Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Comrade Trump

Donald Trump won the electoral college vote. You would think this would be enough for him. Hillary Clinton got about two million more popular votes than he did. But Trump wants to rewrite history. He claims that he actually won the popular vote, because those votes for Clinton were illegal. See the USA Today article. He wants not only the presidency but wants history to remember him as the recipient of the huge and virtually uncontested adoration of Americans.

And he can do it.

Will Trump, by his endless repetition of his claims, alter the records of history in the United States? Will future generations of American students learn that Trump led an immense popular revolution? This sort of thing has happened before, though not in America.

Joseph Stalin was one of the Bolshevik leaders of the Russian Revolution in 1917. There were others who worked beside him and were just as important. But when Stalin grabbed power in the Soviet Union, he proceeded to literally rewrite the history of the Revolution. As one by one his former comrades-in-arms began to fall from his favor, Stalin literally had them purged out of the photographs of the period. Consider this set of four images. The original photograph shows four men—Stalin and three comrades who fought with him. One by one, the images of the others were erased until Stalin is left alone, implying that he single-handedly led the Revolution. The others were literally erased from history.

Here is another example. Nikolai Yezhov was the water commissar in Moscow. Here is the original photo of him with Stalin:

But Yezhov later fell from favor with Stalin, who had him erased from the photo:

Trump is arrogant enough, and has enough popular support, that He could conceivably rewrite American history to fit his views, particularly with regard to himself.

You can find more information, and the images I have used, here.

In a similar fashion, Adolf Hitler got everyone in Germany and outside Germany to think that all Germans supported, indeed worshiped, Him. This was to the advantage of Hitler, who pretended that there never had been any serious opposition to Him, and to the Allies, who wanted to maintain the fiction that all Germans were Nazis. History does not even remember that there were Gentile white Germans in 1940 who were not Nazis. There were many thousands of them, as explained here; 77,000 of them were executed by the Nazis.

The human mind did not evolve to reason; it evolved to rationalize. To the human mind, a lie supported by religious fervor (just as most conservative Christians virtually worship Trump) is just as good as, and more useful than, the truth. If history is any guide, Trump and his religious followers can rewrite American history so that future generations of Americans will not even know that those of us who oppose Trump even existed. Remember that images can be doctored on the internet, too.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Evolution of Democracy

It is clear to many of us, in the wake of the right-wing victories in the 2016 election, that democracy is fragile. What might have happened if Trump had lost the election? Would he have gracefully accepted defeat, as Clinton did? Probably not. At least not gracefully. Throughout his campaign he declared that he would accept the election results only if he won. While I doubt he would have called his followers to violent action, he almost certainly would not have told them to restrain their passion; he would, without saying it in so many words, have encouraged his followers to begin acts of violence. Of course, we will never know, unless the Republicans lose big in 2018 or 2020.

My point is that democracy can survive only if the dominant race remains in control. The majority white race (which is actually, as described in another essay, a coalition of minority white races) likes democracy only as long as it leaves this race in control. Sure, Obama was president for eight years, but there was not one moment (except about a half a year at the beginning) when he was not under continual attack and aspersion. The Republican approach to a black presidency was to try to demolish it. They think democracy is nice but don’t let it go too far.

In this sense democracy is like any other animal behavior system. Animal behavior systems can evolve. That’s part of how we ended up with two very closely-related species of chimpanzees: the regular chimp (Pan troglodytes), which is often violent, and the bonobo (Pan paniscus), which is usually peaceful. Chimps spend a lot of time fighting, while bonobos spend a lot of time making love. A bonobo troop is like one long orgy, or so it seems to human observers. As Frans deWaal says, chimps resolve sexual conflicts with power, while bonobos resolve power issues with sex. There is nothing fundamental in primate behavior about either peace or war. It can change over evolutionary time.

In humans, behavior can change over much shorter periods of time. There is nothing about democracy that is fundamental to American character; we have it for now, but (as has happened so often in the past in other countries) humans can quickly abandon it and embrace totalitarianism if that’s what it takes to maintain white supremacy. So far, which path we take remains open to us.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Something We May Never See Again

I discovered a surprising book in my vast library recently: My Wilderness, East to Katahdin, by a certain William O. Douglas. Many of us think of the modern era of environmental awareness as having begun with the 1962 publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. But My Wilderness, published in 1961, has some of the same ideas, though in a less organized form. Rachel Carson organized the concepts into a powerful argument and provided all of the scientific references, but William O. Douglas and probably many others had thought of them earlier.

One of these concepts was the interconnectedness of nature and how modern industrial society can mess everything up by ignoring these connections. One example about which Douglas wrote was the federal government practice, in the 1950s, of dropping poison bait from airplanes to kill off the wolves. But the result was to kill off many other kinds of animals, some of which had kept populations of agricultural pests such as grasshoppers in check. The result was population explosions of insect pests. The answer to this was, of course, more spraying. Another example was the attempt to destroy the sagebrush by herbicides, to encourage the grass to grow for the ranchers to graze their livestock. But wildlife that depended on the sagebrush began to die as a result.

Another concept was the government practice of renting out federal land very, very cheaply to ranchers to graze their livestock. At that point, the ranchers began to act as if the federal land was actually their private land that the government should just let them keep. This continues to happen today, such as the takeover of federal land by the armed Bundy family militia in late 2015. But it is nothing new. Douglas quotes an acquaintance who worked for the federal government (I presume the Bureau of Land Management) who said, “…a permittee who has the right to run sheep on public land pretty soon begins to think he owns the range. Take it away from him, or cut down on the number of sheep or cattle he can graze, or increase the rental, and he hollers as if his property has been confiscated” (page 41). Then as now, ranchers who pretend to be wild west cowboys want to take land that belongs to the taxpayers—that is, as much as to me as to them—and keep it for themselves. This is a practice that they refuse to call socialism.

