Introductory music/ voiceover
What is really at the core of science?
What is it’s purpose?
How can it be applied and how does it apply to you?
Hello, and welcome to the first episode of the Values of Science podcast. Today we will be answering those questions by analyzing the value of self-awareness.
The ultimate pursuit or goal of science is knowledge. No matter what the drive behind the science is, its purpose is always to lead to greater understanding. Ultimately, at the core of science, research can be directed into two places, self-awareness, or awareness of the world around us. However, if we are not able to understand ourselves, how can we be able to understand what is outside of us? Furthermore, the more we understand about ourselves, the more we question the world around us.
Self-awareness does not always lead to the same conclusions and the goal behind the drive to become more self-aware is not always the same. Today, we will be examining two scientific inquiries into how the human brain responds to complex and stressful situations. Both studies are examining how the brain works, but the motivations behind their research are completely different.
The first study is “Running is Always Blind” by Sam Schramski. This is an online article, that uses the runner Scott Jurek and numerous biomechanical and neuromechanical studies done on running to explain how in order to accomplish great feats like Scott Jurek’s trail running, one must succumb to the functions of the brain and take the will and effort out of it. In the introduction to the article, Jurek complexly explains his ability to maintain his balance while trail running, saying, “Well you just do it”. This quote is quite ironic but also serves to paint a very accurate picture of how Jurek doesn’t really think when he runs, he just allows his body to take over. Later on in the article Schramski smartly observes the same thing, but explains it in a more scientific way, stating, “His agility relies on cognition that occurs at a high level in his brain, but never breaks into conscious awareness.” While the wording of Jurek and Schramski’s descriptions are quite different, both serve to explain how the human brain is capable of much, but in the instance of running, one must not get in its way by attempting to focus too much on the task. Scott Jurek knows this because of lots of training and also because he was a health practitioner before he became a full-time runner. This self-awareness that he has developed allows him to let his body take over and do the work for him on a sub-conscious level, accomplishing great feats, such as running “the entire length of the Appalachian Trail—2,189 miles in 46 days, the equivalent of nearly two marathons every day, over rocky terrain, up and down thousands of feet in elevation”.
This great feat is just a small example of the possiblilties that being self aware can unlick for you.
The second text is a segment of The History Channel’s documentary “”The Brain: Mystery Explained”, where scientists study BUD/S, the United States Navy’s training program for its SEALs, and how recruits respond to fear and physical stress. The training of these Navy SEAL candidates is designed to do the opposite of what Scott Jurek does. These men are attempting to circumvent the functions of their brain and make their brain do what they want. The SEAL recruits are seeking to control the brain, while Scott Jurek is letting his brain control him. The two main examples of training the video uses are battle quick battle simulations where the trainees are initially blinded and intense underwater tests where trainees must deal with physical assaults and messed up equipment. Throughout the video, it alternates between clips of examples of the training, interviews of Navy SEALs, Navy SEAL candidates, or scientist, and a visual diagram of the brain with a voiceover of the narrator explain the science of the brain.
The interviews serve to give the video credibility and give the knowledge of the experts of the subject. These people are high ranking officers, senior enlisted, and top scientists who clearly know what they are talking about. The images of the brain and the explanations of the narrator serve to explain the complex functions and systems that the rest of the video is describing in order to relate to viewers who don’t have a scientific background. The sections of training are the practical applications of the science and put into action the principles that are discussed. Theses scenes paired with music and voice-over of the narrator is what really demonstrates to the viewer how the SEAL candidates use willpower and training to overcome the functions of their brains to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. Ultimately, the video shows how that when someone is put through these very strenuous tests, they are forced to better understand themselves and become more self-aware. And, using this self awareness, they are able to control their brain and body in a higher state of funcitioning.
So, when examinend, these two texts are completely contradictory in their uses of self-awareness. Furthermore, one analyzes a man bounding through the forest, while the other explores soldiers preparing for battle. However, the differences in these studies highlight the aspect of science that brings them together. Knowledge is the ultimate pursuit of science, but knowledge without direction is useless. It is like a lock without a key or macaroni without cheese. Knowledge needs purpose to mean something and the value of self-awareness puts this on full display. Being self-aware is no more of an accomplishment than having the perfect work out plan. It is what you do with the knowledge or the plan and the work you put in that really matters. In the case of Scott Jurek, he knows that in order to succeed he must take a backseat to his subconscious and act without thinking. He uses the knowledge of the sublime connection between his brain and his body in order to break trail running records. On the other hand, Navy SEALs know that they don’t have time for fear in the heat of battle or while operating under water and need to make split second decisions in stressful situations. They know they must train themselves to ignore the initial signals of their amygdala and force their frontal cortex to act faster.
Now, you’ve been listening to me rattle off facts about science and the brain, but how does this affect you. You may not ever want to run the Appalachian trial or become a soldier, so how can you apply this to your life you ask? It is simple. You need to understand what your goals are. Understanding your goals will not only help you to better use the knowledge you possess, but it will also help you figure out what new knowledge is most important for you to pursue.
Thank you for tuning in and I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and that you will take what you learned and apply it to your own daily lives. Please join us next week for an in depth analysis of a new value of science.
The Brain. Dir. Richard Vagg. History Channel, 2009. YouTube. Brittany Thompson, 12 Apr. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Schramski, Sam. “Running Is Always Blind – Issue 38: Noise – Nautilus.” Nautilus. NautilusThink, 07 July 2016. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.