Intellectual Integrity

 

What Is Intellectual Integrity?

Do you have an internal desire to uncover truth – real truth? Do you care about the accuracy of your knowledge, beliefs and claims? Does it bother you if you might be professing knowledge that’s wrong? Does reality matter to you? Do you feel the pursuit of truth deserves a thorough, honest approach and analysis?

If so, then you definitely resonate with the concept of Intellectual Integrity.

Intellectual Integrity has everything to do with . . . .

Honest Inquiry

Intellectual Integrity is a mindset of actually caring about truth for truth’s sake; not truth for convenience. You possess a humble and honest commitment to the pursuit of truth and reality wherever the evidence may lead – even if it flies in the face of cultural and societal norms, existing orthodox paradigms, or entirely against everything you’ve ever “learned” throughout your life. You question everything. You hold yourself to the same standards of evidence as you hold others. You don’t let others do your thinking for you. Your thinking is YOURS!

As my friend Tristan Aramis Valerius once said . . . . it’s an “unfiltered lens of inquiry.”

 

Admitting Limits to Your Knowledge and Beliefs

You’re honest about the limits of your knowledge and what is or isn’t factual, truthful or objective. You humbly realize and admit that the things you know and hold dear to your heart as cherished beliefs are, in fact, very possibly in error and at the very least biased and socially indoctrinated – – unquestioned directives fed to you by authority figures throughout your life.

You possess the humility to willingly step back and honestly and critically re-examine those assumptions and social-conditioned belief structures. Therefore, you’re open to admitting error and changing your cherished beliefs when the evidence dictates it.

 

Objectivity

Willingness to openly and honestly look at all sides of an issue or topic before coming to an objective, fully-considered, well-informed conclusion.  You embrace the Clinical Attitude Toward Arguments.

 

Recognizing the Subjective Influence of Cognitive Biases and Social Indoctrination

You realize the self-deceptiveness of cognitive errors can negatively influence your ability to come to an impartial, unbiased and informed opinion.  Confirmation Bias, Cognitive Dissonance, Rationalization, Paradigms, Orthodox Dogma and Social Conditioning all can – and do – cloud your ability to gain an accurate picture of the world around you. Admit that your thinking processes are flawed.  You’re human after all.

 

Intellectual Courage

Willingness to hold thoughts, values and objective truths beyond the herd.  Ignore knee-jerk emotionalism to inform your knowledge. Be cognizant when emotional triggers are pulled and buttons pushed; it’s typically a propagandist narrative being purveyed.

“Intellectual courage comes into play here, because inevitably we will come to see some truth in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd, and distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held in our social group. We need courage to be true to our own thinking in such circumstances. The penalties for non-conformity can be severe.” – www.CriticalThinking.org

 

Admitting Ignorance When It’s Appropriate

Don’t claim more than you absolutely know for sure to be accurate and truthful. Reserve your opinion until more factual information is uncovered and known. Be willing to say that you don’t know enough to settle on a belief or opinion.  Hold to an unwillingness to jump to conclusions, particularly on the basis of little-to-no evidence.

Realize you don’t have to “take a side” in any debate or argument; at any time in your life. It’s not illegal to “sit on the fence” about an issue.

 

Informed Opinions

Understand the difference between an informed and uninformed opinion.  One is based on an open, objective, unbiased and thorough inquiry.  The other is based on a foundation of willing ignorance or stupidity.

 

Source Considerations

Realize not all sources of information are reliable, and they most likely all have biases. As difficult as it is to conceive, also realize that any claim to science, religion, spirituality, politics, economics, sociology, anthropology, archaeology, history, etc. are not settled. They can’t be considered an undeniable, unquestionable fact.  Every conclusion is based on a degree of confidence. From a science perspective, it means being open to the concept of falsification even for the most rigid of orthodox paradigms.

 

Lack of Intellectual Integrity

Intellectual Hypocrisy is all about . . . .

  • Disregard for objectivity, truth, reality, facts and accuracy
  • Stupidly maintaining past beliefs in the face of conflicting new evidence
  • Hitching onto the uninformed “opinion” of the herd
  • Allowing yourself to be manipulated by emotional triggers and propaganda
  • Refusing to challenge the existing paradigms and unquestioned norms
  • Not critically questioning what you’re “fed” to believe
  • Lazily falling back on preconceived beliefs and social conditioning
  • Worshiping at the altar of ignorance and irrationality.

 

“Intellectual Hypocrisy – a state of mind unconcerned with genuine integrity. It is often marked by deep-seated contradictions and inconsistencies. Hypocrisy is often implicit in the thinking and action behind human behavior as a function of natural egocentric thinking. Our hypocrisy is hidden from us. Though we expect others to adhere to standards to which we refuse to adhere, we see ourselves as fair. Though we profess certain beliefs, we often fail to behave in accordance with those beliefs.”  – WestSideToastMasters.com

 

Why is Intellectual Integrity Important?

Accuracy.  Integrity.  Truth.  Objectivity.

These are personal values.  Do you care about any of them?  Is integrity important to you as a value?

If you aren’t interested in accuracy or holding correct beliefs then Intellectual Integrity will mean nothing. You’ll simply be happy grabbing a single sound-bite from your biased media source, committing it to your mind and heart as fact, then spewing it out to others as unassailable gospel. Do you really want to be that person?

This is an autodidactic approach.  You won’t get objective truth from your schooling, media, movies, radio, newspaper, social media, family, friends, clergy, academics.  This is up to you.  Do you want truth?  Or do you want to default on laziness?

What is really important?

 

 

Some online sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

The Benefits Of Being An Autodidact

What is autodidacticism and what can it mean for you being an autodidact?

Stack of Old Books” by Austin Kirk is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

What’s an autodidact?

Autodidactism is the process of self-learning, also called self-education.  An autodidact is a person who chooses (on their own) to identify a subject of interest and then learn everything possible about it; preferably researching and studying it in an objective manner.  It can be pursued as a supplement to, or replacement for, “formal” education.

Most autodidacts continue this activity their whole life for a wide variety of subjects they love, thereby becoming life-long learners.  They continually dig deep to expand their knowledge, hone their skills and refine their craft.  They want to learn more, be more and do more than the average member of the herd.

Interestingly, you won’t find much written about autodidacticism.  At one time, before our “modern” society, the most incredible and accomplished geniuses, inventors, architects, engineers, scientists, writers, etc. were autodidacts.  Now, due to government-sponsored education and “professional” qualifications and licensing, you can’t be an autodidact alone in most fields of work/career.  Bureaucratic and government control has taken over and requires “formal” institutionalized learning degrees for professional positions.  It’s the only respected form of education in our society.

Typically, because of these restrictions, your only choice is to accommodate the “formal’ education requirements of your career or job, then use your personal time to pursue the things that truly mean something to your core.

 

But I’m finished with my “formal” education – why bother with learning anything else?

Should any of us be “finished” with education?  “Formal” education isn’t easy. Years of forced study in subjects that may mean nothing to you certainly isn’t fun.  All of that effort and stress to belong to the club of graduates and competitive job seekers.

For the majority of the herd, once they received their high school or college education there’s no need to learn anything more, right?  Why bother?

Why?  Because there’s a world of knowledge out there beyond what you were taught in school. See the list of benefits below.  Be the champion of your own enlightenment.

“Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.” – Bertrand Russel

“What does education do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.” – Henry David Thoreau

 

Benefits of being an autodidact

Focus on your passion – For those that have a genuine thirst of knowledge, you have the freedom to select any subject you’re passionate about and discover a world of enlightenment.  Discover more.

Linear path to knowledge, discovery and expertise – Self-learning allows you to expose yourself to ALL arenas of knowledge on a subject.  You can pursue a linear path of discovery – A to B to C . . . .  to Z (one thing leads to another).  Discover more.

Move beyond the accepted paradigm – History has shown “accepted facts” and “settled science” (so-called “truths”) are continually overturned by new theories, knowledge and discovery (fighting against and eventually winning against the paradigm’s stubborn “dogma disciples”) – reference Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  A society’s current paradigms are taught in its institutions. Those institutions won’t teach the alternative knowledge that could challenge and overturn those cherished paradigms. They will not give you an unbiased survey of a subject.  Their intention is to indoctrinate you to their paradigms.  Paradigms are not necessarily truths.  Refuse to accept the dogma.  Challenge the paradigms.  Discover more.

Enthusiasm, Excitement, Passion, Discovery – There is a definite identifiable surge of incredible energy, excitement and enthusiasm as you knowledge adventure, discovering little-known facts and truths not shared in “formal” academic pursuits.  Huge “aha” moments that suddenly enlighten you beyond the accepted paradigms.  You can experience pleasure as you learn more about something you really care about.   Discover more.

