Bare Bones Biology 134 – Community and Ego

I had a dream last night about human ego, whatever that is, I will not try to define. In the dream, some guy was driving the bus and I was picking up the pieces. Literally, I mean, I was picking the pieces of newspaper and trash, old egg shells, gum and plastic wrappings — out from under the gas pedal — as they kept rolling back in there — while two other people sat behind, telling me what I was doing wrong, and the trash kept piling higher and deeper.

You will never guess what this dream was trying to tell me, because I didn’t until I started to write it down, and immediately came to mind my persistent question: “Why did The Creator give us our ego in the first place?” The thing causes so much pain and suffering to us and our communities, convincing us that our own belief system, our own need to be more right, is more real than reality. It isn’t, you know. Nobody is “right,” because nobody understands everything. And if we believe that our mind, emotions, intellect (reference), or our world view (reference), are more powerful than the biological reality. Well, that’s a pretty good definition of pain and suffering, now or later.

Pain is life enhancing. It guides our choice of behaviors so that we avoid drowning in the river when its currents are swirling in flood, or burning our little hands on the stove. Because we were formed within the biological community – our response to pain is biologically life enhancing.

To understand why we were given an ego is more difficult. What good is the blasted thing, if the use of it causes us emotional pain and suffering, but it doesn’t tell us what the danger is? Well, of course, that’s one function of community – to help us avoid emotional suffering by passing down the wisdom teachings of the ages. The harm caused by our ego-trips is well and often explained in all the wisdom teachings, and better behaviors described.

Maybe that’s what the ego is meant to do. Maybe our ego suffering is meant to enhance the welfare of the community by passing on some wisdom from now to benefit the future. I hope so, because our age is growing new problems faster than any before, and with these new problems, we must learn new lessons (or apply the old ones) about what not to do if we don’t want to suffer.

Our origins designed us genetically and behaviorally to live in a biosystem that functions to support life, but our human culture now has grown an artificial corposystem that functions to make money. And the power of this corposystem seems to lie mostly in our human ego needs.

So many people so filled with the fear of not being better than other people. Is that our ego? Why do we feel that we must be better than someone else? We can’t discuss the important issues, because someone might go into a one-up or one-down tizzy, or just turn their backs and walk away for fear that we might know something they don’t know. But isn’t that the point of discussion, that everyone knows more than only one? Don’t we WANT to deal with the problems? We keep saying that we do, and then the next thing you know we are debating irrelevant questions for no better reason than to satisfy our never-ending need to win. Even though the floods of climate change (climate change series Bare Bones Biology 092 through 100) are already tickling our toes – even though everyone really does know the end result of these ego trips, in our modern times, will be disaster.

So now my question is: how can we be aware of our ego, and all the negative, painful behaviors that it generates — how can we use that knowledge to grow a more positive, life-supporting human community?

Lynn Lamoreux
Photos by Lynn

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

Recommended Action/Question for Discussion: I’m tempted to suggest that you start an argument and consider what methods you use to win. And what are the results. But in fact I doubt that you need to know more about how to argue. So instead I suggest you find a person with whom to discuss an issue and see how long you can keep it going without either of you having an obvious emotional reaction (because this will be a serious subject.) Maybe you could try this one – http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/26/why_birth_control_is_still_a_big_idea
“In the United States, especially this year, any occasion when contraceptives and public policy overlap seems to be an excuse to fight about other issues.”

Bare Bones Biology 133B – World Community

Last week I described, in a very general way, how I imagine the human brain processes information. The primary take-away message is that our brains are not universal. We are one species out of billions that are required to operate the functions of the living earth — just as any one cell of our brain is only one out of billions that are required to operate our amazing human brain. Secondly, there are levels of function of the human brain that we do not control – they control us. They control the basic functions of our bodies, and the basic nature of our emotions.

