This page will evolve …

{in}Frequently Asked Questions

In some cases, involving misunderstanding and misconception, “infrequent” is fortunate; I dream of a day when such ‘mis’ things don’t exist, but I’m not holding my breath.

So, to keep from having to answer such questions over and again, here are my responses.   And like they say, if you don’t tell your own story, someone else will, and you may not like their version.

In reality, since some quoted below were made as statements rather than questions, this page should be called {in}frequently asked questions and asserted comments (iFAQAAC), but I’ll stick with the more conventional FAQ format.

All of these are based in real questions or comments asked over years.  Newer ones are at the bottom.  I’m trying to also incorporate new elements into my essays, lectures and courses to address the misconceptions before they occur, but the red queen hypothesis prevails, so I’m pretty sure the list will grow.

Responses to questions with links are on this page.  (The links are ‘anchors’ that jump to a different point on this page.  To get back to the top, either scroll up or click your ‘back’ arrow on your browser toolbar.)

Responses to questions without links are in progress,
and will be posted when they’re ready for prime time.
Some will initially be blog posts.

If your question is not addressed here, please contact me.
I’ll respond, and perhaps add it to this page (anonymously, always).


  • Why do you call your site AlderStone3.com?
    Why not AlderStone.com or AlderStoneFuller.com?

AlderStoneFuller.com is too cumbersome, too hard to remember, and does not “roll off the tongue”. AlderStone.com was not available, so because I am Alder Stone Fuller III, alderstone3.com seemed appropriate.  I use Alder Stone as a pen name, and – having grown up in the south where compound names are common (think Jimmy Ray or Martha Ann) – I’ve often been called by both.

  • Why is your overview so long? Don’t you think you would attract more readers if it was shorter?

Even though the principles that I teach are very simple relative to the principles of science for the last 300 years, they are unfamiliar to most people. One must explain both what the ideas are and why they are important. Furthermore, my approach to teaching these ideas – in an integrated way as an independent educator, not associated with a regular college or university – is unique. I prefer to be clear. I’d rather provide a bit too much information than not enough. Besides, I seek students that are curious, those who want to learn. I added a summary to the overview for those who prefer less information.

  • Can I get college or university credit for your seminars & courses?

No, not at this time. I’ve tried in the past to work with university departments to make this happen, but it has always been problematic. It is conceivable that we could set up something with your college – perhaps an independent study program – where you could. But I wish to remain an independent instructor and not (again) become part of a degree-granting institution. Furthermore, most of my students study with me simply for the joy of learning, and because they cannot get access to these ideas through normal channels.

  • Do you offer on-line courses and seminars?

Not yet. But I do plan to add that option in the future. I’m going to first explore engaging distance learners in reading seminars that can be conducted by email (you read, I pose relevant questions about your reading material, you ask questions of me, etc). Then, I’ll explore using various webinar technologies by which I can offer real time courses on line. Neither of those are my primary focus however, so they may take a bit of time.

  • What are the images in the banner at the top of each page?

    From left to right:

    1.  A vortex – whether in a sink drain or a tornado – is a self-organizing system that exists by virtue of energy flow, just like you (even though you are much more complex).
    2.  An example of a ‘strange attractor’, a graphical representation the behavior demonstrated by chaotic (class 3) systems. Imagine the curvy lines that fold back on themselves as a graph showing how system behavior changes with time. Notice that’s it’s neither perfectly orderly nor totally random, but exhibits a strangely coherent if irregular trail.
    3.  Microscopic algae called Volvox, which are colonies or collectives of photosynthesizing cells acting as a single organism, moving under its own power, reproducing itself. This is an example of symbiogenesis : the origins (or genesis) of new life forms via symbiosis. The evolution of most species more complex than bacteria involve symbiogenesis (in addition to natural selection and other factors).
    4.  A model of a DNA molecule. Held to be “the molecule of life” and “the blue print for life” in the dogma of modern biology, systems sciences contends otherwise. DNA is no more “the” molecule of life than a piston is “the” most important part of an engine. Nor is DNA a “blueprint” in the sense of an architect’s blueprint; the structure and function of life forms are instead emergent properties that cannot be fully explained by the genetic code represented in the DNA molecule.
    5.  Turbulence in a fluid, whether liquid or gas. Turbulence is chaos in a fluid – though not randomness. Note the similarity in the shape of the swirls here with those in image 2. Chaos has been described as order on an overdose.
    6.  My logo: an alder tree tenaciously clinging to a stone. Note that branches, roots and stone all exhibit fractal structures.
    7.  A virus, which some modern biologists claim is alive. However, viruses are not living, because they are static entities – effectively an organic crystal – lacking the process called “autopoiesis”, a self-maintaining metabolism, which is the chemical beating heart of all living things.
    8.  A graph illustrating ‘the edge of chaos’ (so called ‘class 4′ systems), a strange mixture of order and chaos that seems to characterize the behavior of virtually every complex system in the universe, from your heartbeat to economies to climate. This particular graph shows the relationship between CO2 (blue), temperature (red) and methane (green) over almost a half million years as Earth’s climate jumped from ice ages to brief interglacials between ice ages (the spikes) – like the one that we’ve been in for the last 10,000 years. Earth is now growing hotter rapidly.(Note: time in this graph moves from right to left; ‘now’ is on the left side of the graph. One can see how rapidly conditions change from cold to warm.)
    9.  Earth, or more appropriately, Gaia: the planetary-scale metabolism and homeostasis resulting from the linkage of air, water, rocks and life forms that automatically – unconsciously – maintain the temperature and chemical composition of our atmosphere and oceans, within which all organisms live.