Douglas was a man who hiked all over the continent. He writes of backpacking in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming; Zion National Park in Utah; Maroon Bells in Colorado; Baboquivari along the Arizona-Sonora border; Quetico Provincial Park in Canada; The Smoky Mountains; the Everglades; the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal near Washington, D. C.; and the White Mountains, Allagash, and Mt. Katahdin in the northeast United States. He was no stranger to the challenges of survival in the wild. The descriptions in this book are sometimes evocative and help you to feel like you are actually present in a place you will probably never visit. But, although I have no doubt that he saw all of these organisms, his descriptions were usually lists of plants and animals that sound like he copied them out of a guidebook. There were quite a few books of this sort published about the same time, such as The Singing Wilderness by Sigurd Olson, The Near Woods by Millard Davis, and One Day at Teton Marsh by Sally Carrighar. Douglas’s book is highly disorganized, except for each chapter being about his experience in one particular place.

What makes this book unique is the person who wrote it. Who was he? Do the black robes in this portrait give you a hint?

William O. Douglas was, throughout nearly all of the time during which he took the hikes he describes, a Supreme Court justice. He still holds the record of serving the longest on the Supreme Court, almost 37 years, from 1939 to 1975. Aside from Teddy Roosevelt shooting big animals and mistaking it for a love of nature, we have never had—and almost certainly will never again have—a prominent politician who had or will have such a passionate and thorough knowledge of the natural world. Today, with the new “conservative” (vs. conservationist) takeover, it seems that the less you know about science and nature, the more qualified you are for any office, particularly positions in which you are supervising government conservation and scientific activities. But even the few remaining liberals in government seem to think that the Earth is just a stage on which the human drama takes place. Douglas was most famous for writing the “Rights of Rocks” statement. In the Sierra Club v. Morton suit regarding the commercial development of Mineral King, just south of Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Douglas wrote, “Contemporary public concern for protecting nature's ecological equilibrium should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation.” That is, trees should be able to sue for their own preservation. Can you imagine any Supreme Court justice, or any other prominent politician, saying anything like this today?

Douglas considered Nature to be a holy place. Thousands of books are published with such a theme, and millions of people believe it, but none of them in such a prominent position as the one Douglas held. Just read these words: “If we make conservation a national cause we can raise generations who will learn that the earth itself is sacred. Once a person breaks through to the level where love of beauty is the ideal, he will worship the rocks and plains that are America. Then he will look on a tuft of grass with awe. For it has the secret of chlorophyll that man hardly comprehends” (page 32).

The survival of human life as we know it on Earth depends on our leaders having this kind of insight. And it will never happen.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

We Are All Minorities

On a recent NPR interview, I heard an old survivor of the 1960s civil rights struggles say that we are all minorities. Since the recent election, we have heard a lot about the reassertion of dominance by the white Christian majority. But this “majority” is actually a coalition of minorities. There are many different “white” ethnic groups. White ethnicity is a fiction created by the desire of many white minorities to band together to repress people of color.

Of course it is not just the “whites” that do this. “Africans” do this also. There is no single African race. The people of north Africa, the Bantu people of west Africa, the Mbuti of the Ituri Forest, the Ethiopians and Somalis, and the San of south Africa are all different races. You will find African-Americans from all of these different racial backgrounds. “White” racism has forced all “Africans” into a coalition.

The same is true of Native Americans. Today, all of the tribes are in the same boat and act as if they are one people. You can go to any pow-wow you like across the country—and some people apparently spend their summer vacation doing this—and it is pretty much the same. The Cherokee pow-wows of my tribe in Oklahoma look and sound almost identical to the Lakota pow-wows I attended when I lived in Minnesota. My tribe, the Cherokee tribe, used to fight against the Creeks for access to hunting grounds. But the overwhelming force of “white” genocide and land-grabbing (by Americans of English, Irish, Scottish, German, etc., descent) has forced all 500 tribes into a coalition.

But there is an insight that comes from thinking of ourselves as minorities, even those of you in the “white majority.” We are all minorities and have to work together for the survival of the world. If any of you think of the Trump victory as a victory of whites, you are contributing to a mindset that endangers the future of the world.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bad News about Your Constitutional Rights

Have you looked at the Bill of Rights lately? Maybe you should. You probably assume that, even under an extreme right-wing federal administration, you have constitutional rights. You assume that, even if fundamentalists have a big role in the new government, you still have freedom of religion. You assume that you have freedom of speech and of the press. But that is not what the Constitution actually says. In this essay, I will examine mainly the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment (in the Bill of Rights).

The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Did you catch that? The First Amendment prohibits Congress (the Legislative Branch of the federal government) from making laws that limit freedom of religion, speech, the press, peaceful assembly, and petition. The First Amendment does NOT say that the Executive Branch cannot do so. Suppose that some future right-wing fundamentalist-endorsed federal government might wish to restrict non-fundamentalist churches, or to prohibit non-right-wing speech, etc. Such a government could do so by executive decree. If Donald Trump were to prohibit anyone from criticizing or ridiculing him, he could issue an executive order, and it would not be unconstitutional.

Or, individual states could establish religions and prohibit free speech. The Constitution does not prohibit them from doing so; only Congress.

Of course, Congress could then pass laws that prohibit such executive decrees. But would they? Would a Republican Congress get around to passing such legislation? Of course, lawsuits could reach the federal court system (the Judicial Branch), but this process could take years. It is almost impossible to imagine that the federal courts would allow restrictions on free speech and religion: even many Republican judges, such John Jones, the judge who ruled against a group of creationists, are neither extremists nor even activists. Furthermore, an executive decree prohibiting criticism of the Chief Executive would depart drastically from precedent, that is, from previous judicial decisions. But what is precedent? Precedent is simply a convention that the courts may choose to follow, or may not.

While it may be unlikely that even President Trump would issue decrees prohibiting freedom of speech and religion, there are other ways that the Executive Branch could accomplish these same goals. Consider, for example, my right as a scientist to teach about evolution and global warming. The new Executive Branch, supported by fundamentalists and energy corporations, could but probably would not try to stop me directly. But they could proclaim that any university or college that permits its faculty to teach about evolution and global warming will no longer receive federal funds. Such a threat would cause the immediate closure of any such college or university, if for no other reason than that students would be unable to obtain federal grants and loans to attend such a college or university.

So don’t be surprised if this happens. It is legal.

In contrast, the Second Amendment says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That is, “the right to bear arms” cannot be restricted in any way, according to the way conservatives interpret this Amendment. This amendment prohibits not only Congress, but also the Executive and Judicial branches, from restricting arms. Imagine with me, if you will, a federal government that decided to allow unlimited access to all arms, whether conventional, semi-automatic, or fully automatic; and, hell, why not cannons and nuclear weapons too? This would, by the Constitution, be legal. If individual states restricted access to certain arms, the federal government could not stop them (since it has only delegated powers, all other powers being retained by the states) but it could deny them federal funding.

