Better Society Through Science

In today's world, the

Do you agree with me on the following?
.Science can solve anything.
..Social problems are not getting easier to understand.
…Our understanding of people is not improving.
….Transcending Boundaries means challenging assumptions.
If you agree, let’s talk.


 

Anything can be examined, logically.

Science can solve anything.  As a young doctoral student, I believed that through Science, we could better understand ANY problem and take steps towards a completely efficient and effective solution. And why not?  We tamed the atom and we peered into the furthest reaches of the universe.  How hard could understanding world hunger or oppressive dictatorships be?  All we needed was good scientific principles, quality data, rigorous methods, and an intellectual environment that nurtured quality research.  How hard could this be?  [1]

 

Technology has not been a panacea for problems.

Social problems are not getting easier to understand.  In many ways the world has not improved since 1980.  Sure, we have flying cars and can read our genetic code.  But there’s many ways in which things are worse.  We thought the end of the Cold War would “free” up the oppressed soviet states and reinvent a forward thinking Russia.  Instead we have Putin.  We also have an oppressive and aggressive China.  There’s Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, The Philippines, Myanmar, and Egypt.  There’s religious extremism, non-localized religious-based violence, and escalating intolerance of culture as well as xenophobia throughout.  There’s a good chance NATO and the European Union were effectively destabilized by “bad actors” as well, using the latest technology in combination with old-fashioned subversion tactics in order to implement strategies that spans decades.  Finally, what about the doomsday clock, statements from the doctors without borders, reporters under attack, and notices from human rights watch?

 

Even with all the violence, we don't truly understand ourselves.

Our understanding of people is not improving.  There are no fundamental scientific advances as far as understanding people or social behaviors that we’ve discovered.  If I’m in error, I’m eager to accept any scientific findings to the contrary.  [2]

 

Transcending Boundaries means challenging assumptions. 

Assumptions like:

1) Encouraging scientific rigor and accountability within disciplines.  We can institutionalize (and reward) replication within our educational system and require it of academia.

2) We currently allow for the validation of scientific integrity within disciplines through peer review and specialized societies.  Perhaps it’s time for us to do the same BETWEEN disciplines.

... so why let any constraint remain unchallenged?

3)  Associating an individual’s ethical integrity in any aspect of their life to their scientific life.  #MeToo has been a watershed for recognizing long standing biases against half the population.  But are we confident that someone who is willing to compromise their ethics in one area of life can exclude it from their professional lives?  Ethics in all areas should also be an aspiration and never assumed.  [3]

4) Last, but far from least, true progress can’t be made unless we adhere to tried and true scientific principles in every aspect, bar none.  Definitions, logical rigor, standardized, calibrated, and validated methods of measurement, and rigorous methodologies that use p-values properly would be a start.  [4]

 

I'll treat in exchange for a good conversation.

If you agree, let’s talk.  I’m Steven, a retired businessman and inventor.  In the 1980s I was an idealistic doctoral student.  I earned a master’s and continued my studies in order to keep track of the progress made in understanding our humanity.  Forty years later, I’m hoping to meet like-minded individuals at the AAAS 2019 convention to see if my experience can make a contribution, no matter how small.  I look forward to meeting you and lending you a sympathetic ear, at the very least.  You can mail me at Zebra Skimmers (no spaces) at Gmail.

Thank you.

 

Notes:

[1] For the record, I still believe Science can help us understand our problems, but the solving part is problematic.  Understanding problems also means understanding the forces working against solutions, and that, unfortunately, is a whole other problem.

[2] The works of E O Wilson and early work of R Dawkins could be considered fundamental, but so far applying them to humans has been unsatisfactory.

[3] “Plagiarism at Integrity Meeting” brief in Science, page 209, 18 January 2019.

[4] “Misinformation Machine” in Science, page 348, 25 January 2019. Particularly the 3rd and 4th paragraphs regarding disparate definitions of “fake news.”

 

END

Asking Questions Correctly

This news item happened in April of 2018, but since MLK is so connected to this issue and its sad repercussions, I figured it would be better to wait for his “week” rather than do it right away.

Martin Luther King is worth remembering.

Basically, an 8th grade teacher asked the kids to list the “good” aspects of slavery.

And the internets erupted.  Probably justifiably so.

 

Point the First, let’s not judge the teacher, the school, or the textbook they were using.  All of them may be implicated in this, but let it go for the moment.

Point the Second, consider some facts concerning slavery.

  • The southern US used slaves for almost 200 years before Lincoln asked them to stop.
  • These states didn’t invent slavery.  They probably learned all about slaves from two sources:
    • European colonial powers who used them almost everywhere,
    • and from many native sources as well.
  • Slavery has been with humans as long as we know.
    • It was prevalent in Africa during the European invasion,
    • Medieval Europe used it in many forms, even if they didn’t call it by the same name, and
    • Ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians all had it as part of their society.
  • Finally, and most sadly of all, forms of slavery exist to this day.  This can be a whole post in itself, but consider exhibit one: trafficking in young women as prostitutes.

Point the Third, let’s agree that slavery is something that should be studied.  We should study it so that it never becomes part of our civilization again.

We need to understand why it started.  We need to know why it lasted for so, so very long.  We need to figure out who benefited from slavery.  And most importantly of all, we need to be able to prove, once and for all, to everyone living today, why exactly slavery is bad for everyone.

