Bare Bones Biology 132 – Community Environments

Joseph Campbell said: “The ancient myths and rites were a means to put the mind into accord with the body, and the way of life into accord with the way nature dictates.”

Homo sapiens
, that’s us, we are a social, communal species. We aren’t the only social species. There are many, and each is different, because they are each genetically adapted to a particular environment or niche in the biological community.

The biggest difference between humans and other social species is our brain. Humans have a marvelous brain that brings us at least four qualities, or aptitudes, that are important to human survival and welfare. We use all four, and the better we use them to help fulfill the biological needs of the living earth ecosystem, to “bring our lives into accord with the way nature dictates” — the more likely we are to survive as a species, and the more fulfilled we are likely to be as individuals.

The first and most basic function of our nervous system is to control our autonomic (automatic) life processes. Breathing, eating, nursing and so on. These activities generally can proceed without our conscious attention because they are genetically programmed to respond to the environment.

Second, the human brain generates our emotions. Our emotions are very important, because they are at the heart of our social communities. Emotionality is also a genetic characteristic, coded by our genes. We know this, basically, because all human societies have the similar emotions. We can’t change the fact that we have emotions, because that portion of our human-ness is encoded in our genes. We can’t even describe all the genes that control our emotional reactions and interconnections, because there are too many genes acting in too many different combinations. Believe me; I have some experience with genetic engineering. Or – better yet – don’t believe me. Study it for yourself. The point here is, if we want to grow better human communities, trying to change our genes would be a worse idea than frontal lobotomy. It won’t work; therefore we should spend our energy on something that will work. We need to learn how to use what we’ve got. Fortunately, the third and fourth qualities of the human brain are eager to learn to do just that.

The third important quality of the human brain is its ability to learn, and that brain is absolutely obsessed with learning. It does not need to be taught or told to learn; it never stops learning. Whatever is out there in the environment, that’s what the brain is learning, and squeezing into its world view, integrating the new information with its emotions, which is one good reason to not watch television.

Babies, of course, mostly learn to use emotions to benefit themselves, but as soon as they are old enough they tag around after whatever moves and copy whatever it is doing. This enormous capacity for learning molds the child to the normal behaviors of his environment. If he is growing up in a stable, sustainable community, then he will grow behaviors that mold his use of his emotions so that they contribute to the welfare and stability of that community. The problems arise if the community is not stable or sustainable.

The fourth important quality of the human brain is our intellect. Intellect is a very human and elegant tool for figuring out what went wrong if problems do arise. It’s a miracle, really, our human logic that can recognize and interact with the universal law of cause and effect to solve novel problems. And human creativity that can generate novel solutions to the problems. And human communication that can share our learning throughout our communities and through the generations, in the form of myths, religions, rituals, works of art, textbooks, literature, and even Facebook.

At this point in human history, we need mostly to educate our intellectual brain, and the first thing we need to understand — we are not God. We do not understand the infinite meaning of life, nor can we control it. Our need to control, our ego, our desire to grow life in our image, whether the image be evil or even if it is a good image – that is the source and cause of most of our disasters.

Lynn Lamoreux

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at

Question for Discussion
: What is a community? What is your community?

Suggested Action
: Purchase a $20 copy of the movie Economics of Happiness, or borrow a copy from the Peach Clubhouse. Find a couple of friends who have not seen the film. Invite them to dinner, a viewing of the film, and discuss the question above. Better yet, go to The Economics of Happiness second annual convention in March — in Australia!! And/or, join The Economics of Happiness networking hub

Recommended References:
Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. PBS.

Bare Bones Biology Ecology Handbook –
On the right side of the page click on the link under “Chapters” to download the PDF.

Thanks to the Red Wasp Film Festival for use of the Photos by Lynn.

Bare Bones Biology 115 – More Story Telling

You may be surprised to hear, given that I have made about $58.62 gross over the past year from pursuing the altruistic goals described in my blog, radiocasts and books (not counting the mouse genetics book), that I signed up for an internet course that is basically about self-promotion. I’m pretty much surprised myself, especially as it cost quite a lot more than $58.62. On the good side, a lot of other people signed up, too, and so we got to electronically meet each other, which is very interesting.

