KEW Episode 62: Change (cont)

Apparently I didn’t say quite enough about change in last weeks’ Episode 62: Change is Hard, but Resisting Change is WRONG! because when I say down to record this weeks’ Episode I just kept talking about CHANGE.

Change. It’s the one thing we can count on.

Since the Big Bang, the universe has been changing. Changing forms. Changing states. Changing composition.

All around us, change is driving the universe. The Earth. Our behavior. The seasons. . . .

Yet, many of us resist change. We don’t like it. It messes up our scheduling. We OBSESS about predicting the future. The popularity of the Weather Channel is a great example. We believe we can predict the future and CONTROL change. Or even omit it altogether from reality.

Seriously, sometimes I wonder if that’s the state of nature we are shooting for. To have every day be as predictable as the last. The literal Groundhog Day of life. And on the one hand, it’s easy to see how comforting that predictability would be, but also how COMPLETELY BORING life would become.

And I get it. We resist change because it ISN’T predictable. And that makes us feel unsafe. And feeling unsafe is scary and sad. So we are afraid. So we want the fear to go away. So we attempt to CONTROL, and remove change from the world.

But that is literally insane. It is as asinine as removing oxygen from the atmosphere. Not only is it impossible, it would kill us. And I’m afraid the path toward minimal change will similarly cause our demise.

In fact, I believe our resistance to change is somehow related to (or the cause of!) many of our human problems.

In this Episode I continue exploring why change is bad, and further develop my hypothesis about how change is related to the Are vs Should Problem.

Full podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9139084-kew-episode-62-change-cont.mp3?download=true

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Preview KEW Episode 62: Change (cont.)

I’ve been talking a lot about how change is a FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENT OF LIFE. Biological entities have DNA which builds our bodies and defines our unique abilities and deficiencies. But more than that, DNA is the mechanism that perpetuates and propels species through TIME by allowing adaptation to changing environmental conditions. The universe is always changing and anything wishing to persist needs a way of dealing with those changes. Biological things, like humans, have DNA to do that very job.

So a main assumption of the Are vs. Should Problem is that change is fundamental.

Another key assumption is that DNA is how we navigate that change – as individuals and as a species.

And my point in Episodes 61 and 62 is to point out a HUGE problem currently plaguing the human race:

We are currently RESISTING change, rather than embracing it.

And, I’ll argue, THIS is a major contributor to MOST of human problems.

From world hunger, to climate change, to our obsession with war. . . . it’s all about NOT understanding the need to change. To react. To modify. It’s literally in our nature. And when you fight your nature, you’re going to lose.

Full Episode coming Friday right here at KEW. Please subscribe to the KEW podcast and/or to my YouTube channel, and follow this blog for updates. You can also check out KEW on Medium.com.

KEW Episode 61: The Are vs Should Problem – Change is Hard, but Resisting Change is WRONG!

In the next few videos I focus on CHANGE. I have covered changing old beliefs, changing the way you think, changing your habits. But it wasn’t until Episode 47: Changing Behavior Changes Beliefs that I actually started to realize how critical CHANGE is.

Change is the key. The main element. The obvious, yet hidden mechanism of life.

One of my chief assumptions is that we we are vehicles for, or at least highly influenced by, our DNA.

And change is what our DNA was designed to do.

In Episode 55: The Bully and your DNA Part 2, I go in to detail about how and why I think DNA is so important, but I’ll reiterate here.

The Universe is constantly changing. It’s been well established by multiple branches of science. I’m going to assume most of us accept that tenet. I will further argue that the fact that things will change is one of the few things we can predict about the future. And we can look to the past and see things were different before. So we know that wherever we are today is likely to change. How it will change is hard to say, but we spend a lot of time trying to figure that out.

An unpredictable future is more dangerous than one that is known. Yet we WANT to know what’s coming up so that we can prepare. Will it rain today? Do I need a jacket? Will the weather be good while we’re at the beach? Will my retirement accounts be worth anything when I need them?

