Do Not Let Deniers Doubt Dissuade

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain

In general, people engage in action to cause an outcome.  Few are interested in putting effort into actions that result in no change or lack of impact from actions taken.  These are the findings from my scientific work and that of most.

People are not as excited to engage in healthy actions such as eating better with plant based meals to prevent POSSIBLE problems as they are to receive benefits from eating more plants.  People are even less likely to engage in actions if there is doubt the actions they take will lead to a desired outcome.

Doubt is a powerful weapon that deniers of any cause or purpose use to cause indecision and inaction.  Doubt dissuades, which means it persuades people NOT to take a particular course of action.  Doubt is a weapon of choice because of its innate power to cause inaction despite the facts.  Doubt is instilled through misdirection or taking attention away from facts just as magician misdirects a persons attention away so people thinks the trick is magic.  This analogy is used in Naomi Oreskes’ excellent film, “Merchants of Doubt“. (Clip, Trailer and Full movie below)  This link takes you to her famous Science article, The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change that eventually led to her movie.



Full Movie:

Some attribute inaction to the presence or absence of tangible outcomes.  After all, if prevention works, NOTHING happens, no tangible result.  The result is status quo, not better.  There is also a status quo bias because of people’s risk averse nature to not lose what they already have.

While prevention is better than something bad happening, it is not actually better.  Tangible and more rewarding outcomes are things such as gaining more competence, capabilities and skills.  These tangible outcomes also make it less likely undesirable outcomes occur, or if they do having the ability to overcome, thus making prevention a secondary benefit – secondary beneficence.

The power of doubt enables those who use it to wield power over our actions.  If one announces or publicizes the possibility that actions are likely to be ineffective, many are dissuaded from doing anything.  Doubt is used by Climate Change deniers and many others (as shown in movie, “Merchants of Doubt”).

Doubt drove the playbook used by tobacco companies related to the harms caused by smoking.  They did this by many ways, including getting doctors to support the habit and bringing DOUBT to scientific findings.  Many other industries have now adapted these effective methods. Current efforts by the NFL use doubt to allay concerns about concussions and brain damage.  These methods are effective because we want them be true, nobody wants to believe they are engaging in actions that cause damage.  Of course many wonder, how can this work…

These concepts overlap with what has been discovered about how our mind plays tricks on us.  Mental illusions were demonstrated by Kahneman and Tversky.  (see more at: Mental Illusions Impact Our World )  People often over estimate the chances of low probable outcomes and underestimate probable outcomes.  Kahneman & Tversky referred to the tricks our mind plays on us as mental heuristics or mental illusions.

Doubt becomes more powerful by engaging emotions.  Emotions often overpower logic (see post: Emotions Drive Actions: Create a Strong Positive Picture).  Jonathan Haidt and then the Heath brothers in their book “Decisive” used the analogy of our emotions, which originate in our amygdala, being an elephant and our logic, which originate in the neocortex, being the rider.  This comparison suggests the limited control the rider or logic has over emotions or the elephant.  If emotions are engaged, they overpower our logic.  This was demonstrated in “Merchants of Doubt” when the doctor used a sad story about a baby to engage emotional support for not taking important action to end the use of in toxic flame retardants.

Stories, like that used by the doctor, evokes emotions and this can overpower logic, at least for the short term.  I have students who come to me and tell me, despite the grade received, they are not C students.  I suggest to them, the data suggests otherwise.  With work, we discover they did not do what was needed to earn a higher grade.  Data is logical, but emotions can overpower what is logical.

With regard to any issue, health of people and planet, doubt is very powerful because if the facts suggest our actions are causing problems, suggesting otherwise helps us we feel better.  We want to believe “alternative facts”.  If the “alternative facts” are true, we are better people so we want to believe.

People using doubt invoke our emotions to dissuade us from taking beneficial actions.  If we investigate, we discover most times people are using doubt to delay any actions that may impinge on their short term benefit.

Merchants of Doubt” outlines how doubt dissuaded people from taking action on tobacco issues, then flame retardants, and now climate change.  The same tactics are also currently being used against those that promote the overwhelming science that documents the personal and planetary benefits of adopting a plant strong eating style over the current animal based eating style.

I encourage all to think about what is driving your actions.  Is it logic or emotions?  Do the reasons  for doubt have a personal agenda? Who benefits from inaction or from action?  What do you want to believe?  What does science say – real science?  Are you confused?  If so, doubt is clouding your thoughts about what is best.

