Science Simplified but Confused?

I talk about science often in these posts (see Science is Our Only Way Forward, Science, Beauty, Evolution, and Progress, Updated: “The Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition”, and many others.) Although I mention it, I need to let you know how I understand science.

Findings from science should be objective, that is they can be replicated by others and they represent reality. While earning my PhD I remember a simple and powerful statement that described the scientific process that helped me and I thought it could help others.

Science DESCRIBEs, so it can PREDICT, which means you can then IMPROVE and then based on what you learn, you can EXPLAIN phenomena. Each level forward builds on the previous.

DESCRIBE: Tell us what happened based on influencing interactions

PREDICT: Be able to say what will happen when variables interact

IMPROVE: After understanding the situation, or being able to describe the phenomena based on related interactions – then it can be predicted what will happen. This knowledge enables the future to be altered or improved. Improvement can happen by manipulating some of the variable interactions described.

EXPLAIN: Knowing what did or did not improve the outcome enables an explanation of our reality. For example, I ate excess calories than I used so I gained weight.

Improvement CONFUSION????

The confusion I see is in the area of improvement. While correcting a problem such as putting out a fire, curing a disease, or even stitching a cut, it is not true improvement because it does not improve beyond our starting point or reference. These actions end a bad with treatment but do not cause a good beyond where we were before. See Resilience is Not Always a Virtue, If that is all it is for…, Best Practices are Contraindicated for Improvement and others.

Kahneman and Tversky explained this by suggesting giving money to poor people was not seen as help, but just a chance to catch up. This then was not improvement but helping level the playing field so improvements could be made.

For instance, my organization is BeWell’r, LLC and our work focuses on helping people(college students right now), organizations and society not just be well, but to be Well’R. This means better than they could have been before. We help people make better choices by efficiently nudging them, via the BeWell’r Web, to use community resources such that they can lead a regenerative lifestyle that helps them become better as they simultaneously also build a stronger, regenerative community, meaning everyone and everything benefits. The BeWell’r Web works like a forest which uses the “Wood-Wide Web” as discovered and explained by Dr. Suzanne Simard. (see Strategic Alliances are Powerful)

Stability then Improvement

As Dr. W. Edwards Deming explained in his quality management seminars. The first goal is to lessen the variance so stable outcomes can be produced. Once a consistent process produces a similar outcome again and again over time, then improvement can be made. If improvement attempts are made prior to stability, it is hard to know if the improvement can last or if it was a real improvement and not just chance. He used simple process behavior charts to document stable processes.

What Does this mean? Scientifically

This means science should first provide a DESCRIPTION of an occurrence or a phenomenon by understanding how it happened. The description should describe the interactions that created that occurrence. Based on that understanding of the situation, a PREDICTION about what will happen can be made. If one does not like the prediction, an IMPROVEMENT can be made by altering some of the interactions described.

As an example my daughter wants to run a marathon. She first had to be able to describe her current state and ability by reviewing the interactions that led to her current reality. Knowing she wants to have more endurance she studied training methods and changed her workouts to hopefully improve her running ability. If she is able to complete a marathon she will be able to explain by saying doing these type of workouts and having good nutrition improved my ability beyond what it was before, even in the best circumstances. In other words, this improvement would be better than she would have been even on her best day – that is true IMPROVEMENT.

I use science to generate comprehensive improvements by discovering and engaging in net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. When I discover these interactions that generate comprehensive improvements such as An All Good Simple Clean Up,A Way to Practice Paneugenesis, and others I share.

Please share how you use science to generate true comprehensive IMPROVEMENTS. I look forward to hearing from you.

BeWellr,

Craig M. Becker, PhD

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

#SelfishSelflessSynergy

Please share your thoughts and questions below.

Contact me: BeWellr@bewellr

Humans are Part of the Zoo

I recently read the excellent book, Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD, & Kathryn Bowers.

by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD, & Kathryn Bowers

The book was fascinating to me because it highlighted and made clear why We are Just Talking Apes and how There is Only US, There is no Them as I attempted to suggest previously. I loved Zoobiquity because it documented how similar all living things are on earth and that “we should be looking at the overlap rather than the differences” between species due to our shared ancestry.

I was fascinated as they demonstrated how other animals also have foresight, regret, shame guilt, love and revenge. These are things I thought I saw in our dogs, but I thought I was anthropomorphizing their behaviors. I guess I was not.

Similarities

Examples of similarities in the book included how all animals, like humans can Faint when scared. This led to a better explanation of our instincts that are generally only described as Fight or Flight. A true description of our reactions is “Fight, Flight, or Faint” when startled. As they documented, faking death, like when we Faint, had survival benefits and may be why it lasted through our evolution.

