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This nerd fight could wreck or cure our way of life

It's economists vs. climate scientists in this facet of the climate change debate.

Why aren't we trying to be better ancestors?

The consequences of our climate-cooking habits will burden all future humans.

Why do the good guys have to beat the climate cheats?

There's concrete tradeoff logic lurking beneath the numbers and market abstractions.

Ending the “endless growth” fairytale needs moral clarity

If economic growth knowingly increases mass-scale suffering, can we stop chasing it?

Should we blame biology for our biosphere-bashing behavior?

Determining whether human nature is short-sighted when it comes to survival-necessary situations

The Book of Why: How a 'causal revolution' is shaking up science

A much-needed "causal revolution" has arrived in Judea Pearl's 'The Book of Why'. But despite vast improvements over "trad stats", there's cause for concern over logic-losing numbers.

How do "genes" work? So-called experts have a hard time agreeing

How we talk about genes shows many are confused. Seductive stats illusions, iffy gene ideas, bad causology, and lax jargon, are creating a recipe for epistemic comedy (and genetic tragedy).

American healthcare shows why we can't trust market spin doctors

Free-market fans often fail to see how self-interest can create diseased-market games. Robert Frank helps diagnose American healthcare's deadly trillion-dollar disease.

Does Steven Pinker's gospel of data hide dark gaps?

Almost every reader will learn from the vast erudition (and biblical proportions) of Steven Pinker's 'Enlightenment Now'. But it's data-lit gospel of progress hides darker biases.

Corporate buybacks: Have you heard about this trillion dollar Ponzi scheme?

Few know about the trillion dollar crime that stole pay raises while weakening our economy. The “lootocrats” and their courtiers are taking us for a ride.

How precision-loving economists make "rigor distortis" errors

Here's the psychology that explains why many economists prefer to be narrowly right yet broadly wrong (they suffer from professional "rigor distortis").

Cars Parts Show Us How Some Genetic Stats Mislead

We can “read” genes with ease now, but still can’t say what most of them “mean.” To show why we need clearer “causology” and fitter metaphors, let's scrutinize cars and their parts like we do bodies and genes.

Why Do Some of Our Best Minds Speak "Higher Twaddle"?

Why do some smart folk spout such bad ideas? Marilynne Robinson says it's because we teach them "higher twaddle.” She's right, but the situation is worse than she fears.

How Many Deaths Is Cheap Chicken Worth?

A common belief that regulations are a burden on businesses is challenged by Maryn McKenna’s book Big Chicken

Time To Update Science's Mobile Army of Metaphors?

“Scientists should think like poets,” says E.O. Wilson, because new metaphors mobilize new thinking.

Is It Tough Love Time For Science?

Is "science broken" or self-correcting? And who is going to do the grown-up thing and fix the game (instead of scoring points within it)?

3 Flavors of Liberalism: Rational, Romantic, Realist

Are noble 18th-century norms fit for 21st-century life? Especially when, as Yuval Harari says, liberalism’s “factual statements just don’t stand up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.” 

Science is catching up to the Buddha

Does happiness require a rebellion against evolution?

Rationality Deficits of the Poor, of the Rich—and of Economists

Rationality isn't the rule, it's rare. That's true of the sort of optimizing rationality that economists presume we all have (even though many economists themselves fall short of that standard).

 

Scientists Detect Severe Cracks In the Idea of the Gene

We're at risk of mistaking the music for the piano in using a “jump to the gene” approach to biology. It's time for a more fitting view of genes to evolve. 

What Independence Needs: A Quick Holiday Quiz

Key logic in America’s founding documents is now too often neglected. Do you know what “the Declaration” lists as the first justification for America’s Independence?

Plato Would Have Laughed at Our Era's Faith In Rationalism

How did our world come to be ruled by a view of human nature that contradicts the testimony of much of history, and the bulk of the arts, and your daily experience? Mathoholics are to blame. 

10 principles of wisdom from William Shakespeare

Art is a key source of wisdom (it's effects can be powerfully mind-altering). Here are some examples from Shakespeare (from Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library).

Confirmation Bias Isn’t a Bug, It’s Operator Error

A key cognitive bias isn’t a bug, it’s just operator error (and easily correctable by using reason as nature intended).

Why You Don't (and Can't) Think Alone

Science (and life) keep hammering nails “into the coffin of the rational individual." But rationalism and individualism still haunt and systematically mislead—even about where your mind is.

In Evolution's Orchestra, Soloists Aren't the Fittest

A chorus of new science is showing that evolution has orchestrated life to leave no room for solos. A grander view of life is revealing higher-level, need-centric relational logic patterns (as in David Haskell’s The Songs of Trees).

