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

Bare Bones Biology 185 – Fiction

Every human person arrives with an inborn mental capacity and a phenomenal ability to integrate experience into a logical world view (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/). Personally, my brain seems to prefer pictures and holistic patterns rather than the details of fact or fancy. Supposedly, my kind of brain belongs in an artist, or a story-teller, rather than a scientist. And it’s true, my colleagues seem to be much more devoted to details than I. So it’s difficult to understand why I chose to become a biologist.

Maybe it’s because I also know, I feel like I have always known, that it’s better to start with real facts on the long journey of life, and use those facts to integrate one’s self into the patterns and pictures of the whole living earth. Facts are universal. Therefore, it’s safer to build one’s life around facts than around individual opinions – but only if the facts are integrated into the patterns and visions of the reality of the whole living earth. Individual facts — out of context – no. They box up our brains into one or other category with no escape – no way to join the flow of Life — as in reality it consists of the emergent confluence of billions of factoids.

Historically, story-telling has transmitted the factual wisdom of the generations – teaching behaviors that empower the communal welfare within the superior powers of the environment. On the contrary, for the most part, the stories that are raising up our children today teach behaviors that are destructive to community, and assume powers that humans do not have. Listen to Carl Sagan, an author/scientist.

“We live in an age based on science and technology with formidable powers, and if we don’t understand it, by we I mean the general public, then who is making all the decisions about science and technology that will determine what kind of future our children will be living in? Just some members of congress? There’s no more than a handful of members of congress that have any knowledge of science at all. . . This combustible combination of ignorance and power, sooner or later will blow up in our faces. Who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it. And the second reason I’m worried about this is that science is more than a body of knowledge. It’s a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallability. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions — to interrogate those who tell us that something is true – to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan political or religious supremacist that comes along. It’s a thing that Jefferson laid great stress on. It’s not enough, he said, to enshrine some rights in the constitution. The people have to be educated, and they have to practice their skepticism and their education. Otherwise, we don’t run the government. The Government runs us.”

That is why I stated, when I began this series, that I would not deal in metaphor, but in measurable facts. We surviving humans need to face the facts of life so that there may be a human future. Instead, we are hiding our heads in fictions that are not viable. Our youth have ended up believing that the facts are metaphors and the metaphors are factual.

normal_ian-symbol-danaus-plexippus copy

But today, for the first time, I am praising a work of fiction. Barbara Kingsolver, another scientist/writer with perhaps what we would traditionally consider a more feminine perspective, has written a lovely piece of fiction entitled Flight Behavior. Flight Behavior is a holistically beautiful book that is built upon biological facts and human truths that invite us to deal with life and death realities. And with skepticism and education.

And it’s a good read.

This is Bear Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy.com and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM, in Bryan, Texas. For a podcast of this week’s program go to http://www.BareBonesBiology.com or click on the link below.

http://barebonesbiology.com/bare-bones-biology-185-fiction

Prof. Sagan quote is an excerpt from the Charlie Rose Show. I recommend you listen to the full version of the interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iyFw8UF85A

Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver, was published by Harper and is also available as an unabridged audio book published by Harper Audio.

Bare Bones Biology 004B – Power of Science

The great power of basic science is that it lets us spend our time doing things that are more useful than fighting about our personal opinions. We can use the elegant immutable facts of life to make technologies, and then we can use the technologies to do something good that we otherwise couldn’t do.

But is that what we usually choose to do? More often, after we have powerful technologies, our heads swell up until we believe our power is the same as wisdom and our opinions are the same as facts. Now that’s just silly, but that’s what some people think. And then we start to fight, we call it debating, about whose opinion is more important. And by that time we are in more trouble than we were before we had the power. Nobody’s opinion is as powerful as an immutable fact, because we can not change the facts.

A fact is a reality that doesn’t change. The most important thing we need to know about science — it’s a method to figure out what is the difference between a fact and an opinion. And it does this by physical measurements. Science is the study of measurable facts using the scientific method. The whole point of the scientific method is to prevent personal opinions from influencing our evaluation of the measurable facts.

