Not the Monthly Post

The Truths We Have In Common

In recent posts here on, I’ve sketched out the way that the era of abstraction in which we’ve all grown up has foundered, following patterns that were old before our civilization was born. We’ve talked about the way that the abstract generalizations that started out helping to make sense of on-the-ground realities have been put to use instead to spin, distort, and conceal them; we’ve talked about the way that so many people in today’s America have reacted to the fog of abstraction by trying to claim unearned authority for themselves or the beliefs they favor. Now it’s time to start talking about what can be done about it all.

Appropriately enough, that’ll be easier to do if we start from a specific example rather than staying safely out in the cloudy realm of abstract generalizations, and specific examples are easy enough to find just now. There recently appeared, for instance, a newspaper article claiming, on the basis of an assortment of scientific studies, that monosodium glutamate (MSG), a widely used food additive, doesn’t actually cause the headaches and other unwelcome symptoms that many Americans say it does in fact cause.

Right here we have the intellectual crisis of our time in microcosm. Here are ordinary people, who have experienced something. Here are the experts, who insist that their experience doesn’t exist, or at least doesn’t matter, because a supposedly authoritative study by qualified experts says that the thing they experienced is purely anecdotal. Those of my readers who have been paying attention to the vexed relationship between expert opinion and popular culture in today’s United States will find this interaction all too familiar. Familiar, too, is the plaintive cry of the experts:  why won’t people believe us when we speak the truth?

What’s being missed here, to begin with, is that reality is always anecdotal. I happen to know people who reliably get headaches and other unpleasant symptoms when they eat food containing MSG—and yes, it happens whether or not they know there’s MSG in what they’re eating, so it can’t be dismissed as a product of the nocebo effect.* A great many Americans know such people; a significant fraction are such people. That awkward anecdotal reality displays the first level of the crisis of our time—if you yourself experience something, or know someone you trust who experiences something, hearing from experts who insist it doesn’t exist and doesn’t matter is unlikely to have any effect on your opinion about that thing—and it’s very likely to have an effect, a negative one, on your opinion about experts.

(*The nocebo effect? That’s the placebo effect’s nasty sister, which can cause people to suffer physiological harm from a harmless substance if they believe that it’s toxic. Inevitably, a certain number of experts insist that it and its kindly sister don’t exist.)

Let’s go deeper, though. On what basis did the experts just mentioned claim that MSG doesn’t cause the headaches and other nasty symptoms that many people experience when they eat it? On the basis of “numerous high-quality studies.” That sounds very impressive, until you take a hard look at the realities behind that label.

These days there’s a lot of nervous talk in scientific circles about the “replication crisis”—the fact, demonstrated over and over again in recent years, that when you repeat important experiments in a wide range of sciences, you won’t get the same results as the studies that first reported on those experiments. The reason for that crisis is as simple as it is unpalatable.  Ever since science stopped being an enticing hobby in which amateurs such as Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel were welcome, and came to the attention of big government, big business, and big money generally, statistical gamesmanship, data manipulation, and outright scientific fraud have become common in many sciences and standard practice in some. (Psychology is particularly problematic in this regard—I personally witnessed repeated examples of blatant scientific fraud in psychological research in my two stints at university, and other people I know who worked as research assistants in psychology have told me stories very similar to mine—but it’s far from the only one involved.)

So far, so dismal—but let’s take another step deeper. Why would scientists engage in the dubious practices that brought the replicability crisis into being? By and large, it’s a simple matter of money. On the one hand, big business long ago came to see scientific studies as simply one more form of marketing, and so ample funding is readily available to any research team that can take the hint and turn out studies that further the interests of major corporate sponsors. On the other, in the bitter tooth-and-nail struggle for grant money that dominates the lives of academic scientists today, colorful, interesting results that pander to the prejudices of influential peer reviewers are an essential weapon, and if the data don’t happen to provide such things—and very often they don’t—the temptation to gimmick them until they do so is immense, and not always resisted.

What makes this a matter of bitter irony is that the scientific method came into being precisely in an attempt to forestall such problems. That’s why it’s mandatory for a scientific study to give enough details of the experimental procedure that anyone who doubts the results can run the same experiment again for themselves, and it’s also why scientific papers are normally written in some of the dullest prose ever inflicted on readers in any language—the point of this latter requirement is to keep researchers from using lively language to distract attention from faulty logic or incomplete data. In those halcyon days before science became a profit-centered affair largely sponsored by big business, these and other measures built into the scientific method did a fair job, though not a flawless one, of keeping fraud at bay. Now? They’re about as useful as any other seventeenth-century security measure would be in the modern world.

The collapse of trust that’s rapidly eroding the ability of scientific experts to tell other people what to think, then, has deep and far-reaching roots. It’s not, however, a new thing. The twilight of every age of abstraction witnesses, among other things, the collapse of trust in whatever a society’s qualified intellectuals have been, and by and large that collapse of trust is earned in the same way as the present example.  It’s set in motion by the widening gap between the abstract generalizations that the qualified intellectuals present as reality, and the anecdotal realities that everyone else has to live with. As often as not, too, it’s blatant intellectual fraud of various kinds that finishes off the age of abstraction, as people discover yet again that a sufficiently abstract truth is indistinguishable in practice from a barefaced lie.

Western civilization ran headlong into such a crisis in its preindustrial days, as the richly abstract intellectual culture of the high Middle Ages slammed facefirst into a brick wall of hard realities it had serenely dismissed from consideration. The Renaissance, with its refocusing of intellectual activity away from abstract philosophical and theological speculation and toward the “more human studies” of literature, history, philology, and law, emerged out of that collision, as people across the Western world took a hard second look at the Middle Ages’ casual dismissal of the achievements of the ancient world, and more generally turned away from reliance on an abstract consensus dictated by experts to embrace ways of knowing the world founded more directly on individual lived experience. One of the tools they used for this purpose, in turn, came out of the ancient Greek encounter with the same historical transition.

The words used for that tool, in Greek and English, have been thoroughly whipsawed by changes in intellectual fashion, and so it’s going to be necessary to do a little unpacking before we proceed. In Greek and Roman literary culture, and then again in the Renaissance, a curious practice known as the Art of Memory was a standard part of ordinary education. It’s important enough that it deserves a post of its own, but the short version for now is that it involved learning to imagine places—real or imaginary—and stock those places with colorful images that encoded information to be remembered.

Take a moment to imagine, as vividly as you can, your kitchen. Now imagine that in each of the four corners of that room there’s an image of one of your favorite movie stars, dressed (or undressed) in a memorable way, and each movie star is holding an item that you need to get from the grocery store on your next visit. Spend several minutes making each image as detailed, vivid, and three-dimensional as possible. That’s a very, very dim and simplistic version of what the inside of your head would look like if you put half an hour a day into the Art of Memory, the way most educated people did in the Renaissance.

It’s a curious conceit of modern thought that most people, when they encounter the Art of Memory, assume as a matter of course that it can’t actually work. We’ve been taught systematically to ignore, suppress, and dismiss our own innate capacities, so we have to go pay to use a machine instead. As a result, the thought of developing those capacities by training and practice seems absurd to most of us, if not vaguely obscene. Nonetheless, it does work, and given a modest amount of practice it works very well indeed. (Call the image of your kitchen back to mind, with the movie stars in their places. Are the grocery items still there?)

We’ll get to other applications, and implications, of the Art of Memory in future posts. For now, the point that matters is that people trained in that Art tend to think of knowledge as something that sorts itself out into imagined “places.” An entire field of study emerged in ancient Greek times to explore the question of what pieces of knowledge a well-stocked memory ought to have in it. The Greek word for “places” is τοποι, topoi, and so the field of study was called τοπικε, topike, or as we now say, topics (just as politike, the study of communities, became “politics”).

The last feeble remnant of the word’s old meaning appears when we speak of the topic of an essay or a speech, meaning the general idea or subject the essay or speech is about. To a rhetor in late classical Greece or Rome, or to a Renaissance humanist, the topic of an essay or a speech wasn’t anything so vague. It was the place—literally, the imagined place in a trained memory; figuratively, the launching point for the argument—from which the essay or speech started. That starting place wasn’t an abstract generalization affirmed by a consensus of experts; remember, in both the cases we’re discussing, an age of abstraction had crumpled under the weight of its own failures, and the old study of topics was in part developed as a quest for some alternative.

Where do you begin a discussion when there’s no consensus of the experts you can rely on, no set of abstract generalizations from which answers can be found by deduction? That’s the challenge that the study of topics was meant to address. The answer that became standard, both in classical times and in the Renaissance, was as straightforward in concept as it is sweeping in its implications: you start from the ideas about truth that you have in common with your audience, whatever those happen to be.

In any community, however deeply riven by political, religious, or cultural strife, there are certain things that everybody accepts as generally true. The furious rhetoric of a waning age of abstraction tends to dismiss those common truths as irrelevant, or even denies their existence. (For a perfect example of how this works in practice, listen to the way that people on both ends of the political spectrum in today’s American spit out hateful caricatures of their opponents’ beliefs, values, and goals.)  It’s one of the first tasks of a rising age of reflection to identify the truths we have in common, the anecdotal experiences that most people accept as real most of the time, and use those to establish a common ground where people of good will can meet and discuss the issues that matter to them.

Now of course the first thought of most people at the twilight of age of abstraction, encountering this last concept, is to go looking for an authoritative list of abstract generalizations that everyone is supposed to agree with, and try to use those as the basis for discussion. Since no such list of commonly agreed truths exists—it’s exactly the absence of agreement on basic generalizations that makes the partisan conflicts at the end of an age of abstraction so bitter—you end up right back in the same mess you were in, with people beating each other over the head with dogmatic claims about this or that abstract truth, and generally going on from there to continue the beating with less vaporous instruments.

The second thought of most people at the twilight of an age of abstraction is to find some more or less concrete anecdote that serves as a stalking horse for a preferred abstraction, and demand that other people acknowledge the reality and relevance of the anecdote as a way to try to force acceptance of the abstraction. Sometimes this strays very far into the territory of the absurd. In my post here two weeks ago, for example, I noted that ever since Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, she and a good many of her supporters have been trying to claim that in some abstract sense, she actually won it. On cue, I had one of her supporters pop up to insist repeatedly at steadily rising volume that I had to acknowledge in public, or at least in a private email, that she got a larger share of the popular vote than Donald Trump did. Since we don’t decide elections here in the United States by who gets the largest share of the popular vote, this was exactly the kind of irrelevant abstraction I’d critiqued in the post, but that fact was clearly lost on my irate commenter.

Demands of that kind, though, are all but universal in today’s collective nonconversations. By and large, people on each side of any given controversy insist, right up front or via an assortment of passive-aggressive maneuvers, that in order to discuss the controversy with them, you have to accept whatever abstract generalization they’re using to define it, or at least kowtow to whatever anecdotal claim they’re using just then as a battle flag. That, in turn, lands you right back in the same predicament we’ve been discussing for the last couple of months, shrieking insults at people who don’t accept your abstract generalizations, because you’ve forgotten that there’s any other way to respond to a disagreement about issues that matter.

(I mention these two bad habits of noncommunication because it’s been my experience that when I try to make the point that’s central to this week’s post, a great many people immediately try to drag the conversation back to their preferred set of abstract generalizations by means of one of the two gimmicks just described. May I offer a helpful hint? If you try to do that in the comments to this post, dear reader, your comment will be deleted without mercy—unless, that is, I decide to put it through, pick it apart to show how it demonstrates the dysfunctional habits I’ve just critiqued, and then delete all of your attempts to respond to me. You have been warned.)

The truths we have in common, as I was saying, are not abstractions but anecdotes—personal experiences most of us have had, or know people who’ve had. With this in mind, let’s cycle back to the newspaper article mentioned early on in this week’s post, the one claiming that MSG doesn’t cause the headaches and other nasty symptoms that, to many people, it does in fact trigger. What’s the anecdotal reality here? The fact that Aunt Mildred, let’s say, gets a headache any time she eats food containing MSG. That’s an anecdote, sure, but it’s as real as anything can be for your Aunt Mildred, and for the members of her family who end up with Aunt Mildred huddled on the couch in pain because somebody forgot to read the label on the snack crackers they served up at a family get-together.

There are plenty of other anecdotal realities, to be sure, and many of them are different from Aunt Mildred’s. It may well be, for example, that for every reader who has an Aunt Mildred who gets a headache from MSG, there are three other readers whose entire families can wolf down MSG-laden foods by the plateful without turning a hair. That anecdotal reality can perfectly well coexist with poor Aunt Mildred, even though the abstract generalizations “MSG causes headaches” and “MSG doesn’t cause headaches” contradict each other.  If we stay stuck on the abstractions, that contradiction can’t be avoided.

If we skip the abstractions and stay in the realm of anecdotal reality, on the other hand, there’s room for many differing experiences—in the words of the Zapatista rebels of southern Mexico, we can have a world in which many worlds fit. There’s a truth we can have in common here, which is that some people have food sensitivities and some don’t.  If we happen to be planning a party to which Aunt Mildred and the MSG-ovores are all invited, furthermore, we can keep that shared truth in mind, balance the anecdotal realities against one another, and make sure (for example) that someone reads the labels and correctly identifies which foods Aunt Mildred can eat without ill effects and which she needs to leave alone.

I’ve deliberately chosen a simple example here, but the same logic can be extended to things that are far from simple. Two weeks from now, we’ll go further in the same direction, and talk about another concept that’s been wrenched out of its original context and stripped of most of its meanings: the concept of the commonplace.


  1. I have an anecdotal experience of something I’d like to share here. I can tell when air quality is bad. It doesn’t need to reach the point where any organization considers it dangerous for anyone, but poor air quality reliably sets off certain symptoms for me (chiefly sore throat, cough, nausea, headaches).

    I have looked at my symptoms and air quality records enough that I know it’s air quality and not something else. This observation triggers some rather nasty reactions (for reasons I won’t get into), but I find it very frustrating that so many people insist I’m lying/misinformed/it’s a psychological effect, etc.

    I don’t think the data is being fudged here, but I think that a wide range of health impacts from pollution are ignored, and also I’m probably unusually sensitive, but long before it becomes “unhealhy” I am affected by air quality.

  2. Just an aside re: “..Inevitably, a certain number of experts insist that it and its kindly sister don’t exist…” This seems to be true, but there are now some researchers who are investigating this phenomenon… finally! ‘The Suggestible You’ by Erik Vance… probably others out there also, but I found this very engaging.

    And more on the current unreliability of ‘science’.. from the editor of the Lancet, no less…

  3. Just as a quick aside – Last week a local news channel trumpeted the headline “Studies show that vaping doesn’t actually help quit smoking”. This was funny to both myself and the vast majority of people in the comments section who had found vaping was the first any only thing that had successfully helped to quit smoking.

    Moving from cigarettes to vaping is an easy process. From there, quitting vaping and nicotine is incredibly easy compared to quitting cigarettes. Makes you wonder what else they’re putting in those smokes, eh?

    Anyway. I’m glad that I didn’t read that study before I quit! lol!

  4. Will, that’s a great example of what I’m talking about. You’re more sensitive to poor air quality than most people; that’s your reality, and it’s a reality that exists no matter how many people insist that only abstract generalizations (such as the official air quality numbers) are real. The way that so many people get abusive and belligerent in the face of personal experience is a classic symptom that an age of abstraction has run its course.

    Nancy, of course — the fact that some experts dismiss the placebo and nocebo effects doesn’t mean that others don’t take them seriously. As for the Lancet article, yep — that’s one journal that’s taking the problem as seriously as it deserves.

    Hans, and the study in question was almost certainly funded directly or indirectly by the tobacco industry. That’s one of the ugly realities of science today — research-for-hire is standard practice in many fields, and a great many scientists are perfectly willing to whore themselves out to corporate interests for the price of a research grant or two.

  5. Thanks for this great post! I could not resist reading the WaPo article, and found it really funny. Interviewing a spokesperson of the Glutamate Association as an important contributor to the conversation… The “numerous high-quality publications” somehow seem to evaporate from one paragraph to the other.

    More importantly, what you say about the tooth-and-nail struggle for grants is exactly right. Laboratory leaders (are forced to) spend more time and more effort on writing (and reviewing) grant applications than on anything else: writing actual papers, mentoring students, teaching classes or (rarest of all) doing experiments themselves. They (are forced to) write numerous applications in order to have one approved. (This is exactly like with congresspeople, who spend 2/3 of their waking time making telephone calls to potential sponsors.) People take classes in “grantsmanship”. And the rhetoric of the grant application is different from the rhetoric of the scientific paper: you have to sell yourself, you have to exaggerate (to a point) the importance of your initial data, you insert words like “importantly”, “novel”, “unprecedented”, which had no place in scientific writing some decades ago. I once told a scientist I highly respect that we are under the obligation to point out all potential flaws and weaknesses in our own argument, rather than try and sell it to the audience; he told me that was a thing of the past. When your own salary depends on capturing grants, as is the case in many US universities, when your promotion depends more on getting grants than on publishing important results or on good mentoring, when failing a grant may mean that your trainees and employees will land on the street, the system is set up for exaggeration and salesmanship.

    Well, as you said, this is only one the reasons for the disconnect between theory and anecdotal experience (the more expensive an experiment is, the more difficult it is to really understand and disprove), and your exposition of “topics” is very interesting.

    One quibble: “the Middle Ages’ casual dismissal of the achievements of the ancient world” seems a bit one-sided. You know better than I do how writers in the ninth as well as the twelfth century imitated classical hexameters and Platonist thought, and in the thirteenth and fourteenth century imitated Aristotelic logic. Your view on the Renaissance is original and compelling, but to me it would seem rather that Petrarca and his successors chose to focus on a different aspect of the achievements of the ancient world than the Scholastics had.

  6. How much of elite denial do you think is concious lies and how much do they believe what they say?

    Thinking about official health claims in particular, I discovered the concept of ‘malicious denial’ while reading about chronic fatigue immune difficiency syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis and Lyme disease. Malicious denial is when family members, medical authorities, employers, benefits authorities, insurance companies and politicians refuse to believe how sick people are, even as they are on the verge of death. The stories are common and just drip with the confusion and pain of people who don’t understand why those who are supposed to care for them seem to resent them so much. Since Sara has a chronic illness, I assume you are familiar with at least some of this?

  7. I wonder if there is a magical/psychic use of ars memoriae. That one might appropriate these techniques of creation and manifestation with the Kalpa Tura, the wish-fulfilling tree of the Hindu tradition, the heart center of the New Agers. Is it ethical to use these memory tools to create realities?

  8. Another interesting post.

    “The truths we have in common, as I was saying, are not abstractions but anecdotes—personal experiences most of us have had, or know people who’ve had.”

    Unfortunately, it’s precisely the finding of a common truth (or a “shared reality”) that I’ve been struggling with in so many conversations over the past few years.

    To use what seems to be one of our favorite examples around here, the 2016 election. When I tried (before I gave up trying) to talk to a certain type of liberal about “why that evil man won,” I would try to suggest things like how “the bad economy,” or “the lack of access to health care that Obamacare didn’t really fix” or “Trump was sounding less interventionist and people are tired of war” or “rigging the primaries and putting a union-buster on the ticket really pissed off the Sanders supporters and labor” could all be blamed for the election outcome they didn’t like. In response, I would be told that the economy WAS BETTER, and that Obamacare DOES WORK, and that Donald Trump had no experience and didn’t know what he was talking about (entirely possible, if beside the point), and that the primary WAS NOT rigged and that “labor” had NOTHING to do with anything. Sometimes they’d provide anecdotes about how much better everything was for them and their privileged circle. Okay, so they have different anecdotal realities – no problem, I already pretty much knew that! So then came the attempt to suggest that “Well, evidence suggests that isn’t true for lots of people. Have you talked to people from other backgrounds or in other parts of the country about how they’re doing? Do you have any contact with people in labor unions? They may have different experiences. My neighbors, for example [insert contrary anecdote about struggling working-class people with family in the military]. Not every place is like here…” [here being the privileged community where they live and work and where I work but don’t live]. Etc. The response to that was always some variation of “you’re wrong, that’s NOT true” followed by some variation on “that’s a right-wing talking point” or “fake news” or “labor is racist” or “you’re neighbors don’t know any better” or “you’re just making excuses for those people are – or maybe you’re one of them?” Etc.

    I have numerous other examples of this, but that was the most obvious one to use.

    The point being, I feel like people live in subjective bubbles (like we all do, to some extent), but that it’s getting harder and harder to convince people that their subjective bubbles are just that (subjective), and that other people might have totally different experiences that are also valid. (In my example, the possibility that there is some other reality in which people are poor and desperate and getting more so and still can’t afford health care and 8 years of the Obama administration didn’t help them and that’s their reality, so on and so forth, is simply NOT true. I imagine religious experience is another such example, and there are many more.)

    I guess the trick is to find SOME truth in common, but I feel like it’s getting harder and harder. It’s not just that the gap between abstraction and reality is widening – I feel like the gap in anecdotal experiences is widening as well, and I can’t figure out how to bridge it. People’s “realities” and the realities of literally everyone they know seem more and more separate from those of other kinds of people having different kinds of experiences, and their anecdotal experiences don’t “cross over” with those others enough to find common ground to agree on. Or maybe it can’t be bridged, until the people in the bubble where the abstractions still work get their bubble popped and start having a different anecdotal reality?

  9. Free-trade and protectionist arguments can both be supported by a wealth of anecdotes. But unlike the MSG issue, where you can just make sure Aunt Mildred doesn’t get exposed to the stuff while you let others who can stand it tuck in, a country has to choose, by and large, between abstractions when it comes to trade policy. Or does it? Could we have a system with enough flexibility to avoid the baleful effects of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff on the one hand and of the globalisers on the other? I find it an extremely hard question; what’s your take on it, folks?

  10. Could you point out a book or list of books focused on explaining how to learn the art of memory?

  11. Ah yes, the Art of Memory: its misuse is one of my pet peeves.

    This parlour trick works by enabling information to be retained through the formation of false associations (you remember to read the package labels because a movie star is holding a grocery item between her nude breasts, and pointing to its ingredients list); it does NOT develop, contain, deploy, analyse, or otherwise treat conceptual understanding (you still neither know nor really care much what Aunt Mildred’s problem is with the MSG) – and therefore ought not to be mistaken for true learning.

    The trouble is, though, that it HAS been mistaken for learning. About a hundred years or so ago, educators began believing that all necessary knowledge could be catalogued into a comprehensive encyclopedia – a perfect document with all possible problems concatenated with their respective solutions – so that anyone desiring a full and complete education need only memorize the list. Just watch a group of high school students cramming (aka “studying”) for an exam; and see how poorly most of the A+ performers among them perform when the exact same test is given as a pop-quiz a month later…. Hence the declining ability of educated intellectuals to successfully think.

    This misunderstanding is by no means the only detrimental force in our society; nor is it the only factor in the failure of education. But it is deserving of attention, and it’s not getting any.

  12. Your discussion about abstractions and realities reminds me (happily) of Norton Juster’s magnificent “children’s” book, The Phantom Tollbooth. In the protagonist’s quest to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason, long banished from the world of Knowledge, he convinces the quarreling kingly brothers that “If you both disagree with the same thing, aren’t you actually in agreement?” to which they howl, “We’ve been tricked!”

    Anyone who hasn’t read this book, I strongly commend it to you. It’s excellent at any age, and perhaps best enjoyed read aloud by an adult to a elementary-school-age child, as you’ll each take a different set of delights from it. And perhaps my favorite-ever disclaimer appears: “While satisfaction is not guaranteed, if you are not satisfied, your wasted time will be cheerfully refunded.”

  13. Oh, and one more thing, on a different point –

    One of the reasons I don’t do academic research anymore is because of what you talked about.

    In my case, it was the bad data. I would work with the data (in some cases, I helped collect it), and I would say “this data is [or “are”, if you prefer] no good” or “this data is useful, but can’t answer the question you’re asking; you need different data for that,” and my concerns were brushed aside. If I persisted, I would get some response that, while couched in nicer terminology, basically boiled down too “it doesn’t matter; we have a funder who wants the study done by a certain date, and we have to deliver a product, so do your best to make this garbage look like it supports some finding, and justify all of our paychecks on this study.”

    Had I fewer scruples, I might be living in the privileged liberal bubble, instead of just visiting with unwanted anecdotes from outside.

  14. Perhaps a bit silly, but as soon as I read the post title, I thought of George Carlin’s routine on “the little things we have in common, that bring us together.” My favorite: when you walk into a room, and can’t remember why you’ve just walked in there! And of course, the word, “Alzheimer’s” is the only thing that comes to mind …

    Carlin was a classic, and I’ve noticed that comedians/comedy in general is a great way to find common ground with people who have diametrically opposite opinions/beliefs. Of course, the other method we used in high school as well as the army was card games (euchre in school, spades in the army).

    I’ll give this another read-through and closer thought, as it certainly has bits below the surface, but my initial reaction was a chuckle at the memory the title conjured up.

  15. In my reality if I eat high sugar foods my vision goes to hell, particularly in my right eye. People say I’m crazy for believing that because, I run, don’t have diabetes etc… but there’s a reason why last December I was printing off your posts here to read them. I couldn’t justify paying to get my eyes checked because it wasn’t everyday. What tipped me off to thinking, high blood sugar=Bad vision was my mother bought home a package of Keebler cookies around New Years, an hour after I ate them I couldn’t see to read. That got me thinking, it’s the cookies. I nixed them and a few other things and my vision has been fine since. I’ve been thinking of actually getting one of those diabetic blood readers anyway.

    To me the elevated blood sugar theory makes sense. Whenever I put a hot, damp cloth on my eye my vision would clear up. Spiking blood sugar changes the viscosity of blood, perhaps changing how it moves through my eyes.

  16. John–

    My experience has nothing to do with scientific studies, but certainly relates to the stalking horse methodology and other similar tactics you described. In numerous (numerous) conversations I’ve had in which I’ve attempted to argue against (economic) globalism in favor of a sustainable, self-reliant national economy supporting liveable wages for human workers making products for domestic consumption protected by a comprehensive set of tariff walls, I’ve been repeated told that any references to globalism are anti-semitic and racist (and therefore I’m supporting Nazi ideology). Walking away is about my only option there.

  17. I want to throw in a parallel ancedote to Hans’ about vaping. Personally I am not inclined to try a vaporizer, consider it a matter of taste, but I did something very similar using home grown tobacco.

    I had a habit of smoking 2-5 cigs a day for most of five years. Last year I grew my own tobacco, and found it very agreeable to switch from the store bought to the home grown, which appeased the monkey and was pleasant in taste. Because I am amature at currin tobacco I only had tobacco enough for about 300 cigs; and I gave away more than half of it as gifts. In a few months the supply ran low, and I stopped smoking them; saving about a packs equlivent for special occassions over the next 8 months. I can hardly stomach a store bought cig.

    So I went from smoking store bought cigs, quit them by switching to something else, and then ‘quit’ those as the supply ran low.

    I leave scare quotes around the word quit, because I don’t think of myself as chaste from smoking, and still have tobacco I plan to smoke (though it would take me at least a week to get any ready… maybe I should prep some for my birthday), and a good number of baby tobacco seedling which will be curing in my shed next October… but being in a place where I don’t mind skipping a few months is a big change, and still counts in overcomming the dependence. The store boughts are a very different critter.

    The commonplace; topics from a word from location, am I seeing a segue in the works?

  18. JMG,

    no mention of mainstream economics? The basic tenet of the discipline is convincing people that their experiences are not real.

    In particular, the theme of immigration, which economists consider positive. Go tell that to citizens in Southern Europe, where welfare spending diminishes every year, but governments need to fund assistance for the refugees.

  19. One of my classes at the University of Tokyo introduced the terms ars topica and ars critica from Giambattista Vico’s 1708 book On the Study Methods of Our Time. Vico stressed that criticism was useless without first establishing topics, meaning topics in the classical sense that you are talking about here.

    In my class, the professor named a couple of Japanese academics who he thought were better at “topica” than “critica”. The names will be unfamiliar to readers here (Kamata Tōji and Nakazawa Shin’ichi) but they made the class laugh. I suppose you might think of them as the equivalent of a Joseph Campbell or Mircea Eliade: researchers who provide ample evidence that there exists a valuable topic, such as “the monomyth” or coincidentia oppositorum, and do not focus so much on how such topics might be put to rhetorical use.

    Perhaps many of the students in the class had the experience of being intrigued and compelled by Nakazawa’s proposal of “Eastern philosophy” and “the science of the uncivilized” but were unable to do much with the ideas afterwards, so the laughter came from familiarity. In this age of dissolution we might turn to writers such as Campbell or Eliade in order to merge together our scattered data into compelling “topics”. But we will also need some “ars critica” to make the proposals that emerge from such topics convincing.

  20. Regarding the vaping study, part of it might be sloppiness on the reporter’s part; note the subtle difference between the following: “the study showed vaping failed to help quit smoking” and “the study failed to show vaping helped quit smoking”. The first is a much stronger claim, but journalists don’t necessarily make the distinction. And with the second claim, it is quite easily to manipulate the results by the design of your experiment, by changing the confidence level. Using the same data, a vaping company could use a confidence level of 80% and show a difference, while a cigarette company could use a confidence level of 99.9% and fail to show a difference.

  21. MSG causes my stepmother problems.

    With reference to the poor quality and dishonesty in scientific research, here’s an organization that is working on fixing one particular piece of that problem, namely the medical and pharmaceutical trials that find things that their sponsors don’t want, and that therefore get buried instead of published or reported in any way.
    They have made some improvements. It is now a requirement that all medical trials in some categories be registered and summary results reported in the USA, EU and several other countries. AllTrials are currently picking out a trial every week where the results are overdue, and naming and shaming them, since as of 2012, most of the registered trials never reported their results.

    Not enough, but still important.

  22. Two years ago, when I was just a month out of hospitalization for a severe case of Lyme Disease with associated meningitis, an infectious disease doctor told me that I was cured and that Lyme disease couldn’t possibly persist past my 30-day course of IV antibiotics.

    The thing, I still couldn’t walk more than 50 feet without resting and sweating and had splitting headaches most days of the week. This doctor’s abstract belief and theory was taken way more seriously that my anecdotal symptoms.

    I ended up studying what herbalist Stephen Buhner had to say about Lyme and began a thorough and lengthy herbal protocol that has helped me recover over the last two years.


  23. As I’m sure you know, a very popular trend in Silicon Valley is using a sophisticated meta-program to design, via repeated trial-and-error, an optimal particular computer program to exploit a large batch of data. (This is my layperson’s nutshell description of what’s meant by Big Data, Machine Learning, Neural Networks, and some aspects of Artificial Intelligence.)

    I bring this up because I’m wondering how you think this avenue of research will interact with the Abstraction/Reflection transition you’ve predicted and described. In one sense, the use of a meta-algorithm is simply the next step in abstraction, as it implies the solution to an imperfect algorithm is, in the current parlance, “MOAR ALGORITHM!” It would also imply a further technological shift away from ineffable craft and toward processing oceans of legible, digital data.

