Humility doesn't go viral. Careful consideration doesn't get retweets. What spreads is confidence, whether it's well-placed or not. As a result, Vox's product is the very sort of confidence that this article decries.
Can I get a citation for this one? I've seen plenty of articles that are misleading if not wrong (and also plenty that are quite informative), but I have yet to see evidence they publish ones taking positions they actually know to be wrong.
An example from the book is the Shirley Sherrod controversy. Breitbart excerpted two snippets from a 40+ minute speech that Sherrod gave, which were excerpted specifically to make it seem like she was engaging in "reverse racism". This led to Sherrod getting fired, and cemented Breitbart's reputation as an influential site that could even get government employees fired. After the controversy blew up, Breitbart stuck to its guns for as long as possible, in order to gin up as many pageviews as possible from the ongoing controversy as possible. Finally, when it did issue a correction, it issued one that was completely unrepentant -- the only incorrect information it admitted to publishing was that the remarks that it referred to had been made before Ms. Sherrod took her job with the Department of Agriculture, instead of after.
Ezra Klein's interactions with Sam Harris have a similar character. Klein seems to deliberately distort positions that Sam Harris takes in order to make it seem as if he's more sympathetic to right-wing ideas than he actually is. Even when Sam Harris corrects him, both on his podcast and in writing, Klein sticks to his guns, and completely fails to acknowledge that he could have been wrong about his interpretation of Mr. Harris' views. He only admits to corrections in the most technical sense, about narrow facts. Klein never admits the possibility that he might have completely misinterpreted something, only that he got certain details wrong.
It is for this reason that I found it extremely ironic that Vox, the publication founded by Ezra Klein, would publish an article advocating for intellectual humility, when in my experience, both Klein himself and Vox's editorial voice as a whole are among the least intellectually humble publications that I read.
I recall listening to the same fated podcast you allude to, that Sam Harris did with Klein. It was frustrating to see how meaninglessly stubborn Klein was. Klein's attitude was so two-faced that Harris was not joking when he described how Klein's false politeness came across in their private emails: "Hey Sam, let's meet together and discuss how you are a bigot. Thank you, and have a good day."
I can completely see how one could feel that way after reading and listening to the relevant articles, published emails, and podcasts.
But I also wished Kahenman wrote that in a more prominent location, like edge.org, or publishing a public errata to his book—so that people reading the 'priming' chapter, titled The Associative Machine, in the book are appropriately primed; instead of a comment buried deep in a Wordpress blog.
The book is geared towards the intelligence community but can be appreciated by all intelligent communities, especially on a topic such as this *. In a nutshell, it is about discovering implicit assumptions, questioning them, and checking for alternative explanations - in all areas of analysis/thought.
Just like those tricky drawings, that even after they tell you that both lines are the same length, your mind keep saying “nope that one is longer”. Something very similar happens when we try see our ignorance. It takes a lot of effort, especially when no one have ever bothered to teach us.
In the two line example: sure, you mind tells you they're different, but if you're taught that knowledge is about trying to falsify your own opinion, you think about how it might be disproved. You go grab a ruler, bring it back to measure the two lines, and hot damn!
Growing up, I had a very similar moment trying to understand the Monty Hall problem. I was SO frustrated when my intuition said that I was right, I actually grabbed my father (sorry dad) and made him sit down with me while we physically ran through a hundred or so actual physical simulations and recorded the results to see whether practice would match up against theory or my intuition.
It matched up with theory. I learnt a very valuable lesson about intuition and probability.
Of course you're absolutely right however, almost no education system is actually set up to teach or grade using that style...and most kudos is given in academia for making positive claims rather than setting up realistic hypothesese and then working to actively disprove your own or other people's theories.
The struggle is constant, that is why we need to blindly follow those formalisms.
That step of running the simulation was crucial in not cementing gut feelings over proof. Not many people make that leap to running a simulation, even though causality and our ability to imagine a far future is a prime human skill.
