Lily Tomlin—Chimpanzees and Darwin







“Great men are those who see that the spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.” R.W. Emerson

Excerpt: BOFAW, Chap 1, “Lettie’s Question.”


The students were working out of lab guides and only had occasional questions. As I approached Lettie, a bright, highly motivated girl, she took her hand out of her pig, looked up, and asked, “Mr. Young, is this really important? Memorizing all the parts of a pig is a lot of work, and I was just wondering if it were really important in the big picture.”

In Stephen Hawking’s latest book, The Great Design, he properly opines that science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. However, he then contradicts himself by attempting to use his “science” to prove that the concept of God is obsolete. One of his latest theories is that the universe is so complex that it made itself out of “nothing.” This not only contradicts the accepted laws of conservation of matter/energy, ironically it parallels the religious belief that God appeared out of nothing. Neither opinion can be proven so the mystery remains. Furthermore, Hawking has done exactly what Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: The Secret of Life, properly accused scientists of doing.

“With the failure of those many efforts (creating life) science was left in the somewhat embarrassing position of having to postulate theories of living organisms which it could not demonstrate. After chiding the theologian for his reliance on myth and miracle, science found itself in the unenviable position of having to create a mythology of its own…”

This is exactly what Hawking is doing and spirit-blind scientists support him whole-heartedly.

Fellow countryman, Richard Dawkins, seems to be obsessed with showing that Darwinism can actually prove that God does not exist. Furthermore, he professes that those who disagree with him must be either ignorant or mentally challenged. The odd thing, in both cases, is that if God does not exist, why bother to try to prove a negative?

Devout Darwinists boldly point out that modern chimpanzees and humans share 97% of their DNA. Somehow, this too is supposed to prove that chance and competition created humans, a claim Darwin found “impossible” to believe. These scientists seem to fail to grasp (or acknowledge) that the 3% variation represents a quantum (and unexplained) leap to modern humans. Imagine a concert pianist playing a Mozart concerto which may last over 1 hour. His/her fingers fly up and down the keyboard, playing perhaps 100,000 notes. Again, imagine Michelangelo brilliantly painting the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel in Rome. Now, imagine a chimpanzee accomplishing either miracle.

Alfred Wallace etal, have properly shown that Darwin’s TOE can not explain how or why some humans are extraordinarily gifted, musically, mathematically or artistically.  There is simply no genetic model that works.

In 1985, Jane Wagner published a best-selling book, The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe. In another display of genius, Lily Tomlin committed the book to memory and took in on Broadway as a one-woman monologue. Her performance was not only brilliant, the message she was bearing was equally so.

“They said, “Trudy, we see now, intelligence is just the tip of the iceberg. The more you know, the less knowing the meaning of things means. So, forget the “meaning of life.”

I didn’t tell them, of course, I had.

See, its not so much what we know, but how we know, and what it is about us that needs to know.

The intriguing part: Of all the things we’ve learned, we still haven’t learned

where did this desire to want to know come from?…

We know a lot about the beginnings of life, Biogenesis.

But so what? What’s more impressive is that from biogenesis evolved life forms intelligent enough to think up a word like “biogenesis.”

So no matter how much we know, there’s more to knowing than we could ever know.

Isaac Newton secretly admitted to some friends: He understood how gravity behaved, but not how it worked.

We’re thinking maybe the secrets about life we don’t understand are the “cosmic carrots” in front of our noses that keep us going.

So maybe we should stop trying to figure out the meaning of life and sit back and enjoy the mystery of life.

The operative word here is what?


Not meaning.

This “need to know” may be traced  all the way back to the “The Garden” and may be why the eminent anthropologist Loren Eiseley wrote; “The story of Eden is a greater allegory than man has ever guessed…Time and darkness, knowledge of good and evil, have walked with him ever since.”

It may also be why our 7-year-old granddaughter, after hearing a children’s version of “The Creation Story,” offered, “I think they should have eaten the apple. It has made life more interesting.”


