17 June 2013

The Common Thread

I was at a party yesterday, and I was talking about who knows what, and, I guess maybe because I have an "educated" accent, or whatever, I really have no idea why, she commented that she was surprised I hadn't gone into some field of science.

And I mentioned that I had been expecting to in high school, I had interned in  microbiology and biotech labs, focused mainly on science classes in high school and college, got associate degrees in biology and earth science - but then, by random acts of fate, I had ended up doing semi-skilled manual labor which afforded me not only decent money, but an extremely flexible schedule and the ability to be my own boss. 
I said I still satiated that side of my mind with plenty of reading, and occasional writing.

She asked where I wrote, whether it was just for myself - basically just this blog, and given the size of it's readership, yeah, pretty much just for myself.
and what topics I wrote about, and I tried to think of all the various things I've covered.

She asked what they all have in common.

Nothing really, other than I find them interesting.  And I find of lot of things interesting.  The world is a vast and complicated place.  reality is fascinating.  I really can not comprehend how so many people can willingly specialize, focus on just one area of human knowledge, when there is just so much else out there.  I'm much more interested in understanding a little about everything than everything about a little.

So, yeah, my blog has no theme.
Probably why I will never be able to generate any significant readership.  People subscribe to stuff that focuses on what interests them, and mine doesn't focus on anything.

She insisted that there must be some angle where a common theme could be found.  She said that in what she did, there were always commonalities emerging, even when they weren't obvious at first.

We kept talking more, I elaborated slightly on a few posts, she suggested that maybe challenging preconceptions might  be a consistent thing, and then I realized, duh! it's right there in the header of the blog.

Nothing inspires me to write - to really write, something in depth and well thought out, with perhaps hours of research and weeks of drafting in my head - like something where I find millions of people hold a particular piece of "common wisdom" which just happens to be completely wrong.

But I learned something recently:
People are stubborn. 
I mean, like, really stubborn.

No surprise, right, but the extent of it is.

Its not just rejecting arguments that you don't already agree with.  We humans have a tendency, even in the face of independent evidence or clear factual data, to believe our wrong beliefs EVEN HARDER when they are challenged.

That certainly isn't encouraging in terms of my chances of changing anyone's mind about anything!

Therefore, perhaps I should make this article:


mandatory reading before you can read any of the more potentially controversial things I've written.
Except of course that there is no way for me to enforce it.

Well, read it anyway.  And be aware of it, not just when you're reading what I write, but all the time, in day-to-day life, and whenever you argue with anyone.  You can go a long way to overriding your own cognitive biases, if only you are aware of them.  You will make yourself smarter, and by so doing, be able to make your own life better in every way, forever.

You may still disagree with me on all sorts of stuff.  But, at least if you approach it with a truly open mind, you will disagree for the right reasons.


  1. This reminded me of Professor John Baugh's research at Stanford:

  2. Hi Bakari,
    I finally read the whole article. I think this may be generally true of many people, not necessarily of everyone. In any case, re the last paragraph: "So, how about spanking? After reading all of this, do you think you are ready to know what science has to say about the issue? Here’s the skinny – psychologists are still studying the matter, but the current thinking says spanking generates compliance in children under seven if done infrequently, in private and using only the hands. Now, here’s a slight correction: other methods of behavior modification like positive reinforcement, token economies, time out and so on are also quite effective and don’t require any violence."
    I generally agree with what is written here except that he left out a very important factor. To be effective at all, spanking must not only be infrequent, but it must be clearly communicated as a consequence of a specific behavior. When spanking occurs randomly or according to the mood of a venting parent (as it often does)it will have no effect on compliance other than to possibly increase non-compliance out of justified anger for being the target of a parents violent venting.
    Another factor to consider is that spanking also teaches that it is okay to use violent force against those who are smaller or more vulnerable than you, and that is not what most of us want to teach.

  3. Not that I can speak for McCrany or the research he is citing, but I doubt they would dispute those additions. I suspect it was just cut to the basic parts that tend to be disputed for time and space and not getting too off topic.

    Generally all psychology is true of most people but there are occasional exceptions.
    One thing I'm learning from reading about this kind of thing is the exceptions are more rare than we like to think (mostly because each individual person wants to rationalize that they themselves are one of those exceptions!)

  4. Hey, its me again, I left a "trollish" comment on a post you made in 2008 ( XD LMAO). I started paroozing your blog, and its actually really engaging and stimulating! Sorry to be so backhanded earlier, but yeah, I like your writing style! Im actually learning to 'write good' currently.

    I dropped out of highschool on my 16th birthday (so truancy laws could suck my doink haha) and Ive never completed a writing assignment in my whole academic life. The fact that you just "write for writings sake" is very inspirational to me, and I think thats what makes your blog so rich.

    anyways, Im gonna get back to reading, have a swell day :)

    1. I didn't consider it trollish. I appreciate when my own biases and assumptions get pointed out.
      I don't think I write all that good - not like the writers I like to read. But reading a lot probably helps, and then I just try to write what I am thinking and how I would speak.
      I got a little education - finished high school, plus some associate degrees, but I never went to "real" college, and I don't think I ever took a writing course. Sometimes just doing a thing is just as effective as learning it first


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