Social Cohesion and Progressivism vs. Rugged Individualism and Cognitive Bias

social cohesion March 10th, 2020

The New York Times columnist David Leonhardt worked his way into my respect naturally. Somehow, the NYT started sending me his opinion pieces maybe three or four times a week, and my first thought was, “Who’s the new guy?” A page that has featured Charles Blow, Thomas L. Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Nicholas D. Kristof, Paul Krugman, and Bob Herbert creates a high bar in my mind. But, over time, Leonhardt has grown to be one of my favorite and most-quoted writers. In one piece, he gives voice to a core is a political philosphy precept of mine: social cohesion depends on political progress. Another way to phrase this idea would be: social welfare vs. individual supremacy vis-a-vis political progressivism.

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Is It True That “Everything Happens for a Reason”?

everything happens for a reason November 18th, 2019

At first, this might sound like a foolish title, because in one sense of the phrase, everything does happen for a reason. The universe operates according to the laws of physics which posits that everything is determined and so on (well, quantum physics kinda is the fly in that ointment). I get determinism and physics’ position. However, in a different vein, the more commonly-used vernacular you hear is, “Everything happens for a reason.” But is that true? I would say the evidence does not point in that direction, though, as some are quick to point out, “God works in mysterious ways” and almost anything is possible. This post explores metaphysics and truth and other heady subjects.

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Humanity’s Dark Side: Obedience to Authority

obedience to authority March 9th, 2019

There is a strain of experiments buoyed by theory that is in the category of social psychology – the branch of the study of human behavior that locates a human being in their social context. That is, people may have some individuality, some trait-like tendencies to think, feel, perceive, and act in a more or less typical way (i.e., based on their personality type). Social psychologists study how human beings function in relation to their environment. This essentially radical environmental approach doesn’t mimic the approach of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner – dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists – because the attempt is not to change behavior, but to analyze and predict it. Read on for a brief summary, some elucidating quotations, and one of the most shocking experiments ever to come out of a major university.

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Ten of History’s Greatest Thinkers

greatest thinkers March 19th, 2018

Perhaps you know of the eminent historian, writer, and psychologist/philosopher/anthropologist all rolled into one, Will Durant. He died in the late twentieth century, but was truly a man of letters and a wonderful writer. I found a neat little book, compiled after his death by John Little. It is a compilation of his writings that involved rankings of merit. The first real chapter in the book is “The Ten Greatest Thinkers,” though the two men put greatest in quotation marks, as I suppose they should, since great is really a subjective term. My intention in this blog is to share which ten men (yes, they are all men) he thinks shine the brightest among history’s renowned philosophers and scientists, and include a quote of each.

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35 Science Quotes from Many Great Scientists

science February 17th, 2018

Science is the preeminent method of knowing. It is true that intuition has merit, and much that is good and useful is not scientific per se. But if you want to understand the universe, yourself, your society, insect behavior, evolution, or any number of interesting questions, science is your method! It certainly is more reliable and insightful than religion, guessing, superstition, authority, and probably philosophy. In this blog you will find 25 science quotes by a diverse group of famous scientists. If you don’t have polio, ate food shipped in from Latin America, or are reading this blog right now, you can thank science!

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Scientist & Philosopher Jacob Bronowski Quotes

Bronowski quotes February 9th, 2018

Jacob Bronowski (1908 – 1974) lived for nearly 70 years before I was born. This genius was a Polish-born mathematician, historian of science, playwright, poet, and inventor. Bronowski is primarily responsible for the 1973 12-part exploration of creativity, ingenuity, vision, integration, science, and progress, The Ascent of Man, and the accompanying book. It was very careful, rational, and aspirational. He seems like a great man, a real scientist, and one of humanity’s greatest losses. He did say and write many important things, and I will now present you with the fifty or sixty Jacob Bronowski quotes that are a valued part of The Wisdom Archive, which is yours to search for free. Enjoy.

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Evaluating Evidence: A Superlative Skill

evaluating evidence January 30th, 2018

Evaluating evidence is a superlative skill. That is, if one can sift through various claims and find the truth (or at least, the validity of a particular question or issue), one is at a great advantage in this world. Indeed, there are compelling reasons to hold that an ability to see two sides of an argument – both with passionate and seemingly-confident defenders – is a critical skill. Rare though it may be, and challenging as it is, it will pay huge dividends if one can harness this power. In this blog, I will present examples of complex dilemmas that call for a keen mind and an excellent skill set.

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“The Sins of Science”

January 17th, 2018

If you have seen virtually any episode of Black Mirror (here, or on Netflix), you will probably agree that science has brought us magnificent and inconceivable advances, advantages, and opportunities. Anyone who does not have polio, drives a car, or understands space-time would surely concur. But shows such as Black Mirror, or movies such as The Manchurian Candidate, Blade Runner, The Matrix, Children of Men, and Minority Report (a run-down of dystopian films is available here) depict in sometimes gut-wrenching detail what science and technology can render. They are dark, haunting tales of dystopia, tragedy, and absurdity. It’s the same vein that Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe write in, or the incendiary novel 1984, or The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Goethe’s Faust.  Shows and books such as these tap into a dark part of our unconscious. Themes such as murder, torture, privation, suffering, revenge, domination, and nihilism can get our heart beating fast and our mind racing. It’s harrowing stuff. What follows is a bit of criticism of science and technology, a plea for ethics, and some quotes about science that are enlightening, if worrisome.

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The Values of an Excellent Scientist

values of an excellent scientist January 3rd, 2018

Many institutions today are under pressure, under siege even. Though Hollywood was never exemplary of “good values,” it has been rocked with allegations of sexual harassment, just as it has been deeply challenged by racism and anti-Communist malarkey in the past. Politicians score near the bottom of high-prestige occupations, and for good reason. The Supreme Court isn’t even above reproach. In all this tumult and instability, one would hope that science would be a guiding light, akin to the mythical knight. One would be wrong, though. Herein you will find four key values of an excellent scientist.

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Critical Thinking Should Lead to Wisdom

critical thinking May 1st, 2017

How can one use critical thinking to navigate all the websites, “fake news,” and wool the politicians wish to pull over our eyes? I was asked to view an article on vaccine safety from a website called The Vaccine Reaction. I tend to come down on the “mostly safe, very effective” side of the vaccine safety/utility debate, but not reflexively so. I want to believe that the government doesn’t do things that endanger the citizens, and for one primary reason: I have a fear of corporations and plutocracy and those who love money dearly, and government is a potential bulwark against that overweening power. What did I find when I read the article? What does it have to do with critical thinking, wisdom, and self-reliance?

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