Sex in Paradise—Darwin—Wallace—Intelligent Design

Aru Islands, Indonesia: Greater Bird of Paradise





Sex in Paradise—Darwin—Wallace—Intelligent Design

 WARNING: One of the scenes in this video is sexually explicit and intended for mature viewers only.

Excerpt BOFAW: Chap. 26, “Soul Medicine.”

 I pointed out that in both lions and humans sexual behavior is driven

by a phenomenon we call instinct. To illustrate the point, I asked,

“How many of you guys had to have your mom or dad teach you how

to have an erection?” The girls giggled nervously; the guys looked

shocked, but quickly broke into laughter. No hands were raised.



Here is something to ponder!  The mammals, that would eventually become humans, began having sex over 150 million years ago. However, with the exception of some additional knowledge gained about the structure/function correlation of the human reproductive process, many of the mental factors and nearly all of the spiritual factors remain mysterious.

An interesting aside is that Alfred Wallace (Darwin’s contemporary) developed his own theory of evolution. After studying Birds of Paradise and other exotic jungle birds, he challenged Darwin’s theory that such beauty and complexity could not be the result of mere chance and competition. He maintained that there must be some hidden spiritual force behind their existence. This was one of the first examples of a scientist suggesting the probability of “Intelligent Design” as a guiding force in evolution.

John Muir stated, “On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death.”


A close second to Muir’s aphorism could be that our ideas about human sexuality are often warped and pitiable. It was not directly stated as a goal, however, if the process of “going for a walk” meant “going in,” it necessarily involved students discovering who they were and some of the multitudinous aspects of their emerging sexuality. After the arduous struggle to reach the top of Half Dome, it was not uncommon for girls to describe a deeper affinity to “Mother Nature,” or “Mother Earth” and the guys to experience a surging sense of their masculinity. Psychologists would surely describe this as discovering dimensions of their emerging sexuality.

Toby wrote;

“When we got to the top of Half Dome…there was a slab

of rock about six-feet wide, twelve feet long and about

four-feet deep. I carefully inched my way out. Slowly,

slowly, I decided to focus on the rock and not look down.

When I got to the end, I very carefully stuck one leg

at a time over the edge. After I was settled, I leaned over

and looked down between my legs into 4,800 hundred

feet of free air. At first, I couldn’t breathe, and then

my balls jumped up into my chest. I was about to explode.

My heart was pounding. I thought if an earthquake hits now,

it’s all over. I quickly got back on my knees, carefully pivoted,

and crept back to safety.”

Several classes approached the matter of human copulation from an impersonal, pragmatic perspective and concluded that the process, although biologically imperative, was bizarre, weird, intriguing, scary, beautiful, and a dozen other possibilities. What was not open for discussion was the acknowledgement that their parents had to have sex to procreate them. That was deemed gross, yucky, disgusting and involved too much information.  I usually tried not to laugh.

In truth, the process of humans having sex is quite miraculous, and aside from being necessary for procreation, remains one of the greatest human mysteries.

When the subject of “love” came up, it was usually considered using the Greek triad of eros (carnal or erotic love) philos (brotherly love) and agape (spiritual love). Whether on the trips, or in the classroom, the discussions were strictly platonic (as far as I know) ;o).

Typically, the guys were mostly curious about the“eros” kind of love while the girls intuitively sensed that the act of “love-making,” was just the tip of a proverbial iceberg which included deeper real and or symbolic meanings. The girls were usually able to communicate that they agreed that having sex was an important part of a healthy marriage, however, they regarded it as merely one link in a marital chain that would ultimately involve many other links. The concept of “agape” or spiritual love was mentioned, but properly left undefined. They agreed that if it were truly spiritual it could not be defined. Remembering the “reptilian brain” I had in high school, I was always in awe to hear students discuss issues like this at such a mature level. I was supremely privileged to share in their discussions which sometimes would have shocked many adults, especially their parents. I know this because I was never quite comfortable with such discussions with our own children.


Just as “spirituality” was not directly sought (or taught), each student’s path of seeking his/her personal gender evolution was his/her private business. Whether in the classroom, on the trails, in tents, cabins or motel rooms, the girls learned much from each other about being a girl; guys learned from each other about being a guy; and they all learned much about the opposite gender.

