Reality and Belief

© Brooke Clarke 2020 - 2024

“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.
It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”

 Mark Twain

“Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.”

― Richard Feynman

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The Sturgill Simpson song "Mercury in Retrograde" gets this wrong.

6 January 2021 Insurrection
    News Media
Two Axioms
Logical Mistakes


Ever since 9/11 (Wiki) I've read dozens of dozens of books and tried to understand the events of 9/11 and the shameful 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq (Wiki).  That led me to discover that both of our political parties agree on many areas that are important to voters and only disagree on what I'd call minor issues such as relate to sexual expression.  These areas of agreement are war policy (watch the third Obama v. Romney on "foreign policy" (code for war policy) where they are dancing with each other in agreement and just after the Global Financial Crisis (Wiki) voters wanted to see criminals going to jail but that didn't happen.  So I ran for the CA2 seat in the House of Representatives (Wiki) to let voters know that if they elected a candidate from either of the major parties they would not get the changes they wanted.

The idea to make this web page occurred while reading the book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz (Wiki), 2010.  To talk about being wrong requires considering what's right or what the truth is (Wiki: epistemology).  This gets deep into the territory of Karl Popper (even though some of his key ideas are mentioned his name does not appear in the book).

According to Popper in science all theories are provisional, that's so say there are no scientific facts.  Anything can be changed if a better explanation can withstand falsification.  So when there's a problem with a scientific theory it's an opportunity to come up with a better explanation and advance knowledge.  A good thing.

In the "Being Wrong" book there are two interpretations of being wrong.  One is viewed as a negative and the other as a positive.  I see a very strong parallel between this and Popper's take on epistemology which is the motivation to make this web page.

2021 May 15 - Just finished reading
A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence (Ref 27) and highly recommend it because it touches on false beliefs.

6 January 2021 Insurrection (Wiki)

I think the root cause is the topic of this web page, i.e. acting based on false beliefs can lead to bad outcomes.  All of the people who entered the Capitol held false beliefs and acted on those false beliefs.  Leading to a half dozen deaths.

Trump himself and even Russia (Wiki) did not expect him to win the 2016 election and so prior to that election, as in the 2020 election, there was talk coming from the Trump camp that the election would be fraudulent (Wiki). This "Big Lie" (Wiki, YouTube: Biden, NYT) was amplified after Trump lost the 2020 election and an attempt was made to overthrow the results (Wiki).

When I was in high school (graduated in 1960) everyone in America watched the evening news on either ABC (Wiki), CBS (Wiki) or NBC (Wiki).  At this time, prior to the repeal of the FCC Fairness doctrine by the GOP in 1987 (Wiki) each of these stations "broadcast" the news "..a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced.".  I put broadcast in quotes because it was aimed at all segments of the population. 

But after 1987 "narrow-casting" was adopted as business model.  The idea is to aim your material to a narrow segment of the population, for example Fox became a propaganda outlet of the GOP.  So now, people no longer get a honest, equitable, and balanced presentation, and instead all "news" is now presented in a very slanted way, i.e. it's now propaganda (one of our criticisms of the USSR back in the day).

Court Filings

Moved to new Insurrection web page.  Those who came wearing body armor, carrying clubs (some disguised as flag poles), chemical spray, guns, helmets, gas masks or other items whose function would only be needed during confrontation came expecting to be in a fight.  This has been common when there are two sides of some position in demonstrations.  But some of the insurrectionists came specifically to slow/stop of Electoral vote count and so had planned to break into the Capitol.  When they did that the others, holding false beliefs that they were patriots, also entered the Capitol and aided the rioters who were acting as leaders (a strategy they had planned).

News Media

One of the key problems causing the insurrection is the repeated Big Lie (Wiki) called Stop The Steal (Wiki).  So, I'm adding a list of news outlets that I personally would call very credible, or maybe rank them.  We'll see how it goes. - This is my go to source for technical information, but it turns out that they are very up to date on many topics. So I'm using them here as a way to evaluate news outlets.
PS.  Many outlets claim to be news, but I think they explain or comment on news reported by others.  When I'm reading a news story and see that what I'm reading is a comment on another story, I quit reading and go to the source article.  Sometimes this involves a number of hops.  Also if the article is commenting on a source document, I read that. The larger the number of explainers or commenters between you and the source material the less likely you are to get the straight facts.

I have crossed out CNN, NYT & WaPo because they were stooges of the Bush administration promoting the 2003 Gulf War.  For me this is not forgivable and I have no reason to think they would not do this again. McClatchy/Knight Ridder is the hero publication in this story.  I do read some articles in the NYT & WaPo, but with a skeptical take.

These are in alphabetical order. I have made my own  editorial comments.  If you want an addition or deletion let me know.

