Bare Bones Biology 089 – What Can We Do?

So we evolved (or if you want to know more about that see BBB 010 through 019 and 088). What’s that got to do with what we can do for the future of humans on this earth? (check out New Dimensions – Creating the New Dream

The answer is, we can and DO affect the welfare of future generations by our behaviors now. We can improve the human condition, if we put our faith in the reality of our obligation to the future, and change our lifestyles according to the needs of the ecosystem to maintain its health and ours. Some people make small changes, others make big changes, depending on our situation. But we all can place our faith in the heart of the process that created a Jesus and a Gandhi and a number of Buddhas and a Mohammed, and you and me. And stop placing our faith in humans and human works. For the simple reason that the whole of the process and system and creation that is the living earth – it is too much for humans to understand. There are too many interacting parts. That’s why it sounds so complicated, it is. And we should not be tinkering with the most basic components of something we don’t understand, and believe me, those guys who say they do understand, they don’t understand either. Nobody does.

Many people believe that all scientists have faith in technology. This is too bad, because I don’t know any good basic scientist whose faith is centered in their technology. Technologies are intensely human, and a good basic scientist would look at the world, examine the cause and effect of the devastation that has been wrought by human technologies. Technologies are invented with the specific purpose of trying to force an end-run around the reality of the system and the process of nature.

A good scientist would see in our current devastation a failure of human technologies. A good basic scientist has faith in the process. She would not try to tinker with the very thing that gives her life. She would not experiment with the welfare of the grandchildren when we already know what they need. They, and we, need clean water, clean air, good rich living soil, and food energy that is generated by healthy growing plants. And we know it is the earth itself that creates these things for us. The very complexity of the earth. The earth can do this work of creation if it is healthy, and our job is to stop tinkering and help the earth to be healthy. The very reason that a basic scientist loves the ecosystem is because it is a way to study the process and the systems of the living earth that are NOT controlled by human fallibility.

The corposystem, on the contrary, was designed by humans who do not understand the system or the process. I know they don’t/didn’t understand either the system or the process of how the universe evolved from subatomic to solid and from solid to alive and from alive to human. I know they don’t understand this because nobody does. Because the creation cannot fully understand its creator. A lot of the ills of the corposystem are caused by its reverence for human technological power. Human technological power, or even human compassion or spirituality are not enough because there is no way humans can change the natural laws that permit the system to survive.

The creator is not human. Humans are not God. That’s why humans require faith, and that’s why we cannot enjoy a sustainable presence on this earth unless our faith is placed in the basic laws of the process and system that permitted the creation in the first place. That’s the natural laws, the laws of nature. Regardless of who created them and how.

What we can do is to believe in this fact and learn to understand how we are causing harm. There is nothing on earth that we can do to change this very moment. What we can do is give the gift of life, the gift of fitness, to the future by living inside the belief and understanding of the reality of what the earth needs to be healthy.

Bare Bones Biology 088 – What can we do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Cause and Effect Denied

If you lose the cultural trappings and metaphors, the basic principles of Buddhism are totally compatible with Christianity. If you lose the trappings and metaphors of Christianity, it is entirely compatible with Buddhism. That’s because religion in its essence is a message from the past experiences of human kind that is intended to help us understand the natural law of cause and effect, and how it works in our relationships within populations and in the reality of how life functions. The laws of nature do not differ from one place to another or from one religion to another. In fact the laws of nature don’t know we exist. The laws of nature are what they must be if there is to be a universe, and if we choose to defy them or if we choose to understand them, the laws of nature don’t give a shit. They just are. So, the more we understand about them, the better we can learn how to get what we want in life. Religions are meant to help us toward more rewarding life by guiding us toward doing actions that have beneficial effects.

The basic law of cause and effect tells us things like – if you jump off a tall building you will fall. The evil that has been done to Americans mostly has to do with corrupting the concept of cause and effect, teaching us to believe in things that can’t possibly be, and so destroying our ability to use logic to make sense of our lives.

There is a basic law of cause and effect that we cannot change. The only way we CAN grow a long-term good life is to learn as much as we can about how the real world really does work – and the lies we are being told — and build that knowledge into our lives.