So, in essence, the world/universe/environment in which we live is going to change through time. Ok. Got it. So, in order to live in this world/universe/environment we probably need a mechanism to deal with change.

A crystal ball might seem like the most useful tool, but if you think about it, that only helps the individual. Sure, if we could predict how much Bitcoin would be worth next week we could make a lot of money. Or if we could know how many avalanches would occur in a certain area we would know where NOT to build a ski resort. Those things are helpful, but they only really increase the fitness of single individuals. And in the long run, biology is more interested in the whole than the parts. Because we are all connected, after all.

Enter DNA.

DNA is an ideal molecule to facilitate generational changes in individuals through time by allowing for responses to extrinsic environmental changes. In other words, DNA gives individuals the capacity to REACT to environmental changes at a rate commensurate with the changes themselves. Individuals can react, reproductive success is affected, and the environment selects for fitness in future generations. Species persist.

But I’ve talked a lot about that in other Episodes.

The conundrum I talk about in Episode 61 and 62 is how humans seem to resist change. In the past 200 years or so, it seems that human evolution has entered a period of minimal change. We have established cultural norms and rules that select for ‘sameness’ and predictability in individual behavior. In some ways this makes sense for behavior management as the Earth gets more crowded, but I worry about superficial and short-term changes trickling up to affect our general opinion about change.

Because change isn’t going away. We can never control it all. Control is an illusion, anyway, and we will never control the weather or the economy. We can depart Earth to inhabit Mars, but we will eventually have the same problems we have here.

I am concerned that our resistance to change in our daily lives is going to reduce our ability to evolve and persist as a species in the long term. In the short term, we will lose creativity and diversity of ideas and intellect, which will in turn stifle our ability to navigate the future. In the face of change we need creativity and diversity, not sameness and conformity.

I hope you enjoy this miniseries about change. More next week.

Download podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9127831-kew-episode-61-change-is-hard-but-resisting-change-is-wrong.mp3?download=true

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YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/9k4D2G1HSss

Preview KEW Episode 61: The Are vs Should Problem – Change is Hard, But Resisting Change is WRONG

This week I’ll continue to drive this point home. Change is a NATURAL element in all biological systems. Our very nature is dependent on and affected by constant and continuous change. The abiotic environment of the universe is constantly changing as matter and energy change forms. Luckily for us, we have DNA that facilitates adjustments to respond to these changes and life can persist through time.

Understanding and dealing with the Are vs Should Problem is contingent upon change. To the extend that we RESIST change, we must learn to accept it and deal with it. Luckily, it is a PART of us and has been for millions of years. All we have to do is remember. And I’ll add that it is ESSENTIAL to remember, if we want to succeed as a species.

Seriously. The path we are currently on where we minimize and try to avoid change, reward conformity, and value the continuing status quo is causing many of the problems we face. By embracing change we can solve these problems, improve our lives, and advance the human race. That will be much of what I’ll discuss in upcoming episodes.

Full Episode this Friday, right here on KEW.

FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 44: Unnatural Selection

“We went from modifying our behavior to suit the Earth, to modifying the Earth to suit our behavior”

I’m sure I didn’t make that phrase up, but it does describe what I think is a critical flaw in human evolution. Starting maybe 12,000 years ago, we changed the way we live. In the beginning, the alterations to our ways of living were subtle and had mostly beneficial consequences. In the past few hundred years, however, things really started taking off. The industrial revolution. Interchangeable parts and mass production. Severe capitalism and wealth accumulation. For lots of reasons outside my comprehension, humans ‘ramped up’ the shift toward modifying the Earth to suit our needs. And we also changed our needs quite a bit.

My background in Evolutionary Biology gives me keen insight into the interaction between individuals and their environment. I accept Natural Selection as the best model we have to describe this back-and-forth process. Individuals enter the world with slightly different characteristics, and these differences have a differential ‘fit’ with the environment. This fitness differential translates to reproductive success, and the DNA associated with fit individuals is passed on to future generations. This describes a natural interaction of individuals and the environments in which they live.

