The Media’s COVID Failure: In dismissing the possibility that the virus leaked from a lab, journalists betrayed their mission to seek the truth.

This is a rich topic that raises lots of questions worth discussing in the knowledge and knower unit. I’m posting a few of the stories here but will put together lessons around this topic next school year.

But the goal of journalism shouldn’t be to craft the most culturally sensitive or partisan narrative. The goal of journalism is to seek the truth. The consequences of telling the truth should be secondary to getting the truth out there in the first place, even if it makes the Trump administration or Republican Senators look good or the Chinese government look bad.

https://www.persuasion.community/p/the-medias-covid-failure

Good journalism, like good science, should follow evidence, not narratives. It should pay as much heed to intelligent gadflies as it does to eminent authorities. And it should never treat honest disagreement as moral heresy.

The Media’s Lab Leak Debacle Shows Why Banning ‘Misinformation’ Is a Terrible Idea:
How a debate about COVID-19’s origins exposed a dangerous hubris

But Facebook’s concession that the lab leak story it once viewed as demonstrably false is actually possibly true should put to rest the idea that banning or regulating misinformation should be a chief public policy goal.

It’s one thing to discuss, debate, and correct wrong ideas, and both tech companies and media have roles to play in fostering healthy public dialogue. But Team Blue’s recent obsession with rendering unsayable anything that clashes with its preferred narrative is the height of hubris. The conversation should not be closed by the government and its yes-men in journalism, in tech, or even in public health.

The Media’s Lab Leak Debacle Shows Why Banning ‘Misinformation’ Is a Terrible Idea

Drones and robots won’t make war easier—they’ll make it worse

The essay gets really interesting toward the end.

The moral distance a society creates from the killing done in its name will increase the killing done in its name. We allow technology to increase moral distance; thus, technology increases the killing. More civilians than combatants die in modern warfare, so technology increases worldwide civilian murder at the hands of armies large and small.

https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/10/10/132262/why-remote-war-is-bad-war/

Why Confederate Lies Live On: For some Americans, history isn’t the story of what actually happened; it’s the story they want to believe.

For so many of them, history isn’t the story of what actually happened; it is just the story they want to believe. It is not a public story we all share, but an intimate one, passed down like an heirloom, that shapes their sense of who they are. Confederate history is family history, history as eulogy, in which loyalty takes precedence over truth. This is especially true at Blandford, where the ancestors aren’t just hovering in the background—they are literally buried underfoot.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/06/confederate-lost-cause-myth/618711/

“What is science?” The limits of peer reviewed science

Short passage from a larger documentary, “Return to Eden,” which is worth watching in its entirety. Starts at: 1:32:04.

From the description:

When Natural and human interests impinge on each other and over-regulation disturbs our biological balance. important questions arise. Do we belong to nature or does nature belongs to us? A thought-provoking story in which documentary maker Marijn Poels explores the human urge to control our climate, security and preferably the other. Balancing on a razor-thin line between regulation and manipulation. When technology reigns supreme and common sense vaporizes through the test of time, humanity is on the brink of becoming the tool. Miles away from the collective panic, fear and chaos, there is hope, inspiration and reconnection.

 

Starts at: 1:32:04.

History as weather: A fractal theory of history for Ian Morris, Jared Diamond and CGP Grey

Longer read but delves into the nature, value, and pitfalls of history as an area of knowledge. Great connections to concepts of the idea of models in history and connections to natural sciences.

Critics of the social sciences argue that unlike the meteorologists who can build their larger weather models on solid physics, chemistry and geography, historians don’t actually have solid enough psychological models underlying their bigger sociological models. But that is to make the same error. Meteorological models can just about predict the weather tomorrow and the day after while sometimes making huge errors. Historical models are just as good. Equally, historical models can predict larger trends about as accurately as climatology. But we often treat them as if we thought it was possible to predict the weather a year from now.

Freakonomics Podcast: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything (Ep. 463)

We like to think that we make up our own minds. That we make our own choices — about how we spend our time and money; what we watch and wear; how we think about the issues of the day. But the truth is, we are influenced into these choices. In ways large and small — and often invisible. Some of this influence may be harmless, even fun; and some of it isn’t harmless at all.

Rob Henderson on language and morality

Morality has some similarities to language. Both are human universals, even though the specifics of each vary by culture and change over time.

Both morality and language are governed by certain rules. Though languages differ, they all have some underlying similarities. Same with moralities. Though the specifics differ, all languages have rules about nouns. And though the specifics differ, all moralities have rules about harm…

Finally, morality is “real” in the same way that language is real. Both can change, but both still operate within certain constraints. There are rules to every language, and rules to every morality. Saying morality isn’t real is like saying language isn’t real. We don’t have a choice about whether they exist. They preceded us. Though the specifics might be unfamiliar to us today, people were speaking and adhering to moral commitments long before we were born. Language and morality will be around long after we’re gone.

https://mailchi.mp/8c9121b08d49/human-nature-and-envy-10134758?e=506c288f2b

Practice Analytically, Perform Intuitively

Seeing the errors in how people intuitively think about the golf swing made Bryson question how other parts of the game were played. Having majored in physics at college, he operates like a scientist. He subscribes to Charles Dickens’ famous line from Great Expectations: “Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.”…

Trusting empirical data over intuition was one of the defining ideas of the Enlightenment. Through paradigm shifts like the Copernican Revolution, which found that humans weren’t the center of the universe, people began trusting instruments over their senses. That isn’t to say that science is always correct, but ever since the Enlightenment, it’s been obviously foolish to ignore it. Yet, that’s exactly what golfers did—for decades…

Like aspects of Bryson’s swing, some of the computer’s most effective chess moves are ugly to the human eye because they violate our intuition for what a good chess move looks like. But if you spend enough time watching the computer move, you can incorporate those tactics into your intuitive game and become a stronger player. Intuition isn’t as static as we think. With the right tools, it can improve over time.

https://perell.com/essay/practice-analytically-perform-intuitively/

The Quest to Tell Science from Pseudoscience

Philosopher Karl Popper famously asked how to tell the two apart. His answer—falsifiability—hasn’t aged well, but the effort lives on.

Jettisoning falsifiability won’t solve our initial problem, however: demarcation is simply inevitable. Scientists have finite time and therefore must select which topics are worth working on and which are not: this implies some kind of demarcation. Indeed, there seems to be a broad consensus about which doctrines count as fringe, although debate remains about gray areas.

https://bostonreview.net/science-nature-philosophy-religion/michael-d-gordin-quest-tell-science-pseudoscience

Translating Amanda Gorman

Is experiencing white supremacy all she is? And if not, why do her translators have to be people just like her?

Our racial reckoning has put many new ideas afloat. One of them is that a black female poet’s work should only be translated by other black female people. Or at least black people…

The logic is supposed to be that only someone of Gorman’s race, and optimally gender, can effectively translate her expression into another language. But is that true? And are we not denying Gorman and black people basic humanity in – if I may jump the gun – pretending that it is?

https://johnmcwhorter.substack.com/p/translating-amanda-gorman?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoyNzk5MjAwLCJwb3N0X2lkIjozMzk4NjMxMCwiXyI6ImNpWEY5IiwiaWF0IjoxNjE2MjU4NjU0LCJleHAiOjE2MTYyNjIyNTQsImlzcyI6InB1Yi0yNzIyMzQiLCJzdWIiOiJwb3N0LXJlYWN0aW9uIn0.3nE4p85gCGII1AcxTGOl1E8HW0ZDXJm9UvGvuVpRdXw