Eth-noh-tec ( is one of these nonprofit organizations, based in San Francisco. Eth-noh-tec’s mission also happens to fit perfectly in my current Bare Bones Biology series that is about human communication. Or, just in case you didn’t notice the trend, here is a rundown:

Bare Bones Biology 107 – Right, Left or Wrong (about the brain)
Bare Bones Biology 108 – Scientific Communication – across disciplines
Bare Bones Biology 109 – Communication
Bare Bones Biology 110 – Rituals
Bare Bones Biology 111 – Rituals again
Bare Bones Biology 112 – Thinking
Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion (and poetry)
Bare Bones Biology 114 – Great Aridness (about books)
Bare Bones Biology 115 – Story Telling (performance art)

Eth-noh-tec does not need introduction; because of what they do, they introduce themselves. Next week another sort of communication, the workshop, will be represented, and then we will pay attention to some people who attempt to report the true facts in a world that is now awash with commercial and political propaganda. As David Barsamian says: “It is the job of a good citizen to inform him/herself well enough to understand the difference between propaganda and reality.” That is also the aim of FactFictionFancy.

For today, this is a nice little bit of performance art created just for BareBonesBiology, and so it’s important to hear it. It’s not meant to be a dry list of facts, but an experience that will help us to appreciate the realities expressed. So wait a couple of ticks after this is posted and then click on the link, or go to Bare Bones Biology and listen to the presentation.

Just in case you can’t hear it for some reason, here is the transcript of Eth-noh-tec:

“Welcome. My name is Nancy Wang.
“My name is Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo. Together we’re known as
“An Asian-American, kinetic storytelling nonprofit arts organization.
“We are in the business of telling stories. We dedicate ourselves to building cultural bridges that celebrate diversity and create compassionate communities, through stories that reveal our universal truths.
“Storytelling is an excellent mode of communication, and one in which we accomplish our mission. As we all know, communication is not always easy. We all have a lens through which we see, hear and feel the world around us. So any one of us might say one thing that is clear to ourselves, but the person we’re talking to, it’s not clear, and that’s because we all have a lens through which we exist in this world.
“Then there is storytelling. Stories and folk tales, myths and legends, you know a story can cut right through some of that jumble by offering us understanding through metaphor, and a good plot, or a fascinating character.

“Storytelling creates empathic listening. If it’s a good story, it will impart information on a level that our brains can get, despite our minds’ lens and our minds’ biases to reach and open our hearts.
“And so recently I wrote and performed the story of my Chinese ancestors, who, looking for a better life, traveled from China on a jumk boat, a Chinese sailboat, in 1850, to reach the shores of California. Well, they crashed into Carmel bay. Now compassion started immediately when they were rescued by a group of Rumsen Indians. And then later, when the Chinese looked around this pristine Monterey peninsula, they saw that there were no fishing boats in the Pacific Ocean, or in the bays. And so, they started the fishing industry in Monterey, which soon grew, and carved out California.
“However, if you were to visit Monterey today, you wouldn’t even know that this history existed, because there’s no evidence at all that 800 plus Chinese fishermen and their four fishing villages were ever there.

“Yet, the fishing industry continued to thrive there. There’s just no Chinese doing it or profiting from it, because from the 1850s through the early 1940s, there was blatant anti-Chinese legislation and illegal acts of violence against the Chinese, by European settlers, most of whom arrived there after the Chinese. Villages were burned, purges took place, whole Chinese communities were marched out. Beatings and hangings took place.

“In short, ethnic cleansing. But, there were also those who helped the Chinese, though very few, but it made a huge difference in allowing for some peaceful, compassionate exchanges between the European and Chinese settlers.

“And without those exchanges, I might not be here today. The Chinese must have taken to heart those who saw them as people, not things, and who were kind, even friends, and this allowed them to live their lives. They were able to contribute their skills and ingenuity to America. So my story is an important story, and it provides a missing piece of the American historical landscape. And it also shows how not knowing one’s story leaves too much room for stereotyping and prejudice, leading to misunderstandings and to violence.

“People of color have been an integral part of building this nation.
“People of color have been a part of and have built this nation just as much as the white population.
“Imagine this. A world without compassion; a world without empathy. Without this, the rise of racism, bigotry, genocide, and war could spell the total annihilation of humankind.
Hope for a compassionate world lies in waking up the heart. Waking up compassion and showing examples of compassion. Living a life of compassion. We do this through our art. The art of storytelling.
“Remember, one cannot hate another whose story we know.
“A story is the shortest distance between the brain and the heart.
“Without compassion, we’re left with prejudices, intolerance, and distrust. So today, learn about someone you know nothing about.

“And tell a moving story to someone.

“Practice stepping into another situation.

“And if you want to know more about us, we’re at

Bless you.”

