Archive for August, 2012

SCIENCE!

“Making sense” is a funny phrase, because we use it to mean two different things. In the first place, we use it to mean “making logical sense” — that is, a conclusion follows directly from available data according to the strict and very specific laws and modes of logical reasoning; in the second place, we use it to mean, “seems intuitive” — that is, when we hear a scenario, and we hear the prediction made for that scenario, it seems “right” or “familiar” to us. We use this term precisely to muddy up the difference between “logical sense” and “intuitive sense”, and it’s unfortunate, because while logical sense is verifiable and repeatable, intuitive sense is based on predictions made from past experience, and is therefore only as accurate as the experience is representative, and furthermore is essentially tantamount to saying “that’s true because it’s familiar.”

Today I want to talk about the “science” of Evolutionary Psychology. Evolutionary Psychology is a pretty fun thing, because what it consists of is: you observe some behaviors, notice a couple statistical facts, and then make up a story to explain why cavemen had to do it that way. Is it true? Is it false? Is it genetic, or cultural? Who knows, or cares? It’s not like we’ve got a bunch of cavemen sitting around that we can ask about it, who knows what those guys thought? And it’s not like we can just crack open some DNA and find the gene for “wearing pants” or for “wanting to have a lot of sex with women,” or something.

It’s less like a science and more like a kind of weird game, I guess. Anyway, almost inevitably, it’s used by douchebags to justify being douchebags (“observe douchey behavior, make up a story about why cavemen were douchebags”), and I just wanted to point out that there are couple of ideas that only make it LOOK, for instance, like the human race is naturally inclined towards patriarchy, but with a little imagination you can make an equally compelling story for how it’s maybe the other way around.

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ImageI’ve put off on writing about The Newsroom because like most HBO shows, it really needs the context of the full season before you can really discuss what it did well, what it didn’t, and just who the hell would not fire Allison Pill’s character for her screaming incompetence and character flaws.

But we’ve only got one more episode to go, so I figure I’ve digested enough to at least talk about something that blew my damn mind:

Aaron Sorkin inserted himself into the narrative of one episode as God Almighty.

Here is what went down:  (more…)

So, Todd Akin obviously said something horrible and heinous and stupid, and I’m sure you’ve all heard about it by now. A lot of folks are focusing on the “legitimate rape” part of the statement, and while I think that’s a perfectly valid point to be upset about, it’s not hugely surprising. Obviously, Akin meant “forcible rape”, because it’s been the Misogynist Party Line for…well, forever…that the only rape that counts is the kind that happens in a back alley. Equally important, the woman must scream for help loud enough that she’s overheard. (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

The thing that actually I am interested in, and that I wish people would ALSO focus on, is the part in his quote:

It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

So…
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Dear Pizza Hut

Posted: August 18, 2012 in Braak
Tags: , , ,

John Shnatter, founder and owner of Papa John’s Pizza, not too long ago said that providing healthcare for all his employees would cost about 14 cents per pizza, and that, in order to protect shareholder returns, that cost would get passed on to the customers by amortizing it throughout Papa John’s goods.

Pizza Hut. Here is how you can both afford to give everyone healthcare AND improve your market share.

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So, this is very exciting, I’ve got myself going so I guess I should just keep at it. Let’s say, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, that the “Ego” isn’t a thing, exactly, but is better understood as a verb. That sense of self that you and I have, that’s actually our individual, mechanical brains, actively asserting a difference between certain parts of our brain functions. In my last piece on this, at the very end, I wondered if we were just confined to two categories (let’s say C1 “Stuff that is Me” and C2 “Stuff that isn’t”), or maybe if there are more.

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So, because I have a job where I don’t have to think very hard, I get to listen to iTunes lectures all day. One of the lectures that I’ve been listening to is Shelly Kagan’s philosophy-intro course “Death.” (I actually stopped listening to it for a while, because he seemed like he was spending a lot of time making sure everyone else was with him in the lectures, and if there’s one thing I don’t have time for, it’s slowing down. I guess that just goes to show that I would kick the shit out of a degree in philosophy at Yale.) One of the things that comes up in a course on death is the question of mind-body duality, and Kagan (even though he doesn’t believe in mind-body duality) obligingly presented a variation on the thought experiment that Descartes used to figure out that the mind was fundamentally separate from the body:

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