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An opinion is not any of these things. We do have the power to change our opinions, and in my opinion we should consider our opinions with great care, first on the basis of the facts we must deal with and then on the basis of good choices that reflect our positive human values.

Fighting over facts is like those gorgeous fighting fish that have long trailing fins and all sorts of colors from red to blue, and they live in little aquaria. One fish lives on each side and they are divided by a pane of glass. Apparently the fish believe they are more powerful than the glass, because they never stop fighting to get through the glass so they can tear each other to shreds. They spend their whole lives doing this, and then they die.

That’s very romantic, and I suppose it’s fun if you like nothing else more than you like fighting, or if you think winning is more important than anything else in the world. I don’t. I think winning is mostly a way to hurt other people while pretending you did something good, because whenever you win, everyone else loses. And that makes them mad. Pretty soon everyone is mad at everyone else, and looking for something to fight about, even if it doesn’t make any sense, acting like a bunch of fighting fish and never accomplishing anything more useful than proving we can do something better than somebody else can do it. Well, everyone can do something better than someone else, so what does that prove?

I can accomplish my goal better if I know the difference between the things we know to be facts, and the things we know are not facts, and the things we don’t know. So science is about facts. Technology is also about facts, but technology is not basic science. Technology uses scientific facts to make things to sell or to use. It’s too bad so many people are confused about this, because the difference is as big as the difference between God and man. God made the unchanging facts. We use basic science to study the facts. We use technology to make things to play with.

It’s not much different from a chimpanzee using a stick to dig food out of a hole. God made the tree, the chimpanzee broke it into a stick to use for a technology, but the chimpanzee did not make the tree and he cannot change the way trees are made. Neither basic science nor technology can change the facts, but science can help us to understand them, and technology can help us to do good things without causing harm.

Or not. Our job is to choose.

The podcast of this post may be downloaded at:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_004B_-_Power_of_Basic_Science.mp3

Bare Bones Biology 133B – World Community

Last week I described, in a very general way, how I imagine the human brain processes information. The primary take-away message is that our brains are not universal. We are one species out of billions that are required to operate the functions of the living earth — just as any one cell of our brain is only one out of billions that are required to operate our amazing human brain. Secondly, there are levels of function of the human brain that we do not control – they control us. They control the basic functions of our bodies, and the basic nature of our emotions.

However, we also have higher levels of function in our brains that can adapt to our environment in a conscious way. One of these qualities is how we are learning all the time. Another is our intellect, that we can use to evaluate ourselves and our surroundings. If we try, we can figure out the difference between our perceptions — that is what our reality feels like according to our world view – and what the world really is according to facts that we study in physics, chemistry and biology. For example, we can measure the speed of light using tools designed by our intellect, but according to our perceptions, we would not know about the speed of light. We wouldn’t know that light is energy. We wouldn’t understand energy and would not have learned how to control fire, for example, during the millennia of our origins.

In all those millenia, the problems we faced had to do with how to interact with an overwhelming environment. For example, I was very touched by the last story in the most recent National Geographic. It is the story of an interaction between today and a primitive tribal culture. I won’t tell you the end of the story, but for me it was a heart-wrenching illustration of the choices we must make if we are to survive within the requirements of our environment. (National Geographic, February, 2012, Cave People of Papua, New Guinea.)

Today, we no long live sheltered in the broad green arms of our ecological home. I think that’s one reason why we experience the levels of discomfort, dis-ease and discontent that we do in our culture, but that’s not something we can deal with now. We have already destroyed that long-distant Garden of Eden. We can’t go back and change the mistakes of yesterday. You younger folk don’t realize that yet probably, but it can be demonstrated using, that intellect of ours, that the earth has modified herself to our needs about as much as she can. Our choice now is whether to push the environment even more. If we do, it’s likely to change so much that it can no longer support our needs for air, water, shelter, earth and human companionship.