When individuals figure out how to ‘game the system‘, the process changes. Humans learned how to ‘trick’ the environment by modifying elements to increase ‘fitness’. We invented medicine to help us live longer. We created machines to rapidly exhaust natural resources. And all of this seemed well and good until it didn’t.

In his seminal, “The Tragedy of the Commons“, Garritt Hardin talks about how humans mistakenly assumed we would be unable to exhaust the Earths’ resources. We thought the abundant food, water, space, and fuel on planet Earth could never run out. Until they all did.

The idea that we can modify the Earth to suit our needs without any negative consequences is similarly short-sighted. And that’s what Unnatural Selection is all about.

Link to original post: https://chrisburcher.com/2021/03/26/kew-episode-44-unnatural-selection/

KEW Episode 55: The Bully and your DNA: Part 2

In this second part of the Bully vs your DNA miniseries I describe the DNA part. I will make the argument here, which is a fundamental element of my future work on the Are vs Should Problem, that it is our birthright to express our DNA as fully as possible. I hope you enjoy.

For many years I have heard things like, ‘Follow your passion!’ or, ‘if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life!’. And while I want to love these sentiments, I can’t get passed the ‘woo-woo’ or idealistic nature of the message. Can we really just do what we want? Is that somehow the secret to life? Is being happy really a function of having a job you love?

Now, the old Chris was incredibly cynical (see Episode 28: Doubt and Episode 25: I Suck At. . ) but I am trying very hard to be less so. In fact, I’m starting to see my cynicism as an opportunity for growth. And one of the obstacles I am tackling is this idea that following your passion (or following your ARE) is a worthwhile endeavor that isn’t necessarily sprinkled with rainbows OR unicorns.

So I asked the question as to whether there was any evidence that supports the basic human need of ‘being ourselves’ or ‘following our dreams’ or ‘being our Are’. I came up with what I consider to be hard evidence supporting a ‘follow your dream’ approach to life rather than a ‘put your head down and grind it out’ methodology. An Are vs a Should approach, if you will.

See, as an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, I studied a lot about DNA, evolution, natural selection, and the basic machinery available to all animals through time. I believe we understand how these things work inasmuch DNA is a genotypic (i.e., small scale internal biology) expression of sexual reproduction in a species that is expressed phenotypically (i.e., the outside appearance of that animal offspring) AND provides the basic instructions for living out that individuals’ life. So that individuals’ DNA is a result of reproduction, which rearranges the DNA of each parent to form a new ‘set of instructions’ for the individual offspring. THEN, that offspring, with their unique DNA instructions, lives in its’ environment. During the individuals life, it will express the DNA physically, emotionally, sexually, and all the other ways DNA can be expressed as it is translated from a script to a tissue or action or skill.

That’s a lot, and could be a book in itself, but the key here is that the DNA inside our cells is EXPRESSED outside in the world. This is the ARE. When we are in our Are, we are expressing our unique instructions into the world. We are reading the instruction manual the came with us, and only us, and to whatever degree we are then embracing, in the case of the Are, or denying, in the case of the Should, that uniqueness.

In short, I see the complete and total phenotypic expression, the realization, of our unique DNA as a fundamental goal of life. I’m not saying this is a requirement of being human, more like an opportunity. I see this as sort of a challenge that needs to be examined for evidence rather than an edict or, God forbid, rule.

I think it would be totally cool to take a subset of humans and prescribe to them three sets of treatments in an experiment. One group listens to everything they’re told. They embrace a lifestyle of the Should. They follow all the rules their parents, families, and politicians tell them to. They get the right job, the right partner, etc. The second group ‘follows their hearts’. Members in this treatment group ask themselves what they want and feel when making important life decisions, and try to stick to their inner voice when navigating their lives. The last group is the control, and they just sort of do whatever works without thought about Should vs Are. In fact, they should be sequestered from any talk about the Are vs Should problem.

