Monday, November 28, 2005

Monday Blues

I confess, I actually penned (typed) something political, earlier. I recovered my wits, and merely saved it as a draft. Instead, I will pick up on one of the cognition themes.

More dull, but safer (although I wonder if I was having withdrawal symptoms earlier? As I have been saying, bad habits are hard to break.)

Anyway let's examine: BIAS. Specifically, I mean the topic of Confirmation Bias, previously mentioned (and linked) in my prior entry about Groupthink.

And now for the (practically) obligatory Wikipedia Quote and Link:

Confirmation bias

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search

Confirmation bias is a type of statistical bias describing the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions. In inductive inference, confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study. To compensate for this observed human tendency, the scientific method is constructed so that we must try to disprove our hypotheses. See falsifiability.

Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis. As such, it can be thought of as a form of selection bias in collecting evidence.

{skipped bits}

Some have argued that confirmation bias may be the cause of self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling social beliefs.

This bias may occur at least partially because negatives are inherently more difficult to process mentally than positives.

More recent studies, however, have shown that while confirmation bias tends to be present as an initial condition, the repeated presentation of disconfirmatory data induces changes in theoretical thinking. In other words, the initial disconfirmatory data are regarded as the result of error, or some other externally attributed factor; it is only after similar results or data are repeatedly obtained that a change in causal reasoning strategies occurs.

So we are talking about something that the allegedly best and brightest of minds can fall prey to. Guess that sort of cuts down on the embarrassment factor, when we lesser minds seek to "confirm" with data what we already believe. And I do find that last graph interesting. Or disconcerting. Now I mean disconcerting, in the sense that if the Barbarian Hordes on both sides of the Great American Socio-Political Divide take that to heart, and keep up the mindless bickering and harping and sniping at each other, there is no hope in sight for an end to hostilities.

However, a possible result is that relatively equal numbers of folk will switch sides, perhaps? Like when pro sports players (or even fans) switch teams and start supporting the Tiger Team with the same fervor they supported the Bird Team?

Yecch. I don't see any way out of this Kafkaesque nightmare.

(Ya might think I have been planning to use that word, Kafkaesque, for some time, but I swear it just came to me. I usually bang these suckers out ad-lib style. HONEST!!!)

Tiptoeing Into a Poltical Subject

Nope. I am not going back to my bad old ways, but the thought occurred to me over the past couple days, and I am going to run with it.

Why Republicans/Conservatives look Scary, to the Rest of Us.

Granted this is only my take, and well, take that for what it is worth (likely not very much.)

A) The way ya'll talk about Taxes:

Now slogans like "It's your money . . . keep it," may resonate deeply with you, but when you get to complaining about taxes, you come across as very greedy people to a lot of us. When you link that to reduced spending for social programs, you really come across as greedy. Sorry. I'm just saying. We all have no idea how you all can miss seeing that that is how you appear, but hey . . . that is just the beginning of what we don't get about ya'll.

B) The Religion Thing:

Contrary to what (I will skip some snarky adjective) the Pat Robertsons of the world say, most of us are either now, or at some time in the past, been some form of Christian.

We know what a church looks like.

We do get inside of them, time to time.

Some of us (shock, horror) do actually get inside them for more than weddings, funerals and such other special events. In short, when we want preaching, we know where to find it, and if we want it, we will go with the trained and ordained professional of OUR choice. Not yours. And we particularly do not want to have to deal with any un-ordained, wanna-be street corner preachers. And if you personally believe you have some (you think) higher calling to spread the Gospel, I can tell you plainly. No you don't. If you wanna preach that bad, go to one of the hundreds of bible colleges in America, get your credentials, and go out there and find yourself a real congregation if you can. Otherwise, ZIP IT! And if you really have no clue how obnoxious that preach crap is, pay very close attention to the following.

Imagine you are in bed. You are fast asleep. And all of a sudden 100 car alarms, within 200 yards of your bed, start blaring and honking at the same time.

Yes, street corner (not literally, but amateur) preaching seems that obnoxious to those of us who really do not want to listen to it. And that leads to:

C) The Morality Thing:

You all, as a Group/Political Party are NOT any more inherently moral than the rest of us. Anyone who told you that is a damned liar. If you repeat that, you become a damned liar. Now you all can still BELIEVE that if you want, but hey . . . there ain't a lick of evidence that shows that is even remotely likely. If you don't like hearing it, sorry. Deal. If the Lord Jesus comes on down, from on high, and declares that the GOP is the Right and Moral Party, then I will recant. But when any mere human says it, I treat such a sentiment as a load of hot steaming bullshit.

Furthermore, and related to the previous entry, don't even THINK you have any cause to be a moral teacher to us. If you ain't our priest or rabbi, or pastor, and you ain't our mommas or pappas, ZIP IT! You want to lecture me? You think you have the right to lecture me? Pay off my student loans for me, first. That will give you some leverage, but unless you are supporting me in some way that gives you the some quasi-parental semi-rights, again, I say ZIP IT! And if you don't like that, I suggest you go back to the previous section and reread what I said about going to bible college, and getting your creds and a congregation. Seriously!

D) The "Culture War":

Yes you are entitled to your views about society and culture, HOWEVER . . . and seriously, don't ya'll ever get tired of listening to yourselves? (Guess Not!) But good grief, it is bloody tiresome to have to listen to folk complaining about society's fall into ruin and rudeness and offensiveness, from the block of America responsible for (or otherwise embracing) the following rude people:

Rush, Hannity, Coulter, Savage, the Felons Liddy and North, Colson, and just about any of the FoxNewsies.

I'll stop there with the list and just cut to the chase. When ya'll get rid of all those ugly-acting pundits, cheerleaders, flacks and spokespeople, and get some who instead can follow, without deviation, Leticia Baldrige's Rules for Proper Conduct and Etiquette, your party/movement looks and seems as culturally pure as a Third World battle field hospital looks hygienic. To be specific, not looking that way at all!

E) The Way You Defend Your Leaders:

Granted, I certainly know some Dems who swear by Bill Clinton the way people of past generations swore by FDR. I could be wrong, but I think more if not most of the people on my team do NOT spend all that much time or effort defending the politicians. It is their job to defend us (or at least support us. They work for US. Not vice versa!) But if the mere idea of that does not register, please try to think of it this way. One of our founding fathers (don't recall which) described our infant Nation as,"A nation of LAWS not MEN."

And if that does not do it, here is my last attempt. If you have to defend your pols that much, how great a leader could they possibly be?

This is just my opinion on the matter.

And ok, just in case someone wants to flog me for drifting back into partisan shit, ok whack away. My observations here were intended to be more on the level of "APPEARANCES" than actual positions. Hell, if the GOP/CONS did read what I said here, and followed my recommendations and abandoned the things I described as negative to their appearance, they could actually become the majority party in America for decades to come. However I feel very confident that they will never do that. They will never make the necessary changes to insure that the image of the party (to those not already within the tent) actually more closely matches what they "preach."

Not in my lifetime, I recon!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Quickie on Trust and Judgment

Like usual, it took me some time to actually think of a theme, or to say it more specifically, it took me some time to pluck something out of the whirlwind that is my mind, and decide to use that as my point of departure.

So it will be trust and judgment.

