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You probably won't like this diary. You will very likely try to find every possible reason you can to conclude that while it may apply to others (especially Republicans), it doesn't apply to you. And by doing so, you will be demonstrating that the findings of neuroscience are indeed correct.  :)

All of us like to think that we are a logical and rational creature, who has come to our belief system (whether about politics, religion, or social viewpoints) through dispassionate and detached evaluation of reality, and that we defend our positions with objective facts and evidence.

Alas, the findings of behavioral neurology and cognitive brain science show that we are all wrong. Humans do no such thing at all. Not me, not you--none of us. Instead, neurological research has shown that all humans tend to believe whatever our social peer group teaches us to believe, that all humans tend to make their decisions almost entirely based on emotions and only use "facts" and "logic" afterwards as rationalizations to justify what we already want to believe, and that all humans tend to support those beliefs by making up false memories and fictional frameworks and lying not only to others, but also to ourselves. And since this is the normal way that all human brains have evolved to work, all of this happens without our even being consciously aware of it happening.

Meet the Brain

The African Primate

Humans did not appear suddenly out of nowhere, intact with all our special human-ness. Like every other living thing, we evolved, and our evolutionary ancestors were primate apes who lived very much like today's chimpanzees do. Not only did we inherit our ape ancestor's chimplike body structure, but we also inherited their brain architecture and much of their social structure. Although we live today in a modern 21st century world of computers and mass communications and global society, we still carry around in our heads the brain of a bipedal African primate who lived in small groups on the savannah, and that brain still sees the world in the same way it did back then.

So what do we do with that chimp-brain we carry around? Well, from the time we are born, we are learning machines. The human brain is so well-developed for learning that it's not even finished growing when we're born--we pop out before our microwave has "dinged". It takes almost two years after birth for our brains to stop growing and for our internal nerve wiring to be complete enough for us to at last be capable of doing ordinary human things, like walking and talking. From then on, until the time we are about 30, our brains soak in information about everything around us. As we learn about the world around us, our brain builds extensive networks of neurons that store this information. Experiences which are repeated often in our environment will reinforce the appropriate neural networks, while the networks that store rare or seldom-used experiences tend to be broken apart and decay. In this way, the wiring inside our brain literally comes to reflect the world around us--focusing on those experiences and memories which we need most often to survive in our world (and to pass on our genes), and neglecting those which are not.

For the African savannah dwellers, there were two areas in particular which were crucially important, and which made up most of their experiential brain wiring: the business of staying alive by finding food and water and avoiding predators, and the intricacies of our own particular social group. And like all primates who live in social groups, these two areas overlapped extensively. Humans are unalterably social animals--our very lives depend on the existence of our social group and our role within it, and we can no more live as isolated independent individuals than a honeybee or a wolf can.

Although infants and young children are born with a natural curiosity to learn everything they can about everything around them, in the rough business of life there simply is not enough time for children to learn everything they need to know on their own. And indeed very many such lessons would be lethal--learning that snakes can be deadly by picking one up (and then dying), does not help us in the game of survival. As a result, human brains are hard-wired at birth to be particularly adept at being taught, to learning through the words and shared experiences of those other individuals in our social group, most crucially our parents. In the African plains, children who ignored or doubted the lessons taught to them by their parents, and who insisted on learning everything on their own, quickly ended up dead.

And even as adults, the people who survived were the people who were wired to make instant snap judgments about things--"is that noise a lion?" "is that guy from the next tribe over friendly?"--not the ones who took the time to sit down and carefully consider all the evidence and make a logical conclusion. The ability to make an instant decision based on "gut feelings" was often the difference between life and death. Those whose brain was wired to be good at such snap decisions survived; those who had to take their time and think about it, died.

In our modern industrialized world, finding food and water, and avoiding predators, is no longer a concern in daily life. But our brains have not evolved to keep up--our brains are still living on that African savannah, and are still wired to make its decisions the same way it did then.

Those African primates also needed to absorb knowledge about one other area that is still vitally crucial to modern humans--how to get along within our primate social structure. Chimps (and human ancestors) live in a society that is rigidly hierarchical. At the top is the alpha male, the unquestioned ruler of the roost. He makes all the group decisions; where the troop will move today, when it is feeding time, how to react when we meet a neighboring troop. But the alpha male cannot rule alone. He needs the active support of the majority of the other males, and indeed the place of everyone in the hierarchy is directly dependent upon how effectively each individual is able to form alliances and friendships among others in the group, on a "you help me and I'll help you" basis. Like all primates, then, human society is directly based on an innate deference to authority, coupled with a need to maintain a place in the social hierarchy by "winning friends and influencing people". These are things that every primate learns assiduously, and its brain is hard-wired to facilitate that learning. We are social animals, and our entire lives are dependent upon our ability to understand others in our social group, and then to cooperate with them, learn from them, share experiences with them, but also to dispute with them, manipulate them, exploit them, and to deceive them. It is just as much a part of the primate environment as lions and bananas and thunderstorms are. And our brains evolved its wiring to enable it to work, quickly and without hesitation, in that environment.

But there is a crucial limit to the primate process of constant learning.  By the time the primate reaches biological adulthood (in humans this is around age 30), the brain itself begins to change its focus. By now, the brain has decided "how the world is"; it has internalized and absorbed a coherent "worldview", a mental framework of "how things are", everything from "how water acts" to "what is potentially dangerous" to "which foods I like to eat" to "which kind of companions I like and which kind I don't". It forms a mental map that we always carry around with us, and which we use to interpret and understand all of our environment and experiences. Although we never entirely stop learning from our experiences, at this point the brain's focus changes; now, instead of putting its energy into building new neural learning pathways, the brain begins putting its energy more into reinforcing the existing ones, and the ability for the brain to form new neural nets from experience and learning becomes diminished. The brain quite literally becomes "set in its ways". As we continue to get older, the brain continues to become less and less adaptable, and less capable of altering its existing wiring--and therefore less capable of changing the mental framework within which it operates.

Genetics and Personality, or, Nature vs Nurture
It is the oldest debate in the study of human behavior, going back even before we knew what a "gene" is: are humans born the way they are, or do our surroundings shape us into what we are? Is our personality and behavior inborn and set, or is it learned and therefore changeable. Nature, or nurture? Genetics, or culture? Today, a sub-field of neuroscience known as behavioral genetics, has an answer to that question--it is both.

One of the reasons why the "nature vs nurture" question has always been so difficult to answer is that it is not a simple "either/or" situation. Unlike organisms which operate entirely on genetic instinct, like ants, humans have remarkably complex brains capable of understanding our world and learning from it. Indeed, humans are successful as a species precisely because we are not slaves to our genes: we are capable of passing complex learned behaviors to the members of our social group, a process known as culture. If humans were dependent upon changes in our genes to alter our behavior, we'd still be chipping lava cobbles out on the African veldt. But because we can learn and share our experiences with others, we can build space shuttles and supercomputers. Our behavior is enormously plastic, capable of a stunning variety of learned cultural beliefs and practices which are passed down entirely independently of our genes. The interrelationship between genetics, learning, culture, and environment is a complex web--and it also differs depending on which particular trait we are considering.

To try to isolate the genetic component from the cultural, behavioral geneticists depend upon "twin studies". Human identical twins have the same DNA; fraternal twins do not. Behaviorists, then, can take advantage of the unique characteristics of twins to isolate the effects of genes and environment to study them. Most of these studies have centered around six basic personality traits: intelligence, shyness/introvertness, empathy/sociability, openness to new experiences, conscientousness/organization, and anxiety/moodiness. Each of these traits is a continuum with two opposite poles, with each individual falling at a particular point along this axis, and those positions tend to remain fixed throughout each person's life--people who are extroverted as children tend to be extroverted as adults; children who are reluctant to enter new situations or experiences tend to be the same way as adults. Further, studies show that these traits seem to correlate strongly between identical twins raised apart, but correlate less strongly between fraternal twins raised together--indicating that they have a strong genetic component.

Genetics, then, sets the basic personality traits that we are all born with: shyness, amenity to change, confidence, empathy, gregariousness, sense of adventure. And in turn, humans tend to choose environments (jobs, friends, activities etc) that are compatible with their own personality traits (a process called "niche picking"). But this does not mean that our behavior is genetically determined. Our genes set only the broad outlines of our behavior; it is learned culture that takes over from there. Our genes may place us at a particular level of behavioral "aggressiveness", but it is our learned culture that decides why some people channel that "aggression" into pro football and others channel it into politics or mammoth hunting. Other individuals may have genes that give them "good spatial skills", but that doesn't determine whether he or she will be a fighter pilot or an interior designer or a pyramid-builder--culture and learning decides that. Nurture plays an enormous role in our behavior, but it can only operate within the limits that our genes place on our basic personality traits. Conversely, our genes set our basic personality parameters, but our specific behaviors can vary widely because of our enormously plastic and adaptable cultural learning.

Nevertheless, genes can still have a powerful influence on certain areas of our behavior, which we find very difficult to change. One area in which this is particularly noticeable is in our diet. As savannah dwellers, our brains are wired to crave the most high-calorie food available, and to eat as much of it as possible during times of plenty so we could store enough fat energy to get us through the inevitable lean times of shortage. But now our primate brain works against us, and our bodies pay the price for it--our innate craving for sugar causes rampant health problems from dental cavities to diabetes, and our biological urge to hoard fat now makes us grossly overweight, which produces a whole suite of health problems, from heart disease to high blood pressure, that make up our leading causes of death. As anyone who has tried and failed at dieting knows, we have a hard time changing that innate hard-wiring and find it tremendously difficult to override the brain's now-obsolete urgings. It is not a matter of individual "willpower" or the lack of it--we are fighting against the very biological wiring of our own brain, and that is simply a task that is virtually impossible. (And not just for dieting, but in every other area, as well.)

The Star of Our Own Show

So, what, then, do we do with this brain that both nature and nurture have manufactured inside our head? Mostly, we tell stories about the world, which help us to understand it and function within it.

As far as your brain is concerned, there are two unalterable rules of life.

1. You are always right.  Period. You are never wrong.  Ever.  About anything. Oh, and you're smarter and more honest than everyone else, too.

2. You are always the Good Guy. You operate only from the most lofty and honorable of motives, and only with the very best of all intentions. And nothing bad is ever your fault. Ever.

Those two rules may shock you as incredibly selfish and arrogant. But you can relax---everyone else has precisely the same two rules, and so do you. They are an innate function of how our brains work, a product of that chimp brain we all carry around inside our heads. In a primate society with a hierarchical structure, in which social advancement comes from one's ability to win friends and influence people, there is simply no place for self-doubt. If you get the chance to mate with that high-status partner, or to win a dominance fight with that higher-ranking individual and move yourself up in the social order, but you hold back because of self-examination or second-guessing yourself, then that self-confident primate next to you will seize their own chance and make babies with the higher-status, or form a gang to beat up the higher-rank and move up the social ladder. Because of your indecisiveness, your genes don't go into the next generation--theirs does. As a result, the brain of even the most sociable and humanitarian and philanthropic of humans is, deep down inside, driven by only one thing ---> me me me me me me.

It is remarkable to see to what lengths our brains will go to maintain those two rules. Examples of it can be found right here at DKos, daily, by the thousands--we've all seen the participant in some pie fight or another who uses every available verbal sophistric trick and every possible wiggle and goalpost move to avoid simply admitting they were wrong about something, even if it's about a trivial matter. For all of us, admitting we are wrong is like pulling teeth--except ten times as painful. (Particularly in public--and even more so for the type of motivated ideological evangelists who are self-selected to join groups like DKos.) So we do whatever we can to avoid it, and we only give in when there is absolutely no other alternative (and then we usually turn it to our advantage anyway by using the occasion to gain social status and transform ourselves into the Good Guy after all, with a "See, I'm big enough to admit I'm wrong" performance). And you know what?--you do it too. And so do I. And so does everyone. It is innately wired as the brain's primary rules. We can no more tell our brain to stop doing it than we can tell our gall bladder to stop producing bile.

And if you are still trying to convince yourself that you're not really doing that, but it's people on the other side who do that, your denial of it is rule number two coming into play. You are always the Good Guy. Period. Even the most evil and wicked of people always manage to convince themselves that they are in the right. Hitler firmly believed he was doing the whole human species a favor by exterminating "undesirables". Terrorists of all sorts and all ideologies sincerely believe they are doing "what must be done" to make the world a better place. Murderers on death row will tell you a big long tale about how their victim actually "had it coming" and "got what he deserved". (In what surely must be the clearest example of this phenomenon, one killer confessed to the police that he shot his neighbor, but insisted that it was the neighbor's own fault because "he shouldn't have been picking on the size of my ears".) So as far as your brain is concerned, you are not only the star of your own show, but you are always the Hero.

But here is the paradox that inevitably arises from the brain's two primary rules--in  primate society, if you act like a selfish bastard, you find yourself unable to win friends and influence people (the core of all success in primate society), and instead of being the alpha male, you find yourself sitting alone in a corner, marginalized and shunned by all, with no allies to help if anyone decides to beat the crap out of you, eventually to die from lack of access to the good resources. We are, all of us, selfish bastards who desperately need to convince others in the group that we are not selfish bastards--and furthermore, in order to act with confidence and ease, we must also fool ourselves into thinking we are the Good Guy, and not a selfish bastard. This basic dichotomy is the foundation for all of primate social structure. How successfully we balance those two contradictory but equally-vital needs, selfishness and sociability, directly determines our ability to win friends and influence people, and therefore our success in the game of survival and life.

How Do We Get Our Beliefs?

The Emotional Brain
There is one crucial area, however, in which human brains differ from those of our primate ancestors--and it is a significant difference: we can develop a mental framework of global "cause and effect". Other intelligent animals, such as ravens and chimps, demonstrate in experiments that they understand the principle of linear causes (ravens, for example, can perform a series of tasks in which they must modify various things in a particular order to complete the goal--and are then capable of skipping steps that are no longer necessary), but only humans are able to understand the world as a whole, the very universe itself, as a network of causes and effects. Other intelligent animals can use cause and effect to manipulate the world, but we can use it to understand the world, and explain it.

And that leaves our brain with a quandary. As we have already seen, the brain works with mental maps of how the world operates, and fits all its experiences and observations into those frameworks. In chimps and crows, this is not a very complex process, since their world is limited to the individual and those of its surroundings that it needs to understand in order to survive. But humans, with their understanding of the much larger universe (both physical and mental) of cause and effect, have an even more complex task--all of our mental maps and worldviews must, if they are to be useful, make seamless sense of the entire universe--and that includes the internal mental universe as well. The world must make sense to us--and so must our own individual role within it. But also, in accordance with the brain's two primary rules, that mental image of ourselves must reinforce the crucially important points that we are always right, and we are always the Good Guy. No mental worldview will satisfy us unless it does all of those things and fits them all seamlessly together.

But on the other hand, it is simply impossible for any individual to have complete, or even pretty good, knowledge of the whole world. So what does the brain do to deal with that inherent incompleteness and produce a coherent self-consistent worldview? It uses "beliefs" to fill in the gaps--things which we don't know are true, but assume are true. The human brain is, uniquely, what one scientist has called a "belief engine". Our brain is what makes us primates, but our beliefs are what makes us human. Other animals don't have them. When faced with a situation that involves a gap in its knowledge, the non-human animal cannot act; it doesn't know what to do. But humans can fill that gap with belief, and act on that belief as if it were reality. That opened the door to all the immense mental powers that humans have, all based on the ability to manufacture a mental picture of things that do not really exist. And while religious beliefs are the most visible manifestation of this, they are by far not the only ones; everything from our social views to our political stances to our patriotic notions of nation and society, are "beliefs". And all of our social views and political stances, from Nazis to teabaggers to partisan Democrats to Marxists, have their share of ideologues--people who cannot and will not view anything in any way other than from their own belief framework, and who are always trying to cram everything into their ideological belief system, whether it fits or not.

And that raises the most interesting question of all: how exactly do we get our beliefs? Politically, socially, religiously: why do we believe what we believe, and not something else? And here is where things get really fascinating . . .

We may like to . .  well . . . believe  . . . that our beliefs come from our own intellectual study and careful logical analysis of available facts and experience. But behavioral neurology shows that they do not--and indeed, our belief frameworks do not even need to be true in order to function effectively. The criterion for deciding which beliefs to accept and which to reject lie entirely in the brain's need to form a coherent mental view of the world that is both self-consistent and keeps your place in the center. In other words, once your religious or political or social opinions are set and they "work" for you, your brain will resist making any but the most minor of changes to them, unless particular portions begin to conflict so much with the rest that they threaten the stability of the entire framework (called "cognitive dissonance"). But because the brain is so good at maintaining and protecting its worldview, by plugging in whatever beliefs are needed to keep it intact, very few of us ever even reach that point. The vast majority of us die with the same basic views on the world that we grew up with.

But since we are not born with any pre-set beliefs and have no innate worldview of our own, how do we get our initial beliefs and form our first mental map and worldview? As with any primate, we get it from our parents, by accepting them as an authority . . . .

Deference to Authority
In 1945, the world became keenly aware of the human propensity to accept and obey authority. While the Axis countries were military police states, and coercion and force were a part of life, the reality is that most of the population followed unquestioningly and without protest, and only a tiny minority of people needed to be coerced or punished for disobedience. Most were entirely willing and voluntary actors, who sincerely thought they were doing the right thing, or at least were following legitimate orders.

