Bare Bones Biology 125 – Adaptation

We all know that we cannot reduce pollution of our biosphere without reducing human growth on earth. Any more than a bathtub could contain an infinite number of marbles. The more we grow – the more we unbalance the healthy relationships between ourselves and the rest of the biosphere. The earth biosphere cannot change how it balances its parts (see Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook – ) in order to stay alive. It’s parts are energy and matter – just like our parts and all of life. Earth, air, energy and water. The big LIFE balances its parts very much like our parts balance, and all of life balances its parts. (See the Bare Bones Biology series on climate change that begins with Bare Bones Biology 092, on the website http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com).
We are not God. We cannot adapt the facts of life to suit ourselves. What we can change is our behaviors, and that would be enough if we would adapt our behaviors to suit ourselves to the facts of life. Instead of trying so hard to adapt the facts of life to suit ourselves.

The corposystem propaganda is once again trying to confuse us about how life works. This time they are claiming that we can adapt to the changes in the biosystem. Or – and I just found a real book authored by a famous reporter that has the title “earth” and is not at all about the earth. (If you want to hear about a book that DOES address reality, check out Eaarth by Bill McKibben.

This new “earth” book is not about the earth – not at all. It’s about people. This is really odd, given that people can’t make earth alive – it is the earth that keeps us alive. People wouldn’t be here at all if it were not for the whole earth ecosystem. And the way the Biosphere stays living is to keep all its parts balanced, and the way it does that is by the functions of all the millions of species that live on the earth.

The living earth must, like all living things, keep its parts balanced in order to stay alive. Just like ourselves, the earth can change how it does some things, but it cannot change what it must do. What it must do to stay alive is balance the earth and air and water – all the elements that recycle, for example oxygen and carbon – and the energy that it gets from food.

We cannot adapt our biology, because it is genetically programmed, and so is the biology of the entire earth ecosystem. Genetically programmed. Well-adapted species, such as the grasses in the photograph (right here in the back yard in New Mexico), fit every part of their life cycle to the conditions around them. This grass grows in a circle, in the dry, easily eroded environment. The grass roots and the little dam of its growth style help to nurture the soil by preventing erosion and also by capturing water when it does rain, and by retaining the little rabbit turds that will nourish the plant, as the plant nourishes the rabbits that eat the grasses. This is very much how our relationship with the biosphere MUST be if we want to be a well-adapted species. Living sustainably healthy lives. All these behaviors are genetically programmed. Any other kind of grass could not adapt to the same functions as this species of grass, and if the climate changes too much where it lives, the grass will die. Nor can humans adapt to changes in our environment outside of our physiological limits.

If you want to hear of another situation, check out the story of some of the “keystone species” such as the sea otters, or mountain lions, how they fit into the biosphere (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061024214739.htm,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keystone_species). This describes real biological adaptation. It requires that all the species in the area nurture each other. That is the whole point of an ecosystem. And it takes hundreds or thousands of years for all the genomes of all the species to gradually evolve into a connected whole ecosystem.

With the exception of organic farmers, humans are making almost no effort to fit into the ecosphere, and I wonder if the organic farmers realize they are destroying the smaller local ecosystems that had evolved in place, in their desire to make a “better” ecosystem that serves primarily humans and not the whole of life itself. Without asking why better and for whom. (I once asked an economist turned organic farmer; he got very angry with me.) The idea seems to be that we should change the ecosphere — not fit into it so that we can be sustainably healthy. I think organic farming is probably a good thing, but I also believe we are not doing it for the welfare of the whole, but only for ourselves, and – again – we are not God who created the whole, and we may not know what is better – especially if we don’t even bother to ask the question.

Bottom line is that we cannot change the basic laws of nature. What we could do is the real meaning of adaptation; that is, change our behaviors so that we can fit helpfully inside the biosphere.

We live on earth only so long as we obey the laws of nature; we can change our behaviors, but we cannot change our physiology – we can’t change how our heart beats and what things poison our cells, or how our bodies use the breath of life to stay alive. Neither can we change how the biosphere stays alive by balancing the air, water, fire and earth within its living self. Most people know this.

Most people do want to move toward a more compassionate and sustainable relationship within the biosystem. Even so, I have been to meetings of many groups, from organic farmers to community organizers to politicians to religious or spiritual groups, all of whom know these things are true, and they care very much about the biosphere and our humanity within the biosphere, and they are trying to organize a new set of relationships that will bring a better balance between the biosphere and human needs.

What I have not recently heard talked about in this sort of meeting, whether it be organic farmers or community organizers or religious/spiritual organizations (and I have been looking hard among groups who claim to be concerned about the health of the biosphere) – what I have not heard is any effort to understand and honor what makes the biosphere sustainable. Nothing about the welfare of the biosphere itself. For its own good health. All we talk about lately is how can we force our will upon the earth ecosystem with our human technologies.

The answer to these ideas is that we are wasting a lot of time trying to do impossible things. We cannot force our will upon the ecosphere. We are not God, who created the heavens and the earth and breathed life into them.