    10.  Vortices in a chemical system called the BZ reaction, a chemical clock that operates similar to your heart’s natural pacemaker that drives its beating. That such order can occur in chemical systems was unexpected (even rejected as a possibility) before the 1950′s, but is now well understood from via systems sciences as as process of self-organization caused by energy flow in non-equilibrium systems.

  • Why are you so “doom and gloom” about climate change? Why can’t you be more positive?

I have been accused in the past of being “doom and gloom”.  A few have even labeled me “Dr. Doom” because of my views that are based in reliable published science; a county commissioner who was speaking after me at a public event about alternative energy referred to my views as “doom and gloom” (and then proceeded to paint a relatively rosy picture of global heating and climate change, including the standard “We can stop it with policy and technology” rah rah stump speech.)

I resented both labels.

I am a realist. If I continued to advance the view that climate change is either not serious, or that it can be stopped through measures like greenhouse gas emissions reduction, I would no doubt be more popular, and perhaps attract more students.

But I would also be lying. Unlike politicians who feel the need to make  people happy so that they can stay in office, I prefer to tell the truth as I see it about these matters. Why? Because I wish to live in a community that understands the true nature of climate change and is taking realistic steps to prepare for it (in addition to mitigating its scale and severity). What I fear more than climate change is living in an inadequately prepared community that will be ‘broadsided’ by large scale change. When resources are significantly effected – especially food – there is a potential for social criminal anarchy. If we prepare adequately, we will minimize that.

Before we can take appropriate action to prepare, we must understand the true nature of the challenges that we face.  A community cannot solve a problem until it understands it. The media and most policy makers are misrepresenting the climate crisis.  Those who attempt to solve a problem based on an incorrect understanding of it will be attempting to solve the “wrong problem”, which is to say, their solutions will be inadequate.

Therefore, I argue that the first positive steps towards dealing effectively with climate change is to understand its true nature from a systems sciences perspective. Once a community has a grasp of the problem, many positive, proactive solutions will emerge.

Indeed, my Adaptability 101 seminar is designed to help communities focus on maximizing their adaptability by insuring that basic human needs are met. And by basic human needs, I mean water, food, shelter, medical care, energy, transportation, fiber, security, psychology …

Besides,  in addition to what Dianne Dumanoski calls “social capital” – our capacity to trust and cooperate – the most important asset that we have to deal with climate change is our attitude. If we see climate change as doom and gloom, we will attempt to deny it, and potentially ignore the issue.

What we need now, says Dumanoski, is to get past our fear and denial, along with business as usual, so that we can focus on preparing for adaptability. There is MUCH that we can do to prepare so that the next generation(s) will be able to weather the storm.

As I say in public lectures, it’s not an apocalypse, it’s an adventure.

I’ll give the final words about doom and gloom to Dianne Dumanoski, from her book, The End of the Long Summer:

The most formidable obstacle ahead may be an imaginative one. The first step is to recognize that we have entered a period of deep change. Of course, simply suggesting that our civilization may be hitting a dead end is considered a message of ‘doom and gloom’. But this judgment is a matter of perspective. Acknowledging that we’re at the end of something means we’re at the start of something else. We need to imagine futures that don’t much resemble the present – all kinds of futures, creative alternatives as well as frightening scenarios. The question is not how to preserve the status quo, but rather how to make our way in a new historical landscape. Today’s children will likely confront challenges we can hardly imagine in a radically altered, unrecognizable world. Can we responsibly continue preparing them for business as usual? And if not, what can we do to make them ready for a survival game in which wild cards rule?”

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