I thought most interesting was how they showed some behaviors that many attribute to bad character, also exist in the animal kingdom. For instance, there is a section that describes eating disorders in the animal kingdom that mirror humans eating disorders. (see Intriguing links between animal behavior and anorexia nervosa by Treasure, Janet & Owen, John) Other behaviors such as homosexuality, trans sex and even sex between species exists in other animals meaning it evolved for a survival reason and is still in our DNA.

In other examples they document the proliferation of STDs in the animal kingdom. After all, they don’t have antibiotics or any type of protection. In another similarity, they document how teenage animals act similar to human teenagers. The similarity relates to their behaviors. As explained, teenage brains don’t register danger as adults do and this may be why they take what seems to be “stupid” or unwise actions. They however explain, “These risky behaviors can encourage encounters with threats and competitions that may hurt them but actually end up being helpful for success later in life.” They even suggest that it may be more dangerous when adolescents don’t take risks than if they do. If risks are avoided, they are not prepared for life.

Overall, these many comparisons and similarities indicate that what happens are not necessarily flaws or problems of humans, it is hard wired into us. These actions are just part of our shared DNA, those actions however can also be influenced by our environment.

Sex, Drugs, &…

They also showed how animals in the wild sometimes get hooked on drugs, who knew? They also explained that animals have varied sex drives, high or low, and some animals even use some of the same techniques to attract mates as can be seen in humans. It was amazing to learn. They even suggest that an “Orgasm is not the byproduct of sex, it is the bait from erotic ancestry” that enables, or supports reproduction.

There were some unpleasant things in the book. A disturbing section explained humans believed animals did not feel. This existed until fairly recently — though some still believe this, especially about fish. Humans had the false belief that animals could not feel because we could not understand how they thought. Animals react differently to pain, some withdraw rather than vocalize it, at least that we can hear. They relate this to how many thought even babies did not feel pain up until the 1980s.

The authors discussion of pleasure and then drugs was also enlightening. They explained how pleasure and rewards initiated behaviors that helped us survive and negative emotions altered behaviors when survival was threatened. They then relate this to drugs by explaining people become addicted because drugs can falsely signal we are doing something beneficial to our fitness that helps our survival. They also provide an enlightening discussion about how this relates to and feeds addictions.

Nature or Nurture??

An insightful point they demonstrated was that it is not a Nature or Nurture answer, but a dance between each. As was explained, Nature & Nurture are not a divide but rather an endless feedback loop of information that enables adaptation. For example, they document that animals, like humans, can get fat when there is an abundance of food and no predators. They also document animals, like humans, will consume processed foods to their detriment because of the false signals created by these ultra-processed foods.

Overall, again and again, from drugs, to sex, to relationships, they document how these are issues for all in the animal kingdom, not just for humans. It had a copyright of 2012 however it is very current. The most current part was how it seems to have led to the development of the new World Health Organizations initiative, “One Health”.

WHO One Health

According to the WHO Website:

What is ‘One Health’?

‘One Health’ is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.

The areas of work in which a One Health approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses (diseases that can spread between animals and humans, such as flu, rabies and Rift Valley Fever), and combatting antibiotic resistance (when bacteria change after being exposed to antibiotics and become more difficult to treat)..

Why do we need a One Health approach?

Many of the same microbes infect animals and humans, as they share the eco-systems they live in. Efforts by just one sector cannot prevent or eliminate the problem. For instance, rabies in humans is effectively prevented only by targeting the animal source of the virus (for example, by vaccinating dogs).

Information on influenza viruses circulating in animals is crucial to the selection of viruses for human vaccines for potential influenza pandemics. Drug-resistant microbes can be transmitted between animals and humans through direct contact between animals and humans or through contaminated food, so to effectively contain it, a well-coordinated approach in humans and in animals is required.

We can Do More

One Health is a great start, however it seems to only focus on how we can better avoid, treat and or prevent problems. In my view it does not put enough emphasis on how health is created and improved.

From my reading it became even more vital to work towards generating comprehensive improvements by creating net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and EVERYTHING benefits. All living things are connected and the aim of all living things must be to live in a way that makes life more livable.

Natterson-Horowitz & Bowers seem to agree, at the end, they explain:

The fate of our world health doesn’t depend solely on how we humans fare, rather it will be determined by how ALL patients  on the planet live, grow, get sick and heal.

Natterson-Horowitz & Bowers in “Zoobiquity”

Let’s create all good, we can’t wait for people or animals to become patients, we must proactively work to make life more livable and better for all.

BeWellr,

Craig M. Becker, PhD

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

#SelfishSelflessSynergy

Please share your thoughts and questions below.

Contact me: BeWellr@gmail.com

Is Lists “Voltage Effect” Flawed?

This post was co-written with Quality Management and Deming expert, Allen Scott who also used information gained in personal communication with quality management and statistical expert Don Wheeler, PhD.