The evil brutalities of the Second World War sparked intense academic study into "the problem of evil". A whole slew of experiments were carried out, testing our human reaction to authority and our willingness to do what we are told. Some of the most famous of these are the "Stanford Prisoner Experiment" (in which a random group of college students was divided into "guards" and "prisoners"--and the "guards" quickly became so brutal that the experiment was halted), the "Line-Length Experiment" (in which a college student in a fake study group was asked to give his opinion about whether two lines were longer, shorter or the same length as each other: the rest of the group was secretly part of the experiment and intentionally gave wrong answers--and most of the test subjects then altered their own answers to match those of the group even though their answer was obviously wrong), and the "Electric Shock Experiment" (in which a student is asked to help in a "learning study" by giving increasingly-strong electric shocks to subjects who gave deliberately wrong answers--and most of the students followed orders all the way to the extent of giving electric shocks that would have been lethal). The findings were both unmistakable and disturbing: every one of us has an evil person living inside, who will do the most unspeakably brutal things, without question, if told to do so by someone we hold to be in authority--especially if the brutality is directed against people we hold to be outside our own "tribe", and our authority figures justify it with something we already want to believe.

Our first authority figure in our lives is our parents. For most of us, that is the authority that sets the worldview we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Like all primates, humans are hard-wired at birth to learn from our parents, to imitate their actions, to follow their example, and, when we take the uniquely human step of developing language, of learning from the explanations they give to us.

But here is the crucial part: because we are born before our brains are fully developed, we do not yet have our adult brain circuitry, including the wiring to the parts of the brain that enable us to do skeptical analysis and critical evaluation on the information we receive. As a result, as children we accept all of the information that comes from our parents as true, period. We question none of it and we reject none of it:  it is all accepted as gospel. Ask any typical toddler who the smartest people in the world are, and every one of them will answer "Mommy and Daddy".

The things that human parents teach their children, and which those children accept uncritically and unquestioningly, run the entire gamut of everything human--everything from political ideology to religious beliefs to cultural norms about race, gender, and behavior. As the saying goes, we take all of that in with our Mother's milk. For most of us, we then hold onto those beliefs, with only minor changes, for the rest of our lives. The biggest predictor for our own religion, and political affiliation, and cultural attitudes, is the beliefs of our parents.

But not all of us will keep those beliefs. In primates, most of the social and cultural instruction takes place individually. Humans, however, take this a huge leap forward: we gather our young into social groups and teach them all the same lessons, collectively. And that produces a peer group. Primate societies have peer groups as well: it is through play with others of their own age that young primates begin to apply the social lessons they have learned, and first begin to figure out how to win social positions for themselves while functioning within a group--a crucial skill which they carry into their adult lives, where social success depends on the ability to win and maintain a place in a peer group of social allies and friends.

But humans have, through institutionalized social learning, turned the "peer group" into a much more powerful force than it is in other primates. Because humans have such extraordinarily long learning periods, humans have a social institution that other animals do not: school. Outside of the family, the first peer group that human children encounter are their schoolmates. "School" introduces the young human into the first real "society" he or she will encounter: a group of unrelated individuals into which the youngster must enter, and develop and maintain a place in the hierarchy based largely on his or her own social skills. For most, it is a brutally harsh lesson. It is in this peer group that humans learn to curb their selfishness (think about how hard it is for young children to learn to "share") and to use their sociability to win friends and influence people (the core, as always, of every primate society). "Everything I really need to know I learned in kindergarten" is not just a clever title for a book--it is human reality. Our success (or failure) in those crucial years follows us, for better or worse, for the rest of our lives.

As we get older and reach our teenage years, the parts of our brain structures that allow us to carry out critical thinking and reasoned analysis finally begin to come online. For the first time, we gain the capacity to question authority, particularly the authority of our parents. This is a crucial ability if we are to gain a sense of self-identity which allows us to successfully live our own life as an adult. But it comes at a cost, which every teenager knows: the painful search for that self-identity. Now, we are faced with a bewildering plethora of "authorities", everything from religion to political ideologies to cultural figures. During these years, teens move from one peer group to another as they try out different ideologies, different lifestyles and different sources of authority, and mostly reject them. It is often said that the "teenage rebellion" years are a time when teens come to reject authority, but that is not actually true: what they are really doing is searching for the authority to follow which suits them best, and which they want to believe. In particular, what they are searching for are those beliefs that fit best within the basic personality traits--openness to new experiences, shyness, empathy, etc--which have been established by their genetics. And, ironically, after all the sturm und drag of the teenage angst years, virtually all teenagers eventually return to the same basic ideologies that they were taught to believe by their parents. (Not surprising, since they share those same basic genetic personality traits as their parents.) Only a tiny handful do not: they instead adopt the beliefs that are taught to them by some other peer group and its favored authority figure.

So, in human society, what we naturally end up with are groups of humans who share an ideology and a worldview, which they enforce and protect through conformity and submission to an agreed-upon authority, which actively advances itself against rival groups with different views. In addition to the wired chimp brain that produces the human tendency to see the world as "I" versus "we", there is also the wired primate  tendency to see "us" vs "them". Neurobiologists refer to these as "tribes".

So Why Do Wrong Beliefs Persist?

Tribalism
All of the various teen peer groups have one characteristic in common--a fierce ideology of "us vs them". Once the human brain is capable of differentiating different types of viewpoints (and no longer simply accepts what it is taught as a "given"), the innate tendency is to draw sharp distinct lines between the "in" group (yours) and the "out" group (everyone else's). And that continues, unchanged, into adulthood.

This is another biological characteristic of primate society. Like chimps and monkeys, our hominid ancestors in Africa lived in small bands, most of whose members were related to the others, which was completely dependent for all its resources upon a particular geographical area. As a matter of survival, every such band had to defend its territory against members of neighboring bands, who might otherwise come in, take all the resources, and starve you and the rest of your band. Primate society is inherently tribalistic: members of each social group live together in cooperation, but there is nothing but suspicion and enmity against those who are not part of the tribe. We are, for better or worse, tribal animals.

Humans, though, with our greater cognitive ability, are able to take the brain's innate biological concept of "our tribe" to an extreme not even imagined by apes: for us, the "tribe" can consist of things even as abstract as "members of my race" or "citizens of my country" or "fans of my football team" or "people on my side of this social issue". And the effect in humans is the same as it is in chimps: we are implacably irrationally emotionally hostile to anyone who we do not view as someone of our tribe. We can see thousands of examples of this here at DKos every day, in every fight between this tribe and that, whether it's "rox/sux", "Snowden hero/traitor", "gunz/no gunz", "GMO/anti-GMO", "Israel/Palestine", or any of the dozens of other emotional issues that we have all drawn tribal lines around. It is primate tribalism at its very clearest, and it is why the constant pie fights here will never end. Ever. They are about emotional tribal identity, not about facts or evidence.

It is when we combine the innate tendency of humans to form tribal groups with the equally inherent tendency of humans to unquestioningly adopt the beliefs of our peer group and bow to its authority that things really get interesting. Within tribes, there are always cultural markers that mark their members off from the others. For football fans, wearing your team colors serves as a marker of membership. In politics, your stand on hot-button issues, such as abortion or global warming, serve as cultural markers, differentiating those within the tribe from those outside it. In these cases, the pressures are enormous for everyone in the tribe to adopt the appropriate markers (by wearing the appropriate colors or believing the appropriate way on the issues), and those who either refuse or aren't as ardent as expected, are usually viewed with suspicion by the rest of the group. As a result, people tend to adapt their opinions and positions to match those of the tribe, accepting the group as their authority figure and the beliefs and opinions of the group as self-evident truths. Criticism of any aspect of those beliefs, therefore, no matter how minor, is viewed not as a mere disagreement of opinion, but as a full-on attack on the tribe. The chimps will all respond appropriately, by defending the group and attacking the other chimps en masse. Indeed, rather than invoking discussion or prompting people to "examine their beliefs", criticism of the tribe's cultural markers usually prompts the opposite reaction, goading members of the group to band together, harden their beliefs, and to search even more deeply for reasons to defend them. (And once again, we see examples of this here at DKos, on both sides of every issue, thousands of times every day.) And that is why out of all the hundreds of thousands of "rational" and "logical" debates and arguments you have seen in your lifetime, you can at best count on the fingers of one hand the number of people whose minds you have actually ever changed--or who have changed yours.

When particular ideological positions become cultural markers for particular tribes, then it no longer even matters if that ideological position is "true" or not--all that matters is the cohesion of the tribe and its defense against outsiders. And before you nod your head sagely and conclude, "That is why they won't change their minds in the face of plain fact"--our side does it too. Our side is just as emotionally tribal as any other tribe, and we act in exactly the same way. You do it, I do it, every human does it. We are no different than White Sox and Cubs fans: we cheer our team and boo their team, no matter what. Our side is always right, and our side is always the Good Guy. Our brains are wired to believe that, just as theirs are. It's all part of our human need for tribal identity.

Cognitive Dissonance
Some of the "tribes" that humans find themselves in are maintained and enforced through coercion and a system of punishments and rewards. Human nations pass "laws" which allow its members to behave in particular ways and restrain its members from behaving in other particular ways. But the vast majority of human tribes, particularly the social, political, religious and ideological versions, do not have the ability to use social sanctions to enforce conformity in their members. Instead, once again, the wired structure of our chimp brain comes to the rescue. Maintaining social cohesion and group loyalty is vitally important to the survival of any primate troop, and our primate brains have evolved to meet that need. In essence, our own brain forces us into unquestioning tribal loyalty.

As we have seen, human tribes living out on the African plains did not have the luxury of stopping to rationally consider all the available evidence before deciding whether that lion in the distance is a potential danger, or that person from the neighboring tribe is just here to trade roots and berries to us. Instead, natural selection favored those people who were good at making instant snap judgments, usually in the face of no evidence whatsoever. Through experience and social learning, all humans as they grow up develop a rough and ready set of "rules of thumb", called "heuristics", that enable them to make instant judgments on a wide variety of things, especially those things we have limited actual experience of. These are the basic rules we fall back on to make quick decisions. Some of them are hard-wired emotional rules like "be afraid of the dark", "don't trust strangers", and "run away from loud noises". Some are cultural lessons like "don't take food from the alpha male" or "don't criticize anyone on our side". On the African veldt, such rules were usually right, at least often enough to enable us to survive. If we suddenly came upon a stranger from another tribe and instantly decided "Danger! Run away!", we lived more often than those who assumed every stranger was a friend and walked over with extended hand only to get clubbed over the head by a raiding party.

But in our modern world, we are exposed to an avalanche of ideas, experiences and information that humans of the African veldt would never have seen and our heuristics are unprepared for--and inevitably, much of that information and ideas will conflict directly with our own comfortable worldview. Especially here on the Internet. We have all had that sinking feeling in the gut that comes when one sees something, on this blog or elsewhere, that, even if just for a moment, says to us "OMIGOD I MIGHT BE WRONG ABOUT SOMETHING !!!!!!". Maybe it's an anti-nuclear activist who sees data indicating that one of his or her pet arguments is incorrect. Maybe it's a racist who sees an example of a person of another race acting selflessly and compassionately to help his or her fellow human beings. Maybe it's a creationist who sees a fossil that he or she can't explain. Neuroscience refers to this conflict as "cognitive dissonance". It happens when some bit of knowledge threatens to overturn our worldview. It can, if not dealt with, cause enormous emotional and intellectual upheaval.

So what does our brain do when faced with a threatening challenge to its comfortable worldview? Does it carefully seek all the available evidence to determine the objective truth (and selflessly change its mind if it finds it is indeed mistaken?) Um, nope. What it does is search desperately for any acceptable excuse why it was actually correct all along. After all, your brain's rule number one is that you are never wrong.

Confirmation Bias
The first and most obvious way the brain defends its worldview against outside challenges is "confirmation bias", also known as "motivated reasoning". This is our tendency, when researching on a question, to pick out and remember only the bits of information that support the conclusion we already want to reach, and to ignore or downplay any data that doesn't. The alternate form of this, which is probably even more common, is "disconfirmation bias", where once we are challenged with an opposing belief, we search assiduously for any evidence that it is wrong, no matter how trivial or minor--ignoring any evidence that indicates it might be correct. Once the brain is satisfied that it has found enough (selective) information to show us what we already want to see, the search for information ends (neuroscientists call this the "Stop Now" Point). Mission accomplished.

This is not necessarily a deliberate attempt at dishonesty or deception. Even if we are consciously trying our very best to be completely impartial and unbiased (as in a jury trial, for instance), our brain will still make a snap emotional judgment, and only then go looking for the facts and data which will support arguments confirming what the brain has already decided, at the emotional level, that it wants to believe. That is simply how our brains work.

False Memories
This same process, of bending reality to fit what we want to believe, happens backwards in time as well. We like to think that our memory is an accurately-recalled record of what objectively happened to us at some point in the past. The reality, though, is that most of our memories of the past are actually false memories, completely inaccurate, and were made up by our brain to make the past fit into our current emotional framework and worldview. Our memory of unpleasant people or places (ex-partners, for example, or previous jobs) often has nothing in common with how we actually felt and acted at the time--but conforms perfectly to how we feel about them now.

False memories are especially vulnerable to being planted by peer pressure, which can often prompt us to "remember" things that never actually happened, or did not happen in the way we remember them. In one series of experiments, test subjects were allowed to listen to interviews with family members and friends who described an incident that happened when the subject was very young and he or she got separated and lost at the local mall, and was found by a security guard and kept in the office for a short while before being picked up by the parents. When the subject was then interviewed and asked about it, he or she would often go into great detailed description about what had happened and how they felt at the time. In reality, the whole incident had been made up--it never actually happened. It was all a sincere but completely false memory created to jibe with the fake story told by the relatives. But the subject nevertheless believed it to be entirely true, because his brain told him it was true, even though it was not. And the brain told him it was true because human brains are wired to believe whatever the social group tells it to believe.

Confabulation
So what does the brain do if, despite its best efforts at selective memory and selective facts, a stubborn bit of information still remains sticking into its cherished worldview? It simply makes up a plausible story to explain it away. "Confabulation" is the ability of the brain to fill in information that isn't really there, in order to rationalize a plausible story that allows us to keep believing what we want to believe. Even if there isn't a shred of evidence for it, the brain will treat the story as if it were true anyway. All of the various types of conspiracy theories are good examples of confabulations. They assume dots that are not there, and draw connections between dots that are not really connected, all to tell us what we already want to hear.

On the African plains, confabulation was a crucial survival skill. Our brains had to make quick but crucial life-or-death decisions, and it had to make them even if there were gaps in the available information. As a result, the brain evolved the ability to plug in gaps in its knowledge with any information that might make plausible sense, and then act on that as if it were the truth.

Experiments at the University of Wisconsin demonstrate that we still have this ability. Researchers there made an audio recording of a TV newscaster saying the sentence, "The bill passed both houses of the legislature"--a quite common phrase that any newspaper reader or TV news watcher would be familiar with. But the researchers tossed in a twist: they added some audio static to obscure one or two words in the sentence. When they played the altered recording for their test subjects, they found that all of the subjects were able to correctly repeat the complete sentence. Their brain had simply filled in the gap with information it judged to be appropriate to that context. But here is the interesting part: all of the students reported that they had heard the audio static noise, but most of them could not say which specific word or words had been obscured. Their brain had filled in the gap so seamlessly (and so unconsciously) that they were not even aware of how it had been done. The subjects did not hear what was actually there; they heard only what the brain assumed was there, and reported as reality. And here is the really interesting part: when other researchers did a similar test, but obscured enough of the sentence so that its meaning became ambiguous and unclear, the brain very often still filled in the gap, and this time all it could do is take a good guess as to what information was actually missing. But the test subjects still could not say what words had been obscured; they simply accepted whatever their brain had come up with, as if it were reality. Their brain had confabulated so thoroughly that the students were unaware that it had even been done.

The brain's job is to make sure that everything it receives is integrated seamlessly into the familiar framework within which it views the world, and if anything happens which conflicts with that worldview, it's job is to make up a story that makes sense of the anomaly, and allows the brain to continue on blissfully unaware that the story it just confabulated is entirely untrue.

Can We Change Our Beliefs?
The short answer? No, in general, we can't--at least not in the things that matter to us. We may change our minds and ideas on trivial things. But when our core beliefs change to any significant degree, it is rare and usually painful. For the most part, it only happens when our emotional base changes for some reason beyond our control--a huge change in life circumstances such as a death or divorce, for instance, or if we are forced by circumstances into seeking support (material, emotional, or both) from some new peer group with different beliefs. Religious conversions provide perhaps the best examples. Most people simply accept whatever religious beliefs (or lack of them) that their parents had. But for some people, undergoing a drastic life change can be enough to shatter their previous worldview and leave them open to adopting a different one from some new peer group that is able to provide support. If you read the "testimonies" of religious conversions (whether to or from), it becomes apparent that a shattering life event is usually at the core of it. In those conditions, we don't change our mind; our mind is changed for us by circumstances beyond our control.