Once, while sitting around a Yosemite campfire, we were discussing the life-cycle and mating behavior of bears. I casually pointed out some differences between bears and humans and mentioned that human males typically reach their sexual peak about 17-18 years of age. One of the 50-year-old male chaperones laughed and said, “Can’t you say plateau rather than peak?” The circle began to chuckle with him.

It was well known among backpackers that Yosemite bears were particularly fond of girl’s cosmetics and make-up. Therefore, before each backpacking hike, the girls were asked to leave their cosmetics back in the bear-proof boxes in the Valley.  Frequently, the guys mentioned that the girls seemed more natural and approachable without their make-up. The girls appreciated the thoughtfulness of the guys and enjoyed not spending the 30 mins-to 1 hour putting the make-up on. As soon as they got home, the make-up went back on.

Darwin and Mendel clearly illustrated that the process of sexual reproduction was necessary to enhance the shuffling and redistribution of genes, however, there are many profound, and often beguiling, mysteries associated with human sexual reproduction. Anyone doubting this should ask a left-brain-dominant scientist to reduce the description of either a male or female orgasm to a formula. And, just to keep the playing field even, he/she should ask a local priest, pastor or rabbi what God had in mind when He/She designed human eroticism.  Little wonder the ancient Sanskrit writers described the human male penis as “The Wand of Light.” 

Happy Halloween!





Trick or Treat?

 Native Americans enjoyed the fact(?) that the raven, crow, coyote and fox all display behavior that suggests that they appreciate a sense of humor. During a wonderful encounter with a fox pup, Loren Eiseley wrote, “Yet here was the thing in the midst of the bones, the wide-eyed innocent fox inviting me to play, with, with the innate courtesy of its two forepaws placed appealingly together, along with a mock shake of the head. The universe was swinging in some fantastic fashion around to show its face, and the face was so small that the universe itself was laughing.” The Innocent Fox: The Star Thrower.

 We have one or more foxes that visit our property on a nightly basis. Unlike our two cats that discretely bury their poop, the foxes proudly(?) deposit their waste as a highly visible “calling card.” There seems to be no end to their creative selection of deposit sites. We have a min-trail for each of 9 grandchildren and the foxes frequently make deposits at the respective trailheads as if they are claiming it as their own. We have many large boulders on the property and they seem to delight(?) in making a deposit on top of the rocks. The image of them balancing on top of a rock to do their business is hilarious. We frequently have “cards” dropped on our deck, along the trails and on the doormat at the entrance to my workshop. Today is Halloween and the fox seemed to be up for the celebration. Christie feeds her cats with tea saucers which she leaves on our back stoop. This morning, when she went for the daily newspaper, she discovered that a fox had left his/her calling card right in the middle of one of the saucers.


 Happy Halloween!



Out for a walk 032





John Muir and Darwin Discuss Evolution (Kinda)

(Bust sculpted by Rob Hampton 1985)

I have read and reread Muir’s writings for over 40 years. And while I don’t recall that he discussed evolution, he often described “gloriously beautiful monuments of nature” (many in Yosemite) as “sparks of the divine soul.”

In the preface of John Muir’s America, T.H. Watkins writes:

“The writer approaches this life story with caution. There is, above all, the problem with infatuation. As Catherine Drinker Bowen has pointed out, the biographer’s relationship to his subject should parallel that of a successful marriage, beginning with some touchstone of passion and moving from that to commitment, shared experience, acceptance, and finally to the quality of understanding which can sometimes be called wisdom.”

After, what surely must have been exhaustive reading and research, Watkins made a bold leap of faith and had either the courage or audacity to write three hypothetical dialogues with himself and a reincarnated John Muir. This can only be attempted when one arrives at a state of knowing his subject, perhaps better than a birth brother.

His conversations occurred at Muir’s home in Martinez, Ca., The South Grove of Calaveras Big trees State Park, Arnold, Ca., and Yosemite Valley, Ca.

