blueollie

Thinking about thinking: critical thinking, empathy (and its limitations), faulty memories, etc.

Memories: yeah, our minds fill in the gaps, and so some of our vivid memories…never happened, or didn’t happen the way that we remember them. That is one reason I keep this blog; I often revisit what I did..and once in a while, find that I didn’t do what I thought that I did.

I still “remember” an epic workout that I once did: 8 x 400 in 75 each..back in 1982. Trouble is: I never did that. When I read my old logs, I did one workout where my LAST 400 was in 78 (others were 82-83) and I did a few 10-12 x 200 in 37-38…very different. I had written that 8 x 400 in 75 was my GOAL. Goals are not facts.🙂

Empathy Yes, compassion for other humans is a good thing. But sometimes empathy for an individual can override doing greater good for more people. So empathy for individuals might lead to policy that might actually be harmful for more people (or do less good than it might otherwise). This book is on my reading list.

Critical thinking: Yes, I am for it, but effective critical thinking requires a context and a detailed knowledge of the facts and principles for the context. So teach history, teach physics, teach chemistry. But forget this “course on critical thinking” stuff.

Challenging beliefs and the “regressive academic left”. This article has given me something to chew on. Some of it is very good: one can’t challenge absurd beliefs without talking about underlying assumptions:

Malhar Mali: What in your opinion is the best way of fostering critical thinking when it comes to religious and supernatural beliefs?

Peter Boghossian: I think the whole way we’ve taught critical thinking is wrong from day one. We’ve taught, “Formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence.” But the problem with that is people already believe they’ve formulated their beliefs on evidence — that’s why they believe what they believe. Instead, what we should focus on is teaching people to seek out and identify defeaters.

What is a defeater? A defeater is:

IF A, THEN B, UNLESS C.
C is the defeater. We should teach people to identify conditions under which their beliefs could be false. This is profound for a number of reasons. If I’m correct, then it would be the holy grail of critical thinking. The problem with traditional notions of critical thinking is that most people believe what they want to believe anyway. They only look in their epistemic landscape for pieces of evidence which enforce the beliefs they hold — thus entrenching them in their view of reality. Eli Pariser has a vaguely related notion and talks about a technological mechanism that traps us in a “filter bubble.”

There are attitudinal dispositions that help one become a good critical thinker and there are skill-sets. If you don’t possess the attitudinal disposition then what’s the point of the skill set? A skill set could actually make it worse because, as Michael Shermer says, you become better at rationalizing bad ideas.

By teaching people to identify defeaters, which is a skill set, we may be able to help them shift their attitudes toward responsible belief formation. We may be able to help them habituate themselves to constantly readjusting and realigning their beliefs with reality. In the philosophy literature there’s a related notion called doxastic responsibility, which basically means responsible belief formation.

MM: So if you had put that formula into action with “If A, Then B, Unless C” what would that look like?

PB: A pedestrian example could be when someone thinks they see a goldfinch in their backyard. The traditional route here is to say, “Formulate your beliefs on evidence. What evidence do you have to believe that’s a goldfinch?” and they say: “Well I see the bird is yellow. I know there’s a high incidence of goldfinches in this area, so by induction I can see that it’s probably a goldfinch.” But unbeknownst to them it’s not a goldfinch but a canary.

So instead of saying, “formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence,” we should say: “how could that belief be wrong? Give me three possibilities how the belief that it could be a goldfinch might be in error.” This type of questioning — applied to any belief — helps engender a critical thinking and an attitude of doxastic responsibility.

The author then goes on to lose his way when he discusses the “regressive academic left” later in the article. Yes, they exist. Yes, some are nasty people. And yes, they are a threat to free speech and the free exchange of ideas. Yes, they are a threat to critical thinking skills.

He says:

Here’s what is surprising: with very few exceptions, and there are exceptions, Christians are very kind decent people all over the world. I do talks and we go out afterwards for drinks etc., and we talk with civility.

The far Left in contemporary academia is not like this. These are viciously ideological and nasty people whose goal it is to shut down discourse and indoctrinate students. I think we’ve spent too much time on Creationism. The problem is less with creationism and more with radical Leftism. For example, if you’re a professor who teaches in the biological sciences, creationists have substantive disagreements with your work and they’ll try to demean it. But they’re not going to harass you or your family. They’re not going to try and get you fired. They’re not going to call you a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a homophobe.