AEI (Wiki) - anti science
AP (Wiki) - some (all?) stories free
Atlantic (Wiki) - some (all?) stories free
BBC (Wiki) - some (all?) stories free
Bellingcat (Wiki) - all stories free, experts on technical analysis of cell phone video.
Bloomberg News (Wiki) - serious recent major mistakes
Brookings Institution  (Wiki) - scholarly studies
Christian Science Monitor (Wiki) - excellent except for things religious/science
CNN (Wiki) - they were a propaganda outlet for the Bush administration promoting the 2003 Gulf war.
Economist (Wiki) - only the first paragraph viewable
Financial Times (Wiki) - no free articles
Foreign Affairs (Wiki) - only the first paragraph viewable, excellent take on foreign relations
Fox News (Wiki) - promoted the Stop the Steal conspiracy, setup to be a GOP propaganda outlet
Guardian (Wiki) - many articles can be read without subscription - I'm down grading my recommendation because the "green" articles are using non scientific arguments.
Intercept (Wiki) - many articles can be read without subscription
Judicial Watch (Wiki) - tin foil hats all around
McClatchy (Wiki) (Knight Ridder: Wiki) - as far as I know they were the only news organization who correctly reported prior to the 2003 Gulf War. some (all?) stories free - see the docudrama Shock and Awe (Wiki, IMDB) & the episode Buying the War of Bill Moyers Journal,( IMDB).
MSNBC (Wiki) - I used to watch Ratchel Maddow, but haven't for a few years because she had a very biased view. Ref 39
New York Times (Wiki) -they were a propaganda outlet for the Bush administration promoting the 2003 Gulf war. Ref 39
New Yorker (Wiki) - some access to articles without subscription
PBS News Hour (Wiki) - all stories free
Pew Research Center (Wiki) - research results, free reports
Politico (Wiki) - This publication showed up many many times during the Russian 2016 election investigation for carrying false stories as did The Hill.
ProPublica (Wiki) - Public service reporting, all stories free
Reuters (Wiki) - some (all?) stories free
Rolling Stone (Politics) (Wiki) - insightful editorials you won't find elsewhere
Scientific American (Wiki) - In the Wiki paragraph on Scientific and Political Debate they seem to have been on the correct side every time.
Stat News (Wiki) - while some stories are behind a pay wall, all the COVID articles are free to the public. Reporters who understand medicine/science.
Vanity Fair (magazine) (Wiki) - many articles can be read without subscription
Wall Street Journal (Wiki) - pro business, anti science Ref 39
Washington Post (Wiki) - they were a propaganda outlet for the Bush administration promoting the 2003 Gulf war., but the Fact Checker is a real plus. Ref 39

Two Axioms

 After reading (see Books below) a number of biographies of famous men and reading Karl Popper (Ref 4)  I came up with a couple of axioms that attempt at explaining the behavior of people.  These are part of the footer on all my email.
1. The extent to which you can fix or improve something will be limited by how well you understand how it works.
2. Everybody, with no exceptions, holds false beliefs.
So . . . be open to the idea you may have a false belief and ask questions when someone suggests that you may be wrong, i.e. this may be a chance to improve.

Possible Third Axiom based on the idea that things may not be as they appear.  For example when I started writing computer software programs to control microwave and semiconductor test equipment there would be some technical goal.  The effort to meet that goal turns out to be fairly easy.  The much harder part, maybe ninety or more percent of the
total effort, turns out to be anticipating problems and trapping them in the software.  In the movie Charlie Wilson's War there's a parallel story line about the Zen master's tale of the Lost Horse.  Things happen that look bad or good, but it's very hard to tell at the time what is bad or good.  My take on Yin and Yang (Wiki) is that there's always a mix of opposite effects, pretty much nothing is black and white.

The following fable is a parallel story to the Zen master's tale of the Lost Horse.

A little bird was flying during a cold snow storm. It was so cold that the bird couldn’t fly anymore and fell down and landed near some barn. While lying down helpless on the ground, a cow came by and dropped a big poop on him. The poop was so warm that the little freezing bird started warming up and feeling better. The bird was so happy to feel warm that he started to sing. A cat heard the bird singing, so he followed the voice until he found the bird, so he dug him out of the poop and ate him. 
Morals of the story: 
Not everybody who shits on you is your enemy. 
Not everybody who digs you out of the shit is your friend. 
When you’re in deep shit, keep quiet.


I started this page because of this book.

Overview of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error (Ref 1)

Part 1 The Idea of Error
Ch 1 Wrongology
[pg 18] "There is an experience of realizing that we are wrong, of course.  In fact, there is a stunning diversity of such experiences.  As we'll see in the pages to come, recognizing our mistakes can be shocking, confusing, funny, embarrassing, traumatic, pleasurable, illuminating, and life-altering, sometimes for ill and sometimes for good.  But by definition, there can't be any particular feeling associated with simply being wrong.  Indeed, the whole reason it's possible to be wrong is that, while it is happening, you are oblivious to it.  When you are simply going about your business in a state you will later decide was delusional, you have no idea of it whatsoever.  You are like the coyote in the Road Runner Cartoons, after he has gone off the cliff but before he has looked down.  Literally in his case and figuratively in yours, you are already in trouble when you feel like you're still on solid ground.  So I should revise myself: it does feel like something to be wrong.  It feels like being right."

{BC: also see the Dunning–Kruger effect (Wiki)]
YouTube: "Why ignorance fails to recognize itself" Featuring David Dunning, 22:20 - many references to Karl Popper
Ch 2 Two Models of Wrongness
[pg 31] "The gist of the scientific method is that observation lead to hypotheses (which must be testable), which are then subjected to experiments (where results must be reproducible).  If all goes well, the outcome is a theory."

This is not what I remember. This is sort of the description of the Scientific Method I learned in college. I'd call it the classic concept.  Also see The Knowledge Machine below.
The Britannica web page for Scientific Method says:
1. Collect information make observations, ask questions (I remember also "with an open unbiased mind")
2.formulate hypotheses
3. design experiment to test hypothesis
4.conduct experiment
5. compare observed results with expected results
6. if match then report findings (in some cases reporting negative results can be very important. For example the Michelson-Morley experiment (Wiki) failed to detect an "aether".)
7. do other experiments agree, i.e. is this reproducible?
The above I learned depended on Inductive reasoning (Wiki) where only inferences can be made.  Note that mathematics uses Deductive reasoning (Wiki) where proofs are possible.

