teach students how to answer questions for themselves and in their communities — and come up with answers that correlate with reality. If we base our behaviors on opinions (as this generation has been taught to do) then we will have continuing massive disasters, because human opinions CAN NOT CHANGE physical facts. However, our teachers are trained in the liberal arts and do not know how to do this for themselves — much less teach students how. The liberal arts (out of curiosity I spent a whole year going to seminars in the department) have an almost entirely different set of critical thinking skills, and that is where our best students tend to go now, because they do get answers that relate to self-empowerment. So whenever they tell us they are teaching critical thinking skills — they are — but those skills involve HUMAN behaviors — not the primal laws of the universe.

And then there is technology, which is not science. Science is the quest to understand how things work in the real world — not our ticket to sell those things to the highest bidder.

So we are in a mess, but it will not help to train more and more students about human behaviors in the absence of aligning those behaviors with reality via the basic sciences. Nor will it help to train more and more students about the power of reductionist science in the hands of humans — without also teaching them both about basic science and about our human responsibilities to each other and to the way the world really does function — that we can’t change. How many of our teachers have even been exposed to these ideas? Why not? So then what do we expect of them or of their students?

How many people at Lawrence Livermore really understand what I just said above? If not, how do they expect to train more scientists who have the compassion to care about the implications of what they are studying and learn biology to go with their physics and their obligation to humanity and the ecosystem?

You have a wonderful project. I feel quite sure you can get funding from the “system” to set this up and it will train people how to make more food. But, really, why do we need more food? The bottom line is that only the ecosystem can make food for us to eat — and the more of the ecosystem resources we use for ourselves to eat, the less likely the ecosystem is to survive with us in it? And the more human suffering will result.

OK? That’s your question for today. Most people answer that this is an interim action for the emergency. I heard that 50 years ago and ever since. What I want to see is someone making some kind of effort to deal with the real problem that causes the emergencies — and teaching all these fine students that there is no such thing as winning unless we address reality itself.

Ladies

Ladies, you need to expand your views beyond your own personal “human rights,” to include the real needs of starving and undernourished people around the world (including in the USA). The availability of family planning to the poor of the world was one of the first things that Obama restored when he took office. I think this effort to withdraw it again (see below I copied from PopulationConnection.org) must be the most important of any event to all of us if we care about starvation, immigration, economic and peace issues, and we need to say so. You know why this is happening. The corposystem uses uneducated people to push it’s agenda, because it benefits from all of the above, and so do the NGO’s that come to the rescue of the victims and have been incorporated into the corposystem. If this were not so, we would be concerned with helping people to a better life — not denying the necessary technology. It would conceivably be possible to use technologies to benefit the people rather than primarily to benefit the political/corporate domination of the people. And of course, the more desperate people there are in the world the more money is to be made off them in war, aid, propaganda and surveilance activities. If we would stop fighting among ourselves for a minute we would realized that we the people are being farmed like cattle, using our propaganda as a the management tool. We do not need more people-to-people hatred in this world. We do need to know that the corposystem is NOT A PERSON AND IS NOT OUR SPIRITUAL ADVISOR. It is an emergent entity of vast destruction to all human rights.

“We told you on Monday that the Republican majority in the House was poised to pass major restrictions on international family planning—including a cut of more than $200 million from current levels.
But now some members of the House want to eliminate that funding altogether. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) has proposed an amendment to the bill cut international family planning funding to zero. That’s right: the world Bob Latta envisions is one in which women and families in the developing world have no access to contraceptives to help them prevent unintended pregnancy. The extent of the misery and suffering resulting from such a cut is almost unimaginable. Today, thanks to U.S. support for family planning, more than 26 million women in the poorest countries in the world are able to delay or prevent pregnancy. Soon, if Bob Latta and his allies have their way, the clinics those women and their families rely on will close.
The Latta measure is not the only appalling amendment we expect to see. The Pence amendment, which bars all funding from Planned Parenthood, is expected to come to a vote as soon as tomorrow. Additionally, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) has filed an amendment to prevent the expansion family planning services covered by Medicaid—even though investing in family planning is one of the best ways to restrain health care costs. These amendments must not pass.
The far right must not be allowed use the rhetoric of fiscal discipline to pass their reactionary, irresponsible ideology. Please take a moment and send a message to your member of Congress: Defeat the anti-family planning agenda.”

The web link is on the right

I am the Vine and You are the Branches

I have been continually frustrated by the classically inaccurate translations of Buddhism into English. Indeed, I am continually frustrated by words in general, but the most irritating word, actually phrase, that I know: “Everyone wants to be happy.”

Indeed? That is not my goal, so the statement is not true, because in spite of the second most frustrating word (emptiness) I am somebody. So with these two English words that are (apparently) used to represent the very roots of Tibetan Buddhism, I stop listening. I’m a scientist. When someone makes a dogmatic statement that obviously can’t be true, I don’t believe it. Instead, I ask for a definition. In the case of happiness and emptiness, I don’t get an answer, but only the words themselves, repeated, as though saying the same word over would endow it with meaning; but I already knew that all words are empty of meaning outside of their context. I knew this because I am a good scientist.

So what am I to believe? Certainly not in a path that is clearly not true. Or is it the words that are not true? What these words mean to a Tibetan, I do not know. I’m pretty sure that every Tibetan also is not striving for happiness, but let’s stick with the only exception I know for sure, which is me.

