Bare Bones Biology 092 – Climate Change

I try not to be one of those snobby scientists. I know they exist. That’s why I try not to be one, and what do I get for it? Some of the politically active people who aren’t scientists try to prove that they know more about biology than I do. Perhaps I should think about them as snobby non-scientists. However, a knowledge of biology among non-scientists or other powerful people is really important. Likely it will make the difference between whether or not we humans have a future on this earth. And I’m speaking literally. But that’s not why I continue to try to make the information available. Extinction of the species is not such a big deal. I mean, who cares as long as I’m OK. The reason I keep writing these things is not about extinction. It’s about the amount of suffering that we are causing to ourselves and to others. We do not have the right to cause suffering for others.

So I gave him a book. If you want one, you can download it free on my website.

OK, I admit it, right now I’m thinking about one particular extremely snobby non-scientist, and you don’t know him, so I’m using him for an example of how to not solve problems. He didn’t understand a word of the book. That’s OK, nobody understands everything. Or more likely he didn’t try to understand it, and he also did not ask any questions about it; it wasn’t what he wanted to talk about. What he wanted was to kindly explain to me all of this biology stuff is only my personal opinion, and there is a debate about whether or not I am right about climate change. What debate? Me and Rush? Certainly no debate between me and other basic biologists. Some discussion, sure; no debate, and at least I read all that stuff about biology and understood most of it.

I mildly suggested to this fellow that he check the facts. Mine and his. I mean, it’s all there on the internet and in books and scientific papers, with the evidences. And his response? I quote: “I’m trying to teach you (that would be him trying to teach me) to THINK!” In all capital letters. He wants me to waste my time thinking about fake debates among people who have not even tried to read the evidences. Maybe he believes the ecosystem was put here on this earth to serve our needs and it never changes.

Look around you folks. It changes all the time, but only in response to physical cause- and-effect realities that are on the ground. The earth ecosystem does not care about anyone’s opinion. Opinions do not change anything except your mind. Sometimes. That’s why the facts are so important.

The ecosystem we live inside of was not put here on the earth. The ecosystem IS the living earth and all its parts. It is alive. That’s a definition of life. The ability to change in response to changing conditions. When it’s cold we shiver, because we are alive. When the living earth changes over time, the name for that change is evolution, and climate change is all about evolution.

Climate change is about life — biology, because this earth would not exist – but maybe I should define biology. I just realized you might be thinking about technology, or medicine, or physics, or physiology or biochemistry or even sociology or politics. Nuhuh. Biology is the study of life and how it stays alive. Biology is not physiology, which is primarily the study of humans, nor is it sociology, which is primarily the study of humans. All of those things we study are primarily the study of humans, as is anthropology and – well almost every study we do is primarily about humans and that is NOT ABOUT LIFE ITSELF. Because humans, contrary to the common perception, are not the center of life.

For about 500 years we have known that the earth is not the center of the solar system.

And neither are we.

These are two facts that will not change regardless of how anyone learns to think, or what anyone believes.

Bare Bones Biology 092 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References: Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook free download on the lower right side of my blog.

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Bare Bones Biology 089 – What Can We Do?

So we evolved (or if you want to know more about that see BBB 010 through 019 and 088). What’s that got to do with what we can do for the future of humans on this earth? (check out New Dimensions – Creating the New Dream http://www.newdimensions.org/creating-the-new-dream-and-the-future-of-the-earth/

The answer is, we can and DO affect the welfare of future generations by our behaviors now. We can improve the human condition, if we put our faith in the reality of our obligation to the future, and change our lifestyles according to the needs of the ecosystem to maintain its health and ours. Some people make small changes, others make big changes, depending on our situation. But we all can place our faith in the heart of the process that created a Jesus and a Gandhi and a number of Buddhas and a Mohammed, and you and me. And stop placing our faith in humans and human works. For the simple reason that the whole of the process and system and creation that is the living earth – it is too much for humans to understand. There are too many interacting parts. That’s why it sounds so complicated, it is. And we should not be tinkering with the most basic components of something we don’t understand, and believe me, those guys who say they do understand, they don’t understand either. Nobody does.