    However, it seems possible to me that this approach could be vastly better at evaluating specific anecdotes and experiences if (and it’s a big if) the underlying data set is passably accurate and granular. To continue your MSG-headache example, a neural network, given good enough real-world subject reporting, might determine that yes, the best model of headache prediction does include MSG consumption as a factor, no matter what theoretical medicine or controlled experiments might conclude. Such self-trained algorithms have already trounced state-of-the art human-designed algorithms in discrete but highly complex domains (e.g., the ancient game Go), and have done so largely by ignoring or violating certain assumptions built into human-designed solutions.

    I’ll finish by framing my question another way: I know you don’t see a bright future for Silicon Valley, for reasons you’ve discussed at length. However, assuming circumstances allow tech trends to continue for the next 5-10 years, do you think meta-algorithms will prove to be yet another onerous level of abstraction muffling the real world, or a possible transition phase into a focus on the particular and an Era of Reflection?

  24. Many women have first-hand experience of having their reality dismissed as nonsense by a predominantly male medical establishment. When I first worked for a university psychology dept. I would occasionally have to take an hour or two to lie down on account of menstrual cramps. My employer, a trained male psychologist, told me that my cramps didn’t really exist but were all in my head. Midol (a mixture of aspirin and a jolting dose of caffeine) was the male medical establishment’s treatment of choice; it did nothing for the persistent pain but only made my head feel spacey and detached.

    Not until Advil, a prostaglandin inhibitor, arrived on the mass market and proved wildly popular with women did the media (after, oh, ten years or so) grudgingly acknowledge that women’s pain was NOT “all in their heads”. No formal apology was ever issued by the male doctors who misdiagnosed and ridiculed women’s reported pain.

    Subsequent studies into prostaglandins opened out a whole new field of study. Once a cadre of female PhDs entered the field, a series of proper double-blind clinical trials later demonstrated clear sex differences in the response to many commonly used pain meds – most of which had originally been marketed as effective based on data that relied wholly on the responses of 18-25 year old males in the combat wings of the military as the test subjects in the human phase of drug trials. At the time, women were prohibited by law from volunteering for combat units. It was then (and is now) too costly to include women in drug trials because the differences in hormones and monthly cycles meant too many subjects would have to be recruited and paid to participate, so the cheaper, all-male option was declared to be good enough by those who had no personal stake in the outcome.

    In short, some abstractions are buried so deep in our psyches that they cannot be dislodged without the mental equivalent of a blasting cap. Deep, socially reinforced abstractions can prevent people from sharing common experiences; and, conversely, some commonalities within one group cannot be shared by those of another group significantly different from our own either in physiological or psychological ways. Many other examples abound, including the experiences of people who have a non-approved sexual orientation, fibromyalgia, fatigue syndromes, borderline personality syndromes, addictive psycho-physiological issues, psychic and spiritual visions, past-life memories, and you-name-it. This is why deconstuctionism really was important for showing how language itself is biased toward hegemonic groups’ perceptions of reality.

    Therefore, who gets to define common reality is often a political matter. Where power imbalances or disjuncts of perception preclude agreement on the starting point there is no neutral ground where discussion can take place.

    On those ‘topics’, a chosen habit of empathy and respect for those who are different from us needs must be substituted for shared experiences. And it is incumbent on incumbents, so to speak, to stretch their notions the rubberiest, since they have home court language advantages.

  25. I’d just like to suggest that the replication crisis is, in a sense, even worse than you describe it, John, in that you at least seem to suggest that many of the problems come down to outright fraud. There’s certainly more then enough of that to go around, but what I find even more insidious is this: many sciences, notably psychology, rely almost entirely on statistical evidence for their claims. There are no laws in human behavior analogous to the laws of physics.

    But humankind has only been thinking statistically for about a hundred years, and so more than half of the time these fields have had available to figure out how to actually understand things about the world via statistics has been post-war, that is, have come after the takeover of science by the powers that be in government and business.

    What are the consequences of this? Simply that there is no relationship between the depth of a person’s understanding of how to do accurate statistical research and their eminence in science. We have a range of evidence that the catechism “probability <.05" that sanctifies a result as worthy of publication is almost always wildly false without shocking levels of care having been taking at every point during the research. Meanwhile, psychology PhDs are still routinely turned out with a single meager statistics course to their name. That's how you end up with an entire field in which almost no single result is reliable, in which most of the workers can believe in their own rotten practices.

  26. “Take a moment to imagine, as vividly as you can, your kitchen. Now imagine that in each of the four corners of that room there’s an image of one of your favorite movie stars, dressed (or undressed) in a memorable way, and each movie star is holding an item that you need to get from the grocery store on your next visit. Spend several minutes making each image as detailed, vivid, and three-dimensional as possible. That’s a very, very dim and simplistic version of what the inside of your head would look like if you put half an hour a day into the Art of Memory, the way most educated people did in the Renaissance.”

    Your specific example sounds somewhat familiar. Perhaps in place of movie stars holding grocery items, one might envision certain sacred beings holding certain arcane tools? 😉

    Regarding Science: I think one of my favorite examples of the awful relationship between science and the public was a study done a few years ago, which contained deliberately misleading information in a published study on the health benefits of chocolate in order to conduct a completely different demonstration on why you can never trust anything the media says about science (it’s been a few years since I read the whole thing, but here’s a brief overview of it: One of the more valuable skills I picked up in university was the ability to read, dissect, and critique articles in scientific journals… which tends to be a pretty sobering endeavor.

    On the other end of the science spectrum, you have the quest for grand unified theories of everything, which is a completely different issue in the world of abstractions (cosmology is the biggest offender there). Do you think that approach will eventually be abandoned in favor of a more divergent approach?

    Regarding MSG: I’ve never had issues with MSG, but I have experimented with alternatives that provide the same flavor without the headaches for those who get it, and found that dried anchovies, mushrooms, and seaweed blended together in a spice grinder provide the exact same flavor additive without the ill effects.

  27. Another excellent article. Thank you.

    You wrote: “It’s one of the first tasks of a rising age of reflection to identify the truths we have in common, the anecdotal experiences that most people accept as real most of the time, and use those to establish a common ground where people of good will can meet and discuss the issues that matter to them.It’s one of the first tasks of a rising age of reflection to identify the truths we have in common, the anecdotal experiences that most people accept as real most of the time, and use those to establish a common ground where people of good will can meet and discuss the issues that matter to them.”

    I see this as one of the more valuable bits of information in sentence form that I have encountered in some time. I think it should be a published “golden rule” for society. Follow it in practice and so many channels of positive opportunity open.

  28. The following link is to a page that lists 15 common distortions of thinking. As you go down the list, think about which ones are necessary for the type of reasoning that JMG is presenting.

    Many of these distortions are normal for children, but highly disfunctional for adults.

    As I pondered the psychological roots of the decay of logic and reason, I remembered this very interesting article by a Cognitive psychologist who wrote about how cognitive distortion is encouraged in some Universities. I include this to highlight how our education system encourages some of the distortions that prevent logical reasoning.

    Crucial to the “education/programming” of the public are the examples of “reasoning” implemented by main stream media where we are presented with subjective opinions by “experts” that are presented as a valid objective conclusions. These conclusions are then “proven to be true” by sometimes unverified facts that support the conclusions! Verifiable facts that are inconsistent with the conclsion are ignored or deemed “fake”. Critical examination of the spectrum of evidence that leads to a different narrative is labeled “conspiracy theory”. Not much room for scepticism or scientific examination.

  29. I’m told that it’s not possible to be allergic to Sodium Lauryl/Lauryth Sulfate. Funny: excema certainly says otherwise! But it must be a stress reaction, and here’s a drug for it, which, by the way, has a side effect of thinning the skin. Avoiding SLS and all things that foam and have no visible ingrediants list works better, though, and has so far caused no side effects.
    Also costs rather less, though SLS free bathroom products are pricier than their counterparts.

    If it’s stupid and works, it’s not stupid.

  30. A decade ago, I lived through an ear infection, probably viral, bacterial, and fungal, resulting single sided deafness with tinnitus. I spent twenty years working on a psychiatric unit. I listened to people tell me what happened to them, and tried to understand and evaluate whether they were a danger to themselves or others, or gravely disabled, or still sick, but able to go home. The hospital closed the unit two years before I got sick. Two years later I begin to understand the infection left me with ringing that would not easily go away, or submit to my ignoring it. I then took two years to convince others of my disability. I recognized the irony of having to believe that I am not getting better soon, and I need money to live, because I can’t listen to people with this sound in my head, which was my work, and finding your writing early during the decade gave me a weekly dive into a community that I could read, like I once heard.* {All this story is a Zen Koan, 1earring.} My compost pile is 41 years old,39 years at this location, so it wasn’t my infection that taught me to feed the soil. *The acceptance of a chronic condition from an acute illness living in my head along with living is barely a start, like watching a winter where the two largest storms were in March, and less than a foot for the year, or that corporations are people that don’t have to clean up after themselves, or the 47 houses being built on 17 acres across from me, as the house building economy appears to have awakened from 2008. The people here have to acknowledge the hotter and drier conditions or their plants die, but see driving toward the future as progress. Of course, I would be dead without the medication I took. It seems to be an Impossible task to completely extricate myself from what I see as a major implication in eco destruction and getting to the doctor. It is the day to day living that being poor and retired and disabled (which is the answer to the deaths of despair, especially among those that came to the hospital, depressed or suicidal, or otherwise crazy), it is living with integrity, and always stop digging and put compost in. It is the constant contradictions of my present day existence that give rise to my concern for the next decade. Dead bugs, anyone? So, I stuck a hearing aid that generates a sound wave akin to my tinnitus in my good ear. I embrace bits of technology while I recognize waste from technology and garbage are running with carbon and methane to a place we’ve never been before. It is having a war culture while pretending peace. and the president doesn’t believe, tryin’ to make real, compared to what? We are all doing our best to hold on to our own piece of the cognitive dissonance. I appreciate your standard in this chaos and I enjoy all the voices I hear, here.

  31. Really you’re pointing out that abstractions can be abused. Abstractions are of course sometimes useful. 2(x + y) = 2x + 2y is a useful abstraction that encompasses all particular anecdotal facts that express the same relationship. A good abstraction can be ‘re-ancidotalized’ to come up with predictions that can be tested to verify the abstraction holds into other domains.

    Abstractions are indeed rampantly abused today though. It’s like people are getting it backwards: coming up with abstractions and then trying to find a way to force reality to fit into the wonderful and simple abstraction they’ve invented. String theory comes to mind, but it’s all over the place. So many pipe dreams come from trying to make reality conform to abstractions.

    I think our complicated civilization has grown into something one person can not understand. Now it’s breaking down in various unexpected ways and people are casting around in vain for abstractions that can help them understand and fix the problems. As abstract solutions continue to fail to help, the abstractions are getting ever more simple in the hope that simple abstractions can help restore order and simplicity on the complicated civilizational problems.

    As a software developer I recognize this condition. When someone starts working on a program that is new to them and very complicated, they often start working on bugs in a very targeted way to avoid destabilization. But if they do destabilize it, they will escalate into ever-more-abstract solutions that may even get to the point of rewriting the system so it conforms to their expectations. Unfortunately, the rewrite is solving the wrong problems, and things spiral into even worse territory. I’ve seen projects go through this cycle and it can become terrifically destructive, especially when no one catches the early symptoms.

  32. I can, will, wait for your development on abstractions as you go into the commonplace?Hoping it moves me from the difficulties of perception is reality. That likely comes from the (often necessary) crutch of using anecdotes since they fail at some point.

  33. I love your post.

    Here’s an anecdote of my own. I went to a doctor who wanted to put me on statins. I told him that I had tried them but the side effects were too debilitating and that, therefore, I would not take them.

    He told me that he had never heard of anyone having side effects from taking statins. He not only told me that, but he told me that with a completely straight face – and this was a cardiologist, mind you.

    I wanted to tell him that the truth-of-the-matter was precisely the opposite. In fact, I had never met anyone who hadn’t been debilitated by statins, included two people who ended up permanently disabled. But I couldn’t say anything since I was so stunned that he – and he was a specialist no less – was unacquainted with facts which are pretty much common knowledge.

    Even the higher levels of the medical profession are starting to admit it.

    This wasn’t the only time that this has happened to me involving health issues. I have come to the conclusion that the medical profession has become so blinded by their own “accepted protocols” that they are now a clear and present danger to the health of the citizenry.

  34. Not exactly sure how to put this into practice, but I’ll take a stab at it. One of the truths we have in common is that the US has been at war, continuously, since the early 2000s. Whether you support these wars or you are against them, one common fact is they continue. We were at war during most of the Bush/Cheney administration. We were at war duriing all of the Obama/Biden administration. So far we’ve been at war during all of Trump’s first year.

    I’m not going to go any further. I’m not going to propose actions we should take. After talking to hundreds of people, many who are, like me, veterans, I have an idea of how the majority views these wars. But I’m not going there. I will say that I’m old enough to remember when we took a few years as a “breather” between wars. So, continual, unending warfare is now a truth that we have in common. I hope I’ve understood today’s lesson.

  35. As an Aspie with an autistic son, I have a particular interest in autism research.
    I wonder if MSG research suffers the same problem as autism research – that averages hide a great deal of variation. It is striking that despite hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) being poured into autism research over the last thirty years there is still no widely used or accepted drug treatment for the core symptoms of autism. When you look at autism drug treatment studies, they typically have a small number of participants, and the results rarely rise to the level of statistic significance – on average, that is. When you read the full text of the studies, they often find a small percentage of participants have huge improvements in symptoms, and quite a few have a modest but noticeable improvement, with the remainder seeing no change or a worsening of symptoms. For that small percentage of highly positive responders, it is nonsense to say that the drug in question doesn’t work.
    FWIW, I take two supplements that have not been scientifically endorsed, to treat my anxiety and social difficulties. In my anecdotal reality, they do indeed work 😏

  36. The truths we have in common – indeed. It seems that the binary way of thinking that some of us are guilty of not only means each issue comes down to choosing a side, but you must declare the other side is wrong, wrong and mistaken. No quarter is given, and no common truths must be acknowledged.

    As I’ve gotten older, I slowly realized the world is much more gray than black or white, but old habits die hard. Great example of the popular vote vs. the electoral college. But just because the popular vote is irrelevant, doesn’t mean you take away “the right” for someone to get their knickers in a twist…:-)

    Personally, I believe there are three topics that will be especially challenging (but not impossible) to address – abortion, gun control and the rule of law (or enforcement of said laws). Everything else in my mind seems to have a bigger chunk of common truths to start from, not that there aren’t other topics that will be an uphill struggle.

    Interesting take on the Art of Memory – I’m definitely in the category of needing to rearrange at least some of my thinking, maybe a great deal of it. If practicing that can help with other aspects of thinking outside of simple recall, that would be awesome.

  37. I think I missed it? What do we do about people talking over each other, or is the conclusion for the next post?

    In regards to MSG. I love the stuff, and they load it onto potato chips, which I eat even though I have a direct personal experience that they make me fat. I wish they’d sell MSG in small packets, which I could personally sprinkle generously on healthy foods like green veggies instead.

  38. JMG, one other cause of the replicability crisis in the sciences may be that science is nowadays generally conducted by pre-docs, who are in turn supervised by post-docs. That is, people learning to do science are doing the work, and are being supervised by those who have only recently learnt it.

    The research fellows who may have claim to expertise in a particular field have been calmly replaced with administrative staff.

    Of course, that amateur Charles Darwin only received an 1800s level education: a high school degree in 1850 is only worth a 1900 bachelor degree is only worth a 1950 PhD is only worth a 2000s professorship.

    I leave the final words to Professor Rutherford (1900-level professor) who tells us “if your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.”

  39. The great thing about science is that you could take Aunt Mildred and, with her informed consent, of course, give her MSG or a placebo in a double-blinded fashion, and note her response. Your Aunt Mildred would apparently “pass the test”.”

    However, when tested many would “fail.” Where they think they “know their bodies” they have in fact made some kind of human error, whether placebo, nocebo, emotional clouding, confirmation bias or what have you.

    If one were to call for a study of people claiming to respond to MSG, a mix of true and false MSG-responders would show up for testing. The resulting data would, appropriately, be mixed. Therefore, a scientist may conclude that, on testing, there is no clear correlation between MSG and symptoms.

    There are two noteworthy things, here. Number one: on a population-wide basis, the scientist is right, as in fact there is no correlation (although poor Aunt Mildred will not be vindicated). Number two: No corporation or employer needs to have influenced the scientist in question. The error came about due to the mixed group studied.

    A scientist, at least a good one, would recognize this risk, and present his or her results with caveats. For example, “in the particular population studied, we can say with x degree of certainty that there is no correlation between MSG intake and symptoms.” Whether or not this information helps anyone is not clear!

    However, the press (who are clearly in the pocket of big corporations, btw) will then generate a click-bait headline, “MSG proven safe” and we’re off to the races…

    I applaud you for your focus on errors in thought. If more people had a basic understanding of logic, math, statistics and the limits of scientific expertise, much harm could be avoided.

  40. Hi JMG,

    Thought provoking as always. I’m honestly now sure how I feel about this one. I’m completely on board with the notion that institutionalized science has lost its way, and one of the great insights I’ve gleaned from your work is the extent to which diminishing returns affect technology. I happen to be an engineer who actually works in AI, and it seems I just can’t go a day anymore without seeing some ridiculous story or quote about the future of AI that makes me role my eyes. The people who actually have to make it work know it’s not really “intelligence” in any meaningful sense. More like very fast statistical analysis.

    However, I’m also inclined to deeply distrust my own understanding of the anecdotal evidence I experience myself. Afterall, our collective anecdotal experience of progress is largely responsible for the mess we’re in. The second I try to explain to anyone why I think the future might not be better than the past, they reply in bewilderment that things have been getting better for hundreds of years. True, but is a few centuries of evidence statistically significant? What about the 60,000 years before that? This is really just a case of people placing too high a value on their own anecdotal experience, and missing the wider data set.

    I recently came across a study that blew my mind with regard to a piece of anecdotal evidence I was pretty sure about. I used to be a fairly serious athlete, and pretty much every athlete I ever knew understood the concept of the “hot hand”, or its analog in their particular sport. Basically, in basketball, if a player is hitting shots left and right, you give him the ball and let him shoot. I would have said with absolute certainty that I have experienced this sense of being on fire, that I just couldn’t miss. Then I read a study (Yes I know, a study. But it’s very straightforward statistical analysis.) conducted on a bunch of professional basketball players who also felt the “hot hand” was real. It turns out, the phenomenon can be statistically proven to be an illusion. Hot streaks, at least among basketball shooters, can be explained by totally predictable statistical outliers, no different than a streak of heads when tossing a coin. We get a very real sense that we can’t miss, but its an illusion. In fact, the statistics show that the more shots a player hits, the more likely they are to miss the next one, probably because overconfidence leads to riskier shots. Here’s a link to the original paper:

    I’m not disputing your larger point, but honestly I think the tendency of most people is to place too high an emphasis on personal experience, and assume such limited experience is enough to base their understanding of the universe upon. Very often its not.

  41. I posted this at the bottom of the previous thread, so you may put this through at your discretion. BTW, I teach College Writing and you are definitely raising the bar for what I should be able to model and teach my students!

    My understanding was that truck drivers have been raising their rates. What people forget though is that a lot of independent drivers left the business as they got nickel and dimed to death during the great recession. So, like schoolteachers, they want more money and are apparently in a position to get it…The increased cost of shipping is being passed on, but companies may have difficulty passing the increase all the way to the consumer.

    My take on the Easter Bunny (St. Bede really doesn’t give us much to go on) is that he is very much like Punxatawny Phil, when viewed from a Frazerian perspective. In other words, the emerging ground critter is a harbinger of the return of the vegetation deity, whether Persephone or a more obviously solar vegetation God…


  42. I have not engaged in scientific research–although my eighth grade science project, in which I shamelessly faked all the graphs and charts and fooled judges in my middle school, where I won first prize in the girl’s division, and then later at the county level, where I also got a first prize, might be cited as an example of the failure of science. As a twelve year old, I was immensely relieved not to win at the tri-county level, where the judges were officers from the nearby naval base. It would have been very frightening to learn that men who held some portion of the safety of my nation in their hands would be fooled by the concept that brine shrimp could serve as emergency rations for fall-out shelters. (this was 1961) Brine shrimp, also called fairy shrimp, are tiny crustaceans usually raised as food for tropical fish. The idea that you could grow enough of them in your basement fallout shelter for a human to survive off is ludicrous.

    But I have worked on phone surveys. The agency in charge of trying to get the radioactive material storage site at Yucca Mountain approved hired the U Nevada, business department to conduct a survey on public opinion. They, in turn, hired student workers. The questions were written out and we survey takers were supposed to read them _exactly_ as written. However, one question was so poorly phrased that hardly anyone understood it. I could overhear my fellow workers first repeating, then variously _rephrasing_ and explaining the question to obtain an answer. Obviously, if people are not asked the same question, their answers cannot be judged against one another. An interesting sidenote is that the phrase “radioactive waste” was notably absent from the questions. I think I recall that some innocuous sounding phrase like “products of nuclear energy production” was substituted. It was also interesting to note that a fairly high percentage of Nevada residents are already drunk by 7 PM.

    As a result of this experience I am very skeptical of the results of surveys, especially if the news story does not state the exact questions asked. For example, I imagine a question regarding the wearing of headscarves by women would be answered differently if the scarves were labeled as “Muslim headscarves” or “hajib” and illustrated with an obviously Muslim woman, as opposed to a photo of a Western woman wearing a rain scarf or a scarf over her hair curlers.

  43. Indeed, when there is enough economic and political power backing up a favored abstraction, they call in the psychologists to prove the fraudulence or anility of the anecdotes. In the case of electrosensitivity, they proved the nocebo effect (surprise! surprise! surprise!), which demonstrated convincingly that it is merely an imagined effect, so all the Mildreds cringing in their basements can be laughed at. (sarc, but that’s what’s happening) I suppose the Inquisition was basically the same sort of thing, just more violent. Yet I may have to curtail my time on the computer, because I am starting to react in unpleasant ways to it, including hypertension.

    And then there was something else I was going to say…oh yes! Memorizing things! The kitchen’s too full of stuff for me to fit even one movie star into. (-: I used to have the entire periodic chart memorized (numbers, positions and symbols, not the more detailed weights etc.), though now it’s down to the first 40 and subsequent more important elements.
    Shinto encourages its followers to memorize lengthy old-style poetry (liturgy), and I find the more I have right at hand, the quicker I can tailor a proper Shinto norito (prayer) to fit immediate requests. The Japanese still memorize a lot outright at school (near 100% literacy despite having the world’s most complex writing system), and that will continue despite their love affair with memory gadgets. I see most foreign adults really have trouble memorizing these things, and express a great deal of psychological resistance to the idea.

  44. It’s occurred to me that there’s another amusing way to set people off shrieking: there are some “everyone agrees on this” stuff going around. Some of my friends have found lists of things that supposedly everyone on Earth agrees with, and it can be fun to argue against the points, sometimes because I genuinely disagree, and sometimes to play devil’s advocate. I think that something everyone agrees on, if it exists, would be something so utterly mundane it would never need mentioning (if anyone ever thinks of it in the first place), so these lists are fairly amusing.

  45. It’s also occurred to me that part of why certain things elicit such violent reactions (ex: air quality and MSG), may be that other people also experience it, and are reacting violently to cognitive dissonance related to the gap between what they have convinced themselves is real, and the reality that they experience.

  46. Additionally, on the topic of air quality, I find it amusing that so few people are willing to consider air quality may be related to the dramatic rise in chronic diseases is related to pollution, since “we have cleaned up the environment”

  47. Thanks for the post, I really find this interesting – I mostly have a rationalist-materialist mindset, at least on the surface; but I’ve never really ‘bought in’ completely, and have become more and more jaded to both the claims of officialdom and science to any special access to truth the last 5 or so years. I feel like I’m living my own miniature and accelerated fall of an age of abstraction, so to see how earlier societies responded is very interesting.

    When you announced your translation of On the Shadows of the Ideas I was intrigued, but a little unsure if I would be able to use it with no magical training and no large desire to obtain any, but a million ideas for putting it to use. Your essay topic* tonight was just the push I needed to commit to it.

    If I’m headed for dangerous waters let me know – I have a moderate amount of mental discipline, but if it’s not for the uninitiated I can pass it on to someone who is.

  48. I think a lot of people run into conflicts between the things they experience and the pronouncements of supposed experts in regard to medical issues. Here the issues are personal and often serious and important to them, while the fraud is extreme. Having confronted that discontinuity, they either choose to believe their own experiences and discount the experts, or they choose to let the experts define their reality (with disastrous results). Once you go far enough down the former path it tends to expand to all areas.

    While I’ve long been a skeptic in many ways, for my wife and I the effects of vaccinations and Lyme disease broke what faith we had in the medical establishment’s studies. And yes, I’m a veritable MSG detector as well. MSG is allowed to be labeled as many different things. What is a “natural flavor” anyway? As opposed to maybe supernatural flavors? If it was anything remotely natural sounding, you can bet they’d call it what it was.

    It is difficult for me to watch sometimes, as I still think the scientific method and the things our society has learned to do with it are worthwhile, even if it’s a tool that got applied in too many places it cannot work. But as time goes on the fraudsters have poisoned the well too much, and no one can tell what science is valid and what is self-serving, so it all gets tossed. I think your comments about preserving the scientific method from some years ago are valid. The backlash may be vicious, and it may have to be hidden in some religious trappings!

  49. My father quit smoking in 1964. He finished the pack he had and didn’t buy any more. He said it was no trouble at all to quit, and maintained in later years that the cigarette companies had found a way to make their product even more addictive, so that it was much more difficult to quit in the late 20th century than had been in 1964.

  50. I’m really glad for this topic. Lately I have found myself in conversations where people just assume I must agree with them, usually either frothing at the mouth about Trump, or talking about Hillary as if she just walked on water and multiplied the loaves, or talking about how Trump will save us all and Hillary is the devil incarnate. Both sides are surprised when I mention that I voted for a third party choice, and if I try to talk about why, suddenly they change the topic and it is as if I have been put into a category of ‘she just doesn’t understand’. I have actually had only one person try to ask me to say more, and she got talked over by the anti-Trump, pro-Hillary family that was at the table with us, and so neither of us could share in any of the rest of the conversation. I am ready to learn how to steer conversations in such a way that we can all agree to talk rationally about such a topic together, including listening respectfully to each other when we disagree.

    On the topic of data and research, I have worked in this field in higher education for a long time, and am to the point where I am leaving it and making a change. Anymore it is a discouraging field. When no one listens to the data person who is telling them not to use data that way, or that what they need isn’t data, and to think how using ‘big data’ can result in inequities, it just seems time to move on. Also, research is prejudiced against research that does not find anything. Those are not likely studies that will get published, so researchers sigh and file them away. Yet another problem that results in studies that can’t be replicated. It is no wonder that “experts” are losing respect. I am one and I have lost respect for the field and want a life that is much more connected to reality.

  51. I am exasperatedly amused by the reliability with which people who consider themselves self-consciously “pro-science” respond to critiques of fraud and corruption within scientific industries and academia by defending the pure and abstract majesty of the scientific method, as if this answers.

  52. I don’t get to say “at least I didn’t have to deal with that” yet. In the crazy drama that has come up before (I really should explain the full story here, if I can ever figure it out myself), I got hit with two absurd, over the top generalizations: First, “Women don’t stalk men”. Never mind the fact that it fit the data far better than anything else, it was impossible according to abstract generalizations that someone had embraced. Second, “All relationship issues between a man and a woman are always the man’s fault”. There are interpersonal relationships where issues developed because of me, but there are others where I think it was the woman’s fault, and the most common one seems to be cases where I cause some of the problems and she causes some.

  53. @Workdove,
    they do sell MSG, or they did, in the spice section in spice bottles. Mom had some Ann Page MSG, and I believe “Accent” is MSG, if it’s still sold.

  54. The many problems with the medical establishment certainly hits a nerve. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that a majority of people have experienced a disconnect between what they’ve been told by medical experts verses what they themselves have experienced. One problem is that medical solutions are presented by doctors as being The Answer rather than a possible answer based on statistical evidence. Unfortunately for the field of medicine, human bodies are highly variable and can react in unexpected ways. A very potent bit of anecdotal evidence of this sort – my grandmother died at age 51 when she was injected with gold to treat her arthritis. Her reaction to the injection caught the doctor by surprise and there was nothing he could do about it once it began.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote something in one of his books about a greek mathematician who took what he considered to be the top 10 medical studies in recent history and analyzed the data. He found that all of them were significantly flawed and could not justify their conclusions. Anyone remember the details of that story?

  55. You might be interested in a book called ‘The Memory Code’ by Lynne Kelly. It is about her discovery and use of memory aids such as message sticks etc. She has even suggested that ancient stone monuments such as Stone Henge may in part at least be a reliable ‘eternal’ memory aid.

  56. The word “debunk” is the #1 word on my list of thoughtstoppers. It’s used to claim that the opposing side’s wrongness has been settled beyond reasonable doubt – invariably The implication is that only the ignorant would believe whatever the author is claiming has been “debunked”, so they can be dismissed without a second thought. Almost all the time I’ve encountered it on the internet, it is being used to discredit some opposing position using an argument that is meant to sound scientific. A debunker cites two or three studies and implies that those studies are the final word, rather than two or three papers in a long back-and-forth on some subject in a field where less than half of studies replicate at all and almost nothing is ever definitively proven.

    The underlying reality for something like whether MSG causes headaches in susceptible people is that each of the billions of people in the world has their own complex set of tolerances and sensitivities, and each sensitivity is itself intimately connected with everything else in their lives. There are some people who really are misattributing their headaches to MSG when it was really something else, but a lot of other people have sensitivities which are conditional and won’t show up in studies. I’ll explain with some made-up anecdotes – because that really is the best way to understand this.

    Aunt Mildred might have a susceptibility to headaches in general, which can be triggered by high levels of umami flavor but which is also susceptible to suggestion and to stress. Put her in laboratory conditions and give her a drink that is supposed to contain MSG, and her stress and suggestion susceptibility may overwhelm her umami susceptibility and give her headaches whether or not her drink actually contained MSG or not. Not to mention that one of the drinks mentioned in the article was tomato juice, which itself is high in umami. Then add her in with Uncle Ed, whose headaches were triggered by excitatory responses induced by high dietary glutamate, but only when he was taking a particular blood pressure medication, which he is no longer taking. Also there’s Drunk Phil, who was just having hangovers and wrongly attributing them to the Chinese food at the cheap restaurant he ate lunch at following most of his late nights at the bar, but which he never had lunch at following a sober night.

    In the study, Aunt Mildred gets a headache whether or not she’s been given MSG, because studies themselves are headache-inducing to her. Uncle Ed doesn’t get a headache under either condition, because he’s no longer taking the med. Drunk Phil either gets headaches both times, or doesn’t, depending on whether he’s been drinking. All three of them are averaged together with 174 other people with their own conditions, and then people try to draw conclusions based on that. Unsurprisingly, the test group reports headaches at rates not statistically different from the control group.

    Hah! Debunked! MSG doesn’t cause headaches!

