Bare Bones Biology 004B – Power of Science

The great power of basic science is that it lets us spend our time doing things that are more useful than fighting about our personal opinions. We can use the elegant immutable facts of life to make technologies, and then we can use the technologies to do something good that we otherwise couldn’t do.

But is that what we usually choose to do? More often, after we have powerful technologies, our heads swell up until we believe our power is the same as wisdom and our opinions are the same as facts. Now that’s just silly, but that’s what some people think. And then we start to fight, we call it debating, about whose opinion is more important. And by that time we are in more trouble than we were before we had the power. Nobody’s opinion is as powerful as an immutable fact, because we can not change the facts.

A fact is a reality that doesn’t change. The most important thing we need to know about science — it’s a method to figure out what is the difference between a fact and an opinion. And it does this by physical measurements. Science is the study of measurable facts using the scientific method. The whole point of the scientific method is to prevent personal opinions from influencing our evaluation of the measurable facts.

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An opinion is not any of these things. We do have the power to change our opinions, and in my opinion we should consider our opinions with great care, first on the basis of the facts we must deal with and then on the basis of good choices that reflect our positive human values.

Fighting over facts is like those gorgeous fighting fish that have long trailing fins and all sorts of colors from red to blue, and they live in little aquaria. One fish lives on each side and they are divided by a pane of glass. Apparently the fish believe they are more powerful than the glass, because they never stop fighting to get through the glass so they can tear each other to shreds. They spend their whole lives doing this, and then they die.

That’s very romantic, and I suppose it’s fun if you like nothing else more than you like fighting, or if you think winning is more important than anything else in the world. I don’t. I think winning is mostly a way to hurt other people while pretending you did something good, because whenever you win, everyone else loses. And that makes them mad. Pretty soon everyone is mad at everyone else, and looking for something to fight about, even if it doesn’t make any sense, acting like a bunch of fighting fish and never accomplishing anything more useful than proving we can do something better than somebody else can do it. Well, everyone can do something better than someone else, so what does that prove?

I can accomplish my goal better if I know the difference between the things we know to be facts, and the things we know are not facts, and the things we don’t know. So science is about facts. Technology is also about facts, but technology is not basic science. Technology uses scientific facts to make things to sell or to use. It’s too bad so many people are confused about this, because the difference is as big as the difference between God and man. God made the unchanging facts. We use basic science to study the facts. We use technology to make things to play with.

It’s not much different from a chimpanzee using a stick to dig food out of a hole. God made the tree, the chimpanzee broke it into a stick to use for a technology, but the chimpanzee did not make the tree and he cannot change the way trees are made. Neither basic science nor technology can change the facts, but science can help us to understand them, and technology can help us to do good things without causing harm.

Or not. Our job is to choose.

The podcast of this post may be downloaded at:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_004B_-_Power_of_Basic_Science.mp3

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 http://vimeo.com/channels/262024 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 http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References
Thich Nhat Hahn – http://www.parallax.org/
Elizabeth Janeway – Powers of the Weak
Joanna Macy – http://www.tricycle.com/feature/allegiance-life
James Hansen – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/opinion/game-over-for-the-climate.html
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 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 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.

Bare Bones Biology 066 – Corposystem Power

The corposystem can not destroy our heritage, the rule of law, the soil, water, air, the climate and our freedom. That is, they can’t do it unless we let them, and because we all know that this is true, the corposystem gives us games to play to prevent us from thinking about the reality of our power.

One game is to change the subject away from real facts by claiming there is a debate. Rather than consult experts and discuss opinions, they display their own ignorance by debating fake or peripheral issues. We saw this clearly in the so-called debate over climate change. Also “Darwinism” and others you can name.

Another game they give us to play is to use really important issues, like fracking to make us forget the root cause of the multiplicity of our lesser problems. Fracking is as important as global warming, but the root cause of both is growth, because economic and population growth require resources that come from the living earth ecosystem – resources like food, minerals, water, soil – and the economy and every living thing requires these resources in order to grow. We can not grow forever because we will run out of food, clean water and good soil. And we run out of them because they are being destroyed by fracking and chemicals that are used in an effort to support more growth. And the game is, while we are fighting over fracking, or “Darwinism,” or poisoned soil, the corposystem is trying to grow some other part of itself, so that whatever we gain by reducing fracking is more than lost by the overgrowth of something else.

Or some important problem bubbles up in the news, and immediately the corposystem might start a fight over whose fault it is. Fight! Fight! We all gather around to watch and have a good old time blaming each other. Blame-placing, of course, takes away all our personal and social power, because we can’t change anything that has already happened. We can only do one thing at a time, and fussing over things we can’t change doesn’t change anything. That’s why political blaming and fighting is one of the corposystem’s favorite games, because it distracts us so effectively from the bigger problem. The bigger problem is — us — sitting on our TV watching the fight when we could be using our brains and our hands to make positive change.

If we would stop debating and blame-placing, and hand-sitting, and think factually about reality, we KNOW that growth beyond resources is NOT A GOOD THING. The solution to our problems is NOT growth, after we have already reached the capacity of the earth’s ability to feed us. From that point, which is approximately now, the solution to all these problems is to stop using more food energy and other kinds of energy than the earth can grow. But that’s not what the corposystem is doing. Instead of looking for real solutions, the corposystem just gives us another game. This time it’s a cliff-edge panic decision that is meant to grow the corposystem. Bush chose war — Obama chose debt. Neither war not debt nor any other kind of growth addresses the real problem.

So there is no point poisoning the future water and soil and air, just to squeeze out another dollar or two for a dying corposystem that will crash anyhow. Or maye it will change. It can’t continue as it is, because, there aren’t enough resources. Our better option would be to build a more compassionate and sustainable social order for our future. We can begin this by refusing to play the corposystem’s power games. Blame-placing, political board games, aintitawful games, cliff-edge panics. And use our own personal power to do something positive.

Anyone can do that.

Bare Bones Biology 066 – Corposystem Power
KEOS radio 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
Transcript at FactFictionFancy.wordpress.com
Audio later this week at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Whatever we believe may change how we perceive reality, but beliefs do not change whatever is. That’s why scientific analysis of measurable facts is more powerful than human beliefs.

Technology is basically a human belief system or a corposystem set of beliefs that incorporated some factual data from science. Whatever technology can do or whatever the corposystem believes will not change measureable facts.

Survival at a reasonable level of comfort requires that we recognize the factual limiting factors of our existence within the ecosystem. The biggest of these is that all the energy to sustain life (food) is produced in present time inside the ecosystem only by photosynthetic organisms — that would be plants and photosynthetic bacteria.

What is a Fact? (the punchline)

Here is another “tweener” as I continue to “improve” the book. This comes under the category of “What is a Fact?” and is an answer to the common misconception that: “The facts keep changing.” Of course they do not — it is we who keep changing.

And we always think of the punchline the day after the discussion, as follows:

If the facts kept changing we could not have science and if we did not have science we could not have technology and if we did not have technology we could not have — well you know what all technology can do.

And then of course you need to read the rest of the book. I’ll let you know when it’s available.