Communities and Evolution

Happy Days Folks,

This week I will refer you to a blog post from last year at about this time. It is even more relevant today.

https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/

Bare Bones Biology 088 – Evolution and Creation
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download is available at the below link.

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Bare Bones Biology 122 – Human Hands

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that is playing this week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. A podcast can be downloaded later this week at:http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/BBB122-Human_HandsFinal4.mp3

Hold up your hand flat open with your palm facing me. As though you were a policeman trying to stop an onrushing disaster.

Your four fingers and your thumb are all pointing in different directions.

Now let’s think of your four fingers and your thumb as problems or “actions” that you and other socially conscious people are promoting — spending your time, energy and money, using your life to benefit your family, the community and humankind in general. Every person using his/her best skills to address one or other of the major actions, trying to relieve the problems faced by humankind today.

Let’s say your first finger represents hunger, and all the people trying to reduce world hunger. The second finger can represent global warming. The third finger can represent conflict, for example war, politics, genocide, modern economics. And the fourth finger represents religion and spirituality. Your thumb represents overpopulation.

What I notice about this hand is that all five of the digits are pointing off toward different and separate goals. If you added together the five different problems, and the people who are working to address these problems. Well, they are not working together for a common goal – they are going off in five different directions. Often they fight or argue with each other or they simply ignore each other, rather than discussing common goals. For this reason the work of one group often cancels out the gains of one or more of the other groups.

For example, one group is working for compassion in the belief that a compassionate community will not fight. Another group tries to win because they believe that will solve all our problems. The climate change group, after a few hundred years of evidence, is finally beginning to recognize its problem is real and is trying to decide whether to adapt or deal with the root cause of climate change. The hunger group can’t possibly accomplish its goal in the face of climate change and excessive population growth. And the overpopulation group believes that no positive goals can be achieved by continuing the destructive path that caused these problems in the first place.

We imagine if all the groups accomplished their goals they would all add up to a successful community. The reality, however, looks more like a mish-mash of confusing goals and conflicting interests.

Efficient and effective problem solving does not jump out into the world in five different directions at once, with the different parts of itself fighting among themselves. Modern business practice has made many serious mistakes, but at least one good concept has come out of it, and that is goal setting. Good business defines its goals, sets its guidelines, and informs all parties involved.

Our basic human goal is to live in a community that is sustainable into the future. Surely it must be, and if it’s not we should ask each other why not, because we aren’t acting as though it were. We have all these five problems, and more, dashing off in all directions at the same time. Don’t you agree that we could organize ourselves in some way that would at least have a chance of growing a positive future? I think such a future is possible.

If our primary goal really is the common welfare, then we can align our four fingers to represent of our commitment to the common goal of human sustainability on this earth, in good health, at least through the lifetimes of our grandchildren. If my genuine stated goal is the same as the stated goals of people working in different disciplines – then we will cease to be all working for different outcomes.

Next, we can recognize the physical facts: (1) that nobody can accomplish anything if there is not enough food for them to eat, (2) that all our food comes from the earth, and (3) the earth now has more people than it can feed. If you don’t believe these are real facts, then you have an obligation to the hungry humans in the world to fact-check your belief system.

So we then fold our thumb under at the roots of the four fingers, to represent represent the facts: (1) that overpopulation is at the root of all of the other problems. Yes we have had these problems in the past and we did not solve them before. Blame your heritage. Now is now and now we cannot solve them if a large part of the earth’s population is desperately struggling to make a living, and ; (2) therefore, that no other compassionate goal can be accomplished when there are more people than the earth can feed; and (3) therefore, the four other goals cannot be solved in the presence of overpopulation.