However, we also have higher levels of function in our brains that can adapt to our environment in a conscious way. One of these qualities is how we are learning all the time. Another is our intellect, that we can use to evaluate ourselves and our surroundings. If we try, we can figure out the difference between our perceptions — that is what our reality feels like according to our world view – and what the world really is according to facts that we study in physics, chemistry and biology. For example, we can measure the speed of light using tools designed by our intellect, but according to our perceptions, we would not know about the speed of light. We wouldn’t know that light is energy. We wouldn’t understand energy and would not have learned how to control fire, for example, during the millennia of our origins.

In all those millenia, the problems we faced had to do with how to interact with an overwhelming environment. For example, I was very touched by the last story in the most recent National Geographic. It is the story of an interaction between today and a primitive tribal culture. I won’t tell you the end of the story, but for me it was a heart-wrenching illustration of the choices we must make if we are to survive within the requirements of our environment. (National Geographic, February, 2012, Cave People of Papua, New Guinea.)

Today, we no long live sheltered in the broad green arms of our ecological home. I think that’s one reason why we experience the levels of discomfort, dis-ease and discontent that we do in our culture, but that’s not something we can deal with now. We have already destroyed that long-distant Garden of Eden. We can’t go back and change the mistakes of yesterday. You younger folk don’t realize that yet probably, but it can be demonstrated using, that intellect of ours, that the earth has modified herself to our needs about as much as she can. Our choice now is whether to push the environment even more. If we do, it’s likely to change so much that it can no longer support our needs for air, water, shelter, earth and human companionship.

We can do this, I know our brain is capable of understanding the problems that we face, and we can join together communally to deal with them. However, we cannot face these challenges using only our inborn instincts. If we are to succeed, it will require our intellect in two ways. First, we must educate ourselves about the ecosystem, how it functions and what it needs from us in order to sustain itself; second we must use our intellect to grow a new culture, based in what we know about basic instincts, and on what previous cultures have taught us, and incorporating our scientific knowledge and changing our attitude toward technology.

We now must decide together whether we, as a culture of the world, want to continue using technology to dominate and to make money – or if we will choose to, find a better way, based on a better goal-set than winner/loser. We do know there are better and more satisfying ways for humans to live, 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 our man-made disasters.

Lynn Lamoreux
Photo by Lynn, Lucky B Bison

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 http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_133_-_World_Community.mp3

Recommended Action/Question for Discussion: Identify the source, and the path from source to table, of each item of food that is part of your Thanksgiving meal. In countries without a day of Thanksgiving (or with one), give thanks for your food at every meal and remember that it comes from the living earth. What, I wonder, is the difference between our living earth, and your God? Or mine?

Recommended References
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/

Bare Bones Biology Ecology Handbook, free, no strings – https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/
On the right side of the page click on the link under “Chapters” to download the PDF.

National Geographic, February, 2012, Cave People of Papua, New Guinea, by Mark Jenkins, Photos by Amy Toensing.

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 http://www.theeconomicsofhappiness.org/

Recommended References:
Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. PBS. http://www.jcf.org/new/index.php?categoryid=83&p9999_action=details&p9999_wid=765

Bare Bones Biology Ecology Handbook – https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/
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 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop

Bare Bones Biology 107 through today, 116, are about communication. Different kinds of communication. And of course we didn’t scratch the surface. Communications has become an entire discipline. I know someone with a PhD in the subject. But there’s nothing new about the simple point of this series of blogs — that all communications are real, but they are useful to us in different ways, as we grow own personal future or, more importantly in the long view as we try to resolve the biological illness that faces our ecosystem.
,
We know we cannot survive without the ecosystem. Therefore, picking out whatever we like to believe, or whatever communication stirs our emotions, or whatever we wish were true — and working very, very hard for it – or going with the flow because that’s normal human behavior – none of those approaches to communication will resolve our current biological dilemma. What we mostly need is good information and good discussion. Sometimes a good place to look for these is in a workshop setting.