We could be looking at an imminent future of repressed speech, enforced religion, and thousands of crazy militias doing what they want, however unlikely this future scenario may actually be.

And if I’m wrong, would somebody please explain it to me.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Let's Hope Lysenko Stays Dead

Isaac Asimov, one of the most brilliant science writers (or writers, period) of the twentieth century, had something to say that is particularly relevant right now about how the outcome of the elections may influence the future of science and education. This quote, in fact, illustrates a fundamental weakness of democracy. He said something to the effect that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

I fantasize that there could be a society in which well-educated people who understand the world and care about it could make the decisions in the best interests of everyone else. But of course this is impossible. If a scientific elite ruled a society, evil demagogues would soon displace the scientists and create a dictatorship far worse than any democracy could ever be.

The list of scientific things that the new Trump team has totally wrong—despite having their errors explained to them—goes far beyond the ones most people already know about: global warming, evolution, and endangered species. According to this article, Trump has also bought into anti-science hoaxes such as the belief that vaccination causes autism, that there never was anything wrong with the ozone layer, that environmentally-friendly light bulbs cause cancer, that wind farms will make you sick, and that ebola can spread just by being around Africans.

The Trump team attacks on science affects me personally in three ways. First, one of my major pieces of ongoing research shows that tree buds are opening earlier each year, which is evidence of global warming. Do I need to suppress or alter my results to fit in with Trump’s views? Second, I teach and write books about evolution. Will I be suppressed from doing this? Third, another major research and conservation effort in which I am involved is saving an endangered species (the seaside alder Alnus maritima). Does this make me an enemy of the state?

I used language that was a little bit exaggerated in the previous paragraph, such as enemy of the state. Surely the Trump team cannot actually ban the teaching of, and research on, evolution, global warming, endangered species, etc., can they?

As you are probably not surprised to discover, the answer is yes and no. No, they cannot do so directly. But they can use the power of federal money to do so. Suppose—and at this point it is just speculation—that the federal Department of Education, soon to be run by creationist Ben Carson, announced that no federal funds can be used at educational institutions in which evolution is taught? This would include student scholarship money. If they did this, my university would face an immediate crisis: the president would have to tell me to not teach evolution, for if I did so, it would cause the university to close. Such an action could be challenged in the courts, but this would take years.

In case you think this cannot happen, I need to remind you of the story of Trofim Lysenko, who had an utterly wrong theory of genetics but one which Joseph Stalin liked. Lysenko’s utterly wrong theory of genetics became the doctrine of the Stalinist USSR. The world-famous geneticist Nikolai Vavilov opposed Lysenko. Stalin did not kill Vavilov, but let him die in prison. The Trump team would not take any steps against people like me as Stalin did against Vavilov. They would not have to. I will not starve in prison. But I might find my job description changed overnight. I might turn overnight from a science teacher into a teacher who must be silent in order to not be a creationism preacher.

A more recent example was a George W. Bush era director of the Fish and Wildlife Service who told FWS scientists that they would not discover, in their research, that there were any endangered species. Period.

The federal government can in fact strangle science. I remain vigilant against any first steps in this direction. You say Trump would never do this? I hope you are right.

Here is my summary of Lysenkoism, from my Encyclopedia of Evolution:

Lysenkoism Lysenkoism is the doctrine of agriculturalist Trofim Lysenko, who dominated Soviet biological science during the Stalinist era. The early years of the Soviet state were plagued with social upheaval and, in the early 1920s, poor harvests. Wheat was usually planted in the autumn, when it produced leaves; after overwintering, the wheat plants would reproduce in the spring for an early summer harvest. The Russian winters frequently killed the overwintering wheat. Lysenko, a plant breeder in Azerbaijan, demonstrated that if the wheat seeds were stratified (kept in cool moist conditions for a few weeks), they could be sown in the spring and would reproduce in time for an autumn harvest. Stratification is now known among plant physiologists as one of the standard ways of influencing the germination and developmental characteristics of seeds. If Lysenko had stopped here, he might today be revered as the man who helped to save Soviet agriculture. But he went further. He claimed that this stratification process actually changed the seeds in a way that could be inherited. Stratify the first generation, he said, and all the subsequent generations would have the new, convenient trait. His genetic theory was essentially the same as that of French biologist Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, which had been discredited years earlier by most scientists.
What happened next is an illustration of a government imposing its philosophy on science and on its technological application. Lysenko’s Lamarckism happened to resonate well with Soviet philosophy, which claimed that individuals and whole societies could be changed if forced to change, and the change would be permanent. If humans, why not all species? Moreover, Lysenko adopted just part of the Mendelian view as European and American scientists understood it at that time: that heritable changes could occur by big, sudden leaps (mutations). This also pleased the Soviet authorities, still proud of their Bolshevik Revolution that appeared to them to have, in the single year of 1917, propelled Russia from the Middle Ages into the modern world. Lysenko’s doctrine was proclaimed to be truth; evidence to the contrary was suppressed, and experimental results were forced to fit into a Lysenkoist interpretation.

The principal Russian scientist to disagree with Lysenko was geneticist Nikolai Vavilov. (Due to secrecy imposed by Soviet authorities, scientists outside Russia knew scarcely anything about what was happening there.) Vavilov had done extensive research regarding genetic variation in crop species (local varieties and wild relatives), and provided great insights into the processes of domestication that had produced these crops. The thing that emerged most clearly from his research was that in order to breed crops, and in order to save them from disease, it is necessary to save the genes. The researcher must travel extensively, gather seeds or other plant reproductive parts (such as potato tubers), and keep them alive. One cannot just grab some seeds, like Lysenko, and force them to change into what one needs them to be. Vavilov spent time in prison for his beliefs. He died during the Nazi siege of Leningrad (now once again St. Petersburg). Some of his fellow geneticists starved within reach of bags of potatoes, which they were saving for the future of agriculture. Vavilov was one of the small number of scientific martyrs.

