KEW Episode 78: Assumptions and Core Principles

Are you an analytical person? Do you think science is a good way of answering questions? Do you also believe there are things science CAN’T answer?

Do you struggle from a mix of pragmatic and spiritual beliefs? Do you consider yourself to be pretty smart?

Do you have a strong distrust for the status quo? Have you ever felt like a non-conformist, whether by choice or just because?

If you answered any of those questions I think you’ll enjoy this episode and KEW in general.

My goal is to share a pathway toward reducing struggle, suffering, dissatisfaction, and restlessness to improve our lives.

Like any good ‘scientist’, I am stating my assumptions and baseline beliefs prior to establishing a set of techniques to bring more peace, calm, and satisfaction to our lives.

This will serve as a partial foundation to future episodes that will focus on things we can do to improve our time on Earth, make sure our voices are heard, influence each other, and start to solve the bigger problems.

Please follow me here on the blog, subscribe to the podcast, and follow the YouTube channel. There’s a lot coming up you won’t want to miss.

Full podcast audio of Episode 78:

or please subscribe via your favorite podcast app.

Full YouTube video on the KEW YouTube channel:

Preview KEW Episode 78: Assumptions and Core Principles

As we figure out exactly what is happening at KEW, which is mostly coming up with workable strategies to help analytical, empathic, and intelligent folks live calmer and more relaxed lives, it’s necessary to state our assumptions and identifying elements.

In any good scientific endeavor (and this ISN’T science, but I’m trying to take a standardized and similar APPROACH) it’s nice to state your assumptions up front. It tells the reader/listener/viewer/colleague where your head was when you began.

Usually assumptions are peer-reviewed, or at least things you’ve discussed with other people so you know they aren’t ridiculous – and that most people will not have trouble accepting them so they can move forward with the rest of your material.

For example, if you were trying to illustrate that COVID is a conspiracy, and you stated the assumption up front that ‘all liberals are stupid’, that would not be sound. Half your audience would not believe you, and part of the other half would be suspicious. Sure, some folks would be all in, but you get the point.

In this Episode I’ll lay out as much as I can about things I believe to be true and necessary before we move forward to the ‘how-to’ Episodes related to the Are vs Should Problem.

Full podcast audio and YouTube video this Friday.

Humans, much less Earth, are not the center of the universe.

KEW Article: Personal Responsibility, Consensus, and Faith in Science

For it to work we have to work together

Scientific evidence directs acceptance or rejection of hypotheses. At the experimental level, this requires evidence. At the societal level, this requires faith.

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

I didn’t know what science was . . .
what science really was . . .
until the second year of PhD school. At that time I had already been in college for ten years and had taken many courses about science, math, biology, and physics.
But I still didn’t get it.
I was still stuck, like most of us, in my childhood definition of what science was. I was taught in middle school and then sort of took it from there. I never really ‘got it’. And most of us don’t.
But we need to ‘get it’. And there are at least two reasons why we need to learn what science really is and does:
We, to at least some degree, rely on science to show us the ‘truth’. And while that may be a big ask, science is a pretty good tool for helping us understand things.
We insist on either denying or embracing science as a means of supporting our own position or refuting other people’s position. And there’s a lot of screwing up going on with this one.
Bear with me while I briefly summarize what it took me over a decade to learn.
Science is a standardized way of asking questions that can be used to generate evidence about the question and applied fairly universally by anyone willing to follow the method.
Science is really just a method. A tool. A structure. To standardize how we think and answer questions. This way we all follow the same rules and can trust others do the same — so we have a basis for mutual understanding.
Now, the way science does this is actually kind of weird. This will be exceptionally oversimplified for what I hope are obvious reasons. To ‘do science’, we:
Ask a question.
Formalize the question in to ‘testable hypotheses’ to translate human language into statistical language. Testable hypotheses mean you predict what will happen when you apply a treatment to your subject of interest. Either this treatment will have an effect or it won’t.
Design an experiment to collect a sample of data from the real population of interest. Experiments translate the complexities of the world into the simplicity of numbers.
Analyze the data (the numbers) using statistics or other forms of mathematics to ‘test’ the hypothesis.
Translate your numbers back into meaningful human language.
Either the numbers/data support your hypothesis (fail to reject), or do not support your hypothesis (reject) and suggest that your potential explanation of the question has no basis in reality based on the way you designed your experiment.
After a successful run of a single scientific effort you have now produced a single piece of scientific evidence. And here’s where the faith comes in.
Is this one piece of evidence enough to make everyone believe it is correct? Is this the ‘truth’? Is this now a ‘fact’?
Of course not.
And we all have probably heard about replication. Doing the same experiment over and over again will generate additional pieces of evidence either supporting or refuting your original findings.
I picture evidence as being pieces of gravel, and the machine of science is like a conveyor belt. Each scientist puts their piece of gravel on the conveyor belt of a given experiment or question. These pieces are then carried to a pile.
As the pile of evidence gets bigger and bigger, our ability or willingness to believe or accept the evidence increases.
This is how the faith part of science works.