So the first step (“the first noble truth”) is to recognize that pain is unavoidable. The point is not whether or not you like that idea. The point is that if you try for a life that has no pain in it you will make it more painful than it really is. Bitsy’s caretaker’s mother has MS. When I picked up Bitsy yesterday, she was telling me how people don’t like to look at her mother and so they just turn away, and she said they would cause less suffering for everyone if they would learn to: “Deal with it.” Whether or not we like suffering is not relevant in our lives because it’s not one of the available choices. What gives us a better or worse life is how we deal with that and with the choices that are available. That’s what religion is supposed to help us to do more effectively. The more you know about the reality of cause and effect, the more effectively you can deal with it.

The wisdom traditions that are actually useful do not tell you that you can get whatever you want by magic or prayer or wishing or buying something. (For example what I said – if we keep doing whatever we are doing our lives won’t change very much unless of course there is some big change from outside.) If we want to change our lives, then we need to change our behaviors, and we also need to know what does NOT work. For example the American Dream does not work. It claims to benefit the entire population, but it can’t because that goal is biologically impossible using the methods – or behaviors – that we are using. We would be far better off to stop doing what we know is not working. We can’t live without air. We can’t eat without good earth to grow the food in. We can’t destroy the earth and still feed all the people. We can’t be fulfilled human beings by spending our time competing with other people, rather than growing sustainable communities. Those are the things we need to know if we want to find a sense of satisfaction.

The trick of living is to understand what we can NOT do and stop trying to do it. If we do the things that can’t give us what we want – we won’t get what we want. No matter what self-help make-believe someone is trying to sell us. If we want to grow a better future for ourselves or for anyone else, we need to consider the law of cause and effect and the ways in which our behaviors of today are most likely to affect our future(s). We humans know enough science to understand the basic biological realities. What I like about the principles of Buddhism is that they are a useful recipe for the human realities.

I got interested in the principles of Buddhism when I heard the Dalai Lama say just what I said in the paragraph above. I already understood the law of cause and effect as it is studied by science. He recognized this and compared it with Buddhism. Buddhism studies the law of cause and effect as it applies to human behaviors. But the other wisdom traditions also give us essentially the same useful recipe.

We cannot avoid the results of the behaviors of our society, but we don’t have to believe the lies or live out the false claims of the propaganda. The more useful alternatives are well understood.

Green Plants

090329tgt_dsc0072sAlmost everyone knows that animals breath in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide, and the reverse is true of plants. That makes it sound as though the plants actually need us in order to breath. They don’t, because they can also “breath out” carbon dioxide as they do the work of staying alive; but we need them because we need oxygen. Before there were plants on earth the atmosphere did not have oxygen. Also because we need to get rid of the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The trick to all of life is balance, and this is one example of how the ecosystem keeps its balance so it can stay alive.

A while ago, talking about energy, I said there is high-level energy and low-level energy (and stages between) and that energy can go from high to low. However, it can not go from low to high level. Light is high energy, chemical energy is medium energy and heat is low energy. The genius of plants is that they can take high level energy (light from the sun) and use it to do the work of making medium level chemical energy (food). And then they can use the chemical energy (food) to do the work of staying alive.

I’ll say that again. The plant takes the energy of sunlight and uses it to make the major molecules of life. You may have heard on Star Trek (or was that before your time?) that carbon compounds are indicators of life. They don’t make themselves. The plant makes them, using energy from the sun. Even though every kind of cell is different, all cells are made up of carbon compounds: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, DNA and other things. Carbohydrates are sugars and also the wood and cellulose the tree is made of. Lipids are fats. Proteins and DNA everyone has heard about on TV. The bottom line is this: the plant uses a source of high energy from the sun to make the molecules of life. The molecules contain chemical energy. The plant can then use the molecules and the chemical energy to do the work of keeping its cells alive.

carbondioxidelfAnd then of course, we do the same. We eat the plant and use the molecules to build our cells and the chemical energy to do the work of keeping our own cells alive. Animals can not live unless they have plants or other animals to eat because we can not use the energy of light to make carbon compounds. This will not be a surprise to you. The more interesting part is what happens to the chemical energy that the plants have stored in their tissues.

