Monday, November 1, 2021

Learn to Think with the Best of Them

 This is the title of a section in Peter T. Coleman’s The Way Out: How To Overcome Toxic Polarization. Coleman’s book strives to show ways to deal with the strident difference of opinion we see all around us. I’ve chosen to put on long quote that I like. It relates to my July 29 post, Favorite Twitter Follows/Examples of Objective Thinkers. I believe many of the names in the table of that post present good examples of people with whom I don’t necessarily agree with but feel they strive to be objective. Prime examples would be Scott Adams, Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald.


As creatures of habit in a highly polarized era, most of us tend to follow the rule, “move toward similar others and away from different.” We are automatically inclined to surround ourselves with and therefore think with similar others who share “congenial information” versus “uncongenial information” – simply because it is easier and more comforting.


Most of us tend to close ranks and prefer to listen to those we mostly agree with during such tense times (it just feels so good!). This tendency to move toward the similar is intensified by the internet sorting algorithms employed today by many of the major technology platforms that automatically direct us to news, information, and opinion content that is complimentary to our own. This all serves to significantly reduce the nuance and accuracy of our understanding of complicated issues.

One check on this echo-chamber effect is to actively choose to think and learn with different people; that is, intentionally choose to hear from people across the divide. No, it does not mean that you need to tune into the nut jobs on talk radio and cable TV that spout nonsense and conspiracy theories. But it does suggest that there is much to gain from seeking out the best representatives of people you disagree with and thinking through complex issues (although not necessarily agreeing) with them.


So, if you are interested in gaining a more accurate understanding of a particular issue, learn to seek out the best thought leaders on the other side. [Emphasis added.]

I’d say there is another reason to do this: to test our beliefs. Someone who disagrees with you might present information we hadn’t considered when reaching our position or they might reveal a potential weakness in our argument. It doesn’t mean we have to ditch our position; it might mean acknowledging that we need to tweak it.

Monday, October 4, 2021

New Neuroscience Reveals 7 Secrets That Will Make You Emotionally Intelligent - Barking Up The Wrong Tree

New Neuroscience Reveals 7 Secrets That Will Make You Emotionally Intelligent - Barking Up The Wrong Tree: Conflicted: How Productive Disagreements Lead to Better Outcomes

Eric Barker who wrote Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong also has a blog where he shares his insights based on Barker’s research. I recommend his book. I also recommend reading his summary of another book which I read recently. It’s Conflicted: How Productive Disagreements Lead to Better Outcomes by Ian Leslie.

I’ve been reading several books lately on how to overcome the extreme polarization we see, particularly in politics. So far, I haven’t come across anything in these books that I found to be earthshaking, “eureka!” insights. But there is one that I believe deserves promoting; Eric Barker agrees. He devotes a long blog post to capturing the key points of Conflicted. Below I’ve provided Barker’s summary of these key points. I debated whether to do this because you might read the summary below and think, “Eh, what’s the big deal?” If so, I invite you to read Barker’s entire post to get a better idea what is behind these key points.

Without further ado, here is the final section of Barker’s post.

Sum Up

This is how to have emotionally intelligent disagreements:

  • Remember The Relationship: Enemies don’t say, “You are right. I am wrong.” Friends do.
  • De-Escalate: If your disputes sound even half as snarky as my writing, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Stop Trying To Control What They Think Or Feel: When their autonomy is threatened, people attack or shut down.
  • Help Them Make Their Argument Stronger: If you can’t disprove the best version of their argument, then you’re not “right”, you’re just playing tricks. And, more importantly, “steelmanning” shows you’re listening and that you’re sincere. [HCS comment: steelmanning is the opposite of using a straw man argument in which we purposely oversimplify or exaggerate someone’s argument in order to discount it. Steelmanning involves trying to strengthen the argument of your conversational partner before trying to rebut it.]
  • Disrupt The Script: Constructive conversations have ups and downs. Don’t escalate tension. Make a joke or say something positive.
  • Get Curious: So those aliens that talk to you, do they give good advice?
  • Help Them Question Their Own Thinking: Therapists don’t say: “That’s ridiculous. Where in your brain did the stroke occur for you to have an idea so stupid?” No, they ask questions until you start to question your own thinking and it crosses the blood-brain barrier that what you’ve been saying is the equivalent of 2+2=147.



