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 http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Owl photo taken in New Mexico at TheWildlifeCenter.org
Discussion photo taken in California at the conference of: TheEconomicsofHappiness.org

Bare Bones Biology 090-Evolution

In the last two programs, I said that evolution is real and we affect it, so the best thing we can do is to learn how the biological system really functions to stay alive so that our efforts to be of help will do more good than harm.

Based on what I know about evolutionary ecology, our global and local human travails will become worse no matter what we do politically and economically. This is not a personal belief based in social science. It’s in the numbers, and my professional pronouncement is based in a lifetime of training and experience in genetics built on a base of training in ecological evolution. The human species is entering a biological bottleneck, and we might as well face the fact and deal with it.

Our troubles will become worse, because we can’t change what we humans have already done. We will experience the result of what we have done. What will happen after that depends on what we do now. What we humans can do right now in this moment of historic evolutionary change, is to decide the future of the human species and the whole earth ecosystem by our response to the bottleneck we are entering.

We have so much power on this earth that we can choose to help the ecosystem return to health and grow a good life for our descendants – or we can carry on as we have for centuries trying to eat the apple of the tree of life, like spoiled little children, by trying to force the ecosystem to obey our wishes. Or one could say, trying to create God in our image. I personally think that is blasphemous, and factually as a scientist, I know that approach will not succeed. But most of the people don’t seem to care, as long as they can be among the winners now, and at the same time believe they are the good guys. And so we carry on like the previous generations, destroying our own future. The irony is, so far as we know, we are the only species in history that knows we are destroying ourselves, and we are doing it anyhow.

Even more disturbing, most of the people who believe themselves to be scientists, even biological scientists, are training now within the corposystem value system to continue the very mind-set that caused our problem. In part, that mind set originated from and is still justified by a conveniently flawed and simplistic interpretation of evolution, often quoted as: “Survival of the fittest.” Folks, I keep saying, that’s not how evolution works.
(for example Evolution – BareBonesBiology-010 through -019 and several subsequent to the series. https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/bare-bones-biology-046-evolution/ Bare Bones Biology 052 emergent properties)
But I’ll talk about that next time.

Further, the modern corporate mind-set is all about control that we do not have. For example, when I began my career, we all were studying a biological organism (the mouse) to try to understand the processes of life. Now, for the most part, my peers are not interested in the mouse and how it functions as a life form. They are interested in the molecules the mouse is composed of, and how we humans can control those molecules. This is mostly because that is the kind of work the corposystem funds – to make money by controlling things.

But we humans cannot make a mouse. We cannot blow the spark of life into those molecules outside of a test tube, and we need to remember that we also cannot blow the spark of life into the whole earth ecosystem. We will fail if we try to redesign the whole earth ecosystem to suit ourselves – either as biologists or as agro-business empires the likes of Monsanto, or as energy corporations that refuse to recognize that we are running out of oil and gas – or as the modern ecologist whose science has become so reductionist that he cannot see the life form that he is studying because he is more interested in how he can control some little part of it. Maybe we can control that part, but all the parts are connected, and as we don’t know how the parts function to make the whole of life, we need to let it function as it does. However that is.

Bare Bones Biology 090 – Evolution
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available next week
here and at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

What is an Ecosystem?

090603_dsc1467compSsAn ecosystem is a unit of life that is more or less self sustaining. The pond is a type of ecosystem that helps to sustain the larger ecosystem of the Brazos Valley. Ecosystems change over time in their function of sustaining life.

The earth ecosystem is the largest unit of life that we know. That is, it is the largest living thing. In fact, the earth ecosystem sustains all of life as we know it. In order to accomplish this prodigious task, the earth ecosystem must sustainably balance three primary sorts of resources:

1. The flow of energy from the sun to the plants. The plants use light energy to generate chemical energy and organic molecules (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins etc.,) the things we eat that only come from living things. When the energy is used, it can not be used again. So the plants have to keep on working in balance with all the other parts of the ecosystem.

2. The flow of information through time via the genomes of the species. For example, the photosynthesis that plants do is organized by the inherited genes of that plant. Every living species has genes that direct its behavior.

3. The recycling flow of the molecules and atoms of matter (like carbon and oxygen) that are used to carry chemical energy through the living cells and form the structures that are unique to life.

Power of Thinking

“I see a system failing,” Ms. Menon said. “It is doing something, but it is not solving the problem.” quoted in the New York Times March 13.

As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists

Doesn’t it make you want to cry when you open the above link and see the children suffer? And read about the reality they face.

“. . .‘serious’ rates of hunger persist(ed) across Indian states that had posted enviable rates of economic growth in recent years, including Maharashtra and Gujarat.”

How much longer will we cling to the belief that growth will lift us out of our global problem that we created by excessive growth?

Economic growth is based in goods.  Money is a promissory note to deliver goods.  On this earth — in this earth ecosystem — all goods come ultimately from the earth.

The earth has reached its capacity; it can not grow more goods than it already is growing.  Yet the economists (that is, people who deal in money) continue to believe that economic growth will cure our problems that are caused by excessive GROWTH.

Why do we continue to believe this strange, toxic mantra that only works when goods are plentiful?  Why do reporters not THINK about what they are saying when they tell us that growth, GNP,  is a symbol of prosperity?  Prosperity for whom?  When will we stop evaluating every success in terms of the same growth that is defeating our efforts to achieve success?  What happened to the idea of sustainability?

I think it fell victim to our preference for making money, but that won’t change the fact that sustainable growth is an oxymoron.  Sustainable is possible — but only in the absence of growth.  Why don’t we go for sustainable?  For the children.
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The power to find a better way – a way that will work — begins with the willingness to think outside the circle of our  toxic mantra.

That’s why God gave us a brain.