Skepticism


You may have heard a few bad studies recently.

Girls like pink and red more than boys because girls had to pick berries. Err? Except like pink is a cultural trait that is not universal. More at Bad Science.

Jessica has the sexiest walk. Fraud study.

Will Saletan debunks a “rigged study” where the authors contaminated a trivial test with many assumptions and extrapolations that are unsupported by any evidence.

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The scientific method works so well because other people double-check your experiments and test your theories. Our cognitive biases limit our ability to willingly disprove our own ideas. No method accounts for our strange attempt to defend our hypotheses rather than falsify them.

Specialists have the most knowldege within their field. This gives them the toolset to critically evaluate someone else’s ideas within their specialty. But take them out of that narrow field and insert them into a different field or politics where they lack information, and they will adopt a simplistic explain-all fantasy belief. They turn into “slogan-chanting zombies.”

No one is a consistent skeptic.
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Okay, this is hilarious. A critical review of Dawkins’s latest book The Fascism Delusion. Why can’t he just accept that Fascism fills a deep-seated need in people?
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I confess, I’m a bigger fan of Zawahiri’s ideological ramblings. Osama sounds like a crazy homeless guy.

He’s a conspiracy theorist who bungles the most basic historical facts.

In the Vietnam War, the leaders of the white House claimed at the time that it was a necessary and crucial war, and during it, Rumsfeld and his aides murdered two million villagers. And when Kennedy took over the Presidency and deviated from the general line of policy drawn up from the White House and wanted to stop this unjust war, that angered the owners of the major corporations who were benefitting from the continuation.

And so Kennedy was killled and al-Qaeda wasn’t present at that time, but rather, those corporations were the primary beneficiary from his killing.

How special.

I want to briefly hit the topic of Pseudohistory.

I imagine this is an offshoot of identity politics. Historical narratives are twisted, regardless of evidence, to emphasize the tribe’s importance. Once you believe that history is just a narrative, then you crossed the line between empiricism and art.
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Did you know that there was a divine division between imperfect Earthly matter and perfect Heavenly matter of the gods? While geometry is all well and good for building a shed in your backyard, the heavenly planets were mystical and beyond the knowledge of science.

So began the scientism slur a few thousand years ago. Certain things in the world cannot be explained through empirical evidence and reason. According to this, science is just another “belief” that is no better than anything else.
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Shankar Vedantam has another good column on cognitive bias at the Washington Post. Why are disproven myths still believed? The first impression is the most important for our memory.

Denials of myths actually reinforce myths just by repeating them. People forget the negative tags and it just reinforces the first impression. Don’t forget that confirmation bias also reinforces the mythical belief. As Vedantam said, “Myth-busters, in other words, have the odds against them.”
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