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Confirmation Bias

I have been picking up on this phenomenon a lot lately, both in my own views and in the views of others, particularly as portrayed online and on the news channels. When you have an attachment, or obsession, with a particular narrative, you tend to see all events that happen as proof, further evidence of this narrative, and you quietly ignore counter evidence.

It came to my mind, watching the UK news channels today, who are committed to an anti-trump narrative in regards to their obsession with finding Russia connections. They start from this need to find connections with Russia, and from there, absolutely every event that happens becomes only of any interest to them in so far as it is related to this. They don’t stop to think that maybe some political connections with Russia are inevitable as a part of diplomacy. No! It must all be some underhand conspiracy. As this is the narrative they have set out with, and so it is the only thing of interest to them.

So even when, today, Putin says he will himself release information on Trumps meeting records. This somehow, based on their confirmation bias, feeds in to their conspiracy of an underhand connection between Trump and Putin. So if information disproving a conspiracy is itself part of the conspiracy, then anything and everything is part of the conspiracy, and the whole notion of evidence has gone out the window, and it has become a case of a pure obsessive and blind attachment to a narrative that has its own momentum and beliefs, that have no interest in reality anymore.

In past months I have noticed some similar confirmation bias in myself regarding negative interpretations of immigrants, for I was only seeing, only interested, in the stories that fed into my narrative I was then attached to, of them as coming over to do bad things. I have overcome this to a large extent now, and see that the reality is much more complicated, though I do still place myself on the political right, partly based on my values as being quite traditionally minded and conservative, but more mainly based on the political left having failed this country and its people over the past 20 years from my perspective, for the sake of delusional and impractical “progressive” ideologies.

It is interesting to see in the coming UK general election how many people will actually be open to a change in who they will vote for, as I feel that most people are already fully armed with their own narratives and confirmation bias, and will simply interpret everything in line with this, regardless how politicians try to sway them over the coming weeks, and regardless how the media tries to enforce its own narrative and confirmation bias upon them. I find myself in a position where I will likely vote for the conservatives, even though my particular area is a safe conservative seat anyway. But it will be more as a criticism of the current left parties than a positive attachment to the conservatives.

I have seen the left already getting to work trying to control narratives on social media, with fake moralising and virtue signalling. On the TV media I do not see such a bias, to be fair on this issue, if anything, for some reason there is a conservative bias on there. Maybe based purely on the polls, they feel compelled to speak in line with them. But still, even without much bias there, I find little convincing coming from politicians on the left. It seems the usual case of wanting to appear to help everyone basically, but we know this is simply unrealistic. Also, it is the old appeal to more public spending, the usual fallacy of thinking pumping money into something will magically make it better, regardless of all other factors that motivate a nation, such as beliefs, values, ideas, hopes and prospects.

I just do not buy that they will be able to fund it all, and I do not buy that they even want, or have the motivation to do these things once in power, they are just saying them as they think its what people want to hear. The renationalisation idea talked about today by Labour and Corbyn, holds some interest to me, I may look into this more. But for the most part the fact that it comes with vague notions such as “fair” immigration, where this could mean letting in what? Millions and millions of refugees/economic migrants. What about fair immigration for the current British people, and for current British values? This does not seem to come into consideration for progressive ideologues.

In summary, I don’t think they are being assertive enough about where they stand, they are just trying to shadow public feeling. Asserting not their own values with integrity, but what they think ought to be good values in a vague, slightly superficial way, that will most likely not be backed up with action once in power. Maybe this is all just my own confirmation bias. I am sure it largely is, but I feel I am making some genuine attempts to consider what is best for Britain for the coming years, not just what fits in line with my personal ideological beliefs.

General Election – The Paucity of Left Wing Ideology

With a snap election being called here in the UK, I decided to take the opportunity to get some books out the library covering some of the main political parties ideas, beliefs and history. There is an awful lot of hype, demonisation and other such things going on in the media of the various parties and their leaders. But I intend to look behind this to the substance of their ideas.

