Bare Bones Biology 112 – Thinking

Today I am reposting my own thoughts about thinking – that I thought after viewing Mathiew Ricards UTube

I have developed my mind quite a lot, and I think it’s a good idea. My belief for a long time has been that the so-called “right brain” part of the mind contains the more basic inherited human characteristics. That means we can’t change them or lose them — so it’s better to use them well.

From what we know up to now, these basic qualities seem to be the emotional realities that have been so elegantly studied by Buddhism over the centuries, plus I think the stages of mourning and of meditation are inherent human qualities, and of course many things we do not know.

I learned long ago that any major culture shock requires at least (and about) a year to work through to the point of acceptance of the new reality, and I do believe that the stages of this accomplishment are those same stages that have been described for overcoming grief. The stages of grief (or other big change): Denial, bargaining (this is efforts at control), sorrow and grief, and finally acceptance.

The development of the “right brain,” that is discussed by Mathieu Ricard in the video above, trains us to use these emotions so they benefit us, both at the individual level and at the population level of human reality.

Development of the “left-brain” traits complements the “right” by making day-to-day sense of our experiences until we grow the whole into our world view. Again, the survival value is that we are able to use our experiences and learning to guide our emotions, and direct our behaviors toward greater good, both for the individual and for the community.

Remember, the ”left-brain” skills are largely learned. If you are delving deep into the “right brain” inherited skills to solve your problems, you are only using half your potential for good in the world of today. We need to understand our emotions and use our love and compassion for the greater good. We also need to understand how our love interacts with human need, for good or for ill. Or there can be no compassion, because compassion IS the intersection of loving others and acting for their long[-term best interests.

Love is not enough. In fact, it’s the easy way out. We need to LEARN what the other requires, especially if the other does not have the same kind of right brain that we have, we must learn how it what it does need to function well and be healthy. Otherwise, considering the level of human power on this earth today — our behaviors are likely to cause more harm than good.

It’s not normal for humans to stay stuck forever in denial of the reality of who we are and what we can’t have, combined with bargaining for the power to have it. That’s where we are today, stuck in denial and bargaining, and our power is enough to crash our culture and our ecosystem if we can’t learn to see what the culture and the ecosystem need in order to be sustainable.

“Left-brain” skills are required. “Right brain” skills are also required. We will need our whole brain to grow out of the mess that we are in. Too often we confine our development to one skill-set or the other. Even if we then work very hard, or very lovingly, bringing half our brain to the problems of our culture, this behavior does not create the combination of love and compassion with logic and knowledge, that we need to address those problems. We believe we are creating love and compassion. Quite the opposite, the harder we work on our half of the solution, the more we are likely to generate envy, competition and deep, deep grief when we discover that our dreams have been built on the sands of denial of our other, equally valid half.

Bare Bones Biology 112 – Thinking
KEOS-FM, Bryan, Texas
A podcast of this program can be downloaded here
Or at

Nothing is what it seems.

and everything is what it is (Yogi Berra).

That was NOT a town hall meeting.

People get to talk to each other in town hall meetings. That was a really, really, really long lecture.

Oh well, this blog started out as a study of different kinds of power.

World View Three

There are some things about which we have no choice. Most of these are not human realities. Human realities often have a lot to do with matters of opinion, and so they can be changed if enough people want to change them. The things which nobody can change are not so very many, and they relate to the laws of nature that permit life on earth. The laws of energy mostly. They are easy enough to understand if we want to understand them, but we can’t change these by any of our human power ploys. Hitler did not change the laws of energy, and neither did the Buddha. This is good, because if the laws of energy were to change, life on earth could not continue. However, that leaves only one other option: people need to change whenever they run afoul the laws of energy.

The way it usually goes, some people will try to understand the environment well enough to benefit from it; others will try to dominate it. In the long run, the effort to dominate will inevitably fail. Humans can kill, but we can not dominate life.

Fortunately, people are very changeable. Mostly we don’t change; I don’t know why we would rather suffer than change, after we reach a certain age, but we can change if we care enough about something or other.

So the question is: are we better off to keep trying to understand the bigger picture, to keep modifying our world view closer and closer toward a reality we can never fully understand? Or to keep trying to reinforce whatever information and opinions we already understand.

I wonder if this question might go a long way to explain our current political situation. And if so, then I wonder why anyone would care enough to fight over a difference in world view, when we really all want the same thing and our common problem primarily has to do with our relationship with the immutable laws of energy transfer in the universe. I could see fighting, but I don’t understand fighting over something that is not the real problem. When we could be trying to solve the problem.

