Bad Ideas, Belief, Intellectual Honesty, Liars Lies and Lying, Logic, Politicians and Scoundrels, Science, Skeptical Thinking, Thinking

Lying With Logic

(About a 2 minute read)

It is a curious fact that an argument can be perfectly logical and yet its conclusion can be a lie.

To illustrate with as simple an example as possible:

All men are dolphins
Socrates is a man
Therefore Socrates is a dolphin

Any logician will tell you, the argument is logically valid.  That is, if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true.  But of course, the premises are not true, the conclusion is a lie.  And in this case, that is quite obvious.

But perhaps there is something about us humans that causes us to be all-too-persuaded by merely logical arguments, because unscrupulous people use such arguments to dupe us all the time.

“Liberals care about touchy-feely things like hungry children and animal rights, therefore they make their decisions on the basis of their emotions, rather than according to reason.”

How often have you heard that one?  I would guess pretty often if you’ve listened to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who popularized it.  But have you ever seen any science in support of the notion that liberals make decisions on the basis of their emotions more often than anyone else?

Of course not, and the likelihood they do seems to me quite possibly close to zero. The argument is simply unsupported by empirical evidence.  Although it does appear to offer some empirical evidence when it mentions liberal’s emotional reactions to hungry children and animal rights, those offerings turn out to be empirically untested assumptions — along with the further even more important assumption that liberals are more emotional than conservatives.

“Conservatives must have small penises because they need guns and large pickup trucks to compensate for not having large penises.”  Again, an argument that is logical, but a lie, for where is the science — where are the empirically established facts — to back it up?

From these examples we may see that the key thing to ask about any merely logical argument is — not only, “Does it make logical sense” — but, “Where are the observable facts to back it up?” Only in that way can you prevent yourself from being bamboozled by unscrupulous people.

Put differently, we should take our clue from the sciences, for the sciences do not accept as sound any hypothesis that is supported by logic alone, but demand that all hypotheses be supported by well established empirical evidence.

That is why they are the single most powerful means of discovering truths that humanity has yet invented.

Alienation From Self, Authenticity, Bad Ideas, Being True To Yourself, Community, Happiness, Human Nature, Meaning, Obligations to Society, Psychology, Quality of Life, Science, Scientist

Why it is Better to Pursue Meaning in Life than Happiness

(About an 8 minute read)

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” ― Audrey Hepburn

As a well-educated American, I know the sacred right of my people to pursue happiness is enshrined in the Constitution, that document that stuck it to King George, who we had to revolt against because he wanted us to be miserable, and was therefore a communist.

Indeed, the right of Americans to pursue happiness is in every way just as sacred as our right to pursue the long-sought secret of how to brew the perfect taste-free beer.  So I think we can reasonably ask ourselves: Happiness and tasteless beer — are they actually distinguishable?

Or to put the same question less poetically: Is happiness getting what you want?

Continue reading “Why it is Better to Pursue Meaning in Life than Happiness”

Anthropology, Bad Ideas, Community, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Democracy, Equality, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Human Nature, Hunter/Gatherers, Oppression, Political Ideologies, Politician, Politicians and Scoundrels, Quality of Life, Religion, Society

How Our Egalitarian Ancestors Became Elitists

(About a 7 minute read)

Three days ago, I posted on how the division of societies into elites and non-elites was a relatively new thing in human history that began as recently as 5,500 years ago on the plains of Sumer.

Before that, our ancestors had lived in small hunting/gathering groups, and were fiercely jealous of their freedoms — so jealous that they resented and opposed any attempts by someone, or some group, to rise up above the others. In short, they were non-elitists, egalitarians. You can find that post here.

My post prompted the astute Sha’Tara to observe that there must have been some reason why the ancient Sumerians suddenly (in historical terms) decided to surrender their freedoms to a small group of elites, despite their egalitarian instincts and customs. That is an excellent question, a question I hope to address in this post.

Continue reading “How Our Egalitarian Ancestors Became Elitists”

Citizenship, Class War, Community, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Democracy, Economics, Equality, Equality of Opportunity, Freedom and Liberty, Human Nature, Hunter/Gatherers, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society

How Our Ancient Human Nature Influences Politics Today

(About a 5 minute read)

In light of recent fossil discoveries in Morocco. it now seems true that our noble and esteemed species of fur-challenged, poo-flinging super-apes is at least 300,000 years old.

By most scientific accounts, we spent almost all of that vast time evolving to live in small, remarkably egalitarian, social groups of typically about 200 or so individuals.

Not only is the evidence conclusive that our own species was always a social animal living in groups, but it is nearly just as conclusive that the parents of our species, and their parents, and their parents — and so forth — were all social species going back for up to 20 million years.

All of which almost necessarily means that we have spent “considerable” time evolving, adapting, to cooperate with, and even to depend on each other, for our survival.

But it goes even further than that. Much further.

Continue reading “How Our Ancient Human Nature Influences Politics Today”

Capitalism, Class War, Community, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Economics, Economy, Freedom and Liberty, Human Nature, Life, Obligations to Society, Quality of Life, Self, Work

Socialism! Simply Scandalous, Albert!