UKIP have a difficult task given they have got what they wanted with Brexit. Labour are still struggling to regain any trust among their traditional voting base. Liberal Democrats have set a clear stall out that they are all about being the pro EU party. And through all this the Conservatives seem to be the only credible choice in theory, for myself. As a person who voted Brexit and who does not trust the Labour party. Unless I was to vote UKIP as a pure protest vote.

Either way it would be the first time I was to vote for a right wing party. Going to show the lack of substance currently in left-wing ideas I think. The left-wing parties may often mean well, they may try to do something for everyone. But this very naivety that we can help everyone, seems to me to be the idea that has become dated, and is no longer trusted. Alongside the rush to occupy the center ground, appealing only to middle class educated people. And the mass influx of immigration since the time of Tony Blair, has left a lot of people disaffected. The people left behind by this rush to embrace all things globalisation and integration, and multiculturalism and pluralism, remain as seeing the downsides for national identity and national culture of all of this.

The problem for parties making a supposed universal, cosmopolitan appeal, is they are effectively undermining national identity on principle. They are asking people to vote for the rights of future immigrants, often over the rights of their own children, and this kind of altruism is simply an unrealistic motivating force for people. Is this in some ways a crisis for the very notion of a purely secular state? I think it is indeed this. This whole ideological edifice is tumbling in the face of the reality of human motivations and human self-interest.

As it currently stands, a vote for Conservatives is a vote for national self interest, a vote for Labour is a vote for the disadvantaged groups, minorities, and the supposed “globe’s” interest, a vote for Liberal Democrats is a vote for the EU, and a vote for UKIP or the Green Party is a protest vote against the main parties either on the right or the left. How can Labour expect to win when they are not trusted to represent our national interest, instead they claim to represent everyone from some moral high ground? I think it’s an impossible and unrealistic task.

One of the books I am reading, Back to the Future of Socialism, by Peter Hain in 2015, shows that Labour are still caught up on many principles of a purely secular ideology, that will only further play into the hands of global elites and interests and against national interests, and is the very thing that makes people untrustworthy of labour. If left-wing parties never actually deliver greater economic equality when in power, why would anyone trust that their claims of equality are anything more than just pure ideological froth.

Labour needs to move away from this outdated socialist cosmopolitan, secular “progressive” approach, and towards focusing on addressing the concerns of current British citizens and current British values. Unless it frames its policies in a nationalistic sense it will never be trusted not to simply sell the British people out again when in power to globalist economic forces.

Gone are the days of enlightenment, gone are the days of cosmopolitanism, and universal equality. These are no longer realistic ideologies in a ruthless self-serving global market. The only option is an appeal to people of ideas that will motivate them to act in their own interest. Not by trying to shame them into some supposed altruistic motive. This kind of thing does not motivate people, far from that, it motivates people to oppose it, who resent being made to feel shame for daring to do the thing we all do naturally as human beings, which is to put our own interests first.

Lost

Trying to fit in, to find my place,

but finding nothing but empty space.

Striving to help and to please,

oblivious to my own disease.

Complacently watching life go by

scared often to bother to try.

No goal, no steady ideal

lost in a world turned surreal.

 

Science is not a Monolith

This I think is the starting assumption of many regarding science, and it is a false assumption that entails a dangerous idealisation of science, it’s approach and it’s methods. The scientist in anthropology is doing something very different from the scientist in chemistry, just as the scientist in geology is doing something very different from the scientist in Physics. To conflate them is to misunderstand both subjects. To try to reduce one to another is similarly to misunderstand that subject, and to give undue metaphysical precedence to the subject you are reducing it too.

These are all very common human philosophical errors. And yet, because philosophy is supposedly superfluous now to science and to human understanding and education in general, the errors go unnoticed, and pile up and up over time. The end result is this over simplified, over idealised, monolithic portrayal of science proliferated to us all through the education system, that has come to take on an unquestionable authority of Mythic status for many. (Though of course they would hate the word myth, makes them seem all too human, and not quite as objective as they like to pretend to be in their utopian domain of self professed rationality.)