Letter to a Mother

You ask if the American Dream can be saved, and I answer that I am very proud of the American Dream, at least my American Dream that imagined a level playing field for all of human kind, balanced under the rule of law. However, I doubt that it can be saved from our greed and our egoistic belief that we can force history, evolution and nature herself to function as we choose to believe they should. The fact is, we do have some control over history to be, some control over technologies related to evolution, but no control over the basic natural law that drives both, and we seem not to know the difference between what we can and what we can not control.

Evolution, for example. What difference does it make on God’s green earth — if evolution was or was not involved with us being here. That is a question for God. The important thing is that evolution does exist and it functions according to natural laws that we can not change. That is also a question for God — why natural law functions the way it does. Who do we think we are, telling God how he should have made the laws of life? Our question is how to live fruitfully within its boundaries. (Can you imagine faintly that I’m having an argument with Adam?) Whoever, we humans will fare far better when we face the fact that we are not riding high, either as a species or a USA, and recognize that we are on the downhill side of our life cycle because of our “take-charge,” “dog-eat-dog,” “red in tooth and claw” attitude toward each other and toward the ecosystem.

Fortunately that’s not how nature works in the overall scheme of things — dog-eat-dog, or red in tooth and claw — and even more fortunately, we know the basics of how it does work. Of course we may not be happy that eating is an essential part of how the ecosystem distributes the energy of its life. It may seem like the big dog gets the best cut. Yes, animals eat to live, but that does not mean the more you eat the better off you are and it does not mean that we should try to dominate. Nobody dominates in the ecosystem, and if they try to dominate the ecosystem will fight to maintain its balance, and the ecosystem is bigger than we are. A fact that our top dogs don’t want us to talk about. And so the information about how the ecosystem really functions is essentially not available to the public. We get plenty of scraps to fight over, but not the real facts that could permit us to adapt to the real deal of how the ecosystem maintains its living balance.

This blog began as a discussion of power; we discuss useful information: not propaganda, not fake facts, not hype or (usually) not metaphors. The real deal.

Up to now we have talked about how energy flows through the system and does not recycle. We pointed out that we can not hog it all for ourselves and still survive in an ecosystem in which all the energy must be shared to maintain the balance and resilience required for its survival. We pointed out that millions of other species participate in this balancing act by their own life functions that accomplish necessary processes within the ecosystem. The flow of energy we can not change; it is a basic requirement for survival; the energy must reach all the living organisms of the ecosystem. The fact that the big dogs want to talk about technologies that will give us access to more organic energy does not change the fact that doing so (unless we change our human social structure) will further unbalance the energy flow of the ecosystem. It’s one of those scraps they want us to fight over while they are grabbing the best cut, so they don’t provide all the information we need to make sensible choices. The bottom line is, no matter what we do to get more energy, we will unbalance the ecosystem unless we change our American belief that growth is good and more growth is better.

That’s not how the ecosystem works, and we can’t change how it works.

Time we also can not change, whatever it is I don’t know, but only in the movies can we make-believe going back in time. The mistakes we make today will be with us forever. We are the product of our history that we can not change. Today is the only moment of time that we can control. How would the world be different if I had decided to go out and ride a horse this morning instead of writing this letter for you and your children? We can never know the answer to that question. Maybe we can learn something by the briefest look at our history.

We are a subunit of the ecosystem. We got here somehow; that matter was decided by God, or at least not by us, and it is history. Whatever is our opinion about that doesn’t change whatever happened, so there is no point arguing. We have a better documented idea of what happened during historical time, when we evolved our social behaviors from the lifestyle of a tribal hunter gatherer; to the pasture nomad with domesticated livestock; to the farmer with domesticated food crops; to cities built on the power and wealth of individuals who in effect domesticated other individuals to work for them; to the United States where we have developed a concept of civil rights based in the rule of law rather than the rule of rapacious individuals.

This rapid social change is incredible, in only a few thousand years, and I just bounced across the high points. If I were to pin down the most important social changes of our species in historical time (I am neither a historian nor a sociologist, so you can tell me if I am wrong), I would point to:

1) The Axial age when the current major religions formed, all of which espouse the similar ethic: Do not do unto others what you wouldn’t want done to you; the fall of a sparrow; the ten unfruitful actions; compassion=kindness as a positive and fruitful life style.

2) The abolition of the slave ethic (which occurred first in France);

3) We can hope and pray that we are in the middle of a similarly important jump in our social awareness, if we do a good job using the power that we have right now in this moment in time, to make wise decisions.

So that is where we are in time.