Self-culture – Another benefit of being an autodidact is that you can “self-culture.” This means being able to expand and adapt your life beyond the social conditioning and enculturation that occurs while being raised within our society and your “formal” education to adopt that society’s paradigms.  Control your life.

Rise above the propaganda – As an autodidact you have an advantage above the herd.  You’re able to see and realize the news spread by TV, newspapers, radio, social media, etc. is nothing more that a giant stage play – not to report objectively – but to push an agenda; to forward a narrative.  Being an autodidact allows you to easily identifying fake news/propaganda, and it’s biased, emotionally-manipulative attempts to “jerk your chain.”  Don’t be susceptible to emotional, irrational propaganda triggers. Control your life.

 

Can anyone become an autodidact?

Supposedly yes, but I don’t think so.

From my perspective the most basic aspect that drives an autodidact is a genuine thirst and lust for knowledge.  I simply don’t see that quality in most people.  If you don’t have an undeniable drive to know, to learn, to discover – you won’t start – and definitely won’t stay with it.  Without this natural inclination self-learning will become too much like the drudgery of “formal” education, rather than an enchanting road to discovery – even though you get to choose the topic of your passion.  And that’s the clincher – passion.

Most people in this modern, mundane world simply don’t identify with a passion of any kind.  It’s been beaten out of them though years of formal “shove-it-down-your-throat” education, enculturation and 8-5 work week.  The average person is too exhausted to even think about self-education, even if they have a hint of their inner passion(s).

But if you have a passion and lust for knowledge and learning, set aside as much time as possible to fit in your research and discoveries:  early mornings, lunch hours, evenings, late at night, weekends…. squeeze in time to pursue it, wherever you can.

Do you have an insatiable desire to know, a lust for knowledge? Do you have an inquisitiveness and curiosity about life?  If yes, then you have the essentials for being an autodidact

 

Careful though . . .

Be wary of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance in your autodidactic pursuits.  It’s too easy to simply reference material that naturally supports your biased belief system.  Be aware of that pitfall and instead try to look objectively across the spectrum of concepts and ideas on any topic.

 

 

 

Some decent sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

Conformity

I could write a long article about Conformity, but really … what could be more convincing than this representative example? (video: Brain Games – Conformity (Waiting Room) )

If this is video link is no longer active, check the Wayback Machine here:
https://web.archive.org/web/20170808041524/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9O9SokTTA8

 

Peer Pressure

We are pressured and convinced through a lifetime of social conditioning to conform, get along, go along, agree with, regardless of the rationality.

This isn’t complicated. You will have a natural tendency to conform to the group – the majority.  You simply need to have attended high-school to experience it.  If you’re honest, you understand this to extend to your adolescent social platform and definitely into your adulthood social platform. Repeated psychological experiments, one after another, confirms the same.

 

Rather, Consider This Approach . . .

(Dead Poets Society – On Conformity)

Wayback link:
https://web.archive.org/web/20170715061113/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd09gy8Vv9E

 

Think.  It’s not illegal yet.

(I actually have a t-shirt with that phrase on it)

🙂

 

Break from the herd!

 

 

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

Social Conditioning

Related very closely to the concept of Groupthink is a process called Social Conditioning .  However, where Groupthink relates to cognitive issues in a small group, Social Conditioning is concerned more with broad social implications – typically nationwide.

Definition:

Social conditioning is the sociological process of training individuals in a society to respond in a manner generally approved by the society in general and peer groups within society.

Manifestations of social conditioning are vast, but they are generally categorized as social patterns and social structures including nationalism, education, employment, entertainment, popular culture, religion, spirituality and family life. The social structure in which an individual finds him or herself influences and can determine their social actions and responses.

Other terms to refer to Social Conditioning include Social Engineering, Herd Mentality and Cultural Conditioning.

Mob Mentality, while seemingly related, is different in that is refers to cognitive issues and behavior of people in large groups brought together for a single event and purpose, such as with protests and demonstrations.  It describes how people will do things in a large group that they would never do as an individual.  I will save discussion of Mob Mentality for a different article.

 

Culture

Each of us on planet Earth are a product of our culture – its biases, norms, beliefs, morals, etc.  Over days, weeks, months, years and decades we’re indoctrinated in the culture within which we’re raised.  Parents, teachers, clergy, family, friends, coworkers, peer groups, books, media, advertisements, radio, and leaders of any sort, all mold and influence us in terms of what is normal/abnormal, right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable.

Pressures to conform do a pretty stringent job of keeping everyone in line with society’s expectations. Propaganda also plays a huge role in keeping the majority in line with the desired mindset and beliefs – but I’ll leave that to a future article.

Think of Social Conditioning as being “domesticated” by the thoughts and beliefs of others.

Stop.

Read that again and let it sink in.  Domesticated – as in sheep and cattle.

Your implicit social conditioning directives:

  • Go along with the majority (the herd)
  • Don’t stand out from the herd
  • Don’t challenge or rock the boat
  • Don’t question ‘authority’
  • Go along, get along – or face ostracization
  • Shut up and blend in
  • Believe what you’re told by your leaders and media
  • Who are you to question anything?

 

As early as 1952, an article by William H. Whyte, Jr. in Forbes about Groupthink identified the creeping movement of social engineering and the movement away from individualism, independence and self-reliance of individuals in the United States:

“In a country where “individualism” – – independence and self-reliance – – was the watchword for three centuries, the view is now coming to be accepted that the individual himself has no meaning – – except, that is, as a member of a group.”

“. . . . social engineering with its emphasis on the planned manipulation of the individual into the group role.”

“. . . . the man we are now presented with is Social Man – – completely a creature of his environment, guided almost totally by the whims and prejudices of the group, and incapable of any real self-determination of his destiny.”

Because we’re raised to mold to society and authority’s directives and cultural norms, we become adults who seek approval from all of our influencing entities.  We seek validation from our social and peer groups that we’re doing the right thing – that we “belong.” We need and seek group approval. We want to conform.

We find ourselves not really thinking for ourselves – although we think (feel) we do. Instead we just go along with the herd – what the majority think and do.  After all, since it’s the majority, what they think and believe must be true and good, right?

A Leed’s University study discovered that it only take 5% of “informed” individuals to influence the direction of a crowd of 200 or more.  We seem to be ‘wired’ or conditioned to follow – rather than lead with individualism.

A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that we’re prone to be copycats – not original thinkers.  When people didn’t have a strong opinion or knowledge about their choices, they simply mimicked others, regardless of whether the mimicked choices were right or wrong or even made any sense.

We’re programmed to be followers.  We’re conditioned to follow the herd and popular opinion.  We’re conditioned to be repulsed by and denigrate anything and anyone that’s different or rebels against the “norm.”  Our Cognitive Dissonance and (Dis)Confirmation Bias keep our minds in line with the accepted mindset of the masses.

“Most of the time, we see only what we want to see, or what others tell us to see, instead of really investigating to see what is really there. We embrace illusions only because we are presented with the illusion that they are embraced by the majority. When in truth, they only become popular because they are pounded at us by the media with such an intensity and high level of repetition that it’s mere force disguises lies and truths. And like obedient schoolchildren, we do not question their validity and swallow everything up like medicine. Why? Because since the earliest days of our youth, we have been conditioned to accept that the direction of the herd, and authority anywhere – is always right.”                  – Suzy Kassem

Our self-concept is shaped by a lifetime of conditioning and cultural indoctrination. Everything we look at, think, feel and accept in life are shaped by a lifetime of cultural indoctrination.  We don’t even pause to step back and examine our basic assumptions and beliefs in life.  We’re not taught to question anything.  Why do we believe what we believe?  What basis in truth and reality actually support those cultural, indoctrinating beliefs and behaviors?

The indoctrinated don’t want the foundation of their ingrained beliefs questioned.

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”  – Morpheus, (movie: The Matrix)

 

Challenges For Escaping The Herd

Unfortunately, if you’re faced with the fact that Social Conditioning has molded you since birth, you must also realize that it takes work to pull yourself beyond the grasp and influence of the herd.  It means seeing and comprehending “the forest from the trees.”

And this is where some of the challenges come into play:  time, energy, focus

TIME:

Anyone working in the United States is faced with the stark reality that a full 1/3 of their life (or more) is solely dedicated to working for a wage.  And since 1/3 of our life also includes sleep, that leaves 1/3 left for “living” life – whatever that means to each of us.  We have 1/3 of our time on this wonderful Earth for relaxation/downtime, pleasure, meals, social gatherings, home maintenance, family responsibilities, raising kids, paying bills, spiritual growth, personal growth, knowledge adventuring, tackling projects, etc.

We have to make a choice as to how we spend that 1/3.

