ReasonINC

Reason; as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct

Month: May, 2013

“A devil, a born devil, on whose nature
Nurture can never stick; on whom my pains
Humanely taken, all, all lost, quite lost.”

Shakespeare’s character Prospero, from ‘The Tempest’

“Those who love wisdom must be inquirers into many things indeed” – Heraclitus

A short essay on conspiracy theorists

This short essay, posted on reddit (link below), highlights quite well the flawed thinking of most conspiracy theorists who jump to the conclusion of foresight and group complicity by the powers they accuse. Even though I don’t know nearly enough to verify this writer’s facts, their arguments are nonetheless clear.

There is a common failure of assessment that arises in many situations involving a combination of simplification and an overbearing assumption of causality. These two heuristics are very common in the misrepresentation of problems and are easy to understand in the context of what brain traits gave the most profound evolutionary advantages in our past. Quick responses often reward an advantage over more accurate understanding. That is, an organism that can assess a problem and produce a solution faster often gets the food or mate or victory. Even if they are sometimes wrong, they are also sometimes successful, and this is commonly achieved through the simplification of problems in their perception. Our brains also have a bias that tries to establish causal relationships. When the cause of an observed event is not understood, some of the brain’s capacity is still occupied as it tries to resolve what it doesn’t yet understand, and therefore cannot rule out as a threat. In the pursuit of this end, brains that were more cavalier, and less critical, about establishing cause were able to move on to solve new problems or execute responses. The causes they established might be wrong, but they weren’t shackled by philosophical reflection on their intrinsic uncertainty; the ones that too crudely established cause in mortal situations died out until later generations had found a balance, etc.

These simple flaws are retained in our biology and now undermine our most impressive feats of abstract reasoning. They can only be overcome through humble self-reflection to understand the mistakes your brain is likely to make; like simplification or the desire to establish cause. It takes discipline to constantly remind yourself that any feeling of certainty is extremely foolish, and that your feeling of understanding may be, and in fact is far more likely to be, based on quite significant simplifications and misrepresentations.

(http://www.reddit.com/r/NeutralPolitics/comments/1escrl/conspiracists_understand_the_

primacy_of_ideas/ca3cihx)

“How could a thinking man have any self-respect whatsoever?” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Speech to be given on moon-mission failure

Had there been a terminal problem during the moon landing in 1969, this speech had been prepared by Richard Nixon’s government:

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

(http://watergate.info/1969/07/20/an-undelivered-nixon-speech.html)

“He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger” – Confucius

Unknown resolves prime questions

“There are a lot of chances in your career, but the important thing is to keep thinking” – Yitang Zhang

Yitang Zhang was unknown in the mathematical field, and contended with difficult years finding academic work before rising to receive international acclaim for a long overdue resolution to an age old conundrum concerning prime numbers.

(http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/05/twin-primes)

“I swear to you, gentleman, to be too conscious is an illness, a genuine full-blown illness” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, from ‘Notes from the Underground’

“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving” – Warren Buffet

“Everyone is guilty of the good they didn’t do” – Voltaire