Each conversation includes numerous poignant qualities covering a wide range of subjects including natural history, the wilderness ethic, conservation and socio-cultural interactions including politics and religion. Many were useful, however, one of the most timely and powerful moments occurred during a relaxed conversation on the veranda of Muir’s home in Martinez, Ca.

Muir talks about his life and work, building a successful farm to support his wife and family. When asked why he did not take out a patent for over 50 inventions he replied:

            “Weel, the fact of it was that I didn’t care much about money in those days. Or ever, for that matter. ‘Twas  a tool, nothing more, and it seemed to me that there was a guid deal more to life than the getting of it. Still, that was na the deep-down reason for not patenting my machines. I had this belief, you see—and the guid God knows I believed it with all the passion of youth—that man was inevitably on the road to perfection. I believed that machines were a part of that forward movement that would free men to pursue higher things, to learn more of God’s great work in the world and their place in it. If that were the case, then machines had to be acts of God quite as much as creations of man, and therefore all improvements and inventions should be the common property of the human race. No inventor had the right to profit by an invention. It was inspired by God and belonged to all mankind…I realized that inventions were not freeing men, they were enslaving them. Inventions—aye including my own—were appropriated by men with cold eyes and colder hearts.

Watkins, [Men like Thomas Huxley?]

Muir, “Huxley—that bloodless coof! That fool! He and his kind took the work of Darwin and twisted it to fit their vision of the world. And damn, what a cold and heartless world have had it be. They called it ‘survival of the fittest’ but no matter what they might have called it, it was a damnable theory, a dark chilly reasoning that chance and competition accounted for all things. Oh it was a useful theory—that I canna deny. It justified all manner of cruelty, just as my father’s piety excused all manner of cruelty to his children. Should a man be inspired to destroy his best friend in the marketplace, why, he could shrug it off as the natural consequence of living in the great soulless machine of the cosmos. But it was a damnable theory, I tell you. Damnable because it ignored the one real truth of the world, the truth that lives in every rock, flower, leaf, tree and animal—including man: it was all created by a loving God, and His love covers all the earth as the sky covers it, and fills it in every pore.”

It seems as if Muir was aware of what Darwin wrote in his autobiography:

 “Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with reason and not feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and deserve to be called a Theist.”

Watkins wrote, John Muir’s America in 1972.  I appreciate his work more now than the very first time I read it in 1979. Although several readers of BOFAW have said that the book gives them hope, I fear that Loren Eiseley was correct (1946) when he described a great spiritual malaise settling over the United States. In 1972 Watkins predicted our current state of evolutionary awareness. I doubt that less than one high school teacher (or college or university professor) in 1000 shares the above paragraph with his/her students. Biology teachers (at any level) who are not aware of Darwin’s statement on faith are scientifically and intellectually inept. Those who are aware of it and intentionally deceive students by not sharing it are guilty of “twisting” the truth to fit their narrow vision of the world. For the sake of political correctness (and other factors) our schools, colleges and universities are being spiritually “sanitized” which could mean that  people like Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins and other humanists are winning the secular battle. If they do, Loren Eiseley predicted that man will cease to be “human.”  Muir /Watkins described it as a dark, chilly reasoning where chance and competition have become gods and men can kill each other in the marketplace without any sense of remorse. Many of our inner cities are following this destructive path.

Chief Seattle described this as “the end of living and the beginning of survival.”  

The Darwin -Wallace Debate Continues






The Darwin and Wallace Debate Continues

This video fascinates me at many levels. A geophysicist wrote a book about Grand Canyon rock formations and called the process “miraculous.” An ornithologist wrote a book on feathers and called their structure and function miraculous. Gordon Taylor (British anthropologist) suggests that Darwin’s theory of evolution can not explain the emergence of organs of extreme perfection. Alfred Wallace spent several years studying the Birds of Paradise and argued with Darwin that the birds were miraculous and could not be explained by the simple expedient of chance and competition. And finally, the Cornell evolutionary biologist, Ed Scholes, describes the Birds of Paradise as a miracle of evolution which compels him to ponder how and why did this happen?