And then we’d check in with these folks at maybe 18, 30, 45, and 65 to see how they feel about their lives and decisions. My hypothesis would be that the Are group is more fulfilled, calmer, less anxious, and more satisfied with their lives. I would also posit that the control and Should groups are not that different from each other as we seem to be on a trajectory where our knee jerk decision-making is more Should than Are nowadays.

Regardless of ever completing said experiment, I think it is entirely worthwhile to consider the amazing history of your unique DNA. Your DNA exists because your ancestors survived all of the natural selection filters to reproduce and create offspring. Those are all huge evolutionary wins. Each of those transactions, and all of the isolated behaviors during those individuals’ lifetimes, multiply to become what is now you. Part of me wonders to what degree we owe it to our ancestors to fully express the DNA they subconsciously worked so hard to guarantee.

To me, the idea that our DNA contains an historic message about how we can live our individual lives is encouraging. I am encouraged to listen more to my Are and try to suppress my Should. The idea that this may be biologically important reduces my fear that listening to my Are is going to cause me discomfort. The DNA is the Are idea gives me courage to resist the Shoulds in my life and more openly express my Are. If these ideas can help others do that then it is a good tool.

Full podcast audio download here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8868604-kew-episode-55-the-bully-and-the-dna-part-2.mp3?download=true

Or please subscribe to KEW via your favorite podcast app.

Full YouTube video here on my KEW YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/N0YRFtQx9Us

Preview KEW Episode 55: The Bully and your DNA: Part 2

In the second installment of this miniseries within the Are vs Should problem, I talk about the Are side of the equation. Whereas the Should part of us is an amalgamation of society’s worst elements, the Are part of us is uniquely US.

I can’t wait for you to see this episode because in it I fully integrate my scientific training with my psychological and spiritual healing journey.

See, for years I wrestled with the idea that we should ‘follow our dreams’ and ‘live our passion’. I got to the point where I found it incredibly irritating to hear these suggestions, because it seemed so impossible to actually do so. I was living in the world of the Should, trying my best to follow all the right steps that would guarantee me happiness.

Well, I followed the right steps and found myself more confused than ever.

So I had to revisit the idea of purpose, and wonder if I had chosen the wrong path.

Using my unique science and therapy Knowledge and Experience, I make the argument that following our purpose isn’t that far-fetched an idea, and that doing so might actually have millions of years of support in being the preferred method to live ones life.

Yes, this week I argue that your purpose is determined by your DNA, and that realizing this not only minimizes the human struggle, it does justice to your ancestors and our evolutionary history.

Full Episode coming this Friday to KEW.

KEW Episode 44: Unnatural Selection

I am currently working on a larger project that will connect my background in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with personal growth, psychology, and finding more joy and fulfillment in our lives. In Episode 43 I introduce some evolutionary evidence that every individual human is born to discover their uniqueness (despite how ‘woo woo’ that sounds), and how NOT doing so goes against evolutionary theory.

I didn’t coin the term Unnatural Selection. People have used it, generally, to describe forces that affect evolution but are not necessarily a part of ‘regular life’. These forces become selection pressures when they influence the ability for a species to persist. For example, invasive species can be physically moved to new areas where they did not evolve and wreak havoc on the species living in that area. These selection pressures are some feature of the invasive organism that gives it an advantage and with which local species did not co-evolve. These forces often include predation, habitat use, aggression, or other forces that negatively impair local species.

The point of the term unnatural selection is that this novel selection force did not co evolve with the species it is affecting. Most of the time this disconnect is about time or space. In the invasive species example, the organisms didn’t occur in the same physical space (like a continent, island, or area) and so the issue is simply about relocation. Other times the unnatural condition is about time, and the obvious example is climate change. Many argue that human activities are a natural part of our evolution, but the key difference is the amount of time it has taken for these changes to occur. Sure, if human induced global changes occurred over millennia, the earth and its inhabitants may, indeed, have plenty of time to coevolve. But the sudden nature of temperature and CO2 changes over the past 100 years did not allow for such a response. Hence, the selection forces are unnatural.

That’s a long way to go to explain the basis for my argument, but well worth it I hope.