Bare Bones Biology 115 – More Story Telling
KEOS FM, 89.1, Bryan TX
A podcast of this post may be downloaded here
Or at

Recommended References and Trackbacks:

Bare Bones Biology 111 – Ritual II

What we all require from our rituals is guidance about “what we should do and what we should not do.” (As Thich Nhat Hanh says in Touching Peace)

We need to understand who we are and how to fit our lives into the big Life without causing harm to ourselves or to it. At the Peach Clubhouse we will have a copy of Joanna Macy’s very fine talk at The Economics of Happiness conference. She started out saying “We are really blessed by the straight talk here.” That got my attention. Or keep watching all the good talks at where it will eventually be posted.

Understanding how to fit our lives into the big Life without causing harm is a complicated task for which well-tested knowledge and positive rituals will help us a great deal more than any other kind of power. We are not more powerful than the big Life that is all life, and our attempts to provide for ourselves by destroying that Life will fail because our modern corposystem rituals are built in the sand of denial and based on the myth of omnipotence.

Ritual is a method of communication within and between populations. If the conditions are right, the rituals of a culture evolve with the needs of the culture. In our so-called modern cultures we have so many unmet needs, and so many ritualistic heritages, that they tend to be confused and misused by intent or by ignorance. That does not mean that rituals are wrong. If your language means nothing to me, then your rituals probably will also not inform me very well because there is no way for me to understand our common roots. That does not mean that you are fundamentally different from me or that your new discoveries are new to me. Yes, you have rituals that are special to you. We all do. Some of these are more useful than others. All of them can be misused.

So let’s not permit our favored rituals to lead us away from our deep reverence for the Source of everything that we need to stay alive and well. You’ve been studying your discipline for 10, 20, 30, even 40 years. I can top that, but why bother? At the root of the Source there is no metaphor, but only pure reality that cannot be denied, no matter how powerful our technology – no matter how bright we are.

Let’s stop growing cultures of denial in which the positive rituals of others cannot bear fruit: a) because we are not listening, so we don’t understand; or b) because we believe our own way is “special.” Maybe our way is not so very different, only we have different rituals and metaphors for the same old human problems. Maybe there are some better answers than what we know today.

Let’s not continue to ritualize our fears into the aggressive or passive-aggressive expressions of the need to win, or to be “right,” or to know more than others about how we proceed to the next evolutionary step in our human lives. We do not know how the earth will evolve. Evolution has way too many variables for us to predict. But we do have something previous generations did not have. In addition to the ritual warnings, we also have fact-based warnings about what we should not do as humans who love life.

For only one example, NASA Director James Hansen and other climatologists predicted climate change more than 50 years ago, based on over-growth of human technologies and population. We weren’t listening. That was a mistake.

If we choose to study only one source or sort of information about what we should do — or not do – our work tends to cancel the efforts of the other at a time when we could be doubling our impact by listening to authoritative sources of both sorts of information .

When I was involuntarily working for women’s liberation, I had no vision or image of women learning to be more powerful than they already were. I imagined women and men growing the rituals for our sustainable future, based in the subtler, more effective “Powers of the Weak” so that we together could grow a subtler, more effective more enduring and sustainable culture for human kind.

Maybe I succeeded and it took a couple of generations. Maybe that is what’s happening now. If so, I wish we would call it for what it is and work it for its full potential so that fully informed people of various traditions, rather than always trying to “teach” the other, are willing to listen hard and well together, and together discuss viable solutions.

For that to succeed, we must include valid scientific data in all our deliberations. Good basic biological science (not technology but holistic science) tells us a lot about what we should not try to do. Actually, so do most of the technologies we are using in our fatal effort to subdue the earth.

Bare Bones Biology 111 – Ritual II
KEOS 98.1 FM
The audio podcast can be downloaded here
Or at

Recommended References
Thich Nhat Hahn –
Elizabeth Janeway – Powers of the Weak
Joanna Macy –
James Hansen –
Paul Woodruff – Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue

Bare Bones Biology 109 – Communication

In the past two Bare Bones Biologies, that’s 107 and 108, we tackled one of the most complex of human topics, communication. There are people who specialize in this area, and I probably should consult such an expert, because I confuses me. We so seldom use communication to communicate our reality, and then we have to translate, or guess, what people mean by what they say, and I’m not a good guesser. I finally did figure out the reason people don’t listen to what I say – that’s one of my biggest complaints – is because they’re listening instead to what they would have meant if they had said it.

This is not necessary by the way. If we did understand each other it would eliminate a lot of confusion, and it would only require asking a few questions. But now I find a generation or two of people who are offended by questions, because they equate questioning their meaning with – “dissing” them. (To diss = to disrespect.)