Here's Why Evolution Can Be "Survival of the Friendliest"

The state of nature isn't a "war of all against all." Even no-brainer bacteria "know" that sometimes the game is "Survival of the Friendliest"

The 21st Century's Most Important Idea... & Older Natural Algorithmic Forces

Evolution exists and exerts itself in a different way than gravity does... because natural selection is an "algorithmic force." 

The Real Story of What Got Us to the Top of the Food Chain

Natural "narrative selection" was key to turning insignificant apes (who had tools for 2 million years) into the species that now dominates the bio-sphere. 

Ancient Atomic Logic Shows Reality Is Relational, Not Objective.

Loop quantum gravity gets the ancient atomist back into the loop, showing how black holes might explode, and that the Big Bang might be a Big Bounce. 

 

The Science of Popularity Shows Why Hit-Making Is So Hit-and-Miss

The causes of hit products are themselves uncausable. 'Hit Makers' by Derek Thompson explains why we know how to make songs, but not hits.

 

Taking Liberties With Workable Liberty

It's time to get real about key ideas that run our lives, which have been taking laughable liberties with human nature – and with the logic of livable liberty.

Can the "Lesbian Rule" Fight Weaponized Math?

Reviving the “Lesbian Rule” (which Aristotle wrote about, and was proverbial in Shakespeare's day) can help us handle a new kind of weaponized-math threat (that Cathy O’Neil calls “Weapons of Math Destruction”).

Extending Descartes to Embody Our Social Rational Souls

Descartes’ solitary, inward-facing mindset misconstrues the social nature of our thinking. Social Cartesianism better captures the soul of what matters in distinguishing humans from animals or machines.

Hidden Logic of Genes In Genesis?

Scarcely noticed in the Eden story, there lurk fruitful scientific ideas about why biology generated morality. 

How Do We Know How To Live? ... How Adulting Schools Arose

Storied skills and a musical analogy might help us update the logic of "virtue ethics." In life, as in jazz, freedom without skills results in a lot foolish noise. 

How Stories Configure Human Nature

Any story we tell of our species, any science of human nature, that ignores how important stories are in shaping what and how we think and feel is false. We evolved to be ultra-social (and self-deficient), so we care deeply about character and plot.  

Are Science's Preferred Languages Limiting How Smart Folk Think?

Few see how strongly science's preferred languages shape and limit the thinking of many experts. 

Happiness Should Be A Verb — A Thing We Do, Not Be

"Positive psychologists" are relearning old wisdom about a logic built into our biology which ensures that flourishing takes effort and skill. 

Trees Prove That Life Isn't Just about Survival of the Fittest

Trees are far from dumb; they talk and share, because they need each other to live better lives. 

Does Life Work Like a Car Engine With Souped-up Complexity?

Does life work like our technology? Is life under the hood just like a car sporting souped-up complexity? 

Good Rich vs Bad Rich

Much talk about “the rich” and inequality ignores two key points. 1) Not all inequality is equally bad. 2) The rich are mostly as replaceable as you.

What Trump Can Teach Reason-Loving Smart Folks

Many smart folk need to relearn what Trump knows, and Aristotle taught, about persuasion. Logic and facts alone often don't persuade. 

Why Words Won't—and Can't—Sit Still... Like... Literally...

Words don't work like we were taught. That old neat nouns and verbs type tale hides the weird truth. Language is a mix of flux and fixed but flexible elements that relies on "unknown knowns."

Turing, and Constructor Theory, and The Logic of Universal Survivors

The thinking behind Turing Machines and "universal systems," is being extended to build a new kind of physics. “Constructor Theory,” is being developed by David Deutsch and Chiara Marletto to better explain life. It even suggests why morality arose. 

We Should All Be Allergic To This Logic

Are life-saving drugs no different than milk or widgets? Should we treat everything on earth as a profit source? That way mechanized madness lies, whereby "your money or your life" is somehow seen as an acceptable business plan.

Each Of You Is A Multitude, Here's Why

Our picture of life is going through a major shift. Ed Yong's book I Contain Multitudes reveals that a genome generally doesn’t contain all the genes an organism needs. Symbiosis isn’t rare, it's the rule. And we're just the icing on life's vast microbial cake. 

Science And Poetry Both Depend On Metaphors

Science's signature moves share something with good poetry. Good metaphor-making can make geniuses of both kinds. But bad metaphors can mislead whole fields.

