Terror, texting, empathy, etc.

Workout notes I did my hilly 8.1 mile “run”; it was windy but sunny. I didn’t bother to time the first half but did the second half in 45 minutes even; so I’d say 1:31-1:32 was my total time.

Terror attacks in Belgium: Of course those are sad, and the groups that did it ought to be brought to swift justice. But the average first world person has little to fear from terror; for example I am far more likely to die in a traffic accident than to be killed in a terror attack. Someone who is texting while driving is a much bigger threat to me.

Politics Bernie Sanders won the “Democrats Abroad” primary 69-31 and won 9 delegates while holding Hillary Clinton to 4 delegates. So he chipped off 5 pledged delegates from her lead. But there are elections today, and it is my guess that Clinton will win Arizona convincingly and lose Utah narrowly. We shall see.

Empathy This article in the New York Times is an interesting read:

Some political scientists say that empathy is not a crucial factor in presidential races, noting that personality traits don’t correlate well with the results on Election Day. A candidate often wins despite an opponent who receives higher marks in polls asking how much each “cares about the needs and problems of people like you.”

The voters’ indifference could reflect another problem with conventional wisdom: Empathy may not be such a great quality in a leader. Although the capacity to sympathize with others’ suffering is widely hailed as an essential virtue — Mr. Obama has said the world is suffering from an “empathy deficit” — there’s a downside that has inspired a lively debate among social psychologists.

The most prominent critic is Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale, who gave a talk at this year’s meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology titled “Does Empathy Make Us Immoral?” He readily acknowledges that empathy can inspire altruism — that once you “broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others,” in Mr. Obama’s words, “it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.”

But whom do you end up helping? Often the wrong people, Dr. Bloom says, because empathy is biased and parochial. It favors vulnerable children and animals, and discriminates against unattractive people. You’re more likely to sympathize with someone in your social group rather than an outsider, especially one who looks different.

Empathy is also innumerate, Dr. Bloom notes, which is why you may care more about one girl stuck in a well than thousands of war refugees or millions of people who will be affected by climate change.

The article goes on to say that, when it comes to reducing suffering, cool, almost aloof reasoning actually works better. Example: think of the suffering reduced by scientific advances, improved sanitation or improved safety measures.


March 22, 2016 - Posted by | political/social, politics, running | , , , ,

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