My out-of-print original hardcover copy of Eric Sevareid's riveting book is one of my prized possessions.
Among my favorite undergraduate professors during my time at Tennessee (UTK, 1980-85) was Dr. Sheldon Reaven (now teaching at Stony Brook). I first had him for "Inductive Logic," which he subtitled on the syllabus "Lying With Statistics." I subsequently took his class in "Philosophy of Science," which was an utter delight. It has infused my thinking to this day.
I still recall his admonishment to the class: "If you take one thing away from your four years here (five in my case, as it would turn out), it should be the difficulty in determining what actually counts as a 'fact'."
So, yeah, and here we are today several decades later, during a "WTF?" time of Trump apologist Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts," and the broader Trump administration dismissal of any and all incumbent-economics-inconvenient science.
I first ruminated relatively narrowly on this notion (in the context of medical science) nearly 20 years ago, during my late daughter's cancer struggle.
'Arrogant, narrow-minded, greedy, and indifferent?'
Is science the enemy? To the extremist "alternative healing" advocate, the answer is a resounding 'yes'! A disturbing refrain common to much of the radical "alternative" camp is that medical science is "just another belief system," one beholden to the economic and political powers of establishment institutions that dole out the research grants and control careers, one that actively suppresses simpler healing truths in the pursuit of profit, one committed to the belittlement and ostracism of any discerning practitioner willing to venture "outside the box" of orthodox medical and scientific paradigms.
One e-mail correspondent, a participant in the internet newsgroup alt.support.cancer, vented splenetic at length recently regarding U.S. authorities' alleged hounding, arrest, and imprisonment of alternative healers. He railed that law enforcement, at the behest of the AMA/FDA Conspiracy (a.k.a. the "corrupt AMA/FDA/NCI/ACS cartel"), had made the practice of alternative medicine illegal in the U.S. Moreover, he considered the fact that medical science can only claim "cures" for approximately 10% of the roughly 10,000 classified human diseases an a priori indictment of the mainstream profession.
I know: this is akin to the U.N. Black Helicopters/One-World-Government Conspiracy stuff of the not-too-tightly-wrapped. Still, I couldn't resist-- pointing out in (no doubt futile) reply that no one came with guns drawn and cuffs at the ready the night at Brotman Rehab when "Healing Angelite Crystals" practitioners-- devotees of India's Sai Baba-- came from Topanga Canyon to hover for hours in ceremony over Sissy (to the curious and wary befuddlement of the night shift nurses); neither did Security nor the medical staff at Brotman confiscate the goopy-looking herbal tonic we brought in, an elixir prescribed for Sissy by a Chinese herbal pharmacist doing business quite openly in Chinatown near downtown L.A.; nor would SWAT teams pounce on the backyard in the Valley where we took part in evening-long Lakota Souix "healing sweat lodge" ceremonies conducted by the venerable Wallace Black Elk; and finally, Wyndie, one of Sissy's highly skilled and effective physical therapists at Brotman did not have her certification revoked for counseling my daughter on the Hindu principles of the Chakras and efficacy of aromatherapy.
Moreover, I had to respond, the fact that we can only cure 10% of known diseases implies nothing regarding the quality of mainstream medical research and practice, unless the alternatives industry can provide hard, "case-mix adjusted," scientifically valid data showing their methods to effect consistently and significantly better outcomes-- which they cannot (a dearth of peer-reviewed studies being a central characteristic of "alternative" practice). Additionally, I asked, can anyone even cite historical curative percentages from 30, 50, or perhaps 100 years ago? Indeed, even such statistics would prove problematic-- "shooting at a moving target," as it were-- in that more subtle and clinically unresponsive maladies continue to be discovered and classified while the easier to treat are dealt with more readily. And, classificatory observation is easy compared to the work and resources required to effect cures; we should expect that identification will outpace remedy. Finally, 50 years ago death certificates listing demise from "natural causes" would today likely have identifiable diseases recorded as the cause of death.
Purveyors of medical quackery should fear the hot breath and hard heel of competent authority, but I see no evidence of suppression of alternative therapy methods that are not certifiably fraudulent. All manner of "unproven" substances are sold quite openly at retail, both in the health food stores and in the national chain outlets; all that need accompany the product is the legal boilerplate disclaimer acknowledging an absence of FDA blessing, along with the inoculating phrase 'dietary supplement'...