Emotions and logic are needed.  Fortunately, we all can be emotionally and logically engaged in actions that help us move toward generating comprehensive benefits by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.  This also causes results which fill us with emotional pride because we are part of the solution, not part of the problem, and this also prevents regret.

I look forward to hearing about your successes from which we all benefit.

And one more thing…

If you are interested, below is Naomi Oreska’s TED Talk, Why we should trust scientists

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

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











More Undoing: A Beneficial Drug Policy

We are more alike than we are different.  Most of us agree, it would be good to restore order in conflicted areas, bankrupt criminals, and protect children.  Right now, evidence demonstrates that our current drug policy does the exact opposite.  It creates chaos, puts kids at risk, and makes criminals rich while it gives them power.

Just as Michael Lewis demonstrated in “The Undoing Project”, traditional ways that we thought were helping us make progress were actually ineffective.  In other words,  why gut instincts are often wrong.  Throughout the book, he explains how Kahneman and Tversky showed us how our mind plays tricks on us causing what they called mental illusions.  I explain more in this post: Mental Illusions Impact Our World.

The most recent mental illusion I learned about relates to our drug policy.  I have been taught that we must prohibit drugs and keep them away because if we take them, we become chemically addicted.  Evidence now demonstrates this is not the whole story and this incomplete belief has created a policy that is problematic.  Rather than our current policy of prohibition, a better drug policy could make it possible to benefit everyone and everything.  Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol and it helped establish the mafia, our current drug policy is doing more of the same – around the world.

In a powerful book, Chasing the Scream: The first and last days of the war on drugs, by Johann Hari, he provides a very persuasive explanation of current problems and what could be a better way.  He explains problems caused by our current “war on drugs” and how we can do more good with a better drug policy. He convinced me legalization is the right policy for many reasons. He also provides evidence that creating more good is more effective than working to eliminate bad.  He also demonstrates how our current policy not only maintains the status quo but actually creates conditions to make it worse while it empowers criminals.  The current policy accomplishes the opposite of paneugenesis. Rather than creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits, current efforts are creating interactions so everyone and everything loses.

In one example, he says drugs should be legalized because they are potentially dangerous.  At first I was confused, however he explains, the mafia does not card or check ID.  Drug dealers also do not check for or make sure what they are providing is pure.  In most cases, the drugs they sell are laced with fillers so they can sell more and these fillers are quite harmful.

Therefore, if drugs and regulations are in place, drugs will mostly be sold by regulated agencies and to people of age.  Also when they are sold, communities will collect tax revenue that can be earmarked to treat problems that may arise.

He explains how countries with other laws make it possible to for people to get drugs but also work to give them a better life through treatment and jobs.  In this way, those that do have a problem with drugs are not criminalized, victimized, and ostracized which makes it difficult to rebuild their life, they are helped.  He suggests drug users are not criminals, but broken people that need help.  If drug users are helped, then they can still work while making efforts to correct their problem.  This then eliminates their need commit a crime to get a fix.  Evidence from multiple countries demonstrates this works.  As they explain in Switzerland, this policy does not cost taxpayers, compared to using prohibition, it creates a positive return.

In a telling sentence, he explains, the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, but connection.  We must create good and meaningful or better experiences and doing so will eliminate or make unnecessary the bad.

In other words, this is another example of the green grass theory.  That is do all we can to grow more blades of grass to create a lush green lawn.  Doing this will direct our efforts towards our goal, a lush green lawn, and also make it difficult for weeds to grow. Working to grow blades of grass gives them a better chance to grow and makes it difficult for weeds to flourish.  In a similar way, creating a life with meaning, work and connections with people pushes out the need for drugs and as he shows with extensive real-life experiments around the world, it works.  When people have a reason to live, the drug habit fades away.

I previously posted about Johann Hari and his tremendous TED talk in: Purpose & Connection are Vital. Below is a short interview he had with Bill Maher I thought you might find interesting.

I encourage you to read this powerful book, it is very enlightening.  When you read it, please share your thoughts about the how you will work to generate comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.


Another huge problem resulting from the war on drugs was how it has been a way to incarcerate blacks and latino’s at higher rates.  Is it legalized slavery?  I am still learning more about this, however if you are interested, the Netflix documentary 13th explains this well (see trailer below).  Please share your thoughts.