But it's wrongfully pedantic to pretend that monophyletic groups are the only valid classification system. Paraphyletic groups are fine too. Vertebrata or Craniata, minus Tetrapoda, is more or less the definition of "fish".
You can give an answer that spells out all of that. Alternatively, if you are limited to a single word, there is a "correct" answer to "is a whale a fish or a mammal": "yes."
We live by headlines, sound bites, quick and easy black & white characterisation. Nuance is not appreciated, and often not understood. Nuance and humility are seen as signs of weakness, and often taken as signs that you're wrong, since you clearly don't really believe what you say. A lie spoken with confidence is more believable than a truth explained with nuance, and that's a real problem.
An example that immediately comes to mind is during my thesis, I set upon the task of creating a multivariate model to predict an observable quantity. My advisor kept insisting that my goal was NOT to build the model, but to first see that IF the variables had enough predictive power. I just never understood (at the time) what he meant. I went straight ahead and hammered out a robust model, and got a good grade (reward).
The rewards are intrinsic, not extrinsic. Sometimes the rewards can be extrinsic in the long run - if you find and invalidate a hidden assumption and are then able to build a theory/product/business around it. But in the short term, the rewards, and hence motivation, is usually intrinsic at best. Often there are no short term rewards, because you're in a perennial state of discomfiture owning to questioning everything.
For example, they give us an audio and they tell us a robotic voice is telling "Laurel", but they then tell us that what we hear depends on the speakers.
So the fact is that we are not hearing the same thing. So it is not a valid test.
Indeed, the test is wrong because it is computer synthesizers the ones who have problems pronouncing certain sounds, like the "l" that we create putting our tongue back and creating a loop that lets air go out by the sides.
This is a complex analog movement and resonance that is hard to emulate with digital technology, because it is not static and dynamic sounds are very hard to control as we use Fourier analysis for that with windows that introduce distortions in the signal.
Most companies out there just record those sounds from real people.
So those guys instead of accepting the limitations of current technology and accepting their test is wrong, they use it to prove that others are wrong while hearing it.
Oh, the irony. The interesting thing is that while it is very hard to admit that you are wrong, it is extremely easy to admit that other people are wrong.
If you want to be able to market yourself and access opportunities that other people can't, you often have to project confidence - even overconfidence - in your beliefs. Non-experts can't tell, but they can certainly identify a lack of confidence. People have a bias for simple, clear prognostications, even if they are wrong.
This is an unfortunate reality, but it is a reality. Otherwise, we wouldn't see so many charlatans passing off as experts. But we do.
I think it's useful then to be able to project confidence and even overconfidence in your beliefs. But at the core, you must remain intellectually humble if you want to learn. You can't block out knew ideas because of your ego.
I've summarized this philosophy elsewhere as: look high-status, but be low-status.
I often wonder if the Jewish tradition of casually and constantly debating all manner of things is a good antidote to getting rigidly attached to one's own viewpoint. But on the flipside, nonstop argumentations are a nuisance too.
"One reason I’ve been thinking about the virtue of humility recently is because our president, Donald Trump, is one of the least humble people on the planet.
It was Trump who said on the night of his nomination, “I alone can fix it,” with the “it” being our entire political system. It was Trump who once said, “I have one of the great memories of all time."
Trump is of course not a humble man. Is he any different in this regard than his predecessor?
“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” -- Barack Obama (https://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/81895_Page2.html)
"I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth." -- Barack Obama, Primary Election victory speech, Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008.
Intellectual humility starts at home.
While I like and respect Obama, it did make me think about the saying, if everyone is a dick, you're probably the dick.
More on topic. I know a pastor and she recently told me that its sad and disheartening at how many people will come up to her after a sermon and say, "Oh that was great, I just wish X was here to hear it." It seems when people hear about a possible flaw in behavior/personality they always search for people that have that flaw. But they rarely ever look at themselves. So it's not too surprising that the author would displays a blind spot while decrying them.
We can only hope he's realized it and is working on it.
Since you're on the topic of religion the Christian New Testament is pretty big on humility, for example the famous quote from Matthew 7:4: "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?"