...Every discipline has its share of the "arrogant and narrow-minded," but I have mostly found mainstream health care professionals to be a dedicated, unpretentious, and self-deprecating lot quite aware of the limits of their knowledge and the risks of presumption. Once, during a series of health care quality improvement seminars I attended at Intermountain Health Care in Salt Lake City during my Peer Review tenure, a speaker-- himself a noted pediatric surgeon-- wryly observed that "the best place to hide a hundred dollar bill from a doctor is inside a book." The Director of the seminar series, Dr. Brent James of IHC (and a Fellow of the Harvard School of Public Health), noted in our opening session that physicians would probably admit-- off the record, of course-- that perhaps only 10% of their clinical decisions made during daily practice could be traced to the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Dr. James also made the droll observation that, were you to walk into the typical medical adminstrator's office, "you'd be much more likely to see copies of the Wall Street Journal rather than the New England Journal strewn about."Nowadays we face a full-frontal assault of Denialism spanning the breadth of science.
What can one take away from such remarks? First, the many physicians I have come to know in the past few years are in the main acutely sensitive to the problems of clinical conceit and "paradigm blinders." Indeed, the Utah pediatrician's"$100 bill" wisecrack was offered to an audience of doctors and their allied health personnel during quality improvement training. Second, the body of peer-reviewed medical literature does not constitute a clinical cookbook; even "proven" therapies-- particularly those employed against cancers-- are generally incremental in effect and sometimes maddeningly transitory in nature. The sheer numbers of often fleeting causal variables to be accounted for in bioscience make the applied Newtonian physics that safely lifts and lands the 747 and the space shuttle seem child's play by comparison. Astute clinical intuition is a necessary component of a medical art that must, after all, act and act quickly-- so often in the face of indeterminate, inapplicable, or contradictory research findings...
As I noted earlier on the blog, I joined AAAS, and am now getting their flagship magazine "Science." From the February issue:
A Matter of Fact"JUST THE FACTS?"
by David Malakoff
This is a worrying time for those who believe government policies should be based on the best evidence. Pundits claim we've entered a post-factual era. Viral fakes news stories spread alternative facts. On some issues, such as climate change and childhood vaccinations, many scientists worry their hard-won research findings have lost sway with politicians and the public, and feel their veracity is under attack. Some are taking to the Internet and even to the streets to speak up for evidence. But just how should evidence shape policy? And why does it sometimes lose out?
Is this special section shows, evidence still plays a key role in the machinery of government, especially in the robust bureaucracies of the United States and Europe, where legal mandates often require the input of technical specialists. Many politicians and policy wonks also want to better understand the problems they are trying to solve, whether costly policy remedies will be effective, and whether taxpayers will get their money's worth. So they demand data as they make decisions on a wide range of issues, including how to regulate toxic chemicals, evaluate education programs, treat disease, and shape policies that can affect vast swaths of the economy and millions of people.
That doesn't mean the path of evidence to policy is straight, or that the evidence always determines the outcome. There's no question that carbon dioxide is building up in the atmosphere and before long will increase global temperatures by 2°C if emissions aren't curbed. But those numbers can't tell a policymaker whether the best way to limit warming is to impose a carbon tax, create an emissions trading system, an active ban on fossil fuels, or simply do nothing and let the next generation figure it out.
That last idea might not be responsible, but it's a reminder that evidence is just one of many ingredients — along with economic concerns, religious views, and ideological perspectives on the role of government — that go into the policy mix. Even before "alternative facts" became a meme, belief and ideology sometimes trumped evidence, as when parents rejected vaccines for their children and politicians snubbed potentially life-saving interventions for drug abusers.
There are other complexities. Even in arenas where evidence is essential — such as deciding whether a drug is safe for how to regulate a pollutant — there can be honest disagreements about what kinds of evidence should be allowed into the process. All studies are not equal.
Then there is the problem of what policymakers should do when studies offer no clear-cut answer to the question at hand — or conflicting evidence. It's safe to say that, in many areas, more study is almost always needed. But what to do in a world where resources for more science are almost always limited, and decisions need to be made?
