Bare Bones Biology 295 – The Hub

Last week, on the back of the bulletin in the Episcopal church, we read the following:

 

“God is the hub of the wheel of life. The closer we come to God, the closer we come to each other. The basis of community is not primarily our ideas, feelings, and emotions about each other, but our common search for God. When we keep our minds and hearts directed toward God, we will come more fully ‘together.’”       Henri J. M. Nouwen.

 

imagesIf you have followed Bare Bones Biology for a while, you have heard me say from time to time that that I believe The Creation consists of one reality that is factually true, and searching for that factual reality is one of the more direct routes toward truth — from wherever we begin our path.

 

“More specifically, when one looks at things from the perspective of the rim, then the spokes connecting the rim with the center seem very separate from one another . . . as do the various religious traditions when viewed  through the glasses of their respective theologies, rituals, and so on. However, when one reaches the  center of the wheel where all of the spokes come together, then one appreciates the principles of unity which govern the function of the wheel despite the apparent disparities of the individual spokes and, similarly, when one is opened to the mysteries of Self-realization, then, one experiences, in direct fashion, the unity which underlies and glues together the apparently disparate aspects of life …”   Shayk Tariq Knecht.

 

But certainly we can’t get there exclusively on the back of measurable facts and the scientific method. The Creation is very much more than that, and contains many kinds of reality.  facts are facts, but they are not sufficient because truths cannot be comprehended by humans at the level of literalism. The Creation is very much more than facts, especially reductionist facts, because, for one example that is or can be purely physical, The Creation is a system composed of systems.  And there are not many kinds of measurable facts.   Nevertheless, real facts, and the road toward our understanding of real facts and our responsible use of them, do indeed carry us closer to the hub of truth. Similarly, our other modes of truth-seeking, if they are valid and if we make the honest effort, must meet at the hub of reality, mingled among the facts of science.

 

Our culture is nowhere near that hub, and of course we will not get there, to the center, if we can’t tell the difference between real facts, our own world views, the nuggets of truth that lie at the heart of our myths and metaphors, and our opinions that are never omniscient. There are many things that humans cannot understand:

 

“One of the striking peculiarities of common man is that, while he now has abundant scientific evidence to the contrary, he finds it intensely difficult to   understand that his beliefs are by no means always linked with his intelligence, his culture, or his values.” Indries Shah.

 

And we cannot draw near to any truth until we learn to discuss the issues that divide us and connect us, because:

 

“Discussion, like an army, serves no human master, but harnesses the force of argument and the power of personality to the common goal of growing understanding.” Paul Woodruff.

 

And our culture is unwilling to discuss he critical issues. So I defer to His Holiness The Dalai Lama, who has accepted, with incredibly compassionate wisdom, the enormous “cross” of the golden wheel (that wheel in the picture is supposed to be golden) that represents the eightfold path of his heritage, and has expanded that responsibility to encompass the world of all science, all religion, and all sentient beings. He quotes Shantideva:

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“May the fearful become fearless;

May those oppressed by grief find joy;

May those who are anxious

Be rid of their anxiety and feel secure.

 

“May health come to the sick;

May they be free from every bondage;

May those who are weak find strength,

Their minds tender toward each other.

 

“As long as space remains,

As long as sentient beings remain,

Until then, may I too remain

And help dispel the miseries of the world.”

(sound familiar?)

 

In our corposystem culture, we have replaced that golden wheel, and its eightfold path that reaches toward the hub of Life, replaced it with the grimy threefold cycle of co-dependence that generates and re-generates the fairy-tale of human supremacy uber alles.

 

I do not wish in any way to demean the “parts” of the system of human aspirations in favor of the whole. No more than Shantideva demeans the parts in the above quote. In any case that would not work, because the whole is clearly an emergent reality that is dependant for its very existence upon its parts. (Donella H. Meadows. Thinking in Systems, 2008, Chelsea Green; Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters, 2001, Harper One).

