THUNK – 116. The War on Science

The so-called “War on Science” isn’t about hostility, it’s a simple case of forgetting how science is different.

-Links for the Curious-

The March for Science Website –

“The War on Science,” by Shawn Otto, a very thorough analysis of the history & causes of the political & social efforts to deliberately undermine scientific authority –

Scientific American: “Is There Really a War on Science?” –

Slate: “The war on science is a trap. The science march should step carefully.” –

91. Spanking & Anecdotal Evidence –

88. Hume’s Guillotine & Rational Morality –

90. Science vs. Philosophy, an Ancient (Non-)Debate –

79. Science, Pseudoscience, & the Demarcation Problem –

Some great examples of how bias can cause us to wander away from the scientific method (thanks Your2ndPlanB!):

Gender bias in research: how does it affect evidence based medicine? by Anita Holdcroft –

A framework to analyse gender bias in epidemiological research –

THUNK – 115. The Motte & Bailey Fallacy

Motte & Bailey Arguments: because defending your actual position is *way* harder than defending a trivial one.

-Links for the Curious-

“The Vacuity of Postmodernist Methodology,” by Nicholas Shackel –

“Archaeology of Knowledge,” by Michel Foucault, Shackel’s ur-punching bag for Motte-and-Bailey-ing –

“The Social Construction of Reality,” by Berger & Luckmann –

“All in All, Another Brick in the Motte,” by Scott Alexander –

“Motte & Baileys Explained,” by Lagan History –

THUNK – 114. Shades of Skepticism

Skepticism is an essential tool for rational thought, but knowing when & how to use it is hard…I think???

(NOTE: the form of skepticism described here is sometimes known as “radical skepticism.”)

-Links for the Curious-

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Skepticism –

Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing, Kahan et al, 2017 –

Skepticism on RationalWiki (a resourse of the “skeptic” community, essentially advocates of scientific primacy) –

THUNK 18 – Skepticism & Empiricism (where I cover an alternate version of skepticism called Pyrrhonian skepticism) –

THUNK 86 – Cognitive Biases & the Socratic Method –

THUNK 58 – The Problem of Induction –

THUNK – 113. Memetics & Punching Nazis

In the constant struggle between memes, the punching of Nazis barely scratches the surface of the conflict.

CW: Physical assault

-Links for the Curious-

Spencer punched while explaining his Pepe the Frog pin –

Dawkins on Memes –

CGP Grey on Complementary Outrage –

PBS Idea Channel on Pepe the Frog –

Dan Dennett on Dangerous Memes –

“On Liberty,” by John Stuart Mill, an important building block of our current understanding of free speech & harm –

The SEP’s fantastic summary of the nuances of freedom of speech –

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.