That may well be true, but creationists get on school boards and have seats of political power. Climate change denialists have seats in Congress:
inhofesnowball

You really can’t compare the power and money behind the right wing variety of nonsense.

Sure the idiots in academia are annoying. But they aren’t the threat to science that the science denialists are, and they have nowhere near the degree of institutional support.

December 10, 2016 Posted by | education, science, social/political | | Leave a comment

America: you’ve been conned (ok, some of you)

Yes, I am doing a slow burn seeing that the “losing” candidate now has 2.8 million MORE votes than the “winning” candidate…a margin of 2 percent. Yes, I know; both major campaign knew the rules and the Trump campaign outdid the Clinton campaign in the key “swing” states…no argument here. I didn’t like it in 2000, but hey, the margin was 500K; less than 1 percent. This is a much more substantial margin. This “rule by the minority” sucks.

But Trump won nevertheless, and baring some sort of coup by rogue Republican electors, he will be President of the United States.

And so comes the agenda.

And the agenda is: repeal the last vestiges of the “New Deal”. Yes, this includes cuts so Social Security (New Deal era) and Medicare (from the 1960s; not a New Deal program of course, but in its spirit).

THAT is the goal, and the Republicans will do just about anything to achieve it.

Deficits? Ah, they will use the “we are broke” as an excuse to “cut entitlements”, though these said deficits don’t matter when it comes to tax cuts for the wealthy. They will use “people like her are living off of your tax dollars” as an excuse to cut safety net programs, even though the irresponsible are not the norm..they are the exception. And thins like SNAP do provide stimulus and can help future generations stay off of public aid.

I can recommend Paul Krugman’s book The Conscience of a Liberal to see the Republican long-term blueprint. This review, while FAR from a cheerleading review, tells you what you can find in this book.

December 10, 2016 Posted by | economy, political/social, politics, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Short but sweet…and painful ….indoor workouts

Winter is coming; we will have the usual snow, sleet and cold. That is typical for this time of year. And yes, I already did my usual blood donation, so my aerobic capacity is down.

And yes, I am dealing with the effects of aging; while I might run faster, say, this week than last week, my running times from a decade ago are all but impossible for me to meet. And there is the fact that I’ve had some injuries too.

But at times, I get the feeling that “I just can’t get “into shape”, no matter what I do!”.

The same applies for swimming (which I need to get back to) and lifting (which I do regularly).

This year: I am going to try to reclaim a bit of 5K “speed” (can’t say that with a straight face) which means doing some indoor workouts. I’ll also have to have, say, a “once a week” “sort of long” run (1:30 to 2 hours).

But what about the intense stuff? These typically take less than 1 hour to do, even with the “loosen my back” stuff to start with.

Yesterday, I did the “Deek” workout (which is one of the favorites of Robert De Castella, a famous marathon runner)

Warm up (1 mile on the treadmill works)
8 x 400 at a 5K effort pace, with 200 run between 800’s..NO WALKING..this 200 should be at my “basic training pace”, 200 to make 5K. My time was 30:44; typically I am about 2-3 minutes slower than my 5K race pace. I could do this in 22-23 when I was running a 20 minute 5K, and 26-27 minutes when I was running 24 minute 5K races
cool down.

Others: warm up, a few strides, 1 mile HARD, cool down (track)

warm up: then 3-5 of the following on the treadmill: (2.5 minutes at increasing speeds (6.7, 7.0, 7.5, then 6.0 for 2.5 in my 25 minute 5K days), cool down. or
warm up: then 3-5 of starting at a tempoish pace (say 6.3-6.5 mph) and doing the following elevation changes: (1-2-3-4-0), cool down

Anything to mix it up and not make it too emotionally tough.🙂

December 10, 2016 Posted by | running | | Leave a comment

Taking on conventional wisdom

More Trump: who are those Trump voters anyway? You can read what many of them said here. So, what can or should we do? Well one thing is that we need to concern ourselves with other countries (e. g. Russia) interfering with out elections; evidently they are doing that in Germany too. We should do something about people in large states being grossly underrepresented.

But what about now? Well, some say that we ought to stick with identity politics, even if it is politically unpopular. Personally, I can see the reason for such politics being unpopular. For example, this article talks about the pick for Labor Secretary being someone who, gasp, used sex to sell hamburgers. Sorry, but the days of claiming “that’s sexist” and shutting down the discussion are over.