Photo by Max Panamá on Unsplash

Some of us don’t require a big pile of rocks to believe something or accept it as fact. We have faith.
Some of us will never believe what you say no matter how high the pile of rocks gets. We do not have faith.
We also have to have faith in the scientists themselves, or even better, the capacity to decide for ourselves if the actual science is any good.
Without our individual belief in a result, there can be no concensus.
And concensus is what gives science meaning.
It’s not the experimenter.
It’s not a university.
It’s not a giant corporation.
It’s you.
And me.
Let’s use Climate Change as an example.
Question — Does industrialization increase global temperature?
Hypothesis — If increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are causing global temperatures to increase then humans are responsible for climate change because industrialization introduced more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the planet produces.
The experiments are a little weird, and the math a little weak, because there is only 1 earth and we cannot replicate. But creative things have been done and multiple lines of evidence suggest that industrialization creates more carbon dioxide which leads to higher temperatures. Based on the numbers, we generated that verbiage.
So the individual experiments support the hypothesis.
But is it enough evidence for us all?
Obviously not.
And this is where the system breaks down. Or doesn’t, depending on how you look at it.
Again, it’s up to YOU and ME. To ‘do science’.
And we all have our biases, which is why it requires a concensus of people.
But part of our job is to at least try to be less biased.
If we lead with our political, religious, or personal position then we are not doing our part to consider the evidence. We are NOT considering the evidence.
And there’s the rub.
Science is only as good as the society which it serves.
It is not magic.
It is not mumbo-jumbo.
It really isn’t even that powerful.
It’s a tool.
Whether it serves it’s purpose is up to us.
Our honesty.
Our integrity.
Our faith.
In ourselves.
And each other.

FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 52: Hard and Soft Realities / The Are vs. Should Prob

Thinking about the person you ARE and the person you feel like you SHOULD BE can be confusing. I think we mostly know when we are doing something that fits with our ‘core values’, but sometimes we don’t.

Have you ever wondered what your motivation is in a certain situation?

For example, you find a $50 bill on the ground. Do you immediately stuff it in your pocket? Do you look around to see who might have dropped it? Or do you pause for a moment and wonder what to do?

It can be hard to know.

In Episode 51: The Personal Inventory I suggested a few ways to learn about your values, interests, and needs.

In this third installment of the Are vs. Should Problem I introduce a way to start separating our world so we can better understand it. And it’s a pretty simple split:

Hard realities are measurable. Things you can see. Science-y.

Things like, ‘how much money?’

How many years? How long? Where? Which career?

Hard realities are things that are distinct and pretty easy to identify.

I like hamburgers better than tacos.

Hard realities are black and white.

Soft realities are everything else.

They’re touchy-feely. They’re more abstract.

What are the different types of love?

Am I a liberal republican or a conservative democrat?

Soft realities are grey.

Deciding your position or opinion on things can be pretty hard. Splitting your list into hard and soft categories can make this process a lot easier.

Link to original post and full audio and video Episodes:

FLASHBACK! KEW Curiosity Interview Series 3: DJ Doran

DJ Doran is a leader in the LGBTQ community. He’s a publisher and leader. He is retired from the military and can fly planes. He has lived aboard a sailboat. He’s pretty amazing.

More than anything, DJ drives home one of the most important messages a person can hear:

You have to love yourself first.

I hope you will listen to this interview so this message is further cemented in your psyche.

Link to original post with full links to audio and video:

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:

Or please subscribe to KEW via your favorite podcast app.

Full YouTube video here on my KEW YouTube channel:

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 52: ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ Realities

As we pursue the “Are vs. Should Problem” and examine our personal inventory, I want to describe two main ways we can understand our selves and the realities we live in.

First, there is the measurable world. The ‘Hard’ world where science reigns supreme. Things are measurable, quantifiable, and therefore fit into the well oiled scientific machinery. Problems stemming from economics, medicine, and food supply are easily boiled down into testable hypotheses and theories used to derive definitive results. Other minds have described hard problems as being those containing subjects comprised of matter (as opposed to ideas, for example).

Is the economy going to tank? Well, the data on this and that support a trajectory that suggests no.

Will this medicine prevent a global pandemic? It is 98% effective at preventing disease and 90% of the population is vaccinated so yes!

Is this years corn crop enough to supply North America for the winter? Yes, ten billion metric tonnes of corn will feed 200 million people (I completely made up those numbers, but you get the point)

So science is pretty darned good at answering certain questions. About things that we can OBSERVE and MEASURE.