ENERGY:

With all the constraints of time as outlined above, how much energy can we expect to have to focus on anything outside of the required things we have to do and can’t ignore?  How do we choose to spend our “discretionary” time?

If you have kids (or expecting to) you’re discretionary time will be essentially non-existent until they become teens and somewhat independent.

For most of the masses, exhaustion takes its toll.  For others who actually do have discretionary time to slice away and explore life expansion and growth, laziness takes over and the hours of each day are squandered away.

FOCUS:

Which brings me to the last challenging element – focus.  Let’s assume you have the time.  Let’s assume you have the energy.  What will you need to focus on to address what’s important?

Answer:  passion.
What’s important to you?  What’s not important to you?  What will you focus and give your time to?  Can you say “no” to those things that are not important to you?

Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself if you want to lay on your death bed and regret not having lived as a true individual.

As I’ve said numerous times before, these principles I share are not for the masses. They’re for the rare individuals who know they must have more to their lives than birth, school, work, conformism, taxes and death . . . Unique people who truly want to seek, grow and soar.  These are the only people who care about accuracy, truth, accountability, and intellectual integrity and personal growth.

 

Majority = Truth?

So, because the masses don’t have the time, energy, or focus to understand, learn, comprehend the social and natural world around them, they will default to rely on “official” sources to mold their beliefs and decisions. No questioning.  No seeking.  No independent thinking.  No validation.

Religion becomes their “truth.”  Science becomes their “truth.” Government becomes their “truth.” Corporate America becomes their “truth.” Media becomes their “truth.”  Social norms become their “truth.”

Does the herd majority hold the keys to the truth?  Simply . . . . NO

“A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right and evil doesn’t become good, just because it’s accepted by a majority”  – Rick  Warren

 

There are numerous times in history where the majority (driven by its culture and authorities) held ridiculous, crude, stupid cultural norms (beliefs) that stray far from truth or moral rightness:

“The aggregate testimony of our neighbors is subject to the same conditions as the testimony of any one of them. Namely, we have no right to believe a thing true because everybody says so unless there are good grounds for believing that some one person at least has the means of knowing what is true, and is speaking the truth as far as he knows it. However many nations and generations of men are brought into the witness box they cannot testify to anything which they do not know. Every man who has accepted the statement from somebody else, without himself testing and verifying it, is out of court.”    – William Kingdon Clifford, The Ethics of Belief (1877)

 

Your Choice: The Herd or Independent Thinking

Do you want to be part of this Mass Groupthink?  Do you want to be part of the herd?  Do you want to cruise through life lazily and never question anything or anyone?

If so, then move on with the collective herd. Let others shape your mind as they see fit.  Let them do your thinking. Let them trigger your emotions to react the way they desire. Fit in. Get along. Conform. Follow the herd’s desires. Don’t question. Refuse to think for yourself. Be complacent.

For those of you who are repulsed by this choice, you have another option:  Independent Thinking

“To breath comfortably, to feel free, to think better and to find the beauties of the unknown paths leave your herd!”  – Mehmet Murat Ildan

It’s not fast; it’s not easy; it’s not the lazy person’s solution.  Learn to think on your own.  And I don’t mean deceive yourself into thinking that you truly think for yourself.  Discard the confirmation biases, the cognitive dissonance, the groupthink, the partisan bullshit.  Assume your beliefs and life assumptions are in error. Practice intellectual integrity.  Practice the Clinical Attitude.  Drive for accuracy, truth and reality.

“Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity.” Thomas John Watson

 

Ramifications of Independent Thinking and Breaking From the Herd

Standing alone in the midst of the herd isn’t an easy task. As an independent thinker, depending on how much you share with others, you may find yourself:

Isolated – the herd will think you different, odd, unpleasant and keep their distance; you’re an outsider

Pressured – the herd and its supporting tools/structure will continue pressure to conform to mass groupthink

Labelled– you may be called names or regarded in certain derogatory terms (negative social label & stigma)

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

As you proceed in knowledge adventuring you’ll uncover incredible and enlightening facts that conflict directly with herd mentality.  There are a few approaches available to you as to how you deal with this.  In fact, you may find yourself on an evolutionary path adapting one or more of these during your lifetime:

  • You can choose to be argumentative with an intention to change others’ beliefs and life assumptions – being an activist. This is your first reaction as you uncover knowledge and facts not known to others, and you want to shout them from the rooftop.  It took me quite some time to understand that you won’t change others’ minds due to their ingrained herd-mentality biases. They themselves have to truly want to uncover reality and change their beliefs.
  • Or you could keep your alternative views hidden from your social, work and family groups and not discuss with others at all – only sharing with people of like mind you happen to meet online or in person.
  • Or you could simply stand proud and confident, and only respond when others inquire, and then in a non-apologetic “teaching” manner. Then, let them react the way they will.

Ultimately your approach should probably be informed after completely understanding the analogy of “casting pearls before swine.”  Your desire to change others’ beliefs with enlightenment will be met with zero appreciation or even the ability of others to comprehend.

“Whoever deviates from the …. public opinion and stands apart will always have the whole herd against him.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”   – Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

 

Where to Focus

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”  – Mark Twain

  1. First of all recognize that you are not above the influence of social conditioning.  You’ve spent your entire life under the influence of its propaganda.  Your natural instinct is to tow the line with what society tells you you should be thinking, believing and doing. You are influenced by it.
  2. Comprehend that what society (the majority) believes isn’t necessarily the truth, accurate, moral, or the best basis of behavior.
  3. Question your own beliefs and assumptions. Assume they’re most likely wrong, inaccurate, and untruthful. Practice independent thinking – don’t accept the consensus.
  4. For those topics that align with your greatest interests and passions, dig in and self-educate. Don’t just take the word of so-called authorities who are foisted upon you as the be-all and end-all to a subject. Become your own expert, but ensure you aren’t pigeon-holing yourself due to confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance or any other cognitive errors.  Pursue your self-learning with intellectual integrity. Study a wide range of topics.
  5. Get comfortable with who you are and what you stand for.  Don’t be shy about separating from the herd and standing out. Be a lone wolf. Expect conflict when ideas and beliefs are discussed (if you so choose to participate in those discussions).
  6. Notice how people, especially the media, try to keep you indoctrinated into society’s acceptable beliefs.
  7. As with groupthink, the only sure way out is to lead, not follow. Voice your dissent.  Just let others know you simply don’t agree with the consensus.

 

“Being considered ‘crazy’ by those who are still victims of cultural conditioning is a compliment.”  – Jason Hairston

Disengage from the herd. Be an independent thinker. Practice intellectual integrity. Seek and grow beyond the mundane. Embrace awe and wonder.

 

 

Some decent online sources: (there are many others of course)

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

Groupthink

In a continuing series of articles regarding barriers to Proper Thinking let’s address Groupthink.

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”  – Walter Lippmann

 

What is Groupthink?

Wikipedia:  “Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.”

William H. Whyte, Jr. coined the term in a March 1952 Fortune magazine article of the same title.  He spoke more from a “social engineering” perspective, relating how the nation as a whole is moving away from a focus on individualism and independence, and rather towards the rationalized conformity of ‘groups.’

“What we are talking about is a rationalized conformity – an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well.”
– William H. Whyte, Jr.

On an individual psychological level Groupthink relates strongly to Conformism.

 

Irving Janus – Father of Groupthink

The largest contributor and impact in identifying the actual elements of Groupthink was Yale University research psychologist Irving Janis in his 1972 book: Victims of Groupthink.  (The revised 1982 title is Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes.)

His definition:

“I use the term groupthink as a quick and easy way to refer to the mode of thinking that persons engage in when concurrence-seeking becomes so dominant in a cohesive ingroup that it tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action. Groupthink is a term of the same order as the words in the newspeak vocabulary George Orwell used in his dismaying world of 1984. In that context, groupthink takes on an invidious connotation.  Exactly such a connotation is intended, since the term refers to a deterioration in mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgments as a result of group pressures.”

From Janis’ perspective he primarily focused on groupthink as it relates to smaller functional (or more correctly dysfunctional) groups such as you might find in government and business.  From what I can gather he doesn’t address it from a national mindset (such as in the related phenomenon of Social Conditioning).  He and other researchers specifically mention many screwed-up policy decisions made in government due to the influence of groupthink: the Bay of Pigs disaster, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Challenger explosion and the invasion of Iraq due to supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

“The advantages of having decisions made by groups are often lost because of powerful psychological pressures that arise when the members work closely together, share the same set of values and, above all, face a crisis situation that puts everyone under intense stress.”  – Irving Janus

 

Symptoms of Groupthink

The symptomatic elements identified by Janis include:

  • Illusions of invulnerability – there is excessive optimism and risk taking in the group; the group overestimates its abilities and strength
  • Belief in inherent morality – an unquestioned belief in the group’s morality and ignoring consequences of their decision
  • Collective rationalizations – the group collectively constructs rationalizations that challenge their assumptions
  • Stereotyping – the group holds stereotyped and dehumanized views of out-groups, labelling them as weak, evil, stupid, etc
  • Self-censorship – the group eliminates ideas that deviate from the consensus
  • Illusions of unanimity – silence is viewed as agreement
  • Peer Pressure – there is direct pressure on dissenters to conform rather than question the group
  • Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – individuals in the group protect the leader from dissenting views

Ultimately these can be summarized and grouped into three major types of symptoms:

– Overestimation of the group
– Closed-mindedness
– Pressures toward uniformity

The group becomes blind to facts that don’t align with the its culture or mission.

