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.

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 – www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX8bihEe3nA

“Two Systems of Non-Symbolic Numerical Cognition” by D. Hyde, a review of research on the two psychological systems for cognitive representation of number – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3228256/

A summary of some landmark studies regarding the cognitive representation of number – software.rc.fas.harvard.edu/lds/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/feigenson2004.pdf

A great Wikipedia summary of some of the creatures which have demonstrated some capacity for number sense – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_sense_in_animals

A study showing the gradual “linearization” of the approximate number system’s logarithmic error allowance during childhood – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12741747

An analysis of possible evolutionary reasons the approximate number system is mapped logarithmically – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26755188

The 2014 paper which improved on Graham’s upper limit to his Ramsey theorem question – www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195669814000936

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 – johnnywalters.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/3/5/13358288/toulmin-the-uses-of-argument_1.pdf

A summary of the Toulmin method as rendered by Colorado State University – writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=58

Winning Arguments: Interaction Dynamics and Persuasion
Strategies in Good-faith Online Discussions
arxiv.org/pdf/1602.01103v1.pdf

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 – fairvote.org/

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

A paper by the EAC detailing the historical basis of the electoral college & some of its flaws – www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/The%20Electoral%20College%20(Jan.%202011).pdf

C.G.P. Grey’s fantastic series “Politics in the Animal Kingdom” – www.cgpgrey.com/politics-in-the-animal-kingdom/

THUNK Episode 95 – Duverger’s Law & Ingroup Bias – www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1v8zK39MIY

THUNK Episode 104 – Ethics Overview & Moral Voting – www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcFyef0eUXM

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 – ethawyn.blogspot.com/2016/11/hold-your-nose-and-vote-on-wickedness.html

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s brilliant summary of deontology – plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological/

On consequentialism – plato.stanford.edu/entries/consequentialism/

On virtue ethics – plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/

A summary of Bentham’s utilitarianism – www.reed.edu/humanities/hum220/syllabus/2010-11/Bentham-Principles.pdf

A summary of Kant’s CI from MIT – www.mit.edu/~rdoody/Morality%20Ethics%20Handouts/KantEthicsPHIL13.pdf

GEM Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy,” which kicked off the modern revival of virtue ethics – www.pitt.edu/~mthompso/readings/mmp.pdf

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) – www.aynrand.org

Branden’s retrospective personal statement regarding the character of Rand, her philosophy, & her “collective” – www.starways.net/lisa/essays/benefits1.html

The Partially Examined Life does a *very* charitable reading & conservative rebuttal of many of Rand’s philosophical works – www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2013/07/01/ep78-ayn-rand/

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) – www.nature.com/articles/ncomms5747