Bare Bones Biology 302 – Systems

            “Is our economic system really a natural system? Other interdependent non-linear systems here on Earth are very much life-supportive. But our economic system, based on agriculture and private property, is ultimately anti-life. Therefore, I begin to wonder about its metaphysical status.”


Definition: A “naturally evolved system” can be defined as a group of nodes, connected by links, that function together to maintain the integrity of the whole system. A naturally evolved system is capable of sustaining itself – by means of its emergent properties — within the environment within which it evolved. Generally speaking the nodes are things, objects, that function to connect the links, which are processes or behaviors based in energy and/or information. I’m sure we can improve this definition, but the general idea is that a Naturally Evolved System initiates, evolves and maintains itself within the milieu of other NE systems that compose our Biosystem.


Answer to question, first sentence – Yes, our economic system qualifies as “naturally evolved,” for three reasons. One is by definition another is that I have been watching it grow with that question in my mind, and have become convinced our corposystem is the product of systemic evolution, and not a direct result of human intent. In fact, the corposystem was not the intent, for example, of our constitution, nor, I’m sure of most Americans. The third reason is that our corposystem is using its emergent characteristics to try to sustain itself at a time when its emergent characteristics are not sustainable. The primary function of a NE system is to sustain itself. If our corposystem were directly controlled by human will, it would not use the same methods to sustain itself that are now (in changed circumstances) causing its demise.


A useful metaphor in our effort to “think like a system” is to describe the emergent properties by which that system primarily communicates with other systems in its effort to sustain itself. Systems interact with each other using primarily energy and information. Growth by domination for profit is an emergent characterization of the corposystem, in my opinion, not limited to agriculture and private property to generate growth for profit; it will use any means of domination.

The emergent characteristic of the Biosystem Life on Earth or Life of Earth.


I might argue that the corposystem is based not on agriculture and private property, but on that paragraph in the charter of corporations that requires them to make a profit regardless of consequences. And the same requirement of “nonprofits.”   That little paragraph could very well be the Achilles heel of the corposystem, if we were to take arms against it. However, first questions first, we are talking about systemic failure, so we need first to understand what has failed.


Implication: If we want to find root causes of systemic problems, we must try to understand — not the nodes; not the links; not the designed elements or tools — but the emergent properties and the natural laws of energy and information that affect, create and evolve systems.


Question re sentences 2 and 3: Should we expect nonlinear systems to be life-supportive?


Answer: Certainly not, natural evolution within Life is primarily a process of rejecting systems that are non-life-affirming. We, the corposystem, are being rejected because we are part of a nonviable, naturally evolved system. The vast majority of all naturally evolved systems are rejected outright or become extinct as they threaten the welfare of their own environment (a bigger system) or niche


Implication: Our systemic problems are caused by the fact that we, as a naturally evolved system. are being rejected (becoming extinct). If we want to do something to alleviate this problem, we should be studying how naturally evolved systems evolve.


Question re sentence 4: I think human metaphysics may be irrelevant to nonhuman systems.?? Every system (because of the laws of evolution) must be unique. I think the study of humans and their metaphysic is not the solution to a problem caused by an entity that is not human.


If we save ourselves – then is the time to analyze our behaviors – toward sustainable relationships with our neighboring naturally evolved systems.


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John Scales Avery. 2012. Information Theory and Evolution, 2nd Edition. World Scientific.



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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
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