Bare Bones Biology 304 – The Frame

All of our universe is composed of naturally evolved systems. I am a naturally evolved system; I am one unit of the human species that is also a naturally evolved system that consists of nearly 8 billion units and their environment. The corposystem (a social system) has evolved within the human species and is now our primary paradigm. The corposystem and the human species and I are all part of the naturally evolved Biosystem, which is a much more ancient and powerful naturally evolved system — but the Biosystem is not human. The Biosystem is a highly evolved natural system that consists of many “levels of organization” that all and each are naturally evolved systems.   All of this intricate naturally evolved balancing act involves interactions of many kinds among and between the systems at multiple levels.

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Evolution is not primarily about survival of the fittest, and it is not primarily about objects such as ourselves. Evolution is primarily about energy and information relationships among collaborating systems.


“Survival of the fittest” is a pitiful, woefully inaccurate meme that has damaged our creative response to Life as it is, and precluded our insights.


We humans are not at the top of that peak or any other, nor can we be. We humans exist at the level of individual organisms. We are composed of naturally evolved systems (example, the nervous system) and the systems are composed of naturally evolved cells.   If cells had not evolved, then a nervous system could not have evolved, and the various species of organisms could not have evolved. Thus the real world of naturally evolved systems is much more complex than four dimensions the physicists work with, or even the multidimensional approach to a mathematical description of the quantum world. It is very difficult to imagine. But it’s more worthwhile and less embarrassing than to use our naturally evolved brain to think in ignorant meme-imposed frames.


The real world consists of naturally evolved systems that interact with each other to generate more complex naturally evolved systems. The history of our Creation lies in the ability of these systems to function at all the systemic levels cooperatively so that I am alive because all my cells and organs and organ systems are alive and functioning together cooperatively to generate and maintain me; and my species, Homo sapiens maintains itself as a naturally evolved system so long as it generates (evolves) social systems that are beneficial to us all, and so long as those social systems also benefit the ecosystems of which Homo sapiens is a part.


What that means is:


1 – the naturally evolved ecosystem is the cutting edge where our species (at present our corposystem) gracefully submits to the needs of Life itself to maintain and support ALL THE LOWER LEVELS OF LIFE that are essential for the survival of ourselves and of the whole Biosystem – or not. Natural selection is the name we have given to that process of success or failure.   Either we fit our behaviors into the requirements for the maintenance of life of our environments — or humans do not survive, nor will any of the naturally evolved systems of which we are composed. This is how systems sustain themselves; if we can’t get with the program, we aren’t welcome in the game.


2 – if we succeed in aligning our behaviors with the ecosystem of which we are a part — so that we contribute to the welfare of that ecosystem and the entire Biosystem, then we can survive. If not – not.


3 – Right now, Homo sapiens is dying because Homo sapiens is an unfit species that is destroying itself by overpopulating. Overpopulation events of any species normally do change the environment of that species. THAT IS HOW SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST PRIMARILY WORKS! The unfit species destroy themselves by their inability to survive within the environmental changes they themselves have generated.


4 – If we continue to believe we are in charge of our environment, rather than the other way around, we destroy one huge opportunity — that sublime evolutionary breakthrough, to the next higher level of reality that could lead to a sustainable human future. We cannot do this by telling the ecosystem how it should function within The Life.


If we choose a sustainable life style for our grandchildren, we must live within this frame (paradigm/worldview). We could do it tomorrow, if we were willing to face our problems with courage rather than anger, fear and denial — and to inform our human compassion with the wisdom of Life and Death.



This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of A copy of the podcast may be downloaded at:



Definitions and Descriptions (we can probably improve these definitions):


Energy is classically defined as the “ability to do work’ using the Laws of Thermodynamics that study work and entropy. Work can be thought of as the cause of change, movement, or organization.   Entropy can be thought of as disorder or disorganization in the states of Energy and of Information.


Another modern description of entropy, Seth Lloyd. 2006. Programming the Universe. Alfred Knopf., page 191: “You can think of entropy as consisting of random junky bits and negentropy as consisting or ordered, useful bits.”  


Information was described by Claude Shannon as: “Information (theory) . . , though related to the everyday meaning of the word, should not be confused with it.”   And: The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point.” (Quoted in The Information, chapter 7, Information Theory, by James Gleick, pub. Pantheon.