Alas, political correctness isn’t only found on the left wing. You see some on the right wing too: here, some criticism is aimed at Paul Krugman for pointing out that the coal/manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back and that such regions will likely lose population, just like what happened in other countries.

December 9, 2016 Posted by | political/social, politics, politics/social, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Why might someone have voted for Trump?

Yes, Trump won the Electoral College which is what matters. Still, it bothers me that the “loser” of this election currently has more than 2,676,170 MORE votes than the winner (2 percent and climbing); that the minority can dictate to us really burns me up.

Nevertheless, as of this time, 62.9 million voters thought that Trump was suitable for the job of President. And many of my friends are saying stuff like this:

whovotedfortrump

So, why might have someone voted for Trump? I’ll need to see an analysis of the exit polls. But here are some things that I’ve heard, either in person or online:

1. The Republican will always get a certain percentage of “always Republican” votes.
2. Many just despised Hillary Clinton.
3. This was a push back against “political correctness” (at least the liberal version of it)
4. Some really believe that Trump can bring manufacturing jobs and coal jobs back (one predicted that Trump would flip Ohio and Pennsylvania because of coal).
5. Some really see the “base culture” of the United States slipping away (“press 1 for English”, growing acceptance of Islam, etc.)
6. Some thing that a political outsider might “shake things up” and Hillary Clinton is the ultimate insider.
7. Some wanted contrast from the cool, calculating, cerebral Obama.
8. Some did not want a female president.
9. Some thought Trump might be a “law and order” guy, at least for the common criminals.
10. Some wanted more isolationism?

Ah, it is a lot to think about. I have much more to say but grading of final exams is my current priority.

Workout notes: weights plus a 5K walk in the cold (Bradley Park course). Weights: rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10), incline presses: 10 x 135, 5 x 160, 10 x 150, military: 2 sets of 10 x 50 standing dumbbell, 20 x 50 dumbbell (seated, supported), rows: 3 sets of 10 x 50, headstand.

I did an exercise class with Ms. Vickie last night; I went with Barbara.

December 8, 2016 Posted by | political/social, politics, politics/social, walking, weight training | , , | Leave a comment

And I drag Mat to the Bears vs. 49’ers game

How does a math professor afford “Media Deck” seats in Soldier field? Well, having an outdoor December game between 2-9 and 1-10 teams helps.

As far as the seats: row 1. Loved that. Now the bathroom at the end (section 244) is too small..and the concourse is crowded. So, next time I’d go to the middle sections to get to the bathroom. Other than that: excellent.

Now the game: the Bears won 26-6, though the first half didn’t look so promising. The 49’ers controlled play…but only managed two field goals. One came on a drive. The other was set up by a partially blocked punt which was returned to the Bear 4 yard line. But the returner though he had scored and …in celebrating what he thought was a touchdown, did a snow angel in the endzone. That resulted in a 15 yard penalty which ..lead to a field goal.

So with just over 2 minutes left in the half, the Bears had the ball at their own 20. They tried two running plays with limited success..and the 49’ers called time out, hoping to get the ball back.

So the Bears completed a pass for the first down..and which point momentum shifted. The Bears found that their backup quarterback COULD pass in this weather and he started to hit passes. That moved the Bears sharply to the 12 yard line, and a pass interference penalty put the ball at the 49’er 1 with just over 30 seconds to go. The Bears ran it in and took a 7-6 lead at the half.

The Bears dominated the second half, mixing running and passing. The drove for 2 touchdowns and established a 21-6 lead going into the 4’th quarter.

A nice field goal pushed it to 24-6; and then a good punt pinned the 49’ers deep (at their own 2), and a quarterback sack for a safety pushed the final margin to 26-6.

So, the Bears won 3 games this season, and I was there for 2 of those victories! In fact, I’ve yet to witness the opposing team score a touchdown on the Bears.

I never got that cold; in fact, during the game, I never had to put on my extra coat.

bears491

The Media Deck concourse has heat lamps overhead. If you sit in rows 11-12, these might keep you a little bit warm.

bears492entry

The Bears take the field.

bears493action

Early action.

bears494fieldgoal

Field goal 49’ers.

bears496td2

Bears in scoring position in the third quarter.

bears495touchdown

Touchdown Bears!

bears497coldfans

The cold fans braving the elements.

bears499wherewewere

The red arrow marks where we are.