After Stalin’s death in 1952, Soviet leadership had to rethink many things about domestic and external policy. While they never openly repented for their Lysenkoist errors, the Soviet political and intellectual leadership moved away from Lysenkoism and adopted the same kind of genetics that was proving successful in the west—particularly with the breakthrough the next year by Watson and Crick in demonstrating the structure, and genetic efficacy, of DNA.
Further Reading

Gould, Stephen Jay.  “A Hearing For Vavilov.”  Chap. 10 in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes.  New York: Norton, 1983.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Was What Happened on November 8 Stupidity? Unfortunately Not.

Many progressive thinkers such as myself were stunned at what seemed like the utter stupidity that led to the election of Donald Trump. But then I realized it was not stupidity at all. It was typical human intelligence. The key word is human.

Intelligence did not evolve so that animals in the hominin lineage could understand the world better or keep facts straight in their minds. Those are two of the functions of intelligence but not the most important. The most important benefit of intelligence, during human evolution, was so that some individuals could bend the facts, warp reality, and create delusions that would trick other individuals into following, supporting, or helping them. That is, the major function of human intelligence has always been to gain individual advantages, whether by using the truth or by using lies. (A good liar has to be very intelligent.) Not what is best for a country or the world, but the individual. Trump acted in a supremely effective fashion to gain advantages for himself.

Though it makes me sick to think about it, I must admit that Donald Trump seems to have the genius of knowing how to manipulate people. He knew exactly how to evoke a resonant sympathy with what is in the hearts of most people: racism, sexism, and general hatred. All of his words were in the service of these purposes. He knows that human intelligence does not primarily care about facts, but rather beliefs and impressions. When he mocked disabled people, he was evoking the old childhood memories of bullies on the playground.  He played our brains like the keys of an organ. In this way he was able to completely deflect attention away from the evil things he has done. He did not appeal to our love of humankind or our logical understanding of the equality of races; instead he stirred up hatred of anyone who is different from him. He got his followers chanting “Make America Hate Again” (oops, sorry for the slip) without ever specifying which Yesteryear America he was talking about. The Great Depression? The Confederacy? The wars of extermination against Native Americans? Trump disabled, in his followers, the very ability to ask or even recognize the existence of such questions.

Democrats just don’t get this. Every time, over and over, Democrats cite facts as if they matter. Well, apparently they don’t.

For me, the problem is that Trump has used the rest of us as raw material for his own individual expansion of power. But maybe the solution is also individual. What do I do now? Maybe all I can do is pay attention to and enjoy the direct responsibilities that I have, rather than to try to fix the world or to even nudge it a little away from catastrophe. And who knows? Maybe in my writing and teaching I will end up changing the minds of some people—not to get them to share my political opinions (which I cannot do at a public university) but to start using their brains in a more empathetic and logical fashion. I got up this morning and taught two classes. I was really depressed but I managed to make those two classes some of the best I have ever taught. I even invented, on the spot, a new activity for student involvement in learning about how nerve transmissions work. Maybe some of my readers and students will start noticing that there is more to the world than just their deep visceral hatreds and prejudices. And I can do this no matter who is president.

There might be a kind of truthful and pure intelligence that evolved somewhere in the universe in some species; but that place is not Earth and that species is not Homo sapiens.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Dark Ages, Coming to a Campus near You

On Halloween, a preacher came to our campus (Southeastern Oklahoma State University) and started yelling about how much God hated women (he said that all women on our campus were sluts), how much God hated Muslims (his shirt read “Allah is Satan,” even though Allah is the translation of the same word the Old Testament uses for God), and how black people should just accept their inferior lot and let white people rule them, all in the name of God.

I have borrowed these photos from Amy Elizabeth Kennedy's Facebook posting.

He had permission to come and speak outdoors by the clock tower (well, what passes for one on our campus; a clock on a pole) but he got that permission by lying to the university staff about what he was going to do. He said he was coming to share the Gospel, but of course there was no Gospel whatsoever in anything that he said.

He accomplished his purposes. He wanted to make people angry. He succeeded in making all of the students who heard him upset (not one student took his side, not even our redneck Trump-supporting students). Some of these upset students simply went away. But when the preacher started verbally attacking black students, one black student started to get physically rowdy (wouldn’t you?) while several other black students held him back. The situation got so tense that police had to escort the preacher off campus. His visit was, to him, successful. He wanted to show us how much, according to him, God hates us, and he succeeded in doing that. He wanted an angry response, and he got it. Now he can go back to his donors and say, “See, what did I tell you? I told you Satan would attack me.” (I have heard fundamentalist Christians say that the hostility of the world is proof that you are doing God’s will. By that definition, Hitler was doing God’s will.)

And he left behind him an impotent and confused discussion about how to prevent such incidents in the future. Everyone seems to be saying that we cannot restrict any form of free speech on campus. This is ridiculous. We already restrict speech that would, for example, recruit terrorists or encourage murder. Speech is not unlimited and never has been. I believe that anyone speaking on campus should be sponsored by a class or by a recognized student organization. If we let just anybody come and speak, no matter how hateful their words, how can we be sure they don’t have guns also? And maybe, for all we know, this preacher did.

The story had a different ending on All Saints Day at East Central University. East Central knew this preacher was coming. When he arrived, he proceeded to exercise his first amendment rights, only to discover that the marching band, at exactly the same time and place, was exercising theirs. Guess who won!

I do not know the name of this preacher’s “ministry,” but whatever it is, he should rename it “Make Jesus Look like an Asshole Ministry.” Because this is what he succeeded in doing. Say all you will about how most Christians are not like him. But such a large number of self-identified Christians are hate-filled racists, though few of them are so vocal about it, that I wonder whether this preacher might represent the norm of American conservative Christianity. I suspect that, in fact, this man reflects what American Christianity is like. Good Christians who preach peace and love may, in fact, be a minority in this country, at least among fundamentalists. All you have to do is see the breathtakingly large number of fundamentalist Christian organizations that endorse Donald Trump, whose entire message is how much he hates anyone who fails to revere him; Donald Trump, whose slogan should be, Make America Hate Again.

