Monday, November 29, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author K. D. Koratsky

When you have an idea, it's important to never let anything stop you from pursuing it. Ask author K. D. Koratsky. He has been able to take a seed that was planted in him at the age of eleven and almost two decades later transform it into the book LIVING WITH EVOLUTION OR DYING WITHOUT IT. A native of Redwood City, CA, he talks with Conversations' own Cyrus Webb about the events that shaped his youth, why the word evolution can spark raging debates, and what he hopes readers of his book take away from it.

LIVING WITH EVOLUTION OR DYING WITHOUT IT was chosen as one of Conversations' Top 100 Books of 2010. Here is their conversation...

K. D., thanks for spending a few moments with us. Your first book LIVING WITH EVOLUTION OR DYING WITHOUT IT has been many many years in the making. We will talk about it in a moment. First, I want to discuss your evolution. How has your way of approaching the project changed since the idea for it was born to the time it was published?
My way of approaching the project actually has not changed at all. I began by committing myself to following the evidence wherever it took me, and that will never change. Indeed, I want readers to show me where my conclusions are wrong, so we can all get closer to the truth, and therefore closer to optimal solutions for dealing with life's challenges.

The word evolution has become somewhat of a bad thing to many people, especially people of faith. What do you think is the cause of that?
Generally speaking, people of faith have the same problem with evolution today as they have had with reason and science in centuries past. Ongoing discoveries concerning the natural world have increasingly challenged the traditional religious descriptions of reality that people like and have grown comfortable with. However, specifically speaking, evolution theory is now invading the areas that had been the cordoned-off preserve of the church, including the essences of consciousness and morality. This is a particular problem for people of faith not just because it threatens the last bastions of the theological, but because most fear they will not like the reality that evolution theory defines, in both the existential and social realms.

But, ironically, it is those on the far Left that hold beliefs most defiant of evolutionary principles especially in terms of relativism. Here is it held that there can be no better or worse when it comes to anything involving humankind, including perceptions of what it real. This logically means anything can be considered true, which means that everything can be considered true, or nothing can be considered true; in effect, truth in the eye of the beholder, which means that humans can create a world of their choosing. Needless to say, this concept is at serious odds with the institution of science that assumes there can only be one truth to discover and make use of to the greatest degree possible.

When I was reading the book, K. D., I couldn't help but think that man's evolution has been for the good and the bad. What has struck you the most about how the rise of technology has affected mankind?
What struck me the most about human technological advancement is how it is merely an extension of the technological advancement trends for species overall, and how along the way humans have reproduced, in many cases consciously copying, the technologies possessed by many other species that have been produced in one form or another many times over by natural selection.

This serves as confirmation for what would become the central theme of my book: that there are universal and timeless evolutionary principles that not only dictate all species follow the same basic set of priorities, but that technological advancement will inevitably follow along certain lines in tending to these priorities. Humankind has indeed accelerated these trends, as higher intelligence has allowed for particularly rapid and sophisticated technological development, but the trends have remained fundamentally unchanged.

Let's get to the book. What was your goal when you initially started to write it, and did you see that evolving during the process?
I was born to and raised by a Jewish father and Catholic mother who decided to keep religion out of the family equation to avoid conflict. I was taken to a multi-denominational church once when I was about nine, so I could see what it was like. It was shortly thereafter that some friends asked if I would like to join them in attending Sunday school. While listening to the teacher as she was describing a story in the Bible she came to a part that did not make any sense to me, and I told her so. She told me that was the part I had to take on faith. I asked if that meant that something became true if someone believed it to be true. She said yes, and I knew at that very moment that religion would not be for me, as I simply was not capable of the faith that was required. Even at the ripe old age of nine I sensed that one should have a reason to draw a conclusion about something.

Then it was over the next couple of years that I noticed disagreements on faith were leading to death and destruction all over the planet. And it was around the age of eleven that I concluded there had to be a better way, and I promised myself that someday I would write a book that described rules for human interaction based only on the best evidence available, so that faith-based differences could be transcended and global cooperation could be established using something tangible.

