Don’t hide the decline! If the social sciences are bunk, can the hard sciences be trusted?

The face of “science.” Where you find tax dollars, you find rent-seeking liars. More fool you that you claim to be surprised by this palpably obvious fact.Photo by: jonathan martinez

If people lie and cheat for casual and largely pointless reasons much of the time, and if, in consequence, the social sciences are mostly bunk — the assiduous tabulation of deceptive testimony — what might be the implications for the hard sciences? More bunk, of course. Selection bias, confirmation bias and plain old lying and cheating are rife in the “peer-reviewed” scientific establishment, with the result that a claim of “settled science” should provoke unsettling doubts in thoughtful minds:

In 2001, Michael Jennions, a biologist at the Australian National University, set out to analyze “temporal trends” across a wide range of subjects in ecology and evolutionary biology. He looked at hundreds of papers and forty-four meta-analyses (that is, statistical syntheses of related studies), and discovered a consistent decline effect over time, as many of the theories seemed to fade into irrelevance. In fact, even when numerous variables were controlled for—Jennions knew, for instance, that the same author might publish several critical papers, which could distort his analysis—there was still Continue reading

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A change is gonna come: When you act upon your life as it actually is, everything gets better.

Here’s a fun article from The Disappearance of the Fat Libertarian. The gist: Libertarians (broadly defined) have been strongly influenced by “paleo” web sites like Richard Nikoley’s, with the result that folks who once lived on a diet of Doritos and Jolt Cola are now slimmer, trimmer and healthier than they have ever been.

But, but, but — Free will is an illusion! If you’re born to be fat, you can’t do anything about it!

What is necessary, as always, is to correctly identify your true nature as a human being. What we are is everything we are. You can’t control your height, but you can control your weight. Arguing to the contrary — either way — will induce cognitive dissonance in your mind, and trying to shout that dissonance down will be a constant source of misery. The misery won’t go away — and your life will not change, not for the better — until you accept reality as it is.Photo by: Alan Cleaver

This is false, of course. The human mind is free to pursue better outcomes — among those outcomes that are actually subject to change. A favorite dodge of the exponents of the ruling Continue reading

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When life feels like a dance to you – that’s when you’re living Shyly’s delight.

We call them ‘dumb animals.’ They’re so dumb they live happy lives and die contented.We’re Homo sapiens, the wise ones – so wise we live miserably and make the people around us happiest with our deaths.Photo by: J P

This is the introduction to Shyly’s delight: Work, play and love like a Labrador, which is brand new at today:

Introduction: Why aren’t you dancing?

“A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones.”
—Arthur Conan Doyle

Do you like self-help books? I don’t, to say the truth. They’re all full of bullshit promises. Here’s the thing, though: This one delivers.

No fake, no fail. Your life, just the way you pictured it – a loving, passionate marriage, a happy, successful family, a fulfilling home and work life – everything you’ve ever dreamed of. And when you die at last, you will die at peace, leaving your world a better place for your having lived.

You can have all that, everything the laws of physics will allow. You can’t change the cards you were dealt, but you can play those cards to Continue reading

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How you came to be enslaved – and how you can free yourself.

You’ve made plans to go to a business conference. You made a mistake when you calendared the event, so you arrive at the hotel ballroom thinking you are twenty minutes early when, in fact, you are forty minutes late.Gulp.Photo by: US Department of Education

From September of 2011, an early look at some of the ideas that went into Nine Empathies and Shyly’s delight. –GSS

We had a visit from an IRS agent last week.

I was tied up, so my wife Cathleen dealt with him: He needed either me or our accountant to contact him.

We’re five years behind in tax filings, but any attention the precious feds pay to us is a money-losing proposition — for them. We make money some months, lose money many others, but we have been unprofitable, year by year, since 2006. Whatever we might owe can’t amount to a fart in a gale of wind — and we can’t pay it anyway. There is no point in our filing returns, but, even if we wanted to, we couldn’t. We can either each work 100+ hours a week, thus to keep our business barely afloat, or we can do useless government paperwork and drown. I Continue reading

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A calculus of morality on a first-grade number line: No one is good – or evil – by accident.

From Chapter 7 of Man Alive, “A calculus of morality on a first-grade number line.”

Of those two introspective experiences – shame and Squalor versus pride and Splendor – which would you say is the better expression of the idea of self-adoration?Photo by:

Spirit your mind back to your first-grade classroom. Can you see that number line tacked up above the blackboard? In the middle is the number zero – one of the most important inventions in mathematics, incidentally. To the right are the positive integers – 1, 2, 3 – up to 10 or 25 or 100. To the left are the negative integers – and take a moment to salute the incomparable genius of subjunctivity who first thought to count things that are not in evidence to be counted. Your teacher used that number line to demonstrate to you, by moving his hand to the right or to the left, that 3 + 5 = 8 or 9 – 11 = –2. In other classrooms in other times or places, teachers might have used stones or sticks or an abacus, but the essence of the demonstration, whatever form it took, was that arithmetic is an ontologically-consonant notation system: The map is not the territory, Continue reading

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Abortion and self-adoration: Do what you want, but don’t claim you can escape the consequences. You can’t.

Whether you like it or not, seeing your self committing atrocities is abhorrent to your mind, and no amount of rationalizing self-destructive behavior will turn vices into virtues.

Whether you like it or not, seeing your self committing atrocities is abhorrent to your mind, and no amount of rationalizing self-destructive behavior will turn vices into virtues.

I have written a ton of polemical essays in my life, but I’ve never written an argument about abortion. Given the method for evaluating values in Chapter 7 of Man Alive, it’s not very difficult to work out.

That’s funny, isn’t it? The most contentious political issue in modern-day America, and I can address it in a way that seems to me to be incontestable in just a few lines. That’s the power of working from the right map of the universe.

Politically, as a matter of human liberty, other people’s families — or pets or property — are none of my damn business. But having an abortion, performing one, encouraging one or paying for it are all morally-reprehensible acts. They cannot advance or enhance your own self-adoration, and, necessarily, they must retard and diminish your self-love, in the immediate moment and enduringly thereafter. It is not even necessary to look for real-life evidence of this argument, but, of course, that evidence abounds.

Do you want to dispute this? If one abortion enhances your Continue reading

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Intellectual exterminator for hire: I will step on academic cockroaches like Sam Harris – if you make it worth my while.

Clueless much? Either human beings do not have free will OR they can be gulled into buying this dumbass’s dumbass book. Not both. Which does this charlatan REALLY believe? Doe he deploy his own free will to endorse the checks?Mind what goes into your mind. No one else can do it if you won’t.

Clueless much? Either human beings do not have free will OR they can be gulled into buying this dumbass’s dumbass book. Not both. Which does this charlatan REALLY believe? Does he deploy his own free will to endorse the checks?Mind what goes into your mind. No one else can do it if you won’t.

A few people have mentioned Sam Harris to me, but, until lately, I haven’t paid him any mind. Harris is one of a half-dozen or so currently-publishing pop-sci writers who inflate absurd academic claims all out of proportion and then sell them as intellectual cotton-candy to thoughtless people — who in their turn like to affect to pretend to make-believe that not-actually-reading EZ-reading non-fiction books makes them intellectuals. This is not a new scam, but the plummeting profits in book publishing — along with the ease of promulgating scathing debunkings of this nonsense (about which more below) — promise to make it an obsolete con-game in very short order.

But I happened upon a link to an essay by Harris called The Fireplace Delusion at Billy Beck’s place, and I clicked through to see if there was any there there.

There is not.

Most of the article Continue reading

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