The word communication, when applied here to naturally evolved systems refers to whatever processes may share information across whatever physical, social or functional boundary may separate the systems, for example the cell membrane, human skin, ecosystem climate zones, tribes, languages, species. These boundaries may be seen to represent the evolutionary history of the entity or organism, as for illuminated by levels of organization, an insight brilliantly proposed by Lynn Margulis in her lifetime, and the prior concept that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.”


Naturally evolved systems are self-organized, self-perpetuating units that consist of nodes and processes. Neither the nodes (objects, for example ourselves) nor the processes (any example will do, from gravity to hydroxylation) nor the environment in which the nodes and processes function (the environment is composed of other systems), none of these is paramount, though the environment is the most powerful, and all of these levels of systems are involved in the cyclic language of Life that evolves (adapts) and perpetuates itself by collaboration with other systems as it spirals through time.






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 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

Bare Bones Biology 090-Evolution

In the last two programs, I said that evolution is real and we affect it, so the best thing we can do is to learn how the biological system really functions to stay alive so that our efforts to be of help will do more good than harm.

Based on what I know about evolutionary ecology, our global and local human travails will become worse no matter what we do politically and economically. This is not a personal belief based in social science. It’s in the numbers, and my professional pronouncement is based in a lifetime of training and experience in genetics built on a base of training in ecological evolution. The human species is entering a biological bottleneck, and we might as well face the fact and deal with it.

Our troubles will become worse, because we can’t change what we humans have already done. We will experience the result of what we have done. What will happen after that depends on what we do now. What we humans can do right now in this moment of historic evolutionary change, is to decide the future of the human species and the whole earth ecosystem by our response to the bottleneck we are entering.

We have so much power on this earth that we can choose to help the ecosystem return to health and grow a good life for our descendants – or we can carry on as we have for centuries trying to eat the apple of the tree of life, like spoiled little children, by trying to force the ecosystem to obey our wishes. Or one could say, trying to create God in our image. I personally think that is blasphemous, and factually as a scientist, I know that approach will not succeed. But most of the people don’t seem to care, as long as they can be among the winners now, and at the same time believe they are the good guys. And so we carry on like the previous generations, destroying our own future. The irony is, so far as we know, we are the only species in history that knows we are destroying ourselves, and we are doing it anyhow.

Even more disturbing, most of the people who believe themselves to be scientists, even biological scientists, are training now within the corposystem value system to continue the very mind-set that caused our problem. In part, that mind set originated from and is still justified by a conveniently flawed and simplistic interpretation of evolution, often quoted as: “Survival of the fittest.” Folks, I keep saying, that’s not how evolution works.
(for example Evolution – BareBonesBiology-010 through -019 and several subsequent to the series. Bare Bones Biology 052 emergent properties)
But I’ll talk about that next time.

Further, the modern corporate mind-set is all about control that we do not have. For example, when I began my career, we all were studying a biological organism (the mouse) to try to understand the processes of life. Now, for the most part, my peers are not interested in the mouse and how it functions as a life form. They are interested in the molecules the mouse is composed of, and how we humans can control those molecules. This is mostly because that is the kind of work the corposystem funds – to make money by controlling things.

But we humans cannot make a mouse. We cannot blow the spark of life into those molecules outside of a test tube, and we need to remember that we also cannot blow the spark of life into the whole earth ecosystem. We will fail if we try to redesign the whole earth ecosystem to suit ourselves – either as biologists or as agro-business empires the likes of Monsanto, or as energy corporations that refuse to recognize that we are running out of oil and gas – or as the modern ecologist whose science has become so reductionist that he cannot see the life form that he is studying because he is more interested in how he can control some little part of it. Maybe we can control that part, but all the parts are connected, and as we don’t know how the parts function to make the whole of life, we need to let it function as it does. However that is.

Bare Bones Biology 090 – Evolution
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available next week
here and at

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

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Probably His Holiness will not mind if I quote extensively from his most recent book and then hope that you will read the book. It is partly a memoir of his experiences with friends rooted in the various faiths, and more importantly an analysis of the human roots of those faiths. Can we agree that all faiths have human roots regardless of their aspirations? Maybe not, those are my words. Here are some of his. Page 109, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths, Doubleday Religion:

“It is my conviction that compassion, the natural capacity of the human heart to feel concern for and connection with another being – constitutes a basic aspect of our nature shared by all human beings, as well as being the foundation of our happiness*. In this respect, there is not an iota of difference between a believer and a nonbeliever and between people of one race or another.”