We can do this, I know our brain is capable of understanding the problems that we face, and we can join together communally to deal with them. However, we cannot face these challenges using only our inborn instincts. If we are to succeed, it will require our intellect in two ways. First, we must educate ourselves about the ecosystem, how it functions and what it needs from us in order to sustain itself; second we must use our intellect to grow a new culture, based in what we know about basic instincts, and on what previous cultures have taught us, and incorporating our scientific knowledge and changing our attitude toward technology.

We now must decide together whether we, as a culture of the world, want to continue using technology to dominate and to make money – or if we will choose to, find a better way, based on a better goal-set than winner/loser. We do know there are better and more satisfying ways for humans to live, and the first thing we need to understand — we are not God. We do not understand the infinite meaning of life, nor can we control it. Our need to control, our ego, our desire to grow life in our image, whether the image be evil or even if it is a good image – that is the source and cause of our man-made disasters.

Lynn Lamoreux
Photo by Lynn, Lucky B Bison

This blog is an expanded version of Bare Bones Biology radio program that will play next week on KEOS Radio, 98.1 FM, Bryan, Texas. Bare Bones Biology is a completely nonprofit project. The podcast can be downloaded at http://traffic.libsyn.com/fff/Bare_Bones_Biology_133_-_World_Community.mp3

Recommended Action/Question for Discussion: Identify the source, and the path from source to table, of each item of food that is part of your Thanksgiving meal. In countries without a day of Thanksgiving (or with one), give thanks for your food at every meal and remember that it comes from the living earth. What, I wonder, is the difference between our living earth, and your God? Or mine?

Recommended References
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/

Bare Bones Biology Ecology Handbook, free, no strings – https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/
On the right side of the page click on the link under “Chapters” to download the PDF.

National Geographic, February, 2012, Cave People of Papua, New Guinea, by Mark Jenkins, Photos by Amy Toensing.

Bare Bones Biology 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop

Bare Bones Biology 107 through today, 116, are about communication. Different kinds of communication. And of course we didn’t scratch the surface. Communications has become an entire discipline. I know someone with a PhD in the subject. But there’s nothing new about the simple point of this series of blogs — that all communications are real, but they are useful to us in different ways, as we grow own personal future or, more importantly in the long view as we try to resolve the biological illness that faces our ecosystem.
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We know we cannot survive without the ecosystem. Therefore, picking out whatever we like to believe, or whatever communication stirs our emotions, or whatever we wish were true — and working very, very hard for it – or going with the flow because that’s normal human behavior – none of those approaches to communication will resolve our current biological dilemma. What we mostly need is good information and good discussion. Sometimes a good place to look for these is in a workshop setting.

I recently attended a workshop about the four elements with Wendy Johnson (author of “Gardening At the Dragon’s Gate,” Bantam Dell), at Upaya Zen Center (http:www.Upaya.org).

The workshop experience merged our awareness of our human values, emotions and needs with the mother-nurture of nature as we examined each of the four elements that are organized by Buddhism as: earth, water, fire and air (and space). We all know that these are the fruits of the ecosystem, that we cannot do without them, that our behaviors influence their availability, and that I have also been talking about these issues from my perspective of our physical survival needs. It was a joy to experience Wendy’s beautiful rendition of the same issues, blending the physical survival needs with our human emotional needs and a practical approach, learning through gardening, that goes beyond either perspective.

We really could resolve our biological dilemma, if we would only reach that one step beyond the science and beyond the emotions and use our inborn compassionate nature, and our recognition that the problem at its roots is biological, as an incentive to study the fact-based needs of the ecosystem – and find a way to give the mother life what it needs that is different from what we need – for it and for ourselves and our future. We have everything to do that — except the will. The facts are available and so are the technologies. The compassionate will, however, is being drowned in a sea of fear, hostility, short-sighted self-interest and false propaganda.

Here is Wendy’s better vision.

