Scientific “Correctness” vs. Scientific Progress

I came across the following brief 8-minute video and accompanying article shortly after my last post on Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  The writer does a very good job of eloquently explaining how scientific “correctness” impedes scientific progress, thereby dovetailing and supporting the very behaviors (and dangers/risks) that are outlined in Kuhn’s book.

In this context “scientific correctness” refers to the scientific establishment’s adherence to the dominant paradigms at the exclusion of all other competing paradigms (and refusal to even consider other possibilities).

The Video

The comments below the video on its YouTube page are entertaining as well.   🙂

 

The Article

Article by Mel Acheson that served as the video’s original source and transcript:

Scientific Correctness

 

Much the same as outlined by Kuhn, Acheson identifies the properties of a paradigm.  The paradigm’s framework serves to guide the paradigm’s inquiries as well as set its limits. This can be viewed both from a positive and negative aspect.

A paradigm . . .

  • defines what a scientist will look for and where to look for it;
  • sets a standard for what is acceptable with regards to the worthiness of a research topic or problem;
  • and defines what is acceptable as a solution to the problem.

“One of a paradigm’s greatest benefits is also one of its greatest liabilities: It provides guidelines (or excuses) for what to ignore.”   – Mel Acheson

Scientific “correctness” assumes its paradigm is the correct and best picture of the truth, only needing minor tweaking to stand the test of time. It is more akin to an “establishment of a catechism.” This assumption “becomes absolute and straightjackets further discovery. It leads to stasis and intellectual death.”

Acheson mentions the case of Halton Arp and his red-shift/quasar evidence that opposes the existing expanding universe (big-bang) paradigm:

“A recent example of [scientific correctness] is the behavior of the astronomical establishment toward Halton Arp. His observations of connections between quasars and galaxies put the brakes on the expanding universe and exploded the Big Bang hypothesis. But instead of saying, “Here’s an interesting observation; we don’t have time for it, but let’s see what he can make of it,” the reaction was, “Deny him telescope time and refuse to publish his findings and crop out quasars on photos of galaxies.”

Not a very scientific response.

 

Domain of Validity

Acheson shares a fascinating concept he calls “domain of validity.

As opposed to scientific correctness, domain of validity describes a process where scientists assume and expect their favored paradigm has its limits; that observational anomalies will overflow the paradigm’s ability to fully explain nature. Humility is needed to allow a paradigm to bring in its own replacement.  Science can become a toolbox of many paradigms that can be used for whatever specific application and problems they’re best suited.

Now that sounds like good science!

 

Pertinent Quotes

All, of course, by the author Mel Acheson . . . .

“The history of science provides many examples of a new discipline making little progress, squabbling over fundamentals, until a paradigm is adopted. But at the other end, when a paradigm is becoming obsolete, the ignoring of alternatives results in “paradigm paralysis” that wastes time and resources trying to force-fit big anomalies into the undersized clothes of the established paradigm.”

“Scientific correctness – The (proper) concern that a theory is “correct” or “right” or “true”, that it “fits” or explains the relevant data, becomes confused with a pseudo-religious “Right” or True” that exceeds the cognitive domain of the paradigm. All other ideas come to be judged by the standards of the one. “Crackpot” becomes a term of dismissal rather than one of mere differentiation. The process of discovery gets lost in defensiveness.”

“Scientific correctness masquerades in the dress of science, but it’s only a mannequin without the vitality of science. In contrast with the three aspects of cognition, scientific correctness refuses to look at new observations, refrains from considering new ideas, and disdains to verify new insights. It’s essentially anti-intelligent. It confuses verification with conformity; it replaces the innovations of intelligence with the parroting of dogma; it lacks the provisionality that keeps science always on the move. It’s a tyrant of stasis.”

 

Keep questioning & searching!

 

 

 

 

 

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Thomas Kuhn (Science Doesn’t Work The Way You Think It Does)

How does the general public think Science operates? How is it performed? How does it progress? How do working scientists assist and enable progression into revised and new theories over time?

 

The Misconception

Most laity and fans of science typically think of science this way:

  • It’s an objective search for truth and reality of all things in nature and the universe.
  • It adheres strictly to the Scientific Method and yields results leading to welcomed changes, improvements and refinements in the field of study.
  • Science progresses one new discovery after another in a smooth, continuous, linear and cumulative effort; an ever-increasing body of knowledge over time.
  • Scientists willingly look for new discoveries and readily adapt their field of study by revising their theories and adopting new ones that better reflect an accurate representation of nature and reality as they are discovered. Scientists follow the evidence wherever it may lead.
  • This progression is a peaceful process where the ideal values of science easily convince scientists that old theories need to be replaced by new and better theories that improve the field.