(About a 5 minute read)

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.  — Albert Einstein, Why Socialism?


Einstein’s essay, Why Socialism, was published in the first issue of the Monthly Review (May, 1949).  It remains even unto this day a fairly good essay both on what socialism is, and on the chief reason (in Einstein’s eyes) that you might want to take a closer look at socialism.

He begins the essay in a way that might seem a bit strange to some of us today.  That is, instead of directly addressing what socialism is, or why you might want to take a look at it, he talks about the methodology of economics.

Specifically, he asks if current economics has anything to say about what a socialist economy would look like — given, as Einstein points out, that nowhere in the world is there a pure socialist economy.

Continue reading “Socialism! Simply Scandalous, Albert!”

Biology, Evolution, Science

The Dead that Came Back to Life 42,000 Years Later

(About a 1 minute read) 

The Kolyma river in Northeastern Siberia flows into the Arctic ocean and is so cold that it’s iced over about 250 days of the year.  Recently, a group of scientists discovered along its banks in permafrosted soil roundworms — nematodes — that were 32,000 to 42,000 years old.

The scientists placed the worms in a warm environment of 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit).  Within weeks, the worms were moving around, eating, and basically setting a new record for how long animals can survive frozen before being brought back to life.

Now, scientists had previously found bacterial spores inside 250 million year old salt crystals that they were able to bring back to life, but nematodes are both animals (rather than bacteria), and are far more complex than bacteria.

The optimistic side of this discovery is that we might be able to learn from these worms quite a bit about cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology — the latter being the study of alien life forms (not that these life forms are alien to the earth, but that their survival for so long a time might teach us something about how aliens — or we ourselves — could survive extremely long space voyages).

But the pessimistic side is indeed a dark one.  As global warming thaws more and more of the world’s permafrost, the odds increase that someday the newly thawed ice will release a life form that turns into a plague.

Questions?  Comments?  Scurrilous comments my heart is as cold as permafrost?  Even more scurrilous comments I was born of thawing permafrost?


Art, Biology, Cultural Traits, Culture, Eric, Internet, Life, Miscellaneous, Physics, Poetry, Quality of Life, Science, Values

Late Night Thoughts: Humanity, Tragedy, Poetry, and the Origins of Life (July 28, 2018)

(About a 3 minute read)

Was it in high school when I began to see humanity as both tragic and comic?

Yes, I think it was first in mid-adolescence that I noticed humans could be both tragic and comic at the same time.  Do others first notice it around that time too?

Ever since then, it seems the sense of it has been strongest when I have been least judgemental — I don’t know why.

Now a man or woman who believes themselves safe and secure from having an injustice done to them simply because they are without any fault or flaw that might justify an injustice being done to them — their nativity is hilarious to me.  It can also make me fear for them.  But is that an example of a tragicomic situation?

I think it is.


I once posted on a popular forum both what “tragedy” meant to the ancients, and why Americans typically do not grasp or understand the concept of tragedy in the way the ancients did.  Not only did my audience — very large American — fail to understand what I was talking about, but I myself failed to realize that, of course, they were quite likely to fail.  I mean, I thought the concept — once explained — was something anyone could “get”.

You who for a moment doubt the power of a culture to blind people to some aspects of reality is just as effective as its power to reveal other aspects, should try explaining tragedy to an American audience in a manner in which they can at least see it as possibly real.


You could not easily have found a poetry blog a bit over ten years ago, when I began blogging.  Of course, nowadays you cannot avoid them, should you even want to.


Two laws of poetry?

Most people began composing poetry before they begin reading other people’s poetry.

As a rule of thumb, the younger you are, the more profundity you will find in sad and grotesque things.


At the end of a long life, are you more likely to find profoundity in a sunrise or a skull? Perhaps in both?

I would suggest that an answer to the question of whether you will find the positive or the negative more profound depends in part on how much “finding profoundity” relies on us (rather than on its actual existence), and on our willingness to assert our values against an indifferent nature.

To find more profoundity in either a sunrise or a skull would suggest to me that one is looking to find more in one or the other.  But as for me, I’d want either to find both equally profound, or failing that, to enjoy a good sunrise.


It seems so easy for most of us to confuse a truly nice person with a person who is not truly nice, but is merely too scared to be unpleasant.

Is that somehow evidence that many of us do not know any genuinely nice people?


Now and then someone will argue that life cannot have arisen by from non-life, usually on the false grounds that to do so would mean life had arisen from chance alone.

In fact, if it did indeed arise from non-life, then it was by — not only random chance — but according to the laws of chemistry, and ultimately physics, that it arose.  My friend, Eric, studied just that sort of thing for his doctorate in the physics of biology.

What Eric and his colleagues found was that non-living molecules have several ways in which they organize themselves in primitive configurations that could nevertheless be precursors to the ways living things organize molecules.

Life arising from non-life seems to be suggested by such findings.


Which is more important to you — the fact you are alive, or the fact you will someday die?

Which is more important to you — to love or to be loved?

I want to conduct a poll to see if there’s any correlation between how people answer one of those questions and how they answer the other.  For instance, do people who think life is more important than death also think loving is more important than being loved?