Random links

The Influence of Effortful Thought and Cognitive Proficiencies on the Conjunction Fallacy: Implications for Dual-Process Theories of Reasoning and Judgment
"participants higher in numeracy were less likely to make conjunction errors, but this association only emerged when participants engaged in two-sided reasoning, as opposed to one-sided or no reasoning. Confidence was higher for incorrect as opposed to correct judgments, suggesting that participants were unaware of their errors."
This Home Was Built by a 3-D Printer
"the concrete structure only took 24 hours to assemble and includes a bathroom, a living room and a compact functional kitchen."
This Beautiful Carbon-Neutral “Leather” Is Grown From Mushrooms: Your leather jacket could come from plant waste soon.
"while livestock requires massive resources, the mushroom process happens in a closed loop. A pair of leather shoes might produce 33 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution; the mushroom “leather” is carbon neutral. ... 'More than the ethical or ideological issues, its market acceptance will come about because it’s so cheap to create it,' says Ross."

George Orwell on the freedom of the press

George Orwell, from a proposed preface to Animal Farm

Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines — being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that “it wouldn’t do” to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralized, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was “not done” to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

This was written over 70 years ago - so the specific political concerns (and national context in which you live) may be different, but I think that similar pressures continue to exist.

Random links

Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work / Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins
I don't have much confidence in any political party to improve schools.
Trump Diary 9: Black Blocs and U-locks - Waggish
"The right and the left elites had very different relationships with their respective underculture groups. In short, the right politically enfranchised its underculture allies, while the left culturally enfranchised its underculture allies."
Scientists' Evaluations of Research: the Biasing Effects of the Importance of the Topic
The more important the topic the worse the average quality of research in an area. "When the topic was important, scientists in both samples were significantly more likely to overlook the methodological flaws, and significantly more lenient in their recommendations that the studies be published."

People don't necessarily think like you: Islamic edition

One of the things that I find really annoying about a lot of political discussions is the notion that everyone thinks like you rather than that people think in different ways. The annoyance I feel seemed well expressed in a discussion between Shadi Hamid and Robert Wright (beginning around 21:15) (highlight mine):

Hamid: For me, and based on my own experiences as an American, I think that having a state that is religiously and ideologically neutral is important. But then, why should my personal inclinations or beliefs be imposed on other people who don't share my starting assumptions. And that's a question I always pose to people when I get in this debate and they say 'We think this is better. Liberalism is better. Secularism is better.' And yes, it may be from our standpoint but you can't force people to be liberal or secular against their will if they don't want to be, right?

Wright: Ya. That's my view. I'm definitely with you there that we should be in many ways wary of assuming that everyone's going to share our values as soon as we explain to them how enlightened we are.

Shadi Hamid also expressed this more elaborately to Razib Khan:

My bigger issue, though, has to do with political scientists’ unwillingness to take religion seriously as a prime mover. In other words, because most political scientists in the academy aren’t particularly religious or haven’t spent much time around religious people, they usually see religion not as a cause, but rather as something caused by other more tangible, material factors, the things we can touch, feel, and of course measure. So if someone joins an Islamist organization like the Muslim Brotherhood, the tendency is to explain it with things like rural-urban migration, underemployment, poverty, being pissed off at America, the list goes on. Sure, all those things matter, but what does political science have to say about “irrational” things like wanting to get into heaven? It’s not everything, but it’s one important factor that has to taken into account. This is something that becomes more obvious when you talk to Islamists about why they do what they do. They don’t say, “hey Shadi, I’m doing this because I want to get into heaven.” It’s more something that you feel and absorb the more you sit down and talk to a Muslim Brotherhood member. It matters to them and it’s something that drives them, especially when they’re deciding to join a sit-in and they’re well aware that the military is about to move in and use live ammunition. It’s not so much that they want to die; it’s more that they are ready to die, and it doesn’t frighten them as much as it might frighten someone else, because they believe there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be granted paradise especially if they happen to killed while they’re in the middle of an act that they consider to be in the service of God and his message.

Shadi Hamid might be best described as a liberal Muslim, but you can find similar sentiments expressed by so-called "new atheist" Sam Harris:

the people who are devoting their lives to waging jihad really believe what they say they believe, however those ideas got into their heads. The psychological problem that secularists must overcome is the basic doubt that anyone believes in paradise. I’ve actually had anthropologists and other overeducated people look me in the eye and insist that no one believes in martyrdom and that even suicide bombers are merely concerned about politics, economics, and male bonding. Some experts on terrorism sincerely think that no one is ever motivated to act on the basis of religious ideas. I find this astonishing.

Both of the above quotes are most specifically focused on secular views of certain Islamic groups, but it's certainly something that applies much more broadly. (One of my favourite weird studies is still that of investment decisions by members of apocalyptic cults).


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