Paraphrasing the powerful (yet passionate) writing of anthropologist Loren Eiseley; perhaps in the steamy jungles of New Guinea, moved the eternal mystery, the careful finger of God. Eisely also suggested that mysteries, marvels and miracles of nature are always worth contemplating and talking about.

Birthdays, Baptisms, and John Muir’s America: Part I

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Birthdays, Baptisms, and John Muir’s America: Part I

“Come next year, all of you. Come to the purest of terrestrial fountains. Come and receive baptism and absolution from civilized sins. You were but sprinkled last year. Come and be immersed.”

Excerpt: BOFAW, chap. 19, Carnival.

 I was saddened by the fact that in a nation blessed with glorious natural resources, we teach children the importance of bathing their bodies without mentioning the same need for their minds and spirits. It later occurred to me that it was a shame that in the Christian faith people are only baptized once. It seemed clear to me that people are spiritually starving and should be baptized many times. Not only that, they don’t need anyone else to help them. I have been baptized by Mother Nature, for Lord only knows how many scores of times, and it is always rejuvenating and often hilarious … carnival.

 I don’t know if John Muir enjoyed celebrating his birthday. I do know, however, that in addition to frequent moments of Nature-induced- ecstasy, he lived in an almost perpetual state of gratitude for his many, many spiritual rebirths. He described them in Wisconsin, Indiana, nearly dying while digging a well, and when he nearly blinded himself with a sharp file. All of these combined, however, could not equal the rebirth he experienced when, in the spring of 1868, he walked into Yosemite Valley. There were no cars, trucks or busses and only a couple hundred people loosely scattered in the area now occupied by Yosemite Lodge, NPS Headquarters, Yosemite Village and Curry Village. The fact that he wrote little more about it other than; “it is the most holy mansion of the Sierra Mountains,” could indicate that he was overwhelmed by its grandeur and beauty. He had to leave to find work in the San Joaquin Valley, but would return later and experience many more rebirths.

He was re-born 100 feet up a fir tree in a fierce wind-storm, riding an avalanche, clinging to slippery rocks behind roaring Yosemite Falls, and nearly dying on an Alaskan Glacier.

 We live in an anthropocentric, pedantic, secular, egotistical age and I will probably be considered a loon for suggesting that I strongly suspect that John Muir is fully aware that I (along with millions) have adopted him as a Godfather figure

[Nearly all indigenous tribes believe in a “happy hunting ground” (or its equivalent) and there is much Biblical (and other religious information), as well as much anecdotal evidence, that suggests that our Earthly life is merely one stage, “avatar,” or incarnation that continues after our “death.”]

 Muir’s vast writings are God-in-Nature centered and follow protagonist philosophers such as Plato and Socrates who claimed that a satisfactory life can only be achieved through constant self-evaluation and the continual search for truth, beauty and goodness.

I was only casually aware of most o Muir’s writings until the magical class of 1979 came along. It is not that the previous classes were deficient; however, for truly mysterious reasons, the Class of ’79 intuitively “knew” what I was trying to do, before and better than I even knew. The fact is that they completed the foundation that supported 18 more classes. They said and did many things that had never been said or done before. One of these involved discovering that my birthday would occur during our Yosemite trip. I carefully avoided the subject and hoped that the students would not become aware of it. During the free afternoon, on the last day, someone had the thoughtfulness of mind to go to Yosemite Village (or Curry Village) and purchase a wonderful book titled, John Muir’s America. Each student included a thoughtful wish and signed the book. The text was written by T.H. Watkins and included stunning photographs by Dewitt Jones.

It would become one of my most important (and cherished) references and had a profound effect on all subsequent Biodesign Classes. There are numerous outstanding quotes, anecdotes and photos, but two entries were of particular importance.

Paired with a beautiful autumn scene of a high Sierra Valley, Muir wrote:

 “Come next year, all of you. Come to the purest of terrestrial fountains. Come and receive baptism and absolution from civilized sins. You were but sprinkled last year. Come and be immersed.”