Like many if not most people, I trust my judgment. But (I guess) unlike many if not most, I am deeply and seriously distrustful. Not paranoid . . . everyone is out to get me, distrustful. I like to think of it as a practicality/human nature based distrustfulness. To explain, I don't really think most folk are wicked, or bad. But I expect folk to be (a) human, and therefore (b) at least somewhat, if not greatly self-directed, self-interested, if not basically selfish. So I don't think random people are out to get me, as much as they likely are out to get all they can for themselves, and as a result of that, I am therefore nothing more than a possible source of some form of gratification for them ( at worst, but usually to some variable extent, I think that is how humans act and interact.)

Therefore, I am at minimum a tad leery of people's motives from the get-go. I can take that line of thinking so far that I do not believe there is, as a practical matter, a truly selfless act or actor. Even when people do selfless things, they (ya would guess) get something out of it, right? If not the positive good feeling of doing for others, at least the grudging sense they have done the right thing, or at least a good thing, or impressed someone, if not a living human, maybe God.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that if anyone seems to be doing a NICE for me, I am cynically thinking . . . "Are they doing this to make me feel good, or them?"

I am just making the observation that, total selfness seems to be myth, with our species, in my opinion.

Anyway, I am cynical.

But that part covers the basics of trust. Well, at least my operative bias. Just to be plain, when I do trust people, I tend to do it very deeply. I am not likely to place much trust in any person until I have a good, deep understanding of their personality. And I mean, their strengths and weaknesses of character. At that point I can think . . . I know this person's nature. I know they have a range of traits. I know their emotional range. And I know how far they can and will go on questions of morality, conduct (and that would be within context.) I know if they are basically decent, or have a mean streak that needs to be fed, regardless of any external and obvious provocation (actual or even perceived threat to their normal sense of self or personhood.) I know that on a bad day they might tell me to Eff-off and Die, but I can tell when they meant it, or not. I can tell when they are acting out of then-immediate emotional disturbance. And I can tell when they are sincerely affectionate.

When I know enough to know all that, usually that is when serious trust kicks in.

Less than that? If that point has not been met yet? I can't say that I do not trust anyone at all, but personally, I only trust them as well as I seem to know them.

Oh, and that sort of bled into the issue of judgment (as my ordinary process of judgment is stated fairly plainly above.) And because I am so slow to trust, usually, and because I wait till I know enough of the facts, and only ratchet up trust as my databank increases, by large degrees, I think my judgment is usually reliable (or at least keeps me from trusting the wrong people) 98% of the time.

However, years ago I learned that that 2% error margin can kill a person.

(Ya ya I clearly ain't dead, but I think you get my meaning.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Misdirected Passion

Once again (as if it is ever the case, otherwise) I have not put much thought into my update. But like some ancient gaffer, stuck in his routines, I am picking up where I left off.
(Hmm??? Maybe I am being too harsh on myself there. As of late, I have been treating this blog more like a diary, than yet-another crabby partisan political rant page. That became very tiresome, very fast.)

But yes, picking up where I left off. That portion of the quote in my last update, warning of the DANGER of passion without love? Well, that led me to the side track of misdirected passion. Before I start vamping, I will say that I am passionate by nature (no matter my wonky intellectual ability.) And I think that passion is a wonderful thing when focused or directed at the right 'object,' such as making art, making music, literature, scholarship, cooking, design, running a business (provided the core competencies are met.) But more importantly, passion is best served and directed at people who are meaningful in our lives; the people who make our lives worth living. And I mean the good passions not the fouler emotions (which I confess to falling prey to, now and then, if not too often, sorry.)

Well then. Seems I have covered the appropriate 'objects' of passion. So where is passion misdirected?

Everywhere else!

Need I get more specific?

Go back up to the first graph, and look at what I described as "tiresome," for an example.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Second Choice

Hmmm . . . . I just finished a potential post, but I have parked that for another day. I guess it might be a good thing to have something in reserve for a rainy (lazy) day. But as I did park that, I am now thinking . . . what to say today? I am still trying to avoid nasty partisan crap, and I am sorta burnt on the topics of late, so???

Well there is what I say . . . and that is that when my mind is not particularly originally productive, I can always quote greater minds than my own.

"Love is when you take away the feeling, the passion, the romance and you find out you still care for that person." (author unknown)

Contrast the prior one, with the following:

"Love without passion is dreary; passion without love is horrific." (author unknown)

Before I go looking for any more quotes, I want to think and comment about this seemingly contradictory pairing.

Yes, I believe that between people you can have love without the excitement of passion (and I say that as a member of a particularly passionate family, from a particularly passionate tribe/people.) I think of it this way (or at least, say it this way now) that that kind of love is like having a real good cut of meat without the steak sauce. Really good meat doesn't need to be drowned in sauce to be sustaining, and tasty, and interesting, and add 'flavor' to your life.

I think the first half of the second quote is therefore not very true.

But the second part?

Passion without love as 'horrific?' I can see that. I would say dangerous. I am thinking like a wildfire or mudslide or a tornado, or some such mindless destructive force of nature. Passion that is not anchored by love is just emotional intensity allowed to run amock, and wreak its havoc on an innocent population . . . like Godzilla, or any other monster.

Watch out for that bad stuff.

Anyway, hmm . . . I sort of ended-up touching on some of the ideas of my "parked" post. I think this one turned out better.

And on that note, have a happy Triptophane Day (if you are eating that turkey.)

You're ALWAYS Asking QUESTIONS! Why?

(I'm just a curious guy, by nature!)

Anyway, I don't have a clear theme today. First question in my head today is

What is it about Politics that brings out the WORST in People?

I am not even talking about the pros. They have clear goals, at least their ambition to further their ambitions, increase their personal share of power. I can understand that.

I am talking about the level of passion that people sometimes display, and I am talking about people that when you add it all up, only participate in the political process in the most limited ways:

(a) voting, and
(b) talking shit about it.

And here on the internet there are many many people who talk (type) with the fervor of people who's life seemingly depends on . . . not the eloquence of their expressed opinion, but the PASSION they put into it.

I am not the most religious of people by far, but I would bet that if the conventional understanding of Christian Heaven and such is as is widely believed, that how passionately one argued Politics in life is more likely to count against them, then in their favor.

Let me use the St. Peter at Heaven's Gate Convention.

St. P.: "Next. Step up now, I don't have all Eternity . . . Mrs. Polly Pritchet."

Polly: "Yes that's me!"

St. P.: "Ok .. . checking your jacket here . . . just a sec. Hmm kay? Ok ya here it is. One the Heavenly 10 point scale, 8 points for Devotional Fervor. 7 points for Family Matters (ya never got to really forgiving your mother in law for ruining your wedding day,) and 5 points for Leading A Decent Life. That averages out to 6.6. Hmm you missed the cut off, by only .4. Sorry."

Polly: "Ok ok yes I never really forgave my monster in law . . . opps sorry I mean mother in law. But I know in my heart I should have. But only 5 points for Leading a Decent Life?? Where did I go wrong? I voted the way my Pastor told me to. That can't be wrong . . . could it have been?"

St. P.: "Naw it's not about how or who you voted. Do you really think we care about that nonsense up here? What do you think we are? Idiots? No we are not. That stuff bores the be jeepers outta us! But you get a 5 because of your Wasted Passions."

Polly: "Wasted passions? I don't follow??"

St. P.: "God gave you heart and a soul and the ability to use passion in your life to create something beautiful or inspiring, or poignant. And what did you do with that precious gift of passion? (*checks his notes*) You spent 3,456 hours arguing in favor of tax cuts. You spent 2,874 hours arguing in favor of war (oh and YES that one?? Tisk Tisk! We really don't like that stuff around here.) And you also spent 10,543 hours being just plain nasty about or with people who did not share your beliefs. Did you think any of that would impress us around here?"