The first possibility is that the plant might die and become fossilized and turned into oil or coal or natural gas. Imagine how many plants and animals were fossilized millions of years ago. Now we mine the oil or coal or gas, because they are carbon compounds that are a rich source of the chemical energy the plants have captured from the sun, and they burn. We burn these to do the work of driving the car, heating the house, burning the light bulbs and running the factories.

Burning is the process of releasing the energy from a carbon compound. Oxygen is required for burning; that’s why we breath it in. Oxygen + carbon compound releases energy and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a waste product of burning. That’s why we (and the car) must get rid of it.

In the car, this burn is controlled and the energy that is released is used to do the work of firing the pistons.

In our bodies, in every cell, the burn is controlled and the energy that is released is used to do the work of sustaining our lives.

And all this energy comes from plants and only from plants because the only kind of energy we can use in our bodies is chemical energy.

If we use up all the oil and gas and coal that were made millions of years ago, we could of course burn wood. In very poor parts of the world people are forced to burn up all the trees — to use them for the same things that we use coal and oil and gas. In other poor parts of the world people are cutting down the forests, just as we cut down vast portions of the North American forests, to plant food for cows to eat. Or for us to eat. If we keep doing this, we will run out of trees to burn. We will run out of oil and coal and gas in any case. Sooner than later.

Before that time comes, many people believe we should try to find some way to use the energy from the sun directly, bypassing the green plant. We could MAKE food, but it would require more energy to make it than we would get back. And where would we get the energy? So that is not practical. We need to find a source of chemical energy that we can not cut down, burn up or use up. So that’s the fuss about sustainable energy.

090331_dsc0106sAnd converting light energy to chemical energy is not the only thing plants do for us. Remember where we started. Plants also “breathe in” carbon dioxide. That’s how they make carbon compounds in the first place. Plants can do the reverse process of burning. They use the energy of the sun to make carbon compounds. They take the carbon right out of the air, where it is cycling around and around through the ecosystem. They use light energy from the sun to make the big carbon compounds from the little carbon dioxide molecule (and other molecules that are also cycling around the ecosystem). At the same time the plant converts high-energy light from the sun into chemical energy that is stored in the large carbon compounds the plant is making. The problem here is that the carbon cycles around the ecosystem and has to be got rid of from atmosphere. The other problem is that ENERGY does not cycle around the ecosystem. It comes in as high energy. We use it to stay alive. Poof it is gone away in the form of heat and we can not make more chemical energy.

So we are back full circle. The people (and the cars and factories and power plants and all that) are eating the carbon compounds and using up the chemical energy that is stored in them — and at the same time we are breathing out carbon dioxide because it is a poison to us. The plants breath in the carbon dioxide and breath out oxygen that we require to burn the carbon compounds in our bodies.

Carbon dioxide is released into the air from all the burning in machines and in our own bodies, and carbon dioxide is a waste product that causes global warming.

What will happen as we continue to destroy the trees and other plants and burn them up in our machines and in our bodies? The more machines and the more people, the more carbon dioxide. The fewer trees and other plants — also the more carbon dioxide. And less oxygen and less energy available in the form of chemical energy. Energy is all around us, yes, but the energy of life is chemical energy.

So that’s what people worry about, and it is completely logical that we should worry. This exchange system between plants and animals has created our ecosystem. It is based in natural laws of physics and biology that can not change. Therefore, if we want human kind to survive, we need to understand the natural laws that keep us alive — and behave accordingly.

The point is not to rush out and get more excited than the media over who is wearing what color this year (green is good). The point is, as T.D.Jakes has said: “You can not change what you do not confront.” Of course he is right, but “Confront?” Why do we always think we have to fight with each other and with life? Life is about balance; without balance there is no life. Our success will come when we stop confronting each other about things that none of us can control, and begin the discussion. The point is to talk about it.

Among all the millions of people on earth, I think if we start to talk together -here is an example – about our problems we might actually come up with solutions that work within the natural laws of the ecosystem, and I think that’s better than waiting around for Exxon or Fox News to save us from them.  I think that would be a long wait.

Do you know of any other examples, in addition to simple-green-frugal, the link above here, of people talking together about down-to-earth factual biological reality?