    But wait! Two of the three anecdotes I’ve given actually do involve susceptibility to MSG. Perhaps not to the specific chemical monosodium glutamate, but Mildred definitely will have headaches if she’s given MSG-containing food assuming nothing else was already triggering her headache. Ed would have gotten them in the past when given MSG. Hilda, whom I hadn’t yet mentioned, just gets them with high glutamate in general – she’s like Ed except without the blood pressure med, but it still doesn’t matter whether the glutamate is natural or artificial. Only Phil is actually wrong about what is triggering his headaches.

    In general, scientific studies are not likely to discover anything useful about things that are affected by the conditions of scientific studies, nor when a bunch of confounders are guaranteed to be present. There are only a limited suite of things that are amenable to investigation by scientific studies, and people’s food sensitivities are rarely among them. But because our culture has fetishized science, we only accept things as valid truths if they can be tested under the conditions of a study. When all you have is a hammer…

  57. …and of course the day I get a really lively Wednesday response for a post is also the day Sara and I set aside for doing the taxes — more complex than usual, too, since we had half a year in Maryland and half in Rhode Island. Sheesh. (On a lighter note, the tax rate here in Rhode Island is half what we were paying in Maryland and not much more than a third of what we were paying in Oregon. Let’s hear it for very small states.)

    Still, the envelopes are full and the numbers crunched, and now I can get to work on at least a few comments.

    Matthias, trust me, I know. I spent the two years of my second stint at university working for a research team at the University of Washington, and my sole task was to provide bibliographical resources for grant proposals. The entire research team functioned primarily as a mechanism for bringing grants into the university, and only secondarily to do research — and the research was fraudulent, by the way, right down to its core. I should explain sometime how easy it is to pretend to do a double-blind study when it’s nothing of the kind, and the data is analyzed by assistants who know exactly what they’re supposed to find, not to mention that their jobs depend on finding it. This was utterly ordinary behavior at that place and time, too.

    As for my characterization of the Renaissance, of course it was oversimplified — I was writing a paragraph, not a book. There’s still a vast distance between the way that most medieval intellectuals picked and chose among the legacies of antiquity, and the way that Renaissance intellectuals used antiquity in its entirety to provide an alternative vision to the culture of their own place and time.

    Yorkshire, yes, I’ve seen a lot of it. It has deep roots, but one of them is the culture of the machine — we’re so used to dealing with devices that have no inner life, and that are supposed to cater to our needs rather than having needs of their own, that a lot of us treat any inconvenience that another person causes them as a personal affront; combine that with the toxic optimism that Barbara Ehrenreich chronicled in her excellent book Bright-Sided and you’ve got a very ugly set of behavior patterns.

    Y. Chireau, sure, so long as you keep in mind the ethical issues I’ve discussed at length in recent posts. What you create with mnemonic magic will rebound on you just as thoroughly as any other magical working…

    El, granted. When people are committed to war over abstractions, you’re not going to be able to talk to them at all without either pledging allegiance to their abstractions or getting whacked over the head by them. One of the things that routinely happens in the early stages of an era of reflection is that people of good will who aren’t interested in participating in the conflict establish spaces for reflective conversations. You might want to read up sometime on the role of Renaissance academies, or for that matter the way that Freemasonry functioned as a venue for interaction between people of competing political and religious factions. Come to think of that, we should probably talk about that here in due time.

    Robert, I’d argue that in fact a sensible trade policy ought to be flexible and pragmatic rather than governed by abstract dogmatism, with tariffs and other trade barriers carefully managed to foster domestic economic prosperity while still encouraging such trade as benefits all parties. Aunt Mildred can’t handle unlimited free trade, and Uncle Bert doesn’t want a complete collapse of international trade — no problem, we can find a point of balance between those extremes.

    Taylor, the book you want is The Art of Memory by Frances Yates. It’s a history, but it gives the techniques in quite a bit of detail.

    Steve, that’s a common if mistaken notion, and was being argued at the time of the Renaissance. It misses the point, because the Art of Memory isn’t a substitute for the other kind of learning, it’s an additional resource that makes cognitive learning stronger and more flexible. The Art allows you to stockpile data in your mind; other forms of intellectual training teach you how to work with that data, and the two together work better than either one does alone.

    Michelle, now there’s a book I haven’t read in way too long. Though I still remember well what happens when you jump to conclusions…

    El, that’s one of the reasons I bailed out of academia once I had my bachelor’s degree, despite being encouraged by a highly respected professor in the field of history of ideas to go on to a master’s degree under his supervision. I haven’t regretted the decision, either.

    Dfr1973, funny! Thank you.

    Austin, interesting. If that’s what works for you, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    David, of course. The fact that the people you’re talking to depend on sweatshops and slave labor to keep getting their consumer goodies cheap, of course, has nothing to do with their reaction… 😉

    Ray. fascinating! As for “commonplace,” excellent! Why, yes, there is indeed a segue.

    Discwrites, if I’d made a list of every field of contemporary thought that’s drowning in a swamp of dysfunctional abstractions, I’d be writing for a long time. Yes, economics is a classic example.

    Avery, excellent! It was in fact from Vico, via the short-lived revival of Vico studies in the 1970s and 1980s, that I was first exposed to topics, and to the broader idea of rhetoric as a way of knowledge.

    John, yep. You can also throw out “outlier” results to swing the results this way and that, or engage in a hundred and one other bits of experimental gimmickry — and this sort of thing is done constantly in science today.

    Corydalidae, thank you for this. It’s a step in the right direction, certainly.

    Jacques, if I had a dollar for every story like yours I’ve heard, I could buy pizza for the entire readership of this blog. I’m delighted that you managed to find your way to a healing modality that actually worked — something that modern medicine increasingly fails to provide a lot of people.

    Johnny, keep in mind that whatever comes out of the quest for “MOAR ALGORITHMS” will be primarily used by big governments and big corporations at the expense of the rest of us. Google’s much-touted “don’t be evil” motto was never more than window dressing. So, no, it won’t be used to transition to an age of reflection, because it’s not in the interest of the people who pay the bills to have it do so.

    Gkb, if I had a dollar for every story like yours I’ve heard from a woman, I’d be able to buy pizza for the entire readership of this blog and their extended families. I honestly don’t know why women don’t just stop going to MDs en masse and get their health care instead from people who’ll do them the basic courtesy of listening to their symptoms and taking their needs seriously.

    Kevin, I’m sure that’s also an issue, but to go by what I’ve seen myself, and what I’ve been able to track by watching the way that scientific opinion responds to corporate money like the famous dog to his master’s voice, there’s also a phenomenal amount of outright fraud out there. It’s not just that they don’t know better.

    Eric, why, yes. Why do you ask? 😉 As for the various grand unified theories, we’ve seen that movie before — the current state of cosmological physics resembles nothing so much as very late Ptolemaic astronomy, with epicycles breeding like crazed rabbits in a frantic attempt to make a system that didn’t work hang together somehow. We call our epicycles “dark matter,” “dark energy,” and the like; it would be more honest if the researchers called them instead “Fudge Factor 1,” “Fudge Factor 2,” and so on.

  58. This post discusses one reason, or perhaps THE reason I keep coming back to this blog (and was a reader of TAR in previous times). I am a Catholic of a mostly orthodox doctrinal persuasion (some would say “staunch”, or “devout”), for the reason that I believe the Church to be a “truth telling thing” (as per Chesteron’s formulation). In other words, my anecdotal experience validates Catholic doctrine and practice to be correct.

    Then I come here and I see folks talking about gods, reincarnation, magic, just as convinced as I am with my own beliefs. Hmm, okay, interesting. And I don’t see anyone bashing the heads of anyone else (for the most part). Some things I chalk up to differences in definition (i.e. abstraction). Other things I simply have no idea what to make of. I suppose that’s fine! There are contradictions for sure, but I’m not pretending to be having all the answers. It’s not “non-judgmentalism” – the most judgmental people I know are zealous preachers of non-judgmentalism – it’s more of a mix of patience (in not rushing to resolve the issue) and intellectual humility.

    P. S. Heck if anything, looking at other people’s anecdotal spiritual experiences here confirms my belief in Marian devotion.

  59. What I heard from this lastest post:

    -abstract generalizations are being perverted and misused-
    -the example of MSG highlights a way that truth is being manipulated today-
    -argument from authority fallacy has become rampant-(as have most other fallacies. I feel lost in fog or war no matter where I look)
    -it’s all about the money! (and the power wielded by same)-
    -which leads to ironic twists, inevitably-
    -transitioning from the end of one era into the next. The very definition of what is true, or not, must change, and given all other cultural, economic, and political factors, that transition will be disruptive.
    -If we could all manage to mind our manners, and think -then- speak, the road ahead might be a little more smooth.

    That’s what I heard. Perhaps I should change my handle to “Mr Cliff Notes”? I’ve reduced it further than that though. Perhaps “Mr Stray Bullet?


    Thanks again for your latest thought provoking post.

  60. In one of those happy coincidences, I encountered the following two phrases in my slow reading of “Modes of Thought [Lecture four]” by Alfred North Whitehead just last night:

    1) “The notion of a sphere of human knowledge characterized by unalloyed truth is the pet delusion of dogmatists, whether they be theologians, scientists, or humanistic scholars” and
    2) “At this point we had better ask ourselves, What are we appealing to in the development of philosophic thought? Where is the evidence? The answer is evidently human experience, as shared by civilized intercommunication…”

    In this week’s discourse, I have found myself once again defending informed consent, in the context of vaccination, which is not (yet) compulsory in Ireland. The person I argued with was of the opinion that all issues have been “decided” by the “jury” (named as academia and the medical establishment). My point that the “jury” that will give its verdict by either consenting to be vaccinated, or refusing to be, is every actual person – and that I was seeing no real effort being made to make a case to THIS jury, which includes persons with actual experience of being injured by a vaccination, did not appear to go down well.

  61. Well, MSG is one thing, but then again (diving into the wabbit hole) – if the experimental study was trying to verify a link between MSG ingestion and headaches, what constitutes a headache exactly? That is an entirely subjective and personal thing, a headache. It’s like tinnitus – nobody knows you have it but you, and describing it leads to others desperately trying to explain a disease where they are hearing things not there to anyone else. Headache, and headache intensity, is very similar in this fashion.

    I am sure there are EEG’s of headaches, and no doubt classes and sub-classes of them ~ yet what happens if someone experiences a headache while strapped to an EEG, and it doesn’t ‘fit’ into the normal classification? Well, statistically, it gets thrown out rather than attempt to open a new classification, because moving academics is very similar to lifting an elephant, alone.

    As I said last week, anecdotes are as valuable as studies, especially when it involves humans. Two or three similar anecdotes, especially if they are from disparate cultures or geographical areas, are every bit as credible as a ‘scientific study’. Today, as numerous people have lamented, the scientific method has been corrupted by the same thing that corrupts most things – money, ie materialism. And as the curtain gets pulled further back on science fraud and ‘custom purchased’ results, people are relying on anecdotes even more.

    For good or ill, the slow demise of honesty and method in science is forcing us to deny them their former position as a neutral arbiter. This is unfortunate, as the baby is going out with the bathwater. Yet scientists will not clean up their act, because those with the money to spend on research usually want the research to pay off. Long gone are the days of the Curies and those of Orville&Wilbur Wright. Today’s’ science is too specialized (and thus expensive) for a man or woman to do in their spare time, unless they are single and independently wealthy.

    I don’t think science will clean itself up, not with the SJW crowd being pandered to across this country, and not when degree requirements remain lax and many professors teach without love, and in many cases, knowledge, of their subjects. And certainly not when grant money is offered with suggested outcomes.

    My advice is to listen to the anecdotes, as there is always a kernel of truth there. Many of today’s studies are directed to outcomes favorable to the corporate grant. You get what you pay for these days, as we are all seeing lately.

    So that ‘hardware abstraction layer” we run in our heads needs to shift gears or get a reboot. Yet for that to happen, science has to change the way it functions. I’m not sure how that will work out…

  62. Well, Ore. has no sales tax, so it makes sense that it’s income tax would be high. You save every time you buy something in Ore, not at tax time in Apr. In all fairness, sales taxes are more regressive. You never said what brought you to Southern Ore. in the first place, considering how out of place you felt there…

  63. Two of the fronts I have personally witnessed are autism and fibromyalgia.

    My son was ‘normal’ up until 12 months or so, and then spiraled into severe autism, roughly around the time of vaccinations. Mine and others anecdotal observations of this are routinely and LOUDLY refuted by the AMA and others.

    I’ve known many people with fibromyalgia, or whatever it is. Does it really exist? Nobody knows, or can prove it either way. Anecdotally I’ve surmised that the people who ‘have it’ seem to have no locus of control in their lives. Who knows?

    I fly 20 million dollar jets so I know and trust engineering. Science I’ve come to distrust.

  64. I particularly enjoyed learning about the Renaissance art of Memory. I was not always a full-time artist, and I have noticed that since practicing daily with brushes something far more intimately familiar than my canvases has been impacted, namely my state of mind. It has been the cause of some wonder for me, and it somehow relates to this lost practice, because in my art I deliberately shift from landscape, and portraiture (where I observe) to abstract concept (where I feel and express). The former is infinitely more relaxing, although requiring of greater precision, while the latter can be quite travailed, although free from stricture except my own internal state, and my technical ability. It appears important to my overall well being, and the quality of my work, to follow my instinctive needs to switch modalities, almost relaxing one muscle to exercise its opposing one. Not surprisingly, my ability to contain/entertain opposing argumentation seems to have developed apace.

    Abstraction often requires me to work from memory, creating symbolic junctures with feelings associated to past experience. Realism forces me in the here and now, and the observation of reality. I realise that in my previous work (eCommerce services) I was often in the same thinking mode – the manipulation and translation of data into abstract insights on user behaviour – ever removed from the observation of nature/life. It raises the question as to whether our 21st century lifestyle itself must change in order to arrive at some resolution of the critical issue you raise. There were moments in which I’d be sitting at my desk, I’d be caught into an alternative awareness, and wonder at the vast majority of those working in innumerable cubicles in innumerable office buildings for miles around me spending their days effectively clicking on key-boards, staring at monitors, and speaking on a phone … engaged in the “service industry”, fundamentally producing nothing. That’s my “Aunt Edith” anecdotal experience … 🙂

  65. Reduced further: “Ready! Fire! Aim!” has become the norm. Not a perfect reduction, but intended to be humorous. Perhaps caption fodder for an inventive cartoonist? I don’t know. Have a great day!

  66. JMG,

    If you’re providing us with pizzas, I’d really much rather they be homemade!;)

  67. John & the community–

    Please pardon the aside.

    While not a direct consequence of this week’s post, but more a cumulative result finally reaching some indeterminate threshold in my consciousness, I’d like to observe that the discussions here make me painfully aware of how much I do not know and how blithely I’ve treated whole categories of knowledge in the past. One one hand, this opens vast territories for exploration; on the other, it makes the prospect of trying to formulate any coherent understanding of the world about me an intimidating and seemingly-impossible task. So I am both gladdened and saddened at the same time.

    Thank you. Please carry on!

  68. @Thor:
    Search for John Ioannidis, “Why most published research findings are false”, or in fact any other publication by Ioannidis.

  69. Ray: You are probably already aware of this, but just in case – tobacco is a notoriously efficient accumulator of heavy metals, so I would make sure to get your soil tested if you haven’t done so!

    JMG: Related to Y. Chireau’s question, I’ve always been curious whether there’s a link between the Memory Palace and the concept of an Astral Temple. In your opinion, are they compatible or is it best to keep the two practices separate (i.e. should one’s Astral Temple be a location within the Memory Palace, or a totally distinct structure)?

  70. When I was younger I got interested in the 5% significance level standard. It was first proposed by the geneticist and statistician R. A. Fisher in a 1926 paper, ‘The arrangement of field experiments’ (, where he writes:

    ‘If one in twenty does not seem high enough odds, we may, if we prefer it, draw the line at one in fifty (the 2 per cent. point), or one in a hundred (the 1 per cent. point). Personally, the writer prefers to set a low standard of significance at the 5 per cent. point, and ignore entirely all results which fail to reach this level. A scientific fact should be regarded as experimentally established only if a properly designed experiment *rarely fails* to give this level of significance.’ (p. 504; the part I have I highlighted is in italics in the original)

    From this it is clear what the problem is with a great deal of research in social science, psychology, biology, etc: people regard a result as established when it has been found 5% significant in one experiment, but they ought to only regard it as established when it is found to be 5% significant in the vast majority of a large number of experiments.

  71. @Robert Gibson

    While it is certainly possible to avoid either extreme, one of the challenges with trade/tariff policy is that costs and benefits are rarely spread equally. The reason the Free Trade dogma has spread so strongly is because a certain group of people do tend to benefit, so they have contrived a set of arguments to claim that nations as a whole benefit similarly, when that case is in my opinion one of the best examples of the process this post is about. So even if you avoid policy extremes, you still face a challenge of deciding on policies that have both losers and winners, and those decisions are often based on whether the winners or losers have more political oomph. The United States was very protectionist throughout the 1800s and political arguments over tariff policy then were no less vitriolic then than they are now. Some people even claim that the Civil War was more about “The Tariff” than it was about slavery. I don’t agree with that, but it nonetheless was an issue that split the industrializing north from the south quite strongly. That’s probably not much of an answer to your question. Even if we get past the free trade dogma, the argument between winners and losers makes it difficult to find a middle ground.

  72. I suppose the anti-vaxxers are justified in refusing vaccines, then? I mean the scientific community has very much “established” via “studies” that vaccines don’t cause autism and all the other gnarly things they are accused of. They even managed to refute and repudiate the one study that did. But the anecdotal evidence of the anti-vaxxers tells a different story.
    Your concept of two worlds being able to co-exist breaks down here, when a sufficient number of unvaccinated children exist to break herd immunity and/or cause its own epidemic. That affects others who don’t live in the anti-vaxxers world, those of us who may have babies that aren’t of the age to safely receive the vaccine which we intend to give to them.

  73. “I fly 20 million dollar jets so I know and trust engineering. Science I’ve come to distrust.”

    Ah Men

  74. Zhao, thank you! The best way to spread the idea, it seems to me, is to put it into practice.

    Jakob, thanks for this. One of the consistent problems with dogmatism of every sort is that people end up defending it by embracing logical fallacies and cognitive dysfunctions.

    BoysMom, you’re not the only one I know who has that “impossible” allergy. I’d like to propose a simple rule, which I’ll modestly name Greer’s Criterion of Possibility: it’s invalid to claim that something’s impossible when it’s actually happening.

    Jdm, and sooner or later the sum total of cognitive dissonance reaches the point that the official reality falls by the wayside, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out a long time ago.

  75. Hi JMG,

    Thank you for another interesting and challenging post. It sounds like Aunt Mildred has gone a long way in that she has learned to think for herself and pay attention to herself. I mean, she has already figured out that the cause of her headaches is MSG, so all she has to do is stop eating it and she’ll be fine. Picture a different Aunt, plagued by frequent headaches of unspecified cause, walking into her doctor’s office with this complaint. She gets handed a prescription for Tylenol or worse, opiates, and sent on her merry way. She trusts her doctor, takes the prescription and becomes a drug addict for life, for however long that turns out to last. She hasn’t made the leap of thought that says; maybe I know better than the doctor what is wrong with me. Maybe it’s something I ate, or something I’m doing or feeling that’s causing the headaches. Maybe I need to pay attention to myself instead of turning over my responsibility for my own well being to the doctor.

    So then the useful thing to practice would be how to start learning to think for oneself again, paying attention to oneself, and trusting one’s own experiences and intuition – the anecdotal reality instead of the expert opinion.

    But as we struggle through this crisis of legitimacy, what is left over when the abstractions start to wear thin? When I decide I don’t want to become an opiate addict and need to find something else? What about when it’s more serious than just a headache – what if it turns out to be cancer, and I don’t want to follow the standard ‘cut, poison, burn’ protocol? For me, it sometimes feels like there’s only a smoking crater where my brain should be. My mind often feels like it’s just a collection of Other People’s opinions and regurgitated sound bites. Even if I do try to pay attention to my own experiences, what I am able to perceive is limited by my analysis of the information coming in to my brain, which is itself conditioned by the habits of thought I learned from other people and my society. I filter out the information to which I am exposed. So there really is no objective truth out there!

    It then becomes a larger issue, or at least it hopefully would, not just for me to learn how to think for myself again, but of an entire society regaining the habit of thinking for itself again, to challenge our own dearly-held beliefs, to, well, reflect! For example, the concept of pain. Is it something that simply needs to be fixed with a pill, which is where we have been led by the experts? Or is it a message from one’s body that on some level, something is out of balance, and it might not be a bad idea to try to figure out why that might be?

    So are the truths we have in common a collection of mutually agreed-upon worthwhile topics that each person would ideally learn to think about and pay attention to for themselves, and form their own opinions about?

  76. Dear John Michael Greer,

    As ever my thanks to you; I always look forward to your Wednesday posts.

    As for “why won’t people believe us when we speak the truth?” It has been my experience that most people, while claiming to care passionately for Truth, are in fact are far more interested in maintaining their status comfort zone and will, when this is threatened, fashion their own thinking into some quite fantastic pretzels towards that end. After all, to accept as truth something that others in one’s circles would label wrong, stupid, or, worse, looney-tunes ridiculous, can be uncomfortable indeed. I have found it helpful to always ask myself, what might be their incentive to believe (or disbelieve) this, or that? Not that I am cyncial; there are people of mental and emotional courage, as there are people who sometimes have it and sometimes do not– and which it will be only becomes obvious when it does.

    On that note, a couple of years ago I attended a BBQ workshop at a major Texas university’s Meat Science Department. It was excellent and very interesting to me on many levels (for nonvegetarians, I can warmly recommend it) but one thing pertinent to mention here was the faculty’s dismissive, even contemptuous, attitudes towards anything “organic.” Some of the event was sponsored by an industrial spice company that made good use, by the way, of MSG, and it was also abundantly obvious that the students, meat science degrees in hand, were most likely to find employment with large corporations producing industrial quantities of meat. So, which way was the faculty’s bread buttered? Or, to go back to my previous analogy, what was their status comfort zone? It was not going to be lauding the marvels of grass-fed organic beef! Now, I do not mean to single out meat scientists; this sort of dynamic comes up everywhere, in every profession, in every social circle. But I still chuckle to recall two of the faculty, with such stolid authority from the podium, dissing the organic grass-fed beef. “Yeah, the fat is yellow, that’s the only difference.”

    Speaking of MSG– anecdotally, that is– everyone I have ever known who shakes Accent all over their food ends up spending a lot of time refilling their prescriptions. The same umami pop can be had from a drop or two of fish sauce. But be careful, read the labels.

    Re: The Art of Memory. Cookie Monster is bouncing a watermelon and James Dean is now popping out of my ceiling, his head covered not in oil (as in “Giant”) but in balsamic vinegar. I hope I won’t have to whack-a-mole them with my rolling pin!

    I am very much looking forward to your posts on the art of memory. I recently received my copy of your translation of Bruno’s ON THE SHADOWS OF THE IDEAS– a most handsome edition, this Azoth Press, 2017– and I look forward to reading it. I was especially interested in this topic because some years ago I began to use David Allen’s “Get Things Done” (GTD) methology which I have found at once simple and profoundly powerful– and the trick is not to try to remember anything, but to write everything, absolutely everything, down. As David Allen often says, “your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” For a daily planning system, and actually getting things done, for me his GTD system works brilliantly; I have found that his system helps me keep track of my commitments and free my creative imagination. But, obviously, his model of the human mind, what it is for and what it can do, is woefully incomplete.

    With thanks,


  77. Your move away from abstractions like norms and expectations, toward a more concrete approach, by focusing more on an anecdotal conduct like experiences, events and facts in communication, does captivate me. Its sort of similar to the attitude of non-violent-communication I am so familiar with.

    Also the mnemotechnic you describe, I know as “gedankenbrücke” i.e. thought-bridge is a fascinating tool to me and the few times I use it purposefully it worked well.

  78. Christopher L., no, that’s not what I’m pointing out. I encourage you to read my post again with fewer preconceptions, and notice what I’m actually saying. (Hint: it has to do with the way that cultural styles encourage certain modes of thinking and discourage others, until eventually the biases hardwired into that habit produce too many disasters to be ignored.)

    Frederick, hmm. I think you’re missing my point.

    Mike, your cardiologist was almost certainly being paid by the drug company to prescribe statins, and getting a kickback in cash for every prescription. That’s standard practice in the US medical industry these days. No wonder he, ahem, hadn’t heard of the side effects.

    Christopher H., no, you’ve demonstrated the use of an anecdote as stalking horse for an abstraction, the second bad habit I anatomized in this week’s post. Nice try.

    Ozquoll, I think that’s a very large part of the issue. I have adult residual Aspergers, but it’s fairly atypical in some ways — to begin with, there’s some ADD mixed in there somewhere, but there are a bunch of other oddities in how I relate to the world (and my nervous system) as compared to other Aspies. Would I respond to autism drugs the same way as anyone else? Probably not — not that I’d try; I’ve seen way too many people hurt or killed by drugs that were supposedly safe and effective to be willing to risk it.

    Drhooves, oh, granted! If somebody wants to place a great deal of emotional weight on the difference between the popular and electoral votes, I have no complaint; if they’re so upset about it that they campaign for a constitutional amendment to change the way we elect presidents, hey, that’s their right, and I applaud them for being concerned enough about an issue to get up off the sofa. The insistence that I have to publicly kiss the feet of the idol of Holy St. Hillary by parroting that particular talking point is where I draw the line.

    Workdove, go to a good Aslan grocery. They sell MSG in jars — the Ajinomoto brand is the one my stepmother always used to buy, and I can recommend it. As for the point you missed, don’t worry, we’ll be circling back around it in various ways.

    Thecrowandsheep, no doubt that’s also an issue — and your point about education is important, and will get more discussion down the road.

  79. Re:vaccination (Twilight, scotlyn, DT)

    When a pathogen does not spread through the air or sewage, or when the illness isn’t life-threatening, I understand that the parents are the jury. E.g., should parents vaccine their child against HPV when they suppose their child will only have one sexual partner in life? they are most probably wrong, but should one force them to incur the small risk of side-effects for their child (especially when it is a boy) ?

    However, when a life-threatening pathogen is easily transmitted to strangers, the child to be vaccined and its legal custodians are not the only persons affected by the decision. I think in these cases it is up to the government to decide (which means, in democracies, ultimately to majority vote). I would have no problem to order compulsory vaccination against polio, yellow fever, dysentery or typhus in endemic areas. Yellow fever vaccination was enforced by the police in early 20th century Rio de Janeiro. There is of course a small risk of adverse reactions, but by wide consensus it is more than compensated by individual AND herd immunity.

  80. Cardiologists (and other doctors, except in oncology) normally aren’t paid per prescription; nothing so crude. But their prescribing or device-implanting habits are tracked and those who behave properly may be rewarded. (If you ever experience a hard sell for aggressive treatment, look the MD in question up on the CMS Open Payments database.)

    Also, if you don’t take those pills, get those stents, or whatever, you might decide you don’t benefit by scuttling back to an Ologist every 6-12 months, so the income even of those who are not on the take is on the line. Whenever you see a physician raging online that those who support less aggressive screenings or interventions must have some sinister economic motive, in my experience you can comfortably presume that he/she is projecting the shadow.

    There is spectacularly bad science published regularly and used to promote aggressive treatment of the insured well. I push back online where I can. I am not employed in the health industry. If I understand the limitations and biases of various types of human study better than a lot of MDs reading the medical news feeds, what does that say about them? And yet when you go to their office, you are supposed to act obsequiously ignorant or they’ll get mad.

  81. It seems that the transition from an age of abstraction to one based on anecdotal forms of evidence will be very rough for everyone. At the height of the age of abstraction claims made by science or other ‘official’ vetting could be contested within the legal system if found to be wildly divergent and damaging, ( like side effects of pharmaceuticals). While during this age the claims of snake-oil-salesmen ( my favorite example is gadgets to attach to your car engine to get 100 mpg) were given minimal credence so did fairly little damage. But as we enter an age where anecdotal evidence becomes much more important and widely trusted then those with remedies that are dishonest but based on bad anecdotal evidence will become more widespread and will not be as easily contested within the skeleton of the legal system that remains during the transition. Once we are completely away from the age of abstraction I would guess that other systems of controlling hucksters will come to pass. One will not trust anecdotes from those outside a close knit clan or tribe, or there will be powerful chiefs or warlords who will quickly deal with those who rely on trickery.

  82. For a long time I’ve tried to enter controversial conversations by assessing what I thought the other people likely agreed with me on, and starting there – and since my political view is neither clearly “left” nor clearly “right”, I can always almost find something. Definitely I think it leads to far more productive conversations than becoming argumentative. It’s not necessary to get somebody to make a massive leap straight into your worldview or to ignore them and dismiss them with insults. It’s much better to have a respectful conversation, in which perhaps they edge a little towards your viewpoint, or perhaps you will edge towards theirs – after all, you’re not necessarily the one that’s “right”, if such a thing even exists. 😉

    Regarding science, I have a maths degree, and I used to get the New Scientist magazine up until around five years ago, and while I found it interesting, I did feel like a lot of the topics were the modern equivalents of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”, or in other words, likely to be completely irrelevant to 99%+ of people.

    I’d definitely like to try the Art of Memory thing. I have a good memory for trivia (which made me good at academia) and for song lyrics, but generally a poor memory for things like “what have I promised people I will do this week” unless I write it down, which I don’t always remember to do either, so I’d be interested in whether it’s possible to use it to remember a diary or a to-do list.

    Thanks for another excellent post,


  83. @Robert Gibson How do you pick tariffs? It’s not as hard as you think: you relocalize and shift everything downward as far as is practicable. That way one area/state can have the protection they want, and another area/state can have the access they want. What am I supposed to decide what’s right for them at the galactic level? Because that’s how we’re doing it now: the ones with the least actual/practical/detailed knowledge are making decisions that affect the whole group, and a few other groups they hadn’t intended to affect as well.

    Whoops, sorry, that’s crazy talk: obviously the real solution is to have one person use a single silver bullet that has no side effects. No other options will do.

  84. @Dr. Hooves,

    Gun control:

    The common core issue of gun control is safety. Some people feel safe because they own a gun. Other people feel unsafe in the presence of a gun. Ok, so let’s stop talking about guns and start talking about safety. What can we do as a society to reduce crime? Can we provide more economic opportunities to the poorest people, so they have a different option, so some people might be given a choice to choose a life without crime? Can we study the characteristics of communities where crime is low and compare it to where crime is high? Etc.


    Pro life want abortion to be illegal. Pro choice want abortion to be legal. Do you know what, though? Pro choice people don’t actually want more abortions to be performed. They just don’t want it to be illegal. So how can we prevent abortions without making them illegal? We can increase access to birth control, family planning, and sex education. When accidents do happen, we can make sure single mothers and teen moms get all the resources they need so that it’s possible for them to care for the child, on their own, if necessary, without “ruining their lives.” Will abortions still happen? Yes. But they still happened when abortion was illegal, too.