Polly: "Um . . . er well . . . my Pastor . . . ."

St. P.: "Did NOT make the cut."

Polly: "So does that mean I have to go to the other place?"

St. P.: "Not Exactly. Turns out the Buddhists have a few things right. We do have Reincarnation, but it is Remedial. You are going back for another spin. This time, you will come back as seventh child of an impoverished family in a Mexico City slum. I can give you a hint at what you need to work on, this time round."

Polly: "And that is??"

St. P.: "Prioritizing. You had a lot of free time to do something to uplift others. Instead you tore them down. I hope you don't make the same mistake again."

Polly: "I am so sorry. Is there anything I can do to avoid that now?"

St. P.: "Nope. But don't worry. You will be back here before you know it. I can't/won't tell you exactly when you are due back but I can remind you that the life expectancy for poor people
in a Mexico City slum is way below that of the average American.

Polly: "Ok I accept my fate. Not like I have any choice in the matter."

St. P.: "True. Up here at the Gate, you have no choice. But back down there . . . you always have choice. Now choose in your next life, Polly. Or should I say Margerita Maria Elana Ignascia Villarobos."

Ok, again that was basically off the top of my head, but I went the literary(ish) route to make the point. I can't imagine that passionately arguing politics is going to help anyone get into heaven (although I have no real reason for believing it will specifically count against anyone. I just went in that direction in the story to make the point!) Now petitioning city hall to put a speed bump, or a traffic sign on a street, that might lead to the saving of lives? Oh ya that should get you a point or two, but if all you ever do is sling mud at the other side? Na. Humans should not even be

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Redux. Fallacies.

There is a pleothra of information on the web about fallacies. Today, my aim is to find something about WHY people persist in employing such bad, faulty, or illogical thinking.

In plain English, I am looking for (further) clues to why people choose to have their heads up their asses (or otherwise if not additionally, seem to not care if that is how they are seen.)

And to be clear, dear reader, I am not talking about the beliefs of and concerning whatever issue is then under discussion, as what I am calling "Head In Ass-ism;" I am talking about the sloppy thinking and argument relied on, to express and support that end-product.

So far (I am composing as I google, sorry) I have one vote for "most people have non-logical reasons for believing the things they do,"

and that might be as good as it gets, for discovered answers. I do guess that non-logical beliefs sort of deserve non-logical expression.

There is an appreciable symmetry to that theory.

Next we have the "It's deliberate" theory. That is the idea that those who use fallacies are knowingly trying to get away with a stinker (either as a lame offense, or a perhaps lamer defense.) And often is the case when I (and many if not most people, I guess) am damned sure I am dealing with someone who just can't admit they "Did not think it through," or otherwise (strangely) did not understand their "brilliant" argument would not withstand the force of a single beat of a butterfly's wings, before falling to pieces, and as a result of that (and EGO and DYSFUNCTION) can't just say, "Opps . . . this round is yours. Now excuse me as I need to disengage, reload, and bone up on tactics."

And just for the purpose of making it a nice not-even three theories, I will vamp here, and just say off the top of my head that some people are just so Married to their beliefs (be they rationally based or not) that they can't even Conceive that there is any alternative. Hence, they really don't think they have to do the work of actually, supporting, explaining, defending, prosecuting, validating, justifying, buttressing, shoring-up, constructing, and ultimately providing any reasoning for what they believe. So they don't, or do it so sloppy-assed that they commit the ultimate act of (anti) intellectual arrogance:

They merely express and essentially stand by their beliefs, even if there is no "visible" support or logical foundation for them. (Think about the image of Wile E. Coyote, standing in the air, too far past the edge of the cliff, and having that awareness that there is nothing underneath his paws, but for the canyon floor . . . . way way way way way way far down below.)

I don't mean to be harsh here; and I went to law school, where they stress things like identifying the strengths of your opponent's side, and the weaknesses of yours, AND ACT ACCORDINGLY.

Still, one should not have to go through the gristmill of law school to understand the simple truth that expressing an undefended (or ill-defended) belief in public, is about the same as BEGGING to be paddled in public, like some frat pledge at his initiation ceremony:


"Thank you Sir! May I have another?"


Oh, and I confess that while I was getting to the end there I was meaning to repeat the phrase "Head In Ass-ism," tie that in to the prior post about Ipsedixitism, and make some hopefully salient point. But as often is the case (as I do usually do these off the cuff) something else came to mind, and today, it was the Scene in the movie "Animal House" where the pledge at the mean, uncool frat is begging for more abuse.

That seemed to be a more powerful visual image; like Wile E. Coyote's long drop to the canyon floor.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Bonus Extra Post. Everything You Wanted to Know About Ipsedixitisms (But were afraid to ask.)

I decided to explain more about "ipse dixit logic" (talk about a contradiction) as that phrase is not exactly part of the common vernacular. I likely first learned the expression sometime before starting law school, but can't say if it was during my undergrad years, or even before that. Nonetheless, thanks to the fine folk at Wikipedia, I can provide some more explanation of this phrase that, in the snotty old Latin, describes one of the most overused forms of fallacious argument.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search

Ipsedixitism is the pejorative term for an unsupported rhetorical assertion; the term in Logic for a missing argument.

An ipsedixitism is not explicitly defined as an axiom, and certainly not as a "premise", but often appears as such in a syllogism like: "The economy needs more scientists, so expansion of science education will boost the future economy". The proposition rests on an ipsedixitism unless reasons are given that the "economy needs more scientists".


Typical causes of ipsedixitisms

The ipsedixitism is a self-referential Appeal to authority. As in:
"Trust me..."

Without reasoning or citations, the first sentence in this definition would be an 'ipsedixitsm'.
A naïve ipsedixitism is not intentional, such as:
The ipsedixitism is an implicit assumption, accidentally made explicit.
The ipsedixitism presumes general agreement, as in a homily.
The ipsedixitism is unstated dogma, or believed to be a matter of fact, e.g: "As a human carcinogen, DDT must be banned worldwide."

The ipsedixitism is a stubbornly unsupported repetition of a disputed claim, asserting the user's power1 or disinterest in objections.

The ipsedixitism is a deliberate sophistry, attempting to smuggle assertions into an argument.

Ipsedixitisms are given as though absolutely no supporting argument is necessary. One motivation for not supporting declarations is the hope that it will make the declaration less visible, particularly in an obfuscated chain of mathematical or legal reasoning. For instance, the 1998 Indiana tax court held that a particular 'formula' for rejecting tax adjustment appeals was the "apotheosis of ipsedixitism", because no evidence was presented that this 'formula' reliably converted tax assessors' criteria into the conditions necessary for appeal rejection (the connection had simply been stated as a bald ipsedixitism in an obscure tax code sub-section).

There it is, in something slightly larger than a nutshell. As usual, there is more if you follow the link. Oh. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of the following link, in the Wikipedia article:

See also
Humpty Dumpty

Questions Of The Day/Week/Month/Ages

Let us (or me, to be specific) take inventory.

* Eight years (soon to be Nine) on the Internet.

* Hundreds of people met in various net venues.

* Thousands of people's web pages/blogs/comments read.

** Number of sane, rational, normal humans encountered = 7.

Admittedly, I exaggerate (maybe about that grossly high figure of normal humans encountered) but my question of the day is, "Why are so many of the people I encounter in one form or another, on-line, seemingly Mentally Defective?"