We picture scientists constantly searching for truth and reality through experiment and observation.  We assume their theories transform from one version to another very naturally as new empirical data and discoveries overturn or modify prior theories and beliefs.

Empiricism rules the day and leads to a more accurate picture and representation of nature and reality.  Science dominates our discovery and enlightenment!

<sigh>

Such a naive, inaccurate view.  If it only really worked that way.

 

The Reality

Enter Science Historians & Philosophers – specifically Thomas S. Kuhn. Science historians research and identify how science really operates and progresses over time. They look beyond the sugar-coated, oversimplified image presented to everyone – scientist and laity both.

In 1962 Mr. Kuhn published his seminal work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It shook the scientific community because it cracked open that naively-construed exterior of smooth, brick-upon-brick, linear and cumulative scientific progress that everyone just assumed to be true. What follows is a summary of Kuhn’s findings and concepts, as well as my thoughts on his findings.

It turns out that rather than a steady, cumulative, peaceful path to current understanding, the true path is littered with example after example of paradigms being steadfastly and pigheadedly fought, supported and defended – even in the face of profound, objective proof and evidence of a better alternative paradigm – only to eventually be usurped by that superior/alternative paradigm.  This process sometimes left some senior scientists of a ‘traditional’ paradigm out in the cold as they refuse to accept the new paradigm that changed their scientific frontier in a revolutionary way.

This convoluted process can take from decades to over 100 years before real scientific progress is made in a given field.

 

Paradigms

The origins of the word “paradigm” have been around since the Greeks/Romans and is defined as representing a pattern, model or example.  But it wasn’t until Kuhn’s work that the word became grounded in its contemporary definition.

According to Kuhn, a paradigm is a framework – the framework of acceptable concepts, theories, assumptions, vocabulary, methods, equations, experiments, methods, skills, standards, data capture and analysis – all used by a community of scientists while operating within an accepted, prevailing, controlled orthodoxy. Simply . . . .it’s the rigid, dominating world-view currently in control.

Kuhn states that a paradigm drives what he calls “normal science.”  It’s adopted, shared and guarded by a mature scientific community. And interestingly enough, because of the framework noted above, a paradigm drives interpretation.

“A paradigm is prerequisite to perception itself. What a man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conceptual experience has taught him to see.”   – Thomas Kuhn

So, how does science actually work and progress?

  • Science is a subjective search for data and results that will confirm the prevailing orthodox paradigm.
  • Most science is “Normal Science” – aka Paradigm science.
  • It uses only standards, expectations, assumptions and laboratory equipment designed to confirm the prevailing orthodox paradigm.
  • Results are typically known in advance – based on the methods, standards and expectations of the prevailing paradigm.
  • Normal science is not looking for novelty, new discoveries, anomalies, or any other revelations that could rock the foundations of that prevailing paradigm and lead to a more accurate picture of reality.
  • When experimental and observational anomalies do arise that could lead to new discovery they are typically not noticed, ignored, or at some point intentionally suppressed.
  • When those anomalies become so numerous and tenacious that they can’t be ignored, ad-hoc adjustments are made to the prevailing paradigm in attempts to allow the new anomalous data to be accounted for.
  • When that fails, some scientists make new discoveries and adopt a new paradigm – but not without great resistance and battle from those holding tight to the reigns of the controlling power of the prevailing paradigm.
  • Science progresses with extreme difficulty from one paradigm to another, sometimes waiting 50 to 100 years for the resisting guardians of the prevailing paradigm to die off and allow newer practitioners to pursue the new paradigm.
  • This process is really never peaceful.

“Mopping-up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal science. . . . that enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others. Instead, normal-scientific research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the paradigm already supplies.”   – Thomas Kuhn

This isn’t what you expected is it?

Read on . . .

 

What is a Scientific Revolution and what causes it?

According to Kuhn science progresses through the following stages:

  1. Pre-paradigm science
  2. Normal science (paradigm science)
  3. Crisis
  4. Revolutionary science (paradigm shift)
  5. Post-revolution

Let’s take a look at what these stages mean:

Pre-paradigm science is what occurs prior to science adopting it’s first acceptable paradigm – or, alternately, where it find itself after a state of Crisis and searching/experimenting for new solutions to unsolved problems the existing paradigm can’t fully resolve.  It’s a flurry of various undirected hypotheses and experiments in an attempt to find a path to an acceptable theory or set of theories (a new paradigm).