Choose to Be Well’r,
Craig Becker


Quick, Healthy Awesome Snack/Lunch/Meal

I have had a busy week.  I wanted a quick healthy snack.  Luckily I always have healthy food available.  My solution:

Whole Grain Bread, Tomato, Avocado, Red Onion, Cucumber,  Pepper Sandwich. Just cut them up and put it on a sandwich, great meal.  I guess the BLT is the unhealthy alternative to this great sandwich!


Enjoy! When you try it, let me know what you think. Also share any alterations, let me know what you did! Make it a Great Week with Great Food!

Gladwell’s Fascinating Revisionist History Podcasts

I recently learned about and now have listened to a few of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcasts.  Malcolm Gladwelll is one of my favorite authors and I have learned so much from his books, David & Goliath, What the Dog Saw, Blink, Outliers, The Tipping Point, and many articles.


Like his great books, these podcasts help the listener take a second look at things that have happened.  The second look he takes provides a different, valuable and a more detailed perspective about the story.  Each have been very interesting and I encourage you to listen.  In future posts I will outline what they meant to me and how they have helped me and hopefully you better understand how we can take action to generate comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.


If interested, I highlighted some episodes I thought were interesting and I thought you would like.  In “The Satire Paradox” he looks at the effect of political comedians such as Colbert and Saturday Night Live. He  provides an interesting perspective on the impact of these shows. In “The Big Man Can’t Shoot” about Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Berry, he looks at what could have dramatically impacted Chamberlain’s career.
I also liked the informative perspective  he provides about what happened with desegregation after Brown vs. Topeka Kansas in Miss Buchanan’s Period Of Adjustment. If you are interested in higher education and how well it capitalizes talent in America, as he puts it, he has a 3 episode series – Carlos Doesn’t Remember, Food Fight, and My Little Hundred Million.  It provided food for thought.
Overall, these podcasts shed light on what we are doing and what we could  Practice Paneugenesis so we generate comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.  Next week I hope to post about how one of these stories may help explain how we can more often experience wellness, or progress.

 If you listen, please share what you got from them, I am interested in your thoughts.

Energy Summit Reveals Sustainability Contradiction

Last week, July 10-12, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the amazing Appalachian Energy Summit: Perspectives, Policy & Practice.  As with previous summits, we learned incredible information from Amory Lovins co-founder of Rocky Mountain Institute and David Orr, Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College on Sustainability and the Environment.

Beyond their great contributions, the summit had other powerful speakers.  The summit’s opening Keynote was by Gina McCarthy, former head of the EPA under President Obama and now at Harvard’s Kennedy School.  She provided common sense strategies and information about how to create a better world for all.  She also reminded us of the importance of using science because, “…it provides facts and discovers the truth, regardless of personal beliefs.”

Later Leith Sharp, Director of Executive Education for Sustainability at Harvard helped us understand the difference between reality and what we are told.  She demonstrated how the process is messy, takes many turns, squiggles she called it, and then in hindsight seems logical and straightforward.  This relates to Kahneman and Tversky’s classic work. They called hindsight a type of mental illusion because what was confusing in real-time, seems to appear logical and straightforward in hindsight. I also understood her to say that despite the confusing and sometimes overwhelming process, it was important to keep moving forward because setbacks are part of the process.

The last Keynote by Majora Carter was powerful.  She not only demonstrated how to create a sustainable environment, she explained how to turn a neighborhood, the South Bronx, into a place people want to live, work and  play.  For me, and I think for most, that is what sustainability should be about, creating a better world. It also needs to be a world that has the potential for an even brighter future, not just one that can exist. She explained how, with her team, they worked to create something of pride so community members want to contribute to making it even better.

It seems Marjora Carter is helping to create what we all should be contributing to creating in our shared community – the earth.  Much can be learned from her explanations in clips below about how she has led and continues to lead a team in the transformation of the South Bronx.

After her presentation and in our working groups, a contradiction seemed to emerge. During the conference, we break into working groups to develop action plans.  These working groups included Campus Based Energy Efficiency, Academic Integration, High Performance Campus Design, Transportation – Oriented Opportunities, Finance, Regulatory and Energy Generation, and Zero Waste/Waste Reduction.

The contradiction or what seemed inconsistent was the discussion about sustainability and how sustainability has been defined.  Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from the UN Bruntland’s Commission report, “Our Common Future”, that suggested “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The contradiction was that we were not working to just meet needs but in how to make things better.  Better is needed, not just maintenance of the status quo.

