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

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 http://www.newdimensions.org/creating-the-new-dream-and-the-future-of-the-earth/

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 http://www.BareBonesBiology.com