Veterans of the policy wars say such hurdles shouldn't prevent scientists from enlisting. But don't go unarmed. Learn the lingo, and identify the key players. Realize that the path of evidence is winding, and the destination is often distant. It's not unusual for it to take decades for the weight of evidence to leave its mark on policy. But when it does, the results can often be extraordinary, saving millions of lives, and reminding people of the power of fact.
From Time Magazine recently:
Bret Stephens writes the foreign-affairs column of the Wall Street Journal, for which he won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.Yeah. "Just the facts, ma'am." It is really that simple?
Bret Stephens delivered the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture this week at the University of California, Los Angeles. Read the full text of his remarks below:
I’m profoundly honored to have this opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Danny Pearl, my colleague at The Wall Street Journal.
My topic this evening is intellectual integrity in the age of Donald Trump. I suspect this is a theme that would have resonated with Danny.
When you work at The Wall Street Journal, the coins of the realm are truth and trust — the latter flowing exclusively from the former. When you read a story in the Journal, you do so with the assurance that immense reportorial and editorial effort has been expended to ensure that what you read is factual.
Not probably factual. Not partially factual. Not alternatively factual. I mean fundamentally, comprehensively and exclusively factual. And therefore trustworthy.
That is how we operate...
"THE POWER OF FACT?"
Elizabeth Kolbert, in The New Yorker:
WHY FACTS DON’T CHANGE OUR MINDS
New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.
...Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted. In this case, the failure was “particularly impressive,” since two data points would never have been enough information to generalize from.Read the entire article carefully. I've been onto Sperber and Mercier for a long time. See my right-hand links column permanent linked paper "Why do humans reason?" (pdf). Basically to win the argument, not to get at objective truths (think, well, trial lawyers). In sum, "the pen is mightier than the sword" adaptive utility.
The Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can’t think straight was shocking. It isn’t any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did we come to be this way?
In a new book, “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard), the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber take a stab at answering this question. Mercier, who works at a French research institute in Lyon, and Sperber, now based at the Central European University, in Budapest, point out that reason is an evolved trait, like bipedalism or three-color vision. It emerged on the savannas of Africa, and has to be understood in that context.
Stripped of a lot of what might be called cognitive-science-ese, Mercier and Sperber’s argument runs, more or less, as follows: Humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to coöperate. Coöperation is difficult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best course of action. Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.
“Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves,” Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective...
If clinical information is "the lifeblood of healthcare" (with Health IT being its cardiovascular system), then the scientific method is its neurology. One of my priority daily web stops is that of ScienceBasedMedicine.org. They've just published a book.
Only $4.99 Kindle price, and well worth it. A sort of topical "greatest hits" compendiums of postings from the voluminous blog. I ran across a review of it over at The Neurologica Blog.
IntroductionThe in-depth discussions regarding the logic of Bayesian reasoning alone make it worth it. BTW, speaking of Bayes, a nice relatively non-technical primer is here (only $2.99):
The world of health care is becoming an increasingly complex and challenging place. The internet is changing the way we generate and access information, and health information is one of the most popular uses of the internet. It represents an unprecedented democratization of information and opinion.
While there are many advantages and benefits to such information access, there are also many challenges to health professionals, regulators, academics, and consumers. There is a proliferation of health related products and services, with many provocative health claims. Regulations are generally not keeping up, and often have been watered down, in the face of this onslaught of claims and products.
The consumer is left with an overwhelming array of health claims, many of which challenge and even directly oppose the traditional experts and institutions. The mission of Science-Based Medicine (SBM) is to be a source of reliable information and analysis to help navigate the wild west of health information on the internet and elsewhere. The authors who contribute to this series of e-books are all physicians and other health care professionals who have a great deal of experience educating the public about complex medical issues. We especially take on controversial issues and try to expose pseudoscience and fraud wherever possible.
The Philosophy of Science-Based Medicine
The philosophy of SBM, at its core, is simple: Safe and effective health care is critical to everyone’s quality of life; so much so that it is generally considered a basic human right. Therefore, health care products and services that work and are safe are better than those that do not work or are unsafe.
The best method for determining which interventions and health products are safe and effective is, without question, good science. Therefore it is in everyone’s best interest for health care to be systematically evaluated by the best science available.