 

What's Behind A Science VS. Philosophy Fight?

An old fight between philosophy and science has flared up again. Fortunately we have Rebecca Newberger Goldstein to help us sort out what's going. 

Plato on what makes us tick & why math matters so much

It seems very odd now, but one of the greatest thinkers ever, believed that we could rely on the love of math and its beauty to make us better people. Here's why Plato thought so...

Is the US Too Democratic? Let's See What Plato Says...

Plato wasn't worried that democracy tended to lead to Donald Trump-style tyranny (despite what Andrew Sullivan claims). Here's what he was really concerned about. 

 

Why "Behavioral Politics" And "Islamic Exceptionalism" Matter

"Behavioral politics” can shed light on terrorism's appeal. And why simple appeals to reason might not work. Indeed rationality doesn't work the way many think it does. What makes us tick must matter for how reasoning works. 

Paleo-Economics Shaped Us Morally? For Team Survival...

Humanity's languages and moralities evolved for social coordination. And for productive teamwork. Our moral sense, our social-rule processors, work just like our language-rule processors. 

 

Mediating Between Meritocracy and Democracy

Two of America’s core values—democracy and meritocracy—seem increasingly conflicted and confused. Let's clarify how they're supposed to work, using Lincoln's tyranny test. 

The Four Loves We All Need To Know More About

How we talk about love has become blurry "low resolution language" (it's life-organizing force is often dissipated on trifles). But looking at richer love language can help us improve our aim. And remind us that universal human rights came from a special kind of love that we all need.

 

Why "Poetic Naturalism" Needs Moral Geometry

Our best "Big Picture" of the universe might be Sean Carroll's “poetic naturalism.” But his skillfully framed physics and philosophy synthesis needs more “moral geometry” and a “naturalistic fallacy” update.

Can "The Path's" Old Thoughts Give Us New Ways To See Ourselves (less WEIRDly)?

Chinese philosophers have suggested “You… should not think of yourself as a single, unified being.” The Path, a book by Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh, can explain (with help from Plato, Kant, Eden, Hume, Confucius, Kahnenman...).

 

 

How Our Minds Were Once Shaped By Poetry

We often now picture our minds in unsound ways. They’re built to resonate to poetry. We’ve all but lost the memory of poetry’s historic role in molding minds (that’s the unsung pretext of Plato’s poetry ban). Poetry is a key cognitive technology , so powerful it was the Internet of its time. 

Kahneman's Mind-Clarifying System(s)

Feeling IS fast thinking. And emotions aren't always guilty of being irrational. Whenever pondering minds, always bear in mind Daniel Kahneman’s teachings on the brain.

How the Idea of Happiness Got So Confusing

Happiness has gotten confusing (even puzzling our smartest scientists). “Bentham’s bucket error” is to blame, but "Plato’s Pastry" and a rare case of reality in Freud can help. It's time happiness got less kid-and-id-centirc.

Adam Smith Was A Behavioral Economist And No Fan of Greed

Adam Smith hated greed. He'd likely be horrified to see how his name is now used. And any Smith fans who believe selfishness is a virtue distort what Smith called his best work.

The Dark Arts of Attentional Design

The science of “human vulnerabilities" is being used to "engineer compulsion.” In addition to A.D.D., “attention captivation disorders” are going viral.

Darwin's Bad Break — How His Name Is Misused

Charles Darwin probably wouldn't like what his name now means. He called any "Darwinian" human, having no trace of team loyalty, "an unnatural monster."

Few Maximize. Most Muddle. Modeling the Few Misleads the Many.

Few maximize. Most muddle. So why do economists mainly model the happy few? It makes the math easier, but risks misusing the massive power of markets. Perhaps, like the muddling masses, they should use less math and more logic. 

What Is the Cause of Soup? Stats Blender Errors.

How "the stats" are being used often causes a fog of low-quality quantification. Multiple regression is widely misunderstood by researchers and journalists. 

 

 

Science and Life Are More Algorithm than Math Equation

Science's picture of the world is being updated. It's adding algomorphic thinking to its palette.

Our Recipe for Science & How Facts Became Facts

The conceptual tools of science had to be painstakingly built. Turns out seemingly self-evident ideas like discovery and facts once weren't so obvious. In The Invention of Science, David Wootton excavates their history. 

Biology's Black Hole Explained?

Nick Lane believes he can explain the "black hole" at the heart of biology. And in the process predict traits that even alien life will have. Here are some amazing facts from biology.

Logical Life Skills, Rational Cardinal Virtues

Many who make New Year’s resolutions of the “less vice, more virtue” variety might benefit from some background on the history and logic of certain skills that flourishing depends on. 

