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More on Political Opinions and Tribal Pressures

January 23, 2019 | By | Reply More
More on Political Opinions and Tribal Pressures

At The Atlantic, Jay Van Bavel discusses recent experiments showing that we are not permanently polarized with regard to our political positions. The article is titled, How Political Opinions Change.

In a recent experiment, we showed it is possible to trick people into changing their political views. In fact, we could get some people to adopt opinions that were directly opposite of their original ones. . . . A powerful shaping factor about our social and political worlds is how they are structured by group belonging and identities… We are also far more motivated to reason and argue to protect our own or our group’s views. Indeed, some researchers argue that our reasoning capabilities evolved to serve that very function.

People tend to take more extreme positions of their same viewpoint when challenged with information supporting the opposite view. The trick is to suggest to the person that they actually held the opposite view through false-feedback. The take-away: “people have a pretty high degree of flexibility about their political views once you strip away the things that normally make them defensive.”

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Scientific Reasoning, Tribal Reasoning

January 22, 2019 | By | Reply More
Scientific Reasoning, Tribal Reasoning

It’s not enough to be a scientifically savvy person, because your scientific savviness can be hijacked by your tribal impulses, leading to such things as intelligent people vigorously arguing that climate change is a hoax.

That is the conclusion of Dan Kahan, writing for The Atlantic in “Why Smart People Are Vulnerable to Putting Tribe Before Truth.”

Unless accompanied by another science-reasoning trait, the capacities associated with science literacy can actually impede public recognition of the best available evidence and deepen pernicious forms of cultural polarization.

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Coddled Children Grow up Self-Disruptive

September 19, 2018 | By | 1 Reply More
Coddled Children Grow up Self-Disruptive

In The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Attorney Greg Lukianoff (founder of FIRE) and moral psyhchologist Jonathan Haidt address America’s mushrooming inability to engage in productive civil discourse. Increasing numbers of people are claiming that they cannot cope with ideas that challenge their own world view. They sometimes claim that ideas that challenge their own ideas are “not safe.” In dozens of well-publicized cases, rather than work to counteract “bad” ideas with better ideas, they work to muzzle speaker by disrupting presentations or even running the purportedly offensive speakers off campus.

There is a related and growing problem. We cannot talk with each other at all regarding many many important issues. We shout each other down and use the heckler’s veto. These maladies are especially prominent on some American college campuses, but these problems are also rapidly spreading to the country at large, including corporate America.

Consider this 2016 example featuring the students of Yale having a “discussion” with Professor Nicholas Christakis:

You would never guess it from this video alone, but this mass-meltdown was triggered after child development specialist Erika Christakis (wife of Nicholas), sent this email to students.?This incident at Yale is one of many illustrations offered by Haidt and Lukianoff as evidence of a disturbing trend. ?Here’s another egregious example involving?Dean Mary Spellman at Claremont McKenna College who was run out of her college after committing the sin of writing this email to a student. ?More detail here.?

The authors offer this as the genesis of the overall problem:

In years past, administrators were motivated to create campus speech codes in order to curtail what they deemed to be racist or sexist speech. Increasingly, however, the rationale for speech codes and speaker disinvitations was becoming medicalized: Students claimed that certain kinds of speech—and even the content of some books and courses—interfered with their ability to function. They wanted protection from material that they believed could jeopardize their mental health by “triggering” them, or making them “feel unsafe.”

The solution offered by Lukianoff and Haidt is to take a moment to stop to recognize what they call the “Three Bad Ideas.”

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Haidt on Anti-Fragility and the Safety Culture

July 24, 2018 | By | Reply More
Haidt on Anti-Fragility and the Safety Culture

n this lecture, Jonathan Haidt describes the new Manichean culture, where some groups of people are inherently good and other are inherently bad. Many of the “good” groups have found power in victimhood, demanding (and getting, especially at universities) protection from the authorities. This “safety culture” has proven to be debilitating, infantilizing the protected group. What they actually need is challenges and hurdles, which will make them stronger. People are anti-fragile. As shown with bones, immune systems and helicopter parenting, lack of insult weakens individuals.

Haidt argues that all of this dependence culture has the opposite effect than the one intended. The only group subjected to challenges and insults without no societal support are straight white men (11:00 min), which is much better preparation for holding a job than a lifetime of victimhood, dependence and safety culture.

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Jonathan Haidt: Diversity can only thrive within a shared sense of identity.

July 23, 2018 | By | Reply More

The most perplexing question over the past decade is why the left and right talk past each other. When the one speaks, the other hears nonsense. Diversity is praised by one side and ridiculed by the other. In this presentation, Jonathan Haidt argues that diversity can only thrive within a shared sense of identity. What we have in the U.S. is the lack of a shared sense of identity. This presentation builds upon much of Haidt’s work (not elaborated upon in this talk) on the moral foundations.

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About Google Scientist James Damore

July 15, 2018 | By | Reply More
About Google Scientist James Damore

I know I’m late to the game on this Google incident, but this is such a good illustration about how we, as a society, are unable to talk and think about serious issues except through our ideological filters. Further, some questions that can be explored through science apparently should no longer be even raised.

First, a comment from a Gizmodo article by Melanie Ehrenkranz, who characterizes former Google Engineer James Damore as follows: “The man thinks women are inferior to men as engineers.” That is typical of a lot of how Damore has been treated on the Internet.

