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.

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



Bare Bones Biology 129 – Community III

Community is a big deal these days, and community building is a hot topic. So lots of people are out there building communities; but what I hear them talk about – do they really know what a community is? And if not. How can they build one? I don’t see communities; I see dollar signs and dominance relationships, and while I’m sure you can’t have a community with no source of support and no defined relationships – also I know that dollars and dominance are not enough for a sustainable community. You can build a “network” that way, but not a community.

That’s a problem for humans, because humans are a social species. We cannot fulfill our deepest, inherited needs without community, and how can you build something if you don’t know what it is?

The social sciences. and the dictionary. define community as a group of people. Different definitions talk about different sorts of groups, but basically, they say a community is a group of people. Oxford American Dictionary – “A body of people living in one place or district or country and considered as a whole.” Well, OK, if that’s their idea of a community, then there is no reason for community building. We already have several billions of people in various groups on earth. That should be enough people, and enough groups. Clearly we need a better idea of communities, or we wouldn’t keep trying to build them.

The problem seems to be that we all have different ideas, and we all keep doing more of whatever we were taught to do – or not do. That’s what got us here in the first place, and I’m fairly sure you can’t cure a problem by doing more and more of what caused the problem in the first place. I think there is a different word for that – addiction, I think if we had a real human community we probably wouldn’t need addictions for a substitute.

The biological definition of community is very different from the social sciences definition. Biologically, a group of any one species (such as a group of people), the biological word for that is not community – it is population. The population of humans in College Station. The population of goatweeds on my ranch. The population of a certain kind of mosquito in the Brazos Valley.

The biological definition of community is: “all the plants and other organisms that live in the same area and interact with one another.”

So biologically, a community is ALL the organisms. Because they all do interact with each other, either directly or indirectly. All the populations in the Brazos Valley. The population of goatweeds and of mosquitoes and of humans – all those populations of organism together form the community of the Brazos Valley, along with all the millions more populations of organisms. When I say millions, we must consider the good rich soil of the bottom-land and all the other places where there are – yes – millions of different kinds of micro-organisms contributing to Life, if we haven’t killed them off, and all the plants and all the insects, the spiders that used to live here and everything else that is alive. That is the biological definition of community.

So it seems that everyone who is using the word community is not talking about the same thing – but we all are right. Whenever everyone is right, and they are all using the same words to mean different things, that is a perfect setup for arguments. But why argue? We do want the same thing; we only need to know what it is.

I believe a human community is a group of people who interact with each other in emotional and social ways very much like the organisms of a biological community interact among themselves in biological ways. Why? The function of biological communities is to promote the welfare of Life Itself. The valid function of human communities is also to serve Life — so that Life may provide for us the earth, air, fire and water that we require to maintain our human communities.

By that definition, I see very few human communities in this country. And very little community building.

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

Tags: community_building, biology, addiction, population, social_sciences, social_species, networks, community

Recommended References:
Previous Bare Bones Biology in this series on community
Bare Bones Biology 127 – community
Bare Bones Biology 128 – community

Odum, Eugene P. Fundamentals of Ecology, any edition, the “bible” of ecology
Krebs, Charles. 2008. The Ecological World View. University of California Press

Bare Bones Biology 096 – Climate Change V

We can not help the earth maintain a habitable climate by growth, either of the corposystem or of the population because it is not possible to cure any problem by doing more of what caused the problem in the first place. You cannot cure alcoholism with more alcohol. You cannot cure the biological reaction to too much growth by growing more.

The whole of life and all its parts consists of processes that work together to form networks of cycles. The most amazing thing about life is the way all these interacting networks stay balanced. Well, most of the time they stay balanced. If they aren’t balanced the result is sickness or some sort or death. Mostly the balance is maintained quite literally by the availability of the resources. Does that sound familiar? Yes indeed, it sounds just a little bit like classical economics. Not the modern Ponzi economics, but the old fashioned kind where – if you didn’t have carrots, you didn’t sell carrots, and you didn’t eat carrots.