“I love to make the connection between the outer waters of the world and the inner waters that do compose us. Three-fifths of water of our bodies is carried inside our cells, and then another two/fifths outside as blood plasma, cerebro-spinal fluid and intestinal tract fluid. So we are walking bags of water. We can feel that. Especially in a dry place. Those of us from the Bay Area, from Portland, Oregon, where water animates the air. We have to search for the resonance that is our human inheritance.

“And every day, every day, three percent of the water in our bodies is replenished with new molecules. Water from the deep abyss of the ocean, I was thinking this morning we are replenished, not only with fresh water, but from water that is in the huge hydrologic cycle, coming up fresh, and that water includes water from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, water mixed with the ancient fire of oil, water from rain on the tall grass prairie, and from the ancient forests. Actually, we measure water, in the woods, we measure water by how much stored fog and vapor. In the ancient redwoods, now whittled down to 2.5 percent of their original size. How much water they give back, so stepping into the redwood forest, I remember years ago with Thich Nhat Hanh (www.plumvillage.org), he said: ‘We step into a Sangha of water and life.’ You can feel it, stepping onto that ground, water vapor breathing with the trees. So, three percent of our bodies are always refreshed by the upwelling and the sinking down, by the rhythm of water.

“And yet water shortage, water depletion, the so-called resource, I hate to even use that word in connection with water, the so-called resourcefulness of water is already one of the greatest challenges we are facing.”
For more of this and the remaining elements, check out Wendy’s podcasts part one and part two at Upaya http://www.upaya.org/dharma/the-four-elements-series-all-2-parts/. Or for air, surely you remember Bare Bones Biology 093 was also pretty good, and the same general interdependence relationship is also true of energy (fire) and earth. I recommend you listen to Wendy’s podcasts of this workshop, parts one and two, and I also highly recommend her dharma talk of the previous week. http://www.upaya.org/dharma/wendy-johnson-06-13-2012-the-four-elements-return-to-their-true-nature/

During this workshop, we went down to the little Santa Fe River to put our feet in the water and wonder what it would feel like without water.

Bitsy and I went back again last week and splashed about while the children swung on the tire. But two days later there was no more water in the little Santa Fe river. Only a place in the bottom of the channel where some animal had tried to dig for it.
Bare Bones Biology 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop
KEOS-FM, 89.1, Bryan, Texas
For a podcast of this radio spot, click here
Or go to http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References and Trackbacks:
Upaya Zen Center, http://www.Upaya.org
Wendy Johnson, Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate gardeningatthedragonsgate.com/
http://www.upaya.org/dharma/the-four-elements-series-all-2-parts/
http://www.upaya.org/dharma/wendy-johnson-06-13-2012-the-four-elements-return-to-their-true-nature/
Bare Bones Biology 107-115 and 093
Thich Nhat Hanhwww.plumvillage.org http://www.plumvillage.org

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 098-Climate Change-What Can We Do?

The ecosystem is not a democracy. Neither is it a matter of opinion, nor can we match its power. Not in our wildest dreams. The ecosystem – whatever it is – it is a factual reality. Just look at the veins in your hand. Then look out the window. Then remember where your food, water and air are created – no, not in the supermarket – the ecosystem. It’s a fact that the ecosystem is constantly changing in response to its interactions among all the factors that make up its existence. My critics and their grandchildren will not be at all happy about our choice to continue destroying the climate that the ecosystem created, that has been our cornucopia of life.

So to round out this series on climate change, I want to play some quotes. Here is a short one from an activist at the climate talks that recently took place in Durban, South Africa. Amy Goodman is interviewing Kumi Naidoo on Democracy Now (the only good coverage of the talks that I know about, see dates 12/05/2011 and 12/06/2011 as part of the series).

“the problem is that the level of ambition and the level of urgency in these talks do not match what the science is telling us to do.” He means the science tells us the problem is urgent.

