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 – www.marchforscience.com/

“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 – www.amazon.com/War-Science-Waging-Matters-About/dp/1571313532

Scientific American: “Is There Really a War on Science?” – www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-really-a-war-on-science/

Slate: “The war on science is a trap. The science march should step carefully.” – www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2017/02/the_war_on_science_is_a_trap.html

91. Spanking & Anecdotal Evidence – www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hlGKudCCnc

88. Hume’s Guillotine & Rational Morality – www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwkSA8nqmdI

90. Science vs. Philosophy, an Ancient (Non-)Debate – www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CGQrt_5n60

79. Science, Pseudoscience, & the Demarcation Problem – www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dmOmprI0v4

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 – journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/014107680710000102

A framework to analyse gender bias in epidemiological research – jech.bmj.com/content/61/Suppl_2/ii46.short

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 – philpapers.org/archive/SHATVO-2.pdf

“Archaeology of Knowledge,” by Michel Foucault, Shackel’s ur-punching bag for Motte-and-Bailey-ing – monoskop.org/images/9/90/Foucault_Michel_Archaeology_of_Knowledge.pdf

“The Social Construction of Reality,” by Berger & Luckmann – perflensburg.se/Berger%20social-construction-of-reality.pdf

“All in All, Another Brick in the Motte,” by Scott Alexander – slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-brick-in-the-motte/

“Motte & Baileys Explained,” by Lagan History – www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxANUa0XHkA

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 – plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/

Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing, Kahan et al, 2017 – onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/pops.12396/full

Skepticism on RationalWiki (a resourse of the “skeptic” community, essentially advocates of scientific primacy) – rationalwiki.org/wiki/Skepticism

THUNK 18 – Skepticism & Empiricism (where I cover an alternate version of skepticism called Pyrrhonian skepticism) – www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y78EScMnTsk

THUNK 86 – Cognitive Biases & the Socratic Method – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO-CGN78gdY

THUNK 58 – The Problem of Induction – www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu6kkLJ58Z0

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 – www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rh1dhur4aI

Dawkins on Memes – www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BVpEoQ4T2M

CGP Grey on Complementary Outrage – www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE3j_RHkqJc

PBS Idea Channel on Pepe the Frog – www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uXYIdvV1CU

Dan Dennett on Dangerous Memes – www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzGjEkp772s

“On Liberty,” by John Stuart Mill, an important building block of our current understanding of free speech & harm – www.gutenberg.org/files/34901/34901-h/34901-h.htm

The SEP’s fantastic summary of the nuances of freedom of speech – plato.stanford.edu/entries/freedom-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 – www.foreignaffairs.com/issues/2016/95/6

The Economist Explains: What is Populism? – www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2016/12/economist-explains-18

“Right-wing vs. progressive populism: How to win in these populist Trump times” by Jonathan Matthew Smucker – www.salon.com/2016/11/13/right-wing-vs-progressive-populism-how-to-win-in-these-populist-trump-times_partner/

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 – plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor? – journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1005268

Google’s image recognition neural network – research.google.com/pubs/pub42455.html

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: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT0yRXWo6UU

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): www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

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: psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2007-17941-003

Transparency is the New Objectivity, by David Weinberger (via Joho): www.hyperorg.com/blogger/2009/07/19/transparency-is-the-new-objectivity/

The View from Nowhere Q&A, by Jay Rosen (via PressThink): pressthink.org/2010/11/the-view-from-nowhere-questions-and-answers/

Nature’s peer-review policy: www.nature.com/authors/policies/peer_review.html

The Blur Between Analysis and Opinion, by Clark Hoyt (via The New York Times): www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/opinion/13pubed.html

Wikipedia’s “Neutral Point of View” Editing Standard: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL SCIENTIFIC FIGURES ARE COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS NAMED IN THE EPISODE. PLEASE DO NOT REPRODUCE OR DISTRIBUTE THESE FIGURES WITHOUT THE AUTHORS’ CONSENT.

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 – www.uws.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/P_Values_Statistical_Sig_Clinical_Sig.pdf

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. dx.doi.org/10.2466/pms.1978.47.2.599

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.