Even when one of our core beliefs do seem to change, it often turns out to not actually be as big a change as we might think. A good example is the religious fundamentalist who, because of some shattering life event, "loses his faith" and converts to atheism. Oftentimes, nothing really changes: the new convert is still just as much a fundamentalist as before and is still fervently preaching his opinions about religion to everyone who will listen. The only thing that has changed is what opinion he is preaching about. Similar non-changes can be seen in libertarians who become anarchists, or Trotskyites who become neoconservatives, or Republicans who become Democrats. Often, the underlying emotional motivator hasn't changed at all; just the social expression of it has. They are still the same bird, they just have different feathers now. And, like religious conversions, the extreme rarity of ideological conversions makes it clear how well-insulated the chimp brain is against making serious changes in its core beliefs.

Simply put, our brains are designed by Mother Nature to not change. We are innately wired to adopt the worldview taught to us by our social group, and then to use confabulation, confirmation bias and false memories to maintain that worldview so we can function as a part of a cohesive social tribe. It is vitally crucially important to realize, though, that all the confabulation and confirmation bias and contrived memories we do to ourselves are NOT, repeat NOT, as in N-O-T, deliberate intentional deceptions. Quite the opposite: they are entirely unconscious, unintended and unnoticed. Making up coherent stories for us to believe is what the brain does, just like pumping blood is what the heart does. We are completely unaware that any of it is going on, which is why it's so easy for us to convince ourselves that it doesn't happen. We are entirely unaware that our basic belief about ourselves--that we are an independent free-thinker who makes his or her own decisions rationally and logically after carefully considering all the circumstances--is simply wrong; it is a confabulated story made up by our brains to allow us to function efficiently within our social tribe.

Indeed, studies show that even if we do become aware of what our brain is doing and how it does it, it doesn't affect our behavior at all. In a series of studies, college psychology students were given, at the beginning of the year, tests to determine their propensity to confabulate and select biased facts to fit their beliefs. Then, after the end of the course when they had been taught exactly how the brain actually works (and could therefore intellectually guard themselves against the brain's tendency towards fooling us into believing what we want to believe), they were given a similar test again--and still confabulated their beliefs at the same rate as before. Indeed, other studies have demonstrated that having high intelligence or a good education does not diminish the tendency for a person to use irrational emotional methods to defend and protect their core beliefs; all it did was make it easier for the intelligent person to confabulate a greater number of rationalizations why the beliefs they want to believe are always correct. In the end, the chimp brain always wins.

For the most part, our rational logical brain never makes any real decisions. It only springs to life when we encounter something new or particularly interesting. We operate almost entirely on "automatic pilot", acting out our familiar routines without thinking about anything we are doing. We let our simple emotional heuristics do most of our day-to-day thinking for us. At our biological core, we are prompted by our brains to keep believing what we want to believe and to fit every new experience into that belief system--and that is usually whatever we were taught as children. We may be able to alter them around the edges a bit, maybe even dress them up in different ideological clothing. But our core internal beliefs, the ones we grew up with, don't change. (And this is particularly true if the belief in question is one that serves as an identifying marker for a particular tribe that we identify with, such as global warming, evolution, nuclear power, GMOs, vaccines, the free market, etc.) At best, we may be able to use rational thinking to override our core beliefs temporarily (just as we are sometimes able to use individual willpower to override our brain's cravings and carry out a successful diet.) But it is enormously rare, it only applies to one thing at a time, and it doesn't last.

And right now, everyone reading this is confabulating to themselves, "Aha, see? You are wrong--I'm one of the ones that can use my rational mind to override my emotional beliefs."

Um, no you're not. Your Inner Chimp is just confabulating that you are. (shrug)

LINKS FOR FURTHER READING
This is not an academic paper, so it doesn't contain citations and footnotes. All of the information here is standard textbook cognitive science and behavioral neurology (NONE of it is "my opinion" or "my conclusion"). But of course the subject of neuroscience and cognitive behavior is simply too vast to contain in a mere diary on a blog (indeed I had to cut a lot of stuff out of my diary draft, and it still remains uncomfortably long). So here are some resources available on the Web for those who may want to look deeper into how our Inner Chimp's primate brain works:

Neuroscience of Belief (Video Lecture)
https://www.youtube.com/...

Steven Novella: The Skeptical Neurologist  (Video Lecture)
https://www.youtube.com/...

The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science
http://www.motherjones.com/...

Our brains, and how they're not as simple as we think
http://www.theguardian.com/...

Why We Don't Believe in Science
http://www.newyorker.com/...

Your Brain on Politics: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Liberals and Conservatives
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/...

The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience and the Science of Persuasion
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/...

The War on Reason
http://www.theatlantic.com/...

Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will
http://www.nature.com/...

Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (PDF--online textbook)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/...

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Comment Preferences

  •  sorry for the length of this--but it is a (23+ / 0-)

    fascinating topic and one that directly relates to so much of what we see here every day at DKos. By understanding behavioral neurology and how it works, one can gain a great insight into why so many people here do what they do--including me and you.

    A behaviorist could have a field day here (literally)--we at DKos are a terrific laboratory for understanding how the chimp brain operates in the real world.

    :)

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:07:49 PM PDT

  •  Sorry for just skimming for now, but I can't (16+ / 0-)

    understand why anyone would disagree with this. It makes perfect sense to me.

    •  well, the various ideologues here (of whatever (10+ / 0-)

      type) will all conclude happily that this explains why the other side "won't listen to reason". What none of them will do, alas, is recognize that they do the very same things (and so do I and you and everyone else). And that is true of every side of every issue, at any point on the political spectrum. We are all humans, and our brains all work the very same way.

      And if they do realize that is what I am saying, they will be very very pissed at me. Tribalism, and all that.

      :)

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:24:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  whoa there. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lenny Flank, TrueBlueMajority

        "our brains all work the very same way."  Not.

        Our brains all operate according to the same principles of biochemistry and so on, but it's way overdrawing conclusions to assert that all of our brains all work the "very" same way in the larger sense of the organization of perception, cognition, emotion, and memory.

        This is the kind of thinking that was endemic in the days when behaviorism ruled the roost in academic psychology.  Today we know enough about individual and group differences to throw out those kinds of conclusions.

        I would go so far as to hypothesize that they reflect some kind of ideological bias.

        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:13:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  the brain is an organ (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          terrypinder

          It's no different than a heart or a kidney. If you put your brain next to Einstein's, you couldn't tell one from the other.

          (Indeed, Einstein's brain has been examined in at least nine different studies--and none of them could find any meaningful difference between his brain and anyone else's.)

          In the end, reality always wins.

          by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:39:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Numerous objections, but for one (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WB Reeves, whaddaya, ManhattanMan, G2geek

      I was taught to be suspicious of teleological thought in evolutionary biology (saying a trait exists because it is adaptive, for example). It's hard to avoid in thinking or talking about evolution, but is known to be problematic at best.

      Simply put, our brains are designed by Mother Nature to not change.
      I disagree. Even after getting rid of the Mother Nature metaphor. Our brains are not designed.
      •  metaphor (7+ / 0-)

        You are taking it far too literally.

        It's also a lot shorter than typing "brains that do not have mutations which allow easy changes to their basic neural pathways, and which have alleles to produce neural structures that are better able to make instant snap decisions, survive more often than those who don't, and are more likely to be selected and passed on to future generations."

        Evolution is not teleological, does not act towards any goal, and has no idea what it is doing. It simply keeps things that work, and rejects things that don't.

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:44:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mebbe. (5+ / 0-)

          Now who's operating from an implicit cognitive bias?  Personally, I find anthropomorphization to be a very useful psychological tool for interacting with the "impersonal forces" of the universe.  Why can't evolution have a purpose and consciousness if it suits me to believe that today?

          Anthropomorphizing my car really helps me to stay on top of maintenance issues and find it in a crowded parking lot.

          •  that's fine for those purposes (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            terrypinder, mjbleo, TrueBlueMajority

            Science doesn't care if you name your car.  (shrug)

            But within science, anthropomorphism is rejected because it can't be measured or independently verified or confirmed through the scientific method.

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:52:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  see my reply to Cynndara under the... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mjbleo, TrueBlueMajority

              ... header "like this."

              Anthropomorphism is clearly a cognitive trait of human minds, and as such it can be operationalized and measured.  Where I would start is with survey research to get a sense of the scope of it in a given society (e.g. naming boats, naming cars, talking to them, attributing goals to nature, etc.).  The persistence of the trait over time suggests that it has some degree of adaptive value.

              Per my reply to Cynndara, I have a hypothesis (actually I just came up with it now as I was replying to him/her) as to the origin and function of anthropomorphism: that it's a corollary to (or side-effect of) empathy.  From that, I would design a study to measure each trait and seek the correlation coefficient.  I'm going to guess right now that it would probably be somewhere near 0.7, but that's an unremarkable guess for reasons that should be apparent.

              We got the future back. Uh-oh.

              by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:35:37 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  ps-- (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joffan, terrypinder, mjbleo

            We ALL operate from an implicit cognitive bias.  I do, you do, your next door neighbor does, my veterinarian does--EVERYBODY does.  It's how human brains work.  (shrug)

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:53:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  like this: (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lenny Flank, mjbleo, TrueBlueMajority

            Meaning and purpose, and clearly consciousness, exist in the human mind.  Minds live in brains which live in bodies that in turn live in the natural universe.  Therefore meaning and purpose, as well as consciousness, exist in nature.

            Anthropomorphizing is a necessary corollary of empathy, by way of "personification" or the projection of personhood onto entities that are not oneself.  For which reason we can argue that anthropomorphizing is an adaptively valuable trait in a world in which empathy is necessary to avoid conflicts that can be mutually deadly.  

            The opposite trait from anthropomorphizing is objectification, projecting a lack of personhood onto entities that are not oneself.  When applied to other humans it is one of the roots of evil, such as in racism and sexism.  

            If the "personhood projection" function is set unusually high, it results in people not only giving names to their cars (as they have traditionally done with boats) but also talking to them.  But that's a clear sight better, morally and in terms of practical results, than when the "personhood projection" function is set abnormally low, such that people treat other humans as objects to be used and manipulated.

            We got the future back. Uh-oh.

            by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:26:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  other numerous objections: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mjbleo

          Much of what you have there consists of unfalsifiable assertions and circular reasoning.

          For example "I'm always right" + "I'm always good."  If someone objects that they are empirically grounded enough to recognize their errors, you can claim that's not a counterexample because it fulfills the "I'm always good" condition.  If someone objects that they are morally grounded enough to know when they've done harm (not-good), you can claim that's not a counterexample because it fulfills the "I'm always right" (in this case about doing harm) condition.

          Sorry but I don't buy that.

          It would be reasonable and accurate to argue that the "I'm always right" and "I'm always good" programs are tendencies that occur in some kind of distributional pattern (I would say start with a normal curve but I'm a frequentist;-).  Clearly we observe examples of people who operate on some other premises, such as "I'm always wrong" and "I'm always lousy," and we consider that to be evidence of clinical depression.  The fact that it exists, regardless of how we label it, demonstrates that your generalization is overdrawn.

          The bits about what other animals do or don't think, and about their worldviews, are unfalsifiable.  We can observe the toolmaking behaviors of crows but we have no idea what they're actually thinking.  We can observe chimp and bonobo social structures (BTW, you managed to leave out bonobos from the whole thing even though we are also closely related to them) and make inferences about the attitudes behind the behaviors, but we don't really know what they think and what they feel.  

          We also know that humans have historically, particularly in Western culture, sought to draw dividing lines between themselves and other animals: and that one after another, these dividing lines have been crossed.  

          The assertions about the prevalence of false memory are also unfalsifiable.  The fact that humans can and do create fictitious memories, does not demonstrate that all or even a substantial part of many or most peoples' memories are fictitious.  If Jane tells you that when she was a kid, she had a dream about going on a rocket to the Moon, did she have the dream or not?  The primary data are entirely subjective and inaccessible to any objective measure.  

          The most careful & accurate thing someone could do is report that as "Jane recalled a memory of a dream in which she...(etc.)," but there is no good way to make any inference about whether her memory of the dream is accurate or partially fictional or wholly fictional.

          Same case for "your beliefs always come from parents, peers, or chosen authorities."  Whatever someone says about their beliefs, you can attribute them to whatever of those sources has not been excluded.  And yet that wholly ignores the capacity of the individual to choose, synthesize, feel-out, and reason-out the relationships and connections between various thoughts and ideas to which they were exposed.

          The thing your body of theory seems to entirely miss is the capacity for creativity.  This painting, that song, this scientific hypothesis, that work of fiction, a new invention: all of them "come from somewhere," but where they do not come from is the duplication of what has gone before.  They come from the capacity of the mind/brain to originate or synthesize new information (reducible to new configurations of bits, for which there is not an energy penalty: configurations are not privileged) from whatever raw ingredients they may have.  

          Whether that capability does or doesn't differentiate us from other animals remains to be seen (or not).  But it stands as an example of something else that appears to be highly unpopular in certain circles these days, namely free will.

          We got the future back. Uh-oh.

          by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:03:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  a correction for you: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            terrypinder, mjbleo
            The thing your body of theory
            It is not "my" body of theory. It is standard textbook neuroscience. I didn't create any of it.

            So if you've got scientific gripes with it, I suggest you take it up with the neuroscientists. Heck, if you are right and they are all wrong, maybe there's a Nobel Prize in it for you.

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:20:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  yes, I know the routine, I use it myself: (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lenny Flank, mjbleo, No Exit

              When I'm dealing with anti-science quacks of various kinds:

              "My statements about these things are not my opinions as in mine, they are facts and supported hypotheses of peer-reviewed research."

              And, "9.8 m/sec^2 doesn't care if you're a poet or a pickpocket," meaning, "denying reality doesn't make it go away, or if you really believe that, try jumping off a high place and wishing away gravity."

              What I'm criticizing you for is painting a black-and-white picture with zero shades of gray (what I call "binary thinking"), when in fact reality is quite a bit more complex and the attitudes of working scientists vary on a number of these issues.

              When you use language such as "all" and "every" and "only" and the like (what I call the "this and only this" error), you're effectively denying the complexity and the debates around these issues.

              I would not take issue with similar conclusions presented in a manner that reflects the uncertainties in the field, for example language such as "most" and "usually" and so on.  In fact I would agree with a lot of that stuff if it was stated in that way.  

              We got the future back. Uh-oh.

              by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 01:24:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  with respect--people who think (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                terrypinder, mjbleo

                cellphones cause cancer, shouldn't talk about "anti-science quacks" . . . .

                In the end, reality always wins.

                by Lenny Flank on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 01:58:33 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  people who dismiss observations that don't.... (0+ / 0-)

                  ... match their theories, shouldn't call themselves rationalists.

                  I could care less if you're dissing two friends of mine who had brain cancer, one of whom is dead: the issues of relationship and respect for the dead are irrelevant to the issue at hand.  I mention this in order to pre-empt a possible digression.

                  I have two cases of individuals, a middle-aged woman and a teenage boy, who were heavy cellphone users and who both developed brain tumors adjacent to where they always held their cellphones.  

                  Strictly speaking those are not "anecdotes" as normally defined in scientific discourse: reports of subjective experiences un-accompanied by objective data.  

                  They are clinical cases accompanied by objective data including brain imaging demonstrating the locations of the tumors.  This makes them both "observations" in the scientific sense: data points consisting of measurements.

                  You can try to argue against the objective data, but then you're arguing that the oncologists at two major hospital cancer centers are engaged in some kind of malpractice.  The test for that would be data of any kind demonstrating that the oncologists in question are incompetent or have been found liable for malpractice in the past.  That would be a pretty simple test to get a Yes or No result for.  

                  But we can reasonably assume that major hospital cancer centers are highly unlikely to retain oncologists who have been found liable for malpractice, so we can reasonably infer that the hypothesis of malpractice is unlikely.

                  You can try to argue against the hypothesis that cellphone signal exposure was a factor in the development of these two individuals' brain tumors.  An acceptable set of countervailing data would be, for example, data from the decades prior to widespread cellphone use, showing that a reasonable plurality of glioblastoma cases and astrocytoma cases started with tumors in the same locations.  This would support the conclusion that those locations are known vulnerable to the initiation of brain tumors, and the correlation with cellphone use in the two cases at hand is therefore spurious.

                  This, by the way, is how the "vaccine/autism" thing was put to rest: the data demonstrated no greater incidence of autism among vaccinated children than among unvaccinated children, and no change in the autism diagnosis rate after thimerosal was removed from pediatric vaccine formulations.

                  Note that "spurious correlation" is not the same thing as "coincidence."  Spurious correlation requires a data set to demonstrate the lack of a significant difference.  "Coincidence" is a blackbox that is operationally equivalent to "luck" and "God did it."

                  What you don't get to do is wish away data when they don't conform to your a-priori conclusions.  That is exactly the opposite of scientific thinking.

                  We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                  by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 09:22:22 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  ok, so your gripe isn't with the science--your (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                terrypinder, mjbleo

                gripe is with me.

                Thanks.  Now I can safely ignore you.

                In the end, reality always wins.

                by Lenny Flank on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 02:22:29 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  my gripe is with your style of arguement... (0+ / 0-)

                  .... which is binary and absolutist.

                  If you are so ego-invested in that style of arguement that you personify it as "yourself", that's up to you, but it's not rational.