I can understand this, because so many people in our culture are addicted to – or afraid of – power. So we often use words as we would money, or expertise, or machismo or whatever we have at hand to reinforce our own sense of dominance or of defence. The result is not very useful.

I remember a time when expertise was envisioned as useful, not because it gave us an individual edge in a world of fearful competition, but because our individual expertise, whatever it is, can be used to contribute to the welfare of the community. There still exist communities, and some new ones growing, in which each person within the community supports the efforts of the other (even if by support we mean pointing out the flaws so together we can grow a better effort).

Every effort has value, and the values among the many can be discussed. They have worth. None is perfect and none is expected to be perfect. But all together, if the information is made available for solving problems, the community is in a position to deal with the real problems as a group, and so the community has more power than the individual to build a better future for the whole.

Generally, in our culture, we tend to view these communities a primitive, but let’s face it, primitive peoples lived sustainably for thousands of years until we came along with the so-called advanced cultures that are not sustainable within the factual reality of the earth ecosystem. Loving the ecosystem will not change this fact. Neither will technology. Until the spiritualists and the technologists are willing to learn about limiting factors, our advanced human cultures are on a fast track to destruction. Because we do have responsibilities to the earth itself, and unless we know what they are, and fulfill them, well, then our spiritual and technological good intentions are, and I quote St Bernard of Clairveux: “the road to hell, paved with good intentions.”

In a society of competition, where everyone is afraid of everyone else, we cannot use our expertise compassionately to benefit the whole, because the whole is composed of other people, most of whom are more concerned with their own physical or emotional survival.

The result is useless and fruitless power struggles rather than a compassionate intention to address real problems. And in a society where people are hooked on feeling good, or aspiring to feel good, there can be very little compassion, because in a crisis situation, compassion most often does not feel good. Doing what’s best to benefit the whole, often does not feel good. But that is what compassion is – doing what is best for the long-term interests of the other and the whole.

When a solution to a problem is well documented in fact, then it is the responsibility of compassion to study these facts and use them to promote the overall welfare, that is the least suffering, of the whole. For that, we must learn to listen and to discuss. Without listening and discussion of the impact of the facts on all the levels of life, from the individual through the ecosystem, there can be no deep, sustainable, compassion.

Bare Bones Biology 108 – Communication
KEOS 89.1 FM
This program can be downloaded here
Or at

Owl photo taken in New Mexico at
Discussion photo taken in California at the conference of:

Bare Bones Biology 108 – Scientific Communication

Today we’ll hear from Elizabeth Daut, who is a PhD candidate with the Applied Biodiversity Science program at Texas A&M University. She and several other students are working on a project to improve scientific communication.

I am part of a program called Applied Biodiversity Sciences. As part of this program we are working on this project to really integrate different components of the biodiversity conservation community, and help foster communication and collaboration across the different disciplines that are directly involved with conservation or even somewhat remotely involved. The objective is to provide the information that scientists may need that the public may need, foster those links to help develop interdisciplinary projects.

It’s an interesting problem that we have. The communication issues between scientists and nonscientists; but then also between scientists and other scientists. And there are many reasons. One is that scientists are innately drawn to nuances, the details of their research, the nitty-gritty information. They’re searching for discrete answers. And when they try to explain their results to the public, they go straight to the small nuances, versus painting the big pictures in broad strokes, which is easier to understand.

Another issue is that scientists are often reluctant to promote their research. One of the axioms of science is that of maintaining your objectivity, and once you put in opinions or subjectivity, then it’s almost as if that scientist will lose credibility within the scientific community. So there’s this real reluctance to speak out and to speak directly with the public. So it’s a combination of problems of why there is such poor communication between scientists and the public, but it’s not only problems between scientists and the public, but between scientists and other scientists of different disciplines.

This is a real issue, particularly when you are looking at big problems that are affecting society, that are affecting the globe, like climate change or conservation issues. These are problems that need scientists from all different disciplines to try to solve some of these problems. What we’re finding is that scientists in one discipline, for example conservation biologists or conservation scientists, don’t communicate with social scientists, who may be able to understand the public and society and give insight as to why some of these conservation problems exist at the social level.

What we’re trying to promote, is this increased communication and collaboration among different scientific disciplines. It’s almost as if they need to learn the language of the other scientific discipline.

The best medium to do such communication is on the internet, and what we’re suggesting is to host an on-line platform, a hub, that can foster communication between different disciplines for the benefit of the environment, of biodiversity conservation, and really encourage collaboration and understanding among different scientific disciplines and nurture collaboration in the conservation community.

