Sunday, January 08, 2006

Pondering Biology, Behavior and the Future

Another birthday passes--I'm getting near the big 40. My goal is be in better shape, inside and out, each year. This past year has been incredible. I've changed in so many ways; and the best change has been to a plant-based, whole food lifestyle. I won't use the "d" word, because it is a complete lifestyle and behavior change, not just a temporary adoption of certain foods, or calorie counting or whatever.

It is a change in behavior. Conscious choices every day. Every freakin' day. Over time. That's what counts.

This really hit me yesterday as I was working out in the basement and listening to The Motley Fool on NPR. There was a discussion of the Google guys and their potential involvement with some big-shot DNA guy. Evidently there are those who think the power of Google combined with knowledge of human genetic code will lead us to the discovery of great new cures for various diseases.

Sorry to disappoint the techno-geeks, but super cool technology isn't the answer to problems that are top-down problems of organismal behavior. Many of the diseases that afflict us now, are the diseases of affluence (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.) These diseases are the result of complex interactions between the organism and its environment. It is not simply biology or genetics. The human being makes poor food and exercise choices over many years; over time, the system fails. Pharmacology and surgical techniques can delay the inevitable--treat the symptoms, but changes in behavior are the key to actually solving the problem.

In many cases, the use of drugs and surgery are simply crutches. These "great breakthroughs" in medicine simply PERMIT and PROMOTE poor health choices on a daily basis. The average American thinks this way: I take my cholesterol meds so that I can eat whatever I want and still have the cholesterol readings that are acceptable to my doctor. And my insurance company subsidizes the cost. The beef, dairy and other major food producers profit from my addiction to their unhealthy products and they spend BILLIONS of dollars each year to continue to convince me I like and need their products. Why would I want to put any effort into eating and exercising--behaving differently? It is too much trouble and the insurance company isn't going to help me pay for better food (fresh produce, organic foods) or bother to learn how to fix them in a healthy manner? And fruits and veggies are for commie-pinko, tree-hugging wussies, right?

No amount of computing power or knowledge of the genetic code can overcome the powerful higher level, real world conditions (societal, cultural, economic) that promote human behavior. Western medicine and its practitioners convince us that science can eventually conquer all; our daily behavior doesn't matter. And it's just too hard (do you hear the whining?) to do anything ourselves. The consequences aren't immediate enough or harsh enough for most to want to make changes. We don't believe everyday choices matter; or that over time, they have powerful effects on our biology.

Science and technology will never conquer daily human apathy, greed or stupidity.

Take charge of your behavior and biology on a daily basis. Educate yourself. See what happens.

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