No one ever hindered the wicked by putting chains on the righteous.
I came across this tagline on Instagram by an artist who is clearly still in darkness.
Pet the snake, enjoy the darkness, ignore the faith.
This person has chosen killing words and doesn’t even know it.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
The millionaire convicted of operating a profane underage sex-ring for the political powerful of the world was allowed to commit suicide today.
Right on schedule.
Don’t worry, noble citizens! Our completely effective and reliable Federal Bureau of Investigation and our equally impartial Department of Justice is on the case!
“Do not be wise in your own eyes.” (Proverbs 3:7)
Most of us think we’re smarter than most of us. In a recent large survey, 65% of Americans rated themselves more intelligent than average. Believing we’re very smart, we assume we’re usually right. But is that confidence warranted?
In the course of my medical career, I have known brilliant physicians of many different faiths. Among the most committed adherents, it is safe to say that all were quite sure regarding the truth of their particular faith. But each tradition contradicts all others in one or more matters. They could all be wrong in part or in whole; they cannot all be right. Logically, we must conclude that not only is it possible to be brilliant, certain, and wrong, but that it is common.
In the previous post, we looked at several nonrational factors that can lead to false beliefs: heuristics and biases, emotions, and social influences. We noted that education and intelligence are unreliable predictors of rational thinking.
Yet false beliefs comprise but one side of the coin. The other side, of equal or even greater importance, is the level of certainty attached to those beliefs. Confidence is our estimate of the probability that we are correct. It is a belief concerning our belief—metacognition, in psychological parlance.
The Illusion of Certainty
Ideally, our confidence should be roughly proportional to the mathematical probability that we are correct. In other words, if we are 90% certain, we should be right 90% of the time. But studies repeatedly show that our degree of certainty consistently exceeds our accuracy. For example, people who are “99% sure” are wrong 50% of the time. This disparity both defines and demonstrates the phenomenon of overconfidence. Our unwarranted certainty could be blamed on misplaced trust; that is, by placing too much credence in an unreliable source. However, since we tend to favor sources we already agree with (confirmation bias), excess certainty usually reflects an excessive faith in ourselves (pride).
In his 2009 tome On Being Certain, neuroscientist Robert Burton argued that certainty is not a state of reason but of feeling, influenced by unconscious physiologic processes. Certainty is mostly illusion, Burton argues, and there is considerable evidence supporting this hypothesis.
Overconfidence has been demonstrated and measured in many domains besides intelligence: driving ability, economic forecasting, and medicine, for example. In almost every domain studied to date, significant majorities express a confidence in their abilities far beyond what is warranted, or even mathematically possible. Sometimes, the least competent people are the most confident, whereas the most skilled and knowledgeable people slightly underestimate their ability. This phenomenon has been dubbed the “Dunning-Kruger” effect, after the original researchers whose landmark paper, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” not only opened a new avenue of research but also has prompted smiles from those who sensed its ring of truth.
The Intelligence Trap
Highly intelligent people constitute another group with an elevated risk of overconfidence. Intelligent people know they are intelligent, making them less likely to doubt themselves, respect other opinions, or change their minds. They are also every bit as attuned, if not more so, to social influences that motivate belief.
Highly intelligent people can and do believe crazy things. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the ruthlessly logical Sherlock Holmes, was a devout believer in spiritualism and fairies. Albert Einstein expressed a naïve and unshakeable optimism concerning Lenin, Stalin, and the Soviet Union:
“I honor Lenin as a man who completely sacrificed himself and devoted all his energy to the realization of social justice. I do not consider his methods practical, but one thing is certain: men of his type are the guardians and restorers of humanity.”
In The Intelligence Trap, science writer David Robson informs us that:
- College graduates are more likely than nongraduates to believe in ESP and psychic healing
- People with IQ’s over 140 are more likely to max out on their credit
- High IQ individuals consume more alcohol and are more likely to smoke or take illegal drugs
While the popular perception is that intelligent people are naturally skeptical, in fact all humans are believing machines. We drift with the cultural tides, embracing popular ideas on the flimsiest of evidence, then clutch those beliefs tenaciously to protect our egos, strut our virtue, justify our actions, and advertise loyalty to our in-group. This view may seem cynical, but it is well-validated.
There are many strategies for overcoming the “intelligence trap.” They include cognitive reflection, actively open-minded thinking, curiosity, emotional awareness and regulation, having a growth mindset, distrusting the herd, and consistent skepticism. However one habit of mind undergirds all others: an attitude of intellectual humility.
Knowing Our Limits
Intellectual humility could be defined as merely having a realistic view of our mental processing; namely, that our knowledge is inevitably limited, our thinking is unavoidably biased, and that even the smartest among us are prone to error.
In recent decades, psychology has embraced a model of personality based on the “big five”: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The more recent version adds a sixth measure: HH, for honesty-humility. Researchers have demonstrated that HH shows a consistent negative correlation with all three elements of the “dark triad”: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. On the other hand, HH correlates positively with healthier traits such as cooperation and self-control.
In a 2018 paper from UC Davis, researchers showed that intellectual humility is associated with openness during disagreement, and that promoting a growth mindset served to enhance intellectual humility. Intellectual humility also helps to reduce polarization and conflict. In one study, it was even superior to general intelligence in predicting academic achievement.
Research Affirms Scripture
According to many adherents of the Judeo-Christian tradition, pride is the deadliest sin. Humility is its opposite. It may be tempting to assume this peril concerns only the skeptic, but it’s not just about “them.” It’s about all of us. And the greater the visibility or the higher one’s position in Christian circles, the greater problem is likely to be.