Too often the nature of science itself is misunderstood or misrepresented to the public. Science is not an arcane and privileged discipline. By its very nature it is meant to be transparent and public. Science is nothing more than a systematic and careful use of evidence and logic to evaluate factual claims. And good science possesses certain virtues that are not unique to science but generic to all intellectual endeavors: fairly accounting for all available evidence, using valid and internally consistent logic, using unambiguous concepts and language, proper use of statistics, being quantitatively precise and accurate, and above all being honest.
And yet there are numerous and powerful influences in society that strongly appose the scientific basis of medicine. Driven by some combination of ideology or the desire for profit they wish to eliminate standards of science in health care, or (often under the guise of “health care freedom”) create a double standard in which unscientific methods and products can thrive unchecked. Others simply lack the training or knowledge to achieve minimal standards of quality for scientific medicine. And even the best traditions of scientific medicine can benefit from more critical analysis...
Executive Editor Steven Novella, Managing Editor David Gorski, Series Editor Mark Crislip. (2013-04-05). Science-Based Medicine: Guide to Critical Thinking (Kindle Locations 10-34). James Randi Educational Foundation. Kindle Edition.
I cited it back in this prior post. I once riffed on Bayes back in 2002 while calling BS on the proposed federal "Total Information Awareness" data surveillance inititative. Color me thoroughly Bayesian.
Jaynes on Bayes:
For many years, there has been controversy over ‘frequentist’ versus ‘Bayesian’ methods of inference, in which the writer has been an outspoken partisan on the Bayesian side. The record of this up to 1981 is given in an earlier book (Jaynes, 1983). In these old works there was a strong tendency, on both sides, to argue on the level of philosophy or ideology. We can now hold ourselves somewhat aloof from this, because, thanks to recent work, there is no longer any need to appeal to such arguments. We are now in possession of proven theorems and masses of worked-out numerical examples. As a result, the superiority of Bayesian methods is now a thoroughly demonstrated fact in a hundred different areas. One can argue with a philosophy; it is not so easy to argue with a computer printout, which says to us: ‘Independently of all your philosophy, here are the facts of actual performance.’ [Preface p. xxii, “Probability Theory. The Logic of Science” E.T. Jaynes]I also recommend Steven Hatch's "Snowball in a Blizzard: a Physician's Notes on Uncertainty in Medicine" (cited in that post as well).
apropos of all of the foregoing broadly, see my citation of UW's course in "Calling Bullshit" in my prior post.
Also relevant, my review of Dr. James T. Hamilton's book "Democracy's Detectives" in my prior post "I am not a scientist."
"Accountability journalism," a.k.a. "investigative reporting." More important than ever during this Trump era of STEM Denialism.
I don't underestimate the difficulties here. First, the Eric Sevareid quote at the top of this post can be construed as cutting both ways. At what point does rational skepticism bleed over into intransigent "yes, but" denialism? Moreover, in light of the durability of denialism, how best do proponents of the scientific method "get over," "make the case?"
I have some ideas there. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: ADD ANOTHER BOOK TO THE PILE
Just in at The Neurologica Blog:
The Death of Expertise
Tom Nichols’ book, “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters,” is currently on the Amazon bestsellers list. The book discusses a topic I have delved into many times here – what are the current general attitudes of the public toward experts and expertise, and how did we get here?
He mentions various aspects to this war against experts:
“The United States is now a country obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance. Many citizens today are proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue.”The culture and our educational system have created a generation that has little experience being told they are objectively wrong. Everyone feels they are entitled to be right. Combine this with the illusion of knowledge provided by Google, and everyone thinks they are their own expert in anything...
Like I don't already have enough to read.
Popular in the Bible Belt of late -- "Prius repellent."
From the Tom Nichols book:
"Principled, informed arguments are a sign of intellectual health and vitality in a democracy."
“The death of expertise” is one of those phrases that grandly announces its own self-importance. It’s a title that risks alienating a lot of people before they even open the book, almost daring the reader to find a mistake in it somewhere just to take the author down a peg. I understand that reaction, because I feel much the same way about such sweeping pronouncements. Our cultural and literary life is full of premature burials of everything: shame, common sense, manliness, femininity, childhood, good taste, literacy, the Oxford comma, and so on. The last thing we all need is one more encomium for something we know isn’t quite dead.
