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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 30,669

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Infographic: 20 Cognitive Biases (Always Worth Checking Upon Again, And Again)


WHY WRITERS RUN: Racking up mile after mile is difficult, mind-expanding, and hypnotic ...

Racking up mile after mile is difficult, mind-expanding, and hypnotic—just like putting words down on a page.

"From Homer’s The Iliad to A.E. Housman’s poem about an athlete dying young, there’s no shortage of literary depictions of running. “Move, as the limbs / of a runner do,” writes W.H. Auden. “In orbit go / Round an endless track.” There’s also a long tradition of writers leaving their pens or screens behind to stride along roads, tracks, and trails. Jonathan Swift, according to Samuel Johnson, would “run half a mile up and down a hill every two hours” during his 20s. Louisa May Alcott ran since her youth: “I always thought I must have been a deer or a horse in some former state,” she wrote in her journal, “because it was such a joy to run.” Despite this correlation, The New Yorker’s Kathryn Schulz recently lamented how few books capture the mindset of the runner in descriptive terms, citing Thomas Gardner’s new collection of essays Poverty Creek Journal as the best exception.

Freedom, consciousness, and wildness: Running offers writers escape with purpose. When confronted with “structural problems” in her writing as the result of a “long, snarled, frustrating and sometimes despairing morning of work,” Joyce Carol Oates would ease her writing blocks with afternoon runs. For Oates and many other writers, running is process and proves especially useful for the type of cloistered, intensive work they do. But in many ways running is a natural extension of writing. The steady accumulation of miles mirrors the accumulation of pages, and both forms of regimented exertion can yield a sense of completion and joy. Through running, writers deepen their ability to focus on a single, engrossing task and enter a new state of mind entirely—word after word, mile after mile.


Why do writers so often love to run? Running affords the freedom of distance, coupled with the literary appeal of solitude. There’s a meditative cadence to the union of measured breaths and metered strides. Writers and runners both operate on linear planes, and the running writer soon realizes the relationship between art and sport is a mutually beneficial one. The novelist Haruki Murakami, a former Tokyo jazz-bar manager who would smoke 60 cigarettes a day, started running to get healthy and lose weight. His third novel had just been published, but he felt his “real existence as a serious writer on the day that I first went jogging.” Continual running gave him the certainty that he could “make it to the finishing line.”


After my college running days ended, I chose sprints over distance, gained some pounds, and looked more like a fullback than a half-miler. Yet I missed those long, aimless runs, when the act of running was one of discovery, not dictated by the set distance of a track. I now run down open rural roads, and, against good sense, straddle the center yellow lines that yarn to the horizon. Since I’ve returned to distance running, I’ve changed the way I think about writing. Writing exists in that odd mental space between imagination and intellect, between the organic and the planned. Runners must learn to accept the same paradoxes, to realize that each individual run has its own narrative, with twists and turns and strains.


I like this read. I hope you do, too!

Punk Crock: Punk Rock Whistling Eternal Yesterdays by Eugenia Williamson


"For a movement that famously proclaimed there was no future, punk rock has had a remarkably durable half-life. Forty years after Television’s legendary residency at CBGB, the world is awash in punk. In the last twenty months, former Village Voice rock critic and punk champion Robert Christgau wrote a memoir about his downtown New York youth, Kim Gordon published her memoirs, Viv Albertine published hers, Richard Hell released the paperback edition of his, Patti Smith released the follow-up to her National Book Award–winning memoir, and HarperCollins signed Lenny Kaye, Smith’s guitarist, to write a memoir of his own. Ramones fans can look forward to a forthcoming Martin Scorsese–helmed biopic and a documentary promising new footage of the seminal band, whose last founding member perished in 2014.

Punk has cracked the upper echelons of the tech sphere too. Earlier this fall, in a pictorial called “The Stylish Men of Tumblr,” the New York Times introduced the world to Pau Santesmasses, a thirty-nine-year-old product manager whose own Tumblr account is devoted to “modern architecture, skateboarding, and punk rock”—thus apostrophizing a movement of self-professed anarchic rebellion as if it were a tasteful accessory. Photographed atop the grand, dramatically lit staircase in his employer’s Manhattan offices in a pristine gingham button-down, skinny khakis, and shockingly clean sneakers, Santesmasses described his shirt as a “punk-slash-mod thing.”


