THUNK – 111. Populism

Donald Trump’s election is another victory for a worldwide trend of populism…what is it & why is it happening?

QUICK NOTE: I really gloss over the identity component of populist rhetoric here – the “purity” of the groups in question (be they red-blooded ‘Muricans or blonde blue-eyed “Aryans”) is a critical component of a lot of this rhetoric. I didn’t want to invoke tribal sensitivity to accusations of racism – race frequently serves this role, but it’s a broader effect than that.

*Links for the Curious*

Foreign Affairs, “The Power of Populism,” a collection of neat articles highlighting some of the potential causes of the global populist trend –

The Economist Explains: What is Populism? –

“Right-wing vs. progressive populism: How to win in these populist Trump times” by Jonathan Matthew Smucker –

THUNK – 110. Physicalism & Decoding Minds

Even if the mind *is* totally entailed by the physics of the brain, we’ve got a long way to go to understand it.

-Links for the Curious-

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Physicalism –

Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor? –

Google’s image recognition neural network –

THUNK – 109. Psychology, Transparency, & Journalism

Some say that transparency is the ideological future of journalism, but our brains might not be up to the task.

-Links for the Curious-

Should Journalism Be Objective? Serial: Part 2 | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios:

Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence. By Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris, Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 39589 (2016):

Priming us and them: Automatic assimilation and contrast in group attitudes. By Ledgerwood, Alison; Chaiken, Shelly
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 93(6), Dec 2007, 940-956:

Transparency is the New Objectivity, by David Weinberger (via Joho):

The View from Nowhere Q&A, by Jay Rosen (via PressThink):

Nature’s peer-review policy:

The Blur Between Analysis and Opinion, by Clark Hoyt (via The New York Times):

Wikipedia’s “Neutral Point of View” Editing Standard:


THUNK – 108. Statistical vs. Clinical Significance

Scientists excel at finding patterns, but statistical significance isn’t always enough to create policy.

-Links for the Curious-

A great summary from UWS about the difference between statistical & clinical significance –

Mental rotations, a group test of three-dimensional spatial visualization.
Vandenberg, Steven G.; Kuse, Allan R.
Perceptual and Motor Skills, Vol 47(2), Oct 1978, 599-604.

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Dec;97(6):1097-114. doi: 10.1037/a0016786.
The implications of Big Five standing for the distribution of trait manifestation in behavior: fifteen experience-sampling studies and a meta-analysis.
Fleeson W1, Gallagher P.

THUNK – 107. Graham’s Number & Number Sense

Graham’s number is…really really big. But our brains start throwing errors at much smaller quantities.

-Links for the Curious-

Numberphile’s fantastic video of Ron Graham explaining Graham’s number –

“Two Systems of Non-Symbolic Numerical Cognition” by D. Hyde, a review of research on the two psychological systems for cognitive representation of number –

A summary of some landmark studies regarding the cognitive representation of number –

A great Wikipedia summary of some of the creatures which have demonstrated some capacity for number sense –

A study showing the gradual “linearization” of the approximate number system’s logarithmic error allowance during childhood –

An analysis of possible evolutionary reasons the approximate number system is mapped logarithmically –

The 2014 paper which improved on Graham’s upper limit to his Ramsey theorem question –

THUNK – 106. The Toulmin Method of Argumentation

Think you may get into some arguments during the holidays? Steven Toulmin & Reddit can help.

-Links for the Curious-

“The Uses of Argument” by Steven Toulmin –

A summary of the Toulmin method as rendered by Colorado State University –

Winning Arguments: Interaction Dynamics and Persuasion
Strategies in Good-faith Online Discussions

THUNK – 105. Why Elections Suck

There are a lot of people unhappy with the most recent presidential election in the US, & they have good reason – it needs fixing.

-Links for the Curious-

FairVote, an organization advocating for more representative & fair electoral systems –

A simple online tool to determine who your elected representatives are. (Protip: phonecalls are harder to ignore.) –

A paper by the EAC detailing the historical basis of the electoral college & some of its flaws –

C.G.P. Grey’s fantastic series “Politics in the Animal Kingdom” –

THUNK Episode 95 – Duverger’s Law & Ingroup Bias –

THUNK Episode 104 – Ethics Overview & Moral Voting –

THUNK – 104. Ethics Overview & Moral Voting

Some believe that voting a certain way this election is right/wrong. Let’s look at some ethics & see why.

-Links for the Curious-

First thing’s first, a shout-out to my friend Kevin Greenlee (who’s got legit degrees in philosophy & doctrinal theology). His fascinating article on Christian morality in this election is what kicked this whole thing off –

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s brilliant summary of deontology –

On consequentialism –

On virtue ethics –

A summary of Bentham’s utilitarianism –

A summary of Kant’s CI from MIT –

GEM Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy,” which kicked off the modern revival of virtue ethics –

THUNK – 103. On Rand-Bashing

Ayn Rand & her “selfish” ideology of objectivism produce both fervor & ridicule…but why?

-Links for the Curious-

A searchable online repository of Rand’s writings (including all quotes cited here) –

Branden’s retrospective personal statement regarding the character of Rand, her philosophy, & her “collective” –

The Partially Examined Life does a *very* charitable reading & conservative rebuttal of many of Rand’s philosophical works –

The evolutionary origin of human hyper-cooperation (an observation of the role of altruism in evolutionary biology that prima facie refutes many of Rand’s claims) –