The Meaning of Christmas, Literally... Might Surprise The Masses

The roots of the word “Christmas” express two kinds of liberation (of, and from, the masses) with some shortening. Much that matters is hidden in the unsung history of words, and their translations... there's the rub... 

Gaps in the Grammar of the Universe?

All text involves translation. Either from reality or imagination into language, or between languages. Can the language that perfectly fit physics translate every pattern under the sun? Well, nothing in physics chooses...

Why Does ISIS' Propaganda Work? Same Reason the Nazis' Did.

Terrorists exploit the “glamor of action movies, video games, and gangsta rap.” Counterterrorist efforts somehow have to counter that glamorization.

Does The Story That Most Shapes Our Times Have Plot Holes?

The big story that probably most shapes our times is too simple. We can't afford to go on ignoring its plot holes and more complex dark side. 

Why Don't New Facts Cure Old Fears?

The mental mechanics of how emotions and logic relate aren't widely understood. Our minds are built to mostly be "indirectly rational."

How Do We Learn the Big Stuff?

Where do we learn what matters? Are new forces crowding out the old sources of stories that shape us? 

Is all the truth we need in the data?

Although it seems savvy to defer to “the data,” the devil is in the mixed details. For example, humans on average have one testicle and one ovary.

 

 

 

How Free Can We Be?

Are too many taking liberties with the logic of our freedoms? A smart reassessment of Henry David Thoreau's work spotlights key related issues. 

Has Duty Lost To Beauty? Art's Hidden Brain Effects.

Beauty and duty are increasingly involved in an undeclared conflict. It's not a fair fight; one side is much stronger (illustrating how art works on our "hidden brain"). 

Are We Letting Unnatural "Laws" Mislead Us?

Free markets aren’t like gravity. They’re ruled by neither laws of nature nor commandments carved in stone. Delegating our ethics to markets risks costly error. All things are not equally auctionable.

Video Games = Powerful Emotech

Their hyper-repetitive patterns mean video games vastly outgun older emotech... like movies, or novels. Some emotech helps you be more human. Some reduces your "humanity." We shape our emotech, and then it shape us.

Technomorphic Mental Tools

Technomorphic ideas can alter the rules of our thinking about our thinking — and also show that simple rules can escape physics-like predictability. 

If No Brain Is Free Of Bias, What Can We Trust?

Biases and flaws are like foreheads — it’s easier to see others’ than your own. So our most cherished beliefs should be tested by rigorous bias-balancing processes. 

Is Market Love Blind?

Many market lovers hate what their love needs to work. An incomplete logic has them in its spell, blinding them to the fact that “invisible hand” cuts both ways.

Updating Hayek: Can 'The Market' Prioritize Well?

Hayek viewed markets as distributed-intelligence systems that evolved to compute resource allocations. We can now update that view with ideas from computer science, biological signalling, and evolution.

Is Economics Built On A "Monumental Mistake?"

Can we rely on Adam Smith's "invisible hand" to lead markets to "the best" overall outcome? Darwin's insights say no.

 

The 15-Word Fix for Tragically Misguided Logic (Needism)

A key thought experiment, the "tragedy of the commons," is widely misunderstood, especially among certain kinds of economists. Elinor Ostrom won a Nobel Prize for showing how irrational they can be. 

Economics Needs 'Inclusive Fitness'

Our unique capacities were created by a major transition in evolution, which built a need for teamwork and inclusive economics deep into our nature. But many economists — quite unnaturally — exclude its logic from their ideas. 

Paleo-Economics Shaped Our Moralities (Evolved Social-Coordination 'Tech')

“Teamwork is the signature adaptation of” humanity, says David Sloan Wilson. And our ancestors evolved ruthlessly cooperative means of ensuring productive social coordination. 

Does Division of Labor Complicate Evolution's Trade-Offs?

Division of labor creates a need for others. And it logically connects your interests with the interests of those needed others (which complicates evolutionary trade-offs). 

How Evolution And Logic Relate: Natural Filtering vs Foresight

Evolution can be seen as a process of discovering logic that works well in a particular environment. But evolution can't see what our foresight can grasp. In some cases the logic inherent in relationships of need (e.g. within groups) can be decisive. 

Lessons of Cancer = Evolutionary Civil War

Each day, each of us faces 500 billion opportunities for genetic civil war to break out. Thankfully we've also evolved good ways to police and suppress these rogue parts, their mutinous mutations, and their declarations of independence. 

 

 

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