Thursday, July 29, 2021

Examples of (mostly) objective thinkers

 If you read this blog regularly you know that I like to keep track of people who try to think objectively. Those who do are hard to pigeonhole into the usual categories such as liberal or conservative, global warmer or warming skeptic, true news or fake news, and so on. Some of the people on the list below, such as Tucker Carlson and Bill Maher, clearly fall into one category or another. Carlson is a conservative while Maher is liberal. However, both of them sometimes take unexpected positions on some subjects. Carlson has taken on the Republican establishment at times while Maher has strongly criticized Islam and the COVID shutdowns. Given my libertarian leanings I agree with Carlson more than I do with Maher. Nonetheless I follow Maher partly because he reveals the direction the left is taking but mostly because he occasionally breaks ranks with his colleagues (and takes heat for it).

In the climate change debate Judith Curry has expressed concerns over those who claim global warming is man-made. While she says we do have some affect Curry believes the true story is more complicated. Same with Bjorn Lomborg and Michael Shellenberger, both of whom believe we affect the climate but think the people who try to scare us into drastic action on global warming grossly simplify the true story.

Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi are on the left, yet Greenwald fears the push to control free speech by some on his side of the fence. Taibbi, who hated Trump, feels the objectivity of the news media vaporized in the heat of their hatred for Trump.


Below I’ve picked my favorites out of the 900+ people and organizations I follow on Twitter and put my absolute favorites in bold. If I ranked them in order of priority it would be Scott Adams, Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Jordan Peterson and Jonathan Turley. 


  

Category

Name

Twitter Handle

Climate Change

Bjorn Lomborg

@BjornLomborg

Climate Change

Judith Curry

@curryja

Climate Change

Michael Shellenberger

@ShellenbergerMD

COVID

Alex Berenson

@AlexBerenson

COVID

Ethical Skeptic

@EthicalSkeptic

COVID

Gummi Bear

@gummibear737

Critical Thinking

Peter Boghossian

@peterboghossian

Free speech

Glenn Greenwald

@ggreenwald

General

Andreas Backhaus

@AndreasShrugged

General

Critical Thinking 101

@critical18495985

General

Greg Lukianoff

@glukianoff

General

Hotep Jesus

@HotepJesus

General

Jonathan Haidt

@JonHaidt

General

Jonathan Turley

@JonathanTurley

General

Jordan Peterson

@jordanbpeterson

General

Megan McArdle

@asymmetricinfo

General

Mike Cernovich

@Cernovich

General

Scott Adams

@ScottAdamsSays

General

Steve Hilton

@SteveHiltonx

General

Steve Pinker

@sapinker

General

Bari Weiss

@bariweiss

News Bias

AllSides

@AllAidesNew

News Bias

Ground News

@Ground_app

News Bias

Just The News

@JustTheNews

News Bias

Left Right News

@leftrightnewsus

News Bias

Sharyl Attkisson

@SharylAttkisson

News/Politics

Martin Gurri

@mgurri

News/Politics

Matt Taibbi

@mtaibbi

Personal Development

Naval

@naval

Politics

Alan Dershowitz

@AlanDersh

Politics

Bill Maher

@billmaher

Politics

Dave Rubin

@RubinReport

Politics

Greg Gutfeld

@greggutfeld

Politics

Tucker Carlson

@TuckerCarlson

Race

John McWhorter

@JohnHMcWhorter

Reporting

Andy Ngo

@MrAndyNgo

Reporting

Jack Posobiec

@JackPosobiec

Reporting

Lara Logan

@laralogan

 


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Marcuse-Anon: Cult of the Pseudo-Intellectual - TK News by Matt Taibbi

Marcuse-Anon: Cult of the Pseudo-Intellectual - TK News by Matt Taibbi: Reviewing "Repressive Tolerance" and other works by Herbert Marcuse, the quack who became America’s most influential thinker

We hear a lot about what is called the “Cancel Culture” and wokeism, especially from those on the political right who see these forces as threatening our civilization with its law and order. I’ve seen many on the right such as Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity bemoan this destructive trend but without offering a good explanation why this is happening or what can be done to stop it. For explanations of the ideas behind these forces of deconstruction I recommend Stephen Hicks’ book Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault and Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay.