Normal science is conducted once a paradigm has been accepted by the majority of a scientific community in a field of study.  It’s “established” and becomes the “mature” science and is where all scientific work is funded and directed.  All future work is conducted within the parameters and expectations of the prevailing orthodox paradigm.

But at some point during normal science, the framework (equipment, experimentation, observation, data gathering) suddenly produces output that doesn’t fit the existing paradigm.  Those unexpected results are referred to as an anomaly. Anomalies “violate deeply entrenched expectations.”  When not ignored, anomalies are an awareness that something is wrong with the current paradigm.

Those practicing normal (paradigm) science are not equipped educationally or perceptually to deal with the anomalies. So, how does the paradigmatic scientific community deal with anomalies?  Resistance.

“Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none. . . . .Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly, i.e., with recognition that nature has somehow violated the paradigm-induced expectations that govern normal science”  – Thomas Kuhn

Anomalies refuse “to be assimilated to existing paradigms.”

“Its defenders [the paradigm] will do what we have already seen scientists doing when confronted by an anomaly. They will devise numerous articulations and ad hoc modifications of their theory in order to eliminate any apparent conflict.” – Thomas Kuhn

Crisis is what occurs once a set of anomalies becomes too great to ignore, and some scientists start questioning the prevailing paradigm and begin searching for other answers. These scientists are typically young and have not yet totally invested themselves entirely in the prevailing orthodox paradigm. In fact, periodically, some even come from outside the field of the orthodox paradigm. The ad hoc adjustments made to the existing paradigm are not enough to account for the anomalous data.

“In so far as he [the scientist] is engaged in normal science, the research worker is a solver of puzzles, not a tester of paradigms. . . . . Unanticipated novelty, the new discovery, can only emerge to the extent that his anticipations about nature and his instruments prove wrong.” – Thomas Kuhn

Crisis leads to new discoveries via the next step, Revolutionary Science.

Revolutionary science comes about when one or more of those questioning scientists actually has an epiphany (what Kuhn calls a “gestalt switch” or “paradigm shift”). They suddenly experience the “scales falling from their eyes” or a “lightning flash” and they see a whole new paradigm/reality.

They perform experiments, share data, argue with the protectors of the prevailing paradigm. Over time other scientists also start experiencing the “gestalt switch” and fall into the camp of the revolutionaries. Kuhn notes that this gestalt switch does NOT typically occur based on logic, reason and empirical evidence (as you would expect a scientist to adhere to and respect). It comes suddenly and sometimes in one’s sleep.

Ultimately, the change from one paradigm to another is scientific revolution. As previously mentioned above, it’s almost always someone young and not yet totally immersed and invested in the existing paradigm (or periodically it’s someone outside the specialization of the prevailing paradigm).

“Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change. This generalization about the role of youth in fundamental scientific research is so common as to be cliche. Furthermore, a glance at almost any list of fundamental contributions to scientific theory will provide impressionistic confirmation.” – Thomas Kuhn

The interesting thing about paradigm change in science is that most often the scientists are dealing with the same set of data – it’s just that some of them suddenly “pick up the other end of the stick” – being able to see a new way of relating the data in a different framework.

“Rather than being an interpreter, the scientist who embraces a new paradigm is like the man wearing inverting lenses. Confronting the same constellation of objects as before and knowing that he does so, he nevertheless finds them transformed through and through in many of their details. . . . The scientist after a revolution is still looking at the same world.” – Thomas Kuhn

Post-revolution science occurs once a new paradigm-shifting theory becomes accepted by a vast majority of the scientific community. At this point the revolutionary science (new paradigm) becomes itself the prevailing paradigm –  a new “first principle.” Sometimes the older protectors of the prior paradigm never adopt to the new/accepted paradigm – so, after a time, they are simply “written out” or die off.

 

Advantage of Normal Science

There are advantages of Normal (Paradigm) Science.  It allows a group of practitioners to study a small range of problems in a level of “detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable.”  It leads to an extremely high level of precision in terms of the affirmation of the details of the prevailing paradigm.

Normal Science = articulation of the prevailing paradigm to a great depth

But, at what cost?