 

But for myself, I do not wish to spend my own short personal time in reverence for the parts over the whole emergent miracle of the ongoing creation of Life of Earth.

 

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy.Worpress.com. A copy of the podcast may be found at: http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_295_-_The_Hub.mp3

The Blog address is: https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/bare-bones-biology-295-the-hub/

References

Henri J. M. Nouwen. The Genesis Diary.

Shayk Tariq Knecht. 2010. Journal of a Sufi Odyssey.

Indries Shah. 1968. The Way of the Sufi, Penguin Books.

Paul Woodruff. 2001. Reverence, Oxford University Press.

Shantideva. 2008. A translation of the Bodhicharyavatara, Revised Edition, translated from the Tibetan by the Padmakara Translation Group, Shambala.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama. 2010. Toward a True Kinship of Faiths, Doubleday.   Probably with help of his primary English translator Thupten Jinpa

Donella H. Meadows. 2008. Thinking in Systems, Chelsea Green.

Huston Smith. 2001. Why Religion Matters, Harper One.

Photo by  Urania-joseglisifilho.blogspot.com

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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 100 – Climate Change, The End

On a Thursday I went to two local meetings, one right after the other. The first was a seminar — a group of people who are concerned about the health of the whole ecosystem that we live in. Second, I went to a political meeting. All the people I met at both meetings are concerned for the welfare of our whole community. But their views of what is a community are so different that, if they were talking together, they probably would not recognize our common motivation.

I despaired of explaining this gap until I once again realized that we are talking about levels of organization. BBB-051 and BBB-052. By my system, individual is level one. Level two is the population level, our local community of humans or all humans as a species. Level three is the entire worldwide ecosystem, which is a super-organism that consists of all the species on earth and the environment we all create to live in.

People who work at the population level need to understand as much as they can about the social sciences, because that’s how we humans manipulate other people, for good or for ill. That’s all about hopes and dreams and kindness and cruelty and good and evil and empathy and compassion, as defined by our common human values. This is different from individual, level one welfare, and the difference is the cause of most of our political battles. That’s because, instead of trying to understand the differences in a way that will generate a living space for individual welfare within the communal welfare, in our culture of today we are choosing to fight over those conflicts of interest. For example. My neighbor’s oil well is giving me nosebleeds, shortness of breath, and I think maybe affecting my memory, which at my age is a concern. Good for him, bad for me, a simple individual level-one difference, he is bigger than I am so I will move. However, a more
difficult problem is the effect that his oil well has on the rate of asthma, alzheimers and obesity and other problems of the people of the whole community. That’s level one welfare, conflicting with the welfare at level two. At that point, we need a serious human discussion or we will likely end up with a serious human fight. That’s the kind of thing that good politics should be addressing. The welfare of the individual within the population of humans. There is always a conflict of interest. That’s what the social sciences are about.

The ecosystem is the level that includes all of life on earth. Everything alive is part of the whole earth ecosystem and requires a healthy ecosystem to stay alive, because the ecosystem literally makes the air, water and rich soil, and it makes these things by balancing extremely complex cycles of energy and climate and organic molecules. That’s not a matter of opinion. Without the ecosystem, there is no population to worry about, and that’s what the folks at the seminar mean when they are concerned about the common welfare.

We need the so-called “hard sciences” to understand what the ecosystem requires to stay healthy. Because the ecosystem does not function according to human values or emotions, the social sciences will not help us understand what the ecosystem requires. That’s why we need biology and ecology. And facts. And our unique human brain that can understand the difference between ecological facts and human emotions and desires. And our unique human language that can share knowledge and information over space and time.

There are measurable facts in this world. Our opinions are fun and they make us feel important, but they do not change facts. Science does not change facts. Nothing changes facts; that’s why we call them facts. Thermodynamic relationships are real, and all of life is based on them. The law of cause and effect is real. It is a fact that what we do today will influence the level of human suffering in the ecosystem of the future. The world keeps changing; that’s a fact, and we need to deal with it.