I have tremendous respect for John List, PhD and many of his recommendations. I have read a lot of his work and heard him in presentations. I have also listened to him on Freakonomics. After hearing a review of his new book on Freakonomics, “Why Do Most Ideas Fail to Scale?” (the book is “The Voltage Effect: How to make good ideas great and great ideas scale“), I got a copy and read it.

Good Ideas

There are many great ideas contained, most specifically about why ventures may not scale. For instance, he emphasizes it is important not to be misled by false positives. This is when good results happen but it is not with a representative sample, thus falsely showing the idea may be successfully scaled. He documents how this happened with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, explaining why it was not as successful or even validated. He also explained the importance of knowing the intended audience. Here he cited an example where McDonalds had sampled devoted McDonald’s customers to test the new “Arch Deluxe” rather than testing it with the typical customer. He explained this was why the “Arch Deluxe” was not a successful new product and why it was important to use true customers, not devotees.

He also explains that when scaling it is important to know if it is the chef, the leader, or the ingredients that make the product successful. As he explains, it is easier to scale ingredients than people. Here he also explained the importance of spillover effects. As he made clear, small issues become more prominent when ideas are scaled. This can be documented from “General Equilibrium Effects” based on the theory. This theory explains how expectations can be disrupted because when one area changes, all areas change to adapt to that change. As an example he explained how when Uber raised driver salaries in hopes of helping them earn more take-home pay, more drivers then drove for Uber. The increase in salary increased the number of drivers and this led to less rides being given per driver. This meant the drivers did not earn the desired raise. This was a great example of General Equilibrium Effects.

He also explained that intervention spillovers can be positive or negative. As a positive example, he explained the spillover of Herd Immunity happens when many people in the community are vaccinated. He also warned that if costs were too high, it cannot scale. While many ideas were good, as I kept reading something was nagging at me and something seemed off. It was not until I got to Chapter 7, and when he began to focus on how to scale, that I realized what was nagging me.

Fatal Flaw?

What was nagging me was that the book was about improving the parts without accounting for the whole system and the dynamic interactions or “Systems Appreciation” in Deming’s Profound Knowledge. To compound his inattention to the whole system, he also failed to account for environmental impacts of any venture. It was as if he equated the impact on the environment at a cost of 0. The environment must be accounted for because the environment is an asset upon which every venture and all of us are dependent. Treating nature with no value encourages its misuse. Ventures should operate such that it supports regeneration because this can be the only way to ensure true value and improvement as it supports ongoing viability and profitability for everyone and everything.

System Improvement

As Dr. Ackoff explains, (see this powerful presentation titled, “If Russ Ackoff Had Given a TED Talk“) a system is not a sum of its parts but a product of its interactions. Further he explains if improvement of a system is done by improving the parts taken separately, you can absolutely be sure the performance of the whole will not be improved. This is what I believe is the fatal flaw in List’s book. He discusses methods to improve the parts without improving the system. In Dr. Deming’s terms, he does not have an “Appreciation for a System”.

One example he discussed in the book was about investing on marginal returns or the area that had the biggest return on the last dollar spent. This may work sometimes, however it mistakenly encourages management by results or managing by watching the scoreboard rather than continually improving the process. Managing by results will result in higher and higher variance, higher costs and lower profits. (see Red Bead Experiment) In the book Dr. List even relied on a faulty example, explaining hiring more people did not produce the same returns because the new group was not as productive. This mistakenly placed responsibility on the people, rather than the system from which results are generated.

Understanding Variation – Contribution from Allen Scott which also cited information obtained in personal communication with quality expert Don Wheeler, PhD

In The Science of Using Science: Towards an Understanding of the Threats to Scaling Experiments, John List, et. al. states, “Policymakers are increasingly turning to insights gained from the experimental method as a means of informing public policies.” They argue that knowing when evidence becomes actionable requires information about the population and the situation. Further they suggest this type of information is vital to knowing if scaling will work. 

Their writing seems to suggest more than experimental methods are necessary. Their concern, relying only on the scientific method can lead to a vast waste of resources, a missed opportunity to improve peoples lives, and a diminution in the public’s trust in the scientific method’s ability to contribute to policy making.

Actionable Evidence

Dr. Walter A. Shewhart in 1924 at Bell Labs developed process behavior charts to determine when evidence becomes actionable. These charts could identify appropriate statistical evidence by separating the noise from the signal. These charts provided an observational improvement method that plotted data over time. 

In Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos, by Dr. Donald J. Wheeler he documents that process behavior charts work and have been thoroughly proven. Further, it seems hard sciences can use the experimental methods and hold many variables constant, however social sciences must deal with unknown cause and effect relationships. These unknowns make the decision to scale problematic without more information. In such an environment, observational studies are needed rather than experiments.  If a test program is broad enough and predictable, reliable evidence will be gained about scaling. If however the evidence is localized and unpredictable, the evidence will be problematic. 