Climate change is just as real as overpopulation, and if you know a few facts (facts are realities that aren’t about people and people can’t change them, like gravity for example) if you know a few facts, then climate change will be as common-sense as my story about overpopulation. The one about putting a cow and a bull in a pasture with plenty of water, and never feeding them any hay and see if they eventually have a population problem. Or a resource problem, which is nearly the same thing. Common sense.

“The greatest challenge for Burma and the countries of the Arab Spring, as well as all peoples who hope to enjoy the flowers and fruits of their endeavors in 2012, will be to bring wisdom to bear on passion and power, and to create a blend of the two that is both effective and wholesome.” Aung San Suu Kyi

This is Harvard Professor E. O. Wilson on Earth/Sky

“Biology is going to be crucial also in feeding the world. We’re about to run out of water, and we’re running low on arable land. And we’re just now reaching 7 billion people on earth, and we’re not going to slow down or peak until somewhere in the vicinity of 10 billion, the most recent projections indicate. We don’t have enough water in enough countries to feed all those people and to restore soil to arable condition. And then there comes the matter of saving the rest of life, which is a major concern of mine. We’ll have to do a better job of exploring the natural world and figuring out how to carry it through what I like to call the bottleneck of the 21st century, when we go through the population crunch and use every bit of information – science based — that we can get, to make that journey through with the least amount of damage to the world.”

So what can we do to help? Number one, find a way to provide birth control for every person who wants it on earth. Number two, work to provide a reasonable standard of living for those who are living. This will require dethroning the corposystem and the growth ethic in favor of a sustainable economic system. Number three, join together with other countries of the world and let them help us do these things. How do we do those things? In any way we can, so long as what we do does not cause more long-term harm than help. That’s practical, self-serving compassion.

Bare Bones Biology 098 – Climate Change-What Can We Do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Trackbacks and Recommended References:
Bare Bones Biology Ecology Handbook downloadable on lower right of this blog.
http://www.DemocracyNow.org
http://www.earthsky.org

Why People Don’t Understand whatever they don’t understand, part five

10. Teaching. The ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher was told she would have to charge for ESL lessons or the students “wouldn’t appreciate it.” Riiiiigggghhht. It is usually necessary to speak English to get a job in this town, the students need a job to feed their children — and she believes they aren’t going to appreciate it? What world is she living in? Our world. A world where only rich people count and everything is measured by money.

And what will be the result? The students may or may not learn English, but they are certain to learn that Americans only care about money or about who is winning, and that is measured by money. And they, the students, will have to do whatever it takes to be a winner if they want to be accepted in our culture.

I thought I was quite restrained in my response to that idea. I said: “I disagree.” I didn’t hear anyone ask me why. In fact, I don’t think anyone ever asked me why the Peach Clubhouse. Not, that is not true. Two people specifically asked me what it is about. I had a hard time answering and it set me thinking; that’s a good thing. Otherwise anyone who cared must have just assumed that I believe what they believe, in spite of everything I have written (see number three above), they believe that I believe in the validity of our toxic culture.

So – everyone who participates IS alone in this culture of competition. We CAN’T listen to anyone else or even to our own deepest human gifts — and still be a winner in our culture. It’s our prime directive. It’s the price we pay.

11. Science. Have you noticed that the corposystem has all the scientists working for itself? Good jobs, too. Not like the jobs they give to most of us. The corposystem will jump at the chance to use good science to make money. And then it turns around to the public, the voters, and bad-mouths good science and prevents the media from showing good science and attacks it in the schools, even at college level. You probably are a product of this kind of education, so it will be difficult for you to understand the point. What we are teaching is about people – not about science. We are teaching nature study and social sciences (including religion and anthropology, physiology, anatomy) – all of which is homo-centric, and we are even trying to re-interpret physics on PBS. We are teaching that humans are at the center of the universe, and it simply is not true. And then the corposystem uses the uninformed opinions of the students/general public to silence the scientists by teaching the students that all opinions are equal. Nonsense. All opinions are not equal. See number 8 above (or below if you are reading this on the blog).