 

Why Don’t we Hear About Scientific Revolutions?

The overlapping reasons Scientific Revolutions are invisible include Education, Textbooks, Community/Authority:

Education

From an education perspective, students of science are not taught the history of their field.  There’s no reading of the “classics” as it exists in almost all other college education (music, art, literature, history, philosophy, social sciences, etc.). Students of science are given a thorough summary of all accepted paradigm beliefs, standards and expectations.  Their brains are pummeled into “understanding” that what they are taught is the ultimate truth for this field of study.

“Of course, it is a narrow and rigid education, probably more so than any other except perhaps in orthodox theology.” – Thomas Kuhn [emphasis mine]

Textbooks

What is the primary driving factor in scientific education?  Textbooks.

Kuhn refers to the use of textbook education as “initiation.”  Science students have no alternative. Textbooks “expound the body of accepted theory.” They are written so it appears that science progresses smoothly and progressively without conflict. They control how science is perceived and how it is understood to progress. Kuhn says that textbooks are “pedagogic vehicles for the perpetuation of normal [paradigm] science.”

“Textbooks thus begin by truncating the scientist’s sense of his discipline’s history and then proceed to supply a substitute for what they have eliminated. Characteristically, textbooks of science contain just a bit of history, either in an introductory chapter or, more often, in scattered references to the great heroes of an earlier age. From such references both students and professionals come to feel like participants in a long-standing historical tradition. Yet the textbook-derived tradition in which scientists come to sense their participation is one that, in fact, never existed. For reasons that are both obvious and highly functional, science textbooks (and too many of the older histories of science) refer only to that part of the work of past scientists that can easily be viewed as contributions to the statement and solution of the text’s paradigm problems. Partly by selection and partly by distortion, the scientists of earlier ages are implicitly represented as having worked upon the same set of fixed problems and in accordance with the same set of fixed canons that the most recent revolution in scientific theory and method has made seem scientific. No wonder that textbooks and historical tradition they imply have to be rewritten after each scientific revolution. And no wonder that, as they are rewritten, science once again comes to seem largely cumulative.” – Thomas Kuhn

Much akin to “history is written by the victors,” science textbooks are written in the aftermath of a scientific revolution and they simply gloss over the actual revolutionary steps in scientific history to arrive at the current paradigm.

“Inevitably . . . . the member of a mature scientific community is, like the typical character of Orwell’s 1984, the victim of a history rewritten by the powers that be. Furthermore, that suggestion is not altogether inappropriate.” – Thomas Kuhn

Wow.

Community/Authority

Kuhn emphasizes that a paradigm is wholly owned, supported and defended by a mature scientific community. That community is led by the authorities of that prevailing scientific paradigm.

The student is fully expected to adhere to the professional expectations of the prevailing paradigm. The student really has no other option than unquestioned acceptance.

The community has “unparalleled insulation” from the demands of the everyday world, as well as any challenges that could be presented by other scientific specialties (scientific, engineering, etc).

“Revolutions have proved to be so nearly invisible. Both scientists and laymen take much of their image of creative scientific activity from an authoritative source that systematically disguises – partly for important functional reasons – the existence and significance of scientific revolutions.” – Thomas Kuhn

“For the sciences, like other professional enterprises, do need their heroes and do preserve their names. Fortunately, instead of forgetting these heroes, scientists have been able to forget or revise their works. The result is a persistent tendency to make the history of science look linear or cumulative, a tendency that even affects scientists looking back at their own research.” – Thomas Kuhn

 

Progress only through the deaths of “authorities”?

In several places within Kuhn’s work he refers to the unfortunate result of scientific revolutions wherein it sometimes requires 50 to 100+ years before a new paradigm is taken seriously and adopted by the scientific community.  He even quotes Max Planck’s famous statement:

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”  – Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp. 33-34

Other pertinent and revealing quotes around this concept:

“Though some scientists, particularly the older and more experienced ones, may resist indefinitely, most of them can be reached in one way or another.” – Thomas Kuhn

“The older schools gradually disappear. In part their disappearance is caused by their members’ conversion to the new paradigm. But there are always some men who cling to one or another of the older views, and they are simply read out of the profession, which thereafter ignores their work. . . . Those unwilling or unable to accommodate their work to it must proceed in isolation or attach themselves to some other group.” – Thomas Kuhn

“Gradually the number of experiments, instruments, articles, and books based upon the [new] paradigm will multiply. Still more men, convinced of the new view’s fruitfulness, will adopt the new mode of practicing normal science, until at last only a few elderly hold-outs remain. And even then, we cannot say, are wrong. Though the historian can always find men – Priestley, for instance – who were unreasonable to resist for as long as they did, he will not find a point at which resistance becomes illogical or unscientific. At most he may wish to say that the man who continues to resist after his whole profession has been converted has ‘ipso facto’ ceased to be a scientist.” – Thomas Kuhn

 

My thoughts on Kuhn’s work and what it reveals

Does the above array of behavior sound like a desirable and acceptable way to conduct science?