 

Causes of Groupthink

  • High in-group cohesiveness – avoidance of argument, dissension or disagreement; deindividuation; social pressure to conform
  • Insulation of the group from dissenting opinions and alternative decisions
  • Closed style leadership – the leader isn’t impartial
  • Homogeneity of the group’s members’ social backgrounds and ideology
  • Perceived stress due to external threats
  • Time pressures
  • Moral dilemmas

Psychological experiments by Solomon Ash, have shown that pressure to conform can cause a person to conform simply because it’s less stressful than challenging the group.

 

Some Results of Groupthink

— Quality of decision making is progressively compromised
— Concurrence seeking rather than making the right decision
— Judgment and diversity of opinion are sacrificed
— Irrational/dysfunctional decisions
— Collective confirmation bias
— Rigid conformity is pushed; suppression of independent thinking and creativity
— Counterarguments and counter-evidence is rationalized away
— Dissent is seen as unnecessary
— Autocratic, bullying, deceitful, dogmatic leadership

 

How to prevent Groupthink

  • Leaders should assign members to be critical evaluators
  • Leaders should not express their opinion regarding a group task
  • Set-up independent groups working on the same task
  • Examine all effective alternatives
  • Discuss with trusted people outside the group
  • Gather relevant information from outside sources
  • Invite outside experts
  • Assign someone the role of “Devil’s Advocate”
  • Encourage ideas to be challenged
  • Examine risks of the agreed-to decision
  • Objectively obtain and consider all information related to the decision at hand

One of the most valuable traits for people in general, and leaders in particular, is to understand the limits of their knowledge, and to seek out sources and individuals who can help fill those gaps. Unfortunately this is rare in individuals.  It takes courage to state that you “don’t know.”

 

How to Personally Avoid Groupthink

What should you do personally to avoid Groupthink if you find yourself in a group that could default to this cognitive error?

  1. Acknowledge its existence – Like any other cognitive bias/error, the first step is to acknowledge that you and the group in which you participate are susceptible to this effect.
  2. Discuss it with the other group members – Humbly share with the group your concern for this issue and request that everyone keep it in mind.
  3. Don’t be silentIngroup silence is considered as unanimous agreement.  Speak up, even if it’s to say you don’t quite agree or something doesn’t seem right.  You can always agree later if the decision is found to be sound.
  4. Be the “devil’s advocate” or skeptic – As someone who is willing to speak up, bring up various potential pitfalls with the decision the group is wanting to select.  Bring up alternative information and courses of action.  Be an advocate for accuracy and optimal decision making.

Ultimately, the only way out of Groupthink is to lead – not follow.  Simply state, “I dissent” or “I disagree.”  Be the person who opens the door for other people to speak up as well (since they likely don’t want to be the first to question a decision and are waiting for others to open up).  This takes courage and confidence – a strong self-esteem.

How to gain that level of confidence?  Two things really:

  • Read, absorb, adopt the guidelines presented on this site.  Expand your knowledge, and your humbleness to know you can’t know everything.  Yet realize you can know more than most and make more informed and rational decisions about life.  I’ve said in other articles that the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.  And the corollary to that is, the more you learn, the more you realize that rarely does anyone know.  I used to have low confidence and self-esteem.  A decision I made to expand my horizons:  seek, learn and grow  – naturally increased my self-confidence to challenge ideas and stand up for a pursuit of accuracy and truth.  Knowledge is confidence.
  • Don’t be a “joiner.  Don’t get hung up on being a member of a group. Be happy and proud to be a critical, independent thinker.  Don’t care what others think of you.  Get comfortable with your own self and your thoughts.

 

In the long run my observations have convinced me that some men, reasoning preposterously, first establish some conclusion in their minds which, either because of its being their own or because of their having received it from some person who has their entire confidence, impresses them so deeply that one finds it impossible ever to get it out of their heads. Such arguments in support of their fixed idea . . . gain their instant acceptance and applause.  On the other hand whatever is brought forward against it, however ingenious and conclusive, they receive it with disdain or with hot rage – if indeed it does not make them ill. Beside themselves with passion, some of them would not be backward even about scheming to suppress and silence their adversaries.  I have had some experience of this myself . . . No good can come of dealing with such people, especially to the extent that their company may be not only unpleasant but dangerous.
– Galileo Galilei

 

 

Some decent online sources: (there are many others of course)

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

Dogma

What is Dogma?

Dogma is any ideology that demands of its followers unquestioned loyalty and faith.  Faith in its doctrines . . . in its leaders . . . in its proclamations.  Behind its ‘scripture’ may stand elements of truths – some of which can (and are) useful at times.  However, it demands no questioning of its current tenets – particularly by laypersons and “outsiders.”  Violators of this edict are either ignored and/or ridiculed and ostracized . . . . cut off from their ‘enlightened’ body of fellow followers; beat down into a silent pulp.

  • Accept what you’re told
  • Don’t question
  • Shut up
  • Go along
  • Praise the authorities

Dogma:  prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group.

 

Where Can Dogma Be Found?

You’re thinking I’m only referring to Religion in my definition above, aren’t you?      🙂

Dogma can most definitely be found in Religion, where it serves as a foundation of intensely strong emotional and intellectual slavery.

But it also resides in Politics and Academia (particularly in Science and History).  In fact, we seem to have reached a point where Science has become its own “religion.”  Science and its droves of loyal, “rational” skeptics demand absolutely no challenge to existing scientific theory; its sacred ‘scripture.’

This group of adamant Dogma Disciples(TM) spew proclamations that certain cherished scientific theories are unequivocal truth and cannot be questioned or challenged at any cost or in any way.  It’s as though the theory is settled and absolutely “known” as 100% accurate for all time!  They don’t want you (or any other layperson) to know how Science is supposed to be done.  You are to believe that their proclamation is 100% truth – or face denigration and disgrace.

“It’s okay not to know all the answers. It’s better to admit our ignorance than to believe answers that might be wrong. Pretending to know everything, closes the door to finding out what’s really there.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

True science, however, will never proclaim absolute, 100% accuracy.  All theories are subject to revision if new, more compelling evidence comes to light to indicate the theory needs modification.  Dogmatists deny this possibility.  They are protecting their precious turf at all costs.

The interesting ‘kicker’ is that most incredible scientific revolutions come not from within the paradigm of dogmatic assertions, but instead from outsiders of the scientific specialization in question.  (Reference Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.“)

Trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, when either religious dogma or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute.”  – Freeman Dyson

 

The Upside Of Dogma

Is there an upside?  I guess it depends from which side of the pulpit/publication you’re standing.  From the side of the purveyors of dogma, it definitely serves a few critical purposes:

  • Keeps the followers blinded and in line
  • Keeps the followers dumbed-down and unquestioning
  • Maintains a loyal herd of acolytes – willing to do their ‘duty’ for the cause
  • Holds the threat of punishment, ridicule and embarrassment above the heads of those even considering the questioning of dogmatic tenets
  • Maintains control of the dogmatic leaders’ power structure/hierarchy
  • Keeps the “machine” of control in place – regarding all aspects of control (knowledge, thought, emotions, faithfulness, money, duty, patriotism)
  • Keeps the money flowing to those in control (religious tithes, scientific funding, political donations/bribes)
  • An EXCELLENT manipulation & propaganda tool. . . . . conditioning par excellence!

 

The Downside Of Dogma

The downsides of dogma?  For devout followers the following list will make no sense and they will deny it to their deaths.  For seekers of reality and truth . . . . adventurous thinkers and discoverers . . . . questioning members of the human race that don’t appreciate ideology shoved down their throats, this list will resonate:

  • It stunts progress and growth
  • Stunts discovery
  • Stunts the spirit of adventure
  • Stunts cross-specialization contributions
  • Bolsters dogmatic power mongers
  • Maintains the existing power hierarchy and “truth” narrative
  • Closes open discussions and alternative theories
  • Absolutely crushes the desire and aspirations of new entrants to academia who feel actual scientific discovery and advancement is what should be pursued (unless it aligns with the source of the funding)
  • Unequivocally supports the corporate and political funding monster (they’re not going to get results contrary to what they pay for).
  • Absolutely silences anyone in academia, politics or religion who may want to challenge the status quo
  • Provides another unquestioning advocate for the cause
  • If you’re a member of the ‘herd’ it gives you something to latch on to as a security blanket in all aspects of life.  No need to question anything.  Supports lazy thinking.
  • Refer to all the reasons above for the “upside” of dogma.

