Naysayers and Intellectual Laziness (Feat. Neil deGrasse Tyson)

I was taking one of those online Masterclasses with (renowned astrophysicist) Neil deGrasse Tyson the other day, when he hit me with one of the most though-provoking quotes I’ve heard in a while:

“So imagine someone comes up to you with some crystals, and they tell you that there’s sort of a crystal energy embedded within them, and if you rub them together, this energy field will release, and it will enter your body and cure you of your ailments. All right, I have several things to say about that. One, it is equally as intellectually lazy for you to say, great, give them to me, how much, here’s my money, I’ll use them tonight, as it is to say, this can’t possibly be true, get out of here, you’re a charlatan. Both of those are equally intellectually lazy.

Neil deGrasse Tyson


If I were to attempt to paraphrase:

It is equally as intellectually lazy to outright reject something as untrue – without investigating it – as it is to blindly accept it as gospel.

Now I think most of us – those of us who consider ourselves to be even somewhat critical thinkers – tend to not make the latter mistake. (At least, for the most part.)

Most of the people I know, at least, tend to be pretty skeptical, critical thinkers. We don’t just blindly accept things to be true without evidence. Which is great.

But it’s easy to fall into the other extreme of “intellectual laziness,” under the guise of intelligent skepticism.

That is to say, someone might come up to us – perhaps not with crystals, but with some promising idea – and say “hey, I’ve tried this out, and it works really well.”

And the knee-jerk response might be “no, that can’t possibly be true – after all: I’m an intelligent skeptic.”

The question Neil and I would pose in that situation is – are you being an intelligent skeptic? Or are you being intellectually lazy?

I’ve fallen prey to this many times. I dismiss new ideas that sound like they won’t work:

“You journal nonsense stream of consciousness for four pages every day? Ridiculous, that can’t possibly help you.”

“You trick yourself into feeling like you already have achieved something you want, and you say it helps you get it? Nonsense. Go buy some crystals.”

But you know what, before I outright dismiss something as categorically untrue, I’ve started forcing myself to immediately ask “well….have i TRIED it?”

Have I at least looked into it at all?

Or am I just saving face, protecting my identity as an “intelligent skeptic,” by dismissing it outright?

Because according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, that’s just as intellectually lazy.

So if you find yourself dismissing something outright, without even looking into it at all – or best yet, testing it out on yourself, to SHOW that it either works or doesn’t – give pause for a moment.

And if you have something that works, and any naysayers respond with “B.S. – that can’t possibly work” (without having researched it, or tested it…) just remember:

Rejecting a new and promising idea as categorically untrue – without so much as looking into it – is equally as intellectually lazy as blindly accepting it on faith.

Biohacking – What Is It Really?

The unlimited power of biohacking!!! Credit: Shutterstock.

“Biohacking” – that’s a term that’s thrown around a lot these days.

If you’re like many people, it brings to mind images of science labs, cryotherapy, Dave Asprey, DNA, and superhuman mutants.

Some people spew vague health advice as “biohacks” (“eat your veggies” “get more sleep!”) – does that really count as a “biohack” ? While others – looking at you, David! – are making a lot of money off of certain tactics (like an extra special type coffee with butter in it?) that may not necessarily have much evidence to support them.

(I’m also confident that there are some people out there – solely trying to make money – selling “biohacks” in the form of pills, homeopathic medicine, or other voodoo magic tricks that literally do nothing.)

VOX defines biohacking as “an extremely broad and amorphous term that can cover a huge range of activities, from performing science experiments on yeast or other organisms to tracking your own sleep and diet to changing your own biology by pumping a younger person’s blood into your veins.”

With such a vague term, and money involved, there’s bound to be some controversy and polarized internet articles on the topic.

What really is it? What counts?

I humbly offer my perspective.

I think “Healthline” gets it reasonably close: “Biohacking can be described as citizen or do-it-yourself biology. For many “biohackers,” this consists of making small, incremental diet or lifestyle changes to make small improvements in your health and well-being.”

(Though I would hasten to add, the the “small” changes can lead to improvements that might not always be so “small.”)

A “hack” – as the term is used commonly, today, – is simply a way to do something more efficiently or more effectively.

And Biohacking, as I see it, refers to the process of improving physical health, aesthetics, or performance, particularly efficiently or effectively, through the use of self-experimentation.

It’s a broad definition.

To put it even more simply:

If you’re experimenting on yourself to try to improve, you’re biohacking.

That can be as simple as changing the tiniest variable. If you’re going to bed one hour earlier, and seeing what happens, you’re biohacking. If you’re adding in a vegetable smoothie every day, and seeing what happens, you’re biohacking.

(Of course, you have to actually track what the changes are, and maintain consistency in your experiment. A halfhearted, vague attempt to “eat more veggies” that you forget about in a few days doesn’t really count as an experiment.)

However, if you add the habit of ‘going outside for 5 minutes every morning for two weeks,’ and you actually track something – even your “tracking” is just a quick journal about your mood for that day – you’re biohacking.