    When you address the underlying causes of a problem, often you are also killing two or more birds with one stone, because for some reason these underlying issues seem to cause multiple problems at once.

    (Disclaimer: eventually you get to the divide where some people want rewards for those who produce and punishments for those who produce nothing vs. those who want a social safety net for those unable to produce. I haven’t bridged that one yet but I know there has to be a way if you find a big enough picture view).

    I’m not sure if this is the direction JMG is going, it’s just what I got out of reading the article, plus several years contemplating what might actually solve society’s problems.

    Jessi Thompson

  85. John, the Art of Memory is alive in the Hawaiian shamanism I studied in my youth and still use today. We call it our “Garden Tiki”, which is an imagined realities which you can use to do the mental tricks you describe. We go one step further and can actually create mental advisers in our Tiki.

    I wrote a tutorial for the Green Wizard site, on this subject a few months back but haven’t posted it while I move the old forum to the new site which will happen in May or early June. Given the topic this week, I went ahead and put it up on the new site’s development page for anyone who wants some info. Though I used the title of Mind Palace, after the recent BBC Sherlock Holmes TV series, where Sherlock uses the same technique.

    “The “Mind Palace” – A First Step in Your GW Mental Skills”

    While we are in a bit of flux, I invite anyone who hasn’t visited the Green Wizard forums recently to please stop by.

    Green Wizard Forum

    If you don’t have a log in, email me at green wizard d trammel at gmail dot com, with the user name you registered with and I’ll enable you account for posting.

    Look for tutorials this Spring on MicroGreens and Container Gardening, and as always we welcome everyone.

  86. Oh, an arguing tactic just occurred to me that might be useful to try, to steer away from these divisive issues and focus on making the changes we all can agree on. I haven’t tried it yet, it only occurred to me just now.

    “I think we can all agree that it’s a waste of time to try and convince [those idiots] of this. We can use a lot of time and effort to try and force it through anyway, but it will take a lot of resources and may fail. Or, we can do this [thing that might also help alleviate the problem that everyone agrees might help a little] much more easily, and we can just wait til later for the other one, because of course it will only get easier to do [the divisive thing] in the future, because obviously we are right and the truth will prevail.”

    Obviously it’s intended for your in-group to try to pull them away from the polarizing issues and get them working on more universal ones, which are the changes that are more likely to take hold.

    What do you all think?

    Jessi Thompson

  87. Matthias Gralle-

    I do understand where you are coming from. And I empathise with the values your comment attests to. But from where I stand, things look different.

    “However, when a life-threatening pathogen is easily transmitted to strangers, the child to be vaccined and its legal custodians are not the only persons affected by the decision.”

    This is true BOTH ways. For example, there is significant credible evidence in the written up literature, that people who have been recently vaccinated are themselves capable of pathogenic viral shedding during the weeks afterwards. Yet, there is no “quarantine” system currently put in place to protect vulnerable patients from, say, the recently flu-vaccinated medical staff with whom they will be in close contact during such times.

    “I think in these cases it is up to the government to decide (which means, in democracies, ultimately to majority vote). I would have no problem to order compulsory vaccination against polio, yellow fever, dysentery or typhus in endemic areas.”

    If the effectiveness of vaccinations was evident, would it be necessary to make them compulsory? Even here, the available evidence is conflicting, and may not fully support your assumption that such a measure would be effective. Making it compulsory, when its effectiveness is on a less than sound evidentiary footing, might incur a strong reaction that reduces the government’s legitimacy (however democratically its majority voted) for the long term.

    “Yellow fever vaccination was enforced by the police in early 20th century Rio de Janeiro. There is of course a small risk of adverse reactions…”

    However small the risk in a population sense, if you are the single individual affected with severe morbidity or death, are you (or your survivors) really supposed to say – “hurray, my sacrifice has helped all those other people”???

    “…but by wide consensus it is more than compensated by individual AND herd immunity.”

    Compensated for who? Could you look at any individual (or family) whose life has been made significantly worse, or ended, and tell THEM that THEY are more than compensated by the survival of “the herd”? (As opposed to telling them that, statistically, nothing actually happened to them, which is what happens now…)

    If you are going to consider voting for compulsory vaccination, this is the kind of thing I invite you to think about. Who are you willing to sacrifice to the god of Herd Immunity. And will they, the sacrificed, understand, and accept, your reasoning? Especially if, instead of resting your reasoning on sound understanding of the physiology of immunity, toxicity, auto-immunity, and similar matters, you are resting it solely on statistics largely gathered for marketing purposes?

  88. MSG is an excellent example of the limits of the scientific method. The following article has a bit of history about how MSG became a concern:

    Summary: one doctor came up with a term called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (because he had some sort of allergic reaction after eating Chinese food). During the same time frame (1960s) a scientist studying MSG’s effects on mice concluded that it could cause brain lesions or impaired development, and ta-da, MSG is bad for you becomes common thought. The study however was done by directly injected MSG under the skin of mice in quantities fit for horses to consume (i.e. the study was completely bogus for determining if MSG was potentially even harmful and is a great example of bad science confusing people).
    The same article talks about another study done more recently. In the study, only 130 people were included which is probably a big enough sample to get an idea of how the general population reactions to MSG (which is that they don’t have a bad reaction to MSG) but definitely not a big enough sample to make the following statement from the article, “If you think you get a reaction to Chinese food, maybe you do—it’s just not the MSG,”. 130 people is far too small of a sample of people to make such a broad statement!

    In the end, after all those studies, anecdotal evidence is better than science when it comes to diet; i.e. if you have a bad reaction to a food/ingredient/diet ‘is’ bad for you, but if other’s don’t have a bad reaction it might just be the tasty treat they’ve been craving.

  89. Excellent post John.

    I fully agree with you that we are entering the twilight era of the era of abstraction and over complexity in our industrial civilization and I see the evidence all the time.

    The media increasingly talk about things that have little to no value to the day-to-day concerns of ordinary folk (for example so called “fake news”, the Russian investigation, data protection/Facebook etc).

    Another good example is the emergence of a radical trans activist movement which argues that gender is social and self-defined… in other words anybody can decide to change their gender tomorrow if they wish or “feel different”!

    For, the interesting question is where is this going? I’ve been re-looking at the limits to growth business-as-usual modelling recently and note that the peaks in services, food and industrial per capita around the year 2020 (not that far away!). Assuming that we do peak by the year 2025 and see major falls afterwards, do you think this will start to trigger the unravelling of the current economic order by the end of next decade?

    I assume that the end of the current status quo by 2030(sh) will also trigger a wider collapse of faith in the “experts” and the abstractions they have promoted for decades now.

    I have explored some of these coming changes in my latest post but intend to do another one soon on the above issues. Looking forward to your comments.

  90. JMG, doesn’t this parallel, at bigger scale, some of your writing on values (necessarily abstractions) and interests (anecdotal phenomena that are valued) in the old blog?
    To the extent that values actually affect how we live, people having different values are almost guaranteed to find that the values of the other party do a poor job of describing their actual life.
    To get by we have to set aside values and focus instead on interests, much like we’re being forced as a society to set aside expert authority and focus more on anecdote.

  91. “….Since we don’t decide elections here in the United States by who gets the largest share of the popular vote, this was exactly the kind of irrelevant abstraction I’d critiqued in the post, but that fact was clearly lost on my irate commenter…..”

    Yes John. And, it’s even worse than that. That is to say, this person was complaining that, on the basis of one person one vote, Clinton won. But, that is to assume that the election were run on a stateless basis as a single collection of votes across the entire country. Not only is this an irrelevant abstraction, as you point out, it is also irrelevant because it is entirely reasonable to suppose that people may have voted differently had they known the votes were to be counted in that way.

  92. A bit of synchronicity this week. I walked into the College Writing Center where I work
    and on the whiteboard was:
    “In a true dialogue, both sides are willing to change…we have to believe that by engaging in dialogue with the other person, we have the possibility of making a change within ourselves.”
    -Thich Nat Hanh
    (Some of us are still trying to fight the good fight in academia…)

  93. @Jen – ah, the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, right?

    This stuff happens in religion too. Say the religion I was raised in doesn’t work for me, doesn’t seem true to me, so I leave it. But of I am the one that is wrong, the devil blinded me, if I would just trust god it he would bless my faith… of course, “trusting god” means buying into what they are teaching about god, how they are interpreting the sacred writings, etc. So much of traditional religion has become abstraction. Maybe how about an attitude that says “if my god/religion doesn’t work for you, that’s ok, find your own, though it may not work for me…”
    You can’t convince most people of “the truth” because in their day to day lives they place more credence on the anecdotal, even if they aren’t willing to admit it. That’s why you can only influence people as you come along side them and share their life experiences, and then you change along with them so at the end, neither of you are the same.
    Like I said about vaccines, I think there are limits. I don’t know how to define those limits. I certainly don’t want to go the hospital and have the doctor tell me I just have a bad case of “the Mondays” and send me home when in reality I need to be treated with specific medications. Give me antibiotics for my strep throat not a homeopathic tincture or something like that.
    There is nothing wrong with abstraction if it is honest and serves in the interest of people. It is no longer honest, and like the economy, it serves the purpose of the powerful moneyed interests.

  94. @John Riley – thanks for posting that study. While I’d argue that some of their tests were flawed in determining a “hot hand” (it’s not necessarily subsequent attempts that need to be looked at), I agree with one of their conclusions that it’s perceived to occur much more often than it does. Confidence and a team focusing on a player with the hot hand should outweigh him/her taking a riskier shot, but the studies as a whole would need to be far more complex with much higher sample sizes to really weed out the truth (disclaimer – I struggled with graduate stats, but as a horseplayer I can say this comes up as a topic often on the forums). Personally, I think a hot hand does happen very infrequently – for example, I’ve got one round of golf in the last 40 years I’ve been playing that sticks out – for a moment in time, I was unconsciously all-world.

    @Jen – great point. “Science for dummies” isn’t just a title for a book or an example of flawed logic – it’s a significant subset of humans….

  95. OK, I guess I’ll have to re-read the essay and figure out what is meant by a truth we have in common.

  96. @ Fred N, on astral temples, esoteric traditions call them “cities of light,” hierophantic landscapes or sacred sanctuaries which have physical analogues all over the planet. Geomancers map these places on the inner planes to their earthly counterparts. We move our consciousness to these places in order to view them, as astral travel is kind of an outdated and dangerous clairvoyant practice. The ars memoria work is a good training exercise for these site visits.

  97. In addition to Frances Yates I would recommend any book by Mary Carruthers, The Craft of Thought, Craft of Memory, etc. these are good

  98. Aunt Mildred is known to us and we’re aware of her character, its foibles and qualities and are better placed to form a view of how much weight to accord her story than if she were a stranger. There are, regrettably, unwell or misguided attention-seeking people who spin tales and their stories can cause distress and even physical harm (I’m thinking of the Munchhausen by proxy parents or health care workers). In employment situations there is no shortage of gallant individuals whose resumes sparkle like C beams off the shoulder of Orion. And the dating scene is full of optimists whose posted profiles have added magic dust and whose actual physical appearance postdates the official photo by about 15 years.

    I wonder if the small number of people who form our real world – perhaps 100 (in an age where some claim thousands of Twitter chums or hundreds of Facebook friends)? – isn’t a necessary personal buffer group in assessing the stories of complete strangers. It takes time to become acquainted with the people we truly know and thus we can be confident that Aunt Mildred knows what she’s talking about while Uncle Joe is likely to be spouting nonsense.

    And nobody’s mentioned the Skripal saga…

  99. @ Robert Gibson

    It’s a hard question because some will be winners and some loosers. I find a few things distressing about the trade talk that’s going around just now. One, some people are staking a position in response Trump. Loving or hating Trump is no basis for taking a postion on tariffs in general (in the abstract) or specific tariffs. Some people I know are changing their position from where they stood a few years ago in response to Trump.
    Second the mainstream media leans heavily towards free trade and so that POV is expressed over and over while any competing POV that manages to get heard is derided. I expect Trump’s re-election will be partly the result of working class people having the annectdotal experince of being hurt by free trade while the salary class experiences a boom in cheap goods and insists on abstracting that experience as being beneficial to everyone. The abstraction, they hope, helps hide the fact that our trade policies hurt some people. I think this worked for years but is loosing it’s force.

  100. This series of essays has been very, very interesting.

    By the way, if you’re interested in anecdotal societies check out rural Ireland. Despite centuries of Judeo religion there is still something very pagan in the way people think and form their views of the world around them. There is still a culture of allegory, local fables and oral tradition which form a great deal of how people view the world. Therefore, the science for the sake of sales ploy hasn’t really had an effect on people’s thinking. One of the benefits of being “less progressive” than the population centers is sticking to what works.

  101. Bluebird, of course! One of the reasons that scientific studies very often fail to reflect real world experience is that a good scientific study strives to eliminate all confounding variables. Real life, however, is composed almost entirely of confounding variables. It’s like the old joke about the university scientist who was approached by a dairy farmer and asked for advice about increasing the productiveness of his herd. “Well,” said the scientist, “consider a spherical cow…”

    John, anecdotal evidence approached unreflectively can be just as misleading as abstract generalizations approached unreflectively. Whatever statistical analysts may say about the “hot hand” effect, I suspect athletes will continue to believe it, because believing it has better results in terms of games won than not believing in it…

    Berserker, I could see that. I just wonder what people in some future civilization will make of it. Will they think that Jesus was a bunny?

    Rita, funny! I’ve also worked doing phone surveys, and have no more faith in the value of their results than you do.

    Patricia, another good example. As for memory, the contemporary Western terror of memorizing anything is frankly very odd, and deserves attention.

    Will, I’m not sure we need more ways to set people shrieking! As for the cognitive dissonance, though, you may well be right.

    Levi, fortunately, no — the Art of Memory was something that schoolchildren learned back in the Renaissance, with good effect. I’d encourage you to read Frances Yates’ book The Art of Memory alongside my Bruno translation, for help getting the wider context.

    Twilight, I know. I still hope that ecological biology, at least, can be smuggled through the crisis years disguised as a Druid religious practice. Still, it’s not going to be easy.

    Fuzzy, wouldn’t surprise me at all. I know a fair number of people who smoke pipes or cigars but refuse to smoke cigarettes, and by and large they can choose to smoke or not to smoke, without getting any noticeable ill effects.

    Cat, I’ve seen the same thing. People don’t want to hear about the possibility of a middle ground — I suspect it’s because they want an excuse to hate someone, and being offered a third option doesn’t help with that.

    Jen, it makes perfect sense to me. Science is their religion, so — like believers in other religions whose clergy get caught with their pants down — they immediately change the subject to the majesty and purity of the thing they worship, to try to avoid dealing with the corrosive flaws in the institution.

    Will, the notion that only men can cause relationship problems is a classic example of a dysfunctional abstraction, and an absurdly biased one as well. Have you noticed the way that the profoundly sexist Victorian stereotype about women being naturally pure and good and innocent has somehow gotten redefined as a basic tenet of certain kinds of feminism?

    Thor, yep. Reality is always anecdotal, and sometimes a treatment that helps lots of people kills some others. I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother.

    Andrew, I have a copy — just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

    Grebulocities, excellent. Yes, exactly — and those are the kind of real-world complexities with which scientific research as presently practiced is very poorly prepared to cope.

  102. @Scotlyn,
    Informed consent is another example of the fly in the gravy train, and you are brave to take on that challenge, because they have a handy way to demonize the Mildreds. “My baby died because you didn’t vaccinate your baby.” Probably wouldn’t stand up in a court of law, but the court of public opinion is a different thing. Three of my close friends/relatives have suffered adverse reactions: paralysis in two cases and auto-immunity in one. There are some people who should not be vaccinated at all, regardless of efficacy questions. The whole idea of “herd immunity” was that if most of the population got vaccinated, those who couldn’t would be protected. Instead, it is being used to blame the Mildreds for vaccine failure.

  103. I’m now at the stage of my life where my peers are getting married and having kids. I have a 17 month old son and a daughter coming in a couple of months. Whenever a friend approaches me asking for advice or how it’s been going, I give the following :

    1. Never read parenting books. (ESPECIALLY never read mommy blogs!)
    2. Okay, I guess read _some_ parenting books. But don’t take them too seriously.
    3. Accept that you’re not ready. God/nature/random chance has given/will give you the proper grace/talents/instinct/reasonable luck to sort it out along the way.
    4. Pay attention.
    5. Pay attention.
    6. Pay attention.

    98. Pay attention.
    99. Pay attention.
    100. Okay, now act accordingly.
    101. Repeat steps 4-100.

    The way I see it, 90% of parenting “advice” is cattle excrement, whether it comes from well meaning friends and relatives or highly educated “experts”. It’s not _bad_ advice per se, but simply not applicable outside of the particular family with their peculiar circumstances and combination of temperaments. No “method” can substitute for paying attention to (each of) your child(ren)’s specific needs and making the appropriate actions and adjustments. When people say “do x and enrol them in y” what they are actually saying is “x and y” worked for me and my children.

    I’ve actually seen parents who have some particular dogma about whatever aspect of parenting (education, feeding, discipline, you name it) loudly proclaim said dogma totally works for their precious Sophia, but upon close observation it did nothing at all for Jackson and Olivia and even actively harmed Liam. And they only ever talk about Sophia. (Names picked off a top baby names list and totally fictional)

    I know some people here are familiar with Jordan Peterson. In one Q&A discussion where he was a panelist, he said something to the effect of: “It’s not really all that useful to give advice, because people need to hash out their own plan for their life.” That’s a remarkable statement coming from a clinician whose daily work is to give people advice, and an attitude that I find rare in people who style themselves as experts.

    Heed the anecdotal evidence that you see every day in your household.

  104. @DT

    “Maybe how about an attitude that says “if my god/religion doesn’t work for you, that’s ok, find your own, though it may not work for me…”

    I think for most people, religion is not about working for me or working for you – it’s about Truth, with a capital T, the Queen of our Dreams. Many (most?) religions simply don’t ‘work’ if they’re not ‘true’.

    This makes for intolerance and strife – got to set the heathen straight. For their own good, of course!

  105. @Matthias Gralle – I don’t think a debate about vaccines is on topic in the comments for this thread, so I will mostly refrain. Your statements only sound reasonable if you accept the faked and fraudulent “science” used to show they are effective at all, not to mention safe. The language you’ve chosen in “the small risk of side-effects” is intended minimize the major damage that some of us have witness first hand. I’ve lived through the hell brought on by the vaccinations my son was given, and seen it all around me in other children. If this were a debate on the topic you’d be challenged to support that position with unbiased research.

    However, that brings up another issue, in that often one side of these issues is supported with virtually unlimited resources and the authority of “science”, while the other has almost no access to anything but anecdote. The old trope of “correlation is not causation” is a great example, in that while it is true, often only one side has the resources to show causation, while the other must make due with correlation. In that case, “correlation is not causation” translates to “your anecdote is meaningless”.

  106. @Fuzzy,
    although nicotine is highly addictive, not all people who smoke get addicted. I know plenty of “part time” smokers who could pick up and put down cigarettes at will, and never seemed to develop an addiction. Perhaps your father was one of those? Tobacco companies were certainly aware of nicotine’s addictive properties by 1964.

  107. @Matthias Gralle, on vaccination

    Thank you! Your sane and very non-dogmatic approach on this thorny issue is much appreciated. You said it way better than I would have been able to, which is a good thing because now I may avoid the temptation to start a flame war here.

    Both vaxer and antivaxer hard stances are abstractions. What you did is to exemplify the use of reflection to evaluate each claim by its own merits.

    But of course, the medical establishment does not want laypeople to do that. The argument is that they are not educated enough to make the decision, but whose fault is that? An integral part of the healing professions should be education in prevention, but the realization of that ideal is a mixed bag at best (I do not say a complete failure because hygiene and sanitazion do save countless lives today, but other aspects of this same thing lag behind pretty badly).

  108. Vaping looks less familiar than smoking a cigarette. A cigarette is so common in its shape and form.

  109. GKB,

    Your issue with doctors is something I’ve heard a lot of women complain about. It reminds me of a satirical story I read years ago about a group of doctors and psychologists who were trying to figure out why women kept inventing this imaginary condition: “pregnancy”. I found it a little amusing, but I wish I could remember either the author or name so I could find it again now, after having heard so many over the top stories of doctors just flat out dismissing women’s medical concerns.


    We don’t really need more ways to set people off, but if it’s there…. I’m a little bit of a shale disturber sometimes 😉

    As for “women are pure”, I have noticed. I also sometimes point out that it’s sexist to assume women are purer than men, and then duck for cover.

  110. @Jessi Thompson

    If I may…

    People who oppose social security want to not have to contribute their hard won dollars to the well being of free munchers. People in favor of social security want there to be a safety net for people who run into bad times and are unable to pick themselves up by their own means.

    My solution is to create a tax code deduction for people who do not want to contribute. You are allowed to not pay the share of your taxes that go into social security, but are still required to pay for all other government functions.

    The catch is that there cannot be free loaders. You may use the tax code sparingly and realize the benefits of not contributing if you must. But anyone using it 3 years in a row, or 5 times in the last decade, or 8 times through your working life become inelligible for any kind of social security for the rest of their lives, no exceptions.

    There it is: self reliying people get to keep their money, compasionate people receive compasion in return.

  111. Jessi, may I suggest you start with concern about the care of those who are absolutely and totally disabled from birth or very early childhood? I suspect you will find that most people who have a problem with those who could do something but do nothing because doing the something they could do penalizes them under the current system, or is illegal because they don’t have the proper license to do it, (see cosmetology licenses and hair braiders for a classically absurd example-one has to be able to do a bikini wax to be paid to do cornrows in some states) however, have far fewer problems when it comes to in some way supporting someone born into or early rendered into a never-functioning state. Not terribly many Social Darwinists around, and most eugenicists are staunchly pre-conception or pre-natal these days.

    You will also find that many who are very anti-government safety net are very pro-private charity. Some of us are anti-federal safety net, but cautiously pro-county safety net. Just because someone needs help does not mean a federal program is the best, or only, way to help. If you start from the place that some children are born completely disabled, and what shall we do for them, you might find some interesting beginings of agreement.

  112. @Monk:
    Systematic reviews or meta-analyses do for observational studies in humans exactly what Fisher recommended in your citation: look at a large number of original studies and evaluate using statistical criteria if overall an effect was observed or not. There are already overviews of systematic reviews…

  113. JMG,
    I’m greatly enjoying this series and more importantly, learning quite a bit.
    I also had an encounter with modern medicine. I was prescribed a topical anti-cancer medication for a “precancerous” condition. Within days of starting the treatment, I became seriously ill, missing a week of work. I accepted the doctor’s conclusion that the illness was coincidental to the treatment. A year later, I went through the same thing when the “precancerous” condition returned. That time I did a great deal of research and found that my symptoms were discovered during human trials of the drug, but considered statistically insignificant. When I brought this to the attention of my doctor, she replied that the clinic had been using the drug for many years and I was the first person to complain. She switched me to another drug, but there was never any notation made in my records of a negative side effect.
    A little more research and I found numerous safe, over the counter, treatments for the condition that had no adverse effects.

  114. Carlos, thank you for this. You might be interested to know that from my polytheist perspective, your Marian devotion makes perfect sense — you’ve got your holy beings to worship, I’ve got mine, and if your god says “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” hey, deities have their preferences, and if you’re going to worship one you’re going to have to take those into account.

    Mike, that’s a functional summary. Try reading it again, slowly, and thinking about each sentence as you go; you’ll get more that way. Yes, we’re going to talk about close reading in a future post.

    Scotlyn, I’ll have to read that one of these days. Thank you.

    Oilman2, I think science will survive, just as classical logic did — and in much the same way, through a process of sorting in which the overblown pretensions and failed claims get chucked out and the useful core is salvaged and put to work. Still, it’s going to be a while.

    Shane, Oregon has no sales tax and a high income tax (though low by California standards); Washington state has no income tax and a high sales tax (though low by California standards). Here in Rhode Island the income tax and the sales tax are both very comfortably low, and the level of government services quite respectably high; it works for me.

    Dtr(etc.), there’s been some very bad engineering out there, too, but it tends to succumb to expensive lawsuits. The medical industry has done a better job of covering its (ahem) where that’s concerned.

    Marco, thanks for this! I think you’re probably right about lifestyles, but then the cubicle lifestyle almost certainly isn’t long for the world anyway.

    Mike, good. Why not take the time to learn to draw cartoons yourself?

    Will, so noted!

    David, just one of the services I offer.

    Fred, best to keep them separate. In a memory palace, the images should stay the same; in an astral temple, they’ll gradually shift to express changes in astral conditions. Both are very much worth doing, and the visual imagination you develop with either one will help you with the other.

    Will, funny.

    Monk, thank you for this! Exactly; a single experiment significant to the .05 level means very little — not least because these days, the researcher may have run a couple of hundred analyses on the data, found something that by sheer chance was at the .05 level or better, and then rewrote the article to make it sound as though that’s what he was trying to prove. I knew people who were pioneering that kind of malpractice back in 1982.

    DT, the attitude you’re displaying is standard at the end of an age of abstraction — you’re right, the other side is wrong, and therefore they have to be forced to do what you want them to do. The difficulty, of course, is that it isn’t working. Year after year, that’s how people on your side of the controversy approach the issue of vaccination, and in response, the antivaxxer movement grows in numbers and political clout. Keep pursuing the same approach, and you may well get the same kind of revolt against elite authority that put Donald Trump into the White House, resulting in a future where most people no longer vaccinate at all.

    What’s the alternative? Get past one side screaming “all vaccines are safe and effective because we say so” and the other side screaming “all vaccines are toxic and harmful because we say so,” and it becomes possible to sort out the competing demands and find workarounds that allow all sides to get some of what they want. It’s entirely possible, after all, that both sides are right in part — that vaccination protects many people from infectious illnesses, but also causes serious harm to some — and so we have the difficult but necessary situation we so often face in the real world. Some children are going to be harmed no matter what we do; how do we apportion the harm between those who suffer harm from infectious diseases and those who suffer harm from vaccines? Awkward, sure, but in the real world that’s the kind of choice that has to be made.

  115. @patriciaormsby If vaccine safety mattered to the purveyors of what is, at the end of the day, a corporate product, corporate and/or public money would long before now have been poured into the question of elaborating and defining *which* people should never be vaccinated, via a detailed, case by case study of the kind of case you are witness to. But corporate interests (and public interest they can “buy”) means that what we get instead are MOAR statistics, and ” that didn’t happen… Statistically”.

    Also, I very much doubt whether the most perfect vaccination campaign is actually capable of replicating the kind of herd immunity that occurs when both herd and pathogen freely interact (including by infection) and freely evolve in response to one another.

  116. I wonder if our inability to even accept that life is really hard for others is partly because we tend to live in enclaves today. As a child I shifted a lot and in each neighbourhood there was a variety of jobs and incomes supporting families. We even lived next door to 2 Communists for a while. They lent us their sheep to help keep the grass in our yard down. And people generally weren’t as strapped as many are today either. Not to say anyone was wealthy. It was the 50s. It wasn’t till the 60s that we moved into a solid middle-class area.

  117. Ozquoll, what supplements do you take and what sort of effect do they have?

  118. I was just thinking about Dtr’s comment about engineering, science, and your response. That got me thinking about the courts and justice system where things have to be provable. If the court systems adhere to science over anecdote, even if that P value of statistical likelihood has been fudged, then any cay case involving science versus anecdote will come out with science winning… Even if the science is fudged.

    It almost seems heresy today to point out the flaw in someones scientific experiment. Especially in how they go their P value. Because if they were, “wrong” about something their P value that’s delivering a death blow that’ll end their career. Because everyone today must have a silver spoon resume.

  119. Dear Archdruid,

    To twilight you said: “I know. I still hope that ecological biology, at least, can be smuggled through the crisis years disguised as a Druid religious practice. Still, it’s not going to be easy.”

    My main idea was to link it up to ecological microbiology. Initially to safely produce fermented foods, but the same processes can be used to eventually produce antibiotics, anticonceptives, and so on. Ultimately, the techniques can be applied to soil analysis, bioremediation and more.

    My hope is that a strong identification with food production and healing will allow the scientific content of the system to be accepted – experimentation and the scientific method are in the very basis of the program. (I should probably call them differently though. Maybe name them after the elements, or seasons..) these modern medicines could simply merge within a broader tradition of spagyric medicine, just another tool in the Alchemist’s repertoire.

    For now, I am contemplating several variants on ways to transmit this system: Either via public spiritual Druidry (inspired by the AODA Ovate branch), as Monastic Druidry (Fermenting Monks… the precedent is comforting), via a Mason-like lodge structure (also offering social security, inspired by Inside a Magical Lodge) or as a Master-Apprentice lineage (Inspired by Green Wizardry).

    Yet I feel that, for example, Monasticism isn’t quite a viable option yet, not until further down the descent…
    And do we want to be socially isolated, or engaged? I guess it depends on how far along the decline we are at any given time, and how tolerant society is.

    History will tell which form it will eventually take. I’d love to also transmit my passion for martial arts, physical culture and magic, but I’m not sure whether it should all be entwined into a single lineage, or transmitted separately. (Tai Chi practicing, (land)healing, beer-brewing monastic Druid mages?) I’d also really like to do something with a Woodcraft-based youth club, I think it could teach children how alleviate a lot of the ills of living in a modern city, as well as show them the beauty of nature, without the militaristic hierarchical streak of the boyscouts.

    Until I figure this out, I will just keep developing myself and gathering resources. I’ll see which opportunities come along. And who knows, if I live long enough, I might realize all of these forms in due time.

    A bit more on the weekly topic; I feel MTotLE states some very fundamental truths anyone with any form of biological training can agree on. Life is (almost entirely) based on sunlight, the total available energy on Earth is limited, evolution is never abstract improvement; only adaptation to the current environment. Hence progress is not an abstract ultimate goal, but it is very much a manifested flow of adaptation which’s direction is consistently being redefined. And so on.

    Yours in Druidry,

  120. Building on my last comment, scientists seem to be judged by their results today, not their character and integrity. Meaning that they’ll tell the truth and admit when they’re wrong.

  121. In my family, it’s Aunt Maria who gets headaches after ingesting MSG — although I have been managing migraines for 20 years and have reached a point where very small amounts of MSG (such as might be in a tablespoon or two of bottled salad dressing in a restaurant) tend not to bother me as long as I have been avoiding it in general. And yes, I have gotten migraines after unknowingly ingesting MSG.

    The WP article handed me a laugh — I can’t wait for someone to tell me that “deep-seated Anti-Asian prejudice” is the cause of my MSG headaches. We have reached an absurd point where every time people disagree someone is yelling “Racist!” even when the topic is something as unrelated as how my particular body processes a substance.

  122. Sounds like a deal, JMG! Now if they just don’t sock it to you w/the property tax, oh wait, you don’t own any property in RI yet, 😉

  123. The increasing divergence between the abstractions current in today’s Western civilization and the reality on the ground is one of the huge elephants in the room. No matter if you look at self-help books, or at psychology, or at the things that the ecudation system values – the mismatch between the currently fashionable abstractions and what people experience is a big part of the difficulties in current life. An additional problem is that different perople experience different things and so, in the current intellectual and cultural climate it is not easy to find out what is right for oneself. This is especially the case if one doesn’t have previous experiences as a guide, and if the issues which one has aren’t a subject of discussion in contemporary culture and media.