Some recent examples of this phenomenon are the claims that natural selection is a physical mechanism, when it provides no mechanism, merely a good reason for things after the fact. If scientists cannot distinguish sufficient reasons from necessary reasons, because philosophy is so unimportant to them, we have got big problems. Gravity is a mechanism wherein we can describe how it works independently of its application to actual things. Natural selection is fully dependent on how it is applied to actual things, and there is no independent mechanism, in fact there is a denial of even the possibility of such a mechanism by claiming pure randomness to genetic mutations.

Little subtle distinctions like this are important. We would do well to keep our natural selection explanations to biological standards, and not claim pure physical mechanistic status for them, when to do so is at best to engage in inaccurate metaphors, at worst is to mislead the student as to the real status and content of his subject matter. There is so much of interest in evolution, natural selection, adaptations of species. Somehow much of it for me is misunderstood by those trying to force it into line with their monolithic, idealised vision of science. If not by them themselves, certainly by most of the people who they propagate these ideas to.

Another example at the other end of the spectrum would be climate science. So much of this amazingly intricate and complicated study is for most reduced to the political and moral agenda of global warming. It makes a nice simple narrative to just only pay attention to facts in line with this one stories expectations. It saves people from much thinking. They can just consult google, that will soon filter out for them stories and articles that support this particular political agenda. The rest to them is just noise. But that noise is the real science. As the real science does not fit into simple narratives, it does not obey our need for moralising and catastrophising. Real science shows that carbon dioxide was often much higher in earths history and there was not mass extinctions. Real science shows there was often no ice at all on earth and there was not mass extinctions. Real science shows that other factors beyond human control have a big influence on climate, such as volcanic activity and solar activity and levels of cloud cover. Real science shows that even mass extinctions are regular occurences in the earths history. Where does all this reality go when we have a political agenda, a consensus around it, and a monolithic understanding of science and its method? Reality seems to go out the window!

Once again, the lesson is not to try and constrain all the varieties of subject matter out there in this world to one monolithic standard, you will not succeed in understanding them all, you will only succeed in misunderstanding them all, and sending people down a dangerous path of assumed knowledge and certainty of things they are actually largely ignorant of, and this is even among people who study the subjects!

This combines with something else I have noticed often in western science. Which is an almost autistic obsession with isolating a subject from the reality you are supposed to be applying it to. The expert often compartmentalises his expertise to his professional life. And yes there are many merits to this division of labor. But there are also drawbacks. For me, economics, for all its technical brilliance, is worse now at understanding society, morality and politics and culture than it was when it aspired to be political economy, and to say things about real people, and real values. Now it abstracts from all of this, for the sake of the concept of utility. We get great manipulative, technical and mathematical capabilities with this approach, but we lose any sense of connecting the subject with the reality of the current society of people trying to make their way in life.

I am pretty much uniformly disappointed by economists when they try to write popularisations of their science. Because they start not from the reality of society, the reality surrounding them in their lives, but from the reality of their own economic idealisations, and they measure reality relative to that. Its a nice game to set up models like this, but its not the same as grasping the real life of aware human beings with values and intentions. Its more like a distraction from this reality, or the pretence that maybe it doesn’t exist if we don’t think about it.

For all these reasons and many more I implore people to not treat science as a monolith. You are doing a disservice to science and human civilisation by indulging in such utopian idealisations. You are setting the youth on a path of assumed knowledge rather than acquired knowledge. You are promoting narratives formed around enforced consensus that assume we are incapable of forming our own independent opinions about world affairs. You are lowering the wonders of life to presumed random mechanisms and raising the earth and your opinions about its climate to the level of a moral god, dictating values to us all. Not because you accept it is a belief and a value you cherish and share with others, but because you feel you have scientific objective authority on your side. All this and much more dangerously lurks in the shadow of the monolith of science that has been set up. Come out to the light of day and stop chasing shadows.