 Muir made no apology for intentionally sounding like a priest or pastor in an organized religion. He regarded both Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite Valleys as temples for people to play and pray. The Sierras in general, and especially Yosemite, healed the emotional scars that were inflicted by an abusive father, and in the process, he discovered an open window to the universe.  Like Moses (4,000 years earlier) he came down from the mountains like a bearded prophet with a message that altered the fate of human history. He dedicated his entire life trying to increase National Parkland and encouraging others to seek the process of being spiritually reborn.

 Thanks to Biodesign ’79, I was better able to understand and communicate Muir’s message about Nature’s healing powers.  I don’t think I was brave enough to share the above quote in a public school, but three years later another student would change that. We were coming down from Half Dome on The Mist Trail when Sean spotted the water at the base of Nevada Falls. “I want to get in that water,” he announced. I objected and said that we had to get back to camp and get the dinner crew started. He was equally adamant and repeated, “I want to get in that water.” I acquiesced and we took the short hike, on an “unofficial” trail, to the bottom of the falls. What happened next (for most) was transformative and in some cases miraculous. Hot, dirty and tired bodies were thoroughly refreshed; some were profoundly moved. There was an outburst of joy and enthusiasm that quickly spread through the group.

“I have never been clear on the concept of infant baptism, but John Muir’s description of Nevada Falls having the mystical power to foster born-again experiences was perfectly clear. For those students who stood under the 600-foot column of pounding water, a lot more than their bodies was being cleansed. Any revelations were natural, personal, and were not exclusive to any brand of religion. Even so, I worried about what my principal, the school board, and my critics might say. “Have you heard the latest? He baptized a whole class under a waterfall, and they were only wearing their underwear!” Miraculously, the event was never criticized.” BOFAW: Chap. 26, Soul Medicine.

 For many years, scientists have tried to discover and describe the cause (or causes) for the physical, mental and possibly spiritual changes that typically occur under a waterfall. Some have suggested that the falling water produces more ozone or other ionized particles that have rejuvenating powers.

Muir was a scientist and did much to describe the plant and animal activity of the areas he visited. He was also a poet, sage and mystic and would have heartily agreed with Meister Eckhart (13th century mystic) who boldly predicted that science would not be able to solve the great mysteries of the universe, including God.

The labor of Living–Loving–Learning

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The Labor of Living—Loving—Learning

“Your daily life is your temple and religion.” The Prophet, Gibran

For many people this means that careers, jobs and professions become their “temple and religion.” The word religion derives from the Latin: re-ligare, to apply a ligament.  I have long been fascinated that the origin of the word is biological and not “spiritual.” Evidently, whoever coined the word religion understood that it is the soul’s equivalent of holding the body together. After all, if climbing Half Dome is impossible without ligaments, perhaps it is equally impossible to climb spiritual mountains without a personal “religion.”

A huge amount of time and energy must be dedicated to daily labors which are necessary to survive. There is, however, a more subtle, Herculean struggle to discover who we are as individuals and how we can maximize our efforts of achieving our richest, fullest physical, mental and spiritual human experience.

Ralph Emerson challenged Biodesign students to write their own bibles. This was not a “religious” challenge in a literal sense, but merely a suggestion that they may want to begin collecting verses, phrases, books etc. that would help guide and enrich their lives. If “One day in the wilderness is worth cartloads of books,” (Muir) then, for many students, the experiential value of going to Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Mendocino could be enough to build a lifetime on. On the other hand, there were students who began a lifetime process of writing their own bible (with a little “b”).

The word bible is a shortened form of biblioteca which is a library of stories, history, legends, myths and socio-cultural information. It is heartwarming to know that some students have continued working on their personal “bible” for as long as 35 years. Actually, if Gibran is correct, all of our daily life and work involves nothing less than working on our “temple and religion.”