    These things are actually one of the ways in which the values of a civilization become alien to the internal proletariat, and they are (presumably) the starting point from which the new societies, which emerge after the collapse of acivilization, take their values.

  124. And a factor which is even more on topic is that studies about the psychology and behavior of humans are often carried out on American college students, thus skewing the results towards very unusual outcomes in the overall scheme of anthropology.

  125. The one thing I will say about monosodium glutamate, and it’s not an argument about weather it causes headaches and other unwelcome symptoms or not, is that as a flavour enhancer it enables food manufacturers to make believe otherwise unappetising poor quality food to be nice good stuff. A reason in itself to avoid the stuff.

  126. Dear John Michael Greer,

    I learn about MSG from your blog. LOL! But my James Dean, leering up there in the corner of the kitchen ceiling, is balancing a bottle of Worcestershire sauce on his pinky finger.

    Regards from your normally lurking reader,


  127. Re: Vaccination

    Since the current post is about anecdotal evidence, I will supply my own anecdote. When my daughter was.a few days old, she caught a lung infection and had to be treated at the paediatric intensive care unit. In the case of her infection, there is no vaccine available, so her survival depended entirely on the fact that my insurance paid for ten days of ICU, and if in the future such care isn’t available anymore, babies in her situation will certainly die. However, there are infections that can be prevented by vaccination, and for such infections, the survival of a newborn baby depends on the herd immunity of the rest of the population.

    Scotlyn, you said it cut both ways, and it does. You asked how one can “sacrifice” one individual to the god of herd immunity, but it’s the other way around, too. How does one justify not vaccinating a child that is old enough and healthy enough and thereby put into risk those that are too young or too frail? A government (and the citizens who might be called upon to vote a proposal of compulsory vaccination) will have blood on their hands either way. There is no escape from that choice. I don’t pretend to have the right answer for all cases nor do I say experts are placed to have it. I say let the population as a whole decide on whatever arguments they find compelling, just as the population as a whole (ideally, in a democracy) should decide about building nuclear power plants or going to war (actually, I was a conscientious objector back in the day, but I never denied the right of society to put me into harm’s way during a war like other citizens, I only denied it the right to make me kill other people).

    Now, you are quite right that in the case of a new, untested vaccine, it is difficult to tell the real benefits and harms. But when another country has gone ahead and implemented a new vaccination campaign, the number of deaths related to that disease in the years before and after can be reliably counted. My wife studies epidemiology, and we just looked at such a study on a vaccination campaign implemented, and then improved several times, here in Quebec.

  128. @ Fred N. I am aware of that issue, and planting to mitigate the levels, specifically rotating the Tobacco into places that have grown other strongly bioaccumulating plants, and admending soil with other elements. Zinc to be absorbed inplace of Cadmium, and Potassium in place of Uranium. My main defence is dosage. It is worth mentioning here that there may be cause to suspect that the worst consequences on the health of Tobacco may be primarially on account of their uptake of radioactive isotopes. Living in the South West is not ideal in that reguard, but for a handful of plants I can make some special gestures to make the best of it.


    It is interesting that so many cases are comming in from health care, figures that conflicts of experience and theroy would be vividly apparent there. Engenerring, as was mentioned further up, is held to higher standards because its failures are more intersubjective, and easier to punish. The decline of science to my mind seems ever so much like the fall of augury I have heard of in the Roman case; figures that a keen observer of birds could very readily observe many useful things for the interestes and concerns of a argarian people inclined to go on marches. Birds often get the first tip on the weather and and progression of the seasons and such. It is my understanding in later days augury became ruled by so complex a set of rules and exceptions that a cunning augur could read any interpretation out of the sky which was desired by their client.

    This dovetails into the first crack in abstraction and ideology. At sufficent complexity it becomes unreasonable to expect even the most educated in society to stay informed of a usefully sized fraction of the abstraction. At that point the option of reducing the sophisticated abstraction into a crude and useful ideology is right ahead. An ideology (in the sense of an idol made from a decrepit set of abstractions) is hard to critique because even the most qualified expert can in reality only comment on a small fraction of it, and can easily be dismissed by nit-wits for picking nits.

    As a picker of nits, I have often had the experience of challenging some ideology or another. If my memory serves me, any relativly successful attack provokes a call for an alternative abstraction to take it’s place. The idol is dead, long live the idol. Your vital point here, and a point that has been poking at me too, is that replacing one abstraction which can be used as a coat hanger of authority (which I am calling an idol) with a different one is a mook’s game. The underlying issue with amok abstractions is still in action.

    It seems that was we need then isn’t other abstractions, but other habbits of interaction. Listening to the testimony of our friends at face value, judged by that persons character and your relationship first of all and only dimmly by how it accords with fashionable abstractions. Finding common truths just among the folks one is communicating with, not concerned with the universality of those truths.

    JMG, I have noticed that when possible you prefer to use examples from history inplace of generalized abstractions; exception cases where your audiance needs to be able to use some kind of abstraction to unpack a sophisticated point. But, how does historical bits related to the commonplace? I mean they are real events, instead of an abstractions smugging of indefinent events, but some of those claims of history seem as distant from lived experiance all the same. Consider the case of the augurs, it fits with this parallel narrative, but I couldn’t ask a Roman about it. I have an image knitted together from some remarks you once made, I forgot when, and a few hours of poking around on the internet for sources, and my own observations of my neighborhood birdwatcher.

  129. @Jessi T. – I would mostly agree with your comments on gun control and abortion, though I believe they are couple of issues which polarize many at the emotional level to a point where little to no compromise is available. If people calmly approach the topics, it doesn’t stay that way long.

    Gun control may be about safety, but it’s several flavors. Some want to feel safe from criminals and crazies and “get rid of” guns entirely, but others want to feel safe from tyranny – which is, in theory, what the 2nd Amendment is all about. Guns are the great equalizer, and allow Granny to protect herself from the neighborhood thugs – and while she may not require an assault rifle for that, others will insist they need arms to compete with .gov forces should it come to that. It comes down to trust in government – the police and law enforcement and military on one side that provides safety, or distrust in government and retaining the options to protect individual liberties. And those two base views take the issue down many rabbit holes. “Common sense” laws are dependent on proper enforcement of the laws, and ignore the fact that criminals, by definition, don’t adhere to them anyway.

    As for abortion, I agree that many pro-choice folks don’t want more of them, as it’s a lousy form of birth control. Myself, I’m in the camp of keeping government out of the issue before they direct other measures of eugenics and begin matched breeding laws and mass sterilizations. Pro-lifers can take up the cause to change the Constitution and define life beginning at conception, but obviously a return to back-alley procedures with no alternatives is dicey.

    The only positive take-away I get from these two issues currently is that they’ll both soon be swamped by higher priority concerns, and will take a back seat to more pressing problems of decline. My two cents….:-)

  130. More abstract thinking. Apparently it is news for Google workers that their product is being used for military purposes:

    The comments on Hacker News, which I will not inflict on you, are even more bizarre. Apparently people doing research with obvious military application do (or want to) believe that by them not getting involved in the development of the actual weapon system, their conscience is clean. A minority embrace killer robots as innevitable result of progress. Reflection on the ethics of the military career path is sorely lacking.

  131. DT,

    If I ever have kids I might not vaccinate them for a very simple reason: I’ve had too many medical treatments that aren’t supposed to cause any problems cause problems for me, and for people I know and trust. Side effects are a part of every medicine, and if the vaxers aren’t willing to talk about it, I don’t trust vaccines, pure and simple.

    I also have a link to a paper looking at adverse effects, and the risks of vaccines, so the claim they are perfectly safe isn’t supported by the scientific papers either. If past experience is anything to go by, the response will be to claim it’s fraud, or perhaps that the risks are so minute they can be ignored. Both those arguments are unlikely to convince me.

    Unless and until I see vaxxers grappling with the fact that vaccines cause harm, I see no reason to believe anything else you say without very good evidence, and a lot of the evidence provided is not up to my standards.

    I also find it plausible that vaccines used to be safer, but now are of declining quality due to a variety of cost saving measures being used, but I’ve not found any evidence to support that suspicion yet.

  132. All–

    Re conversations and bridging the divisions of abstraction

    Perhaps I’m just in a near-term funk from recent experiences, but I’m having a hard time seeing how we can even *begin* to have a conversation in a world where everyone is immersed in the abstractions of the day. I can’t speak about “how do we pro-actively deconstruct the American empire” or “how can we build a sustainable, self-reliant national economy” when the notions of unstoppable globalization, the inherent virtue of free-trade, and the evils of nationalism run rampant. It is hard to feel that nothing will be done because no one cares to do anything — and of course, by the time people begin to see that something needs to be done, it will be far too late to do anything remotely as effective as what could have been done now (or what could have been done four decades ago).

    I struggle with walking away from these conversations I know will go nowhere, even though I know it is best for the use of my own energy, because surrendering the field to the forces of the status quo grants them a victory they don’t deserve. They maintain their bully-pulpit and we are silenced. They retain power and we are cast to the sidelines. They are lauded and we are vilified. And all the while, precious time and resources trickle away.

    My apologies. I’m ranting. I’m just struggling right now with finding that entry-point of commonality in these circumstances.

  133. @Austin: “If the court systems adhere to science over anecdote, even if that P value of statistical likelihood has been fudged, then any cay case involving science versus anecdote will come out with science winning… Even if the science is fudged.”

    Ain’t no IF about it. There was a scathing National Academy of Sciences review a few years ago that got no traction. Much “forensic science” is completely faked. You may have heard of certain supposed signs that a fire was caused by arson that have now been proven not to be evidence of such. A few years ago Texas – no surprise there – executed a man for “killing his family with a house fire” even though he had been clearly exonerated. And other arson investigators continue to present these, now lies, to juries.

    Or the case of bite mark evidence, men railroaded into prison because only they could have left a bite mark on a murder victim, who were later exonerated. Before that it was hair analysis – any African-American hair obviously came from any African-American defendant. Fiber analysis, tool cutmark analysis, bullet isotopic ratio analysis – all either overstated or actually fake.

    The Nation (IIRC) recently covered a coroner in a Southern state who testifies about multiple such methods in court, though being trained in none of them, and courts allow it. There are never positive or negative controls, so there is no way to find out even whether the purveyors of these methods CAN tell the difference between two bite marks, much less whether they intend to try.

    DNA methods are more precise, by the way – unless they are deliberately faked, which probably happens, as a police chemist was recently busted for faking thousands of drug tests. Once they have that swab from you, they can stick it into whichever eppendorf tube they like… who is to see?

  134. @Jessi, CR Patino:

    Thanks for your suggestions, even though I would disagree on the specifics! In particular, I think that when somebody begins to pay taxes, that person is already in a (at least slightly) better position than a random pick from the general population: possibly more well-to-do parents, possibly better parenting, possibly better inborn health etc… So if everybody coolly and correctly calculated their own odds of some day needing social safety, the numbers wouldn’t add up because of those who started out in such a worse position that they will always be unable to pay taxes. On top of that, people who decide not to contribute to social safety might implicitly count on other people’s more generous instincts!

    John Rawls proposed the famous veil of ignorance, where you decide on a system of government without knowing what position in that system (and what degree of health…) you will be born into. His veil might make more sense for people who believe in reincarnation 🙂

  135. I don’t know who are those people who claim that no vaccine has any adverse effects ever. Personally, I have never met such a person… Thanks for the systematic review, Will J!

  136. @Mattias.

    First, may I say that, given the personal experience you have, I can totally understand where you are coming from. (And where your passion is coming from!). I truly hope your daughter recovered well and that ye continue to have the joy of each others company!

    As to your proposal to vote, yes. That would be one way to – temporarily, at least – resolve the issue, providing you and I and each other person gets a single vote on whether X or Y vaccination is to be made compulsory. You may vote in favour. I will likely vote against. And this is for a simple reason, that I am not sure if you have yet grasped. The reason is that *I* have yet to see evidence compelling enough to convince me that an unvaccinated child puts others at risk. I also note that the personal experience you shared does not speak to this matter.

    (This lack of compelling evidence, for me, is not for lack of looking – as a layperson I am probably more widely read, on this matter, both the non-paywalled scientific literature AND the individual case histories than 90% of my peers – and, I suspect, *probably* better read on this matter than around 80% of medical doctors).

    Obviously, if you continue to believe unvaccinated children pose a danger others, you will vote differently to me. So be it. (Should you prevail, I will then, likely, find myself among the “conscientious objector” population, which is likely to be marginalised, and possibly even quarantined.)

    So long as vaccination is NOT compulsory, then “voting” will be strictly a matter of individual practice in accordance with conscience and belief – as I believe it should be.

    What I would really like, though, is to remove the power corporations now have to influence the production of scientific “knowledge”. They are not “voting,” but using their money and clout to buy both the knowledge and the regulations they need to sell their products. And I find it very frustrating that when I advocate for informed consent, and this runs counter to corporate marketing, aimed at selling corporate products, in the interest of protecting corporate profits, I am treated as if I were attacking “science”. To my mind, I am doing the opposite. I want more research into all the questions raised and as yet unanswered by people’s reactions to vaccinations and other related matters, just not more statistical marketing fudge.

  137. Stefania, excellent! It’s when you realize that most of your opinions and ideas belong to other people that you can begin the central work of an age of reflection — the work of learning how to think your own thoughts, and assess other people’s opinions and ideas and your own with a set of critical tools that don’t depend on checking their fit to some collectively approved set of abstract generalizations.

    Millicently, that’s one of the reasons I stressed the role of self-interest in understanding belief. Nobody likes to talk about the fact that those people who claim to be in possession of the unvarnished truth nearly always are talking their book, spouting those claims that will benefit them personally, whether in a social sense or a grubbily financial one. The image of James Dean, by the way, is great — absurd images feature extensively in my energy work, as they stick in my mind more easily than many others.

    Hubertus, interesting. Where did you learn of the gedankenbrücke technique?

  138. Like ForcastingIntelligence, I am also interested in your take on the radical trans gender activist movement.

    I have a personal interest as my oldest son is becoming my oldest daughter, without the benefit of extensive counseling on possible ill effects, including changing your mind later on. Among other things, ‘they’ discovered that gall bladder disease was a serious, possible consequence of hormone therapy when ‘they’ had to have emergency surgery.

    I have to wonder about the possibility of harm when you voluntarily sign up to become a slave to the industrial-medical-pharmaceutical complex. The complex makes plenty of money because none of this is cheap.

    Thank you for all your clear thoughts.

    Teresa from Hershey

  139. Well, JMG – Whitehead is not easy reading, because he uses words in ways that are difficult and not commonplace and take tiime to parse. It can take me several hours to make sense of a page. Still, the hairs are standing on the back of my head as I co-read this post and his lecture.

    Discussing the relation of “finitude” and “infinitude” and his belief that (for example in the Platonic philosophical tradition of “forms”) an unbalanced emphasis has been placed upon the “mere sense of infinitude” in European thought, he says the following:

    “In the history of European philosophic thought, in the history of great thinkers, a curious wavering can be detected on this question. The appeal to life and motion is interwoven with the presupposition of the supreme reality as devoid of change. Changeless order is conceived as the final perfection, with the result that the historic universe is degraded to a status of partial reality, issuing into the notion of mere appearance. The result has been that the most evident characteristic of our experience [change] has been dismissed into a subordinate role in metaphysical construction. We live in a world of turmoil. Philosophy, and religion, as influenced by orthodox philosophic thought, dismiss turmoil.”

    And this:

    “Aristotelian logic is founded on this primary deliverance of abstractive consciousness, namely ‘that entity exemplifying this quality, apart from any reference to things beyond’. Also scientific practice is founded upon the same characteristic of omission. In order to observe accurately, concentrate on that observation, dismissing from consciousness all irrelevant modes of experience. But there is no irrelevance. Thus the whole of science is based upon neglected modes of relevance, which nevertheless dominate the social group entertaining those scientific modes of thought… Since all things are connected, any system which omits some things must necessarily suffer from such limitations.”

    Re Whitehead, he seems to imply that if we see the baseline reality as “changeless order” then all its continuing change will seem to be mere “appearance”. This speaks, I think, to Schopenhauer. But his sweep is grander, catching up the whole of the European philosophical tradition, and trying to name the parts of experience it has neglected – in this case, change, movement, alteration.

    Anyway, I apologise – I realise that I am oversensitive on the vaccination issue. It is, for me, bother personal and anecdotal, and therefore deep. But the topic of this post is abstraction vs the commonplace (ie not vaccinations). ( still struggle greatly with this in terms of communication. I will, however, draw a line under making any further mention of vaccinations per se within the comment thread. Many thanks for another thought-fertilising post.

  140. Extremely interesting post Mr. Greer

    The medical case of MSG is suitable tallking at the same time of Giambattista Vico, because, as you know, one of his battles against Cartesianism was around medicine, for example when talking about the applicability of the rationalistic approach to the healthcare he said: “né meno serve alla stessa medicina, perché l’uom di Renato dagli anatomici non si ritruova in natura” (“Nor does it serve the same medicine, because the man of Rene (Descartes) from the anatomists does not exists in nature “), and all the critics he made around the “clear and distinct truths” which is the basis of the Rationalist method and also of the scientific method as have been applied normally, but that does not fit what exist in Nature

    At the end Newton was a licky guy, he try and solve the two body problem and show a way to know “all the secrets of Nature”, but he was clever enough not mention the 3 or n-body problem….but as a tool to extend a worldview and attack the legitimacy of the “Old Order” was fantastic (but the Humanist know what was all about)

    About the yuuuuuuge “Reproductibility Crisis” in Science, there is the famous article of Ioannidis with the provocative title: Why Most Published Research Finding Are False?

    Other authors estimate that of biomedical researchs a range between 70% to 90% are irreproductibles, as saying “These estimates fit remarkably well with estimates of 85% for the proportion of biomedical research that is wasted at-large”

    May be the scientist needs to know more of the real world? (certainly they cannot in the present paradigm), anyway with time “save” Science, as institution, will be more and more difficult:

    As another “statistically significant” proof of this problems are the withdrawal from the market of medical drugs after posioning thousands of people; as a short list that I can remember are: Chlordimeform, Talidomida, Phenformin, Oraflex, Clioquinol, Selacryn, DES, Tylenol (2º), Omniflox, Fen-Phen, Baycol, Seldane, Duract, Palladone, Posicor, Propulsid, Hismanal, Vioxx, Bextra, Lotronex, Cylert, Accutane, Permax, Raplon, Meridia, Darvon, PPA, Trasylol, Raptiva, Mylotarg , Rezulin, Zelnorm, etc…..
    All of them approved after a “rigorous” process of trials following the strictest rules of the scientifc method that, of course, must be applied to the more important thing: saving lifes

    About vaccines or in general, the modern medical treatment, their real impact, for example in the increase of the life expectancy of the people is yuuuuuugly overestimated. Read this:


  141. The idea of having a legal system in which “justice is blind” sounds very good. But odd, when you think about it. Why not “justice is un-biased”? Answer: the idea is that if the jury knows the plaintiff and defendant personally, or knows anything about the crime from personal experience, they can’t be allowed the judge the issue. They are given the boot and a different jury is selected, one that knows nothing about the case until they hear about it in the courtroom. Implication: bias stems from knowledge; being un-biased entails being ignorant.

    I see the point, but look what can happen – a classic case of abstraction being allowed to over-ride anecdotal reality.

    Over here in Britain we’ve just had a case where a pensioner confronted armed burglars and stabbed one of them with a kitchen knife, and killed him. Naturally the pensioner was arrested – you can’t have folk interfering with burglars who are only trying to make a living.

    To my astonishment, just this once, there was such an outcry, the 78-year-old was freed and the State decided not to prosecute after all. Abstraction (the law must have a monopoly of force against criminals) came up against anecdotal common sense and the latter has won! On this occasion, at any rate. Most unusual.

    The problem remains, that the scales are always weighted against common sense, because as soon as you know anything about what happened, you become “biased”, i.e. knowledgeable about particulars. The only way to be “just” is not to know anything…

    I’m exaggerating, I know. Fact is, I’d prefer the right of self-defence to exist in anecdotal practice. But then it’s all very well for me to talk – I don’t happen to be a burglar.

  142. Sadly, I will have to back you up on the science-for-hire concept.
    In the world of Pharmacy, a couple of years ago there was published a study done in Germany which concluded that people over 70 years old who take proton pump inhibitors (Pantoprazole, Omeprazole, etc) for more than 8 months are 1.7 times as likely to develop dementia than those who do not use PPI’s. Another study found that these folks were developing the same sort of placques in their brains that you see in Alzheimer’s patients.
    So, after watching me tell a little old lady about these possible effects, and after watching the same little old lady decide not to buy her pantoprazole, the pharmacy manager googled up some more recent studies (with study design issues that made them non-comparable to the earlier studies) that seemed to indicate no risk–and asked me to prove to him, within 3 minutes, why he should go with the first studies and not the second ones.
    I have very limited time to chase down these kinds of issues at work. So practically speaking, it has become nearly impossible to get information about which you can be confident.

    I run into that quote ( by Upton Sinclair?) that says something like, “It is almost impossible to getn someone to understand a truth when his job depends on him not understanding it.”

  143. On the one hand, I am grateful that I have never had Small Pox or Polio and I think that I have had that good fortune due to the use of wide spread vaccinations against those diseases. At the same time, anecdotally, a family member has serious eye problems, and in one instance the doctors even speculated that his eye problem was cause by an inflammation reaction from a flu vaccine he had received a week or so before.

    I also think there is some investigation into the possibility that some autism may be the result of an inflammation reaction during a vulnerable stage Human development. So an inflammation reaction from vaccines could be a subset of inflammation reaction triggering a complex situation during a developmental stage.

    I remember being told once that Albert Einstein once said that you should never bother to memorize something you can look up, of course we live in an era in which it’s easy to access information and we have easy access to writing and recording things.

    JMG thank you for writing about developing the skills of rhetoric. This blog gives me so many things to think about!

    Sorry if this is duplicate post, the page seemed to hang up the last time I tried to submit.

  144. David Trammel: Thanks for this, very interesting!

    Y. Chireau: Thanks for your response! By “astral temple” I meant something closer to what David Trammel describes in his linked post – an imaginal structure created deliberately by the occultist as a form of mental exercise and as a location/focus for magical work conducted mentally in one’s “body of light”, as well as a base from which to begin astral travel. Your description of mapping the inner-plane correlates of sacred sites is interesting too though! Could you expand a bit on the difference between astral travel and the method you reference of moving your consciousness to these places?

    Twilight: Genuine question, although it’s probably going to sound snarky – if you believe that the science showing vaccines are “effective at all” is faked, what is your explanation for why pretty much no one gets polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough any more? Except, of course, for the occasional unvaccinated kid whose death is widely reported “pour encourager les autres”. I’m sincerely curious to know what the “anti-vaccine” explanation for this is. Maybe I’m misunderstanding your meaning?

  145. Of course, you could live in California, and pay the highest sales and income taxes, and have platinum level government services. 😛

  146. JMG and all
    I’m still chugging along with ideas from last week – e.g. the Virtue Continuum link posted in a comment. What with that and Aristotle I thought of making a list of the different virtues derived from for example the Biblical background as well as virtues from Aristotle and from the preceding ‘Heroic Age’. (h/t Alasdair MacIntyre) It would need a lot of time and that is in more than usual short supply just now, (belated sudden Spring and all that), but in the meanwhile just bearing the categorizations in mind might help with ordinary conversations and getting through the hedge of ‘abstractions’ or ‘opinions’. If we ‘look into’ the conversation and the other person(s) we might occasionally find / appreciate ‘virtue’ on some continuum or other, despite the dire or crackpot nature of much of the opinion?

    Phil H

  147. @Will J: Funny! See the comment above by Dan M showing that female M.D.s have learned how to be just as obtuse as their male counterparts. It is due, I think, to the way M.D.s have been trained to be all in military mode: snap decisions and over-bearing authority. Now that some medical schools have acknowledged the benefits of team-mode diagnostic decision-making, there may be some chance for improvement. But I am not hopeful that the newer idea will soon become widespread.

  148. “(For a perfect example of how this works in practice, listen to the way that people on both ends of the political spectrum in today’s American spit out hateful caricatures of their opponents’ beliefs, values, and goals.) ”

    Oy… no kidding. And the media makes everyone feel like they just have to have an opinion about everything – whether the person knows or cares about the subject or not. There are all these hot button subjects that are used by the elites to divide people so that they are easier to manipulate. And since this is America dagnabbit then we’re all experts on every subject.

    Guess what? I have no opinion on whether abortion should be legal or not. The subject never concerned me so I have no opinion.

    I have no opinion about prayer in the schools – I don’t care. It’s all rote anyway.

    I have no opinion about guns – I don’t care. I like the ones I have but see reasonable arguments for some restrictions. So it’s no hot button issue for me.

    I have no opinion about a lot of things that the media keeps using to divide us. But the things almost all of us care about – wars, taxes, government policies – the media never talk about that. It’s all just “so and so liberal commie traitor said this!!!” followed up by “that conservative fascist right winger said something else!!!”.

    Guh… the cacophony is wretched. I don’t do any social media and I sometimes think people who do need to be very careful with that tonic. Seems like heady stuff.

  149. Dan,

    I have something similar: I had a rash on the back of my neck that, while ugly, didn’t cause me any issues. My family persuaded me to get it looked at, and I was prescribed a medication that pretty much instantly turned the “no issue” rash into a very big problem: it burned and itched so much I ended up scratching to the point it bled. I finished the treatment, it went away, but came back a little later. Same thing happened again, because the doctor refused to take into account my prior experience, stating, basically, I was misattributing the symptoms of the disease to the drug.

  150. @Matthias Gralle,
    I think a middle ground would be possible regarding vaccination. Most people perceive benefits from vaccination against severe illnesses, like rabies in our pets, smallpox, which is no longer the threat it was a couple centuries ago, tetanus, polio (though that one’s controversial). If I ever get back to Russia, I will try to get the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine, which is not available in Japan (the reason I had to give up leading ecotours to Siberia). It doesn’t prevent the disease entirely, but it does seem to minimize the severity.
    The law of diminishing returns seems to apply here, however. I won’t go into it, because it is mired in controversy.
    The Japanese vaccination schedule seems to be a good compromise. It does not overwhelm children, and no opposition movement has arisen here. Trust in science also remains high in Japan. A case of fraud was brought forth last year and publicly pilloried. The value of trust is very well acknowledged in Japan. When you lose it, it’s anybody’s guess what the truth might be. In the worst case, you get rumors leading to persecution of certain groups.

  151. Will,

    I suggest a radical change of community for you. You can’t argue with crazy.

    By the way, if women never stalk men, how come my son called me in desperation from the interstate, where the girl he had tried to break up with was following him in her car and he only would get off if he could come straight to my house so I could witness her. And what I witnessed was that he got a very hard fist to his face.

  152. DT,

    The reason that herd immunity is important is that vaccines do not give true immunity. If they did, no one would worry about herd immunity.

  153. @Twilight:
    I am very sorry for your son.

    Please note that I was specifically and concretely referring to “vaccination against polio, yellow fever, dysentery or typhus in endemic areas”. I thought it wasn’t necessary to make the case for the efficacy and merit of polio vaccination. Actually, I do think vaccination is on topic for this thread as an example of overcoming abstract generalizations.

  154. Dewey, not so. Here’s an article on pharmaceutical industry payments to doctors who prescribe opioids to patients — some get up to $2600 a year in kickbacks for prescribing opioids. My understanding is that this is standard practice across the board when it comes to pharmaceuticals in the US medical system. That said, you’re quite correct that all the other factors you’ve named also encourage doctors to push drugs on their patients; it’s just that there’s also straightforward bribery involved.

    Clay, it’s a rough transition, no question. We’ll get into ways to deal with dubious claims in an age of reflection in later posts.

    L., good. That’s one form of what I’m talking about — find the points of agreement, and then see how far it’s possible to take the conversation from there.

    David, fascinating! I wonder how widespread such techniques are more generally in tribal societies.

    Jessi, give it a try and see what kind of results you get. It’s at least worth testing!

    David, and of course that’s just it. If you personally get nasty symptoms from eating food laced with MSG, it doesn’t matter how many people in lab coats insist that such symptoms don’t exist…

    Forecastingintelligence, the Taoists have a useful tool for making sense of this sort of thing. It’s when yin goes to extremes that you know that the pendulum is about to swing back to yang, and vice versa. Look for a piling up of extreme statements and extreme beliefs, and you have your advance warning of the turn of the tide. As for the next twelve years of economic history, that’s a complex issue, and probably needs a post of its own down the road a bit.

    Yves, excellent! Glad to see that you’re paying attention.

    Stephen, true enough. What’s more, since Trump’s campaign people (unlike Clinton’s) had the brains the gods gave geese, they aimed their election strategy at winning electoral votes rather than just planning for a supposedly inevitable coronation. If we had an electoral system based on pure popular vote totals, they would have pursued a different strategy, and quite possibly won anyway.

    Berserker, thanks for this. A good omen!

    Christopher H., you might consider starting with one that isn’t a poorly disguised attempt to start a fight…

    Y. Chireau, I agree heartily with your recommendation of Mary Carruthers — I have three of her books on my bookshelves — but they’re rather more detailed and less easy to read than Frances Yates, which is why I always recommend Yates’ The Art of Memory first.

    Cortes, good. Now imagine that a society in the midst of an age of reflection concentrated on ways to allow people to test the bona fides of claims of personal experience with the same intensity that we’ve focused on ways to test the bona fides of abstract generalizations. (This does in fact happen.) As for the Skripal business, the one thing I take for granted in such situations is that everyone involved — the British, the Russians, the media on all sides, etc., etc. — is lying through their teeth.

    Lore Co, I hope I have the chance to visit rural Ireland someday.

    Carlos, as I haven’t had the opportunity to raise a child, I’ve long felt that my best approach to such questions is to shut up and leave the field to those who actually know what they’re talking about.

    Will, I find it wryly amusing to watch self-proclaimed claiming that rank Victorian sexist cant is liberated and liberating, so long as it advances their self-interest. Next thing you know they’ll be spouting rhetoric out of Coventry Patmore’s “The Angel in the House” and insisting that it’s the last word in liberated thinking…

    Dan, it’s a very common experience. I wonder if the physicians who so blithely prescribe drugs that harm their patients have any notion that they’re laying the foundations for a tremendous backlash…

    Jill, that’s an important point. Most privileged middle class Americans go out of their way to avoid encountering anybody of a lower class except in a carefully controlled commercial setting — buying a latte, being waited on by a server at a restaurant, getting a home repair done. It’s no wonder they’re so clueless.

    Austin, happens all the time. Our legal system has plenty of problems, and that’s one of them.

    Brigyn, to some extent the vehicle that will preserve science will have to evolve organically; trying a lot of different options is one way to help see to it that this happens.

    Maria, oh, granted. These days the word “racist” as often as not means “I want to bully you.”

    Shane, and it’s by no means certain I ever will, at my age. Trust me, I think these things through!