And the scientist is taught: “Don’t bother trying to explain it to them, they can’t understand it anyhow.” That’s an actual quote from an actual third-grade teacher years ago in South Carolina. Not about science, though, about “niggers.” Same phenomenon.

So at the same time the corporations are using good science to make money – pills and weapons and the like – they are brainwashing the public to hate both science and scientists — just watch how everyone treats me if I admit that I am a scientist — and chasing the scientists into the laboratory where they are safe from propaganda. And it’s working. We now have teachers who have been taught bad science, most (I am told) of our science graduate students are drawn from other countries where the information has not died, and the next generation of our home-bred teachers will not understand or believe in real science if the corposystem continues to induce the school systems to teach the corpo-curriculum.

And yet, without understanding how things work, we cannot have clean air and water, good rich earth, and food.

Bare Bones Biology 092 – Climate Change

I try not to be one of those snobby scientists. I know they exist. That’s why I try not to be one, and what do I get for it? Some of the politically active people who aren’t scientists try to prove that they know more about biology than I do. Perhaps I should think about them as snobby non-scientists. However, a knowledge of biology among non-scientists or other powerful people is really important. Likely it will make the difference between whether or not we humans have a future on this earth. And I’m speaking literally. But that’s not why I continue to try to make the information available. Extinction of the species is not such a big deal. I mean, who cares as long as I’m OK. The reason I keep writing these things is not about extinction. It’s about the amount of suffering that we are causing to ourselves and to others. We do not have the right to cause suffering for others.

So I gave him a book. If you want one, you can download it free on my website.

OK, I admit it, right now I’m thinking about one particular extremely snobby non-scientist, and you don’t know him, so I’m using him for an example of how to not solve problems. He didn’t understand a word of the book. That’s OK, nobody understands everything. Or more likely he didn’t try to understand it, and he also did not ask any questions about it; it wasn’t what he wanted to talk about. What he wanted was to kindly explain to me all of this biology stuff is only my personal opinion, and there is a debate about whether or not I am right about climate change. What debate? Me and Rush? Certainly no debate between me and other basic biologists. Some discussion, sure; no debate, and at least I read all that stuff about biology and understood most of it.

I mildly suggested to this fellow that he check the facts. Mine and his. I mean, it’s all there on the internet and in books and scientific papers, with the evidences. And his response? I quote: “I’m trying to teach you (that would be him trying to teach me) to THINK!” In all capital letters. He wants me to waste my time thinking about fake debates among people who have not even tried to read the evidences. Maybe he believes the ecosystem was put here on this earth to serve our needs and it never changes.

Look around you folks. It changes all the time, but only in response to physical cause- and-effect realities that are on the ground. The earth ecosystem does not care about anyone’s opinion. Opinions do not change anything except your mind. Sometimes. That’s why the facts are so important.

The ecosystem we live inside of was not put here on the earth. The ecosystem IS the living earth and all its parts. It is alive. That’s a definition of life. The ability to change in response to changing conditions. When it’s cold we shiver, because we are alive. When the living earth changes over time, the name for that change is evolution, and climate change is all about evolution.

Climate change is about life — biology, because this earth would not exist – but maybe I should define biology. I just realized you might be thinking about technology, or medicine, or physics, or physiology or biochemistry or even sociology or politics. Nuhuh. Biology is the study of life and how it stays alive. Biology is not physiology, which is primarily the study of humans, nor is it sociology, which is primarily the study of humans. All of those things we study are primarily the study of humans, as is anthropology and – well almost every study we do is primarily about humans and that is NOT ABOUT LIFE ITSELF. Because humans, contrary to the common perception, are not the center of life.

For about 500 years we have known that the earth is not the center of the solar system.

And neither are we.

These are two facts that will not change regardless of how anyone learns to think, or what anyone believes.

Bare Bones Biology 092 – Climate Change
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References: Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook free download on the lower right side of my blog.