                  We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                  by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 09:24:41 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  To be fair... (0+ / 0-)

                    That is totally his style.  I could write a book on Mr. Flank's "I'm am totally and completely right and you are wrong and if you don't like it, I will appeal to authority and accuse you of cognitive bias" style of debate.  Just look at some of his own post history to see it in action.  What you have just experienced here seems to be his MO.  And don't bother looking for factual information or research to rebut his posts because he won't read it, claim it is way to long or just throw out completely as being meaningless.    

              •  Fact is, ALL human minds are effected by the (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Lenny Flank

                phenomenon described by Frank, that's what Frank is saying. Some individual, with sufficient mental effort and/or genetic predisposition, alleviate it somewhat (ultimate example: Fred Rogers). But the vast majority of people do not or cannot.

                •  yep--it's like dieting----some people can at least (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  terrypinder

                  for a time overcome their brain wiring and forego the fats and sugars, and successfully lose weight. But nearly all of the time, they fail at it--which is why diet companies are always in business. Overcoming our biological wiring is not an easy thing for us. We ALL want to believe that we do it, but virtually none of us actually do. We just lie to ourselves that we are.

                  In the end, reality always wins.

                  by Lenny Flank on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 02:49:27 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  vast majority != "all," and "all" != always. (0+ / 0-)

                  I can and frequently do make similar arguements about human cognition & emotion, but without using the kind of sweeplngly-generalized, absolutist, and therefore off-putting language, that Lenny Flank uses.

                  Really: fundamentalist thinking isn't just limited to religion.

                  We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                  by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 09:27:42 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  about snap decisions: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mjbleo, No Exit

          I'll agree with you that (as I've been saying for years) "emotion leads and reason follows with an explanation," and my going hypothesis for the second half of that, is that there is brain wiring for logic that is goal-oriented toward consistency-seeking.

          And I'll also agree with you that most humans spend most of their time in what Asian philosophy picturesquely refers to as "the drunken monkey mind."  

          And I'll also agree that under archaic conditions, snap decisions are usually more adaptive because they are faster than pondering and contemplating and reasoning.

          But one of the benefits of civilization is that we can specialize a group of warriors to protect a group of ponderers, and thereby protect our tribe while developing science and technology.  This supports the conclusion that in the long run, pondering and contemplating and reasoning are adaptive traits.  They just require a "protected space" in which to operate to their fullest advantage.

          We got the future back. Uh-oh.

          by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:19:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  once more, I must note: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            terrypinder, mjbleo
            I'll agree with you
            It's not "me" you are agreeing or disagreeing with. None of this is "my" opinion or "my" conclusion. It is all standard textbook neuroscience. So if you have a gripe with it (whether scientific or ideological), then you had best take it up with them. I only describe the science; I didn't create any of it.

            Here is the website for the Society for Neuroscience:

            http://www.sfn.org/

            I encourage you to pop on over there and explain to them why they're all wrong. (shrug)

            But one of the benefits of civilization is that we can specialize a group of warriors to protect a group of ponderers, and thereby protect our tribe while developing science and technology.  This supports the conclusion that in the long run, pondering and contemplating and reasoning are adaptive traits.  They just require a "protected space" in which to operate to their fullest advantage.
            That may indeed be true. Alas, the human species has not been around long enough for that kind of adaptation to happen. We still have basically the same genes (with a few cosmetic changes) we did 200,000 years ago on the African savannah when we dug roots and hunted antelope for a living. Indeed, we still have 98% the same genes as chimps do.

            That's the whole problem in a nutshell---we are Space-Age animals with Stone-Age brains.

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:36:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  thus we see astronauts from the US & Russia... (0+ / 0-)

              ...working together in cooperation in space, whilst politicians in both countries fight with each other like little children.

              I would say, in some larger philosophical sense, that we are presently living in the turning-point times to determine whether our space-age or stone-age tendencies prevail.

              On one hand you have those who believe that climate change is an enormous risk to humanity, and who also believe that one of our most important goals along with sustainability, should be space migration.

              On the other hand you have those who deny the existence of climate change, and who are averse to spending the money needed for space migration, and who tend to focus their attention on dominance-struggles on Earth.

              My shorthand for this is, "Mars and the stars, or graves and the caves."   "Space-age vs. Stone-age" is also a good way to express this, so unless you object, I'll also adopt that meme.

              And I also believe that the underlying factors include social-evolutionary and arguably genetic-evolutionary changes in humans, such that these two clusters of beliefs represent essentially different cultures and possibly a change in human genetics (or possibly epigenetics).  The latter should be a falsifiable hypothesis given sufficient information about the genome and samples of genetic material from the relevant populations.  What I'd be looking for are factors that affect emotional traits, because that's where I think the primary axis of change is occurring.

              We got the future back. Uh-oh.

              by G2geek on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 12:30:39 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I don't know why anyone, except maybe a (15+ / 0-)

    person whose primary news source is Fox News, might be offended by the association.

    chimp and white tiger
    Anjana, a two-and-a-half year-old chimpanzee, looks after his new best friend, a 21 day old white tiger cub, at T.I.G.E.R.S (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species), in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

    Picture: BARCROFT MEDIA

    Let thy step be slow and steady, that thou stumble not. ---Tokugawa Ieyasu

    by mjbleo on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:21:07 PM PDT

  •  Some have evolved, IMHO (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, Lujane, mjbleo

    They're called liberals, at least some.

    Even knowing that studies have shown factual data countering a held belief act as an inoculation instead of an epiphany in most (conservatives) - there are some (I immodestly include myself and tons of other liberals) that resist tribalism and self-delusion to fortify a belief system and instead grow and continue to evolve.

    Religious people call those who do overcome our genes saints, I call them smart, and enlightened.
     

    "The philosophy of conservatism is inevitably doomed by its adherents' willingness to accept bluster as a sign of character and thick-headed devotion to meaningless symbols as sign of moral fiber." (Albert Einstein)

    by Jim R on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:29:15 PM PDT

    •  what you are doing right now . . . . (6+ / 0-)

      is following the chimp brain's second rule. And you are using confabulation, confirmation bias, and the "Stop Now" response, to do it.

      Or, as I said earlier:

      And right now, everyone reading this is confabulating to themselves, "Aha, see? You are wrong--I'm one of the ones that can use my rational mind to override my emotional beliefs."

      Um, no you're not. Your Inner Chimp is just confabulating that you are. (shrug)

      Your brain (and mine, and my next door neighbor's) is no different than anyone else's, and it acts exactly the same way.

      :)

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:38:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are you sure... (7+ / 0-)

        ...your inner chimp isn't just confabulating all that?

        •  the difference is that science is a collective (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lujane, Wee Mama, Ahianne, terrypinder, mjbleo

          action, and all of its hypotheses must pass the fire of testing--and that testing is done by anyone with any sort of ideology or worldview. Thus, while any particular scienTIST has his or her own biases and confabulated worldviews, SCIENCE as a collective whole does not, and by repeatedly testing its hypotheses under an entire range of worldviews and ideologies, science as a process cancels out those worldviews and ideologies, and whatever is left is not dependent on any of them. That is why the speed of light is the same for everyone, whether capitalist or communist, saint or atheist, Chinese or Somalian or German, rich or poor.

          That is why science, as a collective structure, is able to make accurate predictions and descriptions of the world around us, and no other human endeavor can.

          In the end, reality always wins.

          by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:11:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I certainly don't dismiss "science." (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Piren, mjbleo

            Nevertheless, you wrote the diary. You selected the science upon which to base your observations and conclusions, and the links to further reading in support of them.  

            Sounds like confirmation bias to me.

            Yes, I'm teasing you a bit. But I'm afraid I became skeptical early on:

            As far as your brain is concerned, there are two unalterable rules of life.

            1. You are always right.  Period. You are never wrong.  Ever.  About anything. Oh, and you're smarter and more honest than everyone else, too.

            2. You are always the Good Guy. You operate only from the most lofty and honorable of motives, and only with the very best of all intentions. And nothing bad is ever your fault. Ever.

            I'm truly quite the opposite. In a given situation, I may begin from a premise of belief in my "right"-ness, but the second it's challenged, my reflexive response - for better or for worse - is to assume I've made a mistake somewhere. The first thing I do then is to reexamine, and sometimes find that I haven't. And sometimes that I have.

            I also know very well that my motives, too often for my comfort, are selfish and less than pure at best, and that my responsibility for my own undoing is inescapable in those instances. I don't like it, but am stuck with it.

            Both these circumstances are ones I strive to avoid, and over which I engage in self-reproach - perhaps to excess - when I'm unsuccessful.

            I'm not saying there's no truth in your narrative, but I find it, overall, a bit too hall-of-mirrors and circular, in a sort of M.C. Escher-ish way and, like some others here, too rigid in its absolutes.

            •  that's the beauty of science------- (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              terrypinder, mjbleo

              Nobody has to take anyone's word for anything. Anyone, anywhere, can do the science himself or herself and see what they find.

              Disregard everything I've written here. Put it totally out of your mind. Then go and read some entry-level behavioral neurology textbooks. And you'll learn the science for yourself.

              I'm truly quite the opposite.
              No you're not.  (shrug) And neither am I or anyone else. You have the same brain as everyone else does (and so do I), and it acts exactly the same way as everyone else's does, no different than their kidney or their gall bladder or their thyroid gland. You are just confabulating a story to make you the Good Guy. Which is exactly what brains DO.
              I'm not saying there's no truth in your narrative, but I find it, overall, a bit too hall-of-mirrors and circular, in a sort of M.C. Escher-ish way and, like some others here, too rigid in its absolutes.
              It's not "my" narrative. It's standard textbook science.

              You certainly are free to disagree with science if you have ideological objections to it. Creationists do it all the time.  :)

              In the end, reality always wins.

              by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:07:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And here we are... (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Lenny Flank, G2geek, mjbleo

                ...back on that Escher staircase again.

                It's not "my" narrative. It's standard textbook science.
                As I said, you wrote the diary; you selected what appears in it.

                P.S. And be careful of assumptions.

                •  and here is the way off the staircase: (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  terrypinder, mjbleo
                  Disregard everything I've written here. Put it totally out of your mind. Then go and read some entry-level behavioral neurology textbooks. And you'll learn the science for yourself.
                  Unless of course this is all just a confabulation because you have some ideological objection to the conclusions of neuroscience (most likely "others may do this, but not me!"), in which case you have probably already confabulated your reason, reached your Stop Now Point, and don't see any need to research further.

                  Just as neuroscience would expect.

                  :)

                  In the end, reality always wins.

                  by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:33:47 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  yo Stephen- (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  StevenWells, mjbleo

                  Lenny's got some reasoning errors, you found some of them, I found others.  Suffice to say for now, that things are not nearly as cut-and-dried as he makes them out to be.  See also my other comments in this story.

                  We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                  by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:41:39 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  fortunately for Lenny, neuroscience doesn't care (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    mjbleo

                    about Lenny or what Lenny thinks. (shrug)

                    If you got a gripe with neuroscience, I suggest you take it up with the neuroscientists.

                    The website for the Society for Neuroscience is here:

                    http://www.sfn.org/

                    Go show them why they are all wrong.  I will personally nominate you for that next Nobel Prize.

                    In the end, reality always wins.

                    by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:46:27 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  thanks, I'll be sure to put... (0+ / 0-)

                      .... the country code for Sweden in my PBX's auto-routing function to the red phone next to my bed, so I don't miss the call when it comes in;-)

                      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                      by G2geek on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 12:14:22 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

          •  Ummm, NO. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Garrett, G2geek, mjbleo

            I spent fourteen years as a participant-observer in the modern scientific enterprise.  "Science", or more particularly each sub-discipline of "Science" grouped around publication in one or more favored journals, is a tribe which practices in-group/out-group favoritism, collective confirmation bias, a decided tendency to adopt or at least claim beliefs which is to the tribe's advantage (generate more funding), and suffers from rather high levels of Alpha Male Authority influence on outcomes and permitted doctrines.

            Science, in other words, is a profoundly human enterprise and suffers from the same flaws that we all do.

            •  and yet (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              terrypinder, mjbleo

              the speed of light remains the same for everyone, of whatever ideology.

              As do the laws of gravity and the quantum field equations.

              In the end, reality always wins.

              by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 07:11:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  non-sequitur alert. (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Lenny Flank, StevenWells, mjbleo, RonK

                The uniformity of physics and chemistry throughout the universe, does not imply or necessitate comparable uniformity of cognition throughout the human population.

                Astrobiologists go to great lengths to consider the potential divergence of biology in the universe at-large, something that will be increasingly studied and discussed as we continue to find potentially life-bearing planets.  If biology is potentially divergent, then cognition that arises from biology is as well, and we should expect to observe that result in any normal population, which is what we do in fact observe.

                We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:46:25 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  category error alert (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  mjbleo

                  That is not what Cynndara is talking about. He/she is arguing that science is biased and wrong because it rejects Alistair Crowley's "magick".

                  I doubt anyone here will try to defend that.

                  PS--you do understand that neuroscience studies normal human populations, right . . . ? They don't just study one person.

                  In the end, reality always wins.

                  by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:50:17 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  No. (0+ / 0-)

                    I couldn't give a rat's ass whether Science rejects a particular magician's methodologies, or the entire practice.  What Science (personified?) thinks isn't of the least concern to me.  I do, however, argue that all human social groups and practices are subject to the same fundamental flaws, including Science.  I've observed scientists in their native environment, and they are definitively human (sample size roughly 500 individuals).  I have yet to meet a cat, dog, bee, cockroach, or automobile that had the least interest in Science.

                  •  whoa there, that does not follow. (0+ / 0-)

                    Cynndara is arguing that there are numerous traditions, some of which are very recent, that claim to be able to produce willful modifications of perception, cognition, emotion, and memory.  For which she cites Crowley and a few others as examples.

                    You ended up chasing the tempting squirrel (Crowley) up the tree and then skulking ("ignore Cynndara") when you couldn't catch it.

                    I am not familiar with Crowley other than in a rough "comparative religion" sense e.g. "Western Magical Tradition", which doesn't particularly interest me.  (Frankly because I'm not much given to ritual; per Huxley's typology I'm a contemplative.)

                    Instead I cite meditation as an example because it has been amply studied since the late 1960s, and there are reams of published papers demonstrating that meditation produces willful alteration of objective observables such as predominant EEG frequency.

                    Lucid dreaming is another excellent one, and Steve LaBerge's operationalization was downright brilliant:  Sleeper in sleep lab, wired for EEG and eye EMG, told to "look to the left twice" when having a lucid dream.  Result was emergent stage 1 EEG (objective measure of dream state) plus EMG signals showing "looking to the left twice", thereby demonstrating willful intent during the dream state, when we would otherwise expect complete unconsciousness.

                    Re. populations: yes of course, though you have to study individual brains/minds and then collect enough of them that you can say your sample is representative of a population.  That's not at issue in any way.  What is at issue is the attempt to extrapolate from supported hypotheses to exclusively-correct theories, which I do not agree is doable at this stage of our knowledge.

                    Markedly absent from your ape comparisons are bonobos, to whom we are equally closely related as to chimps, and orangutans and gorillas, to which we are more distantly related but none the less are relevant.  

                    Though, I would also argue that the prevalence of animal archetypes in human mythos, teaching stories, and entertainment stories, is indicative of some observed similarities between human traits and other-species traits, that may have roots in deep structure of brains, even where an animal in question is only related to us via some very very distant common ancestor.

                    We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                    by G2geek on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 12:10:52 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  then we agree to disagree (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lenny Flank, G2geek, mjbleo

        "The philosophy of conservatism is inevitably doomed by its adherents' willingness to accept bluster as a sign of character and thick-headed devotion to meaningless symbols as sign of moral fiber." (Albert Einstein)

        by Jim R on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:45:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  it is not a matter of opinion (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mjbleo

          any more than evolution is a matter of opinion.

          It is a matter of science.

          Your brain is no different than anyone else's. And it works exactly the same way.

          Just like your lungs and your kidneys and your pancreas.

          In the end, reality always wins.

          by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:48:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Methinks (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lenny Flank, G2geek, mjbleo

            I hear the fundamentalist atheist reiterating an item of Dogma here.  "It is a matter of SCIENCE" represents a mantra that is supposed to end debate among "rational" people.  But you have already pointed out, that there is no such thing.  According to Science, of course.

            In the end, what is Reality?  We magicians begin with that question, and spend decades studying the theories that have been proposed.  Then we admit that we really aren't  quite certain . . .

            •  I'm a buddhist /nt (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              terrypinder, mjbleo

              In the end, reality always wins.

              by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 07:11:51 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  the fundamentalist elements are: (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Lenny Flank, mjbleo, cynndara

                1)  Binary thinking:  this OR that excluding middle ground.

                2)  This and Only This:  Reality is exactly as it has been given, nothing else is real.

                3)  Not Open To Debate.  And I'm sure you know about the historic and current significant debates in the sciences.

                Buddhism as such, in and of itself, is not sufficient to immunize against fundamentalist thinking.  

                We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:51:35 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  no kidding (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  terrypinder, mjbleo

                  Is this in dispute somewhere . . . ?

                  In the end, reality always wins.

                  by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:55:57 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  ps--I presume that neuroscience is fundamentalist (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  terrypinder, mjbleo

                  then too, yes?

                  Here is the website for the Society for Neuroscience:

                  http://www.sfn.org/

                  I encourage you to drop in and explain to them why they are all fundamentalists with binary thinking and not open to debate . . . . .