    Booklover, ding! We have a winner. Exactly; we’re talking about one of the ways that the failure of mimesis takes place.

    Michael, I’m going to suggest a rephrasing: “a reason for me to avoid the stuff.” Why must such things always be phrased as though you were laying down a law for everyone?

    Doppelganger, funny. Glad to hear that my silly example is getting a workout.

    Ray, good. You’re asking the right question. The answer begins with the discovery that the word “commonplace” doesn’t mean now what it once meant. Stay tuned…

    CR, “I am shocked, shocked! that military research is going on in this facility.” I gather that Captain Louis Renault has been reincarnated as a tech geek…

  155. I am trying to tune my ear to the old meaning hidden in the word; it sounds like it is something shared by the people in the conversation, and presumably something that one can count on a good fraction of the public to be able to participate in. The common place is the place that the commoners have in common. It is where we can all meet to order up and work toward a common end.

    I am thinking now of advertisements and how one might tease that they so often target the lowerst common denominations; generally lust, fear, or greed; but of course pride can work on a marketable demographic. Much has been said of those vices that are ever so common. Also I am of the aestetic that the best in people it the most distinctive aspects… that being said this project seems to be calling for a contemplation on the present existance or potential cultivation of common virtues, values, and interests.

  156. Jill said, “I wonder if our inability to even accept that life is really hard for others is partly because we tend to live in enclaves today… ”
    JMG answered, “Jill, that’s an important point. Most privileged middle class Americans go out of their way to avoid encountering anybody of a lower class except in a carefully controlled commercial setting…It’s no wonder they’re so clueless.”

    What perfect timing! I just recently read a Politico article that describes this exactly, when a journalist traveled into the blue bubble of Clinton Country:

    With such attitudes as these on display, it doesn’t surprise me that John and some commenters here have all but predicted a second term for Trump in past blog posts. Now that realization is sinking in elsewhere, as, again, Politico has an article on how the Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot:

    I’ve come to the realization that I’m a line item person. While I consider myself to lean liberal (more in the classical sense instead of progressive) it still depends on the issue at hand. Someone could show me a list representing liberal/Democratic goals, and I might look it over and say “Yes, items 1, 2, 6, and 9 I completely agree with, and think your ideas for implementing them are spot on! Now, on numbers 5, 7, and 10 I agree with you that they need to be addressed, but I don’t agree with the methods you suggest. However, points 3, 4, and 8 I cannot agree with at all because they will cause more harm than good.” Then I could shift over to the next person who hands me a list of conservative/Republican goals, and do about the same. Needless to say, I don’t exactly fit in with any political group now days. Maybe I’m closer to the Libertarians now.

  157. Interesting vaccine discussion–
    Aside from the vaccine issue itself, it is the most civil discussion of the pro’s and con’s of vaccination I have yet read online. 🙂
    Not all vaccines work the same, but I will save my technical points for a (hypothetical) future discussion where vaccination is the topic.

    It occurs to me sometimes that the urge to not vaccinate may be part of a larger strategy of Gaia to cut back the density of the human population. That _is_ what happened to a lot of Europe (and India) when the Black Plague made its rounds, and I think I read that life was eventually better for those who survived it…

    It may also be that direct experience with real epidemics and incurable diseases has largely passed out of living memory, and we no longer appreciate the scope of the real issues. My grandfather’s high school yearbook included photos of the other 15 seniors in his graduating class, but also had ‘In Memoriam’ pages for the two classmates that had died, one of pneumonia and another of an infection that went to gangrene. At the time, antibiotics were still decades away.

    Most of us have never known or seen a person die in agony from Tetanus, although children are starting to die again from pertussis (whooping cough). Know anyone who ever had diptheria? I don’t, and you probably don’t either. Yet it used to go through communities in waves. It is extremely rare for anyone to die from rabies. All of these are easily prevented with vaccines, but very very difficult to treat and often fatal once an infection really gets going.

    Quarantine was the time-honored strategy to deal with epidemics in the past (and probably will be in the future if Ebola ever makes a serious run). If your child got scarlet fever, for example, the family would be quarantined in their home with a quarantine flag out front. No one allowed in or out except a visiting doctor, food left at the doorstep as needed, until the disease had run its course and the doc certified the house as disease-free.

    Perhaps a return to quarantine would be an acceptable compromise in the vaccine discussion; If you choose not to vaccinate and contract one of the target diseases, you agree to be quarantined at home for the duration of the illness.

  158. Y Chireau said: “I wonder if there is a magical/psychic use of ars memoriae. That one might appropriate these techniques of creation and manifestation with the Kalpa Tura, the wish-fulfilling tree of the Hindu tradition, the heart center of the New Agers. Is it ethical to use these memory tools to create realities?”

    Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism) is full of exactly this, though they counsel using such techniques for spiritual awakening not personal aggrandizement.

  159. “Christopher H., you might consider starting with one that isn’t a poorly disguised attempt to start a fight…”

    Well now I’m really confused. I’ll go over the essay again as time permits.

  160. @Matthias Gralle – If you do some web searching on something like “plots of disease mortality vs vaccine introduction”, you’ll find that most of the reduction of mortality from these diseases was achieved before the vaccines were introduced, yet they are credited with all the effect that preceded them.

    As of today there are no vaccines for typhus?

    If you look at Polio, the disease symptoms and the timing of the epidemic strongly correlates with central nervous system damage from DDT.

    As for flu, look into the 1913 flu pandemic and the use of aspirin (then newly generic, cheap and common) to treat fever.

    If you start to look at the studies proving vaccines are safe and effective, many turn out to be no more than statistical crunching of old data – studies of studies with little actual research getting done. If you look into who’s doing and funding the work, it’s by those who have enormous personal stake in the vaccine story, funded by those who have a huge financial stake.

    My son was mostly hurt by the massive doses of mercury he was given, causing damage to the mucous membranes (intestinal lining and blood brain barrier) and the inability to fully break down complex proteins, flooding his system with opiate-like compounds. Years of dietary restrictions, enzymes to break down the proteins, chelation to get rid of the mercury, and a non-stop battle to prevent yeast from taking over finally healed his gut. All the while battling lyme at the same time, for all of our family.

    Today he is a healthy and normal young man – the autistic behavior hints are still there if you know what to look for, but they are no worse than mine. Other children and families we know were not so lucky.

  161. My livelihood is based on a leading abstraction in today’s marketplace (& medical world): the widespread misunderstanding of gluten containing grains. There is a multi billion dollar industry based on anecdotal science that has frightened folks away from eating (and buying) well hydrated, thoroughly fermented grain (ie: real sourdough bread).
    I simply try to educate folks as gently as I can. I attempt to explain the sourdough process in laypersons terms and begin by stating thus “unless you are truly celiac, the problem isn’t the gluten- the problem is the way we quickly process gluten containing grains… the human body wasn’t designed to digest non-fermented grains without adequate hydration. ”

    Anyhow, point being that all I can do is be informed and kindly share my knowledge. I cannot expect to win others over. I have found that in being gentle and informed, I have garnered interest and loyalty from folks who had previously sworn off gluten. And to those who I cannot sway, I simply suggest they wrap their sandwich fixins in a corn tortilla or kale leaf because it would be much more healthful and tasty than gluten free bread.

    *I think much abstraction often comes from a place of wanting a magic bullet to easily solve tricky problems (without having to do the hard work which is necessary to genuinely solve those problems).

  162. JMG-

    Another essay that makes a person think. They say peceptipn iIS reality. Maybe a better way to say it is experience is reality. If you have not had the experience, but someone else has, and you trust them, them you take the experience or truth on auhority. No one trusts the legions of politicians (of both stripes) and scientists and academia anymore, for the reasons you outlined above. Well not no one, but fewer and fewer each year.

    As to MSG, one can say correlation does not equal causation. Maybe good ole Aunt Millie (she is less formal with her favorite nephews) took up chewing Copenhagen again, hence the headache. But Aunt Millie gets her headache reliably when she goes to China Star and wolfs down General Tsos. She says it is the MSG
    Your Co worker had the same experience, you trust them, so you take it on authoriry.. There are so many competing studies, many corrupt (smoking can’t be linked to cancer) that you blow the scientists off.

    FWIW, when a study is cited, I often think of Spiders Georg.

    “average person eats 3 spiders a year” factoid actualy (sic) just statistical error. average person eats 0 spiders per year. Spiders Georg, who lives in cave & eats over 10,000 each day, is an outlier and should not have been counted”

  163. Re: anecdotal data vs theory, with good intentions on all sides: I went to the dentist a little less than two weeks ago with a painfully inflamed area around one tooth. Having had a hip replacement a few years ago, I am still taking 4 amoxicillin tablets an hour before any dental visit that may include drawing blood. The dentist, diagnosing an infection, prescribed a 10-day course of more amoxicillin, and salt rinses.

    I am still recovering from the effects of the amoxicillin. yet, I do understand the dentist’s terror of bacterial infections and to a large extent, share it; we’re needing more and more to do less and less against the bacteria now, and I understand that, too.

    Feeling weak and sick yesterday from that plus mulberry pollen all over the place and possibly some sort of virus, I spoke to a friend of mine, a practicing curandera in addition to her day work. She did a crystal healing/chakra check & cleansing that raised my condition from active misery to quietly neutral; and then, after a light lunch and a nap, to active (if still quiet) cheerfulness. And three of my friends, suffering from the mulberry pollens, have reported excellent results from a homeopathic remedy called Zone 6. On the basis of what they said, I intend to buy some and take it and see what happens.

    To paraphrase another author’s character who also had to accept an altered set of truths on the basis of evidence, “I may be a rationalist, but I’m not a flat-earth rationalist!”

    Shakes head. The world is rapidly changing around me – and so are formerly “eternal” verities.

  164. JMG-

    Thank you for referencing the Zapatistas. They are an insightful bunch. In an effort to discredit them, the Mexican Gov’t spread rumors that Subcommandante Marcos was a homosexual. His response was a classic, and skewered the elites.

  165. GKB,

    I’ve heard women with medical issues get dismissed by female doctors too, so I know it’s not a problem limited to male doctors! I think it’s more likely with men since, we have no personal experience of it, but it is absolutely a mixed gender issue!


    Already done. It took a while to convince them I had no interest in playing along with whatever dysfunctional relationship they wanted from me, but I’ve managed to make it clear to them I don’t want to put with their craziness.

    They’re answer is very simple: you’re lying to protect him. That’s what they said about anyone who said anything in my situation.

  166. JMG,

    I’ve heard certain feminists I know quote parts of “Angel in the House” as exemplifying how men should treat women…. I haven’t yet been in either a conversation where it comes up or in a foul enough mood to point out where it came from, but I’m sure it’ll happen, and I know it’ll be explosive.

    By the gods upper class liberals are weird……

  167. Finally, if a person wants a good dose of anecdotal reality, keep some teenagers around. Having raised three, I can say that their day to day life is defined by anecdote. This is what gave Emma Gonzalez’ speech such power when she said to the NRA, we call BS when juxtaposed against the abstract right to bear arms.

  168. JMG, all,

    Love the blog and comment stream. As for reflecting on each sentence, that’s very difficult. My bullet summary in this thread is as slow as I go.
    I wish I had the fine motor skills to cartoon! Full of ideas but zero natural aptitude and lacking the discipline to make the attempt. I have natural skills that I lean upon, instead
    . Know thyself.
    Think of me as a puppy racing ahead to pee on the next tree or chasing a squirrel. It’s what I do.

    I’ll keep looking around!

    Thanks to all for the thoughtful discourse. I do appreciate it very much.

  169. It’s hard to jump into the conversation this week! So much has been said already.

    On the Art of Memory, I’m not sure if I’ve properly practiced it, or not. The following might be related–

    A few years ago I was staying at someone’s house, and they had a computer in their guest room, with a tiny little green light. I can’t handle that kind of light when I’m sleeping; even if I can’t see it it keeps me awake. The only thing I had to cover it with was a new shirt that I liked a great deal. I knew, though, that if I used it I would almost certainly forget it when I woke up in the morning, leave the shirt at my friend’s place and never see it again. How could I remember it?

    In the qigong training I was doing at the time, we would sometimes imagine pulling down a column of light and then forming it into an “energy ball,” which we would then charge with a particular element or intention. I decided to try something similar. I imagined pulling a column of light down from the heavens and in my hands forming it into a little green goblin. As forcefully as I could I filled the goblin with the thought, “Remember your shirt,” and then set it next to my bed with instructions to repeat those words when I woke up. I then went to bed and did not think about it again.

    As soon as I woke up, much earlier than my nature would prefer, I felt, rather than thought, the words “Remember your shirt,” as if they were beamed into my brain. I picked up my shirt, thanked the goblin, and asked it to disperse.

    After that I started using the goblins, which I referred to in my mind as “memory buggs,” on a regular basis. Mostly I used them to remember things I would otherwise forget, and here their success rate is close to 100%– I don’t know if they’ve ever failed. I also on 2 separate occasions found myself without an alarm clock, and used the buggs to wake up at a certain time. On both occasions they worked flawlessly.

    This went on, until I decided to get to know the buggs a bit better. I entered into meditation and tried to find out where they came from and what they might want. I discovered a very strange twilit realm of endless, tangled black branches; a colossal tree with no trunk set within a red sky. There appeared to be hundreds, thousands, millions of the things there. I spoke with one, and asked it what I could do for them. It asked for 3 drops of blood, which I gave– in my imagination, that is. I didn’t actually cut myself. Nevertheless, the experience creeped me out enough that I stopped using the buggs. Now, when I need to remember something, I imagine a small angel, rather than a creepy goblin.

    I don’t think this is the Art of Memory proper, because I don’t use a location, and I only use the angels when I need to recall some specific thing. I’ve changed this more recently, though–

    The house that I grew up in plays a very powerful part in my imaginal life. I visit it almost every night in my dreams. I find that, when I practice pathworking, doors and passages often lead to it. And when I’m reading a work of fiction, almost every time a character enters a house, it becomes that house. With very little effort, I can visualize myself there, and the experience is multi-sensory and very real. I can see the place exactly as it looked in the 1990s; I can feel the carpet on the staircase, smell woodsmoke from the fireplace, hear my grandmother in the kitchen. A couple of weeks ago– before this post– I had something I wanted to remember long-term, and I had the idea to use the attic of the house to store it in. I closed my eyes, imagined myself walking through the door, up the stairs, and through secret door in the closet of my bedroom that led to the attic. I formed one of the now-angelic memory figures I’ve been using, placed it there, and gave it instructions to remember the events of the day. It’s still there. Last night I placed two more, to remind me to buy a fire extinguisher for the apartment and text my aunt in the morning. These I did. Is this how a proper Memory Palace is formed? The only worry I have is that… well, as I said, I turn up in that house regularly both in dreams and in pathworkings. I put the statues in the attic because I don’t want to clutter the main living area. On the other hand, each room in the house was so thoroughly distinct in its color, function and regular inhabitants from every other (it was a relatively big house, but we had a very big family) that I can easily imagine categorizing things I want to remember by different rooms in the house. Does this work, or is it better to invent a wholly imaginary place? But, as I said, I’ve never been able to astrally immerse myself as thoroughly in an imaginary place as I can in the House.

    I thought I’d have a conclusion, tying the Art of Memory to the process of reflection. Apparently I don’t, and I hope this isn’t off-topic. I did have one more thing I wanted to mention, though, related to memory, and to traditional processes of memory.

    A few months ago I switched martial arts styles, and I’ve been immersing myself more thoroughly in the kung fu system taught at the new school I joined. The other day the sifu was explaining that one of the fundamentals of his system involves learning to defend against 9 different types of attacks, arranged in order of the frequency in which one might encounter them in a street fight. We would need to remember these in order, he said, and we would do well to write them down.

    I did not have a pen or a notebook with me. But while he was talking, I plugged each of the 9 attacks, in order, into the first 9 spheres of the Tree of Life. I found that the fit was almost perfect, and remembering them in order was no problem at all.

  170. Rather coincidentally, I just watched episode 3 of the series on pet cancer that is actually a kind of advert hoping I will buy the series. This one was on pets and vaccines. Yesterday’s episode was about the pet food industry and the problems with pet kibble, which may also contribute to cancer. I like the fact that a lot of effort is put into these presentations, and they hope to get those who can afford it to buy them so as to spread the information for free to those who need it. I do not consider myself as one who can afford it, and have watched a few other similar presentations, but I am thinking of buying this one.

    Reason is, the information is pretty astonishing, and I realize it will be a way to get a lot of people to consider information that relates to human health even though in the video they never come out and say so.

    The conclusion I am coming to about vaccines is that they are a very mixed bag of good and bad. The pro vaxers just don’t want this to be true. It is so convenient to just think that vaccines give immunity and that side effects are rare.

    What if in addition to certain acute problems like autism, they also contribute to cancer? I was aware of the oncovirus #40 that has contaminated human vaccines, but I learned today it is classified as a class 2 carcinogen, whereas the aluminum in vaccines is a class 3. This is all about dogs and cats, folks. Another big alarm bell was that in addition to just generally upsetting the immune system, they said some research suggested that vaccines can take out the operation of the p53 gene. (Not permanently I suppose.)

    As someone who spends much of their free time in Cancer World, this immediately set off alarm bells. The P53 gene is your friend, my friends. It is one of the body’s main defenses against cancer. So we have this big increase in cancer among humans as well as dogs and cats. There are multiple, multiple contributing causes. As a nurse, I had to get several vaccines that I absolutely did not want. Hmm.

    As for dogs and cats, out of love for animals allow me to say: I heard today that we are way overvaccinating them against rabies. The yearly shot was changed to 3 years yet many people and vets still do the yearly. A chihuahua gets the same dose as a great Dane. By law. And studies show small dogs have more health deterioration after vaccines than larger ones. You can get a titer drawn to check immunity. The vaccine companies guarantee 5-7 years immunity. Vaccinating against a disease that the animal has adequate immunity against only harms their health. A couple of vets in the interviews said that they do not re vaccinate themselves against rabies as they know it isn’t good for their health. Instead they draw a titer. One said he has remained immune for the past 15 years and another one said since 1983. So many dogs will actually get lifelong immunity. There’s a lot of sloppy science, and outright nonscience and just convenience going on with vaccinating our pets.

  171. This reminds me of something my editor used to say whenever an article I had written started to get comments attacking the experience of the author (because it was different than the experience of the reader) He knew I never read the comments (this was a large publication that really didn’t police it’s comments at all at the time) so he’d just drop me an email saying, “You had another incorrect personal experience.” Always made me smile.

  172. @PatriciaOrmsby – I am venturing one more comment on this issue, because your compromise position sounds eminently sensible. Prioritising a very small number of diseases that cannot be fought any *other* way than by vaccination, then working on ways to make *those* vaccinations safer and more locally produced would be a more resilient approach. And even more so if it meant working to characterise and pre-identify people for whom vaccination is contra-indicated, and post-treat adverse reactions without easy dismissals, and if it meant continuing to research and fine-tune alternative means for improving immunity and fighting infection that can be practiced at an individual and communal level, so as to break our current dependency on supply chains and technologies that may not survive decline, and so as to take our health back into the domain of direct interaction with the natural world and with one another.

  173. @ Emmanuel Goldstein – “If your child got scarlet fever, for example, the family would be quarantined in their home with a quarantine flag out front. “

    That reminds me of the story my late mother told me once. A few years before she got married, she had gone home to help her father take care of the younger kids when her mother had died suddenly. Her youngest sister (9 or 10 years at the time) developed scarlet fever and in accordance with the practice of the time, their household was quarantined. This was just about the time when sulfa drugs were becoming available so a prescription was duly written out for my aunt. I don’t know if the medication was really effective in helping resolve her scarlet fever but it apparently is a good wormer. Shortly after the drug treatment was started, my mother was drawn by the sound of hysterical shrieks from my aunt who was using the bathroom. She had just passed a fairly good sized intestinal worm and it was still wiggling in the toilet! 😛

    Fortunately Auntie survived the experience and is now pushing 90.

  174. @Robert,
    I guess Britain doesn’t have the “castle doctrine” (a “man’s” house is his castle) like we do in the US. I thought we inherited this from common law? Anyway, according to the “castle doctrine”, people are allowed to use any defense to protect their property and its inhabitants.

  175. @Teresa,
    perhaps Violet could chime in here? She (or he, I’m not sure) is a transgender person with gender reassignment regret, and posted quite a bit about her (or his) experiences on here a while back…

  176. Will, not at all! It means “I want to bully you.”

    David, we’ll get to that. The crucial first step is establishing spaces where such conversations can take place among people who are willing to accept certain simple constraints meant to encourage reflection. You’re in such a virtual space right now, as you read this, and other such spaces — virtual and real — can be built along the same lines. From the tiny acorn grows the mighty oak…

    Matthias, you clearly need to talk to more physicians in the United States.

    Teresa, I don’t have an opinion on the subject, other than that as I’m not personally involved in the issue, a good case could be made that it’s none of my business.

    Scotlyn, I’ve been very impressed by the way that you, Matthias, and other people with strong feelings on the issue of vaccination have been able to have a civil conversation on the subject and express differences of opinion without getting into name-calling and the like. One of the things that’s furthered that, I think, is that you and others have been careful to speak about your own experiences and place the discussion in terms of your own personal situation, rather than plunging into abstract generalizations. That’s why I’ve permitted the discussion to go on — it’s been a good example of how an extremely loaded issue can be discussed intelligently by people who disagree.

    DFC, excellent! Vico’s ghost has been hovering over this whole project, of course, both because of his background as a rhetorician and because his cyclic theory of history forms the backdrop for this entire discussion. Yes, exactly — and his critique of Descartes (and of a Cartesian approach to medicine) remains valid today, for reasons that include those you’ve pointed out.

    Robert, I have to admit that the bit of UK law you’ve mentioned here has always struck me as stunningly daft — but then I’m a Yank, of course. In most US states, you have the legal right to use lethal force against an intruder in your own home, full stop, end of sentence. It’s called the “castle doctrine” — odd, that we’ve got a castle doctrine and no castles, and you’ve got plenty of castles and no castle doctrine. 😉

    Emmanuel, yep. I’ve seen it from the other end — as I’ve mentioned more than once, I witnessed blatant scientific fraud being treated as business as usual in both my stints in college, and have done enough research into the subject after leaving college to know that it’s incredibly common, especially in fields such as pharmaceutical science.

    Candace, Einstein was wrong about quantum theory, and he was wrong about memory, too. I’ll get to the reasons why in an upcoming post.

    Shane, when I lived in Oregon I was 14 miles north of the California border, and those were my favorite 14 miles in the world. I’ve visited California tolerably often, covering the ground from Mount Shasta to San Diego, and all things considered, I’d sooner live in Hell.

    Phil H., seems to me that that could be a very useful approach.

    Gregory, thank you. You’ve just earned this evening’s gold star for a crucial observation: if you have no personal stake in an issue, it’s worth asking whether there’s a point in having an opinion about it at all. My call to revive the Order of Anti-Poke-Noses has that as one of its themes.

    Ray, excellent. Stay tuned… 😉

    Joy, thanks for both of these! Yes, exactly; the soi-disant “Resistance” really is doing all in its power to guarantee Trump a second term.

    Christopher, by all means. We’ll be revisiting the concept, too, so you’ll have additional chances to get it.

    Suzanne, may I offer one hopefully useful correction? There are also allergies to wheat proteins that fermentation doesn’t fix. (My wife has one of those, in addition to celiac disease.) There’s also the effect of heavy doses of RoundUp on wheat and other grains, which seems to produce a range of nasty health issues too often mistaken for problems with the grains themselves, but of course that’s another issue entirely…

    And you’re right about gluten free bread, I’m sorry to say. I used to love to bake bread, in the days before Sara’s allergies went haywire; these days I make sushi instead, because what passes for gluten free bread is as disappointing to make as it is to eat.

    William, thank you for referencing Spiders Georg! I foresee many uses for him and his arachnivorous habits in future posts…

    Patricia, I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised by the homeopathic medicine. I’ve been using biochemic tissue salts (an offshoot of homeopathy) for home health care now for thirty years, with excellent results. As for your friend the curandera, well, that doesn’t surprise me a bit; as a good many of my occultist friends like to say, TSW — that is, “this s*** works.”

    William, you’re most welcome.

    Will, okay, that got tea all over my keyboard. Do these so-called feminists have the least notion of what they’re saying? Are they really full of enthusiasm about being consigned to a life of enforced domesticity and submissiveness toward men? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; when corset-makers sell their wares at neopagan festivals and ardent feminists boast about being collared submissives “owned” by male masters, the return of the repressed has clearly gone into overdrive…

    Phil K., thanks for this.

    Mike, well, it’s your life, of course. I’ve found that trying to do things for which I have zero natural talent is extraordinarily useful, but your mileage may vary, of course.

    Steve, I don’t recommend using a place that has strong emotional or spiritual ties as the basis for a memory palace; the material you’re trying to remember too often gets overlaid with emotional business from other sources. That said, yes, the technique is basically the same.

    Onething, thanks for this. I get the impression that there’s a lot of sloppy science, outright nonscience, and mere convenience going on generally…

    Sng, thank you. That’s seriously funny.

  177. Phil Knight: That article about the “dead-end-left” was amazing. For those who haven’t following the link (yet), I’ll provide the briefest possible summary: “In attacking religion (in its broadest sense), Marx made belief in Marxism itself impossible. In liberating the individual from every form of social oppression, the left has destroyed community.” There’s much, much more, of course. This just an enticement (I hope).

    In the interests of promoting “community”, these are some things I’ve done in the last few days: staffed an ham radio communications station in a local hospital (for a drill, “just in case”), projected a thought-provoking film (“Eight Men Out”) to neighbors of my church, taken delivery of direct-from-the-farm meats and vegetables, met with a ham radio club (most members of which are of an age past retirement) for lunch, and pulled a large sheet of wind-blown plastic out of the highway median (because doing so made my world less ugly). This is not to self-nominate for sainthood, but just to show that SOMETHING can be done. If your place of work is your only community, remember that you can be dismissed at any time, and will pass into retirement (if you live so long).

  178. As today’s example of “bogus science”, I offer an article “CRLH TLs and SIRs Lead to the Incredibly Shrinking Antenna”. (Don’t worry about the acronyms.) The key idea is that mobile device makers are always looking for ways to make devices smaller, but antennas are stubbornly dependent on physics. This article implies that the authors have found a breakthrough in size reduction. Not until the fourth page of equations and graphs do we discover that one of the celebrated designs has a radiation efficiency of just 1%. A less technical phrase for “1% radiation efficiency” is “doesn’t actually work”. The other design works much better… but it isn’t actually “small”. So, my take is that while there is nothing factually deceptive about the work, but there’s nothing actually valuable to it, either.


  179. John–

    Re the planting of the seed

    I do understand. It is the pace that kills me. I realize that I’m still trapped in the perspective of an impatient human being. But it is difficult to watch things falling apart knowing how we could be already doing things differently to at least make the future less bad.

    Even as I write this, I can hear my wife (in my head) asking me if, after I plant my garden, I will stand over the beds and yell at the vegetables to grow faster? To which I answer (in my head) that the difference is that we are fully capable of making better choices as a society and it is only our shortsighted foolishness that keeps us from doing what needs to be done, unlike plants which grow according to their own capabilities. I see that my fallacy here is that I am seeing humanity not as it is, but as I think it should be, and that we too are collectively limited to growth and change according to our own capability. Sigh.

  180. @Patricia Matthews,
    I’ve been dealing with dental issues recently, too. Repeated thorough cleanings seemed to result in new cavities occurring that had not been present before. The dentist, of course, thinks it’s coincidental. I’ll go elsewhere to get them treated. This caused me to look into new trends in biological dentistry, and they say a good dentist ought to have a microscope available and look for specific pathogens. A person can be doing everything right, but if they are infected by shared food or whatever, cavities or gum disease can occur and be very hard to eliminate. Antibiotics kill the good bacteria as well, allowing bad bugs to invade more freely. Right after hearing this, I got a nasty little infection at the base of a front tooth. I tried a number of different ways of dealing with it, from the careful flossing the dentist had recommended (ho help) to direct application of a tiny amount of tea tree oil (recommended in the literature, but no help) to brushing with coconut oil and baking soda, which I do daily anyway, but finally (okay, fourth) I tried applying 2.5% solution of hydrogen peroxide using an interdental brush, and that killed it. It has not returned. (This is, of course, anecdotal and might not apply to you.)
    Worth a try I reckon.
    A cousin of mine, a devout nun in Houston, Texas, is also shaking her head at the “weirdness” of these times. Best wishes to you!


  181. I won’t say anymore on vaccines unless specifically encouraged to.

    Just in general: JMG told me I should talk to more US physicians, and that is certainly an important point. I have always lived in countries with some kind of universal health care coverage, however complicated or imperfect, and trust in medical doctors and scientists on the whole seems not be as low as in the USA. Many vaccines (sorry…) and other medications are produced, in Brazil, by a highly respected, non-profit lab supervised by the government and called Fiocruz. Another example of concrete, personal experience…

  182. Re: The chemical weapon attack on the Skripals. The story I’ve heard from US media is that “The Russians” (an abstraction) attacked an innocent resident of the UK (and his daughter), for no conceiveable reason, but just out of their (abstractly) evilly evil nature.

    One theory that I have heard (in an NPR interview, when the event was fresh) was that the Russian state may have poisoned Skripal in retaliation for something that the US and/or UK state did. (I use the term “Russian state” as distinct from Russian oligarchs and Russian criminals, and “US and/or UK state” to recognize the tightly integrated nature of our foreign policies.) What might that be? I suppose it should be something fairly recent, yet still allowing time for the operational logistics.

    Over in Syria, we have US troops assisting irregular forces in opposition to Russian irregular forces assisting Syrian troops. Accounts differ as to the details, but somewhere between a handful and three hundred Russian “mercenaries” were reportedly killed by US-supported forces at Deir ez-Zor. Since some of our troops that weren’t there killed some of their troops that weren’t there, maybe some UK troops that weren’t there either had a part in it. So, if “the Russian state” covertly took some damage in February, we shouldn’t be too outraged if they decided to covertly deliver some damage in March.

    To use novichok is to send a signal with just enough ambiguity to avoid provoking an outright state-on-state conflict, but not so much ambiguity as to be waved away as an fortunate accident. The Russian state must lie to preserve that delicate ambiguity. The lies may be all the more effective for not being persuasive. (And there is ambiguity; a Russian scientist might divert some chemicals for a rogue operation, out of a personal need for revenge, or cash.)

    To use a chemical weapon on UK soil is to put the strategists on notice that those mercenaries were someone’s children, and your children are not beyond danger just because you keep them close to home.

    Note: I am not claiming that this is True, or that there’s even any evidence for this speculative tale. I’m just suggesting a scenario in which Russian diplomacy can perhaps be understandable, if ruthless.

  183. @Joy,
    what I find most sad about the Politico article is that organic, sustainable, local food is just another accouterment of wealthy liberal elitism. How sad! If anything, it should be nonpartisan. How many people in red America are dismissing organic food simply b/c of its use as a status symbol and class marker?