When it was time to begin researching and writing the book some 19 years later, the goal remained the same. I decided upon the history of religion as a jumping-off point since religions of various kinds claimed to have monopolies on the knowledge related to greater truth and morality. Then, it was while reading A History of Religious Ideas, by Mircea Eliade, that I found the history of religion, most ironically, had all the earmarks of an evolutionary progression my first real eureka moment. For while religion became transformed through the ages, most spectacularly with the dawn of agriculture and the rise of tribal mergers, the core principles and themes remained constant throughout the process.

With this I added the works of leading evolution theorists to my research agenda. Certain seemingly workable themes began to materialize right away. But I had another eureka moment a year or so later, when my contemplation surrounding the essence of natural selection paid off while I was dead asleep early one morning (unfortunately my mind works on this stuff 24/7). It came to me that logically natural selection must apply to all that exists including all the features biological structures possess, and all non-biological structures as well because all exists by virtue of its capacity to repel surrounding threats as material self-organization runs its course, as it has from the beginning of time. My project instantly become much more than a quest for rules for human interaction: it became a search for the proverbial big picture by which I could also tease out the optimal rules for human interaction. From here I had to delve into all serious disciplines to see how they would fit into the framework provided by my new grandiose insight. I then spent around 10 years piecing it all together, and another 10 years attempting to tear the thesis apart, so no one else would be allowed the pleasure after publication. The current product is what has been left standing.

How have those in your family and even your friends responded to your finally writing the book?
It has been such an over-the-top undertaking, which has taken so long, I am sure that most everyone figured I would never complete it. My wife has never understood what could possess me to take on such a project and not give up on it. I suppose most are amazed that I made it happen, and to tell you the truth, so am I as I look back on what the entire process has entailed.

Speaking of technology, one of the things that have really taken off over the past few years is social networking, especially sites like Facebook and Twitter. How have they helped you in getting the word out about your book and yourself?
I have not made use of Facebook and Twitter as of yet, but I did just start up my blog which will have posts that show how the vast majority of, if not all, current events and cultural topics can be explained generally using just handful of evolutionary principles. My blog is also designed to be a forum for all to contribute to the cause of creating the most functional policies possible for human groups and individuals alike.

What has surprised you the most about the response to the book, K. D.?
On the positive side, I am surprised by how well reviewers have received it, as I thought its controversial nature would put many off, even though I attempted to be as diplomatic as possible in the presentation of the material considered taboo by most.

On the negative side, the level of reception for certain segments of the population has left me aware of just how polarized American society is. At one end of the spectrum are those on the fiscal and/or social right who are religious to one degree or another. They not only see evolution theory as a threat to their religious sensibilities, but to the American way of life as a whole. For most see socialism/communism, godlessness/atheism, and evolutionism as part of the same package. Meanwhile, the leftists at the other end of the spectrum including progressives, socialists and communists think they are in line with evolutionary reality but they are not, as evolutionary principles very much support the vision of the European Enlightenment thinkers and the founding principles of the U.S. including limited government, free-market capitalism, the standard of merit, and personal responsibility, as my website clearly expresses. So I have quite a marketing challenge on my hands with regard to getting past such perceptions. But overall I am confident that with a little persistence I will be able to break through before long.

I mentioned faith earlier. When a person of faith ask you what they could get from the book, what do you say?
A person of faith will get the same thing from this book as any other: a better understanding of the world around him or her, including the principles that have dictated and will continue to dictate what occurs, including competitive outcomes. Many will choose to reject this knowledge, but this will occur to their detriment, as one will always make better decisions using the best information at hand. So, overall, those who embrace the ideas in my book at some level will likely leave their bloodlines in better shape than they found them. In short, I think people of faith who read my book will feel they have gained more in practical benefits than they have lost in emotional satisfaction and/or in having to question the basis for one belief or another.

Like yourself there have been many individuals who have held on to a dream or goal for some time. What would you say to them about pursuing it?
I have declared many times that I still have trouble wrapping my head around the odyssey I embarked upon so long ago and persisted in for so long thereafter, all while having only fleeting doubts that I would someday be successful. The whole thing probably qualifies as bizarre in any number of ways. And while I won't recommend that others attempt feats so extreme, the result certainly proves that dedication and industriousness can pay off for those who wish to accomplish something significant, even against long odds.

Thanks for your time. How can our readers find out more about you, the book and even how to get their own copy?
All who are interested can find more information about my book, my event schedule, etc., at In addition, the latest reviews can be found at Books can be purchased from all major booksellers.

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