December 6, 2016 Posted by | football, Friends, NFL | | Leave a comment

Workout catch up

Classes ended yesterday, and I am going to write up some final exams.

Workouts: Sunday: light yoga prior to the Bears game trip.
Monday: 3 miles on the home treadmill; 34:30 (“run”)
Tuesday: weights then a reasonably serious 6 mile run on the treadmill in 1:03:10. I did the 5.2 for 4 minutes and increased the speed every 4 minutes until 52: mile 5 came at 51:50, 4 at 42:20. Then I walked to 54 minutes, then jogged the rest.

Weirghts: rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10, nice shoulder burn), bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 190, 10 x 170, incline: 10 x 145. military: 2 sets of standing 10 x 50 dumbbell, 20 x 50 seated, supported. 3 sets of 10 x 50 one armed row, head stands (shaky entry), 2 sets of 10 yoga leg lifts, 12 twist crunches.

I seem to have recovered somewhat from Wednesday’s blood donation.

December 6, 2016 Posted by | running, weight training | | Leave a comment

Why do you believe that?

Trump’s win has lead to a discussion about “political correctness” and people being “shouted down” and “shamed” into falling in line with a tribal orthodoxy.

Of course, Trump is bringing in a toxic right wing version of this which is a much bigger threat.

But still, the liberal community is important to me, and I like to see ideas vigorously discussed and debated. And it has gotten to the point of “why do you believe that” is considered a hostile reply.
So I’d like to move away from stigmatizing questions and conjectures and toward debating them…explaining why bad ideas are bad.

Football:
Navy got stomped by Temple 34-10 and Western Michigan beat Ohio 29-23 the night before. That sends Western Michigan to the Cotton Bowl, I think. What I found curious was Navy fans lambasting Western Michigan last night for not looking overpowering. They seem to have forgotten that Navy had several close calls this season..and there was today’s game.

Navy IS a decent team, but not Cotton Bowl worthy. Sadly, it looks like Navy will be matched up with a dreadful North Texas team in the Armed Forces Bowl; that is disgusting. Navy deserves better than that.

Workout notes: 5K walk outside after a full weight workout, sans ab work
rotator cuff, pull ups (10-5)(10-6), 10, (5-5), bench press: 10 x 135, 5 x 185, 10 x 170, incline: 10 x 140, military (dumbbell) 2 sets of 10 x 50 standing, 20 x 50 seated, supported, 3 sets of 10 x 50 single arm rows.

note: the (10-5) meant: 10 pull ups, switch grip, 5 more…same for 5-5…little to no rest.

December 3, 2016 Posted by | football, walking, weight training | | Leave a comment

More head scratching….

This is just nuts: Clinton’s lead in the popular vote is now about 2.5 million, and her percentage lead is 1.9 percent? And yes, the Democrat has won the popular vote in 6 of the previous 7 elections, though the Republican won the Electoral College thrice.

Nevertheless, our elections, for now, are decided by the Electoral College. Somehow, it makes sense to spend attention to a few “swing states” as opposed to where more people live? That no longer makes sense to me.

But Trump won. Oh, there will be consequences; for example many will lose their health insurance.

So, where do we go from here? I completely agree with this:

As Democrats contemplate their losses in November’s election, most have settled on a solution. They believe that the party needs more economically populist policies. But this misses an essential reality: Most people don’t vote on the basis of policies.

There is excellent research by political scientists and psychologists on why people vote. The conclusion is clear. As Gabriel Lenz writes in his landmark 2012 book, “Follow the Leader?”, “Voters don’t choose between politicians based on policy stances; rather, voters appear to adopt the policies that their favorite politicians prefer.”

And how do voters pick their favorite politicians? It is a gut decision that is more emotional than rational. Mostly it hinges on whether they identify with a politician in the social and psychological senses.

In an important recent book, “Democracy for Realists,” Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels show that “group attachments” and “social identities” are key to understanding voting behavior. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt reinforces this view with mountains of research showing that people choose their political views based on their tribal attachments.

I agree with this. However these sorts of solutions are problematic:

Barack Obama is a singularly charismatic politician. But he might have made Democrats forget that the three Democrats elected to the White House before his election came from the rural South. They knew that world; they were of it.

With these insights in mind, on the campaign trail, perhaps Clinton and the Democrats should have rallied not with Beyonce and Jay Z but rather with George Strait. And if you don’t know who he is, that’s part of the problem.