Punk, we greasy teens soon learned, was once the rightful province of a worthy few able to discern reality from simulacrum, irony from sincerity, punks from poseurs, shit from Shinola. Punk was diametrically opposed to massification; like an ailing Victorian child, it would die if exposed to the slavering crowd. The thrust of this purist insider aesthetic was neatly summed up in the first track of the debut (and only) album from L.A.’s great crash-and-burn hardcore punk outfit the Germs—“What We Do Is Secret,” a dictum that was almost instantly repealed in a series of cinematic and literary productions devoted to the sainted memory of martyred Germs founder Darby Crash. (The Janus-faced nature of punk’s tetchy relationship to commerce was also embedded right there in the Germs original lineup, which featured Belinda Carlisle, who would go on to front mega-pop New Wave leviathan the Go-Go’s before posing for Playboy, marrying a Republican fund-raiser, discovering Buddhism, and—of course—publishing a memoir.)


On a recent trip to New York, Ariel Pink, a musician I like very much, played a secret show a few blocks from where I was staying. I found out about it on Twitter hours after the fact and I just felt lame. Had it been 1975, I would have remained blissfully unaware for days, maybe years. First-person accounts of the past allow the beholder to believe she would have been alongside the people that mattered, not left in the dark. In the end, this non-exclusive sense of belonging is the great benefit of any lingering purist allegiance to punk, no matter how commodified, cynically exploited, or otherwise doomed it proves to be. As that embarrassingly decrepit Boomer icon Mick Jagger put it a half-century ago, in a line almost certainly repurposed in a Martin Scorsese soundtrack: “Our love is like our music—it’s here and then it’s gone.”


A fair start to a longer discussion, for those who might be entertained by such a discussion. And, as the author notes at the bottom of the article, both Patti Smith and Viv Albertine wrote very good books that addressed feminism, art, and life, much more than their punk histories.

Study: Dunning-Kruger in Groups by Steven Novella



Despite these factors, in all of the experiments both participants displayed an equality bias – they overrated the lower-performing member and underrated the higher-performing member. This effect was seen with subjects in Denmark, Iran, and China in order to control for possible cultural differences. The studies were done only with men, however, to eliminate any gender bias as a confounding factor.


We can add the equality bias to the long list of biases and heuristics that humans tend to follow. I find the implications of this one, however, to be fairly complex. At least we should be aware of the bias and factor it into our decision-making.

It seems that one lesson from this research is that we need to be flexible and sensitive to context. We cannot always defer to expertise, neither should we never defer to expertise. We need to understand the context of any given situation. Are we here to exchange ideas, to learn, or to solve an immediate problem? How clear are we as to everyone’s experience and knowledge, and how relevant are they to the decision-making? What are our short term and long term goals, and what is their relative importance?

I also think this research suggests that as individuals we should strive to be less sensitive to having our opinions trumped by data. In my experience people often take it personally when they are told they are wrong, even when discussing a hard fact that has nothing to do with opinion. If we were more humble before facts, then we could optimize our short and long terms goals more effectively."


Interesting stuff.

Ben Carson Blames Satan For Darwin's Theory Of Evolution


How does this guy get out of the house in the morning? WTF? He lies about everything, and believes in fictions. WTF? Oh, did I already "say" that? Oops.

A sad day for public science advocacy


Orac discusses Kevin Folta's decision to stop public science advocacy in the face of relentless, ugly anti-science attacks upon him. The lack of ethics of the anti-science crowd -- and anti-science is what they are, so let's not pretend otherwise -- is simply astounding.

"It's not exactly brain surgery, is it?" By That Mitchell And Webb

The Ben Carson Contradiction: Why Intelligent People Can Be Stupid, Too

And, yes, there are the very big issues of deceit, although even there one can explore the issues of memory. Regardless, Carson's case is worth exploring on a human level. These two pieces cover some really interesting ground toward that end, IMO. Both pieces are written by MDs, offering some further exploration of the concerns about Carson.

The Ben Carson Contradiction by Steven Novella, MD


I bring all this up in order to address a question – how can one person be undeniably brilliant in one sphere of their intellectual life, and shockingly ignorant and anti-intellectual in other spheres? I have heard this question often in recent weeks, pretty much every time a new revelation about Carson’s beliefs comes out.

I don’t think this is as much of a contradiction as it may at first seem. Carson is evidence for something that I have tried to emphasize often here – all humans suffer from similar cognitive flaws and biases. We can all be brilliant and stupid at the same time, and apparently have no difficulty compartmentalizing our beliefs in order to minimize cognitive dissonance.