We are also a subunit of the universe in space. The universe is organized in levels of complexity, like boxes inside of boxes. I will skip over a few of these levels as quickly as I addressed the story of our times. The whole universe contains a bunch of galaxies; each galaxy contains a lot of stars; some of those stars have planets, including ours, and the earthly planet is unusual in that it is a living thing. A definition of life is that living things create the balance they need to stay alive, and this is certainly true of the whole earth ecosystem, and easily proven. So we are organisms that live in a living ecosystem and we are made of cells that live in a living organism. Levels of organization in the living ecosystem can be thought of from smallest to greatest, as: cells; tissues; organs; organisms; populations (a population is all of one kind of organism); and ecosystems and the whole big living earth that gives life to it all. Among all those various levels of organization, I choose to consider three over which we do have some element of control. Or at least all of our behaviors do influence all three of our closest levels of organization, and because we have influence, we therefore also have responsibilities to the outcomes of our behaviors.

Level One is us and our interpersonal interactions. One on one.

Level two is the human population behaviors. It would include war and the health bill and things like that. Maybe things that happen on the internet. Level two is basically the average of all the interpersonal interactions in the human population, and their impact. Politics and civil rights depend upon the accumulated behaviors of all the people.

And here we run into that “tooth and claw” error again. Politics and civil rights are political; however, they do not primarily affect level two according to who wins and who loses, as in an election. Level two outcomes are not the wins and losses — they are the actual history that we leave behind us — the actual composite result of what we all do. Successes and failures are not the same thing as wins and losses. Level two outcomes represent the results of what we all do and how that whole result changes history from what it otherwise would have been. Tooth and claw politics is not the most effective and certainly not the most positive road to success, because it only benefits the big dogs while at the same time causing harm to the population as a whole. Which is more important, the big dog or the whole of level two?

Level three is similar to level two, but it is more real because it is the entire ecosystem with all the parts that keep it alive. All of life on earth, not only people. If the ecosystem dies, or kills us off to protect herself, then we have wasted our level one and level two efforts. Ignoring or denying that fact will not lead to a successful outcome for human kind on earth.

The most important point here is that we, and especially Americans, tend to assume that whatever we believe is good — is good — without stopping to find out what really would be good at level two, because we have been suckered into the belief that whatever it takes to win in a good cause is good. And what about level three? We don’t even try to think about what is best for the survival of level three. We just toss our cans in the recycle bin and try to save the people of Haiti, working at level one, and get on with fighting over scraps in level two.

That won’t do it, folks, because that’s not how the system works! The requirements of a healthy level two, and especially a healthy level three, are different from the requirements to be a “successful” level-one American hero.

If level four is God, then I’m pretty sure God would not want us to destroy the pretty little blue and green life form that is circling around our sun; and because I don’t see anyone in the media effectively paying attention to her needs, I choose to focus on helping level three.

Because I am working at level three and you are working at level two does not relieve either of us of the ethical responsibilities of level one, and the biggest of these is to respond to other organisms in need, if they really are in need of our help. Using these people to feather our own nest, without also responding to their need, no matter how noble the nest, is unethical.

Our level two efforts, including the ACLU and the political controversies, KEOS radio and education — these are not bad things. I believe all of these good works are the germ of a new breakthrough in human level two belief systems.
But the only way that breakthrough can conceivably happen is if we survive on this earth.

To survive, we must incorporate level three needs into the (already complex) problem set. That’s why I say we have the potential, right in this moment of time, to generate the third giant step in human social evolution. However, we are leaving out the essential component of that step. We can’t survive in level two if we kill off level three. By ignoring this level three need, we will destroy your level two goals that relate to civil interactions among peoples and your level one goals as a mother.

Anyone who claims to care about other people has a responsibility to not make life worse for other people. To do that, we have also the responsibility to understand all sides of our own “actions” at all three levels, so we can know where and how our own “actions” are actually causing harm to other people. We have a responsibility to not rejoice over “wins” that take food out of other people’s mouths or force the ecosystem to change herself (climate change is only one example) for her own survival.

Normal life doesn’t work that way. Healthy life is maintained by a balance of interactions among a skezzilion processes and actions; it is not a win-lose battle; it is a program designed to maintain healthy life — at level three, so that it can be available to all the levels. But if we continue to force the ecosystem into a fight for her life, either we humans (along with a lot of other species) will lose — or we all will lose. If we can’t change our growth ethic and our win/lose method of getting what we want, then we will discover that the ecosystem will do whatever is necessary for her own survival, and there is nothing we can do to stop her except to stop messing up the balance of her systems.

Health Insurance

I am very happy that I have my government insurance program (Social Security and Medicare) and I can not imagine why anyone who is in danger of unemployment would be trying to prevent our government from making these government obligations available to all the people. Of course I paid my bit for it, and I always knew I was helping to pay for other people who were in worse trouble than I. And happy to do that.