Alas, I will not fully answer that q. but I will likely stay in a semi-Socratic mode, and offer up even more questions. Such as:

Why do people who have great difficulty stringing together three coherent, original sentences think what they believe should have any value to any stranger?

Why do some people think that arguments made using Ipse Dixit logic (a very poor and ignorant form of argument where the truthfulness of the proposition has no basis at all, but for the fact the proponent "believes it" to be so) are even worth reading, leave alone the keystrokes to create them?

Why do people who have trouble reading (comprehending) a paragraph, such as follows:

"The reputation of this work is largely due to his analysis of inductive proof, in contrast to Aristotle's syllogisms, which are deductive. Mill formulates five methods of induction -- the method of agreement, the method of difference, the joint or double method of agreement and difference, the method of residues, and that of concomitant variations. The common feature of these methods, the one real method of scientific inquiry, is that of elimination. All the other methods are thus subordinate to the method of difference."
( )

Think they are smart enough to form an intelligent thought?

That was the just the tip of the iceberg, for the cognitive issues. How about behaviors?

Why do some people believe that being an Internet Tough Guy/Gal is anything but the mark of stunted maturity and bad manners?

Why do some people think they gain any thing of value from being rude, crude, or mean, on the Net?

Why do some people think that their lives can be at all enriched by spewing venom to strangers
on some web forum or blog?

Ultimately (and not merely within the confines of the Internet) why do so many people believe
that belligerence is anything but the mark of a bully?

I don't have the ready, neat, and universal answers. I just know that there is too much ignorance, and meanness floating around both the "Real" world and the Virtual one.

And it would be nice if more folk could step back from the combat and try to see that it is at best a waste of time, to engage with others that way. But saying that is easy. I confess that I have been in my own "recovery" phase, and it is hard to give up the old habits of snark and bite.

But I am trying.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Yes, indeed. I have been going back to my sociological roots. I did not exactly complete my Minor in the field. I stopped at the threshold; the quantification course (icky math!) But I love the theories on why people act the (sometimes weird, sometimes insane) way they do.

Anyway, even if I took a virtual refresher course on Max Weber, and a mini- on Durkheim, I have latched, for now, on the topic of GROUPTHINK.

Let's go over some key ideas, thanks to the Generous License from those fine folk at Wikipedia.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
Groupthink is a term coined by psychologist Irving Janis in 1972 to describe a process by which a group can make bad or irrational decisions. In a groupthink situation, each member of the group attempts to conform his or her opinions to what they believe to be the consensus of the group. In a general sense this seems to be a very rationalistic way to approach the situation. However this results in a situation in which the group ultimately agrees upon an action which each member might individually consider to be unwise (the risky shift).
Janis' original definition of the term was "a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action."


Janis listed eight symptoms that he said were indicative of groupthink:

1. Illusion of invulnerability
2. Unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the group
3. Collective rationalization of group's decisions
4. Shared stereotypes of outgroup, particularly opponents
5. Self-censorship; members withhold criticisms
6. Illusion of unanimity (see false consensus effect)
7. Direct pressure on dissenters to conform
8. Self-appointed "mindguards" protect the group from negative information

Finally, the seven symptoms of decision affected by groupthink are:
1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
2. Incomplete survey of objectives
3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
4. Failure to re-appraise initially rejected alternatives
5. Poor information search
6. Selective bias in processing information at hand (see also confirmation bias)
7. Failure to work out contingency plans given to you

Friday, November 18, 2005

On Being GOOD

Not that I am any sort of expert on that topic. Not by a long shot. So I will resort to quotes:

"Keep doing good deeds long enough, and you'll probably turn out a good man in spite of yourself." -- Louis Auchincloss.

"Fashion your life as a garland of beautiful deeds." -- Buddha

"The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, "I was wrong"-- Sydney J. Harris.

"Virtue is a habit of the mind, consistent with nature and moderation and reason." -- Cicero.

I'll stop there. I can get excessive with good quotes.

How to Get Along with Snakes

As is often the case, I only have the vaguest idea what I should (or will, should not being the best word as this is always an optional activity) vamp on, and today is one of those days. Yes I am back in the conflict avoidance frame of mind. I started googling on various related ideas, and just did not find exactly the right thing to quote and/or promote. Then I found this article:

How to Get Along with Snakes.

Yes, it is a straight how-to article, telling folk how to deal with snakes found near their houses and on their property.

Just in case anyone isn't following my line of thinking and intent, here, I am making a forced metaphor here.

* * * * * * * *

"A majority of snakes are harmless. Of the 45 species and 44 subspecies of snakes found in Florida, only 6 species are venomous. Snakes may bite, but biting is not a sign that they are dangerous."

"If you find a snake and you do not know whether it is Venomous or Harmless (non-venomous), the safest thing to do is leave it alone."

* * * * * * * *

And just to make my point plain, at first I was googling for something snappy about getting along with others, but instead ran with the idea of how to handle "snakes" that you don't know for sure are mainly harmless (or not.)

Same can be said about dealing with people.

Avoid those you know are venomous, and if you are not sure . . . . . be very careful!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Still Avoiding the Issues of the Day . . .

What and such NOISE.

Let's just for another day stay away from the gutter of contemporary American politics, shall we?

Let me go off on another cognitive tangent. Hmmm . . . . sounds better to my ears (or as this is a text based experience, looks better, seen through my eyes.)

I will recount a personal story, to start. When I was a young child (so family legend says), I did not start speaking in the way most children do. Allegedly, because of my elder sisters' ability to understand my non-verbal communication (and my own innate sense of self and personality), I did not do the usual staccato bursts of words that your typical toddler uses to indicate desires. Apparently I would gesture, use my cherubic face, and my tiny toddler's body to make my meaning. And since it worked so well for me (I can only imagine) I was content to continue communicating that way. Enter my mother's mother. She was concerned that my verbal skills were underdeveloped. However, in the way a good mother knows her brood, my mom insisted that was not the case.

And, as the story goes, during one of my mom's mother's visits, she tried to get me to engage in the usual and expected toddler-talk. But I suprised her. Instead of the usual toddler's monosyllabic bursts, I proceeded to talk to her in complete sentences, and paragraphs!

Granted, some people might wish I had kept my mouth shut, and never started talking (as I have not managed to shut up, since) but my point in recounting this story is, communication styles (if not comprehension styles.) What is the reason that some folk (like me) tend to think and communicate in long form, and why do other people prefer the short form?

Granted, I am just vamping here. I have yet to discover the right search terms to find the pointed and illuminating scholarship that will help me find the answer, but I am fascinated by the question. Is it really mostly a matter of attention span, or is something deeper, like the way someone is 'wired' to process data? Are some people just born with a greater need to always (or more frequently) dig deep, or to say it another way more curious and questioning, or is it something more esoteric, like preferring coke to pepsi?

Just some ideas that I tend to mull over, now and then. And I may pick up the subject again at a later date.

Parting note; just as when a youngin', I still have trouble with toddler talk, or buzzwords, or slogans. Guess I am just wired that way!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I'll Get To The Point, Sooner Than Later.

I could go off on many tangents, from the root of Cognitive linguistics. And I might, as time goes on. I am fascinated by the subject. But I will get to the point before I go off on the many related issues.

I have long thought that what seperates the left and right wings in America, is the common language (sort of a play off of the old joke about England and America, but it seems apt.)

And I am not alone in thinking that.

