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

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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.

https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/

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

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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 111 – Ritual II

What we all require from our rituals is guidance about “what we should do and what we should not do.” (As Thich Nhat Hanh says in Touching Peace)

We need to understand who we are and how to fit our lives into the big Life without causing harm to ourselves or to it. At the Peach Clubhouse we will have a copy of Joanna Macy’s very fine talk at The Economics of Happiness conference. She started out saying “We are really blessed by the straight talk here.” That got my attention. Or keep watching all the good talks at http://vimeo.com/channels/262024 where it will eventually be posted.

Understanding how to fit our lives into the big Life without causing harm is a complicated task for which well-tested knowledge and positive rituals will help us a great deal more than any other kind of power. We are not more powerful than the big Life that is all life, and our attempts to provide for ourselves by destroying that Life will fail because our modern corposystem rituals are built in the sand of denial and based on the myth of omnipotence.

Ritual is a method of communication within and between populations. If the conditions are right, the rituals of a culture evolve with the needs of the culture. In our so-called modern cultures we have so many unmet needs, and so many ritualistic heritages, that they tend to be confused and misused by intent or by ignorance. That does not mean that rituals are wrong. If your language means nothing to me, then your rituals probably will also not inform me very well because there is no way for me to understand our common roots. That does not mean that you are fundamentally different from me or that your new discoveries are new to me. Yes, you have rituals that are special to you. We all do. Some of these are more useful than others. All of them can be misused.

So let’s not permit our favored rituals to lead us away from our deep reverence for the Source of everything that we need to stay alive and well. You’ve been studying your discipline for 10, 20, 30, even 40 years. I can top that, but why bother? At the root of the Source there is no metaphor, but only pure reality that cannot be denied, no matter how powerful our technology – no matter how bright we are.

Let’s stop growing cultures of denial in which the positive rituals of others cannot bear fruit: a) because we are not listening, so we don’t understand; or b) because we believe our own way is “special.” Maybe our way is not so very different, only we have different rituals and metaphors for the same old human problems. Maybe there are some better answers than what we know today.

Let’s not continue to ritualize our fears into the aggressive or passive-aggressive expressions of the need to win, or to be “right,” or to know more than others about how we proceed to the next evolutionary step in our human lives. We do not know how the earth will evolve. Evolution has way too many variables for us to predict. But we do have something previous generations did not have. In addition to the ritual warnings, we also have fact-based warnings about what we should not do as humans who love life.

For only one example, NASA Director James Hansen and other climatologists predicted climate change more than 50 years ago, based on over-growth of human technologies and population. We weren’t listening. That was a mistake.

If we choose to study only one source or sort of information about what we should do — or not do – our work tends to cancel the efforts of the other at a time when we could be doubling our impact by listening to authoritative sources of both sorts of information .

When I was involuntarily working for women’s liberation, I had no vision or image of women learning to be more powerful than they already were. I imagined women and men growing the rituals for our sustainable future, based in the subtler, more effective “Powers of the Weak” so that we together could grow a subtler, more effective more enduring and sustainable culture for human kind.

Maybe I succeeded and it took a couple of generations. Maybe that is what’s happening now. If so, I wish we would call it for what it is and work it for its full potential so that fully informed people of various traditions, rather than always trying to “teach” the other, are willing to listen hard and well together, and together discuss viable solutions.

For that to succeed, we must include valid scientific data in all our deliberations. Good basic biological science (not technology but holistic science) tells us a lot about what we should not try to do. Actually, so do most of the technologies we are using in our fatal effort to subdue the earth.

Bare Bones Biology 111 – Ritual II
KEOS 98.1 FM
The audio podcast can be downloaded here
Or at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References
Thich Nhat Hahn – http://www.parallax.org/
Elizabeth Janeway – Powers of the Weak
Joanna Macy – http://www.tricycle.com/feature/allegiance-life
James Hansen – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/opinion/game-over-for-the-climate.html
Paul Woodruff – Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue

Bare Bones Biology 109 – Communication

In the past two Bare Bones Biologies, that’s 107 and 108, we tackled one of the most complex of human topics, communication. There are people who specialize in this area, and I probably should consult such an expert, because I confuses me. We so seldom use communication to communicate our reality, and then we have to translate, or guess, what people mean by what they say, and I’m not a good guesser. I finally did figure out the reason people don’t listen to what I say – that’s one of my biggest complaints – is because they’re listening instead to what they would have meant if they had said it.

This is not necessary by the way. If we did understand each other it would eliminate a lot of confusion, and it would only require asking a few questions. But now I find a generation or two of people who are offended by questions, because they equate questioning their meaning with – “dissing” them. (To diss = to disrespect.)

I can understand this, because so many people in our culture are addicted to – or afraid of – power. So we often use words as we would money, or expertise, or machismo or whatever we have at hand to reinforce our own sense of dominance or of defence. The result is not very useful.

I remember a time when expertise was envisioned as useful, not because it gave us an individual edge in a world of fearful competition, but because our individual expertise, whatever it is, can be used to contribute to the welfare of the community. There still exist communities, and some new ones growing, in which each person within the community supports the efforts of the other (even if by support we mean pointing out the flaws so together we can grow a better effort).

Every effort has value, and the values among the many can be discussed. They have worth. None is perfect and none is expected to be perfect. But all together, if the information is made available for solving problems, the community is in a position to deal with the real problems as a group, and so the community has more power than the individual to build a better future for the whole.