So I will plan to go to the demonstrations, but I do keep wondering why? Why not spend my energy doing something more substantive. Why not find a way to use my personal power to make exactly the point that I wish to make about health insurance instead of trying to get on TV so that someone else will do it for us. (Of course I know why, it’s very difficult to think of ways to get our word across that great gap between us and the government.) The media are supposed to bridge that gap, and demonstrations do catch the attention of some elements of the media, but there is no reason to believe those media will actually present our message — and demonstrations are not rational discussion.

In fact, most demonstrations nowadays seem to be intended specifically to draw our attention AWAY from the real issues so we will not think about the common welfare but only about fighting with someone who disagrees with us.

I feel very sure that every individual person who really cares about the common welfare can find an easier, more direct and probably more effective way to make his views known to his friends, neighbors, representatives and to the media. Good old fashioned neighborly discussion would be a start, carried forward with rational, well considered letters, emails and Touchstone radio pieces. And support KEOS or your own independent media.


Stewardship is an obligation in many aspects of life, and stewardship over the health of the ecosystem is our obligation to our grandchildren. It’s really difficult to have stewardship over something if you don’t know how it works. Therefore it should be goal one of every person to learn as much as he can about how the ecosystem works. If he takes his responsibility to his grandchildren seriously.

Scientists know a lot about how the ecosystem works; religious people are more likely to be seriously interested in stewardship. Therefore, if we want to find a way to stop trashing the earth, it would be good if the religious people and the scientist would come down out of their respective ivory towers and talk with each other.

Nothing stops us from talking with each other. Understanding each other is a bit more difficult, but any two groups of people can talk with each other if they have the same goal and if they remember what that goal is. And stop themselves from introducing fake debates. A fake debate is a debate over something that is not relevant to the goal.

The first goal of ecosystem stewardship is to understand the system so we can stop trashing it. Scientists know a lot about how the ecosystem actually functions. Science is the study of measurable facts using the scientific method. Therefore, if we want scientists to share their professional expertise we have to talk about things that can be evaluated using measurable facts.

090531BP_dsc1461SLsWhat is the average size of a domestic cat?

How much does this cat weight?

What is she thinking? Not measurable.

God is also not a measurable fact; if you can’t talk about physical phenomena such as gravity (weight, mass), for example, or the flow of energy in the ecosystem, or the sexual reproduction that makes life possible as we know it. Well. Then. I wonder if you really want to fulfill your obligation as a steward, because those things exist and are discussable among peoples of any faith. That is the power of science. Measurable facts are discussable. They are not universal – they are not everythiing – but they are important and they are discussible.

And you can’t ask a professional scientist to professionally discuss science in the absence of measurable facts, because there is no such thing as science in the absence of measurable facts. Science IS the study of measurable facts. Technology is not science, but technology is a very good evidence for the validity of scientific discoveries, because technology uses the basic laws of nature (that science learns about) to make things. If the scientific information were wrong — the things wouldn’t work. So some of what scientists believe might be wrong, because scientists are only human, but most of it does tell us facts about how the ecosystem functions. And we cut ourselves off from the greatest body of knowledge that humans on earth have ever assembled when we refuse to talk to scientists, just because we (also humans) don’t like whatever scientists might be saying.

If we do that, I would doubt if our real motivation is stewardship, because if we genuinely want to fulfill our obligation as stewards, then we wouldn’t cut ourselves off from the information we need. We would do whatever it takes to learn the facts that we need to do the best possible job.

Fake Debates. Torture.

Changing the subject, loss leaders, asking the wrong question. The purpose of any of these so-called debates is to avoid discussing the issue. The debate about whether or not torture is torture is probably a lot of fun for some people. It allows us to get all excited about something that is not the issue. The issue is that:

1) All high government officials take an oath to support the constitution of the United States of America, and

2) The constitution of the United States of America declares the President and other high officials are required to honor the treaties and agreements of our country, and

3) Torture is a war crime and a crime in the United States of America, both because we agreed to honor the Geneva Convention, and because torture is a crime in the United States of America. It has nothing to do with whoever we don’t like or why we are at war.

Without the rule of law we have no United States of America. Under the rule of law, people must be held responsible for what they choose to do. Otherwise, there is no rule of law. Torturing is illegal. Nobody forced anybody to torture. It’s not possible to force anyone to torture other people.

When we choose to break the law, we know what the consequences are. We make that choice freely and accept the consequences, or we change the law — first and legally.

There is nothing to debate here.

But if we live in a culture where only two human values remain — winning, losing — then of course no discussion is possible and nothing is left to us but the mini-wars of fake debates. And we have shackled our souls to the shame and denial of our own abusive behavior.