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042 – Evolution & Epigenetics with Perry Marshall

 

DAN:

Hello, and welcome to The Low Carb Leader podcast. I am your host, Dan Perryman, and you have joined me for Episode 42. We have a very cool interview today with Perry Marshall. He is going to be talking about evolution and epigenetics. The interview was over an hour long, so I broke it into two parts because it seems that listeners prefer the 30-minute format. So the second part will be coming out in the next week or two. I find the interview very fascinating, the choices we make today, how they are impacting not only us, not only the next generation, but the generation after that. So the choices are affecting two generations. Perry brings a very unique approach to it and has a best-selling book, which goes into great detail about this subject.

 

So before we get into the interview I just want to mention that I have an Ab Challenge coming up starting May 15th. We already have a couple hundred participants in it. So this should be fun. We’ll just do a 14-day Ab Challenge, and hopefully it will get us ready for the summer. So I’m looking forward to beginning that. I’ve recently made a few changes to the website, hopefully making it more user-friendly. So check out my website at @thelowcarbleader.com. I also have a Facebook page with now over 50,000 followers. And you can find that at The Low Carb Leader. I am also on Instagram under @thelowcarbleader and on Twitter @Daniellperryman. So come check out my website. Check out the social media sites. And if you have any feedback, please send it to me at dan@thelowcarbleader.com. Also I just published my second success story, and it was with Dan Quibell who lost a ton of weight by eating bacon. And so he created The Bacon Experiment. So check that out. That’s Episode 41. So I’ll continue to do success stories and hot topics along with the interviews. So all right, now on to part one of Evolution and Epigenetics. I hope you enjoy.

 

Today’s guest is an author, speaker, engineer and world-renowned business consultant. With a decade of research he brings a fresh perspective to the 150-year-old evolution debate. He harnesses a communication engineer’s outsider’s perspective to reveal a century of unrecognized research and discoveries. He was raised in a Christian home being the son of a pastor. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Then he founded a marketing consulting company and published his first book, Industrial Ethernet: A Pocket Guide. Now a decade later he is the author of numerous books, including 80/20 Sales and Marketing, Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising, several others, and most recently, Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design. So welcome to the show, Perry Marshall.

 

PERRY:

Well thank you, Dan, and I’m delighted to be here. I’m honored to be on your show, and you have a pretty colorful background yourself, so I think we’re going to have a really interesting time talking about – some people think it’s scary. Some people think it’s controversial. Some people think there is nothing to discuss. But there is definitely some stuff to discuss about evolution. So thank you.

 

DAN:

Yeah, and we will talk about evolution and how it affects nutrition and genetics. This is going to be a very interesting podcast. But first, before we start talking about that, take us through your background. And I’m very curious how you became interested in evolution.

 

Perry’s Background

 

PERRY:

Well, so I started out in acoustical engineering with an electrical engineering degree, and got laid off, went into sales. That was very difficult. But I eventually kind of figured it out. I discovered the world of direct marketing, which is kind of like the engineering department of marketing, if you will. Very numbers-driven. And so with the internet coming on at the same time it was a very, very exciting time to be alive, and got to be part of the development of a lot of things that are now normal and universal in online marketing. And so marketing was this big, giant engineering problem. Well, so what does this have to do with evolution? Well, a couple of things. The first thing was that in the world of online advertising everything you do is very evolutionary, and it’s very Darwinian. I have been involved in thousands and thousands of fight to the death kind of competitions, and like real livelihoods and real fortunes really hang in the balance. And then I didn’t really see this – it’s much clearer from hindsight, but I didn’t realize at the time when I became interested in evolution that it was actually going to directly speak to – like there was going to be a two-way conversation between my business and engineering experience and this whole evolution question. At the time it just seemed like sort of this philosophical science kind of thing.

 

But what happened was my younger brother, he had a theology degree. He was teaching English in China. He was doing missionary work on the side. And in four years he went from card-carrying conservative Christian guy to almost atheist. We were having lots of discussions about this for a long time, and it just kind of kept escalating. And one time I was visiting him in China, and we were riding in the back of this bus, and we’re talking about like conversation number 356 about discarding all of his beliefs. And I said look, I said the hand at the end of your arm, this is a magnificent piece of engineering, Bryan, but you don’t think this is like an accumulation of random accidents, do you? And he’s like hold on, buddy. Hold on a second. And he pushes back with this whole standard Darwinian explanation. And I knew that I didn’t really know the answer to this question. I had intuitions. I had an engineering background, which assured me that the human body seemed awfully designed to me, but I also knew that maybe those biologists know something we don’t know.