The reality is that science is fraught with idiotic human frailties that should be transcended for the ultimate benefits of scientific progress – the pursuit of truth and reality, reason and rationality – but instead are held hostage by stupidities.

Resistance, cognitive biases, professional hubris, total indoctrination of students, progress only via gatekeeper deaths. . . . Unbelievable.

We tend to revere scientists as arbiters of objective, empirical evidence, accurate and reliable truths, reason and logic over irrationality, the ability to operate above silly human cognitive errors.  Yet, we find that they’re like everyone else:  . . . . stupidly retaining flawed theories simply because of cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, group-think, and other ego-driven stupidities that blind them from immediately and effectively pursuing the path of truth and reality – a more accurate picture of nature and reality.

In addition, Kuhn doesn’t specifically call this out, but it seems that authority figures in a prevailing paradigm essentially defend their turf at all costs. We seem to find senior paradigm owners doing anything they can to maintain control over their field…..the field they’ve invested their entire career (teaching, researching, writing, professing); emotional investment, professional investment, and ego-driven investment – – – – logic, reason and empiricism be damned!

This is disgusting; absolutely disgusting. The pursuit of natural truths and reality should NEVER wait or delay for a generation of senior scientists to die. It should NEVER wait for blind dogma to finally acquiesce to overwhelming objective reality. The path of science should always be driven by objective evidence and objective analysis of that evidence.

Prevailing, orthodox, paradigm science is dogma – a repressive community of “scientists” who squash anything and everything that threatens their power structure.  It has become a new type of religion.

Are you seeing why Kuhn calls it a revolution?  New ideas that threaten a paradigm are NOT readily accepted.  They are ignored, denied, denigrated – until such time that they are blatantly obvious to the scientific community – or the controllers of the paradigm die off.  At some point the majority (and usually new practitioners) see the new theories for what they are – revelations in the field – and accept them as such based on their own, recent and valid science.

Instead of doing what science should do and objectively searching and testing the paradigm against actual nature/reality, the TRUE concern is over the current paradigm owners’ losing face/ego/stature/ownership/notoriety/authority/respect/prominence/etc. against a competing, threatening new paradigm. Existing paradigm owners have their ENTIRE career grounded in, and invested towards, the prevailing orthodox paradigm.

Does this sound like science by the scientific method?

It’s dogma . . . plain and simple. Where is Intellectual Integrity in this process?

 

Is there a solution?

Perhaps two camps (communities) of science need to coexist simultaneously for each field in order to more rapidly progress science to attain the most accurate understanding of nature:

  • Normal (paradigm/orthodox) science
  • Questioning/challenging/heterodox/paradigm-breaking/extraordinary science

Use the competition to push scientific research results as rapidly as possible.

There’s always the issue of funding – which I will cover in another article. Briefly . . . funding always comes from either government or corporations and neither group are interested in pursuing science for its purist motives – objective reality. Those that fund science expect the results they’re paying for (not objective reality).

I’m PRO-science – if it’s done properly. I abhor dogma, whether science or religion. I cannot abide by ego-driven stupidities; ignoring reality; fraudulent activities; . . . all to protect the prevailing paradigm. When science and its self-anointed god-priest authorities refuse to address questions and challenges to its base theories and assumptions, then it has become nothing more than another religion.

Remember:  Science is NEVER settled. The concept of “settled” science is the antithesis of real science.

In the end . . . Nature cares not a whit about fitting a prevailing paradigm. Nature is the ultimate arbiter of truth and reality. Question everything. Don’t accept orthodox answers (to science, religion, politics or any element of belief and culture).

Carpe diem my friends!

 

 

 

Total Solar Eclipse – August 2017

Since I just posted about this week’s Lunar Eclipse, I may as well also post about our 2017 Total Solar Eclipse experience. The United States was treated to a rare opportunity to see a total solar eclipse as it traveled across the continent on August 21, 2017. I promised myself when I was a kid while watching the 1970 eclipse on TV, that I would make a point of directly experiencing the totality of the next one in 2017.