                  Do let us know how it turns out.

                  In the end, reality always wins.

                  by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:58:19 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I tried something similar once . . . (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    G2geek

                    by pointing out to the neuropharmacologists (publishing in Journal of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics) researching a particular problem, the ideas that were recently being published by the journal Neuroscience.  They immediately produced an amazing grab-bag of reasons why their approach was superior, and the neuroscientists were poorly-trained, didn't know what they were up to and barely scientists at all, and that they simply COULDN'T reference a paper from Neuroscience in one of theirs without being rejected for publication (in JPET), while of course since they had no professional connections with Neuroscience, they couldn't dream of publishing THERE.  I believe we were talking about tribalism?

                    •  that kind of professional tribalism exists... (0+ / 0-)

                      ... all over the place.  It's also a factor in the US Intelligence Community, or used to be, before 9/11 when it became clear that much more cooperation is needed.  Also inter-service rivalry in the military, ditto.

                      Though, "can't reference an article in journal X if you want to be accepted for publication in journal Y," strikes me as really really petty and antiscientific.  It's essential to be able to refer to empirical findings that are relevant to one's own work, regardless of where those findings occur.

                      OTOH if a given journal is notorious for publishing crappy work or overt quackery ("Journal of Homeopathy";-) that's a different story.  So are you saying that Neuroscience is considered to publish crappy work? or that JPET is having a snit?

                      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                      by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 11:48:59 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  are you a member or spokesperson for SFN? (0+ / 0-)

                    I do appreciate your citing SFN, as distinct from just saying "textbook" which is far more vague and open to interpretation.

                    But you speak of them as if they're a monolith, which I'm quite sure is not correct.  If I was to poll them on "issues presently subject to debate," I'd probably get a pretty long list.

                    We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                    by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 11:41:55 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  nope. and I don't work for Monsanto, or Pfizer, or (0+ / 0-)

                      TEPCO, or the NSA, or Verizon, either.  (snicker)

                      Funny how all the people who don't want to believe the science keep coming up with the same confabulations.

                      In the end, reality always wins.

                      by Lenny Flank on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 01:05:24 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  This Can't Be a Finding of Neuroscience: (9+ / 0-)
    When faced with a situation that involves a gap in its knowledge, the non-human animal cannot act; it doesn't know what to do.
    This might be the single most preposterous thing ever stated in this forum, because everyday experience with animals is so universal. Animals are hardly ever in any other condition, their knowledge in captivity or the wild is virtually never complete.

    Even a cat will extrapolate or interpolate when deliberately presented with incomplete information, if only to conclude by skulking away to avoid the annoyance. More social-brained animals will enjoy a good guessing game.

    It's still too early in neuro science for laymen to be expounding on big themes of the workings of the human mind, there's still far too much hangover from religion and other prescientific superstition in the hard science let alone more popular interpretations of it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:32:45 PM PDT

    •  one example: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, terrypinder, mjbleo

      Pick up a tarantula by pinching the sides of its body between forefinger and thumb, and lift it off the ground.  What does it do? Nothing--it freezes.  Why? Because this is a situation that never happens in nature--and it doesn't know how to deal with it. It will sit there immobile for as long as you are willing to hold it, until at least one foot touches something, and only then will it struggle to get back on the ground.

      But you are correct in that THIS is the key point:

      social-brained animals
      Those are indeed precisely the ones who develop the ability to confabulate beliefs in order to function within the social group.  Indeed, that is what our chimplike ancestors did--and why our brains are the way they are.

      But non-human animals (with a very few exceptions--al of them social animals) do not have the neurological abilities we have. One example is "object permanence", the subject of much neurological experimentation with animals. Take a ball or a bit of food and place it in a box, where the test animals can't see or sense it, and as far as the animal is concerned, that object no longer exists. Take it out, and it magically re-appears. The animal has no knowledge that the object continues to exist inside the box, and cannot act on that knowledge that it doesn't have. Interestingly, humans themselves do not understand "object permanence" until around nine months old.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:46:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You and the diarist are defining (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lenny Flank, raincrow, cynndara, G2geek

      'gap in its knowledge' differently.

      Now BOW TO MY AUTHORITY!

      "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

      by GussieFN on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:23:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  i think it's an overgeneralization. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mjbleo

      I've criticized Lenny a bunch of times for that today.

      It would be reasonable to assert that some animals (including humans) behave that way some of the time (specified examples that can be found empirically).  But it's overdrawing conclusions to assert that all animals other than humans behave that way all or even most of the time.

      In any case we have plenty of examples of humans exhibiting "don't know what to do" behavior.  The famous example of G.W. Bush's "deer caught in the headlights" look, is emblematic of that, though I don't know that we can be confident that our interpretation of that expression is exactly correct.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:07:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think you'd find this work interesting. (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Lenny Flank, ybruti, Tonedevil, G2geek, mjbleo

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

    by Greyhound on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:41:03 PM PDT

  •  It's True for Me (5+ / 0-)
    1. You are always right.  Period. You are never wrong.  Ever.  About anything. Oh, and you're smarter and more honest than everyone else, too.

    2. You are always the Good Guy. You operate only from the most lofty and honorable of motives, and only with the very best of all intentions. And nothing bad is ever your fault. Ever.

    I don't know about you guys. Seems like it's the converse.

    "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

    by midnight lurker on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:44:47 PM PDT

  •  A bit long yes, but (8+ / 0-)

    it reminded of this which I've posted a few times around here or when debating people who wont change their minds.

    It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789.

    [snip]

    In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

    Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

    - See more at: http://www.boston.com/...

    •  A bit more from the same article (6+ / 0-)
      These findings open a long-running argument about the political ignorance of American citizens to broader questions about the interplay between the nature of human intelligence and our democratic ideals. Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information - See more at: http://www.boston.com/...
      •  most people have no problem accepting that --- (5+ / 0-)

        as long as it applies to the other side.

        It's the suggestion that your side does it too (and indeed ALL humans do it, without even thinking about it or realizing that they are doing it) that gets most people's undies all in a knot. At least until they confabulate up a reason why it doesn't apply to them after all.

         ;)

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:58:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sure but, (5+ / 0-)

          THEY'RE way worse at it than WE are. Sorta joking, but not really.

          The other day I ended up on Twitchy reading the comments about Obama's plan to study/correct beehive collapse disorder and they were apoplectic that he would do such a thing. Most were in denial that bees even mattered and if Obama had anything to do with it the bees were doomed, doomed I tell you!

          The few brave souls that pointed out that bees were pretty important got shut down and ridiculed as it's obviously some sort of devious plan to distract from the IRS or Benghazi or Iraq. One counter was that Honey bees aren't even native to North America as an excuse to why it doesn't matter. I actually followed that link and it's true - they came with the colonists. Then again the Indians didn't practice factory farming.

           Just saying the level of discourse and acceptance of facts and science is a bit subpar in those circles. That, and we're not idiotic troglodytes. Mostly ;-)

          •  alas, I see examples of it here at DKos every day (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Edanger6, Ahianne, terrypinder, mjbleo

            Hundreds of them.

            We're no different. Just drop into any GMO diary, or vaccine diary, or Fukushima diary, and you'll see that we have our contingent of anti-science crackpots too. Heck, we even have our group of "cellphones cause brain cancer!!!" nutters.

            (And of course we have our emotional tribalism by the boatload, everything from guns to rox/sux to Snowden to Hillary.)

            We're no more immune to it than Redstate is. We believe the science we want to believe, and we reject, for any convenient reason, the science we don't want to believe.

            Even here in the comments, there are already people who are confabulating reasons to reject the findings of neuroscience because it tells them they're NOT any better than the other side--and that is something they do not ideologically want to hear. (shrug)

            That's our chimp brains at work. There's nothing we can do, ever, about that. It is what humans are.

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:02:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Indeed (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lenny Flank, mjbleo

              I was aware of that as I was writing, but my triumphant disdain for those guys shall not be diminished. (Again getting tribal) At least we're funnier, more creative, and joyfull about it.

            •  GMOs, Vax, nukes, OK, but... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lenny Flank, mjbleo

              ... within a period of about three years, two people close to me were diagnosed with brain tumors right next to where they constantly held their cellphones (and both were heavy cellphone users).  One, a woman in her 40s, glioblastoma multiforme, which killed her.  The other, a teenage son of a coworker, astrocytoma, of which he has now been cleared for the past 5 years.

              The plural of anecdote != data, but these were not anecdotes, they were actual cases, so more properly described as clinical examples of an observed correlation.  

              Clinical cases != randomized double-blind controlled trials, and correlation != causation, but IMHO "coincidence" is every bit as much of an unfalsifiable supernatural blackbox as "God did it."

              We got the future back. Uh-oh.

              by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:43:27 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  ........................................... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mjbleo

                Head in Hands

                You're seriously gonna argue that cellphones cause brain cancer? Really?

                (sigh) So much for that whole "reality-based community" thingie, huh.

                In the end, reality always wins.

                by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:52:44 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  no, I am seriously going to argue that... (0+ / 0-)

                  ... there are two clinical cases in search of explanatory mechanisms.  

                  Here's the kind of data I would find useful to settle this:

                  1)  Population rate of glioblastoma multiforme in middle-aged women from a comparable period of time a) before and b) after cellphone use became common in the population.

                  2)  Population rate of astrocytoma in teenaged boys from a comparable period of time a) before and b) after cellphone use became common in the population.

                  3)  For group 1b above, and for group 2b above, locus of initial diagnosis of tumor, comparing a) brain hemisphere on side of head on which patient held cellphone vs b) brain hemisphere on side of head opposite to that on which patient held cellphone.

                  Get enough of a sample size for each, to be sensitive to small variations.  T-test, two-tailed, p < .05 threshold of significance.

                  H0 = No significant difference between (a) and (b) in either group.

                  H1 = Significant difference between (a) and (b) in either group.

                  There you have it: variables operationalized, and tests specified.

                  We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                  by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:12:10 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  The chance of anyone getting a brain tumor is (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                terrypinder

                about 15 out of 100,000.
                If you know about 100 people, the chance of you knowing at least 2 having tumors (chance of 98 of them having no brain tumor, ever) is about 1.5%.

                That means in random selection of 100 people who knows 100 other person, at least 1 person will know of 2 other people with brain tumor.

                •  that doesn't provide a hypothesis-test. (0+ / 0-)

                  See my reply to Lenny above, which spells out the kind of test I'd be looking for as a way of settling the issue.

                  Your stats about how many people one knows, would get me a false positive result.  For the entirety of my life prior to the incidents with these two individuals, I only knew one person who had a brain tumor, and that was in approximately the third grade and I only had contact with that individual for three days.

                  That's multiple decades of knowing X number of people at any given time, with only one incidence of a brain tumor, vs a three-year period during which two people developed brain tumors.

                  On the basis of that analysis, the increase in "people I know who had brain tumors" would yield a significant result and falsely support the hypothesis that the latter brain tumors were in some way an increase in incidence compared to the previous span of time.  I would be skeptical about using that to draw any conclusion.

                  But anyway, see my reply to Lenny above, for how I would operationalize and test this.

                  BTW, I have a long personal history of being very strict with myself about what constitutes evidence to support a hypothesis, particularly where I have some subjective reason to believe that the hypothesis is correct.  To quote Aldous Huxley, "nature goes along her way / regardless of what humans say."  Lenny would dismiss this as trading off being right for being good, but I criticize that as unfalsifiable and circular thinking.

                  We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                  by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:22:03 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  agreed, our side is much better on science.... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lenny Flank, mjbleo

            .... and here's an interesting number for you:

            In the early 1960s, working scientists were about 55% Democrats to 45% Republicans.  Now working scientists are something like 80% to 90% Democrats.

            We got the future back. Uh-oh.

            by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:34:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  well, not exactly . . . (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mjbleo
              A Pew Research Center Poll from July 2009 showed that only around 6 percent of U.S. scientists are Republicans; 55 percent are Democrats, 32 percent are independent, and the rest "don't know" their affiliation.

              http://www.slate.com/...

              In the end, reality always wins.

              by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:40:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Interesting, I lumped together the... (0+ / 0-)

                .. undecideds with the Democrats. Which may have been a cognitive error on my part, of "not Republican = Democrat," or may have been a similar error on the part of whoever wrote the story where I got that from.

                We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:25:36 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Now . . . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lenny Flank, mjbleo

        How many people here can extrapolate from this information to seriously question the fundamental assumptions of our political system, or consider alternatives which might utilize our natural behavior patterns to achieve a better outcome?

        •  yeah, here's one. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mjbleo, cynndara, No Exit

          Put scientists and engineers in charge of areas of public policy that are highly dependent on science and engineering.

          Create a 4th branch of government to perform this function, and interconnect it with the other three branches to provide mutual checks & balances.

          We got the future back. Uh-oh.

          by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:47:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A sentiment (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek

            I have often heard proposed by engineers of various stripes.  Unfortunately, they are significantly outnumbered in a democracy by non-engineers.

            •  yes, and i'm also an engineer. (0+ / 0-)

              So there is an arguable objectivity-compromise there.  None the less, the case can be argued on its merits.

              Unfortunately, educated people of all kinds are outnumbered by ignorant and willfully-ignorant people of all kinds, a consistent problem in any democracy.  No doubt you've found yourself arguing from your own position of expertise, against people who are thoroughly clueless.  And they vote.  So we have to vote in larger numbers.

              We got the future back. Uh-oh.

              by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 09:59:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  what i've found works for me... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lenny Flank, mjbleo, No Exit

        ... is to keep emotions, beliefs, reason, and the information-gathering function, all balanced sensitively in such a way that any shift in the relationships that affect a given piece of content, triggers an increase in attention.

        For example a new piece of information drops in, and conflicts with an existing belief.  This triggers an emotional response such as curiosity or mild annoyance (depending on what it is), which trips the "pay attention and think" instruction.  At which point I'll run the new information through a bunch of evaluation steps to determine if it's associated with any clear ideological biases on my part or the part of the speaker (if Yes, then offset for bias, or discard as useless), and then do some quick thought-experiments along the lines of "what if true?" and "what if false?" and so on.

        One can teach oneself to observe all of these cognitive processing steps and then fine-tune them.  Though, using them effectively also depends on having enough time resources to do so.  For example the sense of being under stress to complete a task can undermine that entire process and produce a temporary reversion to "snap judgement mode."

        OTOH one can also make use of one's emotional reactions as "trace route" functions.  Observe emotional response, then look back over the steps that are associated with it, and perform accept/reject tests on the steps that appear critical to the result.

        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:29:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  i'm familiar with that finding. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lenny Flank, mjbleo, No Exit

      It does well to explain a number of instances I've observed, and many that are widely reported in these pages.

      As Lenny correctly points out (and I differ with him about a bunch of things, but agree with him about this): humans largely make decisions on the basis of emotions, and use reasoning as an afterthought.  The way I put it is, "emotions lead and reason follows with an explanation."

      Though, one can train oneself to overcome this particular cognitive flaw, by way of highly valuing intellectual integrity and evidence over preference.  In short, reality is what it is whether we like it or not, and very often when we discover that our preferred hypothesis is incorrect, reality is far more interesting.  

      In a strictly behavioristic sense, one could hypothesize that openness to new facts and new conclusions very often pays off with pleasant emotions, which are sufficiently motivating as to overcome the instances where it incurs unpleasant emotions.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:19:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  once again, I point out: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mjbleo
        As Lenny correctly points out (and I differ with him about a bunch of things, but agree with him about this
        It is not "me" you are agreeing or disagreeing with. Everything here is standard textbook neuroscience.  It's that you are agreeing or disagreeing with, not me. I didn't create any of it.  (shrug)

        I understand that you think textbook neuroscience is wrong. I look forward to you explaining to the neuroscientists why they are wrong, and winning that next Nobel Prize.

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:27:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If this stuff comes from (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lenny Flank, mjbleo, G2geek

          your neuroscience textbooks, I think you should toss them.

          They have way too much "chimp-brain" pseudoscience shit in them, to be of any use.

          •  well, here is the website for the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mjbleo, G2geek

            Society of Neuroscience:

            http://www.sfn.org/

            Please feel free to drop on in and tell them all their pseudoscience shit is wrong.  You can share that next Nobel Prize with Geek.  (shrug)

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 11:16:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  by all means nominate us, but in the meantime... (0+ / 0-)

              ... thanks for the reference to SFN.  

              They're an AAAS affiliate, which is good, and beyond that, I should read up and see what they have to offer.

              But I have to believe they are not some kind of monolith, with an orthodox canon, belief in which is is a requirement for membership.

              For example one of the underlying assumptions of neuroscience as a whole, not just SFN, is the material monist theory of consciousness: brains "produce" minds, brains do not "transduce" minds in a kind of quasi-dualistic manner.  Yet I somehow doubt that SFN requires its members to believe this as a condition of membership, because in doing so they would be excluding from membership anyone who is a member of an Abrahamic religious denomination, and who accordingly has a religious belief in a fully substance-dualist theory of mind (e.g. "mind is soul, separate from brain").

              The hypothesis test for that would be to check SFN membership for observant Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and compare percentages against representative organizations in other fields of science.

              I would hypothesize that you find roughly the same percentages ("no significant difference") of observant Jews, Christians, and Muslims, in SFN, as you do in other AAAS-affiliated organizations.