I recently attended a workshop about the four elements with Wendy Johnson (author of “Gardening At the Dragon’s Gate,” Bantam Dell), at Upaya Zen Center (http:www.Upaya.org).

The workshop experience merged our awareness of our human values, emotions and needs with the mother-nurture of nature as we examined each of the four elements that are organized by Buddhism as: earth, water, fire and air (and space). We all know that these are the fruits of the ecosystem, that we cannot do without them, that our behaviors influence their availability, and that I have also been talking about these issues from my perspective of our physical survival needs. It was a joy to experience Wendy’s beautiful rendition of the same issues, blending the physical survival needs with our human emotional needs and a practical approach, learning through gardening, that goes beyond either perspective.

We really could resolve our biological dilemma, if we would only reach that one step beyond the science and beyond the emotions and use our inborn compassionate nature, and our recognition that the problem at its roots is biological, as an incentive to study the fact-based needs of the ecosystem – and find a way to give the mother life what it needs that is different from what we need – for it and for ourselves and our future. We have everything to do that — except the will. The facts are available and so are the technologies. The compassionate will, however, is being drowned in a sea of fear, hostility, short-sighted self-interest and false propaganda.

Here is Wendy’s better vision.

“I love to make the connection between the outer waters of the world and the inner waters that do compose us. Three-fifths of water of our bodies is carried inside our cells, and then another two/fifths outside as blood plasma, cerebro-spinal fluid and intestinal tract fluid. So we are walking bags of water. We can feel that. Especially in a dry place. Those of us from the Bay Area, from Portland, Oregon, where water animates the air. We have to search for the resonance that is our human inheritance.

“And every day, every day, three percent of the water in our bodies is replenished with new molecules. Water from the deep abyss of the ocean, I was thinking this morning we are replenished, not only with fresh water, but from water that is in the huge hydrologic cycle, coming up fresh, and that water includes water from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, water mixed with the ancient fire of oil, water from rain on the tall grass prairie, and from the ancient forests. Actually, we measure water, in the woods, we measure water by how much stored fog and vapor. In the ancient redwoods, now whittled down to 2.5 percent of their original size. How much water they give back, so stepping into the redwood forest, I remember years ago with Thich Nhat Hanh (www.plumvillage.org), he said: ‘We step into a Sangha of water and life.’ You can feel it, stepping onto that ground, water vapor breathing with the trees. So, three percent of our bodies are always refreshed by the upwelling and the sinking down, by the rhythm of water.

“And yet water shortage, water depletion, the so-called resource, I hate to even use that word in connection with water, the so-called resourcefulness of water is already one of the greatest challenges we are facing.”
For more of this and the remaining elements, check out Wendy’s podcasts part one and part two at Upaya http://www.upaya.org/dharma/the-four-elements-series-all-2-parts/. Or for air, surely you remember Bare Bones Biology 093 was also pretty good, and the same general interdependence relationship is also true of energy (fire) and earth. I recommend you listen to Wendy’s podcasts of this workshop, parts one and two, and I also highly recommend her dharma talk of the previous week. http://www.upaya.org/dharma/wendy-johnson-06-13-2012-the-four-elements-return-to-their-true-nature/

During this workshop, we went down to the little Santa Fe River to put our feet in the water and wonder what it would feel like without water.

Bitsy and I went back again last week and splashed about while the children swung on the tire. But two days later there was no more water in the little Santa Fe river. Only a place in the bottom of the channel where some animal had tried to dig for it.
Bare Bones Biology 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop
KEOS-FM, 89.1, Bryan, Texas
For a podcast of this radio spot, click here
Or go to http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References and Trackbacks:
Upaya Zen Center, http://www.Upaya.org
Wendy Johnson, Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate gardeningatthedragonsgate.com/
http://www.upaya.org/dharma/the-four-elements-series-all-2-parts/
http://www.upaya.org/dharma/wendy-johnson-06-13-2012-the-four-elements-return-to-their-true-nature/
Bare Bones Biology 107-115 and 093
Thich Nhat Hanhwww.plumvillage.org http://www.plumvillage.org

Bare Bones Biology 101 – Religion and Science

Beginning this week, I’ll try to evaluate, with a very broad brush, several different belief-systems that are trying to improve human welfare for the future. Today and next week will be religion-based ideas.