Many people believe that all scientists have faith in technology. This is too bad, because I don’t know any good basic scientist whose faith is centered in their technology. Technologies are intensely human, and a good basic scientist would look at the world, examine the cause and effect of the devastation that has been wrought by human technologies. Technologies are invented with the specific purpose of trying to force an end-run around the reality of the system and the process of nature.

A good scientist would see in our current devastation a failure of human technologies. A good basic scientist has faith in the process. She would not try to tinker with the very thing that gives her life. She would not experiment with the welfare of the grandchildren when we already know what they need. They, and we, need clean water, clean air, good rich living soil, and food energy that is generated by healthy growing plants. And we know it is the earth itself that creates these things for us. The very complexity of the earth. The earth can do this work of creation if it is healthy, and our job is to stop tinkering and help the earth to be healthy. The very reason that a basic scientist loves the ecosystem is because it is a way to study the process and the systems of the living earth that are NOT controlled by human fallibility.

The corposystem, on the contrary, was designed by humans who do not understand the system or the process. I know they don’t/didn’t understand either the system or the process of how the universe evolved from subatomic to solid and from solid to alive and from alive to human. I know they don’t understand this because nobody does. Because the creation cannot fully understand its creator. A lot of the ills of the corposystem are caused by its reverence for human technological power. Human technological power, or even human compassion or spirituality are not enough because there is no way humans can change the natural laws that permit the system to survive.

The creator is not human. Humans are not God. That’s why humans require faith, and that’s why we cannot enjoy a sustainable presence on this earth unless our faith is placed in the basic laws of the process and system that permitted the creation in the first place. That’s the natural laws, the laws of nature. Regardless of who created them and how.

What we can do is to believe in this fact and learn to understand how we are causing harm. There is nothing on earth that we can do to change this very moment. What we can do is give the gift of life, the gift of fitness, to the future by living inside the belief and understanding of the reality of what the earth needs to be healthy.

Bare Bones Biology 088 – What can we do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Bare Bones Biology 087 – What Can We Do?

There is a great deal that all of us can do to give humans of the future, our grandchildren, a better life than they will have if we continue on as we are. Especially those of us in the United States. If we learn to connect the dots between what we do right now – all of our actions — and what happens in the future. In other words, if we pay close attention to causes and effects.

I learned to do this when I became one of the earlier women working in the field of science (Not technology. Science itself actually is the study of causes and effects. Technology is about making things.) So here I was trying to succeed, while the well-meaning men scientists were trying to help by telling me how to succeed. The problem for me was, at that time, what worked for the men did not work for women to succeed in science. Especially unmarried women. And the men scientists were firmly convinced it would work for women. You would think a bunch of scientists would be more logical about this, wouldn’t you, but they wouldn’t discuss anyone else’s causes and effects because they believed there weren’t any – and they “knew best.”

First I blamed myself. I watched what I did. I started to notice correlations: I do this; that happens. So I change this; something else happens. If it happens enough times, then I begin to believe it’s not my mistakes that cause something to happen – it’s just the way things are. It was how the law of cause and effect worked in that culture at that time, and the more I know about this cause and effect thing, the more power I have in my life. Not the power to change unchangeable things. The power to know what will happen, or what is most likely to happen, according to what I choose to do.

So I am a pretty good scientist. I experimented on the men, and the employer, and have been doing it ever since. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than believing in the powers that be and it’s very much better than just doing what looks like it might be good, or other people think it’s good, without studying what is likely to be the result of whatever I do.

So, in terms of politics for example. We collect the things that make good sense (to us, not to our “leaders”) and the things that people are doing that are working, and those that are not working and we try to understand why — and the things that we physically can not do because of the laws of nature.

