Tag Archive | Pseudoscience

Economic Self-Interest

So the Nobel Prize in economics was recently awarded to Thaler, who showed that economic actors (i.e., “people”) don’t always act rationally, or in their best interests. While I have not read his award-winning work, that isn’t even important, because there are two underlying assumptions that don’t hold up, and that must be true for the hypothesis to be true: first, that rational and irrational behavior are different things, and second that “best interests” can be definitively measured.

Without going further, everyone should by now be identifying the scientific woo in the assertion. As I’ve written about before, rationality and irrationality are two sides of the same coin–that which we value, we value for emotional reasons, yet it is only rational to care (emotion-based) about our values. That’s rather circuitous, so let me explain with an example. Let’s say that I love chocolate milk, and that I’d be willing to pay $5 for a bottle of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup if only one remained at the store and I was competing with someone else for it. It is only rational that I put my desires first, and therefore only rational that I seek out and attempt to acquire the chocolate syrup. But why should I care about having chocolate syrup, and why should I care whether I am happy (with my desires fulfilled) or unhappy (with my desires unfulfilled)? Why should I care whether I am happy and acquired the chocolate syrup, or unhappy without the chocolate syrup?

We have a strong tendency to separate the two things, but they cannot be separated. There is no rational reason that I would care whether I am happy or sad–only emotional ones. Yet it is only rational that, if my emotional state matters to me, then I would attempt to keep my emotional state positive. If I care, then it is only rational that I do things that satisfy that concern, but there is no rational reason that I should care except that I care, and that, since I care, it only makes sense for me to do things to satisfy that concern. See? It’s all circular. Rationality and irrationality are woven together, inseparable; no one ever “acts rationally” and no one ever “acts irrationally.” They perpetually act both rationally and irrationally.

Suppose I run into a burning building to rescue a cat. Many people would say that I had behaved irrationally. Yet others would say that, because I care deeply about cats (no, really, I do, and I would rush into a burning building to save one), it is only rational that I would do everything in my power to save them. Yet there is no rational reason that I should care about cats–I care about them for emotional reasons, hence the use of the word “care.” Yet is it not irrational for an untrained person to rush into a burning building for any reason? Is it not irrationality–emotion–my love for cats–that inspired my behavior, even though it’s got an overwhelming likelihood of being against my best interests (survival)? And, if so, why should my survival be considered a rational goal?

On the surface, it would certainly appear that it is only rational for a person to want to keep themselves alive, but is it? No. Such a want–a desire–is motivated entirely by emotional concerns: a fear of death, a love of life, whatever. There is no rational reason to want to continue living, but look what we are doing–we are calling it irrational to rush into a burning building because it could lead to death. We are assuming that it is rational to want to continue living, but that assumption is flawed; there are only emotional reasons. So we are not using “rationality” in its accurate, true sense when we ascribe it as a value to certain actions; we are labeling a broad range of actions with “self-preservation” as the ideal goal–a goal that we put as the ideal only for emotional reasons.

For what rational reason does an individual, group, or species conclude that their survival and procreation are valuable? There isn’t one, and that’s the assumption upon which his idea is built–that there is. There is absolutely no rational reason that I should care whether I live or die, whether humanity lives or dies, or whether the entire freaking planet lives or dies. Why? Positive and negative statements are value statements, and they are made according to unknown, subjective, individual-specific criteria and weighed for emotional reasons, not rational ones.

Before anyone can say that actors occasionally act rationally or irrationally, they must define what these words mean. Apparently, “rationally” in this context means “in their best interests.” According to whom? And by what criteria? Plenty of people would say that habitual drug users are acting against their best interest by continuing to do methamphetamine, but are they? Who is to say that the short-term high of meth isn’t a sufficient reward for them to outweigh the longterm damage? Who is to say what is in their best interests and what is not? Who in the world has the omniscience to make such a statement, and then to present it as science? This guy won a Nobel Prize for “demonstrating” that Person A occasionally acts against Person A’s best interests.

What?

What in the bloody hell are we considering to be in Person A’s best interests? Economic stability? Amassing untold wealth? Getting lots of pussy? And then why are we considering those things to be in their best interests? And even if we could somehow come to a universally agreed upon criteria of what is and isn’t in someone’s best interests, this doesn’t even begin to answer the question of whether they’re acting in their long-term best interests, but against their short-term best interests (as I do each time I buy cryptocurrency). How in the world can we ever attempt to say scientifically that Person A has acted against their short-term best interests and against their long-term interests, according to this gargantuan list of factors and concerns that we have by fiat determined to be “best”?