I’ll try to be critical about all these efforts, for four reasons. First, that’s what I’m trained to do – to look for the flaws in any hypothesis. Second, understanding what needs to be improved is much more useful than a false belief that everything is just dandy and it always will be and we have no responsibilities beyond ourselves at level one. Sometimes I wonder if the Corposystem is the author of the glass-half-full mantra. I always imagine a glass with nothing in the bottom half, and a layer of pink lemonade magically suspended in the top half. Nobody can make wise decisions if they never even see he bottom half of life. Further, we can’t take care of responsibilities we don’t believe exist, or enjoy accomplishments we can’t see. And while God probably can perform miracles, I doubt if we can count on him to save us from our own failure to recognize our responsibilities.

So –

Third – I am not trying to bash anyone, in spite of what I just said. It’s not even about me; I’m too old to benefit by anything that is likely to result from a critical analysis. Fourth, I’m not formally affiliated with any of these positive actions, but I do care very much about the positive human values they all espouse. If we must take sides, I’m on yours.

There are many religion-based efforts to improve our world, beginning with individual self-improvement, and then a plethora of groups that may or may not be affiliated with established religions. The Dalai Lama, Karen Armstrong and others (Some references are below) outline an ethic that can be espoused by anyone, with or without a religion, who believes in the more positive human values. I’m sure there are also many, many other wonderful developments within all of the religions.

Whatever our religion, it is critically important at this time, when humans hold so much destructive power, to understand why religion is not science and science should not be a religion. For an example, I collected a series of podcasts from an organization called Evolutionary Christianity (ref). Each podcast is the message of a different speaker who describes how he or she believes very positively both in God and in evolution. These are available at the Peach Clubhouse.

Religion is not a science, because religion is based in human values; and science should not be a religion because science should not be based in human values.

Religion functions at the individual and population levels of human reality. Its purpose is to support human values and serve human welfare. Basic research science functions at all levels of physical reality, and it’s purpose is to learn how things function. I’m not talking about technology, which is about making things, and usually selling things. Basic research biology, for example, is about learning how life functions to stay alive.

For the most part, life does not operate according to human values. Certainly the whole earth ecosystem does not. The ecosystem is the functional result of all the interacting life cycles of all the organisms, including humans, that live on earth. The ecosystem functions according to natural laws, like gravity or thermodynamics, and laws do not care about our emotions. To understand laws, we need facts. Therefore, science is about measurable facts, and these facts tell us that the ecosystem has its own needs some of which are different from what humans may need or want.

If we want to support human values and serve human welfare, we humans have at least two sets of needs and values to consider. First is the welfare of the ecosystem, because it is the ecosystem that gives us life. At the same time of course we must find a way to compassionately sustain human kind within the ecosystem. Both these jobs are important to our well being, but they are different tasks requiring different tools.

Bare Bones Biology 101 – Religion and Science
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

    Recommended References

Karen Armstrong, Charter for Compassion, http://www.charterforcompassion.org/

Evolutionary Christianity – http://evolutionarychristianity.com/

H.H. The Dalai Lama, Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Dalai+Lama+beyond+religion

Huston Smith, The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions
http://www.amazon.com/The-Worlds-Religions-Wisdom…/0062508113

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers, on DVD at PBS
http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=4365261&cp=&sr=1&kw=power+of+myth&origkw=power+of+myth&parentPage=search

Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, http://www.amazon.com/AN-Inconvenient-Truth-Crisis-Warming/