Generally, in our culture, we tend to view these communities a primitive, but let’s face it, primitive peoples lived sustainably for thousands of years until we came along with the so-called advanced cultures that are not sustainable within the factual reality of the earth ecosystem. Loving the ecosystem will not change this fact. Neither will technology. Until the spiritualists and the technologists are willing to learn about limiting factors, our advanced human cultures are on a fast track to destruction. Because we do have responsibilities to the earth itself, and unless we know what they are, and fulfill them, well, then our spiritual and technological good intentions are, and I quote St Bernard of Clairveux: “the road to hell, paved with good intentions.”

In a society of competition, where everyone is afraid of everyone else, we cannot use our expertise compassionately to benefit the whole, because the whole is composed of other people, most of whom are more concerned with their own physical or emotional survival.

The result is useless and fruitless power struggles rather than a compassionate intention to address real problems. And in a society where people are hooked on feeling good, or aspiring to feel good, there can be very little compassion, because in a crisis situation, compassion most often does not feel good. Doing what’s best to benefit the whole, often does not feel good. But that is what compassion is – doing what is best for the long-term interests of the other and the whole.

When a solution to a problem is well documented in fact, then it is the responsibility of compassion to study these facts and use them to promote the overall welfare, that is the least suffering, of the whole. For that, we must learn to listen and to discuss. Without listening and discussion of the impact of the facts on all the levels of life, from the individual through the ecosystem, there can be no deep, sustainable, compassion.

Bare Bones Biology 108 – Communication
KEOS 89.1 FM
This program can be downloaded here
Or at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Owl photo taken in New Mexico at TheWildlifeCenter.org
Discussion photo taken in California at the conference of: TheEconomicsofHappiness.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 099 – What Can Conscientious Scientists Do?

My fellow basic scientists and I have known from the very beginning of this Climate Change debacle that I have been discussing — from Bare Bones Biology 092, forward in time, every week until Bare Bones Biology 100, which will be next week — that the so-called Climate Change Debate is a Corposystem Con Job.

There are quite a few references in this BBB and I’ll put links in this blog and below. I have talked before about fake debates (for example and and) and other corposystem con games, for example in BBB 072.

So, how did we know it was a con? First let me say that scientists – mostly – I’m talking about basic scientists now, not technologists – mostly became scientists because we have some idealism about helping the world. Just as you do. We do not publicly lie about facts, partly because facts have a way of proving themselves and we can’t change them. Airplanes wouldn’t fly if we got the facts wrong; we couldn’t have a space program or iThings or any kind of modern technology, because all modern technologies are based in facts that were first understood by research scientists; and global warming would keep getting worse and worse. As it has. And the other scientists would know we were lying.

Second – well maybe I should give you an example. I’ve been out of the field for twelve years, but last week I was asked to review a paper. I realized the author was a young person just entering the field and I would probably have to recommend the paper not be published. Why not published? Because my career is intertwined with my reputation among my fellow scientists. Even though I know exactly how the young scientist feels, because I have been rejected myself by other conscientious scientists. Many of them then offered to help me improve. That kind of practical compassion grows a group of experienced scientists sharing and at the same time openly demonstrating their own expertise, or lack of expertise.

Basic scientists SHARE a body of knowledge. We know the difference between a fact, an opinion and a hypothesis, and we don’t claim that our opinions are facts unless we can open the drawer or pull out someone’s publication and demonstrate the measurable and measured data, and then we are willing discuss interpretations of the data. We do not go on television or any place else and publish lies. If we are biological scientists, we also know that life changes, and we know that the ecosystem is the source of life. If you believe I just described an ideal that isn’t real, well, yes, nobody is perfect. But we do try, and we wouldn’t trade our mutual respect for a seat behind Rush Limbaugh’s microphone.

That’s why we knew the so-called global warming “debate” (climate change “debate”) was a con job. Because there is no debate about the basic fact that climate changes, and changes that happen more rapidly than evolution will have a negative effect on both the sustainability (for a description see BBB 088, or and the resilience of life on earth. That’s why I make these BBBs. So you too will have more information to evaluate the corposystem con games.

The so-called debate is political propaganda, and the purpose is obvious. Powerful political entities in our country are making a lot of money by CAUSING global warming, and they know it, and science knows it. So their purpose is to smear science and scientists.

So now, I am happy to tell you of two proofs of corposystem gamesmanship that appeared just last week. In the first, an investigative journalist “outed” internal documents that describe Heartland Institute’s plan to find people they can bribe to be climate deniers.

The second is the upcoming publication of a book by Michael E. Mann “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines,” a prominent climatologist, describing the professional threats and death threats that he received because he wouldn’t stop informing the public about his concerns.

Climate change is a man-made crisis, only man can stop the behaviors that cause it, and that’s your responsibility. You could start by rereading this series on my blog, beginning with BBB 092, and continue by discussing the issue with knowledgeable people who understand it. Discuss I said. Debate is worse than useless, because it implies that there are only two sides to every issue and only one “winner.”

If we choose to work together on this problem, we are all winners; if not, we are all losers.

Bare Bones Biology 099 – What Can Conscientious Scientists Do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at http://BareBonesBiology.com

Links:
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/01/28 BBB092, beginning of climate change
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2009/06/10 and
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/ Fakc Debates
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/ Corposystem Con Games, BBB 072
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/ BBB 088, Sustainability
https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/ Sustainaiblity and Resilience
http://www.amazon.com/Hockey-Stick-Climate-Wars-Field/dp/023115254X