Therefore, if we genuinely want to accomplish our goals. If we want our behavior to reflect our commitment to the real goal, and regardless of our personal expertise or our primary interest — hunger, global warming, conflict resolution (community) or spirituality – then it is our obligation to spend a portion of our effort, every day, to help compassionately reverse human overpopulation, first informing ourselves about why it is a problem, and then addressing that problem as it relates to our own special skills and projects. I tend to judge people’s compassion by their behavior. When I see anyone brush off this obligation with a platitude or a blank look — we all do really know how important it is. Then I wonder why they don’t really want to know. Can it be they don’t want to help carry the burden of responsibility that goes with knowledge?

And then – we all work together to accomplish both the root goal and the individual goals by enclosing all of life on earth within the fully informed, goal-oriented, responsible, compassionate hand of human kind.

And then, you ask. (Everyone does.): “But it is such a big problem, what can I do?” The answer is – in this sequence:

1-You can recognize that this is not about “me.” It’s not about who does what at the level of individual decision making. Do not promote the fake debate (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/another-fake-debate-pro-life/) over family planning, which is corposystem propaganda meant prevent us from growing our personal and community power (http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/About)within the ecosystem. Instead study the real overpopulation threat, which is about human suffering at the level of the population, and at the level of survival of the whole living earth.

2-Do not waste time blaming anyone; it will not accomplish our common goal. Instead educate yourself and others about the suffering of populations of humans who do not have access to family planning because our corposystem is withholding that resource from them.

3-Education yourself about how the ecosystem functions to maintain its balance and therefore it’s welfare and its life (you could start with the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook downloadable from the right side of this blog site).

4-Discuss all three “sides” of the issue with family and friends. The “sides” minimally can be described as the conflicting needs of individual persons, families, communities, and the whole earth ecosystem.

5-What we need most right now is the political will to make family planning available compassionately to everyone on earth who wants it and needs it for their health and well being. Work as a citizen to bring this to the people who need and want it.

Bare Bones Biology 122 – Human Hands

Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion

A few days ago I heard Ray, at a Dharma talk at Upaya Zen Center, read this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, entitled “Kindness.” If you are reading this on the blog, I suggest you might want to go to the bottom of this page to download the original Bare Bones Biology podcast and listen to Ray’s beautiful rendering:

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Well, I’m ashamed to say, as an American, that I never understood kindness until I had spent six months in Japan – I mean kindness as a way of life for its own sake. No strings attached. And that experience is one reason you have the opportunity to hear my thoughts about how we might be able to deal with this crisis that we are in.

I think it’s primarily a crisis of biology; I know it’s primarily a crisis of biology, because I’m a biologist, and that’s why I keep telling you various aspects of how humans interact with the ecosystem. Because the basic problem is not complicated; you can understand it as well as I can. But the solutions are not simple. Unless we want to ride this merry-go-round another time – well I don’t think we have another time for this merry-go-round because, all the other times around – war/peace/war/peace/war/peace/war/peace – all the other times around, the earth was able to provide us with what we needed to try to stay alive and try to solve our problems.

This is no longer true. This crisis is unique, and we cannot solve it by winning a war, or three wars or eight wars or however many wars we are doing right now. In fact I’m inclined to believe that these wars are mostly being staged by the corposystem to prevent we-the-people from understanding that we really are facing a crisis that will require us to hunker down to responsibilities that are very much more heroic than staging wars. We can’t solve it by growing another war.

Neither can we solve it by a concerted effort to teach compassion to everyone without regard to the fact that this is a biological crisis. At the root, it’s a biological crisis. We have never been here before, to the place where knowledgeable people have stated that, in 2007, we used 150% of the earth’s capacity to provide what we need to survive.

You might want to listen to the report on ecology to His Holiness The Dalai Lama, delivered by Diana Liverman from University of Arizona. Begin after the introduction, about 27 minutes into the video ). The powerpoint presentation that accompanied her report, will be linked to this blog under the heading Planetary Stewardship

In Texas or New Mexico, or in any city, you may not notice the devastating changes caused by our rape of the mother earth, because every generation believes their time of birth is normal, and because the damage is being mostly accomplished by destruction of other organisms and other peoples. But we cannot continue to survive by destroying other organisms. It is other organisms that generate air, water, earth and food energy on this planet. We might as well eat ourselves as destroy them, and that is essentially what we are doing.

