[Coral-List] Bill Pierce, Real Root Visionaries

Gene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Mon Sep 22 10:41:34 EDT 2008

I commend Bill Pierce for his philosophical approach to the root 
causes of coral (and just about everything else) demise first brought 
to our attention by Stephen Jameson.  In my simple-minded solution I 
often resort to a line in Jimmy Buffet's Fruit Cakes song..." Humans 
are flawed individuals, the Cosmic Baker took us out of the oven too 
soon." But I do have a philosophical approach to human kind and the 
strange things humans blindly believe in. Mine hinges on just two 
kinds of people. And of course there are two kinds of people. Those 
who will agree with my little essay and those who will not. Those who 
disagree may still find some humor in the story and at the very least 
I hope the "two kinds of people" will haunt them the way the old 
man's statement has haunted me over the years.  So here goes. Enjoy, 
or not enjoy. Gene

How Would Jellyfish Think?

     Back in my youth (when I was about 40), I was having dinner with 
an older gentleman at a meeting in DC when he leaned over and said, 
"You know, when you get down to it, there are only two kinds of 
people." I just nodded not knowing what to say. Now more than 30 
years later, I remain haunted by his comment. It's taken all these 
years to decipher what seems to be the wisdom in the old man's words. 
I have become increasingly aware as I get older that no matter the 
issue, some will agree and some will disagree. Disagreement today 
seems more rampant than in the past, but possibly I just was not 
paying attention. Nevertheless, it should come as no surprise when we 
consider our makeup. After all, we are bipedal with bilateral 
symmetry. Two legs, two arms, two eyes, and we have a left and a 
right brain. We describe and divide most everything into opposites. 
Think, left/right, up/down, black/white, light and dark, in and out, 
forward and backward, push/pull, on and off, good/bad, sweet/sour, 
fast/slow, rich and poor, win or lose, and most basic of all, 
male/female. One can go on and on with many examples of two-sided 
opposition in our thinking. Even the computer on which this is 
written works on the binary on/off principle. It seems only logical 
then that, like the old man implied, we are simply preprogrammed at 
birth to think in a binary fashion. So, when people clamor for a 
third political party, as I have, I realize we just can't do that! 
Both houses of Congress (why are there two?) are divided into two 
sides by an isle down the middle. Just like our brains. And the House 
and Senate often oppose each other on issues. We would have to 
reengineer the House and Senate to add a third party. Even 
Parliamentary governments are divided. It's called bicameral 
government. Whether they are Whigs or Tories, liberals or 
conservatives, they are always basically on opposite sides of the 
     I felt vindicated and decided I need not disagree with the old 
man's comment after reading the 25 July 2008 issue of Science. On 
page 486, I read an article titled, "Voting: In Your Genes?" It said 
that over the past 2 decades, numerous researchers have determined 
that genes determine whether you are liberal or conservative on 
political issues. The proof comes from studies of separated identical 
twins that share the same genes. Fraternal twins are similar in their 
views, but not nearly as much as identical twins. Well, that seems to 
settle it. For a while, I thought it came down to just being male or 
female, that is, givers and takers, or in tribal societies hunters 
and gathers, or hunters and cooks. Who can deny that males and 
females act and think differently no matter how society tries to 
force conformity? To me, it's amazing that humans can agree as much 
as we do. I suppose that's where our reasoning and upbringing tend to 
overcome preprogrammed instincts. Of course, there are many shades of 
grey in between, and luckily for us, overwhelming logic and facts 
will often overrule our brain's binary software. But I tend to 
maintain, like the old gentleman who brought this issue to my 
attention, that underlying differences remain. One has to wonder if 
when we are in the privacy of the voting booth just how often our 
brain's preprogramming will override all the facts and figures. I 
suspect that in many cases it does. We just can't help it if we are 
indeed preprogrammed to be bimodal (sometimes bipolar?) in our 
     I can't help but wonder what the world be like if we had evolved 
bodies with radial symmetry such as that found in jellyfish and 
starfish. How would we see the world? Sometimes I feel like a 
jellyfish. Maybe when we can't make up our minds, it's because there 
is still a little jellyfish in all of us?


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 

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