When I began writing Biodesign Out For A Walk, I did not consider it as a little “b” bible. After it was released, however, others may have read it differently. During our recent “Virtual Book Tour,” one person commented, “The book is highly controversial, ‘over-the-top’ with religion, but the author’s views were interesting.” After hearing about the book, a long-time friend of mine sarcastically asked me if it was “The Gospel according to Lowell”?  I am not a Biblical scholar, however it is common knowledge that the shortest sentence in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” As I was writing this, I burst into fits of laughter. The shortest line in BOFAW can be found in “The Revised Version,” ;o) page 211; “THEY LAUGHED!” It may be the most profound line in the book. The students faced many challenging ideas that adults are often afraid to face, some of which are currently causing wars, death and destruction. There were moments of intense pain and sorrow in each and every class, however, the overriding response to the lessons was to laugh.

In the US today, it may be politically and scientifically incorrect to refer to “The Holy Bible,” but there is nothing incorrect about students who accepted Emerson’s challenge and heeded Henry Thoreau’s warning by striving to avoid, “getting to the end of their life and realizing that they had not fully lived.”

Little wonder, it is with great pleasure that I paraphrase John Muir and regard the 700+ courageous Biodesigners as “Immortal.” It may also be apparent to some that I was truly like “Ishmael,” and supremely blessed to have been along for the journey.


Hawks, Eagles, Darwin, Intelligent Design

American Bald Eagle pic

In The Immense Journey, Loren Eiseley describes the boisterous reunion of a mated pair of sparrow hawks that may have revealed that they understand, and feel more compassion than scientists have ever guessed.

“I saw both now. He was rising fast to meet her. They met in a great soaring gyre that turned into a whirling circle and a dance of wings. Once more, just once, their two voices, joined in a harsh wild medley of question and response, struck and echoed against the pinnacles of the valley. Then they were gone forever somewhere into the upper regions beyond the eyes of man.”

Watching the Yukon live-feed eagle-cam proved to be pretty slow going until I suddenly saw a minor miracle. The female was nestled over two chicks, patiently waiting for her mate to return with their next meal. After awhile the male descended and carefully landed on the edge of the nest. Using beak and talons, he immediately proceeded to tear some flesh from a freshly killed rodent. He succeeded in tearing off three successive chunks and placed each on the nest in front of his mate. She quickly devoured each piece. With the fourth piece, however, she picked up the meat in her beak and raised it up to her mate’s beak. Instinctively, he engaged her in a protein tug-o-war as they reduced the larger piece of meat into bits that were small enough to feed her chicks. She stood up and the chicks immediately emerged from beneath her with beaks opened widely, ready to be fed. This process provided a wonderful miracle that Darwin’s Theory does not explain.

According to avian behavioral experts, birds are not able to comprehend the concept of time. They simply don’t have the neocortex tissue necessary to conceptualize the future or the past. Apparently they live in a continuous “now.” Does this suggest that they are incapable of experiencing any form of altruism? Lacking this, why would the male even bother to feed his mate? If Darwin’s Theory of “survival of the fittest” were the only factor at play, why would the male not keep all the meat for himself? What possible good could come to him for feeding his mate? Furthermore, why would he bother to feed offspring who, if they survive, would only increase competition for his food supply?  There is no immediate selective advantage for him to care for his mate or her chicks.

At the bare minimum, this suggests that there are genetically encoded behavioral characteristics that Darwin’s Theory does not explain. Either the bird brain experts are wrong about the bird’s ability to process abstract thought or Darwin’s ToE is flawed. Without this evidence, it is rational to hypothesize that there are mysterious forces at play which could include “Intelligent Design.”  These forces have somehow equipped male and female eagles with the motivation and ability to transcend the law of survival of the fittest and contribute to the greater good of maintaining the species.

“Intelligent Design” need not be connected with a Supreme Being; in fact, scientists are acting properly when they contend that “Intelligent Design” (or any theory ascribed to “God”) can not be accepted until there is definitive “scientific” proof.

Poets and sages (especially writer O’Henry) suggest that life is nothing but ironic. Meister Eckhart, currently regarded as truly one of the world’s great theologians, was put on trial by the Catholic Church for ideas that they deemed “heretical.” Ironically, his teachings are now widely accepted by many faiths and include the opinion that the answers to mankind’s greatest mysteries will not be found in science. In another irony, it is now the scientist’s turn to regard all beliefs but their own as “heretical.”