And this guy won a Nobel Prize for this.

In actuality, what Thaler has proven is that “By the criteria of what I consider to be ‘best,’ people occasionally do things that will not yield the results of what I consider ‘best.'” It doesn’t matter if his criteria is economic stability, productivity, long-term survival, or anything else–why in the world should his values, or even the majority’s values, dictate that another person has behaved irrationally? No, Thaler. You have demonstrated that people occasionally do things that you feel are not in those people’s best interests. That’s all you’ve demonstrated, and that, as science, is meaningless and useless.

If you define their “best interests” in the way that you prefer, then it’s no surprise that you’ll find people occasionally act against the “best interests” that you’ve defined, because not everyone is trying to achieve whatever goals you have outlined; not everyone cares about those same things. It’s not in my economic and financial best interests to take time out of my workday to write this article, but I care about whether science is actually, you know, scientific. Is it rational that I care about that? Well… It’s no more rational than your estimation of what is and isn’t in other people’s best interests.

Never Again.

I told someone recently via email “The spirit leads you astray.” It would take me longer to explain what I meant by that than would really be worth it, but suffice it to say that I have very good reasons to believe that this person is being lead astray by spiritualist bullshit that establishes some esoteric, mystical bullshit reasoning over reality, and the reply I got to this merely proved that I was correct.

You and I will have to incarnate here, on this Earth, *at least once more*.

It’s inevitable.

IMG_0924This is some of that nonsense you may have heard called Spirit Science, which is a bunch of bullshit thought of by people who felt like they were special yet didn’t actually do anything with their lives [This is not a claim about the people who come to believe the Spirit Science shit–it’s about the people who invented it]. Because they have nothing in the real world to show that they are special, they conceived this bullshit of Indigo Children and other off-the-wall shit with absolutely no basis in reality. It’s literally shit that someone simply… made up… because they felt like they were special, but they didn’t do or say anything that displayed they were special. Seeing this disparity, they concluded, “I’m special spiritually,” and thus Spirit Science was born.

It is typically called pseudoscience, but there’s nothing scientific about any of it. They go from things like Phi and Pi [I have Pi tattoo’d on the back of my right hand, and I have the Golden Shape (which is, of course, built off Phi and the Golden Ratio) tattoo’d on my left arm, while I have the Greek letter Phi tattoo’d below my right shoulder… But for reasons dealing with science, not bullshit], build into the Tree of Life, and they somehow manage to work in pretty much every spiritualist belief out there. Chakras, Yin/Yang, Karma, Chi, Feng Shui, you name it. If you ever get bored and want to see just how far people can go with making up random bullshit, check out some of their videos on YouTube some time, and stand in awe that anyone anywhere believes some of this shit to be true.

To be fair, the claim of Spirit Science that we are naturally feminine creatures who once thrived on Atlantis until we built a portal to another dimension that allowed the masculine Martians to come to Earth and corrupt our souls… [Afterthought: Yes, it’s actually crazier than scientology–a load of bullshit that also tries to hijack the legitimacy of the word “science” while corrupting it to ridiculous degress.]

I’m sorry. I gave myself a migraine.

That’s not a negative assault on their beliefs, though. It’s not like when I say that Christians believe in an all-powerful deity who gave birth to himself and came to earth in mortal flesh to forgive us for something that he made us do, died, and came back to life as a zombie. No, I’ve put no spin on the Spirit Science delusion; that’s really what they believe. Throw in some reincarnation, add some extreme corruptions of String Theory (which is already pseudoscience), and mix in some extreme corruptions of the word “dimensions.” Pull some extraordinary linguistic sleight-of-hand because of how scientists discuss dimensions as fact (in terms of length, width, depth, and time) and the possibility of further dimensions, and, when no one is looking, start talking about “dimensions” in the other, wackier since of “parallel universes,” and voila! You have psuedoscience, and you get to tell people “Scientists believe there are other dimensions!”

Yes, some scientists (the ones who, I would argue, already approach pseudoscience with the religion that is String Theory, but that’s another topic) postulate that there are more than the observable dimension of spacetime. But when a scientist says “dimension,” the scientist isn’t referring to an alternate reality where everyone wears a cowboy hat or exists in ethereal form. And the Spirit Science people know that, just like Christians know that when scientists use the word “theory,” they don’t mean it in the sense of “guess” as the layman does. This habit of taking scientific words and twisting them into the layperson’s meaning is indicative of bullshit, and anything that does it should be rejected. The truth doesn’t need deceit.