As explained earlier, List suggests this in his book, “Voltage Effect”, when he explains misleading evidence and false positives lead to misinformed choices to scale. As he explains, observational studies can be better than experiments when deciding to scale if they are representative enough to be predictable.

The problem as I see it is the assumption that we will know all of the important factors.  Experimentation cannot identify the unknown factors, only observation does this.

Don Wheeler, PhD

Real-Life Example

For example, despite experimental evidence about the value of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), observation studies of over 8000 women over ten years showed that post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy changed the likelihood of heart-attack from 2% to 3%. This study made it clear that HRT benefits did not outweigh the risks.

For more on experimental studies versus observational studies, see the recent Quality Digest article by Dr. Wheeler: Different Approaches to Process Improvement Does your approach do what you need? We also recommend Dr. Greger’s review of this topic in his linked short Nutritional Facts.org July 4, 2022 vlog post, Observational Studies Show Similar Results to Randomized Trials.

Quitting Shouldn’t Exist…

Another concern I had with List’s book related to quitting. Dr. List emphasizes the need to get better at quitting and the need to quit. I am not sure why he chose to describe it as quitting. He was equating quitting with failure, but failure doesn’t exist (see Failure Doesn’t Exist…). The drive to succeed and do well for most entrepreneurs would stay the same, thus the aim would not be consistent with quitting. This is why the idea of quitting is a confusing reference. For instance, using his personal example, he explained that he chose not to make a difference by being a professional golfer, but as a professor in academics. Thus by his own admission, he did not quit wanting to make a difference, he just pivoted.

To me pivoting, a term used often by the NSF iCorps program and others, is a better way to encourage entrepreneurs and is a method to help them succeed and scale. A pivot should occur when an entrepreneur discovers, after researching the idea, the market and customers, that the idea is a no-go, or not a good idea to scale. After discovering the idea may be problematic, it is recommended they pivot to a variant or alternative. From my perspective, this is better terminology than quitting and allows the entrepreneur to carry forward the many assets and skills gained toward the pivoted aim of the venture.

While I do encourage you to read Lists book, “The Voltage Effect: How to make good ideas great and great ideas scale“, please keep in mind, any venture must contribute to systemic improvement. I am concerned List did not adequately account for the system’s impact, especially when parts are maximized as he suggests. This was a bit confusing since he did discuss “General Equilibrium Effects” and then ignored it throughout the text.

As Russ Ackoff makes clear, simply improving the parts cannot improve the system. As we all seek to make our contribution toward comprehensive improvements, it is recommended we focus on creating net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. Please share how you practice paneugenesis.

BeWellr,

Craig M. Becker, PhD

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

#SelfishSelflessSynergy

Please share your thoughts and questions below.

Contact me: BeWellr@bewellr

Sources: (added to keep me straight right now!) remove/change later

  1. https://bfi.uchicago.edu/working-paper/the-science-of-using-science-towards-an-understanding-of-the-threats-to-scaling-experiments/
  2. Wheeler, D. J. (1993). Understanding variation: The key to managing chaos. Knoxville, Tenn: SPC Press.

Multiple Green$ Benefits

More green is usually good.

  • Greens in the form of vegetables are good for our health
  • Green behavior is regenerative or at least better and can help everyone and everything
  • Green in form of money can be good and helpful

This post is about how all 3 of these benefits will accrue from this simple action.

Many of us eat greens as spinach, lettuce, kale, mustard greens etc. While these greens are good for us, taste good and are delicious, they do not stay fresh long. Composting old greens is better because in time they turn into useful soil, but it still wastes money.

A Better Idea

We found a more useful solution. When our greens start to go bad, we put them into the blender and then freeze them. As frozen small pieces of greens, they are easy to add to a smoothy.

My bag of chopped greens and a scooper to add to a smoothie

We keep freezing old greens simple. When ours greens start to go bad we put the old greens in the blender with a little bit of water, if necessary, and mix. After the leaves are chopped, we place those leaves in a bag and put them in the freezer. I also put a scooper in that bag so I can easily scoop out a helping for my smoothie.

I really like doing this in the summer because I find Smoothies to be great summer snacks They are refreshing, cool and also provide a healthy serving of vegetables. If you are interested in more techniques, this page, How to Freeze Spinach, shares more options.

Multiple Benefits

This simple technique provides multiple benefits:

  • We eat more greens by including them in our now tastier and more filling smoothies
  • Environmental benefits are less trips to the store and less food waste
  • We save money by not having to buy greens or other ingredients for smoothies

Overall, chopping and freezing greens is a great, all good way to generate comprehensive improvements. Freezing older greens creates a net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic benefits from which everyone and everything benefits.

Please share how you generate comprehensive improvements so everyone and everything can benefit.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

#SelfishSelflessSynergy

Please share your thoughts and questions below.
Contact me: BeWellr@gmail.com