Bare Bones Biology 224F – Healthy Living – What Goes Around

The question is not: “What should I do?” And it is not: “Whom should I believe?” Those are victim questions. The question is: “How does it work?” Because if I know how it works, I don’t need to be someone else’s victim. I can take care of myself. I can recognize the frauds and wheeler dealers. And I can figure out for myself what to do and whom to believe and why. So our question now is how does life stay healthy, that is, “sound, vital and functioning properly.” ( .

And the answer is, all of Life works pretty much the same, from the entire Earth Biosystem to all the different organisms including us, to all the cells that also are alive, except a few cells in hot springs and deep in the ocean or earth, that use a different system for getting energy. All of these different parts of Life recycle the materials of which they are made, using the energy from food to do the work of being alive, and using an “operating system” that is encoded in the genes and selected by the processes of evolution to maintain a healthy balance.

.The Biosystem survives by balancing these three essential sub-systems that are at work in all of us and interact with each other to maintain life:

(1) Recycling Materials – The materials that our bodies are made of come from our food and water. The materials are mostly atoms (such as carbon, oxygen and hydrogen and nitrogen) and molecules (such as lipids, carbohydrates, proteins and nucleic acids). The materials are recycled all around the world and used over and over again in every body on earth including the body of the Biosystem. The molecules are “digested” (taken apart) and then reassembled every time a new body grows. For example, if you eat a bean, the bean proteins are taken apart and the parts are reassembled to make person proteins, which are slightly different from be140927-canyon-asc_2013RLSss copyan proteins. When we die or excrete materials, they are broken down further into atoms (mostly carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen) or smaller molecules such as water and carbon dioxide. These atoms and molecules enrich the soil and clean the water by feeding organisms that live in healthy soil and clean water – and they maintain the balance of the healthy air. Then the same atoms and molecules are used to make molecules and cells in plants that grow in the soil. So, the atoms and molecules of all of earth are put together and taken apart – forever — as they are used and discarded by living creatures. That is Biosystem recycling. It’s not human recycling.

And the same thing happens to all materials that we put into the biosystem. Including non-biological toxic compounds such as plastics, modern perfumes. Nothing “goes away.” Everything is recycled except energy, and we get it in our food.

(2) Capturing and Using Energy – The energy that our bodies use to do all this work of taking apart and putting together – energy for life — also comes from our food. Energy is the ability to do work, and there are different kinds of energy that do different kinds of work. The energy used by our living bodies is food energy. Plants are able to capture energy from the sun and change it into food energy and use that energy to make plant cells.  But energy does not recycle, so the food energy is put into the food by plants and then we eat the plants and use some of the energy to make human molecules (proeins, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids) and human cells, and to grow healthy bodies.

140930-canyon-asc_2130RLSs copyWhen the food energy has been used to do that work of growing and maintaining health, it is released as heat. Heat energy and energy from oil wells or fracking or solar are all different forms of energy that cannot be used by our bodies. Food energy is the only kind of energy that can be used to keep our bodies alive and healthy. But energy does not recycle, and our technologies cannot make food energy. So our food is critical to our health, both to provide healthy materials and to get energy that plants can make but we cannot make. The supermarket or McDonalds do not and cannot make food. Only the Biosystem makes food, using earth, air, water and plants.   (Free download, Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook under chapter 2 on the right side of the blog

The Operating System. The Law of Life. All of this recycling of materials and capturing of energy requires an operating system. The operating system for Life maintains the balance among all the millions of processes that are required to do the recycling and to flow food energy to all parts of the system, and to maintain a healthy balance of the Earth Biosystem. I call this the Law of Life. It is a natural law that is more important to Life even than gravity. The Law of Life is encoded as genetics acted upon by evolution responding to the environment. It is the Law of Life that maintains or changes the climate to keep the whole system in Balance.

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

A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:

Free download, Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook under chapter 2 on the right side of the blog

Bare Bones Biology 091 – Evolution

Last time I told you what I know about the reality of our human position on the earth, and more importantly what we don’t know and therefore cannot control. Next I’ll tell you a little why and how story of the past couple of hundred years that have grown our destructive modern economies.

The theory of evolution was a brilliant breakthrough that took place a couple of hundred years ago. After that, it was studied rigorously until the evolutionary scientists and the geneticists realized they were all studying different parts of the same creature, and they got together. Now, 200 years later, we know a great deal more about how this beautiful life form, the whole earth ecosystem, manages to survive through the millennia by changing in response to changing conditions. We know that these changes are mediated for the most part by organisms that, by their interactions with each other and with the environment, carry the genetic information for the life of the whole system forward from one moment of time to the next. The correct term for this kind of study is evolutionary ecology. We left Darwinism in the dust at least a hundred hears ago.