[pg32] "Most of us gravitate toward trying to verify our beliefs, to the extent that we bother investigating their validity at all.  But scientists gravitate toward falsification; as a community if not as individuals, they seek to disprove their beliefs,  Thus, the defining feature of a hypothesis is that it has the potential to be proven wrong (which is why it must be both testable and tested), and the defining feature of a theory is that it hasn't been proven wrong yet.  But the important part is that it can be - no matter how much evidence appears to confirm it, no matter how many experts endorse it, no matter how much popular support it enjoys.  In fact, not only can any given theory be proven wrong, as we saw in the last chapter, sooner or later, it probably will be.  And when it is, the occasion will mark the success of science, not its failure.  This was the pivotal insight of the Scientific Revolition: that the advancement of knowledge depends on current theories collapsing in the face of new insights and discoveries.  In this model of progress, errors do not lead us away from the truth.  Instead, they edge us incrementally toward it."

This description of the Scientific Method comes from Karl Popper (Wiki) and is very different from the classic idea.
My summary of Popper would include:
1.  There are no scientific "facts".  All scientific "theories" are provisional, that's to say they are falsifiable.  You can not prove a theory to be true using inductive reasoning.
2. The scientific process starts when there is a problem with an existing theory:
Problem -> conjectures -> experiments -> new theory -> Problem. (see: How Science Works in General)
For example, to use the naming convention proposed by David Deutsch (Wiki, A new way to explain explanation) Newton's misconception of gravity worked until there were problems (for example the orbit of Mercury: WikiThis led Einstein to come up with his misconception of relativity.  But that led to problems that lead to Quantum Mechanics, but that lead to problems that Quantum Electro Dynamics (QED) tried to solve, but those problems lead to some form of string theory (which no one yet knows how to calculate).

There's a strong parallel throughout the book between the idea that when a scientific theory is shown to be wrong that's a good thing driving improvement in our understanding and when we realize we have made an error there's a chance to improve our worldview.

Part 2 The Origins of Error
Ch 3 Our Senses
The example of John Ross 1818 (Wiki) and other optical illusions (Wiki).
Ch 4 Our Minds, Part One: Knowing, Not Knowing, and Making it Up

Ch 5 Our Minds, Part Two: Belief  (Ignorance, Idiocy, Evil)
[pg 107] "The first such corollary is the Ignorance Assumption.  Since we think our own beliefs are based on the facts, we conclude that people who disagree with us just haven't been exposed to the right information, and that such exposure would inevitably bring them over to our team.  This assumption is extraordinarily widespread.  To cite only the most obvious examples, all religious evangelism and a good deal of political activism (especially grassroots activism) is premised on the conviction that you can change people's beliefs by educating them on the issues."

"When the Ignorance Assumption fails us - when people stubbornly persist in disagreeing with us even after we've tried to enlighten them - we move to the Idiocy Assumption.  Here, we concede that our opponents know the facts, but deny that they have the brains to comprehend them.  This assumption can be a narrow judgement, applied to a specific person on a specific issue, or it can be a sweeping assessment of any individual or group we regard as the opposition."

[pg 108] "Think, for instance, of the countless times we say things like "what kind of idiot could actually believe  . . ."

"One of the most common answers to that question is: the wicked kind.  This is the Evil Assumption - the idea that people who disagree with us are not ignorant of the truth, and not unable to comprehend it, but have willfully turned their backs on it.  The Evil Assumption has a longstanding relationship with religion, where "unbeliever" is all but synonymous with "evildoer."  But it is almost equally common in politics

[BC] A possible way around the above attempts to change someone's mind may be story telling.
TEDx: Why Stories Captivate | Tomas Pueyo | TEDxHumboldtBay, December 10, 2017: Solve for WhY - "being right is not enough, facts and reason just don't make it.  That's way the most famous TED speakers in the world only spend 25% of their talks telling facts and 65% telling stories. And they're right. Stories are 2 to 10 times more memorable than facts." 
Ch 6 Our Minds, Part Three: Evidence
[pg 118] "This strategy of guessing based on past experience is known as inductive reasoning (Wiki, Francis Bacon-Science).  As we've seen, inductive reasoning makes us vastly better than computers at solving problems like the ones in this quiz.  But it also makes people like Descartes (Wiki) nervous, because it means that our beliefs are not necessarily true.  Instead, they are probabilistically true.  This point was made (and made famous) by the philosopher David Hume (Wiki), who was arguably the first thinker to fully grasp both the import and the limitation of inductive reasoning,  To borrow his much-cited example: How can I be sure that all swans are white if I myself have seen only a tiny fraction of all the swans that have ever existed?"
Ch 7 Our Society
[pg 137] "To (Roger) Bacon's mind, all error could be chalked up to just four problems, which he called (rather charmingly, to English speakers) offendicula: impediments or obstacles to truth.  One of those obstacles was a kind of thirteenth-century version of Modern Jackass; the tendency to cover up one's own ignorance with the pretense of knowledge.  Another was the persuasive power of authority.  A third was blind adherence to custom, and the last was the influence of popular opinion."
Ch 8 The Allure of Certainty
[pg 164] "If imagination is what enables us to conceive of and enjoy stories other than our own, and if empathy is the act of taking other people's stories seriously, certainty deadens or destroys both qualities."
Part 3 The Experience of Error
Ch 9 Being Wrong
Ch 10 How Wrong?
Two books on order:
The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman
Expert Political Judgement, Philip Tetlock
Ch 11 Denial and Acceptance
Ch 12 Heartbreak
Ch 13 Transformations
Part 4 Embracing Error
Ch 14 The Paradox of Error - politics
[pg 310] Yes given our induction-happy minds, most of us are guilty of the same practice in our everyday lives.  As soon as we think we are right about something, we narrow our focus,, attending only to details that support our belief, or ceasing to listen altogether."