The impression I took away from this incident is not that Jesus is an asshole—this incident had nothing to do with Jesus—but that on the whole, at least in America, religion is a negative force and I hope we get rid of it as much and as soon as possible. When you consider what America is like, and the Bible Belt states more than the others, you can get an idea of the fruits of religion. Poverty, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and violent crime are rampant in the most Christian parts of America. In order to find a society in which people are, by and large, nice to one another, you have to look at countries such as France. When I visited, as a family member not just a tourist, I was astonished at how well people treated their neighbors and fellow citizens and visitors. The sooner we can become more like France, and leave Christianity behind, we will be a better society. A society that, in fact, more closely resembles Jesus. We need a secular society if we are to survive as a free country.

I am sure it has not escaped the attention of anyone that fundamentalist religion is pushing—perhaps significantly—toward the establishment of a religious dictatorship. Remember, they have guns and they believe God has given them permission to use them however they want.

I am particularly angry that I spent so much of my life suckered into religion. I lost decades of my life to having my brain warped by creationism and fundamentalism. Though I left doctrinal Christianity behind over a decade ago, it took an incident such as this to allow me to see how ugly and despicable my erstwhile religious views were.

Creationism is not about science. It has one purpose only: to support a hatred version of religion and get it established in a powerful position so that they can control the thoughts and lives of the rest of us. Arguing science with a creationist? Don’t bother. They don’t even know what’s in the Bible, much less about science.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Is Altruism Good for the Economy?

One would think that there is money to be made in the business of altruism. In particular, corporations or local businesses that do things that help the community, so long as they do so in a visible manner, benefit from the goodwill of the community. People are more likely to open accounts at banks or buy items from stores that have a public image of being generous. There are many examples of businesses and corporations that have invested in, and reaped the benefits of, public goodwill. And the explosion of artificial intelligence has included an emphasis on likeability: those robot voices that answer the phones of corporations say “Your call is very important to us” rather than “Wait in line, sucker.” Sometimes the robot voices even tell you your approximate wait time. Someday soon they might be able to identify you by your phone number, consult the list of music you have purchased, and create a tailor-made sound track for your wait time. I will know this has happened if I start getting all-Dvořák sound tracks when I am put on hold.

Increasingly, however, I have noticed that corporations and businesses are doing just the opposite. In many cases, corporations will do things that demean and frustrate their customers even if it costs them money to do so. They frequently entrap their customers or clients into making little errors for which they can be penalized. We can all think of personal experiences in which this has happened to us or to someone we know. This seems to be puzzling, both from an economic and an evolutionary viewpoint. Why would they do something that is not only bad but also decreases their profits?

Probably because it does not decrease their profits. Corporations know that if they keep us frustrated, one of our responses will be to buy more stuff, from junk food to vacations, in an attempt to make ourselves happy or to help us forget our frustrations. Banks, for example, know that if they keep us frustrated, we will spend money on shallow pleasures and stay in debt to them, for which they can charge high interest rates. A client who has an optimistic plan for the future will find actual pleasure in trying to become debt-free. The banks want to keep us depressed so that we will not try. And corporations that sell us stuff want us to buy everything now, because the item or service might not be available later; to wait is to lose. In short, many large corporations want us to be dissatisfied, even desperate, servants rather than happy customers.

Manipulating the lives of customers is not what evolutionary scientists call an “evolutionary stable strategy.” That is, this way of doing things is “invasible”: a business or corporation that people liked would soon displace the ones that people do not like, all other things being equal. However, all other things are not equal. The corporations that invest heavily in entrapping and demeaning customers are so large that they dominate the market. To convince yourself of this, just try starting a friendly corporation. I genuinely hope you succeed. Good luck! And remember, my call is very important to you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jeremy Rifkin: Saying Everything about Everything

Jeremy Rifkin is the author of dozens of books on almost every subject. He has a voluminous mind and can marshal hundreds of facts to illustrate his points. But he made so many points that, at least in some cases, he misunderstood his basic concepts. One of these concepts is entropy, and his misunderstandings filled a book called Entropy: Into the Greenhouse World, originally published in 1980, long before the widespread acceptance of global warming science.

The second law of thermodynamics states that with every physical or chemical transformation, the total amount of disorder increases. The amount of disorder can decrease within an open system, but only at the expense of greater disorder outside of the open system. The inside of a refrigerator can get cooler and more orderly, for example disorderly water molecules can freeze into orderly ice, but only at the expense of heat production by the coils.

Rifkin’s book has, I believe, a very vague thrust. He believed that all of our problems—and nearly every problem in the world shows up somewhere in the book—are the result of the second law of thermodynamics. Well, if this is the case, then it would seem hopeless for us to try to solve any of our problems; they would seem to be physically inevitable.

But there is something we can do about the second law. At the very least, we can stop helping it. As the joke goes, “Mistakes will happne, but…must you give them so much help?” Many of the things that political conservatives demand are things that facilitate the second law, and help to increase disorder. It almost seems like conservatives want to help the second law of thermodynamics, as if it needs any help. Things would be a lot better in the world if conservatives just didn’t try to make things more disorganized.

Probably the major example is that political conservatives want to let the second law of thermodynamics take care of guns. Over centuries, we have built a society in which law enforcement officials maintain public order, and disputes are resolved through courts. But many political conservatives want to create a world in which order is maintained and justice practiced by everyone having firearms. If the people in that church in Charleston had had guns, said one National Rifle Association official (not necessarily on behalf of the whole organization), they could have stopped the shooter by shooting him. One of the core beliefs of political conservatives is the Second Amendment, which defends the existence of “a well-regulated militia.” To the NRA and the politicians it has bought, however, instead of a well-regulated militia, we should have a trigger-happy group of white men with assault weapons ready to shoot first and ask questions later. As I have noted in an earlier entry, white police frequently shoot unarmed black men. But police are trained and conscientious. You need no training and no conscience to join a white “militia”.

This is one reason that Donald Trump has such an easy view of the world. Republicans in general, and Trump in particular, ride along with the flow of entropy. The world is becoming more disorderly, and they ride the wave of entropy as if it were a bronco. Things are getting messed up; Republicans whoop and holler as they mess things up even more. Meanwhile, during every Democratic administration, the president tries to clean up the mess, stop war and create peace, reduce the deficit, etc. But Democrats will never succeed, because Republicans are tapping into the juggernaut of entropy.

