Transparency

transparency

When we know what's going on we can change it.

 

Knowledge

knowledge

The more we know, the better ideas we have.

 

Rationality

rationality

The more objective thinking we do the better decisions we make.

 

Compromise

compromise

We all live together and and depend on each other.

 

Belief

A Princeton professor has published a paper titled "On Bullshit" that probably describes a friend most of us have had - the person who says outrageous things and refuses to recognize rational arguments. The author hypothesizes there are three types of people as far as the truth is concerned.

The first type is an honest person, who sees the truth and tries to conform to it in words and deeds. The second type is a liar, who sees the truth and consciously misrepresents it in specific circumstances.

The third type is the "bullshit artist. " He simply ignores, or can't see, the truth. He says and does things that suit him at the moment as a general way of thinking, speaking and acting. So, Bullshit may be more than a mere pejorative - it might be a psychosis. Don't spew, or accept, bullshit - insist on the truth.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

If you were raised in an almost solely single-race environment, your amygdala will decide within tenths of a second when you meet a person of another race that he is a Them, not an Us. The amygdala is an ancient part of the brain that is correlated with experiencing fear and anxiety. So what do we do about the fact that most of us were hard-wired in childhood toward racism (not by bad experience, but by lack of early exposure)? Prevention is, of course, preferable: make sure your toddler is raised with inter-racial exposure.

If it's too late for that, you can over-ride that innate reaction by harnessing a stronger one - the love-hate relationships in sports. If you love Chicago and hate Green Bay, carry around Chicago caps and give them to people you meet of another race. You will start immediately feeling less fear and anxiety and more of an Us than Them relationship - honest.

However, for most of us, it is simply a matter of being aware that our immediate innate feelings are false and being willing to treat everyone as an Us until they prove otherwise.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." ― Albert Einstein

"Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please." ― Mark Twain

The fear and animosity created by humanity's historic us-versus-them tribal nature (based on religion, family, ethnicity, language, clothing and other factors) is still visibly rampant in many parts of the less developed world. It also exists in the U.S. when a single or predominate "opponent" can be identified. We do this by letting our emotions grow to where we personify evil in another particular person or group as a focus for our anger. When these opponents work themselves up into rabid pro and con forces, disagreement easily transforms into intractable hatred and our irrational brain convinces us it is justified.

A visible example of this is sports. Two-party games with specific "rivals" (football, soccer) foment irrational dislike, even to violence (over what is a trivial event in the grand vista of life). However, sports that do not have the same we-versus-they positioning (auto racing, golf) we root for a participant, but do not vilify a particular opponent. For sporting events, it's okay to be irrational and tribal (sans violence), because it doesn't really matter. In parts of life that do matter, such as a two party political system, human equality and personal freedoms, it is important to recognize this tendency toward tribal demonization of the opponent and overcome our brains' initial fear, hatred and irrationality.

"There are large numbers of people who simply don't have the values and vision necessary to be part of an inter-dependent world. They think their differences -- whether religious, political, tribal or ethnic -- are more important than our common humanity." ― Bill Clinton

"Tribalism makes you stupid." ― Mark Shuttleworth

Thanks to Paul P. for this topic

In early humans gut reaction was important because it was all we had to make life saving decisions. We still have that tendency toward snap decisions, yet we live in a world with vastly more data, facts and tested hypotheses. There is a reason juries are admonished to wait until they review all the facts available and hear the arguments of both sides before determining guilt or innocence. Shouldn't we use the same reasoned approach in our daily lives when we take positions or feel we "know" what's best? Sure, the gut is right sometimes, but that is not a reason to always accept it blindly while ignoring facts and contrary arguments.

“I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong. You can look at a painting for the first time, for example, and not like it at all, but after looking at it a little longer you may find it very pleasing.” ― Lemony Snicket

We're all delusional - it's a matter of degree. When people get too emotional about a point of view, they can develop tunnel vision and become irrational and delusional. This extremism can result in destructive attitudes and actions and a refusal to listen or think objectively. Most everyone can see this extremism in examples such as the Taliban and Al Quida. However, we have more trouble recognizing the extremism-lite all around us. Extremist on the left and right, anti-government zealots, religious fanatics, militant fill-in-the-blank rights groups; these are all people who have become so delusional that they denigrate non-believers and some even intimate or use force to try to impose their views on everyone else. Don't let yourself become deluded into being Taliban-lite.

