A QUIET STAND OF ALDERS
"The alder, whose fat shadow nourisheth
All set neere to him long flourisheth." -- William Browne, c. 1613
|Welcome to A Quiet Stand of Alders, a website
that invites you to experience the scientific importance, and the
beauty and peace, of trees and other plants. This is the message
to which I have dedicated my life: plants are essential to the survival
of the world, and they deserve much more appreciation than they receive
from most people, especially from the political and business leaders in
the United States. Plants are much more than a mechanism for the
survival of the planet; they create worlds of beauty and peace.
The world depends not only on plants in general, but on the diversity
of plants—the millions of species that make up the forests, fields, and
deserts of the world. This diversity of plants, as well as of all
other organisms, has been produced over billions of years by the
process of evolution. In the United States, wild plants are being
destroyed, their diversity is being reduced, and teaching the process
of evolution is under religious attack. Watch this website for
links to sources of information about plants and evolution, including
my books and those of other authors, as well as essays about plants,
evolution, and religion. Keep checking for occasional
The Inspiration of Science
Jan. 3, 2009
Some people think science is the amassing of facts about the natural world, and that it takes something else, such as religion, to tie the facts of life together into a meaningful story. But this is misleading. Scientific investigation is a grand adventure and reveals deep meaning in life. I realized this as I was looking through the August 29, 2008 issue of the journal Science.
Scientific research allows us to reconstruct the history of the Earth, and human history, from evidence that is so subtle as to be almost invisible. One article examined how, by studying charcoal in geological deposits hundreds of millions of years old, we can determine how much oxygen was in the air at those times. Another article examined how protein analysis of hairs found on the leather clothing of Otzi the Iceman revealed that the people of his culture were herdsmen rather than primarily hunters. Yet another article revealed that scientists have discovered earthworks of ancient urban centers spread across thousands of miles of what is now Amazon rainforest—revealing that the rainforest now filled with “primitive tribes” was once filled with civilization. These discoveries alter our understanding of Earth and human history.
In the past, much scientific research was based on correlation. For example, in wild tobacco plants, a greater amount of the attractant benzyl acetone in the flowers was correlated with more visits from pollinating hummingbirds and moths. But scientists are always seeking new was to transform correlational studies into experimental ones. In this issue of Science, some scientists had produced genetically engineered lines of wild tobacco which did not produce the benzyl acetone attractant. They grew these plants, left them outside, and monitored pollinator visits. The pollinators were not very interested in the plants without the attractant. This has raised the experimental study of ecology to a new level.
Nearly every week brings some breakthrough in human health. In this issue of Science, there was a news item about a scientist who was able to get regular pancreatic cells to change into islet cells, which are the cells that make insulin. This means it is possible to get diabetics, whose islet cells have died, to grow new ones from their remaining pancreatic cells. This may lead to a cure for certain kinds of diabetes. One of the research articles was about a researcher who took cells from an elderly victim of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and manipulated them to become a form of stem cell. He then got these stem cells to develop into nerve cells, the very kind destroyed by ALS. Once again, this may lead to a cure for a major degenerative illness. Another news item told about a researcher who has discovered that the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy might be avoided by something as simple as fasting.
Scientists are very active in society and policy. This issue of Science had an article about science diplomacy—how scientists in the U.S. can work with scientists in other countries, and thus promote international cooperation. Even back during the Cold War, American and Soviet scientists were working together on non-military research, such as how plants grow and how to get agricultural plants to grow more.
Science is an international collaboration. The articles have authors from many different countries. This issue had a significant new step in this direction. In the past, scientists have gotten information from native peoples and then written the articles themselves. In this issue, the member of the Kuikuro tribe that helped the scientists investigate the ancient Amazonian earthworks was included as an author of the paper.
For all of the above reasons—compressed into just one issue of the world’s major scientific journal—I feel inspired to the a participant in the scientific community. The above examples are not mere piles of facts, but revelations into the way the world works, and ways in which major problems can be solved. Scientists are not cold calculators of information but passionate explorers of truth and equally passionate servants of the good of the human and natural world.
Green Planet [update!]
Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
Encyclopedia of Biodiversity
Encyclopedia of Evolution [summary]
Facts On File, 2007
Checkmark Books, 2007
Listen to the forest
As interesting as watching grass grow
South with the spring
Somebody oughtta invent a machine…
The Quiet Stand of Alders
Saving the Environment—For Whom?
Welcome to the Republican climate!
Goodbye, from the world’s biggest polluter!
Consider the lilies
America the glutton
Looking for a few good conservatives
A Good Time to be a Vulture
A State of Embarrassment
Just for Money?
Shoot Something Furry
Conservatives Are Nature-worshippers
The Real World
On the Brink of Collapse
Suggested Reading & Links
USDA research facility at Lane, Oklahoma
Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer
Botanical Society of America
National Association of Biology Teachers
Oklahoma Academy of Science
Oklahoma Native Plant Society
Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education
Represented by Jodie Rhodes Literary Agency
Legal info., Disclaimers, etc.