Rifkin was right that we can and should resist the second law of thermodynamics in the few local places and brief times that we can. But he also misunderstood the law. He applied it to the Earth, which is an open system. One of his statements was that not a single blade of grass can grow that will not reduce the ability of another blade of grass to grow in the future. This is not true. Entropy will eventually make the Earth die and disintegrate, but this will happen whether grass grows or not. Rifkin, like many other people, got entropy mixed up. But most of us who get it mixed up do not write books about it.

The net effect of reading Rifkin’s Entropy was to be left baffled, rather than feeling geared up to do something to help to diminish the problems of the world, if only mildly and briefly. Genius he may be, but this book (and others, such as Algeny) will not necessarily help you understand or cope with the world better.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Random World?

One of the most powerful components of the scientific method is to test hypotheses against a null hypothesis. Nearly everyone is capable of rational thought; but scientific thought is a discipline. Nearly everyone can reason from evidence to reach a conclusion; but in science, what we do is to contrast the evidence that we see for the hypothesis against the things that we would expect to see if the hypothesis is wrong. That is, against what we would expect to see at random.

And it is here that the scientific and the religious ways of thinking can perhaps most clearly be contrasted. For example, Herbert Benson and collaborators tested the hypothesis that God answers prayer. Actually, they tested the hypothesis that supplemental intercessory prayer would decrease the rate of relapsing back into heart disease.

In a scientific view of the world, you expect things to happen more or less randomly unless something is causing them to happen non-randomly. That is, absent some physical process, good and bad things will happen more or less equally. One of the things that this could mean in our everyday lives is that we should expect good and bad things to happen to us more or less randomly. As for the other humans with whom we interact every day, some are better and some are worse; and each person is a mixture of good and bad motivations. Therefore, in Benson’s study, one might expect patients suffering from heart disease to sometimes relapse and sometimes not. This does not necessarily mean that heart disease patients would relapse exactly 50 percent of the time; the actual rate will depend on the availability of good medical treatment as well as many other factors. But a scientific null hypothesis would state, in this case, that heart disease patients would relapse to the same extent whether they were being prayed for or not.

This is extremely different from the fundamentalist religious view. To a fundamentalist, the entire world is pervaded by evil, by the works of Satan, and that bad things will always happen all the time to everyone unless God specifically and miraculously prevents it. The fundamentalist null hypothesis is therefore 100 percent relapse.

Therefore, if you pray for someone to be healed from an injury or illness, and they recover, this constitutes evidence, or even proof, that God has intervened and blessed them miraculously, according to religious people.

Actually, there is no direct way to prove which null hypothesis—the approximately 50 percent relapse that scientists expect, or the 100 percent relapse that religious people expect—is correct. The only way to get around this problem is to have a control group. In Benson’s case, the experimental group of patients received intercessory prayer, and did not know it; and the control group of patients did not receive intercessory prayer, and did not know it. The percent relapse of the control group patients represents a measurement of the null hypothesis. It was in this manner that Benson and collaborators demonstrated that intercessory prayer had no measurable effect: one group had 52 percent relapse, the other had 51 percent, a statistically indistinguishable effect.

Fundamentalists have ignored this result and continue to insist that, unless you join their church and give them money, bad things will probably happen to you. God might allow them, or might prevent them. They insist that there is no such thing as God not doing anything; God either prevents bad things, or else bad things happen.

This is perhaps the most basic difference between a scientific and a fundamentalist view of the world: the scientific view that things happen at random unless they are caused, and the fundamentalist view that only bad things happen unless God prevents them. To a scientist, the world has a random background; to a fundamentalist, the world has a background permeated with evil.

Friday, October 7, 2016

What We Can Learn About Ourselves from Other Animals: More Insights from Konrad Lorenz

I have a few more observations that I learned while reading Konrad Lorenz’s King Solomon’s Ring.

Some animal species are even more cruel than humans. A male roebuck, if confined in the same enclosure as females or young, will kill them and slit their bellies open. And doves, the paragons of peace, or so we think, will (if confined) kill one another; the victor will pluck the feathers off of the vanquished. In many cases, the animal that knows that it is about to be vanquished will engage in submission behavior, in order to keep from being killed. A turkey, for example, will lie down when it knows it is losing a fight. But peacocks do not recognize turkey behavior; so when turkeys and peacocks are confined together, the peacock kills the turkey.

That is, doves can be very cruel. At the same time, wolves are often submissive to one another and refrain from outright combat and cruelty. Lorenz then asks, at the end of one of his essays written early in the Cold War era, will we be submissive like wolves or murderous like doves? The entire future of the world may depend on the answer to this question.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Just How Different Are Humans from Other Animals?

I want to quote some fine literature. Here is a description of a courtship scene from what sounds like Victorian gentlemen and eligible young ladies:

“Remarkable and exceedingly comical is the difference in eloquence between the eye-play of the wooing male and that of the courted female: the male…casts glowing glances straight into his loved one’s eyes, while she apparently turns her eyes in all directions other than that of her ardent suitor. In reality, of course, she is watching him all the time, and her quick glances of a fraction of a second are quite long enough to make her realize that all his antics are calculated to inspire her admiration; long enough to let ‘him’ know that ‘she’ knows. If she is genuinely not interested, and will not look at him at all, then the young…male gives up his vain efforts as quickly as…any other young fellow. To her swain, now proudly advancing in all his glory, the young…lady finally gives her assent…These movements of both partners symbolize a ritual mating invitation…Married…ladies greet their husbands in the same way…The purely sexual meaning in this ceremony…has been entirely lost and it now only serves to signify the affectionate submission of a wife to her husband…From the moment that the bride-to-be has submitted to her male, she becomes self-possessed and aggressive towards all the other members of the [group], for being, on the average, smaller and weaker than the male, she sands much lower in rank than he as long as she is single.