If you don’t have enough resources, for example, if the earth is not capable of making enough food energy to feed all the people – then the delicate balance among all the networks becomes unbalanced. If there is not enough to eat, then people die. If that unbalance leads to shortages, climate change, economic downturns, war, any kind of difficulty – then you can not cure the difficulty by doing more of what caused the unbalance. You can’t cure Ponzi economics by more Ponzi economics because sooner or later you run out of the resources that are necessary to keep the whole scheme growing

You can’t cure climate change by pouring more toxic compounds into the climate, either from people eating and breathing or from corporations and other machines eating and breathing the products of the earth until there are not enough resources left to provide the food energy to drive the interacting networks of nature that keep us alive.

We know these things are facts. And yet we have come to the point where our knowledge about genuinely omnipotent realities is no more respected than your next-door-neighbor’s uninformed opinion. This is too bad, because the technologies to prevent a dreadful end are now available while we are fiddling around with the same technologies that have been causing our problems in the first place.

And while we are talking about these things, let’s consider a couple of more false assumptions that run along the same lines.

1. That there is no climate change, but there are too many people in some other parts of the world, and so if we build a fence around the United States and keep everyone else out we will be OK. This one boggles the mind. You can’t fence out climate change. The earth’s climate goes all the way around the earth from the top to the bottom and all around the middle parts. No fences will stop air.

2. That overpopulation doesn’t exist, apparently it can’t exist (how do they prove that?), and we would be better off to save every human cell. Then, every person will have a better life. We have measured the facts (for example), and they tell us that the earth is losing both its resilience (because of species extinctions) and its sustainability (by what I will refer to as overgrazing). From here on out, if we continue to grow, the more people we have on earth, the more people will suffer starvation and genocide and war and similar fates as the economy crashes because we are running out of resources. Bottom line, if there is not enough to eat, then we cannot provide the good life for more people, and we need to find a solution that will work before more people are victimized by our growth ethic.

3. Then the other side of the coin is the phrase I just heard yesterday again, that there is plenty of food on earth to feed everyone, it’s a re-distribution problem. You know I have heard that old saw my whole long life, and we have more than doubled in numbers of people during that time. Furthermore, every time we destroy another species in our efforts to feed humans – every lost species is a broken link in one of those networks that function to keep the earth alive and healthy.

Bare Bones Biology 096 – Climate Change V
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Recommended References: Post Carbon Reader,; Networks, by Barabashi; Beyond Ethics by HH The Dalai Lama; Bare Bones Ecology free download on my blog.

BBB088 – Evolution and Creation
BBB022 – Population
Earth Policy – http://

Bare Bones Biology 095 – Climate Change IV

We can think of the climate as part of the physiology of the earth very similar to our own physiology that requires us to breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Except that’s only half of our cycle and the rest of our breathing cycle happens outside of our bodies as part of the whole living earth. The whole of the creation is made of networks connected to networks inter-connected with more networks. It’s too complicated to understand, and so I don’t, but I’ll tell you some important facts.

First there is physiology – networks of molecules and water and hydrogen and carbon in your cells and your organs and your bodies, and also in the whole earth, all of them interacting. And they keep cycling because of energy. Human physiology and the physiology of the whole earth and all its parts are all connected. They all use food energy to do all the work of continuing the cycles of life.

Every living thing uses energy to stay alive. In all our cells, all the time, energy is released by burning sugars and other carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are made up of carbon and oxygen and hydrogen. The energy to stay alive, food energy comes from burning the carbohydrates. Your body uses the energy and discards the carbon and hydrogen and oxygen in the form of carbon dioxide and water. These are released into the air or possibly the toilet.

Plants breathe in the carbon dioxide. They use the carbon, and then they take energy from the sun, and some water, and they put it all together to make carbohydrates. The plants breathe OUT a lot of oxygen that is left over from the process.

The plants get the water and the carbon dioxide from the air – the water comes from the earth and the clouds. The carbon comes from the carbon dioxide that we all breathed into the air.