As your example shows not everyone who goes to church lives up to the message. But people have been thinking about the problem for a long time.
I think the concept of humility is separate. To be fair, in US politics I don't think you have the option of being humble. US culture, as a whole, doesn't really value humility. Not from its pop stars, not from its sports stars, not from its business stars and not from its politicians. Advertising that you were wrong and especially offering an apology is practically a death sentence.
If you contrast that with Japan it is almost polar opposite. Pop stars, sports stars, business stars and politicians are generally quite humble (at least externally). The prime minister often resigns because he has assumed responsibility for one disaster or another. We've had 17 prime ministers in the last 30 years. Prime minister Abe is on his 2nd go around! His complete mishandling of a variety of different things has been no stumbling block at all ;-) (You might reasonably point at "Abenomics" to indicate his lack of humility, but apart from that, he seems to admit his mistakes when forced to do so...)
In general, people in the west and especially people in the US really enjoy brash and boastful behaviour. They like their heroes bigger than life. They like to cheer loudly and support their heroes to the bitter end, refusing to let them down -- even to the point of refusing to think anything bad about them. Everything is the other guy's fault, or the fault of circumstances, or something similar. Nobody wants to be made a fool of for their unquestioning support. And so, nobody supports someone who lets them down by admitting mistakes.
There are many wonderful things about this kind of culture, but there are downsides as well. The successful people who are a product of that culture can't really be blamed for doing what it takes to be successful IMHO. If you want your leaders to be different, you have to value different things.
Edit: Apparently I can't count how many times Abe has resigned. Perhaps it is wishful thinking...
And if you're calling 80% of the people you meet smart?
There's a huge difference between "everyone" and "a significant fraction".
Wouldn’t most people at the top of their game think they’re good at the game? Wouldn’t it be dishonesty rather than humility if they claimed otherwise? Isn’t being able to describe your bias and ego an essential part of intellectual humility?
To judge that kind of statement, the intent and context is important. Trump is usually justifying why he doesn’t take advice and won’t answer questions.
I’ll bet you Obama (like most competent folks and past presidents) will have been making a broader point eg about the reality of being the leader but still relying on a team of good people.
I’m pretty sure Obama let his ego get in the way of any number of occasions. But Trump relies on pure ego. Not comparable in my view.
Politics is a great area for cognitive blind spots. Sometimes we get so wrapped up our support or opposition that we forget to build the arguments we make from sound foundations. Or our blind spots might just confuse us and leave us not making clear points at all, instead of fallacious ones.
It was unnecessary for the author to mention Trump in the article. It can even be considered detrimental, if the goal was to convey the points in the rest of the article. By mentioning a divisive figure the author undermines his ability to communicate the main points of the article. The figure diverts even intelligent people into discussion of the person mentioned as a trigger for his thoughts for the article, instead of discussion of the article.
That is why the author was wrong to mention Trump in the article.
However, if you're conveying some other point, it fails to reach me. Is it that the author is wrong to say what you yourself feel about the sitting president because earlier presidents did similar things? That the author should also give focus to past presidents who left office years ago and mention them as well or instead? Something else? I can only speculate, which usually ends badly.
The author's inspiration for the article seems to come off earnestly. It is natural for person whose actions and words are amplified and widely disseminated, and who has a lot of power, to inspire thoughts. The man's predecessor has been out of office for years now and is no longer in the same position of power. It would seem a bit disingenuous for the author to quote the previous president as inspiration for his new article, unless there was some particular recent event that caught his attention.
To some, this reply to the article might appear as if it were the result of a polarization tactic that has some historical precedent  in other countries. The political leaders would encourage and engage in arguments that attempt to discredit their opponents through claims of hypocrisy, without actually refuting anything. It's a variant of the tu quoque fallacy. If a leader can convince his base, through example and repetition, that this type of fallacy is a valid way to argue, it provides them a form of inoculation against other forms of reason and logic that might sway away their support. It can spread like a meme (in traditional sense) and serve as the basis for their own arguments.