“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.”  – Anais Nin

 

Are You A Dogma Disciple?

So, honestly now . . . . does any of the following describe you?

  • Espouse total, unequivocal, unquestioning support for your political ideology
  • Espouses total, unequivocal, unquestioning support for the very popular headlines of the “important” scientific theories such as the Big Bang, Black Holes, Dark Energy/Space, Evolution, Energy, etc.
  • Espouses total, unequivocal, unquestioning support for your version of religious enlightenment, giving absolute devotion to its sacred scriptures.
  • Never dig beyond evidence that supports any of the above; employing Confirmation Bias in your approach to “research.”
  • Judge and ridicule those who don’t believe as you do.
  • Employ Cognitive Dissonance to any evidence that threatens or conflicts with your dogma.
  • You feel there must be a definitive answer to everything and you’re willing to latch on to whatever “authority” espouses those answers (regardless of the actual detailed evidence behind it).

 

Ridding Yourself of Dogma

Understand we’re all subject to Confirmation Bias and make a conscientious and concerted effort to battle it within your psyche.

Understand we’re all subject to Cognitive Dissonance and make a conscientious and concerted effort to battle it within your psyche.

Practice the Clinical Attitude Towards Arguments and let it guide you to reality and truth wherever it may lead – even if in total conflict with your existing and cherished belief structure.

Question everything.  Assume nothing.  Be a Walking Question Mark.  Be humble and open to reasonable and rational concepts and ideas, even if they fly in the face of orthodoxy.

Be a Free Thinker.  Don’t be afraid to question the herd. . . . to question the norm . . . to question orthodoxy . . . . to be a Knowledge Adventurer.

Be willing to admit that you might not have definitive answers to the questions of life and the universe, but you’re willing to learn and adapt.  Stating there isn’t enough evidence to know for sure doesn’t mean it’s a sign of weakness . . . instead it’s a sign of wisdom.

 

Freedom!

What’s the reward to this dogma-freeing approach?

Confidence . . . Independence . . . Self-Control . . . Individual Self-Reliance . . . . Self-Authority . . . . Manipulation-proof existence . . . . Seeing bull-shit when it’s purveyed to you as ‘fact’ . . . . Resoluteness that there are no 100%-guaranteed answers to the mysteries of the universe . . . . Seeing power mongers for what they are (protecting their power-base turf) . . . . Seeing ignorance masked as enlightenment . . . . Freedom!

 

 

 

 

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

I saw this on a car’s bumper sticker today:

“Don’t Believe Everything You Think”

It definitely struck me and resonated with what I continually try to focus upon.  Always question your basic beliefs and assumptions.  Objectively (truly objectively) look at all points of an argument or belief.  Use the Clinical Attitude whenever possible.

Embrace intellectual integrity and be willing to admit that beliefs you’ve held for many years may be wrong when you’re presented with evidence that conflicts and challenges those beliefs.  Adopt the attitude of, “Bring it on. Give me some kind of evidence that can seriously rock the foundations of my life assumptions. Make me question the foundation of my beliefs, change as needed, and get closer to the truth.  As rational thinking individuals this is the approach we should adopt.

Unfortunately, my assumption is that most people who would put this sticker on their car are more interested in how it applies to others rather than themselves.  I think that 99% of the populace would NEVER want to challenge and change their inherent beliefs.

If you pretend to be objective and unbiased, yet you do “your own research” and select only the first link that agrees with your ingrained belief, the you’re simply deceiving yourself. You aren’t objectively challenging yourself in any way.

If this is you . . . . you’re a slave to Confirmation Bias.

If you listen to pundits spouting all you believe and hold true, and think that confirms your position . . .  you’re not objectively looking for the truth.  You’re looking for a security-blanket – your own personal self-deception binky.

Don’t believe what you believe.  Don’t assume the majority are right.  Break free from the herd.  Assume they’re wrong.  Assume you’re wrong.  Dig for ALL the evidence to move towards a more accurate picture of reality – the truth.

 

What is Science?

I originally wanted to start the “Science” category with a short series of posts discussing some very basic introductory concepts to serve as a baseline/reference for future discussion.  However, I happened to be in the middle of some great research involving the helical motion of the solar system, so I chose to grab the fire while it was burning and go ahead with that article first.

So, stepping back a bit to address the basics . . .

 

What is Science?  (the basics)

This seems like a stupid rhetorical question – What is Science?  Doesn’t everyone know the definition of science?  I would like to believe so, but I can’t be too sure.  If the Science Council realized they needed to come up with a definition in 2009 there apparently is a reason it was needed.  I’ve personally been confused to a great extent over the years in clearly understanding the differences for a hypothesis vs. a theory vs. a scientific law.

My desire to define science is to establish a baseline of understanding for future discussion around good vs. bad science, what science should or shouldn’t address, etc.

There are numerous elements and terms of science that can cause confusion:  the Scientific Method, Hypothesis, Theory, Law, Certainty, Truth, Falsifiability, etc.  So let’s address each one briefly but in enough detail to serve as a base for future understanding.

 

General Definition of Science

Here is one of the better definitions I found from the University of Georgia, Dept. of Geology:

Science is the concerted human effort to understand, or to understand better, the history of the natural world and how the natural world works, with observable physical evidence as the basis of that understanding. It is done through observation of natural phenomena, and/or through experimentation that tries to simulate natural processes under controlled conditions.

There are a wide variety of definitions for science, but the one above seems to be the most well-rounded.   In reading various definitions there are some common elements among them all:  study and explanation of the natural world; observation; experimentation; empiricism; peer-review; publication in scientific journals; revisions due to new evidence; etc.

 

Types (or Branches) of Science

Scientific disciplines can be grouped together as follows – Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Formal Sciences, and although not technically “science” most people see the results of it in our lives via Applied Sciences.  (source)

  • Natural sciences – The study of the material universe and natural phenomena. This category is empirical, meaning it’s based on observation and allows testing for validity.  Some fields included are:
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Oceanography
    • Geology
    • Astronomy
    • Biology
    • Zoology
    • Botany
  • Social sciences – The study of people and societies.  It is also empirical and includes:
    • Anthropology
    • Archaeology
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Theology
    • Linguistics
    • Geography
    • History
  • Formal sciences – The study of mathematics and logic. It doesn’t depend on empirical observations and includes:
    • Logic
    • Mathematics
    • Systems Theory
    • Decision Theory
    • Statistics
  • Applied sciences – Technically not science but instead uses the results of science.  It includes:
    • Engineering
    • Medicine
    • Computer Science
    • Applied Mathematics
    • Applied Physics

 

Empirical

Based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.  (source)

 

The Scientific Method

A method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.  (source)

or

Principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.  (source)

There seems to be much debate about the Scientific Method and it’s use/variation across all sciences.  I’ll probably address those in a future article, but in the meantime here’s a list that shows the normally accepted steps as taught to most students.  (source)

  1. Observe – Make observations
  2. Question – Ask a question or identify a problem
  3. Research – Search for existing answers or solutions
  4. Hypothesize – Formulate a hypothesis
  5. Experiment – Design and perform an experiment
  6. Test Hypothesis – Accept or reject hypothesis
  7. Draw Conclusions – Make conclusions based on the hypothesis
  8. Report – Share your results

 

 

Scientific fact

In the most basic sense, a scientific fact is an objective and verifiable observation, in contrast with a hypothesis or theory, which is intended to explain or interpret facts.   (source)

 

Hypothesis

A hypothesis is a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.   (source)

A testable proposition explaining the occurrence of a phenomenon or phenomena, often asserted as a conjecture to guide further investigation. Your prediction is a hypothesis.   (source)

For a hypothesis to be termed a scientific hypothesis, it has to be something that can be supported or refuted through carefully crafted experimentation or observation.  (source)

 

Theory

A coherent set of propositions that explain a class of phenomena, that are supported by extensive factual evidence, and that may be used for prediction of future observations. Theories draw on a huge number of facts.   (source)

A scientific theory is empirical and is always open to falsification if new evidence is presented. That is, no theory is ever considered strictly certain as science accepts the concept of fallibilism.”  “Theories vary in the extent to which they have been tested and verified, as well as their acceptance in the scientific community.  (source)

For a hypothesis to become a theory, rigorous testing must occur, typically across multiple disciplines by separate groups of scientists. . . .  In science a theory is the framework for observations and facts. . . . A scientific hypothesis is the initial building block in the scientific method. Many describe it as an “educated guess,” based on prior knowledge and observation. While this is true, the definition can be expanded. A hypothesis also includes an explanation of why the guess may be correct.   (source)

 

Scientific Law

A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspects of the universe. A scientific law always applies under the same conditions, and implies that there is a causal relationship involving its elements.  (source)

Natural law – a term rarely used today. Nineteenth-century science presumed that it could arrive at immutable, absolutely true, universal statements about nature, and these were to be “natural laws.” These should be treated as theories rather than absolute law.  (source)

Laws are generally considered to be without exception, though some laws have been modified over time after further testing found discrepancies.  (source)

 

Is Science about Absolute Truth?