The corposystem and modern politics and economics do not want us to know about evolutionary ecology, I guess because they have a strong foundation in that little nonsense phrase: “Survival of the fittest.” You have heard me say many times: “That’s not how it works.” I didn’t tell you how it does work for two reasons. One is that I don’t completely know how it works – nobody does – the other is that evolution is so complicated that most people don’t even TRY to understand how it really does work. Not even a massive computer could do the job because we don’t know all the parts of the whole earth ecosystem, so we can’t plug the information into the computer. We don’t even know all the species that do the work of keeping us alive. That’s why biologists are concerned about us humans killing them off – the other species – without even knowing what they are and how they contribute to our well being. The bottom line is that our modern corposystem is partially justified by a false or fake belief in survival of the fittest.

It is true that tooth and claw is an important reality of life. It’s also true that tooth and claw is a necessary component of life because it contributes to the flow of energy through the ecosystem, but tooth and claw is only a subset of how evolution works. How does it work? I lay out the background in pages 32 onward in Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook you can download from my website, FactFictionFancy. The shortest version I can tell you in a five-minute spot is that life evolves by generating functionally effective systems out of pre-existing systems.

A cell is a functionally effective system that is made of thousands of molecules – the key is that all these molecules work together perfectly. The problem, from our point of view, is the millions and millions of functional systems that did NOT work together perfectly within the system and so they became extinct. The way evolution works is to generate millions and millions of functional systems, by recombining the older systems, until a new system emerges that works together positively with the whole of life. That one SYSTEM (species) out of all the millions that unbalanced the systems of life, that one survives over time to become a part of the living whole earth ecosystem. We are unbalancing the life systems of the earth. The difference between us and all the other species is that we KNOW these things.

And the reason I am trying to explain this to you is that I see some new social movements coming up that are based on the reality of evolution instead of the failed models that were in part based on a false view of evolution. I’ll talk more about these in future.

Bare Bones Biology 091 – Evolution
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available next week
here and at

Bare Bones Biology 060-Fracking I

I have lived in a Tokyo suburb, and in the shade of a mountain in Montana, but it’s in rural loneliness where I learned the most about community. I learned to sit under a tree in the forest until the little creatures gathered around to investigate this stranger in their midst. Almost like a Bambi forest glade with the little birds and flowers, but I learned this before I ever saw a motion picture. And I always knew it was no fairy tale, but the deepest source of life itself.

So I already knew this when I went to college, and there I found the wonder of basic science and I dedicated my life to learning how we humans can use our knowledge of basic science to bring to ourselves a life of ordinary happiness, in a perpetual way, like a forest glade that blooms for us and for our children unto the seventh generation yet to be born, and beyond. I mean learning how the whole system works so that we can help us to continue nurturing us on into the future. And now we know; we are choosing not to do it, and that is our human tragedy.

For a long time, I have been wondering how anyone could make that choice.

This morning I woke up remembering how exciting it was in college, that three year period when I understood how forest glade ecosystems function – using all the species at once, and all the cycles, and the flow of energy at all the levels (see the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook) – to maintain the well being of us all, the rabbits and birds and flowers and all of us who are a part of the ecosystem.

This morning after the fracking ]presentation, I woke up remembering how that felt and wondering how anyone, as we heard yesterday and have been hearing for the past 15 years or so – how anyone could dedicate his life to tearing down this wonderful dream of a forever fine future.

And then I realized there isn’t very much difference between a young person who dedicates her life to understanding the factual truth of a functioning world ecosystem (that would be me). There isn’t that much difference between me and, say, a young man who grows to that age of enlightenment and observes the amazing power of the workings of the corposystem. A young man raised on Star Wars make-believe instead of the beauty of factual reality can believe in the corposystem very much in the same way I believe in the ecosystem. Very much as Bernie Madoff’s clients and even his sons believed in his Ponzi scheme, even though anyone can do the math and know there is no future in it. Star Wars economics is of course impossible to sustain for the same reason that any Ponzi scheme is impossible to sustain within a universe that operates according to the laws of energy and the law of cause and effect. Anyone can do the math. But when we are dreaming big dreams and deciding where to devote our lives, if we don’t know about schemes and scams and the first and second law of thermodynamics we get big ideas and are willing to make big sacrifices for them. That’s the tragedy of human kind.

Of course there are no tragedies at levels three and four (corposystem and ecosystem), so far as I know. It’s all about cause and effect. But level one, the individual person and level two, the communities – the tragedy is all around us now, in the air and the water and the soil and every forest glade. Not only the sacrifice of our best human values – honor, honesty, compassion — but also the promotion of suffering – and the effort it takes for idealistic people to believe that what they are doing is for the best.

Even though anyone can do the math.

Bare Bones Biology 060 – Fracking
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
Audio download later this week at