 

Well, what I really discovered was I think the biggest untold story in the history of science, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. I think what we talk about in the next 20 or 30 minutes, I think you’ll see that that really is true. And I started to see that there was an entire, huge body of work that was completely overlooked in the whole creation evolution debates, and I found this stuff to be extremely useful in engineering, in marketing, in business, in business strategy, that I could literally go to the natural world, and I could steal strategies and bring them into the business world. And I had been doing that in seminars, conferences, books, consulting clients. And all of this speaks to how the universe is put together. So to me it’s all interconnected.

 

DAN:

That’s a cool story. When you were in engineering you dealt with – especially in electrical – you dealt with a lot of very small, the micro world in electrical engineering. Did that trigger a lot of thoughts in you?

 

The Influential Work of Barbara McClintock

 

PERRY:

It did. So here’s an analogy that I give people. I imagine back in the day you probably used DOS before Windows. You get that little screen, and it’s black, and you’re typing things like DIR and delete files, and you know, I want you to imagine that DOS evolved into the current version of Windows, but nobody from Microsoft ever had to touch it. Would you be impressed with Bill Gates if he had done that? So this is how you should think about evolution. Now this is also one of the reasons why a lot of people are skeptical about evolution. They’re like well, the world doesn’t work that way. DOS doesn’t evolve into Windows all by itself, and if it did it sure wouldn’t happen by accident. And like I don’t – I just don’t believe all these evolution stories. I just see a bunch of science stringing together fossils and making up a story that’s not necessarily true. I don’t really buy into this.

 

And for probably the first couple years that I was investigating this, this was kind of the impression that I had. I did not find the explanations that I was getting from the biologists to have a lot of substance, but I kept looking because I kept seeing like the anecdotal evidence that people would give, there was a lot to it. And I was like there is something missing. There’s something missing. What is it? And finally I found it. It took about probably two years into my investigation. I discovered the work of Barbara McClintock. Now let me tell you her story because this kind of puts a whole different spin on this engineering question. So Barbara McClintock was a geneticist. She worked from probably the 1920s until the ‘80s. She was doing all these experiments with corn plants, and she kind of – she thought differently than most biologists. She was more like a hacker, and she said, hey, I’m going to hit this plant with some radiation. I’m going to damage its DNA, and I’m going to see if I can get it to do something. And the plant did something totally unexpected. She threw it a curveball, and threw a curveball right back at her. And what it did when she damaged a section of DNA, the plant went and it got another section of DNA, repaired the other DNA. It patched it up, and it went on and it repaired itself and became able to reproduce again, and it went ahead and reproduced. And the child was significantly different from the parent in some important ways. And Barbara figured out what had actually happened. And what had actually happened was almost like if you ripped a page out of a novel and a very skilled writer went and borrowed sentences and paragraphs from other parts of the novel and constructed the missing page adequately so that you couldn’t tell what had been torn out. That’s what this plant did.

 

DAN:

Yeah, that’s fascinating. So Barbara was a geneticist who came up with this. What year was that?

PERRY:

This was in the 1940s. And she presented this to a symposium at Cold Spring Harbor, and half the room was mad at her and the other half just kind of laughed. And they were like, doesn’t she know that plants don’t build genes; genes build plants? Like she has this backwards. I don’t know where she got this idea, but it’s wrong. They just ignored her. And they would not accept what she was saying. And in fact she just kind of went underground with this. She kept researching for 20, 30 more years, and she eventually won the Nobel Prize in 1983 because what she had discovered was something called transposition, which is that cells can cut, splice, rearrange their DNA, and there are segments of DNA that are designed to move around. They migrate from one place to another to change the expression of genes, and thus this gives plants and animals the ability to adapt to their environments. And what she discovered is that the ability to do this exists in most cells. And so the plant was literally reengineering itself, which means plants do something that DOS doesn’t do, Windows doesn’t do, Mac doesn’t do, apps don’t do, which is self-adapt to completely unpredictable situations in real time.

 

And as an engineer I was going oh my word. First of all, why didn’t anybody ever tell me about this? Like I can’t believe that this just got overlooked and is just like a little footnote somewhere. And secondly, this actually explains what’s going on with evolution, like any conversation about evolution ought to start with Barbara McClintock. But it doesn’t. And so what I came to understand was that the creationists are saying evolution is a hoax; I don’t believe it. And they’re kind of like I was as an engineer. They’re going well, the world doesn’t work that way. I don’t believe that. The Darwinists, on the other hand, they’re acknowledging evolution, but the traditional ones, the ones, the version you hear about, read about in the press, it doesn’t explain what’s really going on because it’s not random. It’s not accidental. It’s not just happenstance or chance. It’s engineered by the organism itself. This is a huge deal. So it has huge implications for health, nutrition, fighting disease, antibiotics, exercise. All of these kinds of things change when you change your view of evolution.