Anyway, so part of the Spirit Science host of bullshit is that Earth is a hard dimension (in the Bullshit Sense, not the Scientific Sense) to exist in, and that we have all chosen to come here–presumably because we want the challenge, who knows. But we have to “ascend” and bullshit like that, which means, yes, like the Buddhist ideology they shamelessly copied, we’ll have to reincarnate here several times until we succeed.

Honestly, if I believed I had to go through another life, I’d off myself right now.

This is who you think it is that I’m talking about. Presumably, she holds that we’re cosmically linked or something (I’d remove the “s” if it were up to me), and I don’t feel arrogant or conceited to make that guess. Notice, however, that she asterisk’d “at least once more.” This is certainly because I have a duology of songs called “At Least Once More” and “Never Again.” It’s part of the collection I’m working on inspired by William Blake’s Songs of Innocence / Songs of Experience, obviously, and I’m doing the same thing. Each song exists as a pair, and here the two are “At Least Once More” and “Never Again.”

It’s disheartening that immediately after I advised her that the spirit is leading her astray, she would respond with this spiritualist stuff, because… that’s precisely what I meant. So her idea, presumably, is that she and I will live again, and that things will be different, or that things will go differently? That’s ridiculous.

This life is real. The power for us to be together was 100% in her hands, and still is to a large extent though it’s certainly no longer that simple. The idea of going “Fuck it. I’ll do it next go ’round.” when there is no “next go ’round” is exactly what I meant. It’s no better than the Hindu guy who has been standing for more than three decades because he is convinced that his suffering in this life will be rewarded in the next.

There is no next.

There is only this.

Every… indication… in the universe… is that we are mortal beings, and that we will die, and that our deaths mark the end of our existences. In hundreds of thousands of years, we have never found one solitary shred of evidence to support the notion that we continue to exist after our deaths–and believe me: we have been looking. We’ve hardly done anything else. For thousands of years, our species has peered into every corner of existence, searching desperately to find some sign that we will live beyond our deaths, and there is no such evidence.

Despite people offering millions of dollars to any psychic who can prove his/her powers in controlled circumstances, no psychic has been able to display any powers. Despite millions of people recording videos every single day, no one has ever furnished any video that proves the existence of the supernatural. Despite countless MRIs and EKGs, and despite that we know pretty much exactly how the brain works and produces sentience and consciousness, no one has ever found a soul. We now know exactly how the brain makes us aware of ourselves, and we know exactly how the brain produces “ourselves,” our personality, our interests, our likes, and our dislikes, and we know beyond any doubt that none of it has anything at all to do with a soul–it is all electromagnetic and chemical processes happening in the brain, and we know exactly what regions these things happen in. There is nothing left of us for a soul to provide.

wmapWe know almost exactly how the Big Bang happened, how hyperinflation caused the homogeny that we see in the WMAP satellite images, how the superforce fractured in the first fraction of a second of the Big Bang to become the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, electromagnetism, and gravity. We know exactly how gravity caused Hydrogen atoms to coalesce, ultimately forming stars that exploded and died, creating heavier elements as they lived and creating the heaviest elements as they died, spraying iron and gold and oxygen into the universe in small quantities. And we know how cosmic dust clouds like the Eaglehead Nebula continue to create stars, and we know how around one random star a random chunk of rock happened to coalesce at an acceptable distance from a star to host liquid water. And we know how molecules formed in the salty, turbulent oceans rife with the chemicals necessary; we know how a little spark of lightning could have spurned the evolution of those molecules into RNA, and growing into the first self-replicating molecule. We know how this little piece of organic life thrived and grew, dominating the entire rock and its oceans, ultimately producing cyanobacteria that feasted on the abundance of Carbon in the atmosphere and turning it into Oxygen, eventually evolving into plants and allowing mammals to flourish. We know how this led to the evolution of homo sapien. There is nothing left for a god to have done.

We can explain our existences, our minds, and our lives without invoking gods and souls, and we have, in effect, left nothing conceivable for gods and souls to do. What is the point of a soul? It does not make me who I am. The chemistry of my brain does that, and that’s a scientific fact. What is the point of a god? Humans do not need a god to have come about, and that’s a scientific fact. In fact, something as redundant as a soul would have been among the first things to go in the evolutionary process, since redundancy is waste. The soul cannot provide my personality–my brain does that, and we know exactly how my brain provides my personality. And we know that brain damage would very much change my personality–a fact that spiritualists tend to ignore, though it certainly wouldn’t be the case if souls (presumably undamageable) provided our personalities.

This is it. You ride the universe once, and then…

Never again.