[pg 314] "In the long run, the suppression of disagreement is likely to be bad for the rulers as well as the ruled over.  As the legal scholar Cass Sunstein observed in Why Societies Need Dissent, "Dictators, large and small, tend to be error-prone as well as cruel.  The reason is that they learn far too little.  Those with coercive authority, form presidents to police chiefs,, do much better if they encourage diverse views and expose themselves to a range of opinions."  This was the lesson of groupthink as well, although power there was consolidated in the hands of a small group instead of in the hands of the individual."
Ch 15 The Optimistic Meta-Induction from the History of Everything - things that are funny

Books & Miscellaneous

Note "Ref #" shows as a link to that reference making it easy to link.

Ref 1. Kathryn Schulz (Wiki,, Twitter)
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
, 2010

Ref 2. Don Norman -  (YouTube Audio book), His web site is:
The Design of Everyday Things
Chapter 5 Human Error No, Bad Design
Here's a TED talk by Don Norman (The "Norman Doors" guy):
It's fun and he makes a number of good points.

He mentioned the Philippe Starck juicer by Alessi.
The patent application was filed 1988-11-24.
In the 2002 movie Men in Black II the spaceship was patterned after the juicer.
Philippe Starck juicer by Alessi
Philippe Starck juicer by Alessi

He also mentioned the "Global cutting knife"
                        cutting knife GS-14
GS-14 15cm (6" blade), 10-1/2" overall, Utility, Scalloped blade
Ref 3. Philip Tetlock (Wiki: 1902 - 1994)
Expert Political Judgement: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?
Ref 4. Karl Popper (Wiki)
In my opinion Popper is the father of modern epistemology (Wiki).
Popper Selections by Karl R. Popper (Author), David W. Miller (Editor) 1985 -
The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper, 2013 (combined volume 1 & 2 w/new material) - How Plato, Aristotle, Hegel & Marx believed in authoritarian government. Written in response to Hitler & W.W.II
The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Wiki), Karl Popper, 1935 (He was involved in the English translation in 1959) - I think Popper's ideas on "demarcation" were clear after Special (Wiki) & General relativity (Wiki), but became very blurred with the introduction of the scientific ideas of quantum mechanics (Wiki)  and later Quantum Electrodynamics (Wiki) where probability comes into play.  That makes those ideas what Popper calls metaphysical.  This book seems to be him trying to find a way for these ideas to be on the science side of his demarcation.
Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (Routledge Classics), Karl Popper, 2002 - a collection of lectures on very specific subjects - recommended
The Myth of the Framework : In Defense of Science and Rationality, Karl Popper, 1994 - a collection of lectures on very specific subjects - recommended.

Way Off Topic: It's interesting that when looking for the Wiki page for Karl Popper there was an alternative search result "Karl Popper debate".  I thought it was going to be about some controversial aspect of Popper, but no, it's about "debating" itself.  Under the section "
U.S. presidential debates" there's this:  "However, in announcing its withdrawal from sponsoring the debates, the League of Women Voters stated that it was withdrawing "because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter." [Neuman, Nancy M. (October 2, 1988). "League Refuses to "Help Perpetrate a Fraud"". Press release. League of Women VotersArchived from the original on August 23, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-26.]  The last presidential debate between Trump and Biden was, in my opinion, a shit show.

Ref 0
Albert Einstein: Nobel Lecture: Fundamental ideas and problems of the theory of relativity, Albert Einstein, Nobel Lecture, July 11, 1923, English translation 9 pages.  Karl Popper attended a lecture by Einstein (see Ref 15 below). This may be the paper that Popper heard when he was a teenager. The word epistemology appears in the first paragraph.

Subtle is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein by Pais (Wiki). There is a chronology of Einstein as an appendix and the July 11 1923 lecture in Göteborg (Wiki) looks like a good match.  Note Einstein did not receive a Noble Prize for either of his Relativity Theories.  He did receive the 1921 Nobel in Physics (Wiki) for the Photoelectric Effect (Wiki).  This was in conflict with Maxwell's equations (Wiki) for waves in a vacuum.  Maxwell said light was a wave and the Photoelectric effect says light is a particle.
Publications by Einstein: Wiki -

The July 11, 1923 Einstein lecture "Fundamental ideas and problems of the theory of relativity" comes close to what I remember.  This was given after he received a Nobel prize for the year 1921 in the year 1922.
Ref 5. David Deutsch (Wiki)
The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications, 1998 (Recommended reading list includes Popper, which is where I learned about him)
The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World, 2012
TED: YouTube: 
David Deutsch: A new way to explain explanation, 17:14 - highly recommended

Ref 6. John Dean & Bob Alteymer
Conservatives without Conscience
, John Dean (Wiki) - this is the book that introduced me to Bob Alteymer (Wiki) and The Authoritarians as well as to the Milgram experiment (Wiki).
Murdoch Mysteries (Wiki) S14E4 "Shock Value", probably set in 1908, is about the Milgram experiment that took place in 1961.  The series often "invents" things ahead of what happened, making it very interesting.  In this case they did not mention Milgram, so you would need to know about it on your own.
The Authoritarians (pdf), Bob Alteymer
The Authoritarians Website contains a few updates to Authoritarian Nightmare.
Updating Authoritarian Nightmare Why Do Trump’s Supporters Stand by Him, No Matter What? Donald Trump and Authoritarian Followers Comment on the Tea Party Movement Postscript On The 2008 U.S. Election 
Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and his Followers, 2020, by John W. Dean & Bob Altemeyer
In hard cover book:
App I "Fluids" versus "Fixeds"
App II The Power Mad Scale and the Con Man Scale
App III Exit Polls