 

DAN:

A question. Your dad was a pastor. What did he think about your journey into this bill of research?

 

PERRY:

Well, my dad died when I was 17, and so he’s been gone a very long time, but I have lots of friends, and some of them are very conservative. I’ve gotten a lot of raised eyebrows from this. I had a homeschool group. There was a woman who she knew me and she ran this homeschool group, and she thought you know this would be a great thing for the kids to learn, explore, discuss, debate. And so she organized this meeting for Perry to come explain his whole evolution stuff to this group. And the day before she starts getting all these phone calls and emails like what in the world is this guy going to teach our kids? And so she kind of calmed them down, and people showed up, and I know that a lot of people that came they had their defenses up. They’re like what is this guy going to do? Well, I began describing this, and I go through my whole presentation. It took about two hours. And when we were done about half the people that came sat there for another two hours. They sat in a circle, and they just pummeled me with questions. And it wasn’t hostile at all. It was total fascination. It was like oh my word, how come nobody ever told me this? In other words, how come nobody ever told me how self-adaptive and how self-aware and how incredibly engineered these living things are?

 

Back to our Windows analogy. Like if DOS actually grew a web browser and grew a Windows desktop and grew Microsoft Office and grew antivirus software all by itself with no engineers showing up to do it, oh my goodness, like what kind of program is this? And see, that’s what we’re dealing with with life. You scratch yourself, your skin heals. Most of the time you don’t even see the scratch a month later. It’s that good. And evolution is kind of like that. It is the organism adapting to its environment in real time, passing the changes to its offspring. It’s amazing. We don’t know how to make stuff that does this, and a lot of people just take it for granted either that it’s true or that it’s a hoax. And in fact it’s not a hoax; it is true, but you can’t take it for granted. You have to understand what’s going on here. So I’m on this quest like let’s actually try to understand what’s going on.

 

DAN:

So is that the beginning of the study of epigenetics because it seems that what I know about epigenetics is your body can, depending on what input you give it, it will trigger different responses. Is that in line with what you’re saying?

 

What is Epigenetics?

 

PERRY:

Yes, it is. In my book, Evolution 2.0, I use an analogy of a Swiss Army knife, and I say the Swiss Army knife has five blades, and one of the blades is transposition with Barbara McClintock, and another one is epigenetics. So let me explain epigenetics a little bit. Epigenetics is like the graying out – it’s like graying out software menus or commenting out code in software where, you know what, we don’t want to use this section right now, so we’re just going to switch it off. Like when the mother’s body is producing an embryo, as the baby develops, epigenetics takes the same genetic code, and it grays it out 200 different ways to make 200 different kinds of tissue. So all right, take this code. Lay this template over it and make bone. Lay this other template over it and make skin. Lay this other template over it and make hair. Well those templates are elastic. Those templates are dynamic. They’re not hard and fixed. And so the organism will actually switch things on and off.

 

So for example, I’ll give you two examples of this. One, well they’re both really interesting. So one is the Dutch famine in the 1940s. Children born in the – that were conceived during the Dutch famine had fundamentally different metabolism than children that were conceived during regular, plentiful times of food. And what had happened was the epigenetic systems of their parents said we’re in a low-calorie hostile environment. So we need to reprogram these children’s genes to consume less food. Audrey Hepburn was one of these children, actually, and she had metabolism problems her whole life because her body was programmed for a low-calorie environment and she wasn’t living in one. Now here is another example of this. And this is fascinating. I have a friend named John Torday. He is a researcher at UCLA, and he researches the effects of secondhand smoke on children. And we were at a coffee shop in Redondo Beach a few months ago, and John says to me, Perry, you’ll never guess out of 300 documented side effects of smoke, you’ll never guess what the number one effect is, and I goo what is it? He says it’s epigenetic changes passed to the daughter and onto the granddaughter of a smoking grandmother. I’m like, explain that. He says okay, he says a woman smokes. Her body doesn’t like the smoke. It has to do all these chemical changes in order to try to resist the toxins. Her body adapts, and it passes those adaptations into her own epigenetic system, and those epigenetic changes get passed on to her children. And those changes further get passed on to her grandchildren. And he said the number one most severe effect of smoking in a family is epigenetics. It makes it all the way from grandmother to granddaughter, two generations, because now the granddaughter, even if she doesn’t smoke, even if she lives in a different state, even if whatever, her body has been programmed to deal with toxins, and that has unhealthy side effects on her own health. And that’s epigenetic. And in an evolutionary sense it is real time appropriate adaptation to the environment directly passed to children and grandchildren because living things are literally that adaptive. And that’s epigenetics.