“The betrothed pair form a heart-felt mutual defence league, each of the partners supporting the other most loyally. This is essential, because they have to contend with the competition of older and higher standing couples…This militant love is fascinating to behold. Constantly in an attitude of maximum display, and hardly ever separated by more than a yard, the two make their way through life. They seem tremendously proud of each other, as they pace ponderously side by side…It is really touching to see how affectionate [they] are with each other. Every delicacy that the male finds is given to his bride…”

“And the most appealing part of their courtship is that their affection increases with the years instead of diminishing…even after many years, the male still [treats] his wife with the same solicitous care, and finds for her the same low tones of love, tremulous with inward emotion, that he whispered in the first spring of his betrothal…”

This beautiful passage is not from a Victorian romance, but from a 1952 essay in King Solomon’s Ring by Konrad Z. Lorenz, one of the most famous ethologists of the twentieth century. He was describing a kind of bird known as the jackdaw. They are similar to crows. Granted, Lorenz is indulging in a little anthropomorphism, but his descriptions are mostly factual and cannot be entirely imaginary. He was, after all, the greatest expert on animal behavior of his generation. He goes on to describe that the interactions of male and female birds involves behaviors and calls that are otherwise infantile—just as human lovers often call each other baby and use baby-talk with one another.

Lorenz was particularly impressed with the way the jackdaws keep up their affection for life. “You may not believe it, but there are other animals in whom—though they may live in life-long marital union—the situation is different: in whom the glowing fires of the first season of love become extinguished by cool habit; with whom the thrilling enchantment of courtship’s phrases entirely disappears as time goes on: and in whose further mutual association all activities of wedlock and family life are performed with the mechanical apathy common to other everyday practices.” He doesn’t say, but I wonder to which long-lived and supposedly monogamous animal species Lorenz may have been referring?

In the process of trying to convince ourselves that we are completely in the image of God, the lords of creation, and wild animals are not, we have had to impose a bias: that animals are stupid. Anyone who has extensively studied animals, especially birds and mammals, knows that they are very intelligent. This includes some highly religious people. But when they get to church they force their minds to believe that wild animals are so far below us that, although they do not deserve to suffer, neither do they deserve any particular dignity.

Everyone has heard about the striking humanness of the behavior of Jane Goodall’s Gombe chimps. But chimps are very similar to humans, while jackdaws are birds. According to a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, birds have small brains but these brains are densely packed with neurons, giving them more intelligence than the weight might suggest.

Chimps and bonobos have more “humane” behavior than most of us realize. This episode of a radio program gives a very fascinating and maybe disturbing example. It is about a chimpanzee named Lucy who was raised as a human and never really gave up that identity; and a bonobo named Kanzi who communicates, even with words, in some detail, and has a surprising comprehension of human emotions.

We can also go too far the other direction. I made a Darwin video in which I claimed that cats are not necessarily empathetic. When cats crawl up and purr, they might just be seeking comfort and using you as a mommy-substitute (especially when they start pumping your skin as if it was cat-breasts). Maybe they don’t really care whether you like it or not. Inevitably a few cat-lovers posted comments saying that they were absolutely certain that their cats were empathetic.

I’m not sure what the point is that I am trying to make, except that when we make religious assumptions, they can blind us to observing things that fall outside of those assumptions.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Do Police Killings Show a Racial Bias?

It seems like at least once a week, if not more often, we get news of an unarmed black man being killed by white police officers. When it happened in the city where I live, I started thinking more about what is happening.

I have not seen evidence that any of the white officers were motivated by overt racial hatred. But it appears that there is an underlying racial bias, of which most police officers may not even be aware: a bias that makes them pull the trigger on black men more than on white men. The number of police shootings of black men is way out of proportion to the percentage of black people in the population. It looks as if the idea—conscious or not—of “shoot first and ask questions later” motivates police more against blacks than whites.

White pride groups usually respond to this by saying that blacks commit more crimes, per capita, than whites. This, however, is no justification for having a quicker trigger finger for blacks than for whites. It may explain the higher conviction and incarceration rates for blacks than whites, but not the disparity in police shootings.

And we all understand that mistakes will happen. When a police officer has to make a quick decision, and when he or she thinks his or her life is in danger, there is no time for logical thought. But these are exactly the circumstances under which unconscious bias can have the greatest impact.

It becomes even clearer when you consider how many white men have been shot by black police officers. An online search suggests that this happens about once or twice a year. Here are the examples I found, in reverse chronological order:

  • November 2015: A black cop killed Jeremy Mardis, a white boy with autism in Louisiana.
  • November 2014: A black officer shot Gilbert Collar, a white student at the University of Southern Alabama, after he banged on the police station window.
  • October 2014: A black cop killed Dillon Taylor, a white man, in Salt Lake City.

This takes us back almost two years. In two other cases I could not determine the race of the police officer who shot the white victim: Castaic, California, and Fresno, California, both in 2016. The killing of Dylan Noble in Fresno made it all over the internet. It looks like a lot of cases until you see how many of them are about the same man, Dylan Noble. There has also been a lot of rage over the police killing of a white youth, Zachary Hammond, in South Carolina in 2015, even though the police officer was also white.

White officers kill black men: dozens of times a year. Black officers kill white men: about twice a year.

As indicated in the above graphic, Native Americans are even more likely than blacks to be shot by police. As a member of the Cherokee tribe, I took notice of this, although no police officer in a hurry would think I was Native American. If the police killings have an underlying racial motivation, it is not surprising that Native Americans should also be the victims of lots of police shootings.

Racism has deep evolutionary roots and influences the minds and moods and actions even of people who tell themselves that they are not racist. We will make progress only if we admit the problem. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Against Creationism, Part Two: Science Has Nothing to Do with It

There is no point in presenting scientific evidence against creationism. Scientists have been doing this for nearly a hundred years, since modern creationism began in the 1920s. Every creationist argument that has ever been made has been disproved by science. Creationists have, thousands of times, been personally informed that their arguments are wrong. But they keep right on making the same ones, totally ignoring every criticism they have ever received.

What this means is that creationists are liars. They know that they are wrong. Telling them for the five hundred thousandth time that they are wrong is not going to change anything.

Why are creationists liars? Here are a few reasons.

  • Money. They are preying on the gullibility of religious people who have been raised to not think, and to not even read the Bible, but just to believe and give money to creationist preachers. Many of them get very rich doing this, sometimes by illegal means, as in the case of Kent Hovind. Creationists do not really believe in God; He is just their tool for getting money.
  • Power. Creationists use creationism to prove God—but not just any God: they want to prove the existence of a God who commands total subservience to the Republican Party. More recently, Republicans have been calling for bloodshed in the defense of their party. Creationists do not really believe in God; He is just their tool for getting power for the Republican Party and for its armed domination of America.
  • Ego. Creationist preachers like to fantasize that they are God’s special spokespeople, that God has made them alone on the face of the Earth infallible and inerrant. No matter what they say, you cannot contradict them, because that would be an attack on God. Creationists do not actually believe in God; they are blasphemers who use God as their ego-tool. Creationists just make stuff up about God whenever they want to.