EVERYTHING ELSE is a ‘SOFT’ problem defined by a soft reality. EVERYTHING ELSE.

My point in this episode is that VERY FEW items in our personal inventory are going to fit into the HARD reality. And, unfortunately, scientists (and other professionals who get paid to think) spend most of their time on HARD problems because, well, because they have to. The hard tools don’t work as well on the soft realities. BUT THEY CAN WORK!

And so, as part of our assessment of our personal inventory, as part of the process of weeding out the needs, the wants, and the don’t-really-need-so-muches, we have to develop a new skill set.

One way to understand the soft problems, is simply to borrow the scientific tools used for hard problems. Einstein, and others, called these ‘thought experiments’. There’s no reason we can’t follow the scientific approach to ask questions about soft realities, we just can’t draw the same conclusions because not everything can be boiled down to numbers.

And that may be another way to understand the difference. Hard reality problems can be boiled down to a set of numbers that represent the reality: The average person has 10,000 thoughts a day. Whereas the soft reality problem can’t be measured like that: The average person worries about death and being unloved as they age. Worry, fear, sadness. How do you measure those things? And, if you could, why would you? What we want and need with soft problems is simply a better understanding of the realities across people. Science isn’t a good tool to go about understanding this. Our minds, however, are excellent tools to solve these problems – we just have to normalize this however we can once we find a system that works.

And, really, we probably have lots of Unscientific approaches that work – we just treat them differently from science because, well, they aren’t science. Next week I’ll go in to a bit more detail with examples.

Full podcast audio download here:

Or please subscribe to KEW podcast via your favorite app.

Full YouTube video link here:

FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 38: Faith and Trust

In this episode I moved closer to figuring out the basic set of issues one needs to address when seeking enlightenment, personal growth, self help, or similar human growth efforts. Along with identifying values, identifying beliefs (limiting and otherwise), and getting to know ‘who you are’ I think understand HOW we believe is important.

In recording this episode, I realized that faith and trust are critical terms to understand. Like DOUBT, we define faith and trust along continua of intensity. In the end, I think trust is something we have for individual people, and faith is something we have in concepts or systems. But each of these terms can vary depending on what the faith or trust is IN.

For example, we have FAITH that we will arrive safely at our destination whenever we drive our cars. We TRUST in other drivers that they won’t cross over the centerline and hit us head on. We have a HUGE degree of FAITH in this whole driving SYSTEM to the point where we are more afraid of being eaten by a shark at the beach or being bitten by a snake than we are of being in a car accident – and the statistics and probability suggest quite the opposite.

And what’s more revealing is how much FAITH and TRUST we put in to things without realizing we’re doing it. For example, SCIENCE, which we often consider to be the antithesis of faith or trust, necessarily contains a HUGE element of FAITH in the acceptance of and belief in scientific results. Another example of the strangeness of these concepts is how we conclude that because the sun has risen every day for millennia that it will 100% rise again tomorrow.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this discussion about how we place our personal power into people, ideas, concepts, and systems and how this relates to what we VALUE and BELIEVE.

Here’s the link to the original post with links to podcast audio and YouTube video. Please subscribe to the Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom podcast on your favorite app or my YouTube channel (or both!).

KEW Episode 38: Faith and Trust

FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 35: Beyond Science

Science is important to me. Though I am a trained scientist and truly embrace the scientific method as a great way to go about answering questions, I think we treat science, the method, and scientISTS as if they were something special. We/They’re not. It is very important to me to help people understand what science IS and, more importantly, what it IS NOT.

The first point I try to make in this video, and whenever talking about science is that IT’S JUST A METHOD. What we call science is the set of instructions about how to go about asking questions (the scientific method), and draw inferential conclusions as a result. Ideally, but very rarely, these results are then transformed FROM scientific methodology, complicated statistics, and field specific jargon, to meaningful statements most people can understand. But this last step almost never happens, and when it does, it isn’t interpreted by scientists, but by laypersons.

Here’s the rub: The RESULTS of SCIENCE, produced following and according to the SCIENTIFIC METHOD, have to be filtered through a DISCOURSE comprised of US HUMANS. Science is nothing special except having some rules to follow in order to produce a desired result. Think about that statement. It’s not that much different from religion or governmental laws. These things are methods or systems of organizing or going about completing a task(s) in ways that make sense to a large number of people or constituents. In other words, these methods are vetted up front by groups of people, and their results are filtered through a discourse comprised of thoughts, interpretations, and opinions of those same people.

I will develop and explain this concept in much more detail beginning with Episode 50 and my efforts to develop concise products about this and related subjects. But here I introduce the idea that science is just a method used to answer questions, that we, as people interested in these questions, are not doing our job, and the scientist have become so separated from the public discourse that the method itself is incomplete, and becoming ineffective.

Original blog with podcast and video links here