The book . . ."Moral Politics" has two different purposes as a book. On one hand, Lakoff attempts to use the techniques of cognitive linguistics to better understand the mental frameworks that lie behind contemporary American politics. He strives to describe which mental concepts make up a "liberal", and which a "conservative". (What Lakoff means by these two terms is considered below.) On the other hand, in the last few chapters of the book, he also attempts to justify why "liberal" morals and politics (of which the author admits to partake) are superior to "conservative" morals and politics.

The book is an objective study of the conceptual metaphors underlying conservative and liberal politics although the closing section is devoted to the author's personal views. Lakoff makes it clear however, that there is no such thing as an Objective study of politics, as politics is based in subjective morality.

* * * * * * *

As to why liberals and conservatives view each other's as incomprehensible on an issue-by-issue basis, Lakoff claims the trouble lies in each side not grasping the other side's worldview, and how different it is from its own. Failure to do so results in both sides thinking the other is hopelessly irrational and immoral; an obviously unfortunate state of affairs.
As to why liberals and conservatives use different vocabulary, even to the point of using the same words to mean different things, Lakoff would again point to his model. Liberals and conservatives have different worldviews, and words are very much influenced by the worldview of the speaker. As Lakoff puts it,
Words don't have meanings in isolation. Words are defined relative to a conceptual system. If liberals are to understand how conservatives use their words, they will have to understand the conservative conceptual system. (From chapter 2, "The Worldview Problem")

I have sliced and diced the article, and pulled just the parts relevant to my point.

Yes, it does seem (or at least a lucid case may be made) that people on the left and the right do not understand each other as they are almost speaking a different language, a lot of the time.

Not an earth shattering revelation, but it does go far to explain the current polarization in American Politics.

I'll stop there for now.

Monday, November 14, 2005

NOT Feeling Productive Today

But I will give you all something to chew on, thanks to the generous license of Wikipedia.

There is something of a theme in my mind here, but I am not promising to get to the point real soon, but I am hoping to.

In any event, consider the following on the subject of: Cognitive linguistics.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Jump to: navigation, search
Theoretical linguistics
Lexical semantics
Structural semantics
Prototype semantics
Applied linguistics
Generative linguistics
Cognitive linguistics
Computational linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
Historical linguistics
List of linguists

Cognitive linguistics is a school of linguistics and cognitive science, which aims to provide accounts of language that mesh well with current understandings of the human mind, and is generally opposed to the more syntactocentric approaches to meaning in generative linguistics. Cognitive Linguistics is divided into two main areas of study: cognitive semantics, dealing mainly with lexical semantics, and cognitive approaches to grammar, dealing mainly with syntax, morphology and other traditionally more grammar-oriented areas. The two areas are going through a reunification these days, as cognitive linguists realize that you cannot look at one without the other. The guiding principle behind this area of linguistics is that language use must be explained with reference to underlying mental processes that apply not only to language but to many other aspects of human cognition.
Aspects of cognition that are of interest to cognitive linguists include:
Construction grammar and cognitive grammar.
Conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending.
Conceptual organization: Categorization, Metonymy, Image schemas, Frame semantics, Iconicity, and Force Dynamics.
Construal and Subjectivity.
Gesture and sign language.
Linguistic relativism.
Cognitive neuroscience.
Related work that interfaces with many of the above themes:
Computational models of metaphor and language acquisition.
Psycholinguistics research.
Conceptual semantics, pursued by generative linguist Ray Jackendoff is related because of its active psychological realism and the incorporation of prototype structure and images.
Cognitive linguistics, more than generative linguistics, seek to mesh together these findings into a coherent whole. A further complication arises because the terminology of cognitive linguistics is not entirely stable, both because it is a relatively new field and because it interfaces with a number of other disciplines.

Yes my plan is to make some anaylitical point getting back to the mad mad world of American Politics and the (so called) Political Divide and Culture War.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Yet Another Public Service Announcement . . .

I may have vamped on this subject before, but likely not saying the same thing, so if I am redundant, please bear with me.


Please do not waste your time on Mean, Sarcastic People.

That is a waste of your time. Trust me on this one. Life is too short.

(And as my sister likes to say) Choose Peace.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Weekly Wrap-Up

No, this will not likely be a hard and fast format for Friday. It just made sense to me, here and now, although I admit my thoughts are not even much beyond the mere desire to use that convention.

On second thought, there really is not much to wrap-up.

I had no great insights this week.

I did not learn any new truths about the world or the people in it.

In fact, the best way to say it is this way: It was just another same-old-shit week.

Ok, I confess, that is just dismissing it, without elaborating.

I do not want to leave it at that, but I am likely fresh out of my own material, so let's look for a couple quotes from wiser people than myself. Thomas Aquinas fits that definition, so here we go:

"There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship."

"Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures."

I really have nothing to add to that friendship quote. It gets right to the point, doesn't it?

However, I will update the second, to the 21st century:

"In absence of true, real, sensual carnal pleasures, leave alone, true spiritual joy, there always is the internet. It won't likely ever provide even the ordinary form of joy, never mind the spiritual kind. And even as far as virtual carnality goes, even that will not likely get close to the real thing. But at least you will be in your own home already, and close to your own bed, when done."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Back to the PATHOLOGY of CyberCulture

Yes, I am sure some folk think I am odd (in many ways, but let's stick to the subject at hand) that I grouse about Cyberculture, and yet seem to be on line all the time. In defense of myself, I say things like, I use the internet; I don't have to love it to use it, and I do not love it.

The way I described it to a friend the other day (HOPE they are still my friend, but that is currently entirely up to them, I suppose), I described the net as "An Electronic Conveyor Belt for Data."

I know the more commonly used expression is data pipeline or just data pipe, or stream, but if I had to choose from among the others, I'd choose stream. To me, I see the net as something that is constantly moving and allows for many people to access that flow, and once you are close enough to the flow, it is very easy to grab from it. I think the pipe analogy is too restrictive. Yes there are more secure areas, and content, but for the most part, the net is a fairly unrestricted thing.

But the important thing is, it is a THING. It is not a world of its own. It really does not have it's own rules (excepting things like http protocols and other techno-bits.) Yes, it does seem to have the appearance of a special 'culture' but what really is that culture? Is that culture basically limited to a small percentage of hard-core users, who glory in the sociologically-quantifiable patterns and rituals of any other sub (or deviant) group? Or does the mere fact that one uses the net to send email and shop and pay bills, make someone an "insider?" I don't think many will affirm that last one. That is the borderline of arguing from the absurd extreme. But I hope I am getting my point across. At least, I am hoping I am raising the right questions in your mind, dear reader.

But I do confess; once upon a time, I was a newbie, and I was into it severely. I used to love looking for something new, and hopefully interesting, every day. But those days are long gone.

I should have realized (maybe I did, on some level) that the net lost its allure to me, when I started thinking of it as something to KILL TIME with.

Anyway, I was supposed to talk about pathology of CyberCulture. I will do less talking, and some copy/pasting, instead, as I found a good article yesterday, on such.

Well, admittedly, the article/essay confirms some biases I already posess, so accuse me of that inferior method of thinking, if you will. I think the stuff makes objective sense.

But to be fair, I could be wrong. I will not jack the whole article, but will pull a couple insightful bits, and link to the rest of it.

Online Relationships: Functional? Fear & Rejection Abound

"[t]he online relationship world appears to be buffered from the typical relationship definitions that rule relationships in reality. While online we do not believe we are addicted to email, bulletin boards, mailing lists, chats, and so forth. We feel that is typical. Online sexual encounters are just as devastating as those which are in reality because emotions are involved."