 

 

Legitimate Authority

Politics is largely about how a state claims to have political authority over its citizens, where this authority can extend to being physically enforced on a person in extreme cases. This being the threat at the end of the line of disobedience to the state. But a state, certainly claiming to be democratic, doesn’t want to resort to this physical force too often, and with too many people, for then it would have a state of subjects, not of free citizens. So it is a balancing act always.

Modern democratic states tend to justify themselves on the grounds that they are neutral arbiters, supporting the rights of all humans equally. This legitimation, although powerful if believed and if applied. Of course cannot be completely applied, and so will never be completely believed, except by extreme ideologists. A state will have to give some preference to citizens over non-citizens, and in so doing it will have to base it’s decision on some more positive values that it claims to represent beyond being neutral.

This is where it begins to get interesting, and has much application in our current political scenario with globalisation and mass movements of people around countries. Serious questions are being asked of western states claims to neutrality. Some are willing to try and push further alongside this direction of neutrality. In line with their ideological beliefs, such as believing, for instance in pure secularism and objective science as their measure for everything. Others are doubting the application of science rigorously to social and moral and political issues. Doubting that value judgments can be reduced to scientific neutral judgments. One side says humans can all be interchanged, all differences are merely culturally conditioned. The other side says, even if such is the case in the long term. Short term mass movements of people is not going to allow time for people to be conditioned in line with shared values within their state.

So the very legitimacy of the state as an authority is at issue here. Many Western democratic states are undergoing something of an identity crisis I would say from too long trying to hold themselves to an impossible neutral standard. By doing so, they no longer really represent their citizens in a meaningful sense, which raises the question, who do they represent, and on what grounds and with what justification? Many of them take economic prosperity as the measure for their decisions. If mass immigration has even just a short-term economic advantage, then it is always favourable. They are reduced to valuing people purely instrumentally, in short. The precise opposite of what had been the original goal of state neutrality: for the sake of equality of all human beings. We become equal, but not in anything like the way initiators of some of these cosmopolitan political ideals such as Kant and Karl Marx, would have had in mind. They aimed at all men being treated as ends in themselves, not merely equal as instruments/means to others ends.

This latter route though, has been unfortunately the trend of the mass movement of people into western states, based purely on short-term economic advantages. So, I would say using economics as our source of values is a mistake. We need a new legitimation that highlights the value of citizenship, doesn’t pretend to be neutral, but does show itself as good and justified for the sake of its citizens and the world. It’s a tough task. I think it can be achieved, it will primarily involve a more openness to debating this very point. As many are still currently closed behind the iron curtain of their ideologies of the past that tell them being neutral is the only way to legitimise themselves. This enlightenment approach, great for natural science, has been a nightmare for western societies and culture, when applied to our politics and our morality. We have become trapped in an ideological bind, paralysing a practical approach to urgent political, moral and social problems that require pragmatic solutions, not ideological posturing.

The Guilt Game

Woke up to find I am to blame for young children having no water in Africa,

I am responsible for slavery of other races hundreds of years ago.

I am to blame for ISIS bombing European Countries, and for the refugee crisis.

I have caused the earth to be polluted, and created irreversible global warming,

I have extinguished species en masse all over the globe.

I discovered all this because I turned on my TV, and its what it told me.

And you wonder why I have no joy in my life,

you wonder why I live largely crippled by fear and anxiety.

Why I largely hate and despise humanity,

and yet still crave community and company.

It makes you wonder, it makes you wonder…

 

In my dream

In my dream last night

you were alive and well

you came back to life

you rose when you once had fell.

We worried over you,

but you got up and walked unaided,

you told us not to worry,

you could look after yourself again now.

You were filled with care free joy,

optimism that no fear could destroy.

I was happy once again,

no longer alone facing this futile life.

Hope was restored, my mind finally at ease…

Waking from this dream was hard.

I didn’t want to accept it was just a dream

I cursed being woken up,

but if I hadn’t. I may not have remembered the dream.

In some time I accepted once again what was real

a bittersweet experience no doubt,

but still a worthwhile one,

to feel that you were really alive again,

and that you could look after yourself,

and that we need no longer worry over you.

One dream I certainly won’t forget.