The University of Georgia site has several notable statements about scientific truth and certainty:

Science does not presently, and probably never can, give statements of absolute eternal truth – it only provides theories. We know that those theories will probably be refined in the future, and some of them may even be discarded in favor of theories that make more sense in light of data generated by future scientists. However, our present theories are our best available explanations of the world. (source)

Science isn’t Truth and it isn’t certainty.  Some people assume that scientists have generated a body of knowledge that is sure to be true. Some ideas, after all, are known with enough certainty that most of us take them for granted.  However, no human has observed the solar system and seen the earth traveling in an orbit around the sun. And most scientists will concede that, although they seek Truth, they don’t know or generate Truth. They propose and test theories, knowing that future evidence may cause refinement, revision, or even rejection of today’s theories.  (source)

Ask a scientist about an issue that’s not directly observable: “The evidence suggests that . . .”, or “Our current understanding is . . .”.  This shows a reasoned recognition that we can’t know many things with absolute certainty – we only know the observable evidence. However, we can reach the best possible conclusions based on the most complete and modern evidence available.   (source)

Scientists should not make any statement about absolute truth. No scientist thinking about what he or she is saying will answer with that degree of certainty, regardless of the evidence available to them, nor will they lay that kind of claim to Truth. They may have a high level of confidence if there’s abundant evidence, but they won’t claim absolute Truth or absolute certainty.   (source)

It’s worth remembering that a person’s admission of uncertainty doesn’t mean they’re wrong, whether the issue is in politics, economics, religion or science. In fact, a person who admits some uncertainty in their thinking is often closer to the truth, or at least understands the issues better, than someone who claims absolute certainty. Shouting loudest does not generate truth.   (source)

Some other applicable entries from the University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley:

The knowledge that is built by science is always open to question and revision. No scientific idea is ever once-and-for-all “proved.” Why not? Science is constantly seeking new evidence, which could reveal problems with our current understandings. Ideas that we fully accept today may be rejected or modified in light of new evidence discovered tomorrow.  (source)

… coming up with a fruitful idea to explain a previously anomalous observation frequently leads to new expectations and areas of research. So, in a sense, the more we know, the more we know what we don’t yet know. As our knowledge expands, so too does our awareness of what we don’t yet understand.  (source)

 

Falsifiability

Falsifiability or refutability of a statement, hypothesis, or theory is the inherent possibility that it can be proven false. A statement is called falsifiable if it is possible to conceive of an observation or an argument which negates the statement in question. In this sense, falsify is synonymous with nullify, meaning to invalidate or “show to be false. (source)

It’s thought that one of the parameters of the Scientific Method should include an attempt at falsifiability.

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.  – Albert Einstein [reportedly . . . and paraphrased]  (source)

 

Peer Review

Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people of similar competence to the producers of the work (peers). It constitutes a form of self-regulation by qualified members of a profession within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards of quality, improve performance, and provide credibility. In academia, scholarly peer review is often used to determine an academic paper’s suitability for publication.  (source)

Science isn’t considered as part of the “body of knowledge” until a peer review is conducted and a paper published in a scientific journal.

 

Limits of Science

Science isn’t technology.  Science doesn’t make things.  Scientists are in the business of generating knowledge. Engineers are in the business of generating technology. Science often leads to technology, and it often uses technology, but it isn’t technology and in fact can operate quite independently of technology.  (source)

Science can only answer in terms of natural phenomena and natural processes.  Science doesn’t make moral judgments. Science doesn’t make aesthetic judgments.  Science doesn’t tell you how to use scientific knowledge. Science doesn’t draw conclusions about supernatural explanations.  (source)

 

Funding

I think it’s also important to understand:

Research is funded through a competitive process run by government, corporations or foundations.  . . .  Government provides the bulk of the funds for basic scientific research.  (source)

As much as we might want to envision science as an entirely noble pursuit of pure knowledge, there are numerous political and human aspects that must be considered in the process – including the source of money that employs the scientific community’s specific areas of research, study and experimentation.  Scientists aren’t paid to pursue their ultimate desires unless/if they are funded to do so.

 

Wonder and Awe!

How incredible that in the 500+ years of science (200+ years of systematized methodology) that we’ve derived an incredible number of exciting theories to define nature and the universe we live in!  The discoveries made help man to move from ignorant darkness to the light of knowledge.  We live in an exciting time with much knowledge refinement left to discover.

 

Summary

Some nice quotes of relevance for this and future discussions:

“The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forests of ignorance that surrounds us. In the process, the clearing that we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view . . .  A true scientist is bored by knowledge; it is the assault on ignorance that motivates him – the mysteries that previous discoveries have revealed. The forest is more interesting than the clearing.” – Matt Ridley  (source)

“Science alone of all subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceding generation . . . As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” – Richard Feynman  (source)

“I think that we shall have to get accustomed to the idea that we must not look upon science as a “body of knowledge,” but rather as a system of hypotheses, or as a system of guesses or anticipations that in principle cannot be justified, but with which we work as long as they stand up to tests, and of which we are never justified in saying that we know they are “true”… – Karl R. Popper  (source)

“Scientific knowledge “consists in the search for truth,” but it is not the search for certainty . . . All human knowledge is fallible and therefore uncertain.” – Karl Popper  (source)

“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” – Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, Book 1, v, 8  (source)

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

Helical Solar System Motion Through the Galaxy: Heretical Revelation or Well-known Fact? – Part 2

Part 1 can be found here

Summary of Part 1

So . . . . in a similar manner to my experience, we have someone (DjSadhu) discover a fact that:

  1. was never before shared with him in any form (school, documentaries, books, web sites, etc.), and
  2. was a revolutionary idea totally different from what he did learn, so he had to share his “aha” moment with others.

Unlike me (no video animation expertise) DjSadhu produces a slick video to show this newfound perspective, since he can’t find anything like it elsewhere.

What’s the response from the “interwebs”?    🙂

 

Critic – Phil Plait

As previously mentioned in Part 1, Mr. Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy) sets out to somewhat diplomatically criticize DjSadhu’s “aha moment” video. Short of an actual diagram or video Phil does do a nice job describing the motion via a text-only approach:

“It’s a bit like walking down a path while spinning around your head a string with a ball attached at the end (and the circle it makes tipped by 60°). Sometimes the ball is ahead of you and sometimes behind you. It always moves with you down the path no matter how fast you go, and relative to you is always moving at the same speed. If you trace your own motion you make a line, and the ball makes a tilted helix.”

Reader’s comments, including those requesting he produce his own video or work with DjSadhu to correct the errors and produce an accurate video fall on deaf ears and are never addressed.  Mr. Plait cannot reference a source for a correct video from valid science, and doesn’t even care to address the lack thereof.

 

Critic – Jim Smith

A rather prolific YouTuber JimSmithInChiapas posted numerous videos attacking DjSadhu and anyone attempting to defend his vortex/spiral orbital path video.  I can’t find Mr. Smith’s credentials anywhere but he was apparently offended and obsessed to the point that he created no less than five videos to counter DjSadhu’s videos and claims.  They can be seen here, here, here, here and here.

He cares not that a layman produced these heretic videos. From his perspective it appears anyone who attempts to share revelatory knowledge of any sort better damn well have their scientific facts precisely aligned with orthodoxy – or else!  Mr Smith, like Mr. Plait, points out valid errors, but he also appears to have a HUGE chip on his shoulder.  He uses ad-homimen, derogatory remarks towards his perceived ‘nemesis’ who is sharing (heaven-forbid) an unscientific “aha” moment with the world.  Mr. Smith goes so far as to call DjSadhu a “liar,” “defamer,” “fraud” throughout the comments on his videos.

See below for an exhaustive list of source references from Mr. Smith that supposedly validate his claim that science has written of this motion for years prior to DjSadhu.  Surprise; they didn’t.