              Thereby demonstrating that there are substance-dualists in SFN, and accordingly that there is not a requirement for monolithic orthodoxy as a condition of membership.

              Anyway, Garrett and I are eagerly awaiting the midnight call from the Nobel committee, and we'll invite you to the party;-)

              We got the future back. Uh-oh.

              by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 11:34:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  the most-proximate source. (0+ / 0-)

          If I go speeding down the road and a cop pulls me over, and later I say "a cop pulled me over for speeding," that is not the same thing as saying "the cop wrote the traffic laws."

          Clearly you got your ideas from somewhere, which may be any combination of sources, but now you cite SFN and we have no substantial reason to doubt that.

          None the less, 'twas you who wrote the story, and absent any specific cites, e.g. "per Alvarez, Bishop, and Chang, 'quote from published paper'...", you're the author of the story and the proximate source of the information.  Thus it's reasonable to say, "Lenny said..."

          "Textbook" neuroscience is a red herring.  There is not a  canon of orthodoxy that must be accepted whole-hog as true with no exceptions permitted.   There are numerous published findings that sum to various conclusions.  Not all of those conclusions are equally well supported by empirical findings.  As of yet there is not a neuroscience equivalent of the Standard Model.

          I'm decently trained in the social sciences, including critique of methodology, and I routinely pick apart published articles, particularly for their operationalization of variables.  I have to believe you know how truly piss-poor some of the published work is.  

          For just one example that occurs often enough, there are two common operationalizations for "sensory deprivation."  a)  Translucent white empty visual field and white noise over headphones, typically also accompanied by arms in cardboard sleeves lined with cotton wool.  b)  Floating naked in warm saltwater in a dark environment.  These are highly divergent in terms of their subjective results and their objective correlates, and yet I have seen numerous research papers based on (a) that attempt to over-generalize as "sensory deprivation" as a whole, wheres their findings would most likely not be replicable under (b).  

          I've lately seen a bunch of stuff on kinaesthetic perception of self and other, that makes use of complex manipulations of the Ss sensory experience that are obviously highly confounded by suggestion effects.

          Those kinds of things ring my skepticism alarm wherever I see them.  And my skepticism alarm goes off often enough that I have also become skeptical of blanket assertions about theories that appear to exceed the scope of relevant supported hypotheses.  

          When I go off into speculation-land, I label it: "my speculation" or "observation seeking a mechanism" or "contested science" or "fringe science" or even "my beliefs based on (any of the above)," etc.

          We got the future back. Uh-oh.

          by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 11:24:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I suspect that your entire gripe boils down to (0+ / 0-)

            "I am an exception to all this."

            Alas, your silly "cellphones cause cancer!" stuff demonstrates that even if there are exceptions, you are not one of them, and that you are no less vulnerable to irrational anti-science crackpottery than anyone else is (and just as capable of confabulating reasons for it).

            (shrug)

            But don't feel bad.  There are no exceptions, just as there are no exceptions to "gall bladders produce bile" and "blood carries oxygen". This is what our brains DO.

            Sorry if you don't like it.

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 08:52:53 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  You don't seem even to have considered (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whenwego, cynndara, G2geek, mjbleo

    that you might be wrong about all this.

    Placing you as one of those intelligent people who can come up with any number of rationalizations to defend their tribe of "both-sides-do-it"-ism.

    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

    The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

    by nicteis on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:46:32 PM PDT

    •  "I" am not the one saying any of this (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whenwego, Tonedevil, mjbleo

      This is all standard textbook neuroscience.

      If anyone wants to declare the science of behavioral neurology to be wrong (just like the creationists declare the science of evolution to be wrong), I am sure any neurobiology journal would be happy to consider all of their evidence and data. And if they turn out to be right (and all of neurobiology turns out to be wrong), I'm sure they'd be a shoo-in for that next Nobel Prize -- just as would anyone who proved evolution to be wrong.  

      "both-sides-do-it"-ism.
      Both sides (of every issue) DO do it. That is a simple observed measured observational fact. Sorry if some of the ideologues don't like that. Reality can suck sometimes. (shrug)

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 02:52:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I thought I had left enough markers (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lenny Flank, cynndara, Ahianne, G2geek

        in that comment to indicate how far my tongue was wedged into my cheek.

        Apparently I failed. :-)

        But as a number of others have noted, the truths you point out are probably as universal as you say, but are not absolute. If they were, science could never come to any conclusions. The scientists who doubted the validity of any given hypothesis would simply find ways to confabulate and rationalize around the results of experiments they predicted would go the other way.

        Yet science does work, though granted it takes an awful lot of work and comes naturally to none of us primates. It does reach conclusions, and change its mind when confronted with new facts. And the scientists who lined up as part of different tribes do come to consensus.

        And none of the anti-scientific nonsense that pops up on the left (anti-vax, blanket anti-GMO, what have you) has become a tribal marker for the left - precisely because respect for the scientific method is one of our tribal markers. People who espouse such things on dkos get pushback; you won't find that kind of pushback against global warming denialists on the right.

        I would venture to hypothesize that one of the greatest counterweights to your two rules is another primate characteristic - curiosity. Every so often, some folks feel an itch to ask, even of one of their own tribal shibboleths, "Yes, but is it true? And how could I find out?" And in some small proportion of those cases, that itch is going to get scratched. Not that it's all that heavy a counterweight, especially once emotions start running high. But it isn't nothing.

        The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

        by nicteis on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:43:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  well, I wasn't responding specifically to you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mjbleo

          which is why the word "you" doesn't appear in my response.  ;)

          And none of the anti-scientific nonsense that pops up on the left (anti-vax, blanket anti-GMO, what have you) has become a tribal marker for the left
          But it HAS become a tribal marker for that tribe.  Just go there and criticize something they say, and count how many minutes it takes for them to accuse you of "working for Monsanto/Pfizer/GE//whoever".

          They are a classic example of emotional tribalism at work.

          Every so often, some folks feel an itch to ask, even of one of their own tribal shibboleths, "Yes, but is it true? And how could I find out?" And in some small proportion of those cases, that itch is going to get scratched. Not that it's all that heavy a counterweight, especially once emotions start running high. But it isn't nothing.
          But it's also all part of the chimp brain. Humans have no wiring for critical thinking until after childhood. That is not a coincidence. When the itch does get scratched, it's usually because our own emotional bases have been changed, usually through some life upheaval or experience. The brain is good at protecting its worldview--but it's not perfect. And when the itch arises, the first thing the brain does is look for another authority to build its worldview around. Humans virtually never "think for ourselves"--we always look for an authority to think for us, and although exchanging one authority for another is always a wrenching process, we'll do it if it comes to that. That's how our chimp brain works.

          The fact that religious/ideological conversions are so rare illustrates how good the brain is at it. Very few of us have a religious or ideological conversion once a week. (If we did, we wouldn't be able to function inside a stable tribal group.)

          In the end, reality always wins.

          by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:55:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  nicely said; I agree. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lenny Flank, mjbleo

          My criticism of Lenny is that he's overdrawing conclusions and then locking them in as received truth and dogma.

          But also, he does not account for creativity and originality, from which we get the arts and the sciences and technology.  The closed system he describes as necessarily, exclusively, and universally true, can't produce those outcomes.

          We got the future back. Uh-oh.

          by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:51:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  you seem to think I am arguing genetic determinism (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mjbleo

            I'm not.

            In fact, I am not arguing anything--I am presenting the conclusions of standard textbook neuroscience. And they don't argue for genetic determinism either.

            I get that you don't agree with neuroscience. But given that you think cellphones cause cancer, alas, I don't put much weight into any scientific opinions you have.

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 10:57:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  sorry, that doesn't work. (0+ / 0-)

              "Given that you believe X, I dismiss all of your opinions about Y, Z, Q, and R."

              That's the same game played by religious fundamentalists against atheists:  "You don't believe in God, therefore you don't have morals."  

              Do you also dismiss the opinion of your auto mechanic about which vehicles are more or less trouble-prone because he happens to be a fan of a sports team that's a major rival of a team you're rooting for?

              You keep saying "textbook."  Which one?  The Old Textament or the New Textament, and if the latter, which denomination?  Is every last word literally true?  Sounds like fundamentalist thinking to me.

              Your inference that I don't agree with neuroscience is "not even wrong," and another example of overdrawing conclusions.  I've been arguing for neuroscientific approaches to conscious experience since 11th grade, and in those days (a few decades ago) that was heretical as hell, and it remained a minority position throughout my undergraduate years.

              Dude, your method of arguing does not help your case one bit.  

              We got the future back. Uh-oh.

              by G2geek on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 09:54:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I disagree - a little bit (7+ / 0-)

    The concepts are fascinating and probably correct in a general sense.  However, in dealing with human cognition and behavior there are few absolutes.  Maybe none!

    Isn't it more likely that all of the traits you describe exist on a spectrum?  For example, some people demonstrate strong confabulation, cognitive dissonance, and confirmation bias.  Others, not so much.

    There are very few issues on which I have changed my mind since I became an adult.  This supports your theory.  However, there are a couple.  This is evidence that your theory does not perfectly predict human behavior and belief.

    PS  Tipped and rec'd for an exceptionally well-written diary on a fascinating topic.  But it is too long.  :-)

    •  thanks for commenting . . . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terrypinder, mjbleo
      There are very few issues on which I have changed my mind since I became an adult.  This supports your theory.  However, there are a couple.  This is evidence that your theory does not perfectly predict human behavior and belief.
      First, it's not "my" theory--it is the findings of neuroscience. I have no  more to do with it than I do with the theory of gravity.

      But your question is dealt with here:

      In politics, your stand on hot-button issues, such as abortion or global warming, serve as cultural markers, differentiating those within the tribe from those outside it. In these cases, the pressures are enormous for everyone in the tribe to adopt the appropriate markers (by wearing the appropriate colors or believing the appropriate way on the issues), and those who either refuse or aren't as ardent as expected, are usually viewed with suspicion by the rest of the group. As a result, people tend to adapt their opinions and positions to match those of the tribe, accepting the group as their authority figure and the beliefs and opinions of the group as self-evident truths.
      and here:
      Can We Change Our Beliefs?
      The short answer? No, in general, we can't--at least not in the things that matter to us. We may change our minds and ideas on trivial things. But when our core beliefs change to any significant degree, it is rare and usually painful. For the most part, it only happens when our emotional base changes for some reason beyond our control--a huge change in life circumstances such as a death or divorce, for instance, or if we are forced by circumstances into seeking support (material, emotional, or both) from some new peer group with different beliefs. Religious conversions provide perhaps the best examples. Most people simply accept whatever religious beliefs (or lack of them) that their parents had. But for some people, undergoing a drastic life change can be enough to shatter their previous worldview and leave them open to adopting a different one from some new peer group that is able to provide support. If you read the "testimonies" of religious conversions (whether to or from), it becomes apparent that a shattering life event is usually at the core of it. In those conditions, we don't change our mind; our mind is changed for us by circumstances beyond our control.

      Even when one of our core beliefs do seem to change, it often turns out to not actually be as big a change as we might think. A good example is the religious fundamentalist who, because of some shattering life event, "loses his faith" and converts to atheism. Oftentimes, nothing really changes: the new convert is still just as much a fundamentalist as before and is still fervently preaching his opinions about religion to everyone who will listen. The only thing that has changed is what opinion he is preaching about. Similar non-changes can be seen in libertarians who become anarchists, or Trotskyites who become neoconservatives, or Republicans who become Democrats. Often, the underlying emotional motivator hasn't changed at all; just the social expression of it has. They are still the same bird, they just have different feathers now. And, like religious conversions, the extreme rarity of ideological conversions makes it clear how well-insulated the chimp brain is against making serious changes in its core beliefs.

      But it is too long.  :-)
      It used to be even longer--I had an entire section on science itself, looking at how science has set itself up structurally to produce objectivity (or at least as close as any human can) despite the fact that individual scientists all do these same things because they have the same brains we all do. I also described an experiment I did with a few guinea pigs right here at DKos (thanks to those who participated, and sorry I couldn't fit it here--maybe I'll get it up in aother diary.)

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:06:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ps--it's not a straightline determination (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, mjbleo

        It is instead a tendency. Culture also plays an enormous role (though the basics of what the brain does within that culture are genetic).

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:17:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What do you mean by "straightline"? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mjbleo

          I posted the reply below before I read this ps.  A "tendency" sounds more accurate since a tendency can be either strong or weak.

          •  I mean "deterministic" (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            GussieFN, mjbleo

            Humans are not genetically determined. We have a learned culture as well as a genetic brain structure.

            But experiment after experiment after experiment shows that the tendency is strong in all of us, and virtually none of us can consciously overcome it. Confabulation and confirmation bias had a survival value in our savannah days, and it is what evolution has wired our brains to do.

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:52:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Me thinks your tendency is stronger than mine. nt (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lenny Flank, mjbleo
            •  Actually (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lenny Flank, mjbleo

              People have been deliberately manipulating their own consciousness and ingrained tendencies of this sort since the fourth century AD.  There are reams of techniques that have been developed, some of the most famous published in English by Aleister Crowley during the first half of the 20th century.  And despite claims to the contrary, magical work has always attempted to take advantage of the most advanced science of its time, whatever that happened to be.

              •  OK, so you don't like "science" because it laughs (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mjbleo

                at "magick" . . . ? Is that the confabulation you are going with?

                With all due respect, when people cite Crowley as an authority for anything, I tend to stop listening.

                In the end, reality always wins.

                by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 07:17:17 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Me dear, (0+ / 0-)

                  I'm perfectly fond of science.  I just don't treat it as the Center Of The Universe.  Crowley is merely a well-known example of magical thinking.  He's practically archaic by modern standards, and fixated on irrelevant derivatives of ancient Hebrew tribalism expressed through linguistic literalism.  I find Evola, Plato, and Chuang Tzu far more useful myself.

      •  What about the idea of a spectrum? (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lenny Flank, GussieFN, nicteis, Ahianne, mjbleo

        OK, it's not "your" theory, but you are the author of the most-excellent diary which is setting forth the details of this theory.  My evolved brain thinks you own it.

        My point is that these characteristics of human thinking are not absolutes.  Rather they exist in individuals to a greater or lesser degree.

        Let's take one, confirmation bias.  Chris Mooney, in his book "The Republican Brain" makes a good case that this trait is stronger in conservatives than in liberals.  My confirmation bias causes me to believe this is true.

        However, Dan Kahan makes a strong case that Mooney's analysis is flawed.

        http://www.culturalcognition.net/...

        Being a liberal, my confirmation bias leads me to discount Kahan's analysis.

        But here is the critical point.  If you delve into the data that both Mooney and Kahan cite, it deals with the traits of INDIVIDUALS.  (sorry, didn't mean to shout, but I don't know how to underline).

        Those individuals score differently on the scale of confirmation bias.  For some it is strong.  For others it is weak.  That spectrum holds for male vs. female, Republican vs. Democrat, religious vs non-religious, etc.

        So, my point is that while the traits you (neuroscience) ascribe to humans are undoubtedly present in all of us, the degree to which any individual may reflect those traits is variable.

        •  already integrated (0+ / 0-)

          Every biological characteristic is subject to variation.

          That changes none of it. As experiments have shown, the variation in those things, in humans, is pretty narrow. It doesn't matter where you pick your test subjects, or their IQ, or their income or education level---the test results are all pretty much the same. We all have the same basic brains, just as we all have the same basic hearts and livers.

          Those individuals score differently on the scale of confirmation bias.  For some it is strong.  For others it is weak.  That spectrum holds for male vs. female, Republican vs. Democrat, religious vs non-religious, etc.
          No, there is no such differentiation. There is some individual variation, as there is for any biological characteristic. But it does NOT split between any of the things you mention. There simply is no "side" that confabulates or confirmation biases or false memories more or less than the "other side".

          You are simply following Brain Rule Number Two---and trying to confabulate a reason why your side is always more honest and honorable than their side.

          It's not. Your side and their side are no different, and both do the same things. (shrug)

          In the end, reality always wins.

          by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:43:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Being a liberal (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lenny Flank, Ahianne

          My perpetual irritation with my confirmation bias led me to follow your link to Kahan's piece.

          His critique of Mooney's methodology is pretty convincing. Damn it.  (His conclusions about the open-mindedness of high CTI individuals, on the other hand, are no better than suggestive.)

          The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

          by nicteis on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:01:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Mooney's book, much as I liked it, is, after all, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cynndara, mjbleo

            political propaganda. (In the generic sense of that word.) It has a specific political goal to make. Those who agree with that political goal will indeed tend to swallow everything he says; those who don't, will tend to go through it with a nit comb to pick out every possible error so they can reject it. Deep down inside, we all believe what we already want to believe, and don't believe the things we already don't want to believe.

            The same is true of every diary that is posted here.

            It is also true of every diary that is posted at RedState. They do exactly the same thing.

            That's the chimp brain at work.

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:18:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  this, btw, does NOT mean that Mooney lied (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mjbleo
              Mooney's book, much as I liked it, is, after all, political propaganda. (In the generic sense of that word.) It has a specific political goal to make.
              or was in any way dishonest or deceptive. Quite the opposite--I am sure he was honestly trying to be as "objective" as possible.  Nevertheless, his brain works the same way as anyone else's, and it led him to confabulate and confirmation bias exactly what he wanted to hear--and then pass it on to people who also wanted to hear it.

