We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, August 2. 2007
"That's my story and I'm sticking to it." Bill Clinton
Furthermore, it fits well into one of the main themes of Maggie's, which is to detect the insidious and fact-defying "narratives" by which we busy citizens are presented information by politicians and news organizations.
I have no doubt that we are sometimes guilty of both Confirmation Bias and Selection Bias at times - but we try to be aware of it, just as we try to be aware of the flaws of inductive reasoning. "One swallow does not make a summer", we try to remind ourselves. On the other hand, much of common sense consists of inductive "reasoning" wherein we happily greet the first swallow of summer.
This comes up today because our editor emailed me a short piece by Protein Wisdom comparing a Michael Yon Iraq report with a WaPo report. Of course, I tend to go with the Yon because he is on the ground and has no axe to grind, while I know full well that the WaPo, like the NYT, is fighting a propaganda battle and weeding out the news that will interfere with their narrative du jour.
Real life is too complex and messy for neat narratives and clean stories. That's why we love them so much. And that is why politicians and the MSM and trial lawyers, and anyone with an agenda, try to feed simple fairy tales to us.
One thing I often find myself wondering about these common biases is to what extent they are conscious manipulations, and to what extent they are automatic. With politicians, of course, one can assume that they are calculated manipulations most of the time, because those folks need the job and they need the attention.
On the other hand, I know plenty of people who just don't take in information that would conflict with their narrative about something (selection bias), and only permit into their brains information which seems to be consistent with the narrative they have adopted (confirmation bias). I have been guilty of that plenty of times, but I am more aware of it now when I am tempted.
We humans would be more rational beings if we dumped all of the fairy tales and worried about facts. Alas, "facts" can be subject to the same biases, as every scientist and attorney knows all too well.
Still, "Facts are stubborn things." - Ronald Reagan
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Beautifully written piece.
Calls for a nice Cohiba and brandy. The Cohibas from Hunters & Frankau | Hurlingham Business Park. Sulivan Rd. London est. 1790 are usually very well kept.**
Brandy to taste.
Nice work once again.
** this is not an endorsement to break any US laws regarding importation of Cuban products ..you'll just have to go to London tonight.
"One thing I often find myself wondering about these common biases is to what extent they are conscious manipulations, and to what extent they are automatic"
Hear hear. I'd add '...automatic, and subconscious" (tho you did imply that). Yes, I wonder the same thing.
Someone ought to photoshop that illo, put the Staue of Liberty as sleeping Beauty in the bed, and Hillary's head on the Prince.
Do you remember the HTML we use to use to insert an article?
something like href etc etc?
I tried to make a hyperlink just now and my HTML should be correct, but it doesn't work here for whatever reason. Perhaps active links are disabled on this site. Anyway, a hyperlink in a comment should be:
< a href="http://www.maggiesfarm.anotherdotcom.com" target="_blank">Maggie's Farm< /a >
Disregard the space I inserted between < and "a" at the beginning and end. I just did that so it wouldn't read it as HTML. So you have to take that out. Also, it may or may not work with "target" included, depending on the site.
Many thanks...I also tried and failed. Maybe one day...
Thanks, Barrister. Elegant and concise. Clear thought on a hot, humid, miserable day--what a gift!
Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true! --Homer Simpson
habu--the hyperlinks no workee on this site (remember, New England Yankees (wink wink) vs "new-fangled horsefeathers").
More sweet dreams for the people:
Thanks for the link to Instapundit and the Soviet revisionism taking place.
I still wonder how we're going respond to their claim of the North Pole by way of it's proximate location to the Lomonosov Ridge.
Buddy, so admire the Amish, but also loved Harrison Ford in "The Witness" when he says "but it's my way" (or whatever) and proceeds to whack the bad guy....tho there's also a great scene when dozens of unarmed farmers gather, summoned across the fields by plucky kid's bell ringing, and intimidate the bad guy with their numbers and their righteousness.
Used to teach religion to kids who grew up in neighborhods infested by gangs and would show them that film (they cheered the loudest for the unarmed farmers, and would tell stories of living in fear in their apartments unable to go out and play because of the gun battles in the streets below). Then I would tell them about the Quakers in the early North American colonies and have them debate the ethics of pacifism versus bearing arms in defense of your neighbors and yourself. Would tell them how my ancestors hated the Quakers and thought they were bad neighbors as you could be being scalped and they wouldn't come to your aid because of their religious beliefs. But also how my ancestors were self-righteous Puritan !@#$%oles who tyrannized over others. I could discuss things pretty freely because it was the pre=ultra PC era and because the kids knew I also had Indian blood.
On balance, the kids and I concluded that there were many times when you could risk your own life for your own principles (for example if you thought guns were instruments of the devil, as the Amish do), but that if the lives of others were at stake, you might have to live with an uneasy conscience and first defend the vulnerable from the wicked. By force, if necessary. Thus, go to war to stop Hitler.
My own logic is probably easy to assail , but when discussing Augustinian writings on lying (for example, a tyrant asks you if you have someone hidden in their house and you know they will be killed if found, do you lie and say they are not there?) and what it does to the soul with my students, I used to say "First, save life, protect the young and vulnerable. Live with your own guilt about how you had to do it. Because it is more obedient to God to save others than to zealously guard the purity of your own soul. "
But maybe I was wrong? It was not quite the ends justifies the means, but it tended dangerously towards making one vulnerable to lots of "just this once" sins that would eventually (Augustine argued) spoil the soul. As if we were milk that sours if not chilled. I tended to have little patience with people who wouldn't get their hands dirty if someone was in trouble. People who let warlords butcher and torture villagers. I still mortify my own kids by telling people I see abusing their kids in public to STOP IT THIS INSTANT OR I CALL 911.
Aaargh, all that blather because of the word Amish...blame it on heat addling my brain. Time for some iced water.
First-rate minds soar off on the oddest little prompts, R --so, you're blessed, even if it IS hot and thirsty over there on the Piedmont.
But, Dostoyevsky posed that question, would you sacrifice a little baby to save a village --I'm not sure he ever found an answer.
but am always defeated by Dostoievsky. I say, save the baby.every time.
Each time I went into labor I would remind dubious husband that any trouble and decisions between me or kid, save kid.
Not that our secular culture would consider the novelist's dilemma hard to resolve: We murder millions of babies for the convenience of one messed up woman at a time..or we say "better a quick death than the slow murder by abuse and neglect of an unwanted child." Betcha the babies would say "I'll take my chances on overcoming abuse and neglect--just don't murder me because you have no faith in my mother's or my capacity to overcome adversity or a badly timed beginning!
Wonder what Dost. wd make of that?!
R, you're right. Our nation's angst--inexplicable in our safety, luxury, and plenty, might perhaps be explained by, well, you know --all those disembodied little voices. Helluva thing.
Those little voices bother me endlessly. I have patience with the foolishness of others, but for that deed I have nothing but contempt, or rather, hatred.
It is truly the sickness deep in our breast, the ultimate expression of irresponsibility, selfishness, and denial.
it'll drive you to drink if you think about if from the baby's pov.
someday we'll have to account for it.
Good stuff Barrister. Timing is part of it too. Putin and the MSM are now claiming that Santa Claus and the North Pole is Russian. There is a fairy tale.