 

Supporter – Ché Pasa

A sympathetic blogger, Ché Pasa, wrote an article in support of DjSadhu’s videos and critical of the denigration in the response from the scientific community.  He at least sees the videographer’s intent is to share that a flat 0o dinner-plate-model is not an accurate representation of solar system movement.  (As the article states, DjSadhu calls this the heliocentric model – which it is, but inaccurately declares it wrong, when what he really means is that the concept of the flat dinner plate model moving horizontally is wrong with regards to the solar system’s motion through space.)

Within the article, I found this particular quote resonating with the behavior I’ve seen from various enlightened “scientists” and “skeptics” across the web:

“This tendency for scientists to become overwrought when their supposed fundamental beliefs are challenged, especially by untrained and probably unwashed people outside the field, has long been one of the least appealing behaviors of those in scientific practice. It suggests a violent streak on the one hand, and very tightly closed minds on the other, both of which, unfortunately, strongly resemble the mindsets of deeply religious and even cultic Believers.”

Mr. Smith also chimes in with several comments below the article using his orthodox bludgeoning technique, which is so embracing and helpful.

 

Critic/Instructor – Rhys Taylor

Here we have the rare individual who is both a scientist, critic and yet not above being an educator/instructor.  Mr. Smith and Mr. Plait could learn much from Mr. Taylor (post-doctorate in astrophysics).

Mr. Taylor wrote a few articles here, here and here.  What sets him off from Mr. Plait and Mr. Smith is two-fold:

  1. He understands that DjSadhu’s first couple of videos have scientific errors, yet the basic premise of the solar system moving through space in a helical motion is for the most part correct.
  2. He takes a constructive win-win approach and works in a positive manner with DjSadhu to fix the errors in an attempt to produce a more accurate video than the original two.

The result?  A third video by DjSadhu that according to Mr. Taylor is “a million times better and has correct physics.”  Mr. Sadhu’s associated blog post to accompany that video is here.  Here’s that video:

Mr. Taylor actually carried on a critical yet positive conversation with Mr. Sadhu – the ultimate intent towards a more accurate model.  He even developed his own version of the helical motion to show DjSadhu the correct motion and inclination which can be viewed here.

All-in-all it seems that both parties had differences, but worked toward a better solution – using Mr. Sadhu’s video talents and Mr. Taylor’s knowledge and expertise to resolve the scientific errors of a layman, thereby producing something valid and usable to all of us.

“People, this should be seen as a win-win scenario. The essence of Sadhu’s original video was correct, and he’s publically declaring skepticism for the second one. His new effort has none of the quackery associated with the first. To me, that seems like the best of all possible outcomes. Demonising your opponents is no way to win them over – and sometimes, it turns out they were saying something valuable all along.”  – Rhys Taylor

 

Pre-DjSadhu sources???

As shared by myself and Mr. Sadhu in his posts, it was very difficult to find any existing references to this helical motion model of the solar system. Even Mr. Taylor humbly admits there wasn’t anything like these videos in the public domain to describe this motion:

“I can see his point. [no previous standard model video]  There certainly wasn’t a standard-model video out there – at least, certainly not one that’s anything like as pretty or as popular. It would definitely seem very unfair to debunk the person who made such a successful video demonstrating (pretty much for the first time) the motion of the Solar System through space.”

Mr. Smith is adamant that this just isn’t so.  In one of his video descriptions linked above (and again here), he does us a nice service by listing no less than eighteen (18) sources he claims shows this solar system motion was already well known and understood before Mr. Sadhu’s videos.  Excellent!  Did they indeed demonstrate this?  Let’s have a look . . . .

[Links shown in the image below are non-functional. See the links listed in Mr. Smith’s video description at the link above.]

Pre DjSadhu Sources - AnalysisI thoroughly examined each of Mr. Smith’s sources and noted (as shown in the table above) several attributes and whether they were (or weren’t) mentioned or shown within the reference.

Did these sources specifically mention that the sun moves in the galaxy?

  • Yes, 17 out of 18 sources did so.

Perfect.  This is basic and step #1.

 

Did these sources specifically mention or show the helical motion of the solar system as the sun moves through the galaxy?

  • Only 2 out of 18 sources did so.

Fail. Recall . . . this is the very point DjSadhu made about not being able to find the helical model shared anywhere prior to creating his first video.  This is also the crux of the issue – – wherein astronomers and physicists claim this helical motion is well-known and self-evident.

 

Did these sources describe the plane of the solar system as 60o orientation to the galactic plane?

  • Zero (0) out of 18 sources describe the solar system plane at 60o to the galactic plane
  • One (1) out of 18 sources describe the solar system plane at 0o to the galactic plane
  • Two (2) out of 18 sources describe the solar system plane at 90o to the galactic plane

Fail.  Recall . . .  this angular plane was one of the grave errors made by DjSadhu when he showed it at 90o to the galactic plane – that it should be 60o.  Mr. Plait and Mr. Smith hammered Mr. Sadhu for this error.  Yet none of Mr. Smith’s references describe or show it as they claim it is.  In fact….2 of 18 specifically share that it’s 90o!

And probably the greatest irony of all, source #1 from Harvard actually explains a visualization of the very “dinner plate”, 0o rotation and movement that Mr. Sadhu argues is an incomplete picture the general public has – and here we have it described thus by Harvard scientists!  Quoted from the 9th paragraph in the paper:

“‘A graphic though crude and imperfect illustration of the character of the motions we have been describing is afforded by imagining a child seated on a whirling chair on a merry-go-round mounted on a flat car traveling along a straight railroad track.”

Flat rotation, within flat rotation, on flat forward movement.

It’s overtly disingenuous that Mr. Smith arrogantly claims his 18 sources plainly describe helical solar system motion within the galaxy – when in fact they don’t.  He probably assumes his readers won’t bother investigating, or he didn’t bother doing so to a sufficient degree himself.

 

Other sources I found:  pre- and post-DjSadhu

Mr. Smith’s sources fell flat on their face.  What else can I find – helical or flat?

This article has one diagram showing the sun and earth moving forward into the interstellar wind and showing a “helium focusing cone” trailing. (Gee, this seems a lot like the sun leaving a tail as it moves.  Mr. Sahdu was ridiculed for even suggesting an identical idea.)

The Earth’s orbit appears to be 90o perpendicular to the motion of the sun, but not specifically stated.

An example of the image can be seen here.

 

I already mentioned this in Part 1 and shared their diagram showing the solar system plane at what appears to be 60o to the galactic plane.

 

Three diagrams are shown; all three displaying and describing the solar system plane at 90o to the galaxy. They can be viewed here, here and here.

 

  • 2009, Your Handle on the Night Sky (website) by Daniel Pope, August 16, 2009

I printed this article and saved its images about 2011 when I was trying to learn about celestial coordinates.  It’s no longer accessible on the web and I cannot locate any archives containing it.  A significant quote from astronomer Daniel Pope in this article:

“I can still recall how completely surprised I was when I first became aware that I could see this orientation in our night sky.  I had barely recovered from that surprise when I was hit with a second.  Our Solar System lies within the main disk of our Milky Way galaxy but is not in a parallel orientation to the main disk of stars.  The plane of our Solar System, the Ecliptic, intersects the plane of the main disk of our home galaxy at about a 60-degree angle.  I realized that my intuition had led me to think that the plane of our Solar System would lie within and be “parallel” to the plane of the Milky Way disk.”    [emphasis mine]

droppedimage_2Here we have an astronomer who has sufficient knowledge to write a weekly syndicated astronomy newspaper column for years and a book on the subject, yet was admittedly surprised by this revelation.

 

Earth’s orbital plane is shown at between perhaps 60o and 90o to the galactic plane. The diagram can be viewed here.

 

This is particularly interesting in that it comes from NASA.  Look at the image below from the article.  It shows the solar system as flat as it moves forward into the interstellar wind, 0o orientation.  Mr. Plait and Mr. Smith may want to berate NASA for their incompetence in showing a relationship that is a grave error – and self-evident to all scientists.

It’s very faint and difficult to see the plane of the solar system, but if you look at a large version of the image here, you can see that the plane is shown as a flat 0o.

 

[previously at: http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/106571-The-Direction-of-our-Solar-System ]

Shows and describes an angle of around 60o. The original image was created by Grant Hutchison and linked to his page here from the CosmoQuest forum noted above.

 galaxy (2)

 

Interestingly enough this is a scientific article from a space and astronomy website.  Mr. Nerlich specifically refers to the “dinner plate” model but alters it as follows:

“You should always put out the old dinner set when you have astronomers around. . . . My favorite dinner set demonstration is to use the whole table to represent the galactic plane – ideally with an upturned wide rimmed soup bowl in the middle to mimic the galactic hub. Then you get a plate to represent the solar system’s orbital plane and hold it roughly facing the galactic hub, but at a 63 degree angle from the horizontal. We know the equatorial plane of the Milky Way is tilted 63 degrees from the ecliptic – or vice versa since here we are arbitrarily making the galactic plane (table) the horizontal . . . . Now for the Earth. Wine glasses make an excellent Earth model since the stem can represent the Earth’s axis of rotation . . . . So, holding your plate at 63 degrees to the table, now hold the wine glass tilted at 23.5 degrees to the plate. Assuming you left your protractor at home – this will mean the wine glass stem is now almost parallel to the table – since 63 + 23.5 is close to 90 degrees. In other words, the Earth’s axis is almost perpendicular to the galactic axis.”