So the main argument I am making in this episode is that humans have imposed a few other unnatural selection forces upon ourselves. If you watched Episode 43, you will know that the main force I consider unnatural is that of conformity. Despite the evidence (which I find compelling, obviously, though you may not) that our DNA, by its very nature, demands that every human fully realize our uniqueness, yet human societies impose the opposite.

Societal norms, religions, laws, politics, and even the popular arts impose forces that encourage conformity. Because it is our nature to NOT conform, but to be UNIQUE, these forces are unnatural. Sure, norms and laws are important. Driving on one side of the road, wearing clothes, not punching people in the face. These are good things. Here I’m talking about mechanisms that discourage people from being different or to behave ‘like everyone else’. On the obvious end, ‘white people are better’ is an unnatural selection force. On the more obscure end, publishers requiring all books to be written according to a set of approved literary rules may result in really, really great books never being published.

The essence of unnatural selection is the intention to make everyone the same, and to make life difficult for those who insist on expressing their individuality. You probably won’t have to think very long to find examples of this in your own life. I have experience mdany examples in my life, and maybe that’s why it’s such a big deal to me.

Therefore, the ultimate travesty of unnatural selection is that the ideas, thoughts, and creativity humans need to survive the future may never come to light because they will be discouraged and effectively ‘weeded out’ of society. As the world becomes more crowded and less hospitable to humans, it becomes increasingly necessary to find unique ideas and approaches that will alter that path. Solving human problems, or any problem, REQUIRES unique viewpoints. As many as possible.

I hope you enjoy the episode. Your comments and thoughts are welcome and encouraged as I develop this idea further.

Full podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8198092-kew-episode-44-unnatural-selection.mp3?blob_id=37045344&download=true or via your favorite podcast app.

Full YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/hGtkOih1EC0

Preview KEW Episode 44: Unnatural Selection

In this episode I continue my larger project of explaining why humans are meant to realize their individual uniqueness. Here I explain what I call UN-natural selection, or the propensity for humans to deny their uniqueness and why this is something we most definitely should NOT be doing.

Natural selection is simply how organisms respond to their environments through time. For the first few billion years or so animals modified their behaviors to suit their environments. More recently, especially in the past 100 years, humans have increasingly modified our environments to suit our behavior. While this may be a natural shift (lotta room for discussion there), the RATE we have introduced this shift is astronomical in comparison to the previous few billion years.

Short preview video here: https://business.facebook.com/kpluseiswise/videos/126710689399751/

Full episode right here this friday.

KEW Episode 43: Diversity and Uniqueness

As y’all may know, I have always felt a little different. Like an outsider. People in the 80s may have called me a ‘nonconformist’. But as an adult I have learned that many people feel this way, at least some of the time. And, like I say in Episode 20: We all feel different (But we’re all the same), we all suffer from the imposter syndrome or feeling like we’re out of place. It’s universal.

Part of this, I think, is because we are ‘supposed’ to be different. The entire purpose of our DNA is to enable each individual human differentially equipped to respond to our changing environmental conditions. This, in short, provides the machinery for our species to persist through time. Things change, so we are equipped to change. Then, of course, the environmental conditions will select which traits (the unique stuff) work in the future, and unfortunately which ones do not.

The problem, then, isn’t that we are all unique. IN FACT, it’s the solution. The solution to our problems. So I’m wondering (and continuing to explore as part of a larger project) whether we are creating problems by not embracing our uniqueness. See, the pressures we feel that lead us to believe we are different are UNNATURAL. The world, society, our peers, our jobs, they are all imposing Unnatural selective forces that attempt to make us the same. Conformity rules in society.

Maybe that’s going a bit too far for this introductory episode, but hopefully you see the bigger picture.

I believe we need to stop trying so hard to conform, and instead take a long hard look at who we really are. If we can develop the aspects of our personalities that make us unique, think of what we can accomplish.

Podcast audio download here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8094228-kew-episode-43-diversity-and-uniqueness.mp3?blob_id=36427267&download=true

YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/Wic8kNsrbs0