I would now add Marcuse-Anon: Cult of the Pseudo-Intellectual, an insightful essay by Matt Taibbi, who writes for Rolling Stone and wrote books such as Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another. Taibbi comes from a journalist background and is politically on the left. However, I’d say he is closer to being a traditional liberal than a progressive one. His essay builds a case for explaining a lot of what is happening stems from Herbert Marcuse, a Marxist philosopher. My blog post won’t be able to do justice to Taibbi’s article, so I won’t try to summarize his argument or key points here. Instead, I’ll share some key quotes that stood out.

Here are selected quotes from different parts of the essay.

Most Americans have never heard of him — he died in 1979 — but his ideas today are ubiquitous as Edison’s lightbulbs. He gave us everything from “Silence Equals Violence” to “Too Much Democracy” to the “Crisis of Misinformation” to In Defense of Looting to the 1619 Project and Antiracist Baby, and from the grave has cheered countless recent news stories, from the firing of Mandalorian actress Gina Corano to the erasure of raw footage of the Capitol riot from YouTube.

He was the real-world embodiment of Orwell’s utopian linguists who were impatient to rid the world of all those annoying words for shades of difference. Once you have a lock on “good,” why bother litigating degrees of its opposite? Bad is bad. He thought in binary pairs, and freely conflated concepts like inadequacy, misgovernment, and indifference with cruelty, repression, persecution, and terror, a habit of mind that’s inspired a generation of catastrophizing neurotics who genuinely don’t know the difference between disagreement and an attempt on their lives.

We saw it in health officials who went from condemning anti-lockdown protests to, a week or two later, declaring that racism — not on their radar prior to the murder of George Floyd — was a “lethal public health issue” superseding the pandemic. We saw it with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez applying the transitive property of whatever nineteen times over to make Ted Cruz’s decision to refuse certification of the Electoral College mean he was “trying to murder me” and “almost had me murdered.” Same with the New York Times employees who declared their lives were thrust in peril by soon-to-be-fired editor James Bennet’s decision to run an editorial by Senator Tom Cotton.

Summing up, this is a theory of an intellectual elite forced to seize absolute power on behalf of racial minorities, the disabled, and other oppressed groups, while canceling free speech and civil rights for all others, and especially for the corrupted mass of working-class people, who are no friends of the revolution but actually ignorant conservatives obstructing the road to “pacification and liberation.” Does this sound familiar?
It does indeed sound all too familiar!

I find Taibbi’s respect for facts and objectivity refreshing so I always look forward to his commentary and analysis, even when I disagree with him. These disagreements give me the chance to test my beliefs.





Sunday, January 3, 2021

'Loserthink' by Scott Adams - Narrative Corrections

'Loserthink' by Scott Adams - Narrative Corrections

One of the people I follow on Twitter and locals.com is Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert and trained hypnotist who specializes in persuasion. Adams runs a daily video blog where he offers his unique perspective on current events. He is one of the few people who predicted that Trump would win the 2016 presidential election based on what Adams saw in Trump’s methods of persuasion.

I’ve been meaning to review his most recent book, Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America, but the post by Joseph Caskey in the link above does a nice job covering the key points.

What exactly is Loserthink? Per Adams, “Loserthink isn’t about being dumb, and it isn’t about being underinformed. Loserthink is about unproductive ways of thinking.” An example of Loserthink: mind-reading where we claim to know what another person is thinking then “refuting” that thought or intention.

Caskey’s review mentions a couple others such as the slippery slope argument but doesn’t mention one that I see all the time: using analogies to make predictions. Adams gives an example in this interview with Sharyl Attkisson.

I highly recommend Caskey’s review as well as Adams’ Loserthink and his other books. Check out Scott’s Twitter feed (@ScottAdamsSays) and his locals.com community (https://scottadams.locals.com/).

Sunday, June 14, 2020

ROBERT BIDINOTTO: The Real Meaning of "Natural Rights"

ROBERT BIDINOTTO: The Real Meaning of "Natural Rights"

Robert Bidinotto posted this on Facebook in reaction to those who are concerned about the restrictions the government imposed to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

Dave Rubin On Where Liberals And Conservatives Can Agree, And Can't

This review in the Federalist of Dave Rubin's Don't Burn This Book provides a balanced explanation of his "classical liberalism."

Dave Rubin On Where Liberals And Conservatives Can Agree, And Can't