The cool thing is, is once you start, things can get pretty exciting, pretty quick.

Once you start viewing your body as something that can be improved and optimized through your habits, and you start running little experiments, you start to realize how much power over yourself you actually have.

And sometimes, you discover ways to drop significant amounts of weight quickly, lower your cholesterol, or live longer, through very cool (and often unorthodox) methods.

(This tends to be where the traditional image of ‘biohacking’ comes in – with the “unorthodox” methods.)

So my suggestion to you is simple: try experimenting on yourself.

(No, no, I don’t mean just jumping right in and injecting crazy substances into your body. I mean changing ANY variable – no matter how small – in a way that you suspect might be good for you. And watching what happens, with an open mind.)

Because you know what? You may just surprise yourself and discover a highly efficient or effective way to improve your health, looks, or athletic performance.

And if you do, please share it with the world. So hats off to fellow biohackers who are genuinely trying to improve themselves through self-experimentation. And honestly, hats off to Dave Asprey and the like, who are seeking to become better, live longer, and be healthier, through some open-minded experiments and an optimistic attitude.

(And if some individuals are making money off of untested “biohacks” or spouting ideas that simply don’t work, we should be critical of the specific techniques in question – but not give up on Biohacking as a whole.)

Because you can improve yourself.

You can start now, today.

It helps to have a little optimism, and an open mind, and patience. But through a little self experimentation, you may just surprise yourself with the amount of power you have over your own body.

And ultimately, you may be able to upgrade your life, just by starting with some small self-experiments.

Sometimes, Something Just Clicks.

That rare moment when something you’re trying to achieve suddenly works – really well.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on

My name is Dolan Ingraham.

I’m a self-optimization and improvement addict who has:

  • Taught myself from scratch how to profitably invest (earning an annualized return of 24%), and released a course on the subject
  • Learned how to travel the country, staying in amazing hotels, on a shoestring budget
  • Figured out how to enjoyably lose 10 pounds of fat in 30 days

From $70 round-trip flights to cities I’ve always wanted to visit (staying in beautiful hotels that I paid ~$100 total for), to aggressive yet calculated stock investments, to adventures in fasting and green tea, I’m constantly learning, experimenting, and self optimizing to have the best life possible – and I may just be able to help you make your life a little more adventurous too.

The thing is, recently I’ve been struggling with weight loss. Fat loss, to be more precise.

While working a hotel job that involved a lot of unhealthy free food and night shifts, I put on more weight than I’ve ever had in my life.

A little background – I’d recently learned how to put on muscle mass (something I thought would be impossible). I had always had this dream of being able to actually gain visible muscle, which I was NEVER able to do. No matter how much I went to the gym (4 times a week, religiously), I couldn’t change how my body looked. Long story short – maybe I’ll tell you more another time – I finally cracked the code and was able to put on some quality muscle mass with a totally different approach. It involved eating a lot.

BUT THEN along came this job.

This stressful, night-shift, fast-paced, food-abundant, nutritionally-questionable, hospitality job.

And without realizing it, slowly, over time, I put on more weight than I ever have in my life.

I went from being decently proud of my physical health, and the muscles I had finally gained to looking at the mirror at a rounded face and belly. What. The. Fuck.

When I actually stepped on a scale (at my brother’s urging), the number shook me a little more than I’d like to admit.

My cholesterol was too high. Total cholesterol was at 223. My doctor made a point of talking to me about it.

Eventually, I realized….I wanted to lose weight. (And not the muscle mass that I had worked for – I wanted to lose fat.)

So I started researching it, and doing everything I could to lose weight.

I tried everything. (Ok not EVERYTHING. But a lot. I really experimented with everything I could. And I went pretty hard.)

CrossFit, Paleo, Slow-Carb, Counting Calories, Counting Macros, the “Fast-Metabolism Diet,” even a bit of the Weight Watchers point system.

Here’s the thing: I understand that weight loss is supposed to be a simple formula, (Calories In) minus (Calories Out). (I also understand that some people think that’s bogus, and that you should just focus on eating certain types of foods rather than count calories.)

Here’s the thing: othing worked.

(I should clarify – that’s not totally fair – there were some benefits to various approaches.)


Occasionally a pound or two would come off from various tactics, after a ton of effort. But it would tend to come back.

I had a basic problem – the fewer calories I ate, the worse I felt.

Even cutting my calories a little bit felt awful.

But over the past month or so, I’ve been able to lose 10 pounds in the time-span of about 30 days and actually FEEL GOOD. Really good. (And since losing that first ten pounds and hitting my goal, I’ve actually lost a little more weight…) My total cholesterol has also dropped to 153. My doctor was blown away – she had never seen anything like it.

So since a lot of people seem to be going through similar problems, I thought I’d start here. Maybe, if you have any extra fat you want to lose, I can help you.

Only, this is my first blog post ever, and I’m getting tired of writing, and you’re probably getting tired of reading.

So, perhaps in a future post?