May I insert another personal opinion before continuing. The above statement resonates strongly with me because of the basic logic of my background in studies of genetics and evolution. Not to quote some considerable evidence for the genetic importance of communal welfare. And contrary to the perversions of some subsets of the overall biological reality, for example “survival of the fittest” to suit preferences of some individuals and groups that are ignorant of the overall realities of life. It seems logical to me that Homo sapiens’ (we are all of the same species) selective advantage, that gave rise to our spectacular success on this earth, had to do primarily with a natural capacity to feel concern for and connection with other beings. I mean the difference between us and those that are no longer present on this earth. Probably it would be best for us if we don’t forget that reality, because we cannot survive on this earth without the well-being* of this living earth. Oh, oops, I was quoting religion, not science-based digressions:

“One can identify three broadly distinct approaches within this process. One is the theistic approach where the concept of God underpins the ethical teachings that foster man’s emulation of God’s own compassion. A second is the nontheistic religious approach, such as that of Buddhism, that invokes the laws of causality (cause and effect) and the fundamental equality of all beings in their basic aspirations for happiness* as the grounding of ethics. The third belongs to the secular or nonreligious approach, whereby no religious concepts are evoked but, rather, recognition of the primacy of compassion may be underpinned by common sense, shared common experience and scientific findings that demonstrate our deep dependence on others’ kindness.”

“. . . at the heart of all the world’s religions is a vision of human life that transcends the boundaries of an individual’s physical existence as an embodied, finite, and temporal being. A meaningful life, in all the faith traditions, is one that is lived with an awareness of a . . . “ dimension above the mundane.**

On page 114: “What we find in the teachings of the world religions is a vision of ethics that moves beyond the limited reciprocity of the Golden Rule to an exhortation to universal compassion.”

*For American readers, I am sorry that the word happiness has been used as a traditional translation of the concept of welfare and well-being that I assume must be the original meaning of the Buddha’s statement in the Pali language. The American idea of happiness does not fit a concept of universal well being. For one thing, happiness is a human emotion, or at most an emotion of higher vertebrates, and we are talking about the welfare of all sentient beings, most of which are not higher vertebrates. For another, happiness has some especially negative connotations (shoot it up, buy it up, eat it up and you will be happy) in American English that are not part of its use in this context. One other interpretation of the concept that I heard from Sharon Salzberg is “well-being,” which is not as pretty a term but clearly must be more accurate, because every living thing has a need for well-being, and the intent is for the welfare of all living things.

** Mundane means ordinary or perhaps boring, but it also has another meaning: “matters of this world,” that is probably more to the point of this quote (per your friendly Microsoft computer dictionary).

Survival of the Fittest

My huge betrayal in the year 2000 and especially 2003 changed everything about my life and since that time I have resented my culture that lied to me. (American dream and all that.) I woke up this morning realizing I had been lying to myself. Yes indeed my culture lied to me, and has been going really overboard ever since that time in its efforts to refute the obvious and confuse the innocent. However, whether or not my culture lied to me — I did not have to believe in it. I believed it because I wanted to, and because we are rich enough in this culture to believe anything we want to believe. It was never true; if I had checked, outside my field, it was not in accord with measurable facts. Could not be true.

Choosing a subject that I do know about — if life is to live positively, it must be in accord with the basic laws of physics and the emergent properties of life that were created by nature (God) — or life won’t fly. Any life form that interferes with the balance of all life forms will not survive. The excuse of “survival of the fittest” is a perfect example of another false idea that people, especially economists, choose to believe because they want to. Nobody is God to understand ecological fitness, but we do know for a fact that ecological fitness is not fitness if it throws the ecosystem out of balance. So we just make up stories.

Am I happier now, knowing the dirty truth about us?

I’m not less happy — and the truth gives me more power to make a positive difference for the future of human kind. Or not, but at least my contribution won’t be negative. Living in fear; living in hatred or anger; living a life I don’t want to empower in the world; these are not useful to me or to a more positive future.

“The truth will make you free” to make a positive difference. Continuing to believe lies: “there is no global warming,” “we need to grow the population to make a healthy earth.” Believing lies like that because we WANT TO believe them when the accurate reality is known — that is a crime against the children, because the facts are available. And because the only time our actions can be taken is NOW — the only power that we have is NOW, and we owe our power now to the future of our children. Believing in physical realities that are clearly proven to be otherwise is lying to the children.

Continuing to believe and live within the best of our human values is not a lie — it is our faith, growing a sustainable future.