On web page (scroll down)
App IV: "Right versus "Left" (scroll down for others)
App V: Monmouth University Polling Institute Survey Spring & Autumn 2019
App VI: Explanations and Detailed Analyses of the autumn 2019 Nationa Authoritarianinsm Poll undertanken by Monmouth University Polling Institute
App VII: On Race and Prejudice
Endnotes: Appendix V

Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind, Matthew M. Hurley, Daniel C. Dennett (Wiki) & Reginald B. Adams Jr. - postulates that when our mind fact checks some new information prior to storing it and finds it false it rewards itself by finding it funny.
Took a year to find this book after seeing this very important TED talk: Dan Dennett: Cute, SEXY, sweet, FUNNY -

On Intelligence: How a New Understanding of the Brain will Lead to the Creation of Truly Intelligent Machines, Jeff Hawkins (Wiki) & Sandra Blakeslee (Wiki), 2004 - The brain is constantly predicting what will happen and comparing that to the current sensory inputs.
TED: How brain science will change computing -
(Wiki, YouTube: Thousand Brains Theory: A Framework for Understanding the Neocortex and Building, 2019)

Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth behind the Masterpieces, Philip Steadman, 2001 - Technical details supporting the idea that Vermeer used an optical aid.

Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, David Hockney (Wiki), 2001 - Artistic paintings can be divided into three eras:
1. Prior to the Dutch Masters (Wiki) paintings were flat two dimensional
2. The Dutch Masters, like Vermeer, painted life like images where individuals could be recognized.
3. After photography (Wiki) allowed making life like images, artists turned to abstract forms of expression.

Ref 7. Michael Shermer (Wiki)
I have a number of books by Shermer, in many of them he's trying to understand how people come to believe things that are not true.
Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, 2002
The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths, 2012
Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational, 2022, - 2023Oct on order.

Ref 8. Eli Pariser (Wiki,)
The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, 2011.
TED Talk: eli pariser: beware online filter bubbles, March 2011 - When Google started out everyone who searched would see the same results, but sometime prior to March 2011 Google customized the search results so that they matched what the searcher wanted to see.  This creates a "filter bubble" where people only see results like they have already seen.

Ref 9. Roger McNamee (Wiki)
Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, February 5, 2019 - Builds on the Filter Bubble idea and explains the Facebook business model.
YouTube, Sam Harris: Sam Harris and Roger McNamee - We are Zucked, Mar 27, 2019 clip from much longer interview as part of announcement of book Zucked.  This is a transcript with some cleanup to turn speech into writing.
SH: Let's articulate what the problem is here with the business model of Facebook in particular and this extends to Google.  I think Facebook has a uniquely culpable story here,  The ethics around this are interesting because you knew these guys.  You knew Zuckerberg (Wiki: Mark Zuckerberg).  You knew Sandberg (Wiki: Sheryl Sandberg).  You had a reason to believe that they would appreciate their ethical obligations once this became evident that there was a problem. The problem as I understand it, is this: [I should remind people that we're talking about your book Zucked which is about Facebook in particular but it covers the general footprint of this problem of bad incentives (see Freakonomics) and a business model trafficking in user data] generically the issue here is that misinformation spreads more effectively than facts.  The more lurid a story is the more clickable than the more nuanced one. 

You add to that the emotional component that outrage increases people's time on any social media site.  And this leads to an amplification tribalism, partisanship and conspiracy theory. All of these thing are more profitable than a healthy conversation about facts.  They simply are more profitable given the business model.  One could have always said that this dynamic vitiates other media too.  I mean this is true for newspapers, it's true for television, it's just true that "if it bleeds it leads" (Wiki) on some level but this is integrated into Facebook's business model to an unusual degree.  Yet to hear you tell the story of your advising of Zuckerberg and, I don't think you said it here but it's in the book, that you actually introduced Sandberg to him and facilitated that marriage .  That was at a time where the ethical problem of this business model wasn't so obvious to hear you tell it.  I mean were they having to confront this back in 2007 or not?

RM: No.  They certainly were not confronting it in any way that I was aware of it.  To be clear, in the early days of Facebook they had one objective only, which was to grow the audience.  There was really no effort made during the period I was engaged with them to build the business model.  Sheryl's arrival was about putting in place the things to create the business model.  But there was a great deal of uncertainty.  In fact Mark was initially very hesitant to hire Sheryl because he didn't believe that Google's model would apply or work at Facebook.  It turned out that he was correct about that.  So my perception of the model (I love the way you just described that.  You know the thing that I always try to explain to people is that when you think about filter bubbles and you think about "when it bleeds it leads", that whole notion has been with us for one hundred fifty years.  But before Google and Facebook it was always in a broadcast model.  So when I was a kid everybody my age saw the Kennedy funeral, the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and the moon landing.  We all saw it together.  The filter bubble brought people together because we has a shared set of facts.  The complaint at the time was conformity.  Right, because we all saw exactly the same thing.

With Facebook and Google, they create this world of, in Facebook's case across all of their platforms, three billion Truman Shows (Wiki:Show, Delusion) where each person gets their own world.  Their own set of facts with constant reinforcement.  Where they lure you on to the site with rewards.  Whether it's notifications or likes to build a habit and for many people that turns into an addiction. 

I always ask people if they say "oh I'm not addicted" and I go, "okay great, when do you check your phone first thing in the morning?  Is it before you pee or while you're peeing?" Because for everybody I know it's one or the other.  You know we're all addicted to some degree. 