The riskiest  thing we can do is maintain the status quo. – Bob Iger

We must create better because according to science, we have passed several tipping points related to climate change.  According to Will Steffan, as published in Science February 3, 2015, we have passed these tipping points:

  1. More than 350PPM CO2 so we will likely breach a 2°C rise
  2. Biodiversity should be at 90% preindustrial levels but instead is at 84%
  3. Deforestation should be at 75% of original forests but is now at 62%
  4. Overuse of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides should be at 25% of current use.

To me this means we must restore, not just sustain to have a better life and the potential for a better future.  Ironically, despite being about creating a future that would enable future generations to survive, The Brundtland Commission officially dissolved in December 1987 after releasing “Our Common Future”, a document which coined, and defined the meaning of the term “Sustainable Development”

Evidence indicates sustainability is not enough, we must seek to create not just less bad ways, but better ways.  With this view our efforts should be to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

Please share how you are helping everyone and everything benefit!

Choose to Be Well’r,
Craig Becker









An Inconvenient Truth Sequel


Some considered his first movie, An Inconvenient Truth, controversial, however it seemed to have moved the environmental movement forward.  Something I believe important and vital.  This week, as I attend the UNC Energy Summit at Appalachian State University, nothing seems more important.  I look forward to the release of the “an inconvenient sequel: Truth to Power“.

Initial release for this movie is Friday, July 28th and nationwide release is August 4th.  I encourage all to see this movie. We ALL are dependent on an environment that nurtures, supports and enables us to have a good life.  We all must work to make it so by generating not just sustainable solutions but improvement solutions.  We need to restore what we have done by generating comprehensive improvements from pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic, interactions so everyone and everyTHING benefits.  Everything thing because we are all connected.

Focusing on creating more good is necessary because time and again we learn that creating more good is more effective than working to lessen bad. Precautionary theory or harm mitigation may lesson a current problem, however to have a better tomorrow we must redesign reality for that Idealized Outcome.

Research also has now documented that not only is this possible, but that doing so is more fruitful economically.  See postsGreat Read: Climate of Hope by Bloomberg & PopeMichael Bloomberg’s Selfish, Selfless, Synergistic ActionsUpdated: Hope for a Way forward so Everyone & Everything Benefits – John Oliver Agrees, and others posted.

Not only is the environmental appropriate choice the most important choice, it is the best choice.  I look forward to learning more about the upcoming movie.

Share your thoughts after you see it…Thank you.

Choose to Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

NWC 2017: Great Conference, Great Experience!

As always, I had a great time and learned a lot at the 2017 National Wellness Conference.  It was in St. Paul Minnesota at the River Center.  It is a good conference, different than when it was in Stevens Point Wisconsin, but still amazing.  Amazing because of the people.

This year we saw great presentations and I met amazing people.   Sunny Grosso of Delivering Happiness opened the conference powerfully with her keynote, “Cultures that Flourish: Applying the Science of Happiness and Human Sense”.  In her presentation she  confirmed the benefits of doing more good.  Paul Scalia, of International Well Building Institute, provided a keynote that outlined the value of creating built spaces to enhance our well-being.

Both demonstrated the benefits these efforts have on personal, economic and planetary well-being.  Beyond the presentations and catching up with friends and colleagues, I especially had great interactions with the international group. The international group has become great because of the amazing work Bob Boyd and Thomas Cuddihy do to bring these people together.  Their efforts have enabled all who attend the conference an opportunity to learn about wellness efforts in the Phillipines, France, India, Israel, England, and many more places and provides people from these countries opportunities to learn from us.

It is exciting for me to learn about wellness around the world and to talk with them about how we can all move forward together so everyone and everything benefits.  I look forward to learning more from them and possibly doing some work together.  With technology, we are all staying in touch through a WhatsApp group.

I did a presentationA Wellness Cultivating Culture Does More than Reduce Risk, which seemed to be a summary of my career and ends by using the Paneugenesis Process as a method to create a culture that creates more good, not just less bad. (it is linked)  Some of this work and the model will be shared in an upcoming issue in The Art of Health Promotion section focused on “New Measures for New Directions” of the Sept/October issue in American Journal of Health Promotion.   I will post about it when it is released and will also provide a video.

Lets all learn from each other as we do at the National Wellness Conference.  Share your efforts about how you are generating comprehensive benefits by creating selfish, selfless, synergistic, pervasive, reciprocal, interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

Choose to Be Well’r,
Craig Becker
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