  184. Emmanuel Goldstein–I have seen a lamb die of tetanus, Not a pretty sight, I have also known three people who suffered from polio before the vaccines. And my sister and I got whooping cough in 1960. We were 11 and 12 and I don’t think they knew then that the vaccine wore off. The doctor who treated my sister had just started practice and had never seen a case during his training. Our grandmother had to tell him what it was.

  185. Hi John Michael,

    Mate, sick as this week – and not with a man flu, but the full on flu. I can see how folks died in the millions of that same virus way back in 1919. Today I have no voice to speak of, but am beginning to be on the mend.

    To cut a long story short, due to the effects of the flu I lacked the ability to concentrate on ‘The Art of Memory’ techniques and will wait until I’m feeling better. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I do a similar thing using technology – and of course I am old school. Yup, Pencil and paper, and I write thoughts down as they come to me. Of course over the years I have had to develop tools that assist with categorising all those notes. In addition to that, I also set out short and long term goals – all written down of course. And in discussions I take a brief written structure with pointers to keep me on track so that the stories have a coherent narrative and flow correctly. Of course it is not lost on me that ‘The Art of Memory’ is perhaps better suited to a resource constrained future.

    As to the common-wealth, well I reckon most people are trained to pursue their individual goals, and some of those goals can’t be achieved without looting the common-wealth, can they? And of course few would want to touch upon the impact of those actions on other people and the biosphere. I reckon that story stretches back a long way in the human existence. Something just popped into my head and suggested that perhaps the current story was always floating around as an alternative waiting for its day in the sun.



  186. @Scotlyn,
    I couldn’t agree with you more. A great summarization of real issues that need to be dealt with concerning vaccines. I think it is an early sign of collapse that vaccine manufacturers felt they had to be protected from lawsuits, and by being a part of a vital industry in economic hard times, they had increasing clout relative to others, which gave them the ability to do disown their responsibility, which of course gives them even less credibility by eliminating their incentive to produce safe vaccines, resulting in more victims, who would be a terrible burden to the government if acknowledged, who is then incentivized to discredit the victims, causing polarization of people with different experiences and observations, and on it goes.

  187. Lathechuck, 1% radiation efficiency? Okay, that very nearly put more tea on my keyboard. I can do better than that with a toy coathanger.

    David, I get that. The thing is, you’ve got a choice between doing things that won’t have a payoff for a long time and doing things that won’t have a payoff at all. Lovecraft’s very sensible recognition that the universe has never noticed our existence and so can’t be expected to cater to our sense of timing is probably worth meditating on.

    Matthias, and one side effect of universal, government-supervised health care is that the kleptocratic profiteering and outright corruption that’s standard in the US health care industry doesn’t happen where you live. Remember that the US has the worst health care in the industrial world, and the most expensive health care in the world, full stop; my comments are written from the perspective of someone who has to live with that.

    Lathechuck, I suppose that’s possible — but the official UK story about what happened has more holes in it than a cheese grater. At this point I assume as a matter of course that everyone’s media is lying themselves blue in the face about the whole affair.

    Chris, oddly enough, we’ll be talking about pen and paper shortly!

  188. @John Riley
    Check out what Wikipedia says about the hot hand fallacy. Later studies seem to be suggesting that the phenomenon IS real, after all:

    Do you have any proposal for a method of rigorously studying an issue with a thousand confounding variables such as vaccination? Personally, I would suggest two principles:

    1. stop focusing so much on statistics and start recruiting really smart people who can notice interesting connections without having to “prove” them,
    2. stop trying to reduce everything into variables and start taking an interest in the person as a whole, which will result in data that cannot be neatly categorized or analyzed, but will be a more accurate reflection of reality.

  189. Another anecdote here: My dad was a country doctor in Gardendale, Alabama (altho originally from England, long story). It must have been about 1957 when he had all 4 of us all dress up in our Sunday best and drive out to the clinic, a 45 minute drive then, and wait in the line to get the polio vaccine. I think it was because he wanted his patients to see that he believed it was safe and efficacious enough for his own children. There was and still is considerable distrust of what authorities might have to say in the Deep South. This was a time when people with polio sometimes ended up in “iron lungs” for their entire lives after getting polio. His own brother had gotten polio in India years before and was permanently disabled with a brace and a limp for his entire life. DDT was sprayed regularly from trucks through the 60’s and yet,(certainly not saying DDT is good for you or the biosphere) polio was no longer a presence. And I had a friend who told me a story of growing up in the 1920’s in North Dakota when her dad was going to town, her mother admonished him “Don’t bring back any of that diptheria going around!” Many children died awful deaths from diptheria, and I don’t think it is a significant problem in the U.S. presently. So while I understand that vaccines may sometimes cause bad side effects, I don’t think we want to condemn them all as sinister.

  190. I’m reminded of my research a few months back about the possibility of curing myopia through natural means. I came across the story of a man – Meir Schneider – who went from legally blind (20/2000 vision) to 20/70 vision after dedicated application of some simple exercises. His site even has some legal documents to support his claims. Nevertheless, our “scientific” institutions still deny that such a thing is possible.

  191. @JMG and Lathe Chuck re the Skripal fiasco,
    When JMG mentioned that he thought Russia was also lying through its teeth, along with everyone else, I just brushed it off as a rule of thumb when you lack information to confirm which side might be more honest, which is fair, but the “Golden Mean” gives the advantage to bold liars by causing people to doubt the side that is being more honest. People expect fibbing; they give some credit to big lies because it is so far removed from normal behavior. But now, from what Lathe Chuck was describing, curiosity wins out. What do the American media say that Russia is saying?
    In Japan, in recent weeks the five minutes or so of Russian news (Vesti) each morning has been deleted about half of the mornings. I think someone does not want us to hear what they are actually saying. What I keep hearing from Russia is question after question, punctuated by the occasional protest. They claim to be in the dark. I believe them, because I’m in the dark. I’ve not seen any evidence that the Skripals were even poisoned, much less that it was Russia that did this. Who has? Speculations are running wild. Why no manhunt, how did they recover from something with no antidote, etc.
    Right from the start the average person in the West seems to have believed the allegations, because only Russia would do something so nasty, because Russia did such stuff numerous times according to equivocal evidence, if any were necessary, because after all, everybody knows Russia is uniquely evil. This is what I think is called “begging the question.”

  192. Right after the Skripal poisoning case came to light, conservative political commentator and former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan wrote a blog post pointing out there are some very good reasons to be leery of the official British version of the story. There is a good chance we will never know what really happened, but personally, this whole affair reeks of a setup to me. Like Greer, I am deeply skeptical of both sides.

  193. Also, I think part of the issue is that people don’t differentiate between science as a practice and science as the institutions and individuals who participate in the practice of science. This is how we end up with the idea that certain biases common within the scientific community, like materialism or atheism, are inherent to the practice of science, or with people making claims about how “science says this and that” when it’s actually just a group of scientists or a handful of studies that are saying “this and that”.

  194. On YouTube currently, the “war” between the more mainstream science which states global warming is a thing, a big thing, and it’s getting worse than the models predicted, and the grand solar minimumists, who think global warming is a made-up global elite propaganda tactic and what’s really happening is the sun is going into hibernation (or the poles are about to shift, or whatever) is becoming a prevalent topic on YouTube.

    Potholer is debunking Suspicious Observers grand solar minimum videos, for example, and both sides are resorting to ad-hominem attacks as they get more and more frustrated. (Well, Potholer isn’t, but his subscribers are). Meanwhile, Paul Beckwith is at the end of his rope, posting a rare rant about why don’t people trust what all these accredited climate scientists are reporting, and why do these non-scientists with their crazy, non-science-based hypotheses get so many followers.

    Your post is most helpful in understanding these dynamics. Reading your words was like a lightbulb going on.

    If we look at people’s (the grand solar minimum/ coming ice age) anecdotal realities, in which many of them are experiencing colder than normal temperatures, and in which many of them have felt science was an elite club of degreed academics from fancy schools of which they would never be members, and of which many have felt betrayed by the existing ruling class including that ruling class’ scientists, it is easy to see why they would reject global warming science and follow any “science” which bucked the status quo.

    Given that we are talking about the future of all life on this planet, how do we have these discussions? How do we convince people that we must act aggressively, and soon? Potholer’s debunking didn’t change any of Suspicious Observers’ subscribers’ minds. They just dug in their heels even more. I don’t think this is about science. I think it’s about disenfranchisement and distrust and struggle.

  195. My tuppenceworth on the Skripal case is that basically it is Britain and Russia returning to the normal relationship that they have had for centuries, which is one that I call creative hostility.

    The two countries are sufficiently far apart that they don’t constitute a direct threat to one another, but they are also sufficiently proximate that their interests bump up against each another relatively frequently. This is enhanced by the fact that both countries have fairly “global” interests.

    As such, they are always going to irritate one other, but they respond to this creatively by trying to out-smart each other with games of cunning. There’s a benefit to both sides in this kind of low level hostility – it gives both governments an external enemy in order to unite their society (albeit in a fairly lukewarm manner), and it justifies expenditure on defence and intelligence, while also keeping these services “in practice” for when a more substantial enemy comes along (at which point the British and Russians invariably ally with each other).

    Neither side will “win” the Skripal affair by coming out with some devastating diplomatic move, because the essence of the game is continuity – Britain and Russia are “reserve enemies” (or merely adversaries), and it is vital for both sides to remain in being.

  196. Robert Frost would have joined your Order of Anti-Poke-Noses, I am sure: in his rambling diary he obsessively refers to the tendency of many people to seek not ‘power’ as such, but the opportunity to poke a nose in the business of others – which of course you can do even if totally powerless. Well, we are just chattering apes, aren’t we? 🙂

  197. Educational theory seems to have evolved to insist on what I believe is an over dependence on computer (and related) technology at the expense of using reference books and memorization. I am older, and as a youth was required to memorize volumes of mathematical and scientific information so I wasn’t always having to look it up (like knowing 7 x 7 =49, what the cosine would be for a 30 degree angle, what the Ideal Gas Law formula looks like, to memorizing poetry in a literature class, or famous speeches. You get the idea). I still insist that such exercises do much more than retain facts; it TRAINS the mind to retain and recall information faster than would be otherwise be possible. I tell students that practicing memorization has intellectual benefits analogous to how practicing foul shots will result in a better percentage from the foul line in their next basketball game, or allow them to play a musical instrument with much greater skill than would otherwise be possible. I take heart, however, in that I see more and more teachers moving in the direction of memorizing fundamental “tools of the trade” and that they increasingly see computer technology as just one tool that should be employed only when it makes the most sense.

  198. John–

    Thank you for that reminder. I’ll take your meditation recommendation to heart. I realize I was wallowing a bit and the rap on the head was justified. There are days that I’m copacetic and days that I’m terribly frustrated. The former are far, far more frequent than the latter now that I’ve established a regular meditation practice, but I do have periods of relapse (usually following fruitless debates with others I know aren’t going to be swayed to begin with, so very much my own doing). It is a work in progress.

  199. Emmanuel Goldstein,

    Please accept my deepest apologies, for I am about to use one of your comments to point something out. You said:

    “It occurs to me sometimes that the urge to not vaccinate may be part of a larger strategy of Gaia to cut back the density of the human population.”

    Now this strikes me as a very convoluted attempt to explain away behavior that you are so sure is wrong. You are so sure that the arguments about the dangers of vaccines have no merit, that you have pulled in a very mystical sort of conspiracy theory. It can’t possibly be that there are actually valid arguments that some people respond to with a desire to err on the side of caution.

    Yet the funny thing to me is how very carefully we must tread when attempting to go against the way that nature actually works. This is almost a guarantee of trouble. That this should be so strongly resisted simply puzzles me. I am not saying all vaccines are bad. I actually do not buy the argument that they have no efficacy at all. But they are also based upon a 19th century understanding of biology, which turned out – surprise, surprise – to be orders of magnitude more complex than was suspected even as late as the 70s.

    And with corporate profits to be made, we have long since left the arena of using them sparingly and with the best weighing of the pros and cons and with honest assessment of how they should be used and manufactured. And sadly, this is true now in veterinary medicine as well.

  200. Rationalist, that’s a really good start. The other tool I tend to use — no surprises there — is history: how did it work out, all things considered, the last few times something like this happened? That’s why I’m not an antivaxxer — I know way too much about the role of vaccination in stopping several major lethal diseases — and it’s also why I’m not a pro-vaxxer — I know way too much about the enthusiasm and frequency with which the medical industry puts profits ahead of patient safety.

    Bdon, yep — and yet that has to be balanced against the downsides of vaccination. It’s precisely the willingness to take a look at both sides, and deal with the fact that whatever we do some kids will suffer, that next to nobody seems to be willing to do.

    Valenzuela, I think part of it is the Bates eye exercises fiasco back in the 1950s. A system of eye exercises meant to fix defective vision became hugely popular then, and worked for a few people; if they’d worked as advertised, eyeglasses would be as obsolete today as clay tablets — but they didn’t. A lot of people in opthalmology respond to any discussion of eye exercises as a reference to that. (And of course they also have a financial interest in having people use their services…)

    Patricia, the US media never, but never, mentions what the Russian media is saying. As for my sense that everybody involved is lying, yes, that’s a rule of thumb in situations in which I have no access to good information, but it’s turned out to be accurate often enough that I tend to rely on it.

    Felix, whatever else is going on, the official British narrative just doesn’t work. I’m surprised that they couldn’t come up with a less implausible story; but May’s government doesn’t seem to be burdened by any particular degree of competence…

    Valenzuela, a very good point.

    Skylight, good. To begin with, as I’ve noted before, climate change activists shot themselves through both cheeks — no, not the ones in their faces, either — by using the term “global warming.” Anyone with even the most basic knowledge of physics should have realized that when you improve the heat retention of the circulating fluid in a heat engine — the climate is a heat engine, and the greenhouse effect basically puts a layer of insulation on it — you get more work out of it. What does “more work” mean in climatic terms? More storms, more winds, more variation from the mean. If they’d started out calling it “global climate disruption” or something like that they might have gotten somewhere.

    The difficulty, of course, is that next to none of the people who claim to be concerned about climate change are willing to make the changes in their own lifestyles that would be necessary to keep climate change in check. That’s the elephant in the room: a great many of the people who reject global warming do so because they see the Al Gores of the world talking volubly about how everyone has to sacrifice, but notice that “everyone” somehow never gets around to including the Al Gores of the world. If climate change activists cut their own carbon use drastically, they might get somewhere; since they don’t, people outside the movement quite rightly dismiss them as hypocrites.

    And that is why we’re not going to act aggressively, and soon — the changes that would be necessary are unacceptable even to those who claim they care about the climate. (Imagine, for example, what would happen if the next climate treaty involved slapping a 500% climate tax on commercial air travel, and the privileged folks who are so heavily overrepresented in climate change activism had to fork out five times the money to go on their next ecotourism jaunt…)

    Phil K., hmm! I could see that.

    Xabier, why, yes, we are. I think it’s time to advocate for Anti-Poke-Noseism nonetheless. 😉

    David P, excellent — and in fact we’ll be talking about that in due time.

    David BTL, Oh, I know. It’s taken me a long time to achieve a certain measure of calm while watching my country, my civilization, and my species yelling in triumph as they run headlong into the abyss.

  201. Skylight,

    Oh, sigh, I am going to have to do it again. You said (re people rejecting global warming science) “I think it’s about disenfranchisement and distrust and struggle.

    And it was an excellent post, by the way.

    Again, attributing my inexplicable wrongness to weird motivations. I am asking, I am begging, I am pleading:

    Is it within the realm of possibility that on a scientific question of some complexity that when there are arguments to be made on the issue, that some people take a certain side based upon what appear to be the stronger argument, full stop?

    I see the arguments that CO2 leads to global warming as weak, and the arguments against that theory as strong. I see a tremendous amount of money and agenda going to exactly the sort of science we are discussing on this blog this week.

    And you know, I could be wrong. All I ask is can I be accorded the respect to be allowed to be wrong based upon my own assessments of the merits of the arguments of the case? But to accord me that, I suppose, you have to allow the very slightest crack in your belief that you are utterly and totally and incontrovertibly right. Perhaps that is the problem. In order for a reasonable human being of good will to take a different position, you would have to understand that there is at least the slightest merit to the idea this is a valid scientific issue of some complexity and that not everyone who disagrees is a moron of some sort.

    Ironic, isn’t it, that we are here discussing the liberal elite bubble who cannot see the reality of people in the flyover states and why they might have voted for Trump outside of racism and sexism.

    And to me this is a belief system, which is simply another red flag in the global warming side. When one side is in a reality bubble that they cannot see, it does not give me confidence. You asked how we can discuss it. I applaud that very much. I am surrounded by people who take the same position on the issue that you do, and I have found it nearly impossible to have any good discussion on the topic, which to me is again, a red flag that something is wrong here.

  202. Ok, well, that is a better assessment of my contribution, at least, than I thought it would receive, mostly because I was aware of being strongly “under the influence” of emotion. I am glad to hear that rhetoric does not necessarily require being unemotional.

  203. Thank you for the pointer to the Anti-Poke Nose post! I was unaware of that site. Looks like some more good reading.

  204. @Onething – since you have mentioned the veterinary series on pet vaccinations, and also said, in your reply to Emmanuel Goldstein: “Yet the funny thing to me is how very carefully we must tread when attempting to go against the way that nature actually works. This is almost a guarantee of trouble.” I think the following paper will interest you:

    The paper asks a question that I am happy to see is beginning to get an airing in the less marketing-oriented parts of the scientific literature. What will be the evolutionary effects of partial vaccinations (the types that do not and cannot completely eradicate a pathogen – for example, flu) upon the pathogens that persist in fully or partially vaccinated populations? Obviously a great deal of research, based on real world observations, will be needed before it can be answered.

    We have by now learned that our early faith in the wonder of antibiotics has gone neither unnoticed nor unresponded to by the bacterial world, what makes us think that our current reliance on vaccinations will not also prompt a response (perhaps, in JMG’s terms, a “blowback”), from the viral world?

    I could imagine sensible and informed people carrying out a triage on a specific vaccination, vis-a-vis the pathogen it is aimed at, and the potential suffering that the pathogen is capable of causing. Assuming the pathogen causes great suffering, ask of the vaccination whether it is capable of complete eradication within a period of, say 10 years, if sufficient numbers consent to be vaccinated?

    If the answer is no, then it may be thought that the long term effects of using it would make things so much worse for our descendents – an innate immune response impaired by insufficient exposure and use combined with a highly virulent emergent viral pathogen – as to make it inadvisable to consider using.

    PS – I know some vaccines are also against bacterial pathogens. The same applies, but probably more so, since we already know that bacteria WILL respond to our efforts to kill them.

  205. Gregory…. I noticed that in 2016 pres. campaign, the wedges issues (social, identity, etc.) were front and center. And only Sanders repeated his mantra, ‘the economy is rigged, Wall Street is fraudulent and DC is corrupt’… probably why his campaign HAD to be disabled. (BTW, I use this question quite often to determine probabilities… “Would ‘they’, if they could?”

  206. Re: vaccines and medical treatment

    Of course “some” vaccines are very useful, but things in nature never are so easy and are solved with a “recipe”

    For example me and almost all of my 45 classmates (age 7) had measles in 1973, and none of us had any sequel or damage, the vaccine was mandatory only after 1980 in Spain (triple viral), but in the XIX century was the main cause of infant deaths, but today we know this was because the measles virus consume a lot of proteins and the poor’s small children in the Dicken’s time have no access to proteins, but that was not the situation in my case and my classmates (fortunatelly)

    In another example almost 1/3 of the spanish population has the koch bacillus in their lungs, and they do not develop tuberculosis, only if you are weakened by drugs, HIV, etc…in fact the children are not vaccinated anymore, it was end in 1980 in Spain, again the drug addicts, the inmigrants (infected or weakened), and HIV infected people. But, do you remember in the XIX century?

    So we have to look at what is “behind” the bacerias and viruses, as, for example the Great Famine in Ireland. Was really caused by the Phytophthora infestans?, you know, during all the time millions of irish people were starving Ireland (the english landowners) were exporting food…

    We can say the same things about drugs:

    Is the opioid epidemic in US is consequence of the opioids?, you know the (in)famous caged rat experiments, that “demonstrated” that if you gave them opioids (heroin, cocain, etc…) then they will inevitable develope addiction quickly, and consume opioids to the death, and that was used to start the
    (in)famous War on Drugs (we are always at war with something like the Cancer, the Bacillus, the Terrorism, etc…), but the experiment of Bruce Alexandre show that if the rat is not in a cage but in a “rat park” they DO NOT develope opioid addiction, or in fact cure their addiction (if was in a cage), so the cause of addiction is and never was the drugs (normally people know this except if you have a white coat)
    Another example: most american soldiers in Vietnam was addicted to any kind of drugs, but after they were liberated from the “cage”of Vietnam, 95% recovered from their drug addiction

    It was the “Cage”, not the “Drug”, as my father (was physician) said: it is the “Deseased” not the “Desease”

    For example my father, as physician, was in contact with thousands of very sick people, some of then with high contagious disease and he never was sick (he died of cancer because was a heavy smoker), I never saw him sick (in 30 years), and he did not use almost never gloves or masks (we are talking about Spain in the 40’s – 70’s), this was a mistery for all of us (and I did not understand why he was so sure he will not be affected!)

    On the other hand with a poisoned population you “must” develope an even increasing complex healthcare system, with even less good results, the increase in cancer incidence has increase, for example, in the UK in a wooping 34% from 1979 to 2013, in ALL the ages, mainly in young people, and less in old people (the excuse, the oficial answer is always that is an aged population, but this is not true), so we will need extremely sophisticated healtcare system to take care of a chronic sick population (see the number of obese, diabetics, auto-immune, cancerous, cholesterol, etc….)

    This is the increase of incidence, the biggest increase in 0-24 years (40%)

    The raw data of incidence extracted from The Cancer Research in UK

    The Brave New World

  207. And – the curandera also healed her cat, who had stopped eating and drinking and had to be fed very bland food and given water through a dropper. One day he was bad-but-improving; the next he was eating and drinking like it was going out of style. And I don’t think cats are sensitive to the placebo effect!

  208. John Michael, thank you for your reply.

    You said, “The difficulty, of course, is that next to none of the people who claim to be concerned about climate change are willing to make the changes in their own lifestyles that would be necessary to keep climate change in check. That’s the elephant in the room: a great many of the people who reject global warming do so because they see the Al Gores of the world talking volubly about how everyone has to sacrifice, but notice that “everyone” somehow never gets around to including the Al Gores of the world. If climate change activists cut their own carbon use drastically, they might get somewhere; since they don’t, people outside the movement quite rightly dismiss them as hypocrites.”

    While this is very true, even if those who were advocating, desperately, for the globe to address global climate disruption were living their lives consistent with their requests for change, it wouldn’t be enough to prevent global climate disruption, nor would it be enough to encourage enough people to live their lives to prevent global climate disruption. True, they would be modeling how to do it, and therefore some would follow, but it would not be enough. We seem to be at the point where even if we managed to stop all man-made CO2, we’ve passed some tipping points and we need to be sequestering CO2 (and methane) from the atmosphere and shading the arctic.

    Most people are not grown-ups. Most people live their lives according to their internalized authorities – which is not the same thing as being grown up. (In other words, when people were young, the rules of how to conduct oneself were imposed on them from authority figures, such as parents. As we get older, those rules get internalized, and the need for external authority figures goes away. When we reach the stage of Grown Up, the internalized rules of conduct also go away, and are replaced by an expanded awareness that there are no black and white rules, or at least, very few, and conduct is determined by values, empathy, and awareness of the variety of circumstances. I hope I explained that in a coherent manner – probably not). Most people, no matter their chronological age, aren’t grown up. If they were, they would not need for the climate scientists to not be hypocritical, because our grown up behavior isn’t dependent on the behavior of authorities.

    So if, as you are saying, we ARE dependent on the behavior of the climate science authorities to be living their lives in keeping with their words before we will consider changing our own behavior, then you are also saying that we are not grown up. (And I agree with you whole-heartedly).

    The reason I stress this point is because it changes how we need to address global climate disruption. As you mentioned, one tactic is for authorities to be living their lives in keeping with their words. But people who are not grown-ups also need much more than that. If your child, for example, is obsessed with screen time and given complete freedom over how their time is spent would spend all their waking hours watching Youtube and developing no aspirations except to become a Youtuber themselves, some authority figure, like a parent, needs to step in and show them that there is more to the world than the internet. You need to do more than tell them how that is not good for them and that they need to change their behavior. That authority figure needs to provide competing stimuli, opportunities for exercise, opportunities to get out into the real world, possibly restriction of screen time, etc. The authority figure needs to set up the child’s world so that the child easily moves toward what is healthy, and good, and expands awareness.

    In the same way, our “authority figures” need to set up the world so that it is easy for the non-grown-ups to move toward what is healthy, good, and expands awareness. We need it to be easy and possible to get to work without creating CO2 in the process. We need to be teaching how to grow food in our backyards beginning in elementary school. We need to have the food we purchase in the grocery store be sustainably grown. We need grants for developing methods of sequestering CO2. We need for global climate disruption to be on our minds and in our faces, and it needs to be easy to make choices that are good for our climate, instead of the way it is now, which is nearly impossible to avoid contributing to the increase in CO2. We need to ban all use of fossil fuels and find a way to sustain our civilization without them.

    So back to my original question. Given that globally, we are moving away from valuing abstractions and into trusting anecdotal reality, given that we don’t trust our scientists but more and more of us are willing to trust in anti-science self-proclaimed authorities, how do we communicate? I understand that we need to start with finding common ground, and that we need to stop dismissing the home workshop thinkers just because they don’t have the pedigrees. Do you have any ideas? Sorry to dump the world’s problems in your lap, archdruid! (Beloved archdruid).

  209. I once worked with a Pennsylvania attorney for coal plants in W. Va who scoffed at “Global warming/Climate change” saying that its advocates couldn’t even make up their minds what to call it. (He openly referred to himself as “a whore,” by the way.) It took me way too long to formulate my response that both names are accurate depending on the scale involved; local level = climate change, global level = warming. He, being quite a smart guy, was probably smart enough to realize this, but as he admitted, he was “a whore.”

  210. A couple of anecdotes:
    Scotlyn, Matthias et al: My late mother was a pediatrician who began treating patients in the 1930s, before the widespread diffusion of vaccines beyond smallpox. When her younger colleagues began to be neutral on the virtues of vaccines, she noted that they had never seen a child die of whooping cough. She retired in the mid 80s, however, when the Crapification of Everything ® was just getting underway.

    JMG & Patricia Matthews: My mother the pediatrician also used herself and recommended various homeopathic remedies, and recommended zinc as a defense against the cold long before the medical establishment stamped it with their approval.

    In both cases, she used her own experience, not the officially approved line, as her criterium.

    I think that entire explosion of allergies and all kinds of other maladies is a consequence of the 200 year long uncontrolled experiment we’ve been running on the environment, as well as the consolidation of foods to a few strains controlled by a few seed companies. Glyphosate is just the most blatant of the many examples.

  211. Re: climate scientists. An recent article (Washington Post) described increased flooding in Annapolis, Maryland, which is on Chesapeake Bay. The City Dock development is essentially at sea level, since it’s a tidal body connected to the Atlantic Ocean. A climate scientist described the situation in personal terms “I just moved here about a year ago, and we’ve already had six flooding episodes”.

    Let’s pick that apart.
    1> Does being a climate scientist give someone a special ability to observe flooding on his doorstep (figuratively speaking)?

    2> Does one year of observations provide evidence of a long-term trend?

    3> If you’re a climate scientist who’s worried about sea level rise, and you buy a home on the Atlantic waterfront, …. what the !@#$ are you thinking?!?

    I have exaggerated. Not all of Annapolis is near sea level. Its official altitude is 39 feet, and the highest point is 50 feet above sea level, so it will probably be some decades before it’s all underwater. I don’t actually have any idea where this scientist’s property is located (waterfront, or hill-top?). There are long-term records showing both rising sea level and subsiding land in the Chesapeake Bay area, so I’m not denying the fact, just questioning the argumentation. But the fact remains that this man made one of the biggest financial decisions of his life in a way which appears to contradict his public professional opinion.

    “Climate change”, for some people, remains an abstraction to be debated, rather than a clear and present danger which demands actual changes to our personal behavior.

  212. JMG
    I have had the ‘The Art of Memory’ on my shelf for several years now, and although I was interested and feel much respect for Frances Yates the author I found it a difficult read – I was not sure why. And when I took it down last night I faced a blank wall.

    Today I guess I had done more preparation and opened it to find myself reading the chapter on Raymon Lull. Wow. Whatever it was fell from my eyes, a great deal fell into place. I think it has been something to do with my own idiosyncratic experiences with memory and images. My default way of thinking, certainly when I was young, was mostly in images – words rose from the pictures.

    And my earlier attempt this week to conjure up film stars after reading your essay and comments, had drawn an instant veil. The only ones I could come up with and name were the Beatles, and even then there was no George Harrison. And using them was a ‘no-no’.

    There is really too much involved in the following to put in a comment, but I have felt that in a more adjusted culture a lot of important memories are not ‘meant’ to be available for much if any recollection. They can stay informatively ‘on back ground’ and function well-enough for a lifetime if undisturbed; something like the way that the incredible shorthand information that we guess is ‘instinct’ functions across successive generations. But these days, for example in our idea of ‘therapy’, we tend to assume it is necessary to achieve recall. Perhaps in our culture it is.

    PS I rather like Ramon Lull. When faced with the choice, he stuck with the Holy Spirit and Mary, and his Art, and chucked Salvation!

    Phil H

  213. Regarding the Politico article about “Clinton Country”, one would think that self-identified “progressives” here in KY would not be as out of touch as their more urban counterparts, considering that only three other states delivered a higher percentage of the vote to Trump, but that seems to not be the case. Even though the bubble only extends as far as the county line, if that far, in our much smaller urban enclaves, the same attitudes are as evident as their Chelsea dwelling counterparts, if not more so. There’s a certain amount of evangelism of progressives here in the rural South as they try to spread the gospel of Progress w/a capital P to the “backsliding” masses. If anything, our progressives are WORSE than their Chelsea counterparts, because the bubble is that much smaller that they feel that much more threatened by the Trumpistas.
    That’s why I’m so in favor of a crisis along the lines of a Depression, if not worse, to wake people up. Humans being what they are, it’s going to take a crisis along the lines of a Depression, if not worse, to motivate people to make the necessary changes. I remember how big an impression the last Depression made on my grandparents generation, and only hope that the one coming will make as much of an impact on those living through it. I fully realize that this Depression may likely have the same effects on the US as the last one had on Europe, but if that is the true character of the American people now, then there is no avoidance of the fact.
    Speaking of Trump, Trump should be recognized as the greenest president in living history if the tariffs take effect. Since Theodore Rozak’s “Where the Wasteland Ends”, if not before, we’ve known about the environmental effects of American consumption, and this was written before Reagan’s neoliberal globalization sent American consumption into overdrive via cheap, disposable imports. The only way to get American consumption under control is via tariffs, so that a lot fewer products are consumed in the first place. The environmental benefits of tariffs are well known: fuel used to transport goods around the world is not burned, goods that are produced in third world countries w/ghastly environmental records are not produced, and the resources and energy used to produce unnecessary goods are not consumed. All in all, I don’t see why tariffs wouldn’t earn Trump a green leaf for environmental impact.