Then once you're coming back regularly they have to keep you engaged.  This is the stuff that was not happening until roughly 2011.  Before 2011 what they had to do to keep people engaged way Zynga (Wiki).  They had social games that was the big driver of usage time before 2011.  What they realized was that appealing to outrage and fear was much more successful than appealing to happiness because one person's joy is another person's jealousy.  Whereas if you're afraid or outraged you share stuff in order to make other people also afraid or outraged.  Because that just makes you feel better.  Tristan (Wiki: Tristan Harris) had this whole thing figured out and you know we obviously shared that in Washington (YouTube: Tristan Harris - Congressional Hearing January 8, 2020) .  That was an important stimulus.  When I think about the problem that's one piece of it, which is the manipulation of people's attention for profit.  The natural divisiveness of using fear, outrage and filter bubbles that isolate people, that you know, if you start out Vax or anti-vax curious they can get you into an anti-vax group. Within a year you're going to be in the streets fighting vaccinations.

SH: mm

RM:  It's just how it works.  That constant reinforcement makes your positions more rigid and makes them more extreme. We can not help that.  It is about the fundamental.  It's not a question of character or whatever. It's about the most basic evolutionary wiring.
Ref 10. Steven Levitt (Wiki) & Stephen J. Dubner (Wiki)

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, April 12, 2005 (Wiki) - "Levitt and Dubner argue that economics is, at root, the study of incentives." - [BC} and how that can lead to unethical behavior.

Ref 11. Tristan Harris (Wiki)
Center for Humane Technology - The Social Dilemma (Wiki) -
TED: How better tech could protect us from distraction | Tristan Harris, Dec 2014 -
How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day, July 2017
YouTube: Yuval Noah Harari and Tristan Harris interviewed by Wired Dec 2018
YouTube: US Senate hearing June 2019 -

Ref 12. George Orwell (Wiki)
Nineteen Eighty-Four (Wiki), published in 1949 - "centres on the consequences of totalitarianismmass surveillance, and repressive regimentation of persons and behaviours within society."  Kellyanne Conway's (Wiki) "alternative facts" (Wiki) are an example of this. 
PS. This came up in relation to the crowd size of Trump's 2017 inauguration.  Where Sean Spicer (Wiki) told a bald faced lie.  I've since learned from the book Authoritarian Nightmare that this was done on purpose to get Congressmen to back a small white lie as a stepping stone to back all of his lies.  This was will demonstrated by the Republican votes related to the Trump Impeachment (Wiki) & trial (Wiki).  This was a jaw dropping experience for me.  Reinforced by the election of Mike Johnson (Wiki) as house speaker Oct 2023.

Ref 13. Paddy Chayefsky (Wiki)
Network (movie) - "presaged the advent of reality television by twenty years" (Wiki: The Apprentice)

Ref 14. S.L. MacKnik (Wiki) & S.Martinez-Conde (Wiki)
Sleights of Mind: What Neuroscience of Magic Revals about our Everyday Deceptions (Wiki), 2010

Ref 15. Michael Strevens (NYU, YouTube)
The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science, 2020 (YouTube book promo 51:54)
I'm seeing Popper's name in a quick overview of the book along with Einstein which is very encouraging.
The key question is why did it take until around 1600 - 1700 for the scientific method to take hold?  There may be a clue in the title, i.e. on the face of it science may seem irrational.

I learned that Karl Popper heard Einstein give a talk (See Ref 0 above) when he was 16 (Popper DOB: 1902 + 16 = 1918).  I read that same paper a few years ago and have been looking for it ever since.  Near the start of the paper Einstein makes what I'd call an enhanced Occam's Razor (Wiki) argument, but he did not use that name.  Near the end he lists a number of tests of his theory and says that if any of them can be demonstrated it would make the whole theory false.  I think the Stanford Gravity Probe B experiment (Wiki) was based on one of these.  That's the basis of Popper's explanation of science, i.e. experiments to falsify a theory, not the Bacon (Wiki) idea of experiments to prove a theory is true.  Popper says, and I believe it, that you can not prove anything using inductive reasoning.  I've asked Strevens if he knows how to get the paper.  He does not. It's not in the end notes.
[Looking for the 1919 paper at: Collected Papers, 1918 - 1921 En] - with no luck.

Note that Kuhn (Wiki) wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Wiki)  in 1962, my junior year at San Jose State. So this was a topic of discussion and in parallel the idea of a Bacon type experiment as part of science. So my eyes were opened with I started reading Popper a few years ago.

A determination of the deflection of light by the Sun’s Gravitational Field, form Observations made at the Total Eclipseof May 29, 1919. by Dyson, Eddington & Davidson.
YouTube: The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science 1:08:05-

Ref 16. Elizabeth Kolbert (Wiki) -
The New Yorker: Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, , Feb 20, 2017 -

Ref 17. Steven Sloman (
The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone - ordered 8 Feb 2021,

Ref 18. Hugo Mercier (
The Enigma of Reason - ordered 8 Feb 2021,

Ref 19. Sara E. & Jack Gorman (Psychology Today)
Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us - ordered 8 Feb 2021,

Ref 20. Gary Taubes (Wiki, my Diet & Nutrition page- use <CTRL> F Taubes)
Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion (Wiki), 1993 - Goes into some detail how a couple of Chemists got the physics so wrong.  The book delves heavily into Calorimetry (Wiki) and how difficult it is to get it right.  One of the experiments Taubes did researching weight gain was based on putting humans in a thermally controlled room, i.e. Calorimetry, and a mistake might have been made so the results are questionable.