Why is it that I do not want to be “happy?” Because happiness is a fake state of mind. It’s a hyped up phoney effort to pretend that we humans can control reality. Happiness is here today and if we want to be happy again tomorrow then we have to hype ourselves up again, and if that doesn’t work we pop a pill. The word brings to my mind a picture of a bunch of adolescent potheads in some kind of orgy, or maybe a child who is so sheltered that he believes the whole world is made for him; if he runs out in traffic the caars will all magically stop. Or a college freshman who believes he can do whatever feels good and still get A’s in his classes. He gets mad if that doesn’t happen, and then he’s not happy so he has to pop a pill and falls asleep and misses another class.

No. I am not in the least interested in happiness as long-term goal, though it is nice in moderation. Probably the closest thing to what I do want is contentment, or peace of mind, or a restful mind, but certainly not happiness, even though that word pops out of every page of Buddhist doctrine written in English. So what are we going to believe, a well established concept or an empty word to which we cling as though our lives depended upon it, even though it doesn’t make any sense? (Or neither?) As Buddhism is about 2500 years old, and the Tibetan was translated into English I think about 50 or 60 years ago; I have to suspect a mis-translation of some Tibetan word or context.

Words are empty sounds. They have no intrinsic meaning. Their meaning arises from their context and our experience in life. I already knew that before I tried to understand Buddhism, and I keep emphasizing that I knew it precisely because I am a good scientist. I emphasize this because I believe when high disciplines are in conceptual agreement, then there is a strong probability that they are both accurately describing the essence of the concept. Or to make plain – we are both (all) right. And what do we both (all) agree is the essence? Phenomena, like words, are empty of meaning outside of their context. I already knew that, too. Not so much because I am a good scientist, but because I am a good evolutionary ecologist. “It” is what it is. Not whatever we think we can make it be.

So what’s the problem here? Why do we seem to be afraid to define our terms and beliefs and use them in their common context to benefit all sentient beings? Why do you try so hard to teach me things that I already know? Why not listen to my words, as I listen to yours – listen to me, what I know, instead of trying to prove that I don’t. Is this a need to be a class above other beings? Classism? Religionism? No, that’s not the word I want. It’s not even a word. Empty superiority?

If we would get our act together, and get to work on our responsibilities. Of course we have responsibilities to each other. Of course we do – we are the context. We and the ecosystem. Actually the ecosystem is the root of our physical welfare, but we can respond positively or negatively to that reality, and if we were to respond positively and forget about superiority — which is in any case empty. Maybe we could make it work.

The Ecosystem is a Living Thing

As is true of all living things (including our selves) the ecosystem requires (minimally) the following to stay alive:

The flow of energy through itself (energy is required to do work; work includes everything that moves or grows; without energy, nothing lives or grows).

The recycling of materials – we aren’t talking about this today, but notice this is the one we are trying politically to do — because it is easier than actually trying to solve the energy problem. Recycling is a good thing but it can not solve the energy problem. Because energy does not recycle.

The flow of information through time so the system knows how to function – also we aren’t talking about this today.

If the living ecosystem were to die, nobody knows what would happen, but if you need a metaphor think of your own body, because all living things require these same things.

Advertisement heard on PBS – “Can Planet Earth be Saved by the Sun?”

Oh urp! You would think PBS would use their words to educate rather than to confuse us all. This question is misleading, anthropomorphic, irrelevant, ignorant and more seriously this is a question which by its very nature denies reality. It tries to imply that we need not fulfill our own responsibilities to the living earth ecosystem of which we are a part. And this quote is from one of the better programs available to us as we try to understand the reality of the earth ecosystem. It’s no wonder that most people are confused about the realities of energy metabolism.

The fact is:

1. The planet earth is not a living thing, and certainly doesn’t need saving. But, not to quibble, we can understand they are talking about the living earth ecosystem. In that case, the answer is NO. The sun can not prevent us HUMANS from destroying the living earth ecosystem. Either we stop ourselves or it doesn’t get saved.

2. The living earth would not be here at all without the sun, but that doesn’t mean the sun is actually DOING anything that will save us. It is life that maintains life, within the suitable environment. Life sustains life by means of: (1) the flow of energy, that is metabolism; (2) the flow of information; (3) the cycling of materials. Without the sun we would have no flow of energy, but the sun energy can not be used for food. The limiting energy factor is conversion of light energy to organic energy by photosynthetic organisms.

3. The program PBS was advertising is about solar power. The answer is: Solar power can be used to generate electricity and heat but not food (organic energy). It is not the sun that can save the living earth ecosystem. The living earth ecosystem was doing fine until we unbalanced it.

4. The metabolism of the living earth ecosystem is limited by photosynthesis, not by availability of sunlight. It is limited by the availability of organisms that can convert the light energy of the sun into organic energy of food. The only thing that can save the living earth ecosystem is to restore a sustainable balance between the amount of organic energy that the ecosystem can produce and the amount of growth that goes on within the ecosystem (that includes biological and economic growth

The only way solar energy can be used to help save the ecosystem would be if we use it for heat and light and to STOP using more organic energy than the earth ecosystem can produce, and the only way that can happen is if you choose to help.

To do that we, especially our activists and politicians, voters and parents, need a much better understanding of how the metabolic processes function to maintain life. So it is time I stop watching television and explain, beginning with the simplest sort of self-sustaining living organism, the energy metabolism of the individual photosynthetic cell.