While expertise isn’t dead, however, it’s in trouble. Something is going terribly wrong. The United States is now a country obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance. It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography; they don’t, but that’s an old problem. And really, it’s not even a problem, insofar as we live in a society that works because of a division of labor, a system designed to relieve each of us of having to know about everything. Pilots fly airplanes, lawyers file lawsuits, doctors prescribe medication. None of us is a Da Vinci, painting the Mona Lisa in the morning and designing helicopters at night. That’s as it should be.
No, the bigger problem is that we’re proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: no longer do we hold these truths to be self-evident, we hold all truths to be self-evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every opinion on any subject is as good as any other.
This isn’t the same thing as the traditional American distaste for intellectuals and know-it-alls. I’m a professor, and I get it: most people don’t like professors. When I began my teaching career nearly three decades ago, it was at a college not far from my hometown, and so I would drop in now and then to say hello and visit a small tavern owned by my brother. One evening, after I left, a patron turned to my brother and said, “He’s a professor, huh? Well, he seems like a good guy anyway.” If you’re in my profession, you get used to that.
But that’s not why I wrote this book. Intellectuals who get outraged over zingers about the uselessness of intellectuals should find a different line of work. I’ve been a teacher, a political adviser, a subject-matter expert for both government and private industry, and a commenter on various media. I’m used to people disagreeing with me; in fact, I encourage it. Principled, informed arguments are a sign of intellectual health and vitality in a democracy.
Rather, I wrote this because I’m worried. We no longer have those principled and informed arguments. The foundational knowledge of the average American is now so low that it has crashed through the floor of “uninformed,” passed “misinformed” on the way down, and is now plummeting to “aggressively wrong.” People don’t just believe dumb things; they actively resist further learning rather than let go of those beliefs. I was not alive in the Middle Ages, so I cannot say it is unprecedented, but within my living memory I’ve never seen anything like it...
Nichols, Tom (2017-02-01). The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters (Kindle Locations 39-65). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
I finished The Death of Expertise last night. I could not recommend it more highly. A bracing look at the difficulties we face combating willful ignorance.
...In the end, experts cannot demand that citizens pay attention to the world around them. They cannot insist people eat healthy meals or exercise more. They cannot drag citizens by the neck away from the latest reality television show and make them look at a map instead. They cannot cure narcissism by fiat.
Tragically, I suspect that a possible resolution will lie in a disaster as yet unforeseen. It may be a war or an economic collapse. (Here, I mean a major war that touches America even more deeply than the far-away conflicts fought by brave volunteers, or a real depression, rather than the recession of the early twenty-first century.) It may be in the emergence of an ignorant demagoguery, a process already underway in the United States and Europe, or the rise to power of a technocracy that finally runs out of patience and thus dispenses with voting as anything other than a formality.
The creation of a vibrant intellectual and scientific culture in the West and in the United States required democracy and secular tolerance. Without such virtues, knowledge and progress fall prey to ideological, religious, and populist attacks. Nations that have given in to such temptations have suffered any number of terrible fates, including mass repression, cultural and material poverty, and defeat in war...
Every single vote in a democracy is equal to every other, but every single opinion is not, and the sooner American society reestablishes new ground rules for productive engagement between the educated elite and the society they serve, the better.
Experts need to remember, always, that they are the servants and not the masters of a democratic society and a republican government. If citizens, however, are to be the masters, they must equip themselves not just with education, but with the kind of civic virtue that keeps them involved in the running of their own country. Laypeople cannot do without experts, and they must accept this reality without rancor.
Experts, likewise, must accept that their advice, which might seem obvious and right to them, will not always be taken in a democracy that may not value the same things they do. Otherwise, when democracy is understood as an unending demand for unearned respect for unfounded opinions, anything and everything becomes possible, including the end of democracy and republican government itself.See again the review at The Neurologica Blog (including the many comments).