Where do we start?  We have to start somewhere.  And this is where that poor teacher fumbled.  Because in any competitive relationship, some people “win” and some people “lose.”

So this is what our poor teacher should have done.

  • What was it about slavery that caused it to last for so long?
  • What is it that forces people to put up with being slaves?
  • Does any form of slavery exist today?
  • And my favorite, the most basic of them all: What is a good definition of slavery?

Keep in mind, as students of behavior, we shouldn’t call anything “good” or “bad.”  Everything people do is natural, it just is.  At the same time, we should be able to agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with the concept of slavery.  Understanding it properly so that it never happens again (or even today) is what we should be doing.

Good luck, and Happy MLK week!

 

Bad Sex

Alright guys, another article that’s not what you think.

This is inspired by a woman named Germaine Greer.  What she says is thought provoking.  And since I like provoking thoughts, I’m going to repeat her words.

Rape is bad sex.

She’s written a book about it, but the summary is simple.  Lets stop treating rape as a hugely incredibly terrible event that puts ALL the responsibility upon the victim instead of the perpetrator.  Instead of having this ridiculous standard of proof, lets lower that standard, and lower the penalty.  You raped someone?  Pay the fine.  Make it a big fine.

Was there injury involved?  Then the fine is increased.

Did she say no?  Or was she incapacitated on her own?  Then even more fine.

Did YOU incapacitate her?  Increase the fine yet again.

Get the picture?  It’s like a speeding ticket.  Break it down into its respective components and penalize each of them.  Faster justice.  More impact upon the perps.  Easier to prove.

Are these thoughts controversial?   Oh yes.

Is there a right and a wrong here?  Absolutely not.

I’m not a proponent of following them.  However, I’m a big fan of discussing them.  Unless we start tackling all of our social problems head on in rational manners, we’re not going to be going anywhere.  If anything, we are slipping backwards.

So, consider the words, ponder the thoughts, and think through what we’re trying to achieve as a society.  There has to be a solution in there, somewhere.

Or else…

 

Vaccinate Your Daughters

Medical science has proven that we can teach our immune system how to deal with a nasty bug BEFORE the real bug infects us.

This saves MILLIONS of lives every year.  It’s one of the reasons so many people are on Earth today.

... and against the bogie man.

There is another kind of vaccination we can get, and it doesn’t involve a needle, only words.

It’s a psychological vaccination, and this sort of thing has been known for centuries.

And you can do it yourself.  Here’s how.

First, think of the bad thing you want to teach your kids about, like a house fire.

Then talk about it.  Act it out.  Use pictures if your child is small, or go visit a fire station and talk to a firefighter if they like field trips.  The whole point of the exercise is that you are preparing your child for an event that you hope never happens.

Except it does, all too often.

There is lots of proof that the people who have been “inoculated” for a particular emergency do better than those that aren’t prepared.

People who aren’t prepared tend to have more injuries, suffer more in the long term, and are more likely to perish.

What about our daughters?

There’s a kind of emergency that happens to them far more often than it happens to boys.  There are “emergencies” that they can experience even as young women, whether they are on a date, in university, or trying to get a better job within their company.

It’s time to start creating a program that teaches our young ladies, ahead of time, what to do when they come up against harassment, exploitation, and glass ceilings.  It’s time to give them options now, before they are surprised.

We’re talking about reducing pain, enhancing recovery, and improving their survival.

Aren’t they worth it?  Yes, they are.  So, mothers, dads, relatives, prepare your psychological syringes and get to work.

It’s time to play doctor – for real.

 

The “Other” Other Woman

Image

The other day my super politically reactionary cousin was defending Herr Drumpf as being a good example of a leader and gentleman.

You are.

 

I do my best to stay calm and level headed, so I asked what she thought about all the women who have come out and made statements about things that he has done to them?  Most of the things he’s alleged to have done were unwanted harrassment.

But there were also quite a few women who attested that they were quite happy “Doing the Dude” for any number of reasons.

My cousin’s reaction?

“They are all lying.  Women will do or say anything to get attention, especially at the expense of a famous man.”

This caught me by surprise.  There have been, and still are, quite a few famous men that don’t have a dozen women chasing them around with sexual allegations.

There also have been, and still are, quite a few women who generally tell the truth.

There also have been, and still are, quite a few men who are well known to make a habit of preying on women.

Finally, there is absolute evidence that Der Drumpf has cheated on his previous wives, evidence that was presented in divorce court.

So what’s the deal with my cousin?

I figured it out the other day, and here’s an article that helps lead us in the right direction.

It must have happened to her.

The only way my cousin would discount ALL women as liars, is if she has to believe that ONE women in particular, is also a liar.

Who is that woman?

Someone who threatened to come between her and her husband.

In order to save her own peace of mind, my cousin had to consider that “other” woman as a liar.  That means her husband was still faithful to herself, and that means that her marriage is sound.

It also means that my cousin has become the other other woman.  For it is she who is fooling herself about a relationship that no longer exists.

It also means that, of all the other women out there who stand by His Hole-ness for all his alleged sexual exploits, there’s a chance they are reacting like my cousin for similar reasons.

Is it possible that there is such a large population of “other” other women?

What do you think?