It's very difficult to point out this sort of instilled behavior without offending people. And it's impossible to make a definitive determination with any kind of accuracy. Often people make accidental fallacies that are not indicative of their typical mode of argument. And even if that's their normal mode, it doesn't mean that it's something new to them, or instilled. So to be clear, I am not claiming your argument is the result of the deliberate introduction of this behavior. I have no way to know. It's something each person needs to understand for themselves.
But if an intelligent person who generally does not rely on fallacy were to begin to use them them increasingly, they might not be aware that they were doing so. If it were pointed out, they might deflect and ignore, or believe it was an accident. It would take repeated incidents for them to see a pattern. And once they saw a pattern, they wouldn't immediately associate the behavior as something that was introduced to them over a span of years of consumption. They wouldn't go back and look at the past media they consumed with a new awareness to try and determine the prevalence with which they saw similar argument and behavior.
The natural human response to this sort of suggestion is to reject it. My hope is that a person who has an self-inspecting mind that thinks about the way it thinks might eventually see this in themselves. I have a _ton_ of behaviors that have are instilled in me. I know about them, have conscious awareness of them, but don't always stop them. My go-to swear word is 'Jesus', even though I stopped attending church when I was 14. I know that I can't _really_ make people think more about their own minds with just a few words on the internet, but sometimes I do it anyway.
I can't tell if this post was a valid indicator or not; even if I knew you directly and for years, I wouldn't be qualified to say. People have to be the expert on themselves. I'm just proposing a thought for your own consideration. If the idea of thinking about the way you think is somehow upsetting or angering, then try to find out why that is. In the spirit of your affirmation that intellectual humility begins at home. I hope that you look beyond the surface thought of just "that anonymous person is irritating" and figure out exactly what it is that's so irritating. Then find out why that irritates you so much. And is it a valid reason to feel that way?
And it may be the same now. Hundreds of years from now, those who think "if it feels right it is right" will be forgotten, and humanity will remember a higher fraction of those who valued truth more than their own opinion or feeling.
The world will be a better place.
In the household I grew up in, I wasn't allowed to question my step-father. Doing so was considered, essentially, insubordination. This was in spite of him being objectively wrong about some of the things he said, including how to repair a car, about women and how they drive and more.
Why? Because he was right, and I was wrong. His gut feeling overrode anything else I was allowed to say. He was The Man Of The Household and his word was law.
In order to fight some of our worse qualities, we have to first identify them. Then break down any social barriers that keep us from not fighting them.
That is what this article is doing. It is naming one of them, and then asking us to be forgiving. And helping us realize that mistakes are not as punished as we all may think.
The problem that social science has is that all the senior people in academic positions got there by doing studies which are probably wrong. They cannot admit this because it makes their role untenable. The solution described in this post is to basically say 'Hey, we are ALL wrong', somehow normalising the fact that a lot of baloney has been published. We should not accept and certainly not encourage this behaviour. If social science wants to take up the mantle of doing good scientific work, then they need to sort out the huge methodological flaws in how they do things, and stop publicising and promulgating unconfirmed and biased results. It isn't like they are volunteers, they get paid, they make money from books, even win Nobel prizes for their work. Other scientists quietly get on with doing proper work, which is why we have things like vaccines and the internet and modern computing. We certainly do not have any of these things because someone decided they needed more intellectual humility.
I'll certainly acknowledge that most kids do not suffer such a reaction but not that it's impossible for some to, but those who were certain wouldn't do that.
Some of them were quite demanding about it. Almost insisting I admit I am wrong. I may well be, but I also know there's a lot we do no know about human biology. Just what we've learned about "gut bugs" in the past few years is pretty solid evidence of that. And it's also one of those cases where the more we've learned the more we realize there's even more we do not know.
To me, uncovering something that reveals how little we know, now that's exciting.
While this exists there will be incentives to something other than truth.