That, at least, is my expert opinion on the matter. I could be wrong. [The Death of Expertise, Kindle Locations 3621-3652]
Potential Trump Science Adviser Says Climate Change Is Great
...Scientists love nothing more than to question and shoot down each other’s results. But through those arguments, over time certain conclusions emerge. In this case, the balance of evidence shows that anthropogenic climate change is likely to alter the state of our environment significantly over the coming decades and centuries, and that these effects can be reduced by curtailing our greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, there are uncertainties in the details of the projections, but no reasonable risk assessment would use this as an excuse for not taking mitigating action. If you let your 6-year-old drive you to work tomorrow, there’s some chance you might both make it, but it doesn’t make it a good idea to give him the keys.Below: This is a good fairly long read
[Princeton physicist Dr. William] Happer’s potential appointment is in some ways more worrying than the administration’s hires to date, such as the appointee for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who simply denies scientific consensus on climate, making his position easy to dismiss in rational debate. Happer’s background in science and his selective consideration of the data give his opinions a veneer of respectability. If he is going to champion the principles of the scientific method and rational discourse, he must be able to defend his positions in the light of the overwhelming evidence for the significant risks associated with anthropogenic climate change. And that’s a fight he can’t win.
How to Persuade a Trump Supporter to Reject and Resist Trumpism
A DIY Guide (v1.5) to Changing Minds Instead of Sending Your Sad Soliloquy or Smug Shouting Right into the Void
By an old-school rhetorician who thinks liberals, conservatives, radicals, and pretty much everyone desperately needs to improve their arts of persuasion and dialogue, who here posits that the loss of rhetorical skill and virtue contributed to the political hellscape that now engulfs us...FEB 28th UPDATE
Just noted over at SBM:
Sharks get a lot of bad press and inspire a lot of fear, but in 2014 no one was killed by a shark in the US, while 36 people were killed by dogs, and 83 were killed by other mammals (including horses and cows). And tobacco kills a whopping 5.4 million people around the world every year.
Why do things that are unlikely to harm us get the most attention? In his new book Getting Risk Right, Geoffrey Kabat asks and answers that question. He says:
…we have been encouraged to worry about deadly toxins in baby bottles, food, and cosmetics; carcinogenic radiation from power lines and cell phones; and harm from vaccines and genetically modified foods… When looked at even the least bit critically, many of the scares that get high-profile attention turn out to be based on weak or erroneous findings that were hardly ready for prime time...
"Kabat has packed a wealth of information into his 180 pages of text, and everything he says is copiously supported by references. There is much to learn here, not only about the four subjects covered in depth, but about how science works and the factors that can lead us astray. This book will provide you with defensive armor against alarmist headlines and it will help you judge the credibility of new studies. Highly recommended."Tee up another one in my Kindle reader.
MARCH 4TH UPDATE
Ran across an article this morning that led me to this book.
Fits with the topical theme of this post. From the Amazon blurb:
We’re surrounded by fringe theories, fake news, and pseudo-facts. These lies are getting repeated. New York Times bestselling author Daniel Levitin shows how to disarm these socially devastating inventions and get the American mind back on track. Here are the fundamental lessons in critical thinking that we need to know and share now.May buy and read it as well. I've long been hip to Daniel Levitin's work. I have this one, below, in my Kindle stash. Read it some time back.
Investigating numerical misinformation, Daniel Levitin shows how mishandled statistics and graphs can give a grossly distorted perspective and lead us to terrible decisions. Wordy arguments on the other hand can easily be persuasive as they drift away from the facts in an appealing yet misguided way. The steps we can take to better evaluate news, advertisements, and reports are clearly detailed. Ultimately, Levitin turns to what underlies our ability to determine if something is true or false: the scientific method. He grapples with the limits of what we can and cannot know. Case studies are offered to demonstrate the applications of logical thinking to quite varied settings, spanning courtroom testimony, medical decision making, magic, modern physics, and conspiracy theories.
This urgently needed book enables us to avoid the extremes of passive gullibility and cynical rejection. As Levitin attests: Truth matters. A post-truth era is an era of willful irrationality, reversing all the great advances humankind has made. Euphemisms like "fringe theories," "extreme views," "alt truth," and even "fake news" can literally be dangerous. Let's call lies what they are and catch those making them in the act.
I am remiss for not having cited in in my prior post "Clinical workflow, clinical cognition, and The Distracted Mind."
More to come...