Bare Bones Biology 091 – Evolution

Last time I told you what I know about the reality of our human position on the earth, and more importantly what we don’t know and therefore cannot control. Next I’ll tell you a little why and how story of the past couple of hundred years that have grown our destructive modern economies.

The theory of evolution was a brilliant breakthrough that took place a couple of hundred years ago. After that, it was studied rigorously until the evolutionary scientists and the geneticists realized they were all studying different parts of the same creature, and they got together. Now, 200 years later, we know a great deal more about how this beautiful life form, the whole earth ecosystem, manages to survive through the millennia by changing in response to changing conditions. We know that these changes are mediated for the most part by organisms that, by their interactions with each other and with the environment, carry the genetic information for the life of the whole system forward from one moment of time to the next. The correct term for this kind of study is evolutionary ecology. We left Darwinism in the dust at least a hundred hears ago.

The corposystem and modern politics and economics do not want us to know about evolutionary ecology, I guess because they have a strong foundation in that little nonsense phrase: “Survival of the fittest.” You have heard me say many times: “That’s not how it works.” I didn’t tell you how it does work for two reasons. One is that I don’t completely know how it works – nobody does – the other is that evolution is so complicated that most people don’t even TRY to understand how it really does work. Not even a massive computer could do the job because we don’t know all the parts of the whole earth ecosystem, so we can’t plug the information into the computer. We don’t even know all the species that do the work of keeping us alive. That’s why biologists are concerned about us humans killing them off – the other species – without even knowing what they are and how they contribute to our well being. The bottom line is that our modern corposystem is partially justified by a false or fake belief in survival of the fittest.

It is true that tooth and claw is an important reality of life. It’s also true that tooth and claw is a necessary component of life because it contributes to the flow of energy through the ecosystem, but tooth and claw is only a subset of how evolution works. How does it work? I lay out the background in pages 32 onward in Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook you can download from my website, FactFictionFancy. The shortest version I can tell you in a five-minute spot is that life evolves by generating functionally effective systems out of pre-existing systems.

A cell is a functionally effective system that is made of thousands of molecules – the key is that all these molecules work together perfectly. The problem, from our point of view, is the millions and millions of functional systems that did NOT work together perfectly within the system and so they became extinct. The way evolution works is to generate millions and millions of functional systems, by recombining the older systems, until a new system emerges that works together positively with the whole of life. That one SYSTEM (species) out of all the millions that unbalanced the systems of life, that one survives over time to become a part of the living whole earth ecosystem. We are unbalancing the life systems of the earth. The difference between us and all the other species is that we KNOW these things.

And the reason I am trying to explain this to you is that I see some new social movements coming up that are based on the reality of evolution instead of the failed models that were in part based on a false view of evolution. I’ll talk more about these in future.

Bare Bones Biology 091 – Evolution
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available next week
here and at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Bare Bones Biology 063 – Power of Ignorance

There’s nothing wrong with ignorance, you know. People get all het up about that word, ignorant. Ignorance has nothing to do with how smart you are. It simply says you don’t know something. Every creature on earth is ignorant about some things, actually most things. Einstein was somewhat ignorant about ecology. Why not? He was a physicist. Physics is not ecology. Einstein spent much of his time thinking and learning about physics; and he did not run around trying to convince people that he knew about things he didn’t know about. He knew what he knew, but the thing that made him so smart is that he also knew what he didn’t know.

I was thinking about ignorance and reading a peer-reviewed research study that was done by Justin Kruger and David Dunning at Cornell University.

I’ll quote their conclusion, leaving out just a few words:

“People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities . . , in part, because people who are unskilled . . . suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. … Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.”

Well, I’m always suspicious of people who use big words when they could make better sense using ordinary words, but these people certainly understand what the words mean, and their methods and statistics, and also a long list of references, all hold up well, so I’m pretty sure their results are accurate. The bottom line is — the best way to grow your competence is to be very clear about what you know and, more importantly, what you do not know. Or as I say it, the best way to grow your personal power is to know the difference between the facts, the lies, the opinions, and self-serving poppycock. People respect knowledge more than recycled blather. Would you hire an engineer who doesn’t know the difference between a slide rule and a calculator?

So I thought it was really interesting — that same day, I received copies of an article in The Economist. The editorial and the article clearly review many of the problems that we humans face in our ecosystem today. And they use all the right catch phrases. Resilience for example:

“. . . it is possible to add to the planet’s resilience, often through simple and piecemeal actions, if they are well thought through.”

But apparently they don’t understand the relationship between resilience and the numbers of species in an ecosystem, because they also stated that half the earth’s species are going extinct. And they did not mention that we are almost entirely ignorant of the functions that most of those species perform to maintain the resilience of the ecosystem. So – given our enormous ignorance, I don’t understand how they plan to carefully think through a method of improving resilience while at the same time extincting half the earth’s species. Would you hire these people to engineer the future of the earth ecosystem that provides your air, food, water and work – literally your life?

And if we revert to commonsense, there is an idea they did not even consider. Wouldn’t it be safer, easier and less abusive to humans and the living earth ecosystem to remove the cause of all those problems? The common root cause that lies behind all these problems – and anyone can do the math — is excessive growth. But the implications of this fact are not seriously considered anywhere in the article.

Bare Bones Biology 063 – Power of Ignorance
KEOS FM, 89.1, Bryan, TX
Download audio later this week from http://www.BareBonesBiology.com