On the nature and fallacies of Economics

Below are a few different articles on the shortcomings and false assumptions of modern economics. What’s central to each of these is the difference between the human sciences and the natural sciences and the consequences of mistaking one for the other. Economics is a social science and many problems arise when we treat it as if, because of its sophisticated mathematical models, that it is like a natural science. The last article is an interesting example of the important of models when trying to understand reality.

Old economics is based on false ‘laws of physics’ – new economics can save us

It is time to ditch the belief that economies obey rigid mechanical rules, which has widened inequality and polluted our planet. Economics is evolving

In the 1870s, a handful of aspiring economists hoped to make economics a science as reputable as physics. Awed by Newton’s insights on the physical laws of motion – laws that so elegantly describe the trajectory of falling apples and orbiting moons – they sought to create an economic theory that matched his legacy.

Their mechanical metaphor sounds authoritative, but it was ill-chosen from the start

Continue reading

Five myths about conspiracy theories

Much has been written about the concept of “fake news” and conspiracy theories but this brief list helps bring together some interesting information.

Presenting fringe theories as the essence of conspiracism gives the impression that conspiracy theorists are a handful of kooks who will believe even the most ludicrous ideas. But conspiracy thinking — the inclination to entertain conspiracy theories in general — is much more widespread than belief in any particular theory.


Shooting Bambi To Save Mother Nature

Interesting topic that lends itself toward a discussion of different ethical approaches. There have been a lot of interesting cases of states and countries raising money for conservation through selling hunting permits. From a consequentialist perspective this seems to be a really ethical approach. Those who believe that hunting is categorically unethical would disagree, regardless of the outcome.

This is a good, brief podcast (10 minutes) which is worth a listen

(other good items related to this topic)

A lot of the funding for conservation in the U.S. has traditionally come from hunting. With the number of hunters is falling in the U.S., finding money to fund wildlife conservation is getting harder.


The “Smirk seen ’round the world”

sandmannInteresting situation from a TOK perspective. Below is a collection of articles about the topic. They raise a lot of interesting questions about how we acquire knowledge and the relationships among the various ways of knowing. It also lends itself to ask about the primacy of some WOKs over others.


Download Lesson plan on “the smirk”

Download smirk articles handout

TOK Day 31 (daily student worksheet)

What’s also interesting is how impactful the image was. The image seemed to be a perfect representation of how many people view the current moment in the United States. It fit perfectly into prior assumptions about the world and spoke to a deeper truth. Interpreting and explaining this image!and fitting it into preexisting mental schema seemed pretty easy.

Once more and more videos started to emerge and the greater context became known, there were some interesting developments. Some people Continue reading

“The Uncertain Future of Particle Physics” and response “Particle Physics Is Doing Just Fine”

Really fascinating Op-Ed that raises a lot of interesting questions about the nature of the field, the relevance of (big) experiments, the role of models and predictions in sciences, as well as the role of government to pay for these types of projects.

This connects to a earlier post about what makes knowledge worth pursuing.

Knowledge Questions: What are the roles of models and predictions in the natural sciences? What should society’s priorities be in promoting advancement in the natural sciences? Who should decide what these priorities should be? How do we decide whether advancements in the natural sciences are worth pursuing? What is the purpose of scientific research?

The trouble is, a “prediction” in particle physics is today little more than guesswork. (In case you were wondering, yes, that’s exactly why I left the field.) In the past 30 years, particle physicists have produced thousands of theories whose mathematics they can design to “predict” pretty much anything. For example, in 2015 when a statistical fluctuation in the L.H.C. data looked like it might be a new particle, physicists produced more than 500 papers in eight months to explain what later turned out to be merely noise. The same has happened many other times for similar fluctuations, demonstrating how worthless those predictions are…

It is correct that some technological developments, like strong magnets, benefit from these particle colliders and that particle physics positively contributes to scientific education in general. These are worthy investments, but if that’s what you want to spend money on, you don’t also need to dig a tunnel.