Now consider the basic facts about what Damore wrote at Google:

Calling the culture at Google an “ideological echo chamber”, the memo says that while discrimination exists, it is extreme to ascribe all disparities to oppression, and it is authoritarian to try to correct disparities through reverse discrimination. Instead, it argues that male/female disparities can be partly explained by biological differences. According to research he cited, those differences include women generally having a stronger interest in people rather than things, and tending to be more social, artistic, and prone to neuroticism (a higher-order personality trait). Damore’s memorandum also suggests ways to adapt the tech workplace to those differences to increase women’s representation and comfort, without resorting to discrimination.

Damore has given detailed interviews about what happened at Google and why he wrote his comments. That includes this interview with Joe Rogan:

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When the issues are more about tribal identity than the merits of the issues

April 7, 2018 | By | Reply More

To what extent are the issues really about the merits of the issues, rather than about tribal identities?

Zaid Jilani’s article at The Intercept nails it. The title: “A NEW STUDY SHOWS HOW AMERICAN POLARIZATION IS DRIVEN BY A TEAM SPORT MENTALITY, NOT BY DISAGREEMENT ON ISSUES.”

THE LOOSE CONNECTION some voters have with policy preferences has become apparent in recent years. Donald Trump managed to flip a party from support of free trade to opposition to it by merely taking the opposite side of the issue. Democrats, meanwhile, mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for calling Russia the greatest geopolitical adversary of the United States, but now have flipped and see Russia as exactly that. Regarding health care, the structure of the Affordable Care Act was initially devised by the conservative Heritage Foundation and implemented in Massachusetts as “Romneycare.” Once it became Obamacare, the Republican team leaders deemed it bad, and thus it became bad.

Mason believes the implications of such shallow divisions between people could make the work of democracy harder. If your goal in politics is not based around policy but just defeating your perceived enemies, what exactly are you working toward? (Is it any surprise there is an entire genre of campus activism dedicated to simply upsetting your perceived political opponents?)

“The fact that even this thing’s that supposed to be about reason and thoughtfulness and what we want the government to do, the fact that even that is largely identity-powered, that’s a problem for debate and compromise and the basic functioning of democratic government. Because even if our policy attitudes are not actually about what we want the government to do but instead about who wins, then nobody cares what actually happens in the government,” Mason said. “We just care about who’s winning in a given day. And that’s a really dangerous thing for trying to run a democratic government.”

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About “race”

June 21, 2015 | By | Reply More

On FB, someone recently complained that race is not a legitimate concept. The writer claims to be Libertarian and wants to dismantle all government laws protecting citizens on the base of racism. Here is my response:

It is my position that you are overstating the role of Obama in peddling of “race” as a legitimate concept. The peddlers of racialism are ubiquitous, all stripes of people want to believe that they can use the skin color and body features as a proxy for a personality type. It’s been going on for many decades and centuries and, in my opinion, it’s time to put this stupidity to a stop. That said, I have no idea of how to do this, but the first step would be to say “Halt!” to everyone, all the pundits, social workers, media reporters, judges and every one else who claims that there is some scientific or social basis for claiming there to be sub-races to the human race. It’s much like climate change. There is no basis for the belief in race (or the denial of human-caused climate change), yet the stupidity has taken on a life of its own. Careful scientists with expertise in biology have weighed in, almost entirely in unison.

There is no “black” or “white” or “Chinese” race. Belief in race has no more basis than the belief in phrenology, and if there were big money, careers and xenophobia making use of phrenology, that silliness would still be with us too. Skin is an organ. It comes in different shades of brown. If skin were transparent, we’d be manipulating/exploiting/threatening each other on the colors of our livers, kidneys and lungs too. But I write this with a caveat – There are still many bigots running amok, much of this caused by the widespread misconception that there is such a thing as race. I would not outright eliminate all laws that protect people from racial discrimination. I would not make it an element of these laws that one is of a particular “race,” however, because I don’t believe in race. Rather, the protection would be given to anyone who is fired/excluded on the basis that they are perceived to be of a certain “race,” even though there is no such thing as race. In short, there can be racism even though there is no such thing as race, and people should be protected from racism, because it is a pernicious belief that causes widespread harm to society, in addition to causing specific harm to specific people.

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Why there are not any civilizations without temples – Video featuring Jonathan Haidt

October 31, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

Jonathan Haidt explains why there are not any civilizations without temples, starting at minute 14 of this video. This is the 2013 Boyarsky Lecture at Duke University. About 10,000 years we went from an almost instantaneous transition from hunter-gathers to Babylon. A huge part of our evolutionary development is this newly learned ability of humans to circling around sacred objects (religious and political objects are two dominant examples) in order to form teams. As we circle around, we generate a social energy that knits the social fabric, but also encourages Manichean thinking–us versus them, blinding us to our own faults and faulty thinking. No shades of gray are allowed when we are intensely groupish. This kind of groupish thinking is radically incompatible with scientific thinking. Science is squeezed out, replaced by sacred objects, groupishness and authoritarian obeisance.

At min 24, Haidt gets to the crux of his talk. Those of us who focus on the “care” (empathy) foundation of morality, often circle about it bonding with others like us, rejecting and denigrating the impulses and ideas that tend to drive those who are politically conservative.

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