I agree that Barack Obama is so good of a politician that he may have masked problems that Democrats have. But as far as Beyonce and Jay Z: remember that a Democrat cannot not win without the base. True, they can’t win with ONLY their base, as we found out; we do need at least a few votes beyond our base. But you can’t disrespect your base either.

It is a tricky line to walk.

Workout notes: yesterday, weights only (day after whole blood donation): pull ups (5 sets of 10), rotator cuff, incline bench: 10 x 135, 5 x 160, 10 x 150, military: 10 x 50 dumbbell standing, 20 x 50 dumbbell seated, supported, 10 x 200 machine, rows: 3 sets of 10 x 50 single armed rows, headstand, 2 sets of 10 yoga leg lifts, 12 twist crunches.

today: run only; 5.1 mile shuffle on my hilly course; hills were a chore.

December 2, 2016 Posted by | political/social, politics, politics/social, running, social/political, Uncategorized, weight training | , , , | Leave a comment

Why “normalizing Trump” might be a good idea (and what that means)

I was struck by memes of the following variety:

hedoesnotknowwhy

I found myself shaking my head. (yes, I am aware of the argument that Trump was merely mocking a generic clueless reporter and not lampooning the disability of a specific reporter)

But, let’s assume that he was mocking a specific reporter who has one arm with a curled up wrist.

Now some might find that funny, and many might find that rude and boorish. But disqualifying? (*)

Think of it this way: suppose that President Elect Trump were to “bring back” good job, establish 5 percent growth in our GDP, bring up median wages to new heights, keep us at peace, repair our infrastructure, see increases in longevity, reduce poverty and get everyone decent health insurance (even institute a good single payer system)?

If that happened, I think that he would be “reelected” (sort of) in a landslide, no matter how boorish his personal mannerisms were. Many people are willing to overlook such things if the rest is good.

Think about it: suppose you had a rare condition that most surgeons could not fix, but there is this one extraordinary one who had a 95 percent cure rate. But he was going to be let go by the hospital because, say, he made a racial slur on Facebook. And so, the only ones left to operate were those who had, say, a 5 percent success rate. How would you feel?

So, for me, as much as I don’t like Mr. Trump, the real issue is that he is bringing incompetent people to his administration and that he is going to double down on trickle down economics.

And THAT is why I claim that we should focus on failed policies (provided, of course, they fail):

One is to what extent we should regard Trump as deliberately using social media controversies to distract attention from other issues. The other is to what extent political actors should be pressured to not “normalize” Trump — remaining focused on what is outlandish, offensive, and bizarre about him rather than doing boring things like writing about his humdrum pick for transportation secretary.

Normalization, in this context, is typically cast as a form of complicity with Trump in which the highest possible premium is placed on maintaining a rigid state of alert and warning people that he is not just another politician whom you may or may not agree with on the issues.

But several students of authoritarian populist movements abroad have a different message. To beat Trump, what his opponents need to do is practice ordinary humdrum politics. Populists in office thrive on a circus-like atmosphere that casts the populist leader as persecuted by media and political elites who are obsessed with his uncouth behavior while he is busy doing the people’s work. To beat Trump, progressives will need to do as much as they can to get American politics out of reality show mode.

Trump genuinely does pose threats to the integrity of American institutions and political norms. But he does so largely because his nascent administration is sustained by support from the institutional Republican Party and its standard business and interest group supporters. Alongside the wacky tweets and personal feuds, Trump is pursuing a policy agenda whose implications are overwhelmingly favorable to rich people and business owners. His opponents need to talk about this policy agenda, and they need to develop their own alternative agenda and make the case that it will better serve the needs of average people. And to do that, they need to get out of the habit of being reflexively baited into tweet-based arguments that happen on the terrain of Trump’s choosing and serve to endlessly reinscribe the narrative of a champion of the working class surrounded by media vipers.

That is what happened in other countries that have elected these sort of wacky authoritarian populists; they have been stopped by appeals to policy. It really should not be that hard.

goodjoblibtards

And seriously, how did these ads work?

(*) For the record, I find having proper deportment to be a prerequisite to be President of the United States, I don’t want an easily agitated, easily baited, hothead in charge of our military.

December 1, 2016 Posted by | economics, political/social, politics, politics/social, social/political | , , | 3 Comments