Bare Bones Biology 100 – Climate Change, The End
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References:
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/ Levels of Organization
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2011/04/24 Emergent Properties
Bare Bones Biology Energy Handbook is available on my blog for free download
Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World, by H.H. The Dalai Lama

Bare Bones Biology 083 – Imagine

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity that’s in the wrong hands . . . And so we must say to men, love God with all your heart, with all your soul and strength, but go on to say, love God with all your mind.”

That is edited from a speech Martin Luther King Jr. made on the subject of love and forgiveness. He was a well-educated preacher, talking to a group of Christian leaders.

I am a well-educated scientist. If I am talking with other well-educated scientists and technologists, let me ask how you respond to the word God in this speech. Does it make you feel uncomfortable, superior, more knowledgeable, better educated or scornful? Then I say you are the first person, before even the religious extremists, you are the first person who must examine your own ignorance of the real world and your failure to understand the uses of practical compassion.

Science is very badly needed to help guide our struggling culture today, but it is needed in the hands of people who are sincere and conscientious and compassionate and looking for real answers to real problems. Science knows nothing about God, one way or another, because science deals with measurable facts. However, scientists exist on planet earth in the solar system in the universe. This suggests that somewhere in our past there was a creation event. You, technical person, do not know any more than anyone else about the why and who of that creation event. There is nothing wrong with the word God, (or Allah, or other expresssions) of the power and glory and responsibility that it represents.

And for the religious extremist. If God created all this, then God created the things that are studied by the sciences. The fact that science – as an applied discipline – functions as much as possible without emotional content, that fact does not mean that scientists are either unemotional or irreligious. My high-level scientist colleague recently told me that of the eight people in her lab all are religious. However, scientists do have a lot of training in the use of measurable facts, and that probably does mean they can help us focus on how best to express our compassionate need to help our hurting earth in a way that might really help.

All we require, to accomplish our task of growing a better future for the grandchildren is a population of sincerely compassionate (fake compassion doesn’t count), ecologically literate voters, who are willing to discuss issues with each other. If you don’t qualify, there is nothing stopping you, now that we have access on the internet to all the knowledge of the world. But if all the world’s knowledge seems a bit much to tackle, you can start with the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook that you can download free of charge from the right side of my blog.

Let’s close with the words of Karen Brown of the Ecoliteracy Center, speaking last month at Bioneers.

“Here’s what Scott Carpenter said, and here’s the kind of thing I never heard from an astronaut when I was in school. ‘This planet is not terra firma. It is a delicate flower and it must be cared for. It’s lonely. It’s small. It’s isolated, and there is no re-supply. And we are mistreating it. Clearly the highest loyalty we should have is number two to the family of man, and number one to the planet at large. This is our home, and this is all we’ve got.’ And I’d like to think we have one other thing. A generation of young people who are healthy, well educated, ecologically literate, and who know how to be strong and powerful when they need to be strong and powerful, and how to be tender and caring when they need to be tender and caring.”

Bare Bones Biology 083 – Imagine
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM
Audio will be posted later at
WWW.BareBonesBiology.com

And the New Job Is?

090826Airport_dsc2794SsMy new job begins in one of the more comfortable seats on the plane, flying over a whole country gone mad with people who are trying desperately to “save the world,” despite their primary source of education by television propaganda — and a really quite good glass of Merlot courtesy of “my new best friend,” who seems to actually understand the real problems we face.

A sigh of relief — no longer am I required to spend my research time trying to figure out who did what with which molecule and what difference does it make anyhow in a world gone mad with humanitarians who actually believe they can change mother nature by doing a better job of what caused the problem in the first place.

But it was good, the mouse book. It payed the bills for “Outside the Circle,” and “Outside the Circle” taught me the prologue to meaningful communication about the difference between measurable facts, make-believe and propaganda. And the ways these are manipulated by power brokers. And the words to say what is true.

That’s my job.

If other people do their jobs, we will make it. If not, we can say that my honor was worth the sacrifices.

What’s your frame?