 

DAN:

That’s amazing that what we do right now affects two generations.

 

PERRY:

Yes, it does. And it totally changes. Like from a philosophical point of view it totally pulls the rug out from under this idea that evolution is random or accidental. In fact, 200 years ago a French guy named Jean-Baptiste Lamarck said that learned traits get passed to offspring. Darwin embraced that. That’s in his book, Origin of Species. He embraces that belief. Well, in the 1930s and the ‘40s they made massive revisions to Darwinian evolution, and they threw that idea out. And they insisted that Lamarck was a nutcase. And they trashed his reputation. They said oh, that’s ridiculous. Now we’re so smart. We know that this actually just happens randomly and accidentally. There is no way for that information to get into your genes. How would it anyway? I mean who could imagine? It was called the Weismann barrier. It was this idea that information only flows one way. It does – like it goes from the genes to the body. It doesn’t go from the body back to the genes. Well, turns out Lamarck was right all along. Information flows both ways. Genes build bodies. Bodies modify genes. It’s a very complex interactive system. It constantly self-adjusts to whatever is going on around it. And so this means that not only do we affect things two generations from now, but it also says by changing our environment, by changing our thoughts, by changing our habits, by changing our activities, we can immediately affect our bodies and generations that are coming after us in real time. So it’s very empowering, but it puts a lot of responsibility on us, too.

 

DAN:

I was just going to say, you know when you’re getting ready to eat that Big Mac, two examples. The cold showers trigger the brown fat, which creates more energy, and then I have an infrared sauna, and I know going in that there are heat cells in your body that are only triggered when it’s a higher temperature. So just those two things right there are kind of simple ways of showing how quickly your body starts adapting to stimulus.

 

PERRY:

Well yes, and so like for example in Hawaii there are 10,000 species of insects, and 9700 of them are unique to Hawaii. Okay, well it’s not because God made 9700 unique kinds of insects and put them in Hawaii. It’s because think of how many generations of insects there are even in one year. A lot of bugs might only live a few weeks. But just think, whether it’s on the cool side of the mountain or the hot side of the mountain, the high-altitude, it’s low altitude, it’s in the wet part, it’s in the dry part. Wherever it is their bodies are constantly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, gathering information from their environment, adjusting to the environment and passing the changes to their offspring. This is proactive. This is not passive. This is an engineered response. It’s not accidental. And so this is why we have 9700 unique species of bugs in Hawaii. It’s amazing. It’s just mind-blowing.

 

DAN:

Perry, this is a show about low-carb and nutrition, and as you’re telling this story and the listeners are starting to think through, wow, there’s a lot more to eating healthy and exercising than just making me feel better today. So talk a little bit about why being healthy today – and then you’ve already talked about it will affect different generations – but eating healthy and eating organic and watching and exercising, that does a lot more than make you look better.

 

Every Choice we Make has Exponential Effects

 

PERRY:

Well, yeah, it does. See, I believe that everything in the world really is exponential. So let me give you an example of that. I wrote a book called 80/20 Sales and Marketing, and the 80/20 rule says that 20% of the people have 80% of the wealth. 80% of the people have 20% of the wealth. Well, it’s not just wealth. It’s domain names. It’s women’s shoes. It’s watches. It’s apartment complexes. It’s frequent flyer miles. Like everything is 80/20. Everything is multiplied through feedback loops. And so everything is butterfly effect. Butterfly effect is the theory that they proved about 50 years ago that if they took a weather prediction and they changed like one tiny, tiny little assumption that six months later a flap of a butterfly’s wings could turn into a hurricane. So everything is like that. And so people think that if I make 1 mm of decision or 1 mm of difference in my life I’m going to get 1 mm of difference or output, and that is not true. You put one unit in, you get 10 units out. I don’t think people just realize you earn compound interest on everything, and not only that; your children do, and your grandchildren do.

 

And so we all know this experientially from just education and learning and all this kind of stuff, but when you stop and consider oh yeah, well, not only is knowledge and culture passed directly to children, but also even our eating habits are. Even our exercise are. If we’re biking or hiking or running or whatever, that we are automatically making our children more geared to be doing these kind of activities. It really makes you think like twice or three times about how you eat, what you do, what you don’t do, whether you get out of bed at 6:00 in the morning when it’s 10° below zero or not to go do your disciplines. It’s huge. Everything is exponential.

 

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