Faith, Hope and Love

Is There Hope?

No.

Not if we use hope as an instrument of our cowardice.

Not if we use hope as a tool to deprive others of information, therefore the freedom to make wise life choices.

Not if we use hope as an excuse to avoid the hard work and responsibility of survival.

Shall we hope that God will change the way the body of the earth functions? And for the silliest of reasons – just because we don’t like it? After He spent a few billion years growing it up to work the way it does work? Why are we hoping for magic and miracles, when we know what the problem is and how to solve it all by ourselves? If God did miraculously change the processes that maintain life, then Earth could no longer function in our universe, because the miracle is that it functions at all. Shall we hope for a miracle that will destroy it? We can do that, all by ourselves, and we are.

No, we cannot hope for a miracle, and I’m really sorry God. I know you spelled out the rules from the very beginning, and it’s not very hard to understand — neither Your rules nor the functions of your Earth — but it’s not my fault. If I could, I would have stopped the destruction 50 years ago. I’m not a coward; I’m not depriving anyone of necessary information; and I’m not afraid of hard work or responsibility. But I can’t do it by myself, and I can’t control what other people do. They like what they are doing. They chose it. I suppose that is a part of how Your law functions. I don’t like it much, but is is the miracle we’ve got.

Kurt Vonnegut Shall we hope for a Singularity? Fun game to play, but the whole idea is based on the theory that humans are intelligent – in fact that the human brain can function better than the biology of which it is a fairly minor subunit.

No, we cannot hope for a “singularity” that will save us from experiencing the physiological (karmic, cause and effect, physical) results of our own behaviors.  We chose our karma; it is our creation and our responsibility. If we don’t even understand that – then there is no way we can rationally hope to survive into the future.

And if the A.I. singularity DOES occur, then it will: a) not be able to invent a world that functions better than the one we already have because, while it may be immensely more intelligent than humans, it cannot be nearly as intelligent as the entire billions of years of evolved wisdom of the universe of which it is a part, and b) if it is more intelligent than we are, it will immediately recognize that the easiest quickest and least painful way to save the Earth would be to dispose of the humans. We don’t need a singularity to do that; we not only are doing it, but we also know that we are — and we know how we are.  We have probably already done it. Probably that IS the singularity. The nearly certain occurrence of Homo sapiens’ genomic bottleneck – or decease – during the first half of this century.

Only one rational hope remains conceivable, because it arises out of the only rationally conceivable way that we could resolve our physical plight.  We can hope that humans will wake up and decide that we don’t like the future we have built for our grandchildren, and that we will sit down together to learn what the biosystem requires for its well being – not what we believe it should require, and not what we hope will fix it, but what it/she really does physically need to balance the millions of organisms and billions of processes of which her body is composed – so that we can begin to work together to give the mother Earth what she needs to survive.

I can wish — but I have no real hope that this will happen. Mostly because most people would rather hope and pray than work to understand what is needed. And partly because I have finally come to understand that the miracle of Life, and the beauty of how it functions to exist as a vital (formerly) green rock in space, is more significant, elegant, beautiful and desirable than the human enterprise.

There is no other viable reason for hope.

There can be no Life without death.

It is done.

And so be it.

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

Developing the Mind

I have developed my mind quite a lot (re. the video below) and I think it’s a good thing. My belief for a long time has been that the so-called “right brain” part of the mind contains the more basic inherited human characteristics. That means we can’t change them or lose them — they are built in to our bodies, and it’s better to use them well.

From what we know up to now, these basic qualities seem to be the emotional realities that have been so elegantly studied by Buddhism over the centuries, plus I think the stages of mourning and of meditation are inherent human qualities.

I learned long ago that any major culture shock requires at least (and about) a year to accomplish to the point of acceptance of the new reality, and I do believe that the stages of this accomplishment are those same stages that have been described for overcoming grief. The stages of grief (or other big change): Denial, bargaining (this is efforts at control), sorrow and grief, and finally acceptance.

The development of the “right brain,” that is discussed in the below post and elsewhere, I assume, means that there are ways to balance these inborn traits so that they serve us well, both at the individual level and at the population level of human reality.

Development of the “left-brain” traits – I’m more familiar with that. This aspect of our lives complements the “right” by making day-to-day sense of it until we grow it into our world view. Again, the survival value is that we are able to use and direct our experiences and learning to direct our behaviors toward greater good, both for the individual and for the community. Because there is a law of cause and effect in the universe to which we must adhere if we are to survive. The law of cause and effect is the root level of both evolution and sustainability.

Evolution and sustainability are intimately intertwined, so that any effort to generate a “shift” in our culture that is sustainable absolutely requires that we understand what (and why) certain behaviors are (or are not) culturally sustainable within life as it does function (not as we wish it functioned). We use our left-brain skills to understand how life does function so we can conform to its reality.

Remember, the left-brain skills are largely learned. If you are delving deep into the right brain to solve your problems, you are only using half your potential for good in the world of today. Because there is so much technology, if we want to generate love and compassion, it is essential that we learn to understand, on a left-brain level, what is likely to be the long term global result of our individual love and compassion (in action). Love is not enough.

We must understand how our love interacts with human need, for good or for ill. Or there can be no compassion, because compassion is the intersection of loving others and acting for the welfare of others.

Love is not enough. In fact, it’s the easy way out. We need to LEARN what the other requires, especially if the other does not have the same inborn instincts that we have, we must learn how it does function to be well and healthy. Otherwise, considering the level of human power on this earth today — our behaviors are likely to cause more harm than good.

Unfortunately we live in a culture that is stuck in denial and bargaining; rather than accepting reality, we are obsessive in our desire to control it. Humans can not control universal realities, but to the extent that the whole culture is based in denial of that reality — “everyone” is doing it, as a lifestyle, and so “no-one” can see that it is not reality. It feels normal.