Fascinating!  He starts with 63o but then ends up at near 90o (actually 86.5o).

 

So what’s right when trying to create a video of this geometric yet dynamic motion?  Some “scientists” say 60o; some say 90o.  Was Mr. Sadhu that far off to begin with?  Even the scientists can’t agree.

 

Closing Thoughts

Did DjSadhu’s early video efforts to show his “aha” revelation contain scientific errors?     Yes

Did the videos share the essence of the spiral, helical motion of the solar system through the galaxy, as best as a layman can show?      Yes

Do most lay-people instinctively perceive the solar system as moving like a flat dinner plate in a circle around a flat dinner table – along the galactic plane at 0o?      I believe so.  The huge public response to his videos, and the fact that scientists at times describe or show it as thus is convincing evidence (reference sources as noted above).

Was the helical model of the solar system motion through the galaxy widely known or self-evident?   Absolutely not.  SO many references above either don’t describe it at all, or when they do, they can’t agree.

Can you blame a layperson with video graphics talent when he wants to share this revelation of motion with the world?  No.

From Mr. Taylor’s productive article and effort, a quote from Mr. Sadhu after his third video attempt:

I’m not after words, but after images. So I left the words out. Vortex/helix, wrong/incomplete, all those terms are vulnerable ingredients in a video, and they are not the point! The point is how people ‘see’ the solar system. Although the helical paths may have been known to astronomers and astrophysicists (and part of the public), what people ‘see’ when they think about the solar system is in my opinion incomplete.”

I wholeheartedly agree.  And the collaboration between Rhys Taylor and DjSadhu is a shining example that smug arrogance should be left at the door when attempting to discover and portray a more accurate picture of reality for all to appreciate and learn!  Bravo.

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

Helical Solar System Motion Through the Galaxy: Heretical Revelation or Well-known Fact? – Part 1

An instinctive visualization?

Based on science classes in school, books we’ve seen, images online, and even TV  documentaries, most of us (laypersons) visualize the Solar System something like this or this.

We are taught the planets circle the sun in elliptical orbits at various distances and speeds, and for the most part the orbits are very nearly in the same flat, geometric plane (Pluto being the obvious exception) .  Through life we end up carrying a visualization in our brain that the whole arrangement is situated in space in a flat orientation, like a dinner plate resting on a table – most likely due to all the images we’ve been exposed to that show it in that manner.

Animations, if you see any, always show the planets circling the sun in a flat plane such as this, this or this.

Even gorgeous orreries have been built for hundreds of years to show all this happening in a flat plane with the sun apparently stationary, such as this one in the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History.

As solid as this visualization exists in our brain, I don’t remember ever seeing anything about the next element of motion – does the solar system as a whole move in some way?  If so, in what way and in which direction?

We’re told our sun resides in what is known as the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy.  I assumed we must move as the galaxy arm spirals and drags us around.  I just never had a reason to research the specific details further.

I took up amateur astronomy shortly after the Hale-Bopp comet appearance in 1997.  I bought a 6″ Dobsonian telescope, learned the night sky, and subscribed to Sky & Telescope magazine.  I didn’t give much thought to the questions above as I cruised along using star charts to locate and view my various astronomical targets of planets, star clusters, nebula and galaxies.  I still (as wrong as it may have been) had an instinctive visualization of our solar system orientation as flat dinner plate moving along as the galaxy rotated – meaning: all in the same relative geometric plane (our solar system oriented at 0o to the plane of the galaxy).

What?!?

About three years ago (c. 2013) someone shared a video showing Nassim Haramein describing a different way to view the planets orbiting the sun as it moves through the galaxy.  It looked something like this:

See also his related video here. He describes how the solar system (the sun and all its orbiting planets) move through the galaxy in a helical motion.

(Yes, I know Nassim Haramein is not a respected mainstream scientist. But here’s the bottom line: he showed me something orthodox science never showed me, which triggered my brain into “oh-wow” overdrive.)

I was taken aback – – – surely that couldn’t be right!  But then, I thought about how we see the Milky Way in the sky and it’s tilted 60o to the ecliptic:

droppedimage_2(source: Your Handle on the Night Sky (website) by Daniel Pope, August 16, 2009 [web page no longer available])

Then, and only then, did I realize the concept he proposed was indeed correct (or at least above and beyond what I instinctively visualized).  If the solar system’s orbital plane was flat (0o) in the galactic plane, the Milky Way we see in the sky would not be at an angle; it would be horizontal to the Earth’s orbit – which it isn’t. Holy cow!  This was a sudden revelation to me!

My initial thoughts at the time:

  • Certainly Mr. Haramein can’t be the first person to notice and share this concept, right?
  • If not, why is it I never saw this before his video?  He’s an outsider in terms of mainstream science – so how could this be?
  • I’ve always been a lover of science and astronomy, so why didn’t I already know this?
  • I should be able to find other, more standard, sources displaying the same concept if I search the internet and science/astronomy books, right?
  • I’ll dig and research to confirm this is already a well-known concept and I’m sure I’ll find out it’s simply something I wasn’t heretofore exposed to (or recall).

This should be fun.  Little did I know.  🙂

The Search

So . . . . I did some digging; as much as I could do without yet visiting the local university library (soon to come).  Google is extremely helpful in an initial query to find a LOT of valid information.
Searching all content, images, and videos, page after page after page, I barely found a thing!  What the hell?!?
I did find one diagram from The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada which shows the orientation at what appears to be 60o to the galactic plane.  This was helpful and exciting!  View their diagram here.  And their nice animation here.

The Shit Storm

I found another source:  a link to Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomy” page criticizing someone else’s efforts to share the same concept.  That person, DjSadhu (who’s a DJ, not a scientist), had his own “aha moment” and was inspired enough to create his own 3-D animation videos.
Unfortunately DjSadhu’s “aha” inspiration was from a very non-scientific paper by an apparent unorthodox, non-mainstream academic named Dr. Pallathadka Keshava Bhat. However unorthodox the source, DjSadhu’s exposure to this concept made him realize his instinctive visualization of the solar system as a flat plane (dinner plate model) moving horizontal with the galactic plane was incorrect.
Like me, he also couldn’t find any related information online so he created his own animation videos to share with those willing to see and hear his newfound revelation. These can be seen in two different videos (here and here) and their associated blog posts (here and here).  Make sure you read the entertaining comments on the posts.  🙂
Unfortunately. . . . because his revelation was based on the unscientific ideas of Mr. Bhat, DjSadhu reaped a monstrous amount of criticism from the staid-and-true scientific community as well as their dedicated protectors, the skeptics, who pointed out numerous errancies with his representations.
He finally admitted to the various scientific errors in his first two videos, which included:
  • The planets are in the wrong order
  • It’s a helix, not a vortex
  • The sun is not like a comet and doesn’t have a tail
  • The heliocentric model is not “wrong”
  • The sun does not lead the planets
  • The angle with the Galactic plane is 60o not 90o
If you read all his posts and follow-up comments, DjSadhu’s overall intent was not the specific details of the science itself – – – his only reason for doing this was to share a revelation with others about the overall motion of the solar system orbital movement as it travels through the galaxy – the overarching concept of a corkscrew spiral. He more or less took an approach of, “Hey, look what I just found out!
Based on the comments to his blog posts, Reddit, Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomy” article, and other misc posts, he hit a home run with the general public.  His videos went viral and laypersons shared the fact they had no idea this is how it worked – it wasn’t what they understood. The only people who claimed to hold this helical orbital travel concept as a de facto, well-known, fact were scientists – astrophysicists and astronomers.  I have yet to read a comment from someone who is a layperson that claims to know this as self-evident.
Much to the chagrin of academia, it took a disc jockey (DJ) to illuminate the general populace to the revelatory nature of the solar system’s helical orbit around the galaxy. If this is so obvious to orthodox academia, why didn’t they proactively produce and share a similar educational tool for the general public?  Why are they surprised this is such a revelation to laypersons?

What Actually is Known and not Known?

In Part 2 I’ll share sources of both critical and supporting articles, an analysis of claims that this knowledge was shared long before Mr. Haramein or Mr. Sadhu shared their findings, as well as incorrect diagrams from science sources who are supposed to inherently know this as self-evident (including NASA).
As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.