“Do not be wise in your own conceits.” (Romans 12:16, KJV)
Scripture repeatedly warns against unwarranted confidence in our own wisdom. Years of research in cognitive science shows this to be a common human problem that only worsens with intelligence. However, the antidote begins with intellectual humility, an ancient Judeo-Christian virtue whose wisdom has been validated by the latest empirical data.
Original article: The Science of Certainty – Part 2
Turning the page away from the politicization of investigations.
A free society cannot stay free for long if the criminal-justice system becomes a political weapon, if that becomes our norm.
The most alarming aspect of the Trump–Russia investigation, and of the stark difference between the aggression with which it was pursued and the see-no-evil passivity of the Clinton emails caper, is the way the investigative process was used to influence political outcomes.
From National Review: James Comey Goes Free
Comey got away with it and here’s why he got away with it:
He knew our so-called “department of justice” wouldn’t lift a finger to stop him. Both the FBI and the DOJ were completely obedient to the political demands of their handlers, the DNC.
Robber baron, a pejorative term for one of the powerful 19th-century U.S. industrialists and financiers who made fortunes by monopolizing huge industries through the formation of trusts, engaging in unethical business practices, exploiting workers, and paying little heed to their customers or competition. Alternatively, those who credit the explosive growth of American capitalism during this period to the indefatigable pursuit of success and material wealth are likely to celebrate these entrepreneurial tycoons as “captains of industry.” Among the sectors in which they compiled their great wealth were the oil, steel, liquor, cotton, textile, and tobacco industries, railroads, and banks.
It has been argued that these capitalist pioneers were the “antecedents” of the organized crime that emerged in the United States during the Prohibition era (1920–33). The robber barons transformed the wealth of the American frontier into vast financial empires, amassing their fortunes by monopolizing essential industries. In turn, these monopolies were built upon the liberal use of tactics that are today the hallmark of organized crime: intimidation, violence, corruption, conspiracies, and fraud.
John Jacob Astor
Among the earliest of the robber barons was John Jacob Astor, a fur magnate who amassed his fortune through the monopoly held by his American Fur Company over the trade in the central and western United States during the first 30 years of the 19th century. This monopoly was achieved in part by crushing rivals and systematically cheating Native Americans of fur pelts. When his competitors complained to the government, Astor’s agents resorted to violence. With his riches, Astor routinely paid off politicians to protect his business interests. At the time of his death, Astor was considered the wealthiest person in the country.
James Fisk, one Wall Street’s first great financiers, accumulated much of his fortune by fraudulent stock market practices. Fisk took much of the considerable money he made from smuggling Southern cotton to Northern mills during the American Civil War and invested it in Confederate bonds. He then swindled European investors by selling short when the defeat of the Confederate army was imminent but before Europe learned that the Confederate currency had collapsed.
In 1866, he formed the brokerage firm Fisk and Belden, and later he and his colleagues protected their control over the Erie Railroad Company by issuing fraudulent stock. Along with his associates, Fisk attempted to corner the gold market by inflating the price, which was accomplished by bribing public officials to keep government gold off the market. The venture brought them vast sums but led to a securities market panic that began on September 24, 1869, a day that was long remembered as Black Friday. At the time, the negative repercussions of the gold hoarding shook the economy and the scandal-plagued administration of Pres. Ulysses S. Grant.
Leland Stanford became involved in Republican politics in California and was elected governor in 1861. While governor, Stanford approved millions of dollars in state grants for the construction of a transcontinental railroad line during a period when he was also president of the Central Pacific Railroad. With three colleagues, he formed the Pacific Association and used their combined assets to bribe congressmen and others with political influence in the country’s capital. In return, the association was provided 9 million acres (3.6 million hectares) and a $24 million loan financed by federal bonds.
In addition, Stanford and his associates intimidated local governments into providing millions of dollars in subsidies by threatening to have the rail line bypass their communities. In 1885, Stanford was elected to the U.S. Senate by the legislature and re-elected in 1891. In 1885 also, he established what would later become Stanford University. Stanford died in 1893 worth more than $18 billion in 2004 dollars.
John D. Rockefeller
John D. Rockefeller made his immense riches from monopolizing America’s oil industry. Conspiring with refinery owners, he helped found what became known as the Standard Oil monopoly. The consortium colluded with the railroads to monopolize oil delivery, prompting competitors to allow themselves to be bought by Standard Oil or be forced to pay outrageous shipping costs that would drive them out of business. These who stubbornly resisted were confronted with price wars. By 1890, the Rockefeller trust controlled approximately 90 percent of the petroleum production in the United States, a situation that led to the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act that same year.
Other Robber Barons
Among the others who are often counted among the robber barons are financier John Pierpont Morgan, who organized a number of major railroads and consolidated the United States Steel, International Harvester, and General Electric corporations; Andrew Carnegie, who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century; shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt; industrialist George Pullman, the inventor of the Pullman sleeping car; and Henry Clay Frick, who helped build the world’s largest coke and steel operations. Perhaps ironically, many of the robber barons were also among the most prominent and generous philanthropists in U.S. history.
Original article: Robber Barons
Or, in modern parlance: predator capitalism.
There is no other economic model that has so swiftly and sweepingly liberated hundreds and hundreds of millions of people out of poverty than capitalism.
The verdict is in: capitalism is unmatched.
It has no equal today. It never had an equal. All those false prophets who seduced their nations and peoples to lay down under the boot heels of fascism, communism, totalitarianism, and other various cold socialist models, lie thankfully dead, buried, and forgotten: their failed experiments warnings to the wise.
However, capitalism is still an economic model and as such is vulnerable to those old vices Scripture warn us to avoid: envy, covetousness, greed, deception, and murder.
If you add the prefix predator to anything, you are no better than the robber barons of old: dead greed-soaked souls who are better off shunned from polite society.