It’s not normal for humans to stay stuck forever in denial of the reality of who we are and what we can’t have, combined with bargaining for the power to have it. That’s where we are today, and our power is enough to crash our culture and our ecosystem if we can’t see the reality of what the culture and the ecosystem need in order to be sustainable.

Left-brain skills are required. Right brain skills are also required. We will need our whole brain to grow out of the mess that we are in. Confining our development to one or the other and then working very hard, or very lovingly, to bring these to our culture. This behavior does not create love and compassion. It creates conflict, envy, competition, and deep, deep grief when we discover that our dreams were built on the sand of denial.

Bare Bones Biology 102 – Religion and Science

Where Christianity, and also other religions, seem still to be failing, is in the effort to understand the biological reality of overpopulation. Any religion that is based in love, compassion and kindness, in my opinion, has the deepest obligation to try to understand the ecosystem that gives us life — and our obligation to that life.

Certainly that is the message we get from the native peoples who have spoken out. Oren Lyons (Oren Lyons the Faithkeeper, interviewed by Bill Moyers) a Chief of the Onandaga, most eloquently warned us:

“We are now. Now is us. We’re the seventh generation. I’m sitting here as the seventh generation because seven generations ago there were people looking out for me. Seven generations from now, someone will be here, I know. And so each generation makes sure that seven generations is coming all the time. That’s accountability. We’re accountable. We, you and I, we’re accountable. Yes we are, and they are going to call us. They’re the ones that are going to say, why did you do this, or why did you not do this?” Listen also to NASA scientist Jim Hansen, for the scientific rationale.

So I will today give a very Bare Bones outline of the implications of world wide overpopulation, in my personal opinion and my professional opinion as a basic research biologist and geneticist. This is one of those tragic situations where the needs of level three (ecosystem) health conflict with the needs of level two (the health of the human population, and or economics, depending how one looks at it) which also competes with needs at the individual level (the health and welfare of individuals and their families). That’s exactly what happens when resources are not sufficient for the need –when, as in the graph, the food needs of the population are greater than the carrying capacity. In the case of the reindeer in this small area the result took place in a space of about 20 years, a little less. As is true for us on earth, the reindeer did not have access to food from any other place. I don’t like it any more than you do, but I challenge you to address this issue seriously, and prove that I am wrong before you settle back into denial mode.

Human populations world wide are now about at or somewhat above the carrying capacity of the earth, and our population is still growing. Our current solutions to this problem are 1) to destroy the earth, air and water of our home planet, and 2) to kill off millions of people, as we have been doing in wars all during the last century and this. Neither of these solutions is rational, because first they cannot be sustained and second, we now have the technology to provide a kinder future for our billions and for our host planet.

Our immediate action should be to make family planning available to everyone who wants it, worldwide. There is an unmet need of about 215 million couples. I am told by people in the field that many women who want contraceptive help — to pretect their own welfare and that of their children — are unable to get it. I do not understand why we believe that contraception is immoral but war, genocide and preventable starvation are not, especially as reduced populations would have less incentive to war and genocide; and even if these figures are off by a million or so, which I doubt, the implications for improving our biological sustainability are obvious. What we are doing instead is “educating women” while reducing availability of funding for family planning. This reminds me of the “abstinence” solution of one of our recent presidents, and I suspect it is based on that philosophy. It didn’t work even here in a country where contraceptives are readily available.

Our biological problem is that food for all living things comes from and is created inside of the ecosystem (by photosynthesis) and we have no other source for food and no firm expectation of finding any. As a result, we are killing off other species (using the food they need and poisoning them with herbicides and pesticides at high levels) in our efforts to make more food for ourselves. As a result of that, the ecosystem is becoming LESS HEALTHY and therefore less able to make our food, and also it is becoming LESS RESILIENT (think climate change) and therefore more likely to become uninhabitable for humans.

Meantime people keep asking why there are more and more poor and suffering in spite of our efforts to prevent this. The answer is that the only thing that CAN prevent an increase in need is to stop killing off other species (resilience) and to restore the balance between supply and demand (sustainability). The only way that humans can restore the balance is to reduce our population. We cannot make more food for ourselves because of the law of thermodynamics, which I can’t explain in one sentence, and even if we could make more food, we still would be destroying the resilience of the earth ecosystem. That is, its ability to stay healthy and make our food, our water, our air and our soil, which we cannot get from any other source .

Sometimes we wonder if these corpo-politicos understand what they are doing. Apparently they do. I have a recording of a young man who was raised and trained in one of the biggest of the big oil companies and who recently presented his opinion in an open hearing about whether or not one of these big pipelines would be built. His concluding sentence echoes the precautionary principle:

“If on one hand you had an unpredictable path that leads into a new dream, and a new way of life for all of mankind, and on the other hand you had another path that leads to the slow, inevitable decline of a civilization, which path would you choose?”

Bare Bones Biology 102 – Religion and Science
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM
Podcast available here or at
http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com

Recommended References

Oren Lyons the Faithkeeper, interviewed by Bill Moyers.
http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=11252309
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/

NASA Scientist Jim Hansen
Nasa scientist: climate change is a moral issue on a par with slavery
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/06/nasa-scientist-climate-change?fb=optOut

http://www.earth-policy.org/

Precautionary principle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

Oil executive son’s powerful testimony at Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline joint review panel (includes transcript) Lee Brain, son of an oil man, receives a standing ovation and brings a crowd to tears after delivering powerful & inspirational testimony in front of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel in Prince Rupert on February 18, 2012. http://youtu.be/1X3VynNZQaQ
http://energybulletin.net/media/2012-02-23/oil-executive-sons-powerful-testimony-enbridge-northern-gateway-pipeline-joint-revi