By analogy, there maybe such a thing as Russell's teapot. Indeed, no one can disprove it. But it is obviously unreasonable to believe in and unreasonable to send a probe looking for it. Just as it is unreasonable not to vaccinate kids.
Thus insisting that we hesitate to vaccinate but instead contemplate evidentialy unrelated autism, is advocating a dangerous policy on an unreasonable belief. Thus people have a very good reason to speak against such speculation since it is costing lives for no sensible reason.
It's not a matter of believing. It's about understanding you may not know everything there is to know.
I'm old enough to remember when a guy came back from Mexico and said "they have a plant there that, when rubbed on your skin, will prevent sunburn" and most everyone who was considered an authority said he was a "fool".
They could not have been more sure he was too. They were "100%" sure he was, so they didn't act on it.
I'm pretty sure most of them were using "Sunblock" just a few years later though.
You're conflating a population level claim for an individual claim.
Also, consider that we have as much evidence that vaccines cause autism as we do the claim that vaccines cause lightning strikes around humans. Which is to say, all the data we have show no link whatsoever.
So I think the people were mostly right to argue with you on this point.
If we don’t know what causes autism, we are pretty sure it’s not genetic, and happens to show about the same age we give vaccinates... it seems very wrong to say it’s a ‘fact’ they aren’t related. Science isn’t about believing in things - it’s about questioning them. Although it’s doubly wrong to say they are related, because we have no direct evidence of that. But yea, we don’t have proof they aren’t.
I guess it’s irony that some people who say they “trust science” fall into a religion of consensus as much as they accuse like anti-vaxxers having a religion of ignorance. “Science is a liar sometimes”
Most of these claims are wrong. Just because we don't know what causes autism, doesn't mean we can't conclude what does not cause autism. Vaccines are definitely in the latter category.
Furthermore, there very likely is a genetic component. Autistic children are much more likely to have parents that work in scientific and technical fields, and two such parents compound the risk even further.
Finally, that two events happen at the same time does not entail any sort of causal or even correlative connection. Autism is currently a behavioural diagnosis. Babies don't have suffiently well defined behaviour to make such a diagnosis. The timing of diagnosis coinciding with vaccine delivery is pure coincidence.
That is an assumption, not a "fact".
"Furthermore, there very likely is a genetic component."
That is another assumption, but let's assume further for just a moment...
If we do not fully understand the genetic component we cannot fully understand how that might be linked to triggering problems when children are vaccinated.
Again, what we don't know is far greater than what we do know. It costs us nothing to keep that in mind (except fake karma points).
Yeah, no. At this point it's absolutely a fact.
> If we do not fully understand the genetic component we cannot fully understand how that might be linked to triggering problems when children are vaccinated
This is not correct. Full understanding is not needed to conclude here exists no causal relationship.
You can practice science. You can’t “believe” in it.
The only ‘facts’ here are that we don’t know what causes autism. It does not appear to be genetic as I understand it. It’s entirely possible that in some people it’s triggered during something that happens with the vaccine process. We just don’t know. It’s unlikely, it’s not a reason to withhold vaccines, but scientifically it’s not a fact to say vaccines definitely does or does not cause autism in some people.
I’m sure that last sentience makes you mad, which again, is very unscientific. Try taking the absolutes out, and question everything including the big things.
No, I'm "mocking" people that "throw around" falsehoods.
> The only ‘facts’ here are that we don’t know what causes autism.
Incorrect. It's also a fact that it's not connected to vaccines.
> It’s entirely possible that in some people it’s triggered during something that happens with the vaccine process.
Nope, because then we'd see evidence of it. Which we don't, after hundreds of thousands of samples.
Furthermore, analysis from the other direction have demonstrated that most of the "rise" in autism is due to better diagnostics. So we have here no observation of any connection between autism and vaccines, and from the other side the diagnostic changes have mostly been accounted for. Where do you think an alleged connection to vaccines would hide?
Face it, vaccines do not cause autism. There is and never was any reason to connect the two, just like there is little reason to connect vaccines with lightning strikes.