              In the end, reality always wins.

              by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:28:41 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I find it most interesting (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lenny Flank, mjbleo

              as a classic case of Appeal to Authority.  The one Authority given unquestioning deference by all sides in modern culture is Science.  Therefore, if one is going to cast aspersions upon a tribal enemy, they must be justified and supported by Science.

    •  as an aside--it is more likely to be issue-based (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mjbleo
      Isn't it more likely that all of the traits you describe exist on a spectrum?  For example, some people demonstrate strong confabulation, cognitive dissonance, and confirmation bias.  Others, not so much.
      What generally happens is that most people are not all that concerned about it (and just do all their confabulation and confirmation bias etc unconsciously and without thinking about it) until the conversation hits their particular pet issue, the one they have self-selected as their tribal marker. THAT is when all the fireworks fly.

      We can see that here. People stay calm and collected and don't care if other issues get criticized until someone criticizes THEIR pet issue--when they start frothing at the mouth and going off their nut. Indeed, we have our share of people here who barely comment or argue on anything else EXCEPT their pet issue (the gun folks leap to mind).

      The only issue they really care about at the emotional level is the one they have selected as their tribal identity. THAT one they will defend to the death.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:28:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  speaking of chimps, it was fascinating (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, Ahianne, mjbleo

    watching a documentary on chimps where they would chase, corner, and kill smaller primates.  then the alpha male would part out the carcass, rewarding his followers and concubines with meat (hard to find exact human analogues).
    I was half asleep because the thought occurred to me, given the popular view of chimps as peaceful vegetarians, if chimps were also cannibalistic so offspring belonging to one male might be considered lunch by a male higher up in the hierarchy.  (I am resisting pointing out the events covered in the documentary and how our own political system works)  

  •  This may be relevant. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight, Lenny Flank, Wee Mama

    I don't know as I skimmed a bit. This quote came from a car builder who was focused on making cars lighter with carbon fiber and other things. The main idea was that 95% of the energy used was to move the car and not people. This, before it was as de rigueur as it is now.

    Anywho, he said something along the lines of, "sometimes a good idea is just the cessation of a bad one"

    So yeah, change, it happens.

  •  How does this take into account the all (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank

    pervasive propaganda and conditioning citizens receive from watching television, reading newspapers, attending our schools, etc.?  Doesn't that have a little bit to do with what people believe and how they act?  
    Take the Pledge of Allegiance for example.  Or God Bless America.

    "Fragmented and confused, we have no plan to combat any of this, but are looking to be saved by the very architects of our ruination."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:27:56 PM PDT

    •  people believe the propaganda they WANT to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koosah

      believe, and reject the rest.

      Nazi propaganda was so successful because it told the German population what it wanted to hear.

      In the Soviet Union, on the other hand, people were bombarded with propaganda 24/7/365--and believed none of it. When push came to shove, nobody lifted a finger to defend the Soviet regime.

      But what you are referring to is "tribal pressure". I discussed that here:

      It is when we combine the innate tendency of humans to form tribal groups with the equally inherent tendency of humans to unquestioningly adopt the beliefs of our peer group and bow to its authority that things really get interesting. Within tribes, there are always cultural markers that mark their members off from the others. For football fans, wearing your team colors serves as a marker of membership. In politics, your stand on hot-button issues, such as abortion or global warming, serve as cultural markers, differentiating those within the tribe from those outside it. In these cases, the pressures are enormous for everyone in the tribe to adopt the appropriate markers (by wearing the appropriate colors or believing the appropriate way on the issues), and those who either refuse or aren't as ardent as expected, are usually viewed with suspicion by the rest of the group. As a result, people tend to adapt their opinions and positions to match those of the tribe, accepting the group as their authority figure and the beliefs and opinions of the group as self-evident truths.
      "Patriotism" is one form of that. It is simple chimp tribalism, and the tendency of all humans to believe whatever their peer group tells them to believe.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:37:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Where does self-loathing fit? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, Wee Mama, cynndara

    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:33:51 PM PDT

    •  pathology (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GussieFN

      Evolution doesn't reward self-loathing (though culture may allow it).

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:45:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How do you know? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lenny Flank, Garrett, cynndara

        Fight them to the end, until the children of the poor eat better than the dogs of the rich.

        by raincrow on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:24:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I dunno. I come (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama, cynndara

        from a long line of depressive self-haters. It kept us inside during progroms.

        "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

        by GussieFN on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:25:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Have you run into the hypothesis that depression (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, mjbleo

        has a group selective value? Depressives tend to be more realistic than non-depressed people, and their insomnia pre-adapts them to do night guard duty. Both are useful to the group, if not so much to the individual.



        Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

        by Wee Mama on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:29:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  there is research showing that most people tend to (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama, mjbleo

          think they are more intelligent than they actually are, and better-looking than they actually are as well. (The way they set up that experiment was actually clever--they took photos of groups of people including the test subject, but digitally altered that individual's photo to look either better or worse than they really did (by adding crease lines and wrinkles and such). What they found was that when the photo was altered to look better than the actual person, the person could find it more quickly than an unaltered photo, and when it looked worse, they took longer to find it--indicating that the "better-looking" photos more closely matched their own internal view of themselves.)

          The version of the "depression" hypothesis that I heard says that depressed people tend to be more alert and more aware of their surroundings than exuberant people are. I don't know how much good research has been done on it.

          In the end, reality always wins.

          by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:39:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That does vary with gender, I believe. I'll see if (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lenny Flank, mjbleo

            I can find a reference for it -

            From one I found:

            The women rated themselves more negatively than the men did on scientific ability: on a scale of 1 to 10, the women gave themselves a 6.5 on average, and the men gave themselves a 7.6. When it came to assessing how well they answered the questions, the women thought they got 5.8 out of 10 questions right; men, 7.1. And how did they actually perform? Their average was almost the same—women got 7.5 out of 10 right and men 7.9.
            A purely personal anecdote - back when I was writing grants, I used to wonder if my male colleagues really and truly believed what they said about how well their grants were going to do. I knew the numbers and supposed that they did also, but all of them thought that they would be in the magic 8%.



            Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

            by Wee Mama on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:46:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  dunning-kruger? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lenny Flank, mjbleo

            had a tough time accepting that one until I saw it confirmed in the wild.

            Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

            by terrypinder on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 06:20:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped, recced and hotlisted for a more thorough (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank

    read when time allows. Thanks for the very insightful diary! I have no problem admitting and embracing my inner chimp.

    I look forward to delving into the links...

    "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley

    by koosah on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 03:36:21 PM PDT

  •  So, what you are saying is that ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, cynndara

    democracy is not a natural condition of primates, and that we are wired to live a tribal existence wherein we conquer and destroy other tribes that don't comport to our beliefs in order to continue our own unique evolutionary bloodlines.

    Sounds like Congress is working as Darwin theorized.


    Can you really trust a superhero that wears a mask?

    by glb3 on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:06:10 PM PDT

    •  well, "I" am not saying anything--I am simply (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glb3

      describing what neuroscience has found, through experiment and observation, about how our brains are wired to do what they do.  :)

      On the other hand, we are also not genetically determined--we have culture, which can be altered almost at will (though not outside the genetic limits of our biology).

      On the other other hand, though, overriding our biology is very difficult for humans (just ask anyone who is on a diet).

      We are naked chimps. We can't change that. It's what we are. We have to live with it.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:21:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmm.... maybe.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, cynndara

    We still have not the slightest idea what consciousness is or how it came (comes) into being; nor why some notions catch our interest while others bore us; how we transmute intent into action; what purpose is served by appropriating unconscious actions as being the result of our intent; etc.

    It's natural to observe a behavior and attempt to explain how it evolved, but after thousands of years of attempted explanations, we remain at square one until we know what consciousness is.

    Fight them to the end, until the children of the poor eat better than the dogs of the rich.

    by raincrow on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:19:48 PM PDT

    •  no, consciousness is not relevant to most of this (0+ / 0-)

      Nearly all of this is done UN-consciously, without our even being aware that it is being done. Indeed, the strength of the chimp brain is that most of the time it is NOT conscious of what it does---it acts instantly and without any conscious thought. And when it does get around to consciously considering things, all it does is search for what it wants to see to support the emotional decision it already made unconsciously.

      Indeed, as experiments have shown, even if we are consciously taught how the brain does what it does, it has no effect on our behavior--we still act unconsciously, the same way as we did before.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:39:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is a very thought provoking diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, Wee Mama, Ahianne, cynndara

    For personal reasons though, I'm far more interested in what it doesn't account for. That being; why some will reject the instruction of their peer groups and authority figures, even at great personal cost.

    I have reason to know that this break can occur far earlier than adolescence. I have very clear memory of the moment I realized that parents can not only be wrong but can and will do very, very wrong things.

    I was around the age of four when it happened to me. My older brother had been guilty of an infraction and was being railed at and threatened with a whipping if he didn't. He was in tears and hysterics. I thought this was so wrong that I had to do something to stop it.

    So I falsely confessed to having done the deed.

    I should note that the deed in question was physically beyond me at that age. So it was readily apparent that I was fibbing. Nevertheless, I received the whipping that my brother had been threatened with.

    From that moment on I understood that Parents couldn't be trusted to do the right thing.

    I'd add that I recall having made a conscious comparison between the behavior of my parent and the kind of thing I'd seen in WWII movies on TV vis a vis the Nazis.

    Yes I know this is anecdotal. It doesn't refute anything you've written above but it does make me wonder about divergences from the model and what significance, if any, they may have.

     

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:40:54 PM PDT

    •  see this: (0+ / 0-)

      Can We Change Our Beliefs?

      The short answer? No, in general, we can't--at least not in the things that matter to us. We may change our minds and ideas on trivial things. But when our core beliefs change to any significant degree, it is rare and usually painful. For the most part, it only happens when our emotional base changes for some reason beyond our control--a huge change in life circumstances such as a death or divorce, for instance, or if we are forced by circumstances into seeking support (material, emotional, or both) from some new peer group with different beliefs. Religious conversions provide perhaps the best examples. Most people simply accept whatever religious beliefs (or lack of them) that their parents had. But for some people, undergoing a drastic life change can be enough to shatter their previous worldview and leave them open to adopting a different one from some new peer group that is able to provide support. If you read the "testimonies" of religious conversions (whether to or from), it becomes apparent that a shattering life event is usually at the core of it. In those conditions, we don't change our mind; our mind is changed for us by circumstances beyond our control.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 04:47:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know that what I described (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lenny Flank, Wee Mama

        qualifies as a "shattering life event". It seems to me that I filed it away pretty much the same way I was always filing away data in those days.

        The point is that I apparently had already formulated my own ideas about "right" and "wrong" behavior and that I not only recognized when parents did wrong, I didn't change my view that it was wrong just because it was done by parents.

        Nothing human is alien to me.

        by WB Reeves on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:01:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  How do changes in culture, such as the social (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GussieFN, Lenny Flank, Ahianne

    shift on marriage equality, fit into this model?



    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:31:51 PM PDT

    •  That's a good question. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, Ahianne

      Or the social shift on slavery, for that matter.

      If I'm always right and always good (which I am, but with me it just so happens that my stopped clock points to the right time, obvs), and if you're always right and good, then how has widespread change happened?

      "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

      by GussieFN on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:46:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  to be blunt, most social change happens through (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama, GussieFN

        force. In the Civil War that ended slavery, both sides thought they were right (and still do, in many ways). But only one side won the war.

        In every social or political conflict in all of human history, both sides thought they were absolutely right and just and good and honorable and had all the angels on their side. But only one side wins the conflict--and it ain't "who's morally right" that decides it.

        Just as in chimp society, the bigger coalition, wins (all part of that "winning friends and influencing people" thingie that dominates all of primate society). Through force. We've pacified and institutionalized the process through "elections", but it's the same idea--the majority rules not because the majority is more likely to be correct than the minority. The majority wins because it is physically stronger and can, if necessary, use force to impose its will.

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:04:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually America is unusual in ending slavery (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GussieFN, Lenny Flank, Ahianne

          through warfare. In most of the countries where it was abolished, it was abolished through legislation.



          Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

          by Wee Mama on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:34:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I didn't say "warfare"--I said "force" :) (0+ / 0-)

            They're not the same. Martin Luther King Jr used no warfare, but he certainly used force.

            The Brits didn't end slavery out of the goodness of their dear little hearts. Nor did anyone else. They did it because they were forced to--some by rebellions (violent or nonviolent), some by political force from their own people.

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:47:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  But how did the anti-slavery (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama

          people become anti-slavery people when, at one point in hominid history, there weren't anti-slavery people in any number.

          "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

          by GussieFN on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:39:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  that's cultural, not genetic (0+ / 0-)

            Culture operates independently of genetics (well, within the limits set by basic genetic structure).

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:43:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not sure I get it. (0+ / 0-)

              We're genetically inclined to reject anything that contradicts received wisdom, basically, and certainly to reject anything that contradicts our preexisting beliefs, right?

              That's the genetic part.

              The culture part is that I'm using slaver as an example. Could be anything. But what I'm asking is, how come those genetic dispositions don't disallow that kind of cultural change?

              If the vast majority of cultures believe that slavery is a-ok, which at one time was the case, how did those cultures change--culturally--despite the genetic inclination to dismiss that sort of 'threat' to the worldview?

              "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

              by GussieFN on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:51:41 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  cultural behavior has always been enormously (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      plastic. There have already been many cultures that had no gripe with LGBT's. So that's always been compatible with the biological chimp brain.

      Where the chimp brain enters into it is the emotional tribalism that the issue provokes--it has been one of THE signature identity markers of a specific tribe, and they are giving it up only with tremendous reluctance, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and all the while confabulating all sorts of reasons to convince themselves that they're not really giving it up. And it really will never go away.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 05:56:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It might be interesting to do a case study of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne

        marriage equality within the Episcopal Church. Thirty years ago I would have said that the tribal stance was marriage is a man and a woman, and sex is only licit within that marriage. We really have come to the point where most Episcopalians are on board with marriage equality, and the ones who are not no longer see that as the tribal marker. We lost a few percent who did not make that change, but it was a small percentage.



        Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

        by Wee Mama on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:01:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have to disagree with some assertions, but I am (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank

    pleased to see a diary like this on Daily Kos.  OK, I hope to post more diaries regarding psychology and social theory!  

    •  just keep in mind--they are not "my" assertions (0+ / 0-)

      They are standard textbook neuroscience.

      People who disagree with science for ideological reasons, do not deserve to be listened to. (And I am not at all suggesting or implying that you are doing that--I'm making a point.) But people who disagree with science for scientific reasons, are entirely welcome to debate to their heart's content--that's how science is done.

      :)

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:26:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  tomorrow's diary: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whaddaya

    Chicken Politics: Life in the Flock

    Entirely different, I promise.  And not anywhere near as long.  :)

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:28:08 PM PDT

  •  LOL. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank

    Lovely.  You describe the problems quite eloquently.  You stop short however of known techniques for deliberately cultivating cognitive dissonance and emotional stress for the purpose of adjusting one's fundamental setpoints.

    Now what if one learned all of this while the mind was still flexible, between the ages of seven and fourteen?  And the strongest authority-figure in that young life held to rationalism as an  ideology (even while falling atrociously short of rationality in practice)?  Oh, and add in autism-spectrum asociality making peer groups virtually non-existent and the company of other children an experience ranging from mere anxiety to sheer terror.  While having backed the major Alternative Authority Figure (The Teacher) into an admission of outright lie on the very first day of first grade (grin)?

    Am I rational?  Of course not.  Any magician knows that.  Can I direct my irrationality by deliberate acts of will? Very often.  Do I jump to the defense of a tribal peer group? WHAT peer group?  It's very difficult finding anyone to have an intelligent conversation with who hasn't been dead for at least three hundred years.  And yes, it can take me two hours to decide what to eat once my blood sugar drops past a certain point.  I completely failed at biological reproduction.  Deliberate blocking of heuristics has its drawbacks.

    Occasionally, as with all biological mechanisms, the finely-evolved structures of the monkey brain don't develop the way they are designed to.  In my case, the primitive learning mechanism was not adapted to an environment which provided access to thousands of Books, labeled as Authority, and available to contradict and elaborate on anything taught by mere live humans.  I do wonder if the burgeoning availability of the internet might not create similar access for increasing numbers of young people to seek Higher Authority than that claimed by Real People in their immediate lives, as well as interact with peer groups which may or may not even exist.

  •  I presume you are clever enough to recognize (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank

    the epistemological difficulty of an argument that contains within itself the meta-argument that "people who disagree with my assertions are exhibiting the behavior i am asserting."

    it's conveniently bulletproof, and it's pretty much your consistent rebuttal to anyone in the comments who takes issue with the sweeping generalization of your thesis.

    i have two observations:

    A. The acolytes of Lakoff et al (and others who preach other versions of the gospel of Irrational Man), following the example of their guru, tend to overstate the conclusions that can be drawn from the research. None of said research demonstrates that humans are incapable of "wisdom" (see point B, below); All of said research reveals only statistical trends in human cognition. The actual scientific findings of such research can only ever be properly expressed as, In a given population of humans, a statistically improbable fraction of the individuals showed a measurable and statistically improbable bias towards certain responses to the stimuli they were given.