And there are other avenues to pursue. For example, the astrophysical observations pointing toward dark matter should be explored further; better understanding those observations would help us make more reliable predictions about whether a larger collider can produce the dark matter particle — if it even is a particle.

Particle Physics Is Doing Just Fine
In science, lack of discovery can be just as instructive as discovery.

To read these articles, you’d think that unless particle physics comes home with a golden ticket in the form of a new particle, it shouldn’t come home at all. Or at least, it shouldn’t get a new shot at exploring the universe’s subatomic terrain. But the proposal that particle physicists are essentially setting money on fire comes with an insidious underlying message: that science is about the glory of discovery, rather than the joy of learning about the world. Finding out that there are no particles where we had hoped tells us about the distance between human imagination and the real world. It can operate as a motivation to expand our vision of what the real world is like at scales that are totally unintuitive. Not finding something is just as informative as finding something.


Fighting over Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory

Knowledge Questions: How is history shaped by our present beliefs? To what extent can we accurately construct knowledge of the past? How do we decide what is an “accurate” history?

Below are three articles discussing the different ways and the consequences of how Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered today. Each shares ideas about the fact that many times our memories of the past and our histories are created to serve our current agendas. For some, history is not about a sincere desire to accurately understand or make meaning of the past. When we interpret the words and memories of our historical figures, can we say that one interpretation is better than another?

Restoring King

King’s radicalism is lost to the obfuscating fog of memory. In American culture today, we have several Martin Luther King Jr’s: the Commemorative King, the Therapeutic King, the Conservative King, and the Commodified King. Each of these Kings competes for our attention, but each of them represents a vision of King that he himself would not have recognized.


From Most Hated to American Hero: The Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.

White people love Martin Luther King Jr.

For them, he is the standard-bearer for resistance while negotiating the minefield of white sensibilities. In the rewriting of history, King has been fashioned into an apologetic freedom fighter who carefully sidestepped white ire while pointing out inequality. They have cunningly backdated their admiration for King and the civil rights movement to prove that they have always stood on the side of justice.

It is bullshit.


The Consequences of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Canonization

Pence, of course, is doing only what the current version of the holiday demands. Across the ideological spectrum, politicians must seek to fit themselves under the aegis of the Kingian legacy. That means a contingent of Americans who surely oppose the positions King held in his life are compelled to contort him into something friendly. Columns must wield King to attack everything from “identity politics” to the very act of “politicizing” King’s life itself. Democratic presidential hopefuls must employ King in order to make the case that each of their disparate platforms is the natural heir to his legacy. The sound bites evoking King are stretched like skin over the bones of existing debate. The figure celebrated looks nothing like the leader who lived—and who was killed—but like a granite-chiseled modern founding father, a collection of axioms by which our age is defined.


The War Over King’s Legacy

So who was the real Martin Luther King Jr.–the integrationist preacher of the summer of 1963 or the leftist activist of the spring of 1968? The question is not just academic. Its competing answers shed light on enduring–and urgent–tensions between white and black America over race, class and conspiracy. Most whites want King to be a warm civic memory, an example of the triumph of good over evil. For many African-Americans, however, the sanitizing of King’s legacy, and suspicions about a plot to kill him, are yet another example of how larger forces–including the government that so long enslaved them-hijack their history and conspire against them. In a strange way, the war over King’s legacy is a sepia-toned O.J. trial, and what you believe depends on who you are.


What magicians can teach scientists about skepticism

Knowledge Questions: What is the impact that knowledge has on the knower? What are our limitations in acquiring knowledge? What are the limitations in our abilities to reason? What is the role of skepticism in acquiring knowledge?

As I read this article, it reminded me of a passage from the novel, The Three Body ProblemLinked here is the passage that pass about pseudoscience and magicians.

Below is an article about related issues.

The episode shows how human fallibility can lead scientists astray, even when they appear to be conducting valid experiments. And why not look to magicians for insights into the blind spot in our perceptions? Many of them are experts on ways people can be fooled. As Benvensite showed the world, an advanced degree in something like immunology does not make one immune to self-delusion.

As the famous Richard Feynman quote about science goes: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”