* * *

"Overall, out of all of the individuals that I have met online, I really have not remained friends with any of them for long periods of time. Eventually the “addictive” nature of online relationships and friendships with men and women tend to fall short of the true relationships and friendships that you can have with individuals in reality – a relationship with a person that you can see, feel, touch, and yea, even smell.

So what is the solution for these individuals who are addicted to email, chat, and so forth? That remains to be seen, but it will probably take an incident of extreme hurt and pain to make them realize that most of online relationships are basically addictive and hurtful in the end. Very few of them mature into something more than a basic friendship of perhaps a year or two, and seldom do relationships stay in place for longer than 5 years. "

Personally, I don't believe I was ever 'addicted' to the email or the text chatting. I have mostly disliked, if not hated that part of being on-line.

However, I have earned my share of emotional scars, from my time on line. But in my case, I think that was more due to what the Internet IS NOT, as opposed to what the Internet REALLY IS.

There is a nuance I was going for, there. Hope you get it. Other than that, that is all I am going to say about it!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

And to THINK I Thought I Had a Bad Day, BEFORE I Made the Previous Post.

I will not go long, and I will try to avoid going to fully and totally weltzschmertzy, here, but let's just say that yes, my evening got even worse.

Funny, how in life one can think that,"Ohh things can't POSSIBLY get worse," and up jump Da Devil, and bingo, bango, yes, they can and they do get worse.

Yesterday was my birthday. And I have been shell-shocked, and burnt out for a couple weeks, here, and I was not expecting a memorable day, to begin with. My expectations were minimal. Honest. The day crawled along in that ordinary, joyless, lifeless way that seems to be the case so often for so many people, and for myself, more often than not, for the past two years.

But I was basically dealing with it.

Then (technically past the clock striking midnight, but as a matter of human experience, still that "day") I found myself, metaphorically, on the wrong end of the sewer main.

Oh well . . . next year can't be any worse . . . .

More Words on My Mind.

How about I praise something, rather than try to bury it, for a change?

Let us now all praise TACT.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Jump to: navigation, search
Tact is a careful consideration of the feelings and values of another so as to create harmonious relationships with a reduced potential for conflict or offense. Tact is a virtue.
An example of tact would be relating to someone a potentially embarrassing detail of their appearance or demeanor without causing them distress.
Tact is a form of interpersonal diplomacy. Tact is the ability to induce change or communicate hurtful information without offending through the use of consideration, compassion, kindness and reason.
A tactful person can tell you something you don't want to hear and you will be thankful for the information when they are finished.
Synonyms: considerateness, consideration, delicacy, diplomacy, discreetness, finesse, savoir-faire, thoughtfulness.

No (I could only wish they usually or always were) illuminting afterthoughts, for this one, for now.

{I just had a hateful day, and I can't be bothered. Sorry to dissapoint. And NOOO, I don't mean it was hateful becuase of it being elction day!}

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Words and Ideas of The Day

First word: Alienate.

alienate (NOT WELCOME)

verb [T] to make someone feel that they are different and do not belong to a group.

Second word: Cold.


not showing affection, kindness or emotion and not friendly:His handshake was cold, and his eyes lifeless.He stared into her cold blue eyes.She would never feel welcome in this city with its cold, unsmiling inhabitants.The school was a cold, unwelcoming place.


in an unfriendly way and without emotion:"That's your problem, " she said coldly.

It was the coldness of her manner that struck me.

Ok, that was three iterations of that idea.

Next word: Creepy.

strange or unnatural and making you feel frightened:
a creepy film
a creepy smile

And that leads to: Unnatural.

not natural, see at nature (LIFE).

And even if the hyperlink carried over, let's take a look at the def. for: Natural.

normal or expected:

as found in nature and not involving anything made or done by people:

Now why I am I hung up on this particular chain of thought? Increasingly, The Internet Is Creeping Me Out.

Not so much the regular surfing, but moreso "CyberCulture" and net socializing.

I have been on the internet since early 1997, and I have tried to get with it. I am a modern guy. However, I am not by nature what anyone but a real hermit would call a "People Person." And even if I hear/read some folk say they are more likely to be and get social on line then in real life (some call that the disinhibition effect) to me, for the most part, internet socializing is as likely if not more so, to leave me feeling Alienated than not. I find it Cold. I find it Unnatural. I find it Creepy.

Not all the time, and not excessively creepy. I do not mean Steven King novel Creepy. I mean creepy in the sense that you get invited to some party some where, and you feel generally mildly uncomfortble with the room, and you realize that the people there all seem to be into the same slightly weird thing, and share the same slightly weird ideas to a great extent, and even if the ideas are not totally alien to you, the level of interest they all seem to place in it, seems EXCESSIVE.

Hope that explains it. Sorry for being critical yet again. Well at least I have changed what I am criticizing . . . at least here on this blog.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Still BURNT Here

Hell, I am now burnt about talking about how burnt I am on all that partisan hate-feasting.

In any event, I googled about for something interesting, and hey, I found something.

Good data and analysis here, and an INTELLIGENT article:

I will post the summary chunk, and leave it to anyone interested to hit the link, and read the rest.

Why People Are Irrational about Politics
Michael Huemer

Based on the level of disagreement, human beings are highly unreliable at identifying correct political claims. This is extremely unfortunate, since it means that we have little chance of solving most social problems and a good chance of causing or exacerbating them. The best explanation lies in the theory of Rational Irrationality: individuals derive psychological rewards from holding certain political beliefs, and since each individual suffers almost none of the harm caused by his own false political beliefs, it often makes sense (it gives him what he wants) to adopt those beliefs regardless of whether they are true or well-supported.

The beliefs that people want to hold are often determined by their self-interest, the social group they want to fit into, the self-image they want to maintain, and the desire to remain coherent with their past beliefs. People can deploy various mechanisms to enable them to adopt and maintain their preferred beliefs, including giving a biased weighting of evidence; focusing their attention and energy on the arguments supporting their favored beliefs; collecting evidence only from sources they already agree with; and relying on subjective, speculative, and anecdotal claims as evidence for political theories.

The irrationality hypothesis is superior to alternative explanations of political disagreement in its ability to account for several features of political beliefs and arguments: the fact that people hold their political beliefs with a high degree of confidence; the fact that discussion rarely changes political beliefs; the fact that political beliefs are correlated with race, sex, occupation, and other cognitively irrelevant traits; and the fact that numerous logically unrelated political beliefs—and even, in some cases, beliefs that rationally undermine each other—tend to go together. These features of political beliefs are not explained by the hypotheses that political issues are merely very difficult, that we just haven’t yet collected enough information regarding them, or that political disputes are primarily caused by people’s differing fundamental value systems.

It may be possible to combat political irrationality, first, by recognizing one’s own susceptibility to bias. One should recognize the cases in which one is most likely to be biased (such as issues about which one feels strongly), and one should consciously try to avoid using the mechanisms discussed above for maintaining irrational beliefs. In the light of widespread biases, one should also take a skeptical attitude towards evidence presented to one by others, recognizing that the evidence has probably been screened and otherwise distorted. Lastly, one may be able to combat others’ irrationality by identifying the sort of empirical evidence that would be required to test their claims, and by taking a fair-minded and cooperative, rather than combative, attitude towards discussion. It remains a matter of speculation whether these measures will significantly alleviate the problem of political irrationality.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

THIS Is What I Mean. How ILL do You Have To Be, About Your SICK Partisan Opinions, To Do THIS?