    That is it, the whole big enchilada of it. To my knowledge, nobody has ever demonstrated a universal inability to transcend homo sapiens' evolved typical patterns of cognition: Neither universal to any specific individual under all conditions of stimulus, nor universal to all individuals under any specific condition of stimulus. To the contrary, I consider it fairly evident that many individuals under certain conditions of stimulus can and do defy the cognitive patterns laid out in the diary, and that the capacity for doing so corresponds well with the virtue that in our culture we label

    B. Wisdom: The ability to see through, or around, the veils woven by biology and culture, and recognize truths about ethics, morality, humanity and reality that are occluded from the vision of unenlightened cognition. I have little doubt that wisdom is real, that a significant portion of humanity is potentially though not manifestly wise, and that many can be brought to a state of wisdom by honest, thoughtful and rational discourse. This contrasts brightly with the political philosophy of Lakoff, whose prescription for democratic success is to attempt to enlighten the electorate, but rather to intelligently exploit the chimp in all of us.

    I also suggest that the ability to overcome one's chimp brain is the essential factor that results in great science (and great art, for that matter). When confronted by data that confound the Theory, the experimentalist can either dismiss the data or dismiss the theory. It is implicit in the argument of the diary that the experimentalist is, in fact, incapable of dismissing the theory -- a rather extraordinary implication to unexpectedly bubble up from the writing of this particular diarist, of all possible diarists.

    Rather than cite examples from my own subjective experience, since we know a priori what rebuttal that will stimulate from the diarist chimp brain, I will cite the story of C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater, as told by Ellis to Studs Terkel

    I predict that, per the theories laid out in the diary, this example will be met with one or more weak attempts to explain how it actually fits the theory, or is outside the purview of the theory, or whatever -- though it seems to me that if the diarist were fully committed to this dogma, he wouldn't bother, since he would know that everything he was writing was just the knee-jerk balderdash of his chimpy homunculus.

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 06:46:26 PM PDT

    •  ARGHH! "Not"! "... not to attempt to enlighten .." (0+ / 0-)

      the electorate.

      Of course, Lakoff would say it doesn't matter anyway, because the readers are all responding cognitively to the salady gestalt of my words, without regard to the carefully structured syntax and semantics.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 07:12:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  well, feel free to take up your argument with the (0+ / 0-)

      behavioral neuroscientists, then.

      (shrug)

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 07:25:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't have to take it up with the behavioral (0+ / 0-)

        neuroscientists, for precisely the reason I stated: The results they report describe trends and tendencies, not deterministic phenomena in which all humans under the given conditions invariably respond in exactly one, predictable manner. (Whereas note that various animals, humans included, will, under certain specific conditions, invariably or nearly invariably respond with a predictable and apparently hard-wired behavior, even though the situation has been engineered by the experimentalist to render that response absurd -- google, for example, "flehmen response")

        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

        by UntimelyRippd on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 07:48:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  perhaps you missed this part of the diary, then: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mjbleo
          Genetics, then, sets the basic personality traits that we are all born with: shyness, amenity to change, confidence, empathy, gregariousness, sense of adventure. And in turn, humans tend to choose environments (jobs, friends, activities etc) that are compatible with their own personality traits (a process called "niche picking"). But this does not mean that our behavior is genetically determined. Our genes set only the broad outlines of our behavior; it is learned culture that takes over from there. Our genes may place us at a particular level of behavioral "aggressiveness", but it is our learned culture that decides why some people channel that "aggression" into pro football and others channel it into politics or mammoth hunting. Other individuals may have genes that give them "good spatial skills", but that doesn't determine whether he or she will be a fighter pilot or an interior designer or a pyramid-builder--culture and learning decides that. Nurture plays an enormous role in our behavior, but it can only operate within the limits that our genes place on our basic personality traits. Conversely, our genes set our basic personality parameters, but our specific behaviors can vary widely because of our enormously plastic and adaptable cultural learning.
          and this part:
          Alas, the findings of behavioral neurology and cognitive brain science show that we are all wrong. Humans do no such thing at all. Not me, not you--none of us. Instead, neurological research has shown that all humans tend to believe whatever our social peer group teaches us to believe, that all humans tend to make their decisions almost entirely based on emotions and only use "facts" and "logic" afterwards as rationalizations to justify what we already want to believe, and that all humans tend to support those beliefs by making up false memories and fictional frameworks and lying not only to others, but also to ourselves. And since this is the normal way that all human brains have evolved to work, all of this happens without our even being consciously aware of it happening.

          In the end, reality always wins.

          by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 08:03:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Do you notice the contrast between the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lenny Flank, mjbleo

            first two sentences in that paragraph, and the subsequent sentences that incorporate a level of qualification? And that even the qualifications are weak in relation to the assertions they accompany: "all" humans "tend to" ... "almost entirely based on emotion" and "only" use facts and logic as "rationalizations".

            And do you notice that you assert, without qualification, that certain commentors in the thread are, simply and flat out, exhibiting the chimpy behavior you have described?

            What I dislike about this diary is the impression it leaves that we are all basically helpless and hopeless -- that one's sense of one's own wisdom is invariably a delusion, and that almost all of the time almost everything we do is completely irrational. If we were as desperately foolish, as impervious to counterexample, structured language, and negative feedback  as the Lakoff school exclaims, we'd all have perished a long time ago.

            in fact, it's of some interest to ask the question: if we are not generally susceptible to the structured syntax of rational discourse, how comes the capacity for such discourse in the first place? apparently i am immune to the sincere arguments of others, yet i have the abilities to formulate, comprehend, and accept without much discretion my own disingenuous arguments -- but the only reason i can think of for even needing such rationalizations is to put up a defense against the otherwise overwhelming arguments of others. and the only reason i should need such a defense is that without it i am vulnerable to their arguments.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 08:29:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  you must have read a different diary (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mjbleo
              What I dislike about this diary is the impression it leaves that we are all basically helpless and hopeless
              Here's what I think:
              Unlike organisms which operate entirely on genetic instinct, like ants, humans have remarkably complex brains capable of understanding our world and learning from it. Indeed, humans are successful as a species precisely because we are not slaves to our genes: we are capable of passing complex learned behaviors to the members of our social group, a process known as culture. If humans were dependent upon changes in our genes to alter our behavior, we'd still be chipping lava cobbles out on the African veldt. But because we can learn and share our experiences with others, we can build space shuttles and supercomputers. Our behavior is enormously plastic, capable of a stunning variety of learned cultural beliefs and practices which are passed down entirely independently of our genes.
              I find nothing hopeless or helpless in that.
              in fact, it's of some interest to ask the question: if we are not generally susceptible to the structured syntax of rational discourse, how comes the capacity for such discourse in the first place?
              That's actually a very good question--and it's one that has already been studied.  The answer given by behavioral neuroscientists is: conversation and language evolved as a means of social grooming. It is hoiw we build and maintain relationships within the tribe--how we "win friends and influence people". In the final analysis, as a social grooming tool, the actual content of our conversations doesn't matter at all (unless we are specifically trying to communicate particular information). Nearly all of our typical human day-to-day conversation is just gossiping about social relationships---who is hanging out with who, what this one thinks of that one, how Elsie is getting along with her new boyfriend Joey.

              This is seen most clearly in the typical conversation that we all have when we meet up with an acquaintance we haven't seen in a while. First, we ask "How are you doing?" The fact that we're not remotely interested in any actual answer is illustrated by the fact that everyone unfailingly answers "fine, and you?"--and any other answer, such as "I have cancer" or "my girlfriend threw me out last week", is seen as rude. There is no information exchange in the entire conversation--it is solely the human equivalent of two chimps picking bugs off each other's fur, or two wolves sniffing each other's butt. It's a social greeting ritual, nothing more, and its only purpose is to reaffirm that the social relationship still exists (the alternative being the equally ritualistic "we're not speaking to each other" performance).

              Mostly, what humans talk about is . . .  nothing of any importance. It's not the words or their meaning that matter--it is the simple act of conversation that matters. That's the social glue that holds each relationship together.

              In the end, reality always wins.

              by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 08:59:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  btw, I find it funny (and illuminating) that (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              terrypinder, mjbleo

              you don't like the science because you find it depressing.

              There's nothing that says science needs to be uplifting, nor is "it depresses me" a valid scientific argument against it.

              It confirms that your opposition to the science is ideological and emotional. And, sad to say, science doesn't care about my ideological emotional feelings, or yours, or anyone else's.  (shrug)

              In the end, reality always wins.

              by Lenny Flank on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 11:57:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  and so you prove my point, thinking you are (0+ / 0-)

                proving yours, by falling back on the epistemological circle that this "theory" provides; yet you have mistaken the effect for the cause.

                you suppose that my dislike of the diary is rooted in my emotional response to the science. to the contrary, my dislike is rooted in what i perceive to be a misrepresentation of the science -- a common-enough sort of misrepresentation when the subject is any result from cognitive science or social psychology. again and again, here and elsewhere, i find people arguing points of politics, economics and sociology from a perspective of "science shows that people do/don't/are/aren't/will/won't blah blah", when normally what the science shows is that statistical analysis of measurements of people's behavior indicates trends.

                sure, i find the actual scientific results to be disturbing. who wouldn't? it's distressing to be told that not only are one's fellows operating on a cognitive autopilot most of the time, but indeed one's perceptions of one's own cognition are suspect. nonetheless, i think the scientific conclusions are grossly overstated by people when they try to introduce those results into, say, a strategy session for how to win voters to one's side, and that is the matter at hand.

                meanwhile, the suggestion that our capacity for language evolved as a grooming behavior is, to the say least, highly speculative. what is more it doesn't satisfactorily address the question i was asking: if we are generally not susceptible to the detailed semantics of a carefully structured sentence, why are we able to generate such sentences, and why do we bother? if it is all just comforting (or threatening) word salad, how did we evolve to be able to express ourselves with such extraordinary clarity? if adding "not" to a predicate doesn't change the effect the sentence has on the recipient's cognition, than why does the language provide for adding "not" to a sentence? the answer is pretty straightforward, but it is not one to which the Lakoff crowd are amenable, apparently being victims of their own hyperbolic hypothesis.

                in fact, the phenomenon of learning in general appears to depend on the ability to process negative cases and use them to trim one's model of what is true and what is false. this has created a minor puzzle with respect to language-learning, given that negative instances (with explicit correction) are not abundant in the experience of the child who is learning grammar.

                once, i had an hypothesis for how this might work. i'm not sure whether you've twigged to the fact yet, but you aren't telling me anything new. i studied this stuff in great depth -- i was reading the churchlands 25 years ago. i have always found lakoff to be hyperbolic in expressing the scope of his findings, such as his "metaphors" thesis. that was long before he was telling us that trying to communicate real ideas was essentially fruitless, since people don't respond to real ideas, they only respond to a hodgepodge of vocabularic triggers.

                To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                by UntimelyRippd on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 05:44:10 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The irony of it all (0+ / 0-)

                  Is that after a long (and actually fairly decent) article on cignitive biases...Mr. Frank refuses to realize the same applies to himself.  And he proves every one of his own points correct in his attempt to support his writing from any criticism or valid discussion.  

                  For such an absolutist, Mr. Frank seems to think himself as above and beyond his own arguement that everyone is always a victim of cognitive bias.

  •  excellent synthesis here, Lenny! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, mjbleo, Garrett, Joffan

    Nine years of watching this here self-described "reality-based" site be anything but many times rather confirms the conclusions presented.

    Like how I (or any other writer here or anywhere) can post a diary or write an article and a reader can glean an entirely different meaning from what the writer wrote. I mean I always still ask "did you read the article?" even though they probably did and whatever's going on in their head gave them a different conclusion.

    Always was highly skeptical of studies that claimed "conservative" and "liberal" brains were fundamentaly different. Tribes though, yeah. We are divided up into tribes. I'm glad the overall lefty tribe tends to skepticism (when it suits them, and I'm including myself here). The overall righty tribe tends to authoritarianism, I think. The overall American tribe privleges "belief*" over actual reason.

    *not intended to be a slam on religion

    But we all have our biases. Some I've encountered:

    -I wrote about warp drive a couple weeks ago, concluding that we're responsible for our own survival and no magic fix is coming. Most comments focused on that I said faster-than-light is not possible and weren't happy about that (and believe me, I want it to be possible really, really bad.)

    -that after VRA was gutted, blacks would riot. Encountered this both here and elsewhere. Apparently all we do is riot. No, we didn't riot. We stood in line for hours and sued in court.

    -the insistence that I encounter amongst some here that the Civil War was about anything but slavery. Sure, "property and states rights" were it but that property was human and those states wanted to right to keep those humans as property. Human beings as property in 1860 was a significant part of the entire nation's GDP. This is absolute fact.

    I could go on and on and on. I mean I've been here 9 years, I've seen so very much that tells me Team Lefty is no more reality based than Team Righty. We just express the "reality" we construct differently than they.

    And the newly converted always retains whatever personality trait they had before they converted. I'm surprised so many people who commented missed that part, considering we have so very many examples. Tom Delay was a horrible human being before he decided to "find Christ." He's STILL a horrible human being. I've got a number of family members who are the same, and did the same, and are still the same except now they're religious zealots.

    So many recent progressive heroes were Republicans. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out within the party over the next couple decades.

    all that said i wish we were closer related to the bonobos rather than the chimps. did you know that bonobos, when all their alpha males are eliminated or die or whatever, form pretty egalitarian societies?

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

    by terrypinder on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 06:03:17 AM PDT

    •  About the bonobos (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lenny Flank

      One major theme here, that we have little chimp brains inside us, because protohumans on the African Savanna had social behavior like Chimpanzees, is entirely unfounded I think.

      We don't know much about the social behavior of protohumans on the African Savanna, at all. It's inherently hard to get information about social behavior from fragmentary isolated fossil skeletons.

      It's popular to casually explain modern human behavior in terms of hunter-gather bands, or African Savanna, or tribalism, or such.

      But the combination of the casualness of the theorizing, and the highly politicized implications about human nature, and the arbitrariness of choices made like Chimpanzee over Bonobo for our supposed inner self, shows why the whole style of thinking should be treated with caution.

      •  bonobos evolved after humans and chimps split (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Garrett, terrypinder

        They are not in our line of ancestry.

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 11:15:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here's a graph, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lenny Flank

          from a science blog, showing the divergence.

          I couldn't say how correct it is, but it expresses a problem well. Chimpanzees and Bonobos are shown as equal distance from us. The fossil record about this is very poor. We don't really know.

          More science blogging:

          However, it may be that Bonobos, whose psychology is virtually unstudied relative to that of chimpanzees, are more similar to humans than are chimpanzees in how they solve various social problems (e.g. Hare, Melis, Woods, Hastings, & Wrangham, 2007). Such similarities may even be partly the result of shared and heritable neurophysiology that potentially regulates the social emotions of humans and Bonobos in similar ways (Hammock & Young, 2005).

          Chimps & Bonobos

          Extrapolations about human behavior, preferring Chimpanzees over Bonobos as our little inner ape, to highly politicized effect, are deeply questionable, at best.
          •  OK, so you don't know how to read a cladogram (0+ / 0-)

            The "fork" where the lines diverge is the time the lines split.  In the graph you cite, the split between the human/chimp branches is at around 8 mya, and the chimp/bonobo split is at around 2 mya.

            Bonobos evolved after the human/chimp split. They are not in the human line of ancestry.

            It sure seems as if ONE of us is politicized, though . . . . . . . Sorry you don't like what the science is telling us. All of us would prefer science to support our ideological preferences.  Alas, it doesn't.  (shrug)

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 01:01:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  oh, and you don't understand evolution either (0+ / 0-)

            The traits that humans and bonobos have in common are those we both derived from our common ancestor with the chimp. Chimps and humans share a common ancestor. Bonobos and humans do not. They are not in our line of ancestry. But bonobos share a common ancestor with chimps, who share a common ancestor with us, and they inherited part of the genes and traits of that common ancestor--and added some that we do not share because we do not share a common ancestor with them.

            I understand your political objections to the science.  But if you don't UNDERSTAND the science, then you are simply allowing your own political agenda to determine your views about the science. Which of course is exactly what tribalism and confabulation are all about.  (shrug)

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 01:08:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  ps: yes, we do know quite a bit (0+ / 0-)
        We don't know much about the social behavior of protohumans on the African Savanna, at all.
        We can tell because primate group behavior tracks sexual dimorphism.

        We know that early hominids had pronounced sexual dimorphism. And we know chimps do too--and bonobos have less.

        That means the common ancestor had sexual dimorphism too.

        And that tells us what its primate troop structure was. It was chimp-like.

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 02:02:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Really excellent overview, thank you. I have a few (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, terrypinder

    quibbles about the ratios of where people end up on some of these axes, but overall, this is a great starting point for a lot of conversations and understanding.

    And I agree with VCLib, breaking it up into a series is a good idea. It would allow you to both add back some of the edited parts and give people a greater chance to engage in more narrowly targeted discussion, (some of it undoubtedly heated, lol).

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:23:46 AM PDT

  •  interesting diary (0+ / 0-)

    but the "1. You are always right.  Period. You are never wrong.  Ever.  About anything. " law must be a guy thing.

    I don't know many women who live by that law

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 04:34:05 PM PDT

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