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” ― Carl Sagan

Can one at-bat or one game tell you the end of season batting average of a baseball player? Of course not. Yet people often try to extrapolate from one or a few data points to long term fact. Arguing whether this winter's temperatures represents global warming or one hurtful attack indicates our success in decreasing terrorism is just as foolish. We tend to grab anything as "proof" our opinion is the only correct one, regardless of concepts of math, sampling and reason that we learn as early as grade school.

"Extrapolation is basing a longer-term forecast on an emotional reaction to short-term developments." ― gurufocus

The most recent numbers show the U.S. is 50th in life expectancy, 173rd in infant mortality, 72nd in paying our taxes, 23rd in healthcare, 20th in access to education, 25th in math, 17th in science, 14th in reading and on and on. Blind belief in America's greatness allows us to ignore our true standing in critical areas and keeps us from focusing adequate attention on improving the standings. To disillusion you even further, here are 10 areas where the U.S. is Number One:

  1. Healthcare costs as a percent of GDP
  2. Incarceration rate
  3. Prison population
  4. Student loan debt
  5. Military spending
  6. National debt
  7. Trade deficit
  8. Tax code complexity
  9. Obesity
  10. Television watched per person

“The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.” ― Voltaire

Human beings have a history of choosing to believe things without, and even in spite of, evidence to the contrary. Belief without knowledge has been useful for early human survival, for developing societies and for children (who have little knowledge of the world or ability to analyze it). Unfortunately, people tend to believe something and then selectively only accept “facts” that support that position.

Rational and logical thinking based on all the best facts available should lead to beliefs and opinions, but humans have only started doing so recently. Here are some of the demonstrable effects on ourselves and on society of placing belief over facts and logic:

  1. Assumption of guilt or innocence based on factors such as familial relationship or race
  2. Conspiracy theories
  3. Creationism education
  4. Cult membership
  5. ESP
  6. Ethnic cleansing
  7. Extinction of rare and valuable plants and animals
  8. Gambling beyond entertainment
  9. Ghosts
  10. Horoscopes
  11. Inflated self esteem
  12. Mentalists
  13. Miracles
  14. Mythology
  15. Phobias
  16. Political extremism
  17. Psychics
  18. Racism
  19. Rejection of scientific methods and evidence
  20. Religion
  21. Slavery
  22. Superstition
  23. Terrorism
  24. UFOs
  25. Voodoo and witchdoctors
  26. War driven by ideology
  27. Willful ignorance

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” ― Isaac Asimov

Cognitive biases are common thinking habits which are likely to lead to errors in reasoning, but which are a very prevalent part of human psychology. The study of cognitive biases is an important part of cognitive science and psychology, and relevant to many areas of society and individual lives. Here are some types you will recognize in yourself and others:

Confirmation bias: The tendency to look for information that confirms our existing preconceptions, making it more likely to ignore or neglect data that does not support our beliefs. For example, when we compare ourselves with other people we are more likely to remember their mistakes and less likely to think of our own.

Framing bias: The tendency to be influenced by the way in which a problem is formulated even though it should not affect the solution. Example: Whether a patient decides to go ahead with a surgery can be affected by whether the surgery is described in terms of success rate or rate of failure, even though both numbers provide the same information. A person who is selling you a product or an idea can influence you to do something not in your best interest.

Overconfidence effect (the above-average effect): Many people tend to over-estimate their abilities. Surveys across most areas of expertise show that more than half of people think that they are better than most other people with respect to that expertise. For example, more than 50% of the population might think that they have above-average intelligence, but they cannot all be right. Many people tend to over estimate their abilities and lack insight into their real performance.This can lead to inflated self-esteem, disappointment and lack of ability to improve.

It is important to STOP and think objectively about whether you are using your brain or your biased brain is using you.

“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons.” ― Anaïs Nin

Just because we wish something to be true doesn't make it so. Humans have always searched for answers and made them up when we we felt like it. An opinion without basis is a wish or a guess and not a fact.

"The human capacity to convince oneself of something one wants to be true is virtually bottomless."  --Jon Meacham

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