Ok, dear reader. I am still on my "time out." And today, I saw something that really sickened me. Ok. That might be overstating it, but this is SICK STUFF!

Now there is this Sean Hannity fan, who is such a fav, that she will get bumped to the head of the line when she calls into his show. Her name is Karpet Kitten. She has a blog.

Now I don't really like her blog all that much but it is so . . . and I am trying to be otherwise kind here . . . UNIQUE, that I peek in, just to see what unique things she is saying.

Now she just updated her blog today, telling about the death of her niece. And I am sorry about that and sorry for her loss, and all that normal stuff. But here is were it gets SICK SICK SICK!!!

In the course of discussing her feelings about her niece's death, and the circumstances,
SHE CRACKS a Ted Kennedy Joke!!

Can you believe that shit?

How Outta Your Damn Mind, Warped Partisan do you have to be to crack on a politician you despise, in the middle of mourning your kin?


I am getting way disgusted with this country and the people in it, again.

I think I had the right idea, when I was 12, about wanting to be a hermit.

People not only SUCK, but their inventiveness in coming up with new ways to suck, seems to be limitless.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Not Off THAT Track Yet.

If memory serves, I likely dealt with the topic of BIGOTRY in some other way, in the past. So if I am a little redundant here . . . sorry (I am told, often, that I repeat myself.) However, some topics merit repeating.

So today I am going to post several standard definition of BIGOT, & BIGOTRY:


bigot Show phonetics noun [C] DISAPPROVING

a person who has strong, unreasonable beliefs and who thinks that anyone who does not have the same beliefs is wrong:a religious bigot

He was known to be a loud-mouthed, opinionated bigot.

From: Merriam Webster

Main Entry: big·ot
Pronunciation: 'bi-g&t
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French, hypocrite,

bigot: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices- big·ot·ed /-g&-t&d/ adjective-
big·ot·ed·ly adverb


Pronunciation: (big'u-trē), [key] —n., —pl. -ries.

1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own. 2. the actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot.

I will skip the def. found over on Wiki, but their article linked up the word Zealot:

Zealotry denotes zeal in excess, referring to cases where activism and ambition in relation to an ideology have become excessive to the point of being harmful to others, oneself, and one's own cause. A zealous person is called a zealot.

Once again I seem to be doing one of my word daisy-chains, but they are all related, it seems. So I hope to find a last link in the chain (for now) soon. Ok then. I will move on to ideolouge.

/iddilog, idi-/

• noun a person who follows an ideology in a dogmatic or uncompromising way.

Now for some analysis (and I am just riffing here; I am not working on a dissertation, except that of my entire life as lived and remembered.) We have, as a species (not only a nation) a rich selection of words for and related to the idea of being excessively prideful, excessively in love with, and excessively impressed with our own beliefs. So much so that it makes me consider (yet I stop short of concluding) that 'mentally-defective' might actually be common, if not the default setting for the species. However, that is not where my stream of consciousness is leading me here. I am more concerned now with the idea:

"Where The HELL Are the LINES?"

And by lines I mean, where is the clear line that seperates a reasonably rational adherent of some idea or ideology, from a Dogmatic Ideolouge? Does the ideology have to have some inherent irrationality, or is it more of a function of holding and advancing the ideology with too much PASSION?

Likewise, where is the line between rational, goal oriented activism, and Barborus Zealotry?
Given the meaning of zeal, leading to zealot, it seems that excessive passion is truly a key to that idea.

Moving now to bigotry, again the inherently same line of inquiry should be pursued. Or to jump to the chase, at what point does passionate belief become Irrational, Hateful Bigotry?

Honestly, I do not have the objective answers, and even if there was some elegant formula, some rational and (mostly) universal bright lines, there certainly would be opposition from some folk. As far as the closest thing to a good if not ideal standard and measure, I'd suggest that the quotes from Bertrand Russell I have posted, previously, serve as a very good example of where to start. Yes, I know lots of people from all points on the political/social/cultural compass would rather face the terrifing tortues of Torquemada's Spanish Inquisition (so they would say), rather than back off one inch from their passions.

And that leads to the (perhaps) bigger question:

why do people believe such bullshit in the first place? I don't mean their actual beliefs about sundry (and more often than not relatively trivial -- in the sense that it is not immediately an issue of life, death, and survival of self, family and nation) issues. I mean the bullshit about how passionately one, or anyone, thinks about and/or holds, or argues in support of their beliefs is at all:

or inherently meaningful in any way?

If I ever get a suitable brain flash that leads to that answer, I will let you know, dear reader. Meantime, I will be redundant yet again, and promote Bertrand Russell's rational skepticism, as posted below here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Still On the Theme. And a Guest Commentary.

Well No not truly a guest commentary, but moreso a few wise quotes from a wise man, that bears on the theme of (as I will call it today)

America Unhinged! How Partisan Politics are Killing the Nation.

And I should say the wise man in consideration is that very model of masterful mental moderation, Bertrand Russell. The source essay touches on several themes, but it was titled:
"On the Value of Scepticism."

Here are the quotes:

The opinions for which people are willing to fight and persecute all belong to one of the three classes which this scepticism condemns. When there are rational grounds for an opinion, people are content to set them forth and wait for them to operate. In such cases, people do not hold their opinions with passion; they hold them calmly, and set forth their reasons quietly. The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder's lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately. Except in China, a man is thought a poor creature unless he has strong opinions on such matters; people hate sceptics far more than they hate the passionate advocates of opinions hostile to their own. It is thought that the claims of practical life demand opinions on such questions, and that, if we became more rational, social existence would be impossible.

* * * *

Politicians do not find any attractions in a view which does not lend itself to party declamation, and ordinary mortals prefer views which attribute misfortune to the machinations of their enemies. Consequently people fight for and against quite irrelevant measures, while the few who have a rational opinion are not listened to because they do not minister to any one's passions.

* * * *

What would be the effect of a spread of rational scepticism? Human events spring from passions, which generate systems of attendant myths. Psychoanalysts have studied the individual manifestations of this process in lunatics, certified and uncertified. A man who has suffered some humiliation invents a theory that he is King of England, and develops all kinds of ingenious explanations of the fact that he is not treated with that respect which his exalted position demands. In this case, his delusion is one with which his neighbours do not sympathize, so they lock him up. But if, instead of asserting only his own greatness, he asserts the greatness of his nation or his class or his creed, he wins hosts of adherents, and becomes a political or religious leader, even if, to the impartial outsider, his views seem just as absurd as those found in asylums. In this way a collective insanity grows up, which follows laws very similar to those of individual insanity.

* * * *

Our instinctive apparatus consists of two parts -- the one tending to further our own life and that of our descendants, the other tending to thwart the lives of supposed rivals. The first includes the joy of life, and love, and art, which is psychologically an offshoot of love. The second includes competition, patriotism, and war. Conventional morality does everything to suppress the first and encourage the second. True morality would do the exact opposite. Our dealings with those whom we love may be safely left to instinct; it is our dealings with those whom we hate that ought to be brought under the dominion of reason. In the modern world, those whom we effectively hate are distant groups, especially foreign nations. We conceive them abstractly, and deceive ourselves into the belief that acts which are really embodiments of hatred are done from love of justice or some such lofty motive. Only a large measure of scepticism can tear away the veils which hide this truth from us. Having achieved that, we could begin to build a new morality, not based on envy and restriction, but on the wish for a full life and the realization that other human beings are a help and not a hindrance when once the madness of envy has been cured.