What we can do is learn to understand what the earth ecosystem needs to be healthy, and change our behaviors to give the earth ecosystem what it needs. What does the ecosystem need to stay healthy? Minimally it needs us to re-balance our populations so that we are not consuming more of earth air fire and water than the ecosystem can provide — nor producing more toxic effluents than the ecosystem can tolerate — so that we are not unbalancing the cycles of air, water, healthy earth and food energy that make up the healthy earth ecosystem.

Frankly, I am not interested in any opinions about technologies as a cure, because that route is so chancey and the real solution is so simple. (Simple to understand, not easy to do, but we DO understand it, and it is not impossible; changing what the biosphere requires to be healthy IS impossible. Difficult is easier than impossible, so why are we holding back the solution to the problem?) Simple to understand. Our technologies have unbalanced our nest until we have more people than the earth can feed sustainably. The cure (also simple to understand) is to reduce the overpopulation as quickly and as compassionately as we possibly can to a level that the earth ecosystem can support without changing its climate to the point where humans can no longer live here.

So long as we refuse to use the technologies we already have, in combination with education about how the biosphere functions to stay healthy, we will continue to decline in all parts of our societies. So long as we continue to try to change the world to suit ourselves, and we refuse to change our behaviors to suit the world — we can not take the big step to evolve (adapt) our behaviors into more compassionate, sustainable and rewarding societies. Because starving people cannot learn to be compassionate or peaceful.

LynnLamoreux@Yahoo.com

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. The podcast can be downloaded at

    Recommended References


Bare Bones Biology Energy Handbook
– freely downloadable, no strings
https://factfictionfancy.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/pages_std-portrait-barebonesecology100627-finalfinalprinter.pdf

(First blog in this series) https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/09/01
(Second blog in this series) https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/
(Third blog in this series) https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/
Bare Bones Biology Climate Change Series is BBB-092 through BBB-100.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/dialogs/print/?id=175549, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061024214739.htm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keystone_species

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 054 – Power and Success

Here on the internet I found a perfect example to illustrate the ideas of levels of organization and emergent properties, using other peoples’ words and experiences. For this illustration I’ll only focus on two levels, the economy and the universe, and I will not quote or link the authors because I haven’t asked their permission, but if you are one of them thank you, I appreciate your insights. First the economy.

(Post) “Modern economics is not a normative science. (Normative = establishing a norm.) Economists don’t say things like “business decisions SHOULD be determined by the market”; rather, they make bold assertions: “business decisions ARE determined by the market”. Firms …are either in business to make money, or they don’t stay in business. Charities put their donations to the uses the donors intend them for, or they don’t continue to get donations. In either case, the ones that survive and thrive are the ones who know how to give their patrons what they want. This is only depressing if you persist in the belief that the universe ought to be wired differently. Being “pro-market” is like being “pro-gravity”. Both exist, and both work according to their respective laws, whether you “believe in” them or not.”

Whoa, I thought when I read that. I was following this along OK until we got to the point where the ECONOMY is considered the equivalent of the UNIVERSE in terms of how it operates. The universe is MANY emergent properties more complex than the economy, and the economy is only a little tiny weenie subset of the universe, and furthermore it is man-made. Finally, I thought, finally I can understand why economists seem to me to be so illogical. But I did not respond on the internet. Happily, someone else did, and that post reads:

(post) “As for the “laws of economics”; (unlike the law of gravity) they have re-written those laws every fifty years since Adam Smith & continue to do so. So perhaps “rules” “guidelines-for-now” would be more accurate terms than “laws”.

That’s the end of that quote. Now we have another post, which I finally did get into the action, and this is roughly what I said:

“Yes! Finally someone gets it” ECONOMICS can never be more than a study of human behavior. If human behavior does not align itself with the laws of nature, then the laws of nature will simply eliminate humans. Therefore, the rules of economics do not MATTER to our human welfare on this earth. It matters how we behave relative to the requirements for our survival. The only good that economics has to offer would be if it were to help bring our human behaviors into line with the requirements of the ecosystem that we need to stay alive.”

That’s the end of that quote, and I will add that is not what economics is doing right now. But that’s my opinion as a biologist. Let’s next quote the opinion of the Dalai Lama, as reported in the 2010 report of the Mind and Life Institute.

“Classic economic theory is based on the assumption that humans are self-interested and rational actors, and casts doubt on the very existence of altruism. New research in both economics and neuroscience reveals a much richer and more complex picture of humanity where altruism and compassion are not only part of the equation, but can be encouraged and learned. Further, research is revealing that pro-social behavior is critical for the survival of humanity, while egoistic and non-altruistic behavior are antithetical to human well-being.” 2010 Annual Report, Mind & Life Institute

To the economist I say that “laws of economics” probably do exist, but I will not believe that you understand them until you can explain how they relate to the laws of the universe, of which they are a miniscule and relatively impotent subset.

Bare Bones Biology 053 – Winning
KEOS radio 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Transcript at factfictionfancy.wordpress.com
Audio at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

http://www.mindandlife.org/
Levels of Organization – BBB051-Levels of Organization
Emergent Properties – BBB052-Emergent Properties