Bare Bones Biology 108 – Scientific Communication
KEOS 89.1 FM
Audio may be downloaded here
Or at

It is a Problem

You spend your whole life learning about something that is real and true and important, until you finally have something to say, and —

People don’t want to hear it.
And the reason they don’t want to hear it is?

Because you spent your whole life learning. So now you sound like a book instead of a person :!

Now that is a dilemma, isn’t it. I mean given that ecology really is important to us all, and I spent years and years figuring out how it works. Like — would you listen to a mechanic with clean hands?

But this is quite a lot more important than a car 🙂

What should I do?

1. Pretend I don’t know anything and then maybe people will listen? (I tried that actually; they were happy to believe I know nothing.)

2. Tell jokes? (It’s not really funny. Well, I guess it would be better to die laughing than to die crying, but I was hoping we could avoid dying — not me of course, but the ecosystem at least.)

3. Fight, argue, flail about? That seems to be big on the blogosphere, but does anyone believe the info on the blogosphere? Anyhow, that’s kind of demeaning, because that’s what we women had to do before we were liberated. Cry and mope and suffer in order to get anyone to listen to anything at all, and I do hate to go back there, even though it is occasionally necessary. Like the other day I met up with this MCP —-But that’s another subject 😐

4. Make up stories about the ecosystem that aren’t real but are really interesting? (Turn on the TV, any channel, they don’t need me for that.)

5. For that matter, the stuff on TV seems more real than the real stuff, so the competition is fierce, and I still do not know what to do except that I believe in one very important basic thing.

I believe, if you tell people how something works, and if they will listen, then they will understand how it works. Once they understand how it works, they will then be able to make logical choices. And in spite of all the people who somehow recently managed to buy houses when the house payments were bigger than their salaries — I still believe in good common sense. If you tell people how things really work — instead of always telling them what they should be doing about it.

For example. You see that mechanic fix that car? I could do that too, if I knew how the car works. It happens that I do know how the ecosystem works, in its essence, and I’d really like to share that information with someone who cares, because we are mostly winding ourselves around arguments over things that do not matter (all the fake debates I’ve been ranting about), like a bunch of kittens with a ball of yarn — while the coyote is watching from behind the fence, white canine teeth gleaming in the setting sun as saliva drips from — you don’t want to hear all those metaphors and similes and fairy tales and all that do you? Really? Wouldn’t you rather just have the facts so you can decide for yourself?

090612LuMitchell_dsc1738_1LsThe biggest fact that anyone can tell you about the ecosystem is that it survives by BALANCE, and you don’t need to believe this because you can watch it in your own body, or I can tell you how to make a mini ecosystem and you can watch how that works. But your body is already handy. Your body is a subset of the ecoystem and it also survives on balance. The heart must beat just at the right speed, you should not try to eat 100 gallons of ice cream in a day, you should not try to live without drinking. It is all about balance, and so is the ecosystem.

This means no matter how hard we try, we will never GROW the ecosystem back to health. We will have to balance it back to health or — well at least we can all die laughing. Where is Letterman when you need him?

Never mind, there is a serious (and very good) discussion of this problem on Dot Earth today. I recommend you go and read it and then come back and tell me what I should do.

I would join the discussion there on Dot Earth, but they all talk like scientists, like they really know the answers, and it’s kind of boring. Besides. They don’t listen to me either 😦

The Power of Communication


If power is the ability to influence people, then power must include the ability to communicate with people, one way or another — with force, with your words, with your body language, or your hysterics, or your suffering. The most harmless and yet precise of these methods of communicating is with words. However, we can’t communicate anything with a word so long as you think it means one thing and I think it means a different thing. Did you know that the word “uma” means “horse?”

If we want to influence people toward a common goal, we must define our terms.

Almost nobody does this; almost everybody assumes that everyone else uses the same words the same way; almost always they don’t, even when they are speaking the same language.

I say the real definition of science is: “the study of measurable facts using the scientific method.” If someone tells you their particular brand of hogwash is “scientifically proven,” you should ask them to show you the measurable facts and/or the scientific method involved in the “proof.” Or, more bluntly, ask them to precisely explain what they mean by “scientifically proven.” Because if the proof does not involve measurable facts and the scientific method — then by definition it is not scientific and they are talking about something different from what you are thinking about.

If they want to change the definition of science, well that’s discussable, and you would both be on the same wavelength, but it’s quite a different subject.