We then project everything into the future, what we want the future to be like. We do not listen to opinions but only to cause and effect realities. If we don’t understand the realities, we ask people who are qualified. Or mostly we can simply use good common sense. For example, population. How many people can be supported by one acre of our earth? The answer is we don’t know. We can research the question, but that would be a displacement activity. To avoid doing what needs to be done. We do know there is a limit. It’s only good common sense. Therefore we should factor population into all of our planning.

Nobody can work for now, because the now I just wrote is already gone. Everybody really wants to live a worthwhile life, and that means doing something that will benefit others. And we all have a responsibility to work for the future. Especially now we have the responsibility, because our problem is going to get a lot worse before it gets better – no matter what anyone does.

So our gifts are needed. They are badly needed.

Bare Bones Biology 087 – What can we Do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

Cause and Effect Denied

If you lose the cultural trappings and metaphors, the basic principles of Buddhism are totally compatible with Christianity. If you lose the trappings and metaphors of Christianity, it is entirely compatible with Buddhism. That’s because religion in its essence is a message from the past experiences of human kind that is intended to help us understand the natural law of cause and effect, and how it works in our relationships within populations and in the reality of how life functions. The laws of nature do not differ from one place to another or from one religion to another. In fact the laws of nature don’t know we exist. The laws of nature are what they must be if there is to be a universe, and if we choose to defy them or if we choose to understand them, the laws of nature don’t give a shit. They just are. So, the more we understand about them, the better we can learn how to get what we want in life. Religions are meant to help us toward more rewarding life by guiding us toward doing actions that have beneficial effects.

The basic law of cause and effect tells us things like – if you jump off a tall building you will fall. The evil that has been done to Americans mostly has to do with corrupting the concept of cause and effect, teaching us to believe in things that can’t possibly be, and so destroying our ability to use logic to make sense of our lives.

There is a basic law of cause and effect that we cannot change. The only way we CAN grow a long-term good life is to learn as much as we can about how the real world really does work – and the lies we are being told — and build that knowledge into our lives.

So the first step (“the first noble truth”) is to recognize that pain is unavoidable. The point is not whether or not you like that idea. The point is that if you try for a life that has no pain in it you will make it more painful than it really is. Bitsy’s caretaker’s mother has MS. When I picked up Bitsy yesterday, she was telling me how people don’t like to look at her mother and so they just turn away, and she said they would cause less suffering for everyone if they would learn to: “Deal with it.” Whether or not we like suffering is not relevant in our lives because it’s not one of the available choices. What gives us a better or worse life is how we deal with that and with the choices that are available. That’s what religion is supposed to help us to do more effectively. The more you know about the reality of cause and effect, the more effectively you can deal with it.

The wisdom traditions that are actually useful do not tell you that you can get whatever you want by magic or prayer or wishing or buying something. (For example what I said – if we keep doing whatever we are doing our lives won’t change very much unless of course there is some big change from outside.) If we want to change our lives, then we need to change our behaviors, and we also need to know what does NOT work. For example the American Dream does not work. It claims to benefit the entire population, but it can’t because that goal is biologically impossible using the methods – or behaviors – that we are using. We would be far better off to stop doing what we know is not working. We can’t live without air. We can’t eat without good earth to grow the food in. We can’t destroy the earth and still feed all the people. We can’t be fulfilled human beings by spending our time competing with other people, rather than growing sustainable communities. Those are the things we need to know if we want to find a sense of satisfaction.

The trick of living is to understand what we can NOT do and stop trying to do it. If we do the things that can’t give us what we want – we won’t get what we want. No matter what self-help make-believe someone is trying to sell us. If we want to grow a better future for ourselves or for anyone else, we need to consider the law of cause and effect and the ways in which our behaviors of today are most likely to affect our future(s). We humans know enough science to understand the basic biological realities. What I like about the principles of Buddhism is that they are a useful recipe for the human realities.

I got interested in the principles of Buddhism when I heard the Dalai Lama say just what I said in the paragraph above. I already understood the law of cause and effect as it is studied by science. He recognized this and compared it with Buddhism. Buddhism studies the law of cause and effect as it applies to human behaviors. But the other wisdom traditions also give us essentially the same useful recipe.