These cycles and networks of cycles of animals and plants, and the whole earth physiology, have been going around and around and around for millions of years. They are perfectly balanced for us to live in – air, water, soil, plants and temperature. It is these networks that make our clean air, water, rich soil, and they can adapt to changes – the water and the carbon dioxide and the carbohydrates and the oxygen and hydrogen are all balanced. Sometimes they cycle together, sometimes separately, so when one bit changes the other bits also must change to maintain a viable balance. If you think of an old-fashioned watch, cycles are connected to cycles, but in living things the cycles can change themselves to adjust to changes outside themselves. Changes in the carbon cycle or the oxygen cycle or the hydrogen or water cycles must affect our climate because they make up our air, and the air interacts with the sun and the plants and animals in many different ways.

Energy is released by burning, using oxygen, like a fire in your yard, or burning in engines — burning any kind of energy source – anything that burns with oxygen produces carbon dioxide and water that go into the air and become part of our climate.

So, when we are burning and burning and burning carbohydrates from fossil fuels and also from 7 billion humans breathing out – and from coal, oil, gas, wood, dead bodies, incense, cigarettes — and at the same time we cut down the trees that breath IN the carbon dioxide – the whole vast cycle of life on earth must change or die. We don’t exactly know how it will change, and we want to know more. That doesn’t mean we don’t believe in climate change.

Bare Bones Biology 095 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Recommended Readings: Post Carbon Reader,; Networks, by Barabashi; Beyond Ethics by HH The Dalai Lama; Bare Bones Ecology free download on my blog.

Bare Bones Biology 088 – Evolution and Creation

Until the corposystem started making up fake debates, almost everyone knew that evolution is real, whether or not they knew the word. Everyone still knows it, really, it’s common sense. I mean, we have been using the process of evolution for several hundred years to make domestic animals. What is the difference between a wolf and a pug dog? The pug dog was not created 6000 years ago, it is a product of evolution. Controlled evolution. Monsanto is actively evolving our food supplies. If evolution were not a real thing, life on earth would not keep changing.

The evolution argument is about human political power. It’s a fake debate generated by people who think that evolution is about survival of whoever has the most power. These people think survival of the fittest means working out in the gym until you can kick sand in your neighbors’ faces. Evolution is no such thing.

Ask a dinosaur.

For BBB blogs about evolution, see or listen to Bare Bones Biology 010 through 019. Also BBB 046.

So what I want to talk about today is, what is fitness really? Because what we can do to help the earth today is to give a gift of fitness to our future human generations. And nothing we do could be more important. But as long as we continue to believe that fitness is defined by some kind of competition, we will fail. Biologically, fitness is the ability to survive, as a species, not as individuals.

Fitness really is pretty much the same as sustainability. Fitness is something about how the universe evolved from whatever it was, when everything was subatomic, to what it is now, with step by step levels of increasing complexity in all its parts. Fitness is a component of the process of increasing complexity that is and was the evolution that created the levels of organization of our universe and life and our living world.

There is a wonderful book (Linked, by Baribashi) entitled Linked that describes networks in terms of mathematics. I don’t understand it mathematically, but it must be talking about evolution. The changes of evolution are the increasingly complex networks. Every “advance” in evolution involves the formation of a more complex set of interacting networks. For example, you are a network of interacting organs (kidney, heart, etc), and each organ is a network of interacting cells and the cells are each networks of interacting molecules. That IS how the universe is organized, by networks interacting with other networks, and this book talks about the mathematics of the way networks form. For example:

“Each node is different. Each has some intrinsic quality compelling it to the head of the pack . . . Each node has a different fitness . . .”

I know this insight is very important, because when he says nodes, and I say species, and Buddhists say “emptiness,” we are all talking about the networks of which all of reality is composed. And when he says “fitness” he is not talking about competition. He’s talking about competence. It’s not the same thing at all.

I believe compassion has genetic roots in people, and that it is a component of our fitness on this earth, but compassion is not enough. If we only rely on our compassion, or only our spirituality, or only our technology or our power, we will be the node that fails to survive. Because the entire gigantic ticking clock of the creation is built of networks of networks of networks (that biologists refer to as levels of organization that I have discussed many times). (for example, BBB-051, 052, 056, 057, and more recently 070.

Any newly arising network — that would be us. If it does not FIT into the systems and the processes that have been the source of our creation – it will not survive, no matter how much power and glory it believes itself to have.

Bare Bones Biology 088 – Evolution and Creation
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at