I write frequently about the neuroscience of belief, because I think there is no greater insight we can have than how our own brains function, because that is the tool we use to understand the rest of the universe. Invariably, however, when I discuss a specific cognitive flaw or bias, the common reaction is the equivalent of, “Yeah, other people are stupid.”

Take, for example, the Dunning-Kruger effect. I almost universally hear this principle described as, “dumb people are too dumb to realize how dumb they are.” The data, however, does not support this conclusion. It does not reveal something about “dumb people,” but rather something about all people. We are all on the Dunning-Kruger spectrum, and we can be on different places on the spectrum with regard to different areas of knowledge, at the same time.



Ben Carson: A case study on why intelligent people are often not skeptics by David Gorski, MD

"As a surgeon, I find Ben Carson particularly troubling. By pretty most reports, he was a skilled neurosurgeon who practiced for three decades, rising to the chief of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. Yet, when he ventures out of the field of neurosurgery—even out of his own medical specialty—he routinely lays down some of the dumbest howlers I’ve ever heard. For example, he denies evolution, but, even worse, he’s been a shill for a dubious supplement company, Mannatech. Worse still, when called out for his relationship with Mannatech in the last Republican debate, Carson lied through his teeth about it. The pseudoscientific views he relates have been so bad that he led me to resurrect some old schtick that I had abandoned years ago about physicians denying evolution leading me to put a paper bag over my head in shame for my profession. I’m also reminded of it not just by media stories about Carson’s latest verbal gaffe but because I work within easy walking distance of the Ben Carson High School of Medicine and Science, a STEM-related high school designed to encourage high school students to pursue careers in the sciences.


As a physician and a surgeon, I never cease to be amazed at how brilliant physicians, who are so knowledgeable and skilled at medicine, can be so irredeemably ignorant about topics not related to medicine, and even, as was the case with Ben Carson’s dubious cancer cure testimonial for Mannatech, medical topics not related to their specific specialty. Indeed, Andy Borowitz nailed it well when portrayed Carson as “shattering the stereotype about brain surgeons being smart.”

Or did he?


It’s not surprising, then, that physicians might come to overestimate their ability to master another discipline, at least well enough to pontificate confidently on it. Of course we can! We’re doctors! We made it through the ringer that is medical school, residency, and board certification. Just give me enough time and enough Google and we can learn anything! Is it any wonder that physicians are particularly prone to the Dunning-Kruger effect? Not to me, at least not any more. The same seems to be true of many other high-achieving people. There’s a reason that most leaders in the antivaccine movement tend to be affluent, highly educated people. J.B. Handley, for instance, is a successful businessman who has basically said that he doesn’t need to listen to us pointy-headed scientists and physicians; he’s learned what he needs to learn about vaccines causing autism himself.


Anti-GMOers Spread Baseless Fear About Possibly Non Existent Monsanto Bananas.

Posted by Mark Lynas on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Mark-Lynas-168122006568847/ :

"Just when you thought anti-GMO campaigners couldn't get any dumber, they come up with this gem - warning about the danger of GMO bananas in Hawaii. These 'Monsanto bananas' will apparently "cross-pollinate" with conventional ones, forcing farmers to pay Monsanto.


Note to the crazies: all bananas are sterile clones, and produce no pollen. Better come up with a new argument quick! (Actually I suspect the entire story is false - it's the first I've heard of Monsanto working on GMO bananas.)"

Protesters Gather at 'Saturday Night Live' Studio to Oppose Donald Trump Hosting

"It is shameful for 'SNL' and NBC to think that racism can be repackaged as comedy."

"Pressure continued to mount on NBC to cancel Donald Trump's guest-host appearance on this weekend's Saturday Night Live as a coalition of advocacy groups delivered petitions to the network Wednesday calling for him to be dropped from the show.

The petitions delivered to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home of NBC and Saturday Night Live, marked the latest attempts to dissuade the network from allowing the Republican presidential hopeful to host the show, with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda earlier asking that NBC reconsider the decision.

"There's mounting evidence that Donald Trump's racist demagoguery is resulting in real-world violence and physical and verbal intimidation," said Mushed Zaheed, deputy political director of Credo Action, one of the participating groups, in a statement.


Other participating groups included the National Hispanic Media Coalition, MoveOn.org and National Council of La Raza. About two-dozen protesters were on hand as the petitions were delivered to NBC's midtown Manhattan offices. Some chanted "dump Trump" and carried signs bearing the same phrase.


Eff NBC.
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