So that’s why I began Bare Bones Biology. To help us find a way to combine our kindness – our compassion for the welfare of future generations – with basic fact-based knowledge about what the ecosystem requires to stay alive, and we must do this with a rule of law and an educational system that can maintain it.

Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion
KEOS Radio, 89.1, Bryan, TX
A podcast of this message can be obtained here
Or at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References:
http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/news/articles/111021dalailama.php
http://www.Upaya.org
http://youtu.be/OjMWC1Bz2xA (begin after the introduction, about 27 minutes in, or ask me for a copy of the podcast).
http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/2012_lpr/
http://Godlas.myweb.uga.edu/shihabnye.html

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/

Bare Bones Biology 094 – Climate Change III

Oh, and yes, all these physicists who believe that they understand life because they have some convenient information about the basic laws of the universe. As far as anyone knows, life is not the center of the universe, and while life does operate according to the laws of physics, it is not studied by the science of physics. As far as anyone knows, life is the whole of the reacting, breathing, interacting earth, and physics says nothing about the higher Levels of Organization (and) beyond the properties of energy and matter. Well, not nothing. Physics is very important because it informs us about fundamental natural laws like gravity and energy that everything must obey.

Life couldn’t exist if it did not obey the fundamental laws. But of course, EVERYTHING obeys the fundamental laws, or it wouldn’t be here. That’s what fundamental means. And everything is not life. The purpose of biology is to learn to understand what is the difference between life and everything else.

Everything must obey the law of thermodynamics, so biologists study that. But all the non-life also obeys the laws of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics is not what makes life alive. It is necessary but not sufficient.

Biology is the study of life, and therefore biology is the study of the whole earth ecosystem and how the living earth and all its parts is different from non-life and – more importantly — how we can stay alive without causing harm to the whole earth ecosystem that gives us our lives.

The ecosystem stays alive because of interacting cycles of functions and properties, of energy and matter, because of the ability to transmit information by genetics so that the ecosystem can respond to change, and because of the ability to flow energy from the sun into plants and from plants into every other living thing. And the ecosystem also stays alive because of the ability of itself to recycle the key materials that it needs to stay alive – like carbon dioxide and oxygen and water. Carbon and oxygen and water recycle through the living earth just as they recycle through our own bodies. They are a part of life. They are the climate – the respiratory system – of the living entity we call the earth ecosystem. If they didn’t change – if the climate didn’t change – the earth would not be alive and we would not be here.

There is no debate among biologists about whether or not living things change. There would be no life if it couldn’t change in response to what is happening around and within it. That is the foundational necessity of being alive, and all illness, disease and death are the result of not being able to change in response to one’s environment. Climate change is real, the fake debate is about politics, not about life. And the function of the fake debate is to prevent we the people from figuring out what to do about it, because what we must do about it would diminish the preposterous wealth and power of the corposystem.

So what can we do to give a gift of fitness to our human future within our living earth? We have three options, at least. 1) We can do something useful to help humans — that is, to help the earth maintain a climate that is suitable for human life. That’s what most biologists prefer to spend their time thinking about. 2) We can do something that is harmful to the health of the living earth. That will cause devastation to the future of humans on this earth. Or 3) we can do nothing and let the climate rebalance itself without regard for our needs.

The trouble with doing nothing is that it will result in unimaginable suffering because of the vastly greater number of people, animals, plants and other living things that will be affected, and that’s why I prefer option number one, do something useful to help humans.

And the way to do that is to find a way to stop the growth that is causing the ecosystem to rebalance and readjust all its millions of cycles of life, in response to our waste products.

Bare Bones Biology 094 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended Readings: Bare Bones Ecology free download on my blog.

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 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