In the end, the simple, yet profound, behavior of  Eiseley’s sparrow hawks and a pair of American Bald Eagles proves that the common denominator of both science and religion is mystery. Little wonder that Abraham Maslow (Religion-Values-Peak Experiences) suggested; “sooner or later we will have to redefine the meaning of science and religion.”

No Man Is An Island

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No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.          John Donne

Having Patti Rosellini discover BOFAW reminded me of Elton John’s “Golden Oldie,”  “Michelle’s Song.” A very, very long time ago (1975) I was not aware of the song until students used it in a slide-show to translate and communicate what they experienced on their trip to Yosemite. The current slide-show captures some of the joy and innocence that Biodesigners often experienced as they discovered the wonders of themselves, each other and Mother Nature. They were “casting pebbles in the water” that are still sending gentle ripples throughout the universe.

One of the most important themes of Biodesign out For A Walk is that The Class, and the book, were the result of a collaborative effort between students, parents, chaperones, scientists, sages and multiple mentors. Truly, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts and I was merely a “piece of the continent, a part of the main.”  It was truly an awesome privilege to be invited into the sacred realm of the teenage soul and I think it is important to share some of their insights.


Just For Fun and a Little More







 Mike Dunn posted an amazing video of a singer arguably reaching the lowest known notes recorded buy a human. It sounds very much like the lowest note capable of being played on the grand organ at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. The organ has over 7,000 pipes; one is about the size of a human pinkie finger, and produces a note over 5,000 Hz.. Many people can not hear it, but most dogs in the neighborhood can hear it just fine. The largest pipe is 8 inches in diameter and 32 feet tall. At 16 Hz, the human ear can detect the individual oscillations and the sound is more like a motorcycle driving through a tunnel rather than a note; thus the comment from Mike’s page, “it sounds more like a burp.” I doubt that either note is used in regular musical presentations.

In the earlier years of Biodesign, several classes visited the Army Corps of Engineer’s “Bay Model” in Sausalito, walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, and several points of interest, including Grace Cathedral. Albert Einstein is featured in one of the clerestory stained-glass windows and I had a friend (John Fenstermaker) who gave the students a demonstration of the grand organ. We were not there for “religious” reasons but to explore the spiritual capacity of man which includes science, music, art, architecture and so much more. The cathedral features replicas of the massive bronze “Gates of Paradise,” of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Renaissance masterpiece in Florence Italy.

 Fenstermaker demonstrated how Johann Bach wrote music that would leave the organ, travel down the cathedral and reverberate back. Music lovers who appreciate what he did, can sit in the center of the cathedral and experience waves and waves of music washing over them. It does not need a name, but many students experienced something that was not explainable in human terms. Fenstermaker ended with a version of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” which blew all the cobwebs out of the cathedral as well as most of our minds.

The students were right next to a world-class concert organ-master and watching him work was extraordinary. He used all five keyboards as well as the foot pedals. Fingers flew up and down and he mastered the pedals with the heel and toe of each foot. This meant that he not only commanded ten fingers, but two heels and toes which meant that at every moment he was in command of an astonishing,  FOURTEEN variables.


For those who have read BOFAW, Chip Detro was in one of the lucky classes that got to tour Grace. It is near the top of Nob Hill and we decided to go top China Town for dinner. The street down to China Town is perilously steep, especially for someone in a wheel chair. Chip left his motorized chair home and was therefore at the mercy of his classmates. He described the descent down Nob Hill as the scariest thing he had ever done. We laughed all the way down as he kept shouting, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Don’t let go of me!” Little wonder, as he only had use of his right forearm, thumb and index finger.

In a wonderful synchronicity, I located this U-Tube video of Bach’s Toccata. It gives me goose bumps to listen and watch the video-graphic notes. Musicians may be able to watch the organist’s left hand (upper) right hand (middle) and bass notes (lower) played with heels and toes. I think the different keyboards are also color coded. Simply amazing!