Ref 21. Thomas Pueyo Bochard (Medium)
The Star Wars Rings: The Hidden Structure Behind the Story, 2017 - Storytelling is a much more powerful way to convey ideas than simply stating facts.
TEDx: Why Stories Captivate | Tomas Pueyo | TEDxHumboldtBay, December 10, 2017 -

Ref 22. Justin Kruger & David Dunning (Wiki)
Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments, 1999
"People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy (Wiki) from error (Wiki). Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities."
Ref 23. Gordon Rugg (Wiki)
Blind Spot: Why We Fail to See the Solution Right in Front of Us, 2013 - experts can be expected to get things wrong.  Covers the Voynich manuscript (Wiki).

Ref 24. Adam Grant
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, 2021 -
Starts off with a recollection of the Mann Gulch Fire (Wiki) where the crew chief lit a grass fire in order to survive.  This was something he invented on the spot and most of his crew did not understand it and so perished.  This is a famous incident in wild fire training.
Ref 25. Martin Gurri (Wiki, the fifth wave)
The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium, 2nd ed 2018

Here's a quote from the Matt Taibbi column The Prophet Of The Trump Era 2021 March 8:
"Published in 2014, The Revolt of the Public may be alone among the countless books about the Trump years to correctly peg its core destabilizing problem. While conventional pundits blame everyone from Russians to white nationalists to “fake news” for all that currently ails us, Gurri focused on the inherent problem of authority in the digital age. If you follow his thinking, the specific forms that recent revolts have taken — Brexit, Trump, etc. — have been far less important than what he describes as the “nihilist impulse” behind them, “the wish to smash down whatever stands.” In America, this impulse found Trump, not the other way around. It also could have (and has, in other countries) come from the left instead of the right. The relentless focus on Trump as the center of all evil on earth has mostly served to deflect from a broader narrative about distrust of institutional authority that far pre-dates Trump."
Discourse Magazine: The Way Out of Post-Truth,: Surmounting five riddles of the information sphere, Martin Gurri,  26, 2020
"The collapse of trust in our leading institutions has exiled the 21st century to the Siberia of post-truth. I want to be clear about what this means. Reality has not changed. It’s still unyielding. Facts today are partial and contradictory—but that’s always been the case. Post-truth, as I define it, signifies a moment of sharply divergent perspectives on every subject or event, without a trusted authority in the room to settle the matter. A telling symptom is that we no longer care to persuade. We aim to impose our facts and annihilate theirs, a process closer to intellectual holy war than to critical thinking."
Ref 26. Richard Dawkins (Wiki)
The Magic of Reality: How we know what's really true - YouTube - There are apps for Apple and Android that are based on this book. Aimed at children.
The Selfish Gene, 3rd Ed, ISBN-13: 978-0199291144 - ordered this because it's a key component of The Robot's Rebellion (Ref 30).  A key idea is that Darwin's evolution works on the gene pool, not on a species, group, or individual.  So it's the selfishness of the gene that determines if it stays in the gene pool or gets replaced.  Another key idea is that of a Evolutionarily stable strategy (Wiki) which he uses to analyze some theories.

Ref 27Jaff Hawkins (Wiki, Numenta, Amazon, YouTube)
In his first book: On Intelligence 2004 - he proposed the idea that the whole function of our brain is to make real time predictions.  This is the only top level explanation of what the brain does that I know about.
In his second book:
A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence, 2021 - he goes into a lot of detail about how the brain works.  Included are many discussions about false beliefs and the problems they cause.  Highly recommended!

Ref 28. Julia Galef (Wiki, YouTube)
The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't, 2021, ISBN-13:‎ 978-0735217553 - The Scout needs to see things as they are, while the soldier needs to see things in a frame.
TEDxPSU: Why You Think You're Right Even If You're Wrong, 11:28, Feb 2016
YouTube: Michael Shermer with Julia Galef: The Scout Mindset, 1:41:11, Aug 21, 2021

Ref 29. NYT:
Trump True Believers Have Their Reasons, Thomas B. Edsall, Oct. 6, 2021 - Karl Popper says there are no scientific facts.  People who "know" the facts and act on them can be very wrong.

Ref 30. Keith E. Stanovich (Wiki) - The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin,  - Reading Oct 2021 "The genes will always sacrifice the vehicle if it is in their interests to do so." Examples I can think of: Black Widow Spider, Praying Mantis (Wiki: Sexual cannibalism), and he mentions the Honey Bee (Wiki) who dies because he stung a predator that threatened the queen.
The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking, 2021 - read some of the free part on Amazon, interesting, but requires a lot of concentration.

Ref 31. Barbara F. Walter (Wiki, Amazon, YouTube) How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them, Jan 11 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0593137789, 320 pages. This is a MUST READ.
YouTube: How Civil Wars Start: A Conversation with Barbara F. Walter & Michael German, 1:05:25, Jan 13, 2022 -
Center for Systemic Peace - home of the
POLITY score. Table of USA scores 1776 to 2020.

Ref 32. The Atlantic: Why the Past 10 Years of American Life have been Uniquely Stupid, Jonathan Haidt, April 11, 2022 - with links to related articles.