The path is noted here:

Path of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse – by USFWS Mountain-Prairie, CC BY 2.0

Since the path was so close to us here in Kentucky, I decided to book a hotel room nine months before the event. I wanted to find something in Hopkinsville, KY where the maximum totality on the continent would be experienced. Even with very little media press nearly a year ahead of the eclipse, all hotel rooms in Hopkinsville were already booked. Amazing. I found a hotel nearby in Clarksville, TN which was still in the path of totality for a duration of 2-1/2 minutes.

My wife Debbie, brother Steve and his wife Amanda took the trip. I also took along my 6-inch Celestron Dobsonian telescope with solar filter. It’s not proper equipment for solar eclipse photography (which I don’t own), but it would help get a closer view of the impending totality as the moon slowly crept across the solar disk.

We arrived the day before and spent a little time wandering around Hopkinsville (aka Eclipseville):

After spending the night in Clarksville, we decided to stay there in the hotel parking lot rather than try to drive up towards the insanity in Hopkinsville. Our hotel owners were very pleasant and had no problem with us hanging around, so we set-up for picnicking and refreshments under the shade:

We set-up the telescope with its filter, donned our solar eclipse glasses and waited for the moon to start covering the sun:

After awhile, others who decided to hang around came to visit with us and look at the progress through the telescope:As we got closer to the time of totality, we started seeing crescent shadows as the sunlight filtered through tree leaves:

Here’s a photo a bystander took through the eyepiece of my telescope. You can see the orb of the moon covering about 80% of the sun disk:

Our family looking at the eclipse just before totality:

Totality!  Unfortunately, my phone’s camera just couldn’t take an acceptable picture of the sun’s corona glowing around the dark disk.  Had I been less excited I may have had the presence of mind to remove the solar filter on the telescope and try to shoot a pic through the eyepiece; but that didn’t happen.  🙁

Again, this pic of totality doesn’t correctly show the dark disk with corona:

And this is what totality looks like. I incorrectly expected near-total darkness. Instead, it’s mostly dark (like very late dusk) but there’s a gold/red glow on the horizon that you see all 360-degrees around you:

And this photo during totality is much brighter than it was in reality.  You can see that everyone removed their eclipse glasses and are looking directly at the sun during totality.  We had to make sure to put those glasses back on as we approached the end of the 2-1/2 minutes of darkness:

Totality finished, the bright sun returned, and eclipse glasses back on our eyes:

We didn’t hang around to watch the moon’s shadow recede off the sun.  We knew traffic back to Louisville would be nuts, so we loaded up and hauled ourselves back home. And, yes, traffic was horrendous on the return trip.

Was it worth it?  Oh, yes – – VERY worth it!  We found out from friends that if you weren’t actually in the direct path of totality, the sun still looked relatively normal with essentially no darkening of the sky (even though 95%-plus of the sun was covered for their location).  So, definitely worth it to be in the actual path.

I’m SO pleased we took the plunge and made the trip into totality.  We’re already planning to travel to near my brother in Evansville, IN for the next total solar eclipse in April 2024.

Carpe diem my friends!

 

Total Lunar Eclipse – January 2019

Sunday night January 20, 2019 we were treated to relatively clear skies in Louisville, KY for a total lunar eclipse.  I stepped outside into the frigid cold before midnight to have a look just prior to, and into the time of totality.  What a beautiful red hue this magical orb took on! It was called a “super blood wolf moon eclipse.”

I don’t yet have my recently-purchased (used) Meade LX200 Classic 10-inch telescope up and running.  Once I do, it will be able to track objects in the night sky which will allow nice photography. In its absence I was stuck with trying to shoot an image using my smartphone.  Yes, it’s a bit blurry, but you get the idea of what the full moon looked like that night:

Standing in the driveway, alone in the cold, silence everywhere, no-one else around with enough interest to come out and look . . . it was a brief, romanticized adventure into the wonders of the cosmos. I love the awe-inspiring Universe!

Can’t wait to get full use of the computerized telescope with Go-To functionality.

🙂

 

The Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse of 2019: A Red Lunar View! – Space.com

How to see the ‘super blood wolf moon eclipse’ in the Louisville area – Courier-Journal.com

 

 

 

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 identify 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!