And that pretty much wraps it up.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Against Creationism, Part One: Bare-Bones Argument

For those of you in a hurry, here is a bare-bones argument against creationism.

·         Creationists say that God created a perfect world (Genesis 1).
·         Creationists say that God created a world that could not evolve.
·         If species cannot evolve, then they will become extinct as the world changes.
·         Therefore God created a world that was not built to last.
·         But this contradicts Genesis 1, in which God said his creation was “very good.”

Some creationists will respond that God did not intend the world to last very long. I have had some of them tell me this. But this contradicts the Bible.

·         If the world was not built to last, it was not “very good.”
·         Genesis does not say that God intended the world to be temporary. The creationists just made that up.

Many creationists will say that God cursed the world in Genesis 3, which means that it is NOW no longer very good. But this does not change the fact that Genesis 1 does not say God intended the world to be temporary.

Creationism is incompatible with a belief that a competent Creator made a perfectly-functioning world.

I have now concluded—for this reason and for another I will present in the next essay—that it is a total waste of time to present evidence against creationism. I used to spend a lot of time trying to disprove creationism using evidence from fossils, DNA, etc. I now see it is a waste of time because creationism is incompatible even with the Bible.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Playful Young Animals and a Playful Young Novelist

Animals are playful when they are young. They try everything out to see what happens. Their time is spent in one long binge of hypothesis-testing. This is how they develop a model of the world and how to live in it, a model that can be updated to the changing world at least once a generation, rather than waiting for generations of natural selection to set things right. Unlike most other animals, humans continue being playful when they grow up.

One of the things that playful young humans experiment with is creative writing. And people who, like me, grow up to be writers have put in hundreds or in my case thousands of hours writing (in sheer bliss) by middle age. Daniel Levitin said that a genius is simply someone who has practiced something for ten thousand hours, I am quite certain that this is an incomplete picture. But there is probably no genius who has not practiced for ten thousand hours.

I have a natural talent for writing. It manifested itself more strongly when I was young than did my talent for music. I believe I will yet become a great writer. But I do not believe that I would ever have become a great musician even if I had practiced ten thousand hours. I might have been the modern equivalent of the baroque composer Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, competent and forgotten. (Wikipedia says he was also a silvologist, which means a forestry expert. Maybe his best work, like mine, was with plants rather than music.)

But to get to the level of skill that I have today, I had to go through my juvenile experimental period. I worked at it very hard when I was in elementary school, using an old Smith Corona open-sided sturdy typewriter. I also spent a lot of time composing.

One of the novels I worked on was about Russian spies building a rocket out in the desert of Arizona. The hero of the story was pretty sure that this is what they were up to; they drove panel trucks with a hammer and sickle on it, after all. Every chapter of plot was separated by a chapter in which the hero described all of the plants in his parents’ garden. Future botanist here. I do not remember what the climax was; maybe that was because I might not have finished it.

Another novel was about three kids getting lost in the woods: two boys and a girl. I was right on the cusp of puberty, and I wanted to have one of the boys get together with the girl inside a blanket to stay warm during the cold forest night. The other boy wouldn’t have minded; all he did was recite Shakespeare. But I did not have the courage or foolhardiness to pursue that path. The climax was when the kids, who had dug trenches and buried themselves to stay warm, were sniffed out by a bear, which inexplicably left them alone. I don’t remember much about it other than that I described the mountain as if it had loving parental arms that embraced the hikers; I had read a story in which O. Henry used the word philoprogenitiveness, and I wanted to use it too. My idea of good writing back then was to use as many big words as I could.

When I was in college and old enough to know better, I started writing a romance novel set in medieval England, about which I knew nothing. (About either romance or medieval England, as it turned out. I was too meek to have a romantic life at that time.) It had so many plot bloopers in it that when I wrote a (good) novel decades later I used my earlier novel as an example of one that was hilariously inept.

I spent hours and hours on this stuff. I did not realize it was bad. But had I known how bad it was, I might have stopped writing it and never developed my talent. I remain thankful to my teachers, such as Mr. Jim Kliegl, who put up with some of this stuff and even encouraged me. I think he knew I would become a good writer, based not on what I wrote but on the fact that I was writing it.

Okay, so I finally learned how to write. But I still had a few things to learn, things that I still have to carefully avoid. Here’s an example. As I have written previously, we have patriotic Confederates down here in Oklahoma, whose only purpose in life is to sell confederate flags and drive around with confederate flags waving from poles in their truck beds. Based on my conversations with them, I consider them to be among the most hateful people I have met. They are really scary. When I recently started a new novel, I had a female Cherokee heroine and a male Confederate villain. I won’t give away the plot other than to say I based it on the apocryphal book of Judith.

As I wrote, I made the villain as hateful as possible. Every little detail was disgusting. I was ranting. But then I started running an experiment in my mind. If he was really that disgusting, the heroine would have stayed away from him and there would be no plot. This was when I realized that I did not have a character, but a foil. In order to make him a real character, I had to get inside his mind. I had to empathize with him.

I discovered that, to write a good novel, or even a good story, I had to love even the characters that I hated.

I believe that, with this discovery, I have finally reached the plateau of professional competence. I have begun a new round of queries to fiction agents in an attempt to market another novel, one which I have thoroughly rewritten twice. How many times, hundreds perhaps, I have been turned down by fiction agents. But maybe it has been for the best. (This can’t go on forever, of course, or I’ll be dead.) One agent told me that an earlier version of this novel was episodic rather than having a strong plot. It only took me a year to realize she was right. I will send the new one back to her. I am now glad the earlier version was not published. I have published science books, but am ready now for fiction.

I feel like a plant with dozens of unopened flower buds (the novels). The plant keeps developing those buds to be better and better so that when they open, perhaps one after another in quick succession, the result will be spectacular and pollinators will come buzzing and whirring from miles around. In the event that this happens, that the playfulness of my youth and continued playfulness of my middle years pays off in my maturity, I will let you know.