Ref 33. Jesus and John Wayne: How white evangelicals corrupted a faith and fractured a nation.  Kristin Kobes Du Mez (Amazon, YouTube)

Ref 34. Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Wiki), 2022 - Preface: "We sow hatred of others fueled by what we think is true, or what we want to be true, without regard to what is true...  We've lost all sight of what distinguishes facts from opinions.  We lob grenades at one another when we could be sharing beers in pubs."  YouTube:

Ref 35. Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, Steven Pinker, 2021, 432 pgs, ISBN: 978-0525561996, in foreword to Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational
YouTube book intro by Michael Shermer, 25 Oct 2022 on YouTube

Ref 36. New Yorker, 2017Feb27: Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, Elizabeth Kolbert - cites books written prior to the Nov 2020 election.
The Enigma of Reason, Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber, 2017 -
The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, Steven Sloman & Philip Fernbach, 2018 - "...spent less time pontificating and more trying to work through the implications of policy proposals, we’d realize how clueless we are and moderate our views."
Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us, Jack Gorman & Sara Gorman, 2016 -
Ref 37 On Bullshit, Harry G. Frankfurt, 1986 (Wiki) (YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, On Bullshit, 28:42) -
The Guardian, 22Dec22: Here’s the essential skill for assessing our politics: knowing the difference between lies and bullshit -
2015 Ig Noble Prize “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit,” (pdf) - First line in introduction:
“It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction.” – Harry Frankfurt
Ref 38 Essays in Science (Abridged Authorized English Translation from the Volume 'Mein Weltbild'), Hardcover, January 1, 1934,
got the title from Stephen Thornton at Stanford:
From a footnote in Popper LSD  (page 9);
"Address on Max Planck’s 60th birthday (1918). The passage quoted begins with the words, ‘The supreme task of the physicist is to search for those highly universal laws . . .,’ etc. (quoted from A. Einstein, Mein Weltbild, 1934, p. 168; English translation by A. Harris: The World as I see It, 1935, p. 125)."
A false call on two counts.  The desired paper was not in the book.  The Max Planck talk is not the talk I'm looking for.
Ref 39. NYT: Iraq, 20 Years Later: A Changed Washington and a Terrible Toll on America - lists a number of people who now admit they got it very wrong.
Ref 40. Master Your Mind: Critical-Thinking Exercises and Activities to Boost Brain Power and Think Smarter, Marcel Danesi, 2020,ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1647393267
It turns out to be a very dense book, i.e. a topic is mentioned, almost in passing, which might take another book to get into the details.  So the book is not very helpful as a teaching aid.  Maybe as a reminder to a teacher for topics to develop.
Ch 1. Critical Thinking: The Basics
Ch 2. The Art of Reasoning
Ch 3. Retoric, Fallacy, and Bias
Ch 4. Thinking Smarter in the Digital Age
Ch 5. Critical Thinking for Life
Answer key
Ref 41. Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect, Mick West, 2018, Hardcover,
Decided to get this book while watching video where critical thinking (@8:00) was being discussed. 
The web page: Critical Thinking Org -
Ref 42. 'Confirmation Bias' | Tim Minchin: BACK, 11:54 -
Ref 43. YouTube: Mick West: TFTRH #33 - Anthony Magnabosco: Street Epistemology and Conspiracy Theories, 58:53
Ref 44. A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian (Wiki), PB ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1939578099 -Ch. 1  "Street Epistemology";  on order 2023 Sep
Ref 45. Street Epistemology - web page - Learning Course -
& associated YouTube: Anthony Magnabosco -
Ref 46. The origin of countless conspiracy theories, 4:35 - Ramsey theory (Wiki)
Ref 47. The Guardian: A discussion with Naomi Klein on wellness culture: ‘We really are alive on the knife’s edge’ by Katherine Rowland, 2023Nov15  - "In the terrifying early days of the pandemic, a concerning development emerged in the wellness space. Chiropractors, health coaches, ayurvedic healers and other mind-body professionals took to the internet in earnest to circulate QAnon content, stories about Hillary Clinton guzzling blood and screeds against social distancing." Based on an interview and Klein's book: Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World.
Ref 48. Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation by Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, 2023 - YouTube - TED -
Ref 49. The Field Guide to Understanding 'Human Error', 3rd Ed, 2014, 978-1472439055, Sidney Dekker - YouTube: Part 1, 6:37; "Human error" is not a conclusion, but a starting point.  Part 2, 9:02,  Part 3, 7:21; Wiki: Principle of rationality, people do reasonable things, given their goals, knowledge & focus of attention. "Nobody comes to work to do a bad job.";  Part 4, 17:06, Retrospective reaction to failure;  Part 5, 12:12; - Why the New York Times Gets it Wrong, 20:04 - Ryan McBeth - The NYT does not have reporters that know about the military, like they do have for science and the law.
Ref 50. Univ. of Louisville: Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework - Paul, R. and Elder, L. (2010). The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, ISBN 9781538134948 -
The Economist course: Critical thinking, Problem-solving and decision-making in a complex world is based on work by Tom Chatfield, Daniel Kahneman and Kate Raworth.
Ref 50. Critical Thinking : Your Guide to Effective Argument, Successful Analysis and Independent Study, Tom Chatfield, 9781473947146, 328 pgs
Ref 51. Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass R. Sunstein, 978-0316451406, 464 pgs

Logical Mistakes (Wiki)

When working with deductive logic (Wiki) you can make a formal fallacy (Wiki). 
With natural language there is the possibility of making an informal fallacy (Wiki).
Wiki: List of fallacies.
Whataboutism (Wiki, see also) -
Sideshow Bob defense (Wiki, WaPo)
The Otter defense (from Animal House IMDB,"we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America." WaPo, WaPo)
Chewbacca defense (Wiki)

PS Karl Popper points out that nothing can be proved using Inductive logic (Wiki).
In mathematics deductive logic can lead to a proof (Wiki).


Diet and Nutrition: How Science Works, Correlation vs. Causation
Faradic -  all manner of quack ideas and devices.
Atheist Reading List

Links -

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