Honestly, I can't say that the early 21st century's politics are all that different than early 20th. We seem to be dealing with the same core problems. Russell might be flabbergasted with our "news cycles," insta-punditry, and how the irrational passions, the (as he called it) "Collective Insanity," is being marshalled and channeled with such brutal efficiency and effect.

Not quite 100 years later, we (seemingly all of us) still need to learn the lesson of skepticism and rationality he wrote so elequently about.

I hope that someone, somebody or somebodies with greater clout or at least greater media presence can pick up the Russell's banner of rational skepticism and promote it. Seems to me that mostly what is being promoted today by those with such presence is nothing more that more hatred, more bile, more viciousness, and more of the irrational and destructive form of passion, that is only making things worse.

Call it "Collective Insanity," or call it "Irrational Passion." Either way it is something we clearly can do better without, after we drive a stake through its blackheart, burn the wicked corpse, and scatter the tainted ashes to the four winds.

I should probably stop there (as a compositional matter) but this thread of thought reminds me of a recurring question I have, and that is:

"When did people first begin to believe the bullshit that being passionate about their beliefs, makes those beliefs any more reasonable?"

But I admit, the answer to that, if any, is likely that such bullshit is as ancient as any other of the traditional human vices.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

In a Similar Vein.

I had started something last night, and deleted it. Then, this afternoon, I had a All-Hallows-Eve inspired thought, vamping on the theme of ZOMBIES. But I decided to dial it back for something somewhat less allegorical and perhaps a little more real-world-ish.

So, courtesy of the fine folk at Wiki, I present a chunk of their article concerning CULTS:

Theories about the reasons for joining a cult

Michael Langone gives three different models regarding joining a cult 30:

"The definitional ambiguity surrounding the term cult has fueled much controversy regarding why people join cults and other unorthodox groups. Three apparently conflicting models attempt to account for conversion to unorthodox groups. The deliberative model, favored by most sociologists and religious scholars, says that people join because of what they think about the group. The psychodynamic model, favored by many mental health professionals with little direct experience with cultists, says that people join because of what the group does for them-namely, fulfill unconscious psychological needs. The thought reform model, favored by many mental health professionals who have worked with large numbers of cultists, says that people join because of what the group does to them- that is, because of a systematic program of psychological manipulation that exploits, rather than fulfills, needs."

According to Gallanter11, typical reasons why people join cults include a search for community and a spiritual quest.

Jeffrey Hadden summarizes a lecture named "Why Do People Join NRMs?" (a lecture in a series related to the sociology of new religious movements12) as follows:

Belonging to groups is a natural human activity;

People belong to religious groups for essentially the same reasons they belong to other groups;

Conversion is generally understood as an emotionally charged experience that leads to a dramatic reorganization of the convert's life;

Conversion varies enormously in terms of the intensity of the experience and the degree to which it actually alters the life of the convert;

Conversion is one, but not the only reason people join religious groups;

Social scientists have offered a number of theories to explain why people join religious groups;
Most of these explanations could apply equally well to explain why people join lots of other kinds of groups;

No one theory can explain all joinings or conversions;

What all of these theories have in common (deprivation theory excluded) is the view that joining or converting is a natural process.

Stark and Bainbridge have questioned the utility of the concept of conversion. They suggest, instead, that the concept of affiliation is a more useful concept for understanding how people join religious groups.13

And a link on that page will bring you to the following:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Jump to: navigation, search

Self-deception is a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and argument.

It has been argued that humans are without exception highly susceptible to self-deception, as everyone has emotional attachments to beliefs. Some evolutionary biologists, such as Robert Trivers, have even suggested that, because deception is such an important part of human behaviour (and animal behaviour generally), an instinct for self-deception can give a person a selective advantage: if someone can believe their own "lie" (i.e., their presentation that is biased toward their own self-interest), the theory goes, they will consequently be better able to persuade others of its "truth."

This notion is based on the following logic. In humans, awareness of the fact that one is acting deceptively often leads to telltale signs of deception. Therefore, if self-deception enables someone to believe their distortions, they will not present such signs of deception and will therefore appear to be telling the truth.

And even further, a link on that page leads to this list:

List of cognitive biases

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Jump to: navigation, search
Cognitive bias is distortion in the way we perceive reality (see also cognitive distortion).
Some of these have been verified empirically in the field of psychology, others are considered general categories of bias.
androcentric bias
anthropic bias
anthropocentric bias
attribution, attributional bias
fundamental attribution error
group attribution error
availability error
bandwagon effect
Barnum effect
base rate neglect
behavioral confirmation
belief bias
belief perseverance
bias blind spot
clustering illusion
confirmation bias
conjunction fallacy
contrast effect
cultural bias
dilution effect
disconfirmation bias
egocentric bias
endowment effect
expectancy effect
experimenter's regress
false consensus effect
framing effect
gambler's fallacy
group-serving bias
halo effect
hindsight bias
hostile media effect
hyperbolic discounting
illusion of control
illusion of validity
illusory correlation
impact bias
inequity aversion
infrastructure bias
ingroup bias
just-world phenomenon
Kuleshov effect
Lake Wobegon effect
logical fallacy
loss aversion
matching bias
media bias
memory bias
mere exposure effect
misinformation effect
negative perception of the color black
negativity effect
notational bias
outgroup homogeneity bias
overconfidence effect
pathetic fallacy
peak-end rule
physical attractiveness stereotype
picture superiority effect
planning fallacy
positivity effect
preference reversal
primacy effect
projection bias
pseudocertainty effect
publication bias
recency effect
regression fallacy
reporting bias
rosy retrospection
sample bias
selection bias
selective perception
self-serving bias
serial position effect
spacing effect
statistical bias
status quo bias
sunk cost effects
trait ascription bias
tunnel vision
valence effect
Von Restorff effect
wishful thinking
worse-than-average effect
Zeigarnik effect
Common theoretical causes of some cognitive biases:
attribution theory, especially:
cognitive dissonance, and related:
impression management
self-perception theory
heuristics, including:
availability heuristic
representativeness heuristic
Other cognitive biases:
list of memory biases
optical illusion
auditory illusion
touch illusion
carbon chauvinism
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.


Yes I am way short on my own commentary. Still dealing with various forms of burn-out here. But given the theme I have been working on, I mean to say that these ideas are related to how obnoxious Partisan Politics have become.

I know, I know. The major parties/movements are not exactly cults, and yet I do think there is often a cultish feel to the way they behave and appear. But for better or worse, I believe the leaders don't have to work all that hard for people to swallow the core congitive biases required for something that is really an artificial, if real seeming to some, sense of specialness, and identity.

The people who are likely to get off on that make-believe shit, are already wired that way. Just like the skilled con man plays off the greed of the mark that is already present in the mark's personality, political leaders manipulate the distorted sense of self that the rank and file already possess.

Most politicians ain't all that damn smart and crafty to begin with. The can't create anything, save some more smoke and illusion. But as my academic theatre courses taught me, the success of the performance greatly depends on the audience's willingness to "Suspend Disbelief."

Once the audience snaps out of that (usually when the performers are really performing badly) the illusion is lost.

And no, I am not going to even mention any specific illusions (that I see) that are failing.

I leave that, dear reader, to you.
Add to Technorati Favorites