We cannot avoid the results of the behaviors of our society, but we don’t have to believe the lies or live out the false claims of the propaganda. The more useful alternatives are well understood.

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 http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Bare Bones Biology 053 – Winning is an Emergent Property

For me, the concept of emergent properties (Bare Bones Biology 017, FactFictionFancy-How Can we Know so Little, is critical to understanding our human power inside our living and nonliving environment. And this is important because any living thing needs to understand power relationships to stay alive. How much personal power do I have? How much power is attributable to God? Or to the Ecosystem? These relationships are very fundamental, and if we mis-interpret them we may end up on our keesters. Or extinct. Or just miserable wanting our world to be something it can not be.

If we truly understand the reality of emergent properties — that is, if we appreciate the fact that all of our physical reality is the result of a complex combination of factors — causes and effects — then there is no such thing as a winner. Or even a hero.

Ho, indeed, big jump there, but how can there be a winner if the individual who won was not individually responsible for the win? For example, I once won. I won a court case. I can give you a list as long as your arm of conditions and people and coincidences without which I would not have won, no matter how good the cause and no matter how diligently and skillfully I worked.

I noticed this disconnect in our thinking, between the concept of winner and the reality of complexity, while struggling to make sense of our American idea that “everyone can be a winner,” that I saw on a schoolroom wall. I have been one, and I don’t think so. Or maybe someone has changed the meaning of the word – winner. As I understand American English, a winner is someone who won something by using her own power or skill. In order to win something, the winner has to beat something. Usually what she beats is other people. Just look around. I think there must be at least ten or fifteen losers produced in our culture for every winner. How can we believe that everyone can be a winner with something like 1/5 of our population under the poverty line? That can’t be winning, and I don’t think anyone is actually counting the losers. A lot of losers are over the poverty line – way over the poverty line.

During my lifetime this tendency in our culture has increased dramatically, as has our delight in blaming each other for whatever happens that we don’t like. We shout the praises of the winners, and blame the losers for their losses, because we believe we all are personally in control of own wins and losses. It’s not true. Every win reflects a complex history of interactions, most of which we don’t personally control. And so does every loss.

If you want an example of the absurd extremes this can reach – just look at the Congress of today where everyone is assuming his own omniscience, and is busy blaming everyone else, and nobody is willing to work toward the solution itself, because it is really complicated and would require cooperation among the millions of parts that must fall into place in the right way to reach an emergent solution.

Interestingly, this morning news reported that the imprisoned sons of Mubarac are unable to comprehend what it means not to have a cell phone in jail, so the reporter said. I guess they thought their power was an innate and immutable part of their personal makeup — stronger even than the laws of nature. It’s not. The only power we really have is our good luck plus our understanding of the merging facts and processes, and the probable consequences of the choices we make. The very most that we can ever accomplish is to focus the threads of cause and effect toward a goal. We have everything we need right now to align our human presence with the physical realities of the world we live in — except we don’t have the will to define our common goal and then go for it.

Bare Bones Biology 053 – Winning
KEOS radio 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Transcript at factfictionfancy.wordpress.com
Audio at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Permalink URL – http://barebonesbiology.com/bbb053-winning-mp3

A major foundation of Buddhism is that all actions bring about results. Whatever we do, whether or not we are thinking about what we do, whatever we do is a choice that will take our lives in one direction or another. That is also a major foundation of science. Actions have consequences — the action doesn’t care willynuts about our intentions — the consequences are the ressult of our actions, not our thoughts.

That being the case, and unless someone can offer a better idea, if we want ANYTHING, I believe we should learn to understand the chains of cause and effect that prevent us from obtaining it, and then figure out how to deal positively. Or even if we don’t want anything, I believe it is our responsibility to understand as best we can how our actions affect the future. And stop just plucking mind-candy out of the hands of imaginary gods to tide us over the sleepless nights until the shit hits the fan.