  214. Scotlyn, good rhetoric always expresses some degree of passion. The important thing is not to let the passion get in the way of being courteous, interesting, and appealing.

    Gregory, you’re welcome.

    Corydalidae, thank you for these.

    DFC, of course — but it’s convenient for those who don’t want to have to deal with the big picture to focus on the disease rather than the context, and of course it’s also lucrative for the medical industry.

    Patricia M., yep. Back when we had a cat — Sara’s health will no longer permit that — I dealt with most of her health problems with a free mix of magic and homeopathy. She made it to the age of 19, which is pretty good for a cat…

    Skylight, you know, it’s a source of wry amusement to me that every time I mention what to me is an obvious point — you can’t convince people to change their lives unless you’re willing to show by example that you’re willing to change yours — I get the most elaborate evasive maneuvers. Let me try this again. Nobody is going to take climate change activists seriously, no matter what they do, unless they first demonstrate their sincerity by leading by example. That’s the first essential step to effective rhetoric at the end of an age of abstraction, and all the other tactics and strategies have to be built atop it or they go nowhere. Yes, there are lots of other tactics and strategies, but it’s a waste of time talking about them when the movement won’t take that first essential step.

    Imagine, for a moment, that you were interested in campaigning against rape. Imagine, for a moment, that the majority of people actively involved in the campaign against rape were serial rapists. Now imagine that every time somebody pointed out to the serial rapists that nobody would take them seriously unless they stopped committing rape, they insisted that you can’t stop rape just by having activists not rape, that it was a bigger problem than that, and how could they communicate the importance of taking drastic steps to stop rape? The answer, of course, is that they can’t, because their unwillingness to lead by example guarantees that whatever they do will be dismissed as hypocrisy — and for good reason.

    It so happens that the climate change movement is dominated these days by middle and upper middle class people in the industrial world — that is to say, people whose lifestyles are disproportionately responsible for greenhouse gas emissions: people who use much more fossil fuel energy, and many more of the products of fossil fuel energy, than the average human being. Everyone else in the world knows this. When climate change activists insist that something has to be done about global warming, but aren’t willing to lead by example, everyone else in the world assumes — and for good reason — that they’re just being hypocrites. Until you’re willing to take that harsh reality as a starting point, you’re not going to communicate the urgency of action concerning global warming, because nobody is going to take you seriously. It really is as simple as that.

    Phutatorius, I’m sure he did realize it, but he was pointing out one of the many weaknesses in the way that climate change activism presented itself.

    Peter, your mother the pediatrician was a smart lady. She also had the common sense to retire before the crusade against alternative health care really got under way in the medical industry.

    Lathechuck, that’s just classic. When rising sea level starts flooding the guy’s basement, I bet he demands that somebody else do something about it…

    Phil H., hmm! Interesting. If you want to get seriously into Lull, by the way, I heartily recommend Yanis Damberg’s excellent Lullian Arts website — he has good English translations and software to help you learn the Lullian art, or at least get a good sense of how it works.

    Shane, that’s depressing to hear. Unsurprising, but depressing.

  215. With regards to climate change activism, another good step would be to stop screaming whenever someone actually makes a lifestyle change out of concern for the environment. This is purely anecdotal, but I can discuss things like not having air conditioning because I’m trying to reduce my electricity consumption with people who disagree with global warming. They generally want to know more about why I think what I do, and sometimes I can persuade them a little.

    Nothing gets a full blown mental breakdown going as fast as “here’s a change I made to my lifestyle because I’m trying to help the environment” to a climate change activist. I no longer share what I’m doing with people I know are climate change activists because the risk of being screamed at is too high. This of course means that around the people insisting things need to be done, the people actually doing things are gonna shut up and look for the closest escape.


    I think there are some women who would be happy to be confined to the home, as long as they got to shriek at other women about how they are betraying the sisterhood. It’s an odd dynamic I’ve noticed among some feminists: they don’t care at all about gender relationships, they’re just looking for an excuse to oppress other women. Then there are other ways what started out as a very good movement fell off the rails, but I don’t want to get into that here.


    For purely selfish reasons I’m increasingly opposed to tariffs. The global environmental impact may be positive, but I know the air quality as it is now makes me sick, and I live downwind from where the American industries are likely to be established. The more I pay attention to things, the more I’m inclined to think these tariffs will negatively impact my health. If I were part of the wage class I’d probably think they were brilliant, and sort out the health effects later, but for now a selfish part of me is strongly against them.

  216. John Cleese holding bananas, Cheech Marin with Doritos, Tommy Chong has a sixpacks of Coke, and a nameless porn starlet with huge boobs got milk.
    My kitchen will never be the same!

  217. JMG, I take it you remember Ahavah (I assume she left the readership due to “antisemitism” regarding Dammerung, but not sure)? Ahavah is typical for progressives here in KY, Trump Derangement Syndrome on steroids coupled with paralyzing, all encompassing fear of the other, aka “rednecks and hillbillies”

  218. JMG,
    I’m guessing that elites here are just as clueless as the coasts. I don’t know if you’ve been tracking it, but there’s been quite an uproar among teachers and their supporters in the media here about switching new teachers to defined contribution plans instead of old-fashioned defined benefit pensions. The thinking among the media is that this “assault” on teachers and education most certainly will doom the new GOP majority in the state House. Teachers are most certainly making a fuss about voting them out, and Dems are in the teachers corner, but they’re totally unaware that most working people in this state can only dream of a pension if they’re ever able to retire, and that most parents are ambivalent at best about public schooling (we’ve discussed this at length here)
    BTW, has anyone else noticed that the Trumpistas seem to have kicked the Randians to the curb? Even since Trump won, there’s been no discussion of Ayn Rand and Von Mises’ libertarianism, while it was all the GOP ever seemed to talk about just a few years ago (I’m thinking of your essay about the GOP, Rand, & Satanism) I’m just so surprised that no one is noticing this sea change in ideology–I mean, tariffs don’t exactly factor in to Rand’s free market philosophy, and Rand Paul’s in the news for getting beat up by his neighbor more than anything he has to say about policy.

  219. Thank you for your reply, John! (How many people thank you?) Yes, assuming everyone is lying is a decent rule of thumb. We cannot be omniscient. And some degree of dishonesty is necessary in government affairs, if just for diplomacy and self-preservation.

    FWIW, my take on the situation from the perspective of a deep personal interest in Russia (fluency in Russian) is that under Putin, Russia has taken the strategy of presenting itself to the international community as law-abiding and trustworthy, while the West is countering that by presenting Russia as knavish and deceitful. It’s a propaganda war. If Russia has a chemical weapons research program at this time, which is possible, it would be top secret, which is not accomplished by using it willy-nilly on old grudges. I also imagine they would not be wasting their time on nerve agents that everybody has or knows about, but something completely unexpected. This is mere speculation, but that is how Russia operates these days.

  220. @patricia ormsby

    ,Glad you enjoyed it. Spiders is a cantakerous sort and prone to poking holes in people’s assumptions.

    Another good reason to keep a teen handy. They have a meme for every occasion.

    Funny story. When my oldest daughter was small, she asked me what hotdogs were made of. Without batting an eye, I said “lips and buttholes”. Unbeknowst to me, she passed this pearl of wisdom on to the school lunch lady.

    Ah, we reap what we sow…

  221. Hi Scotlyn,

    Yeah, I had mentioned here the idea that we might be creating a problematic future with vaccinations a couple of years ago. I was thinking about how the Native Americans had no ability to cope with measles and perhaps also influenza. Are we setting ourselves up for that?

    It seems especially foolish to play with this for diseases that are not that serious. I think the vaccination schedule of my childhood which consisted of diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough were enough.

    Smallpox may have been eradicated. I don’t know how many years it took, but I’m pretty sure more than 10.

  222. JMG,

    I just don’t know if the phrase climate change had been used from the beginning that it would have made much difference. At any rate, I prefer global warming because that is what the issue is about. Climate change doesn’t mean as much to me. As to the stormy effects of greater heat in the atmosphere, those details are not far behind if one hears much of anything about the idea at all, whichever phrase is used.

  223. A number of years ago 60 minutes had a broadcast on this. They started in a high school earth science class. The teacher had assigned his class a project. Go out and get a bucket of water from a swamp. Then observe it and report exactly what you see over the space of a few months. They had been studying marshy ecosystems and knew what should happen. Just about all of the students wrote papers referencing the births of tadpoles, lichen, algae, etc. Nothing at all was happening in the students’ buckets, of course. They were just buckets of muck. But they all felt compelled to describe what they thought should happen.

    60 minutes then went on to report on a medical researcher in a California university who had been caught falsifying graphs on his research papers. A peer reviewer had noticed that he had used one graph in a different paper and assumed it was a mistake, so he sent it back with a note to correct it.The researcher left town. After an investigation they were unable to determine what, if any, of his research was legitimate. Much of it had been cited by other researchers. And that was 30 or 40 years ago. This is why I am wary when someone references anonymous ‘studies.’


  224. Hi John Michael,

    I take climate change seriously! Speaking of which the capital city of the state to the north of me (and also the largest city on the continent) just had its: hottest April day on record and the endless summer looks set to continue.

    Incidentally 35.4’C = 95.7’F and it is meant to be almost mid-Autumn down here. Did you notice the previous record was set in 2016 with records dating back to 1858.

    I reckon one of the truths that we have in common is that such extreme weather scenarios are absolutely no good for agriculture as we currently know it. I say that because it increases our reliance on additional energy inputs to supply water to crops that are grown using chemical fertilisers, insecticides, and herbicides, on already depleted soils. It is not a recipe for success as far as I can understand the long term situation, although I’d like to be proven wrong.



  225. Shane: Since the point of the tariffs is to increase domestic steel production, not to decrease consumption, it seems premature at best to start handing Trump environmental accolades. Especially when his administration is busy trying to roll back pollution standards and open up national parks for resource extraction.

    JMG: I have to admit I’m having trouble thinking of anything that can be truly considered common ground these days. Let’s say we were looking for a place to start a discussion on environmental issues, like the one I’ve now struck up with Shane. Is there anything that’s considered common sense anymore regarding the environment? Even the roundness of the Earth has been reopened for debate. Maybe something like “Oxygen, water, and food are necessary for human life”? But I can imagine a transhumanist disputing that…

  226. @ Shane

    Re the “wake-up” triggering event

    My thinking is that the realization that the American empire has ended is going to be a brutal blow to our national psyche, as we have resisted all efforts to “back away slowly” and proactively dismantle our global hegemony in the context of an organized withdrawal. My fear is that we will not handle that psychological shock at all well. While the decline itself will most likely continue to occur in bits and pieces over the coming decades, there is going to be a threshold point somewhere along that timeline where the national consciousness understands that Rome is no more. How will we handle that sea-change? Perhaps the bulk of the people will simply shrug and carry on — the empire hasn’t been helping them for a long time. But it could easily go the other way.

    It would be better if we could have an open discussion about our empire and its decline, but that doesn’t seem to be happening in the broader public space as yet. I’ve commented on a number of occasions that before this century is half-complete, it will be obvious to all that the United States has become a second-rate power. The abstraction of “America” today does not allow for that concept, but it will have to in the not-too-distant future.

  227. Greer said: David, fascinating! I wonder how widespread such techniques are more generally in tribal societies.

    Probably quite a few. Unfortunately since so much of ancient knowledge was passed down by word of mouth, and now lost PLUS the way that European explorers and conquerors, with the help of religious institutions destroyed indignant culture we will never know.

    I’ve found in my studies of shamanism in various tribal societies that there seems to be a common skill set. Almost all seem to have techniques of divination, remote viewing, healing, conflict resolution and especially mediation between the tribal members and the god/otherworldly beings. I would expect that much of the mental techniques that are similar to a mind palace, for tribal societies was actually methods of astral contact of the planes. Like the Australian aborigine technique of Dreamtime or the American Indian technique of the Spirit Quest.

    I suspect that advanced memory techniques only developed when tribal culture gave way to towns and cities. Once commerce and a ruling bureaucracy developed, there came a need for the recording of information. Tax collectors and representatives of the government would need ways to record data and bring it back to the capital.

    The Mayan system of knotted cords call the “Quipus” was originally thought of as just a system of numerical recording. Yet some researchers think it had a much broader function. We’ll never know I’m afraid, so many of the knotted records were burned by the Spanish.

    As for using your method of imagining people in your kitchen with grocery items, Wikipedia has a good page on this technique, which is called “Method of Loci”

    In the classical sense, your method is more mainstream. People don’t create a new place where in to place their memories, but use a actual real world place like a home or a residence. While there is more initial effort in creating a imaginary place, the advantage seems to be in allowing a more specialized compartmentalization. Separate rooms can then be created for separate fields of study.

    I must confess my own Mind Palace is not that big, with just a library and separate tea house. I’ve let the temptation of digital storage take the place of what I would do, if the computer wasn’t available.

    I do find the information on the Wikipedia page that discusses how well someone can use this method and their mental skill at spacial awareness interesting. I’ve always been one of those people with an innate sense of where I am. I worked as a delivery driver for a few years and always could always tell where East was, which helped me when looking up addresses on my street guide map.

    (Way before GPS systems.)

    I can see how this would be true. To create a truly memorable Mind Palace would seem to me to require you could almost “feel” the distances and the space of the rooms and environment you created in your mind. I do the same in a darkened room of my home, since I try and conserve electricity by keeping many of the lights out unless I need them. Walking down a dark hallway from my office to the kitchen, I can see the hallway in my mind. I have no problem unless I’ve been careless and left a shoe where I shouldn’t. Then I get a painful reminder.

    Look forward to you speaking on what you have learned on the subject.

  228. Will J,

    I am trying to process your comment to the effect that one cannot discuss lifestyle changes with climate activists. Since I hardly ever discuss the topic with anyone, this is not something I was aware of. The situation is truly puzzling to me. Since most of my local friends and neighbors (elder hippies) are Bernie supporters who voted Hillary and climate change believers (who fly on vacations, drive wherever they want and have air conditioning and dishwashers) I have not seen this personally. Fact is, I do not have air conditioning or a dishwasher and would not get them as I don’t believe in excess energy use. I am thinking of a friend that cannot emotionally handle even a minute or two of discussion on the topic with me. We got slightly started a time or two but she quickly shut down and said, in effect, that she couldn’t bear it. Possibly also does not want to lose her affection for me.

    One person I know who is not a hypocrite and who does try hard to keep a low carbon footprint is my sister. I will have to ask her if she has run into trouble on this score, as one place she is willing to drive hundreds of miles is DC for climate change protests! She has always lived a poor and simple life so perhaps she would need to discuss it with those outside her immediate circle?

    I have mentioned to another friend that I am at least able to talk pretty openly without too much animosity (if kept to a bare minimum) and have said to them, partially inspired by JMG, as kindly and gently as possible that I don’t see how their yearly flying vacation and their dishwasher are in alignment with the dire belief they have about CO2.

    In effect, the answer I got was that while they feel they do a fair amount to be environmentally responsible, the dishwasher and the winter in Mexico are not negotiable.

  229. Since there is much discussion of vaccination, might I recommend a book -. The Speckled Monster. It is a historical novel about the early technique of innoculation in Colonial America and Europe. It is fascinating and a wonderful read.

  230. Whoa, lots of comments here. Read some; will have to go back for more.

    JMG, not sure if you’re aware of the work of Peter Turchin. I recommend _War and Peace and War_ as eminently readable though _Ages of Discord_ more directly address about industrial societies but in a highly abstract form.

    His focus is the dynamics of social cohesion and ‘decohesion’, ie what leads members of a society to stop assuming a common stake and purpose.

    Btw, I agree completely. Even within much narrower political spectrums, eg the political left in Berkeley in the late 70s, I found that folks who viewed each other as terminally wrong headed could agree on what to do tomorrow. Luckily I was involved in a group focused primarily on community organizing so it started with a broad agreement that making lives better was a unifying goal. I actually found the whole scene pretty entertaining. It was like watching football where any given team could go into the huddle and emerge as two separate teams and start trying to steal the ball from each other.

    With deep appreciation for the intellectual work you’re doing here,

  231. All–

    Quite late in the comment cycle and potentially OT, but still at least tangentially relating to our sense of common reality (or not).

    Two recent posts:

    Note the title of the piece mentioned in the post (An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World) and the inherent assumption re the position of the US president with respect to world affairs. Hubris, plain and simple. How can we not see how arrogant these sorts of statements are?

    Now election results cannot be trusted. Everything is suspect. If the other side wins, it must be because someone cheated. How does this not take us to failed-state territory where election results aren’t accepted by the losing side and no governance is accomplished because the legitimacy of the process has been wholly undermined? What are these people thinking?

    And things continue to deteriorate, bit by bit.

  232. Onething,

    I’ve heard from other people that it’s not an issue, but I have been on the receiving end of some deranged people who were horribly upset that I thought that making changes to address the environment was worth while. Maybe it’s making unacceptable changes alienates climate activists? I know some things, like buying organic food, would get applause from the same people who had the mental breakdown.

    It’s also far from everyone who believes in global warming. Lots of people who believe in global warming think it’s rather neat, and quite a few are willing to hear about the changes and how I’ve gone about them, sometimes even asking for advice.

    I think it’s a combination of trying to convince people to change their ways in face of an existential threat, and then being hit with someone who’s doing just that in such a way they are unwilling to follow causes a great deal of emotional strain. I’m also rather unlucky in that I know far too many people who are environmental hypocrites, so it might be that it’s a small problem, but I just ran into it more than my fair share.

  233. Mr. Greer,

    Funny you should write on this. Here in the ivory tower a professor and I have been circulating a paper seeking to demolish the frankly unfounded conclusions of “quantitative” models of human decision making. Outside the mind of economists and social theorists, it just simply is not how we make decisions. Consciousness is too dynamic (you might even say wise) a thing.

    As you might imagine things got ugly quickly. Suddenly we do not “really understand” statistical modeling–never mind one of us is a rather famous extender of the discipline. One respondent wrote back simply saying our observations “smacked of phenomenology”– which is as useful a criticism saying it smacked of Nazism or Jewish Science.

  234. The gedankenbrücke technique itself I recall being taught in some course of unemployed by a psychiatrist. That was however not the first time I got taught it.

    Also I did do it by myself independently earlier on, because so I could much more successfully memorise songs, than by learning them by parrot-fashion..

    However on school I never came across the technique being taught to me intentionally by teachers.

    So as I see it, even it is no secret technique and besides me practiced by many more and even sometimes taught, but in my experience generally neglected and ignored.

  235. Teresa – I suspect that you’ll find, if you actually talk with transgender people, that there’s a lot less ‘radical’ than you expect. Mostly what we want involves exactly what our fine host here recommends – letting people make their own decisions when they don’t harm anyone else, and letting us find our own path even if it doesn’t match up with your expectations.

    For the pharmaceutical side of things, I can provide some more solid advice – you can actually stop taking hormones at any time, before or after surgery, with minimal side effects.

    Also, maybe give your daughter the benefit of the doubt? Trust her lived experience more than your abstract worries about if she’ll regret it or not. Though if you’re interested, I can cite all sorts of statistics about how much being allowed to transition improves happiness, life expectancy, reduces suicide rate and other measures of wellbeing.

    I don’t want to deny anyone’s experience, that regretting SRS is a thing that happens – but I know dozens of trans folk personally – and I don’t personally know any who regret surgery (I certainly don’t). Also, I don’t personally know any post-SRS folk who’ve committed suicide, and I know more than one who’s ended their lives over the lack of acceptance.

  236. @onething,

    I disagree with you, but I am going to restrain myself from any argument because I think it will be good for my own psychological development (because multiple people told me I am one of those people that has to be right all the time and I am trying to change that about myself).

    I just want to ask you what evidence do you view as the strongest? And where do you find it?

    I want to understand your point of view better. I will do my level best to not try to change your mind (though there’s always a possibility that I will fail to restrain myself and if that happens I am terribly sorry).

    Jessi Thompson

  237. @Will,
    I see your point, and thanks for being candid about the selfishness, but I really do feel that pollution and labor should not be offshored, as JMG made clear in Retrotopia. Either you pay the price to make goods in your own community at agreed upon environmental standards and labor laws/wages, or you don’t make/consume the goods at all.
    I wasn’t discussing the purpose of the tariffs, but the effects. If we get into a trade war w/China, a lot of goods that are imported will not be imported, and will not be produced, and the ones that are made here will cost a lot more due to our higher environmental and labor standards, thereby ensuring that fewer of them will be produced.
    as a native Washingtonian, I’m sure you’re very familiar w/the process of Californication. It’s really no different here in urban KY. I’ve already discussed it at length. I mean, if they were really serious about removing the vestiges of slavery, they’d expropriate the horse farms and divide them up for homesteaders–instead, they go for Confederate statues. We’ve already got our own version of Hillary’s argument in Mumbai that is making the rounds–that Lexington, Louisville, and N KY are the economic powerhouses that carry the deadbeat, worthless redneck and hillbilly parts of the state.

  238. JMG,
    as you well know, familiarity breeds contempt as concerns a class war, which is why racism in the Deep South (which had/has the highest percentages of African Americans) reached fever pitch in the Jim Crow era, and Trump’s election was a shot across the bow in the class war of the 21st century. Is it any wonder that our upper middle class left leaning folk here in KY are feeling just a tad bit threatened?

  239. Since this post went up last week, I have been looking for abstract generalizations as I go about my days.

    Toys – I was in Target and went up and down the toy aisles. Here’s the toys that represent real-life things children could actually interact with – stuffed animals (how about an actual animal?), baby dolls that cry (actual baby do this for free?), play mop and broom, small piano, small drums, pretend food to cut (what about cutting real food?), play coins and money, play calculator. Most of these things are plastic and such poor representations of the real thing. I wonder how much psychological damage we have done to children’s growth by denying them the experience of real life.

    Video games are these endless online quests to collect objects and battle, and I think people use them as a substitute for the complex decision-making of adulthood: growing your own food, managing a household and being part of a family and community. Video games also provide this sense of agency and achievement that people need to feel fulfilled. A substitute for fulfillment through real-life tasks, but it is fulfillment.

    Meetings are this way of pretending to do actual work and take initiative. It fills the day and seemingly is involving of diverse viewpoints and providing an opportunity to work together to achieve goals. However standing back as observer, it is clear there is one or two people who have the knowledge and capability to do the work and other 6-10 people are flotsam.

    Textbooks and grade levels, and the idea that knowledge can be broken into easily digestible bits. Rather than present students with real-life mess and they break it down into figuring out what they know and need to know to straighten out the mess, we given them all these little bits to assemble and try to fit out into the world. Textbooks have diagrams which over simplify and leave out the complexity and dependencies of life.

    Economics reports and government data. All of it just seems so arbitrary and made-up!

    Nutrition is an area I wish I knew less about sometimes. I’ve read so much that its hard to enjoy eating while thinking “this had too many calories” or “I should have more leafy greens” or “should I have cooked this differently”. Substances were labeled and now theres competing orthodoxies all trying to get my attention.

    Bitcoin and all the copycats – I understand blockchain and how it could be used, and yet every time I read someone shouting out how revolutionary these currencies are, I roll my eyes. Millions of dollars have been lost by investors in these currencies. While the dollar itself is an abstraction, the removal of a physical item for people to see, seems to have made them super evangelical about crypto currencies.

    In looking at life, most of us live in more abstraction than reality, 80% abstraction and 20% reality would be a generous amount of reality. All of the man-made thing taking the place of the real thing must have really re-wired our brains. Right?

  240. (Sigh) ditto on the gluten free bread here. I have created a gluten-free muffin recipe that is good, but it has a stick of butter per twelve muffins and generally anything with that ratio of fat is delicious in my book.

    We also do sushi now for our treat!

    We also find that any baked good bought in the store gluten free is not so great. Aldi’s pretzels are pretty good though and their gluten free bread is half the price and works for grill cheese. Its been grill cheese and tomato soup weather for a long time now.

    I make these to-die-for hazelnut almond chocolate chip cookies that you would never know are gluten free. Was thinking of driving them up to the picnic but they really aren’t something for a “meal to share”, although perhaps we could all pretend they are and just eat them.

  241. One of the “truths we have in common” (which we actually don’t, of course) is that we all watch television. At least, that’s the assumption of the author of an article about the coming “upgrade” to TV broadcasting in North America, Japan, and Korea. The article claims that new technology makes Off The Air (OTA) a competitor to cable, fiber, satellite, and Internet streaming. Here’s the funny part: who watches OTA? “… OTA users are mostly either people who cannot afford broadband or cable, are happy with what they get OTA, or simply don’t watch TV.” That’s right; even people who “simply don’t watch TV” watch it OTA!

    Among the other features, ATSC 3.0 promises “interactivity”, which I think we all know by now means that your TV will be watching you, while you watch it. What do you choose to watch? What will you pay to watch? Whose eyeballs can we sell to our advertisers?

    First they made the Internet into TV, with streaming content and ads. Now, they’re making TV into the Internet, with implicit surveillance…. (Our gracious host excepted, of course.)

  242. @David,
    JMG seems to be of the opinion that Trump is pulling back mightily on our overextended military, blustering the whole way as he does it…

  243. Shane,

    I agree it makes more sense to force the people close to consumption to pay the environmental costs. And I’m happy to pay the environmental costs of what I consume, but I’d be happier if as a society we switched to far lower consumption levels.


    I say bring them! I find, interestingly enough, in Canada I’m fine, but in the US I’m healthier if I avoid dairy and gluten. Since I won’t be there too long, I’m not too worried about it this trip, but still, the more safe things there are there the happier I’ll be.

  244. Lathechuck,

    Would you mind posting a link to the article?

    Also, I’m pretty sure JMG reads everything we post here 😉

  245. @Denys,
    Gluten intolerance has not been recognized where I live. (Japan, their word for “celiac” contains the word “infantile”; no help.) And as ubiquitous soy sauce contains wheat, and I react to it, I have to cook all my own food, and be careful when being sociable. I relate well to how hard it is to create your own baked goods that taste anything like the gluten-heavy originals. Because they are so rare, I am always thrilled to find gluten-free products. Someone found rice bread for me. It was lovely. It’s been at least a decade since I’ve had a pizza. Even a poor facsimile of one is a delight. (My cauliflower pizza is a nice vegetable dish.)
    Baking things for others can be a challenge. Folks rave over my chocolate-pumpkin cookies, however, so I’ll give you a rundown on how to make them. They are low in sugar as well, for my husband’s diabetes, and make good use of difficult-to use leaf-stevia.
    2 cups cooked,mashed winter squash, about 1 tsp (more or less) dried pulverized stevia, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1 egg, 1 1/2 cups flour substitute (I use a tapioca and buckwheat mix), 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp salt if you like, a bit of vanilla, 2 cups dark chocolate chipped, 1/3 cup walnuts chopped. Mix well, add a Tbsp of vinegar and mix well again. Bake at 150 C (about 300 F) for 15 minutes and check. (I’m using a convection oven, so you might need to tweak this to work with what you’ve got. I bake mine for about an hour before I’m satisfied with them. You have to drive off much of the moisture.)

  246. I’m wondering if our first woman president might not be Ivanka, if Trump succeeds in being Hoover and FDR all-in-one, by both provoking the next Depression while also providing the next New Deal to fix it. He could then could run Ivanka.

  247. JMG, I know you don’t drive, but I’m sure you know that there are two competing emissions standards on vehicles sold in the US. Since the original Clean Air Act, California has sought and received waivers to enact more stringent emissions standards. The waivers are basically a grandfathering of sorts of CARB’s (California Air Resources Board) ability to set standards, which predated the Clean Air Act. States are free to choose between Federal and CARB, and the Federal/CARB breakdown of states roughly mirrors the blue/red divide, with most of the states in the Bos/Wash corridor CARB states. Federal and CARB standards are mostly harmonized now, w/99% of all vehicles nationally CARB certified–the only difference being that some models for sale in CARB states have lower emissions. Pruitt is now seeking to either revoke or not renew California’s longstanding waiver, which is just another way that Trump is seeking to widen the blue/red divide and provoke the blues even more.

  248. While following one of the links above about the role of fake data in the replication crisis, I came across the following story about those who’ve taken the process one step further and invented the researcher along with the research:

    Although I found the above story sobering, it did remind me of a more lighthearted story from my own alma mater, which shows that this is not an entirely new phenomenon:

    –Heather in CA
    (Or, as we like to call it, Not quite Hell, but close enough…) 😉

  249. Science, engineering, and the just us system. We all know this stuff works and is never a problem, right?

    “Lie detector tests have become a popular cultural icon”
    Note that USA police officers must often pass such a test to get hired. Those who know how to cheat pass. Do the good people fail?

    The FBI and the Myth of the Fingerprint

    The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA

    Am I the only one to mention a contemporary bridge collapse in Florida? That might have something to do with the engineering we are supposed to trust. Soon to be picked over by the courts. I hope there is honesty in the science.
    Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse
    The youtube explanations look convincing. The experts in charge aren’t saying nuthin.

    Should I also mention Body Mass Index? Weight lifters have “bad” BMI.
    Worthless stat made common and very important.

    Per capita income could be another. Let me see, I live in the same County as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Does that make us all kinda sorta rich?

  250. “Since this post went up last week, I have been looking for abstract generalizations as I go about my days.”
    Me too, and they are not hard to find.

  251. You are a fun and inciteful bunch of characters, with plenty of insights :-).
    I’ll keep reading, and thank you!

  252. I’m not sure whether the staff of the Independent reads this blog, or if they and JMG are tapping into the same zeitgest (if either one is true, it’s good news), but this piece from the Independent’s fluff department is completely on-topic for this week’s post:

    “This 350 year old trick can get anyone to change their minds”

    On the Art of Memory, as it happens, I started experimenting with it a couple of months ago. Anecdotally speaking, I can faithfully report that the Steve above who called it a “parlour trick” is absolutely right, as I’ve been having lots of fun getting friends and students to challenge me with long lists of words (including, or solely, words I don’t know in Japanese) for me to memorize and recite back, in order, in 5 minutes or less. It’s really quite entertaining, and works so well and so quickly that it almost feels like magic.

    But, I can also vouch anecdotally that, as JMG suggested, it is not *just* a parlor trick, but quite a powerful tool. While it is true that the things I file in my mental locations don’t last forever without refreshing, they’ll certainly last for at least a few days– on the very first time I learn them– with a success rate of about 95%– which is far, far, faaaaaaaar better than the success rate I had studying my previous, normal, repetition based study method. The hard part is that on some level I guess it must be quite mentally taxing. It’s weird. I don’t actually feel taxed afterwards, at least consciously. But it definitely takes a fair bit of focus and concentration, and I have found it difficult to will myself to use the technique too very often so far. Still, it’s definitely very powerful, and I look forward to seeing how far I can go with it over time.

  253. @patriciaormsby Thank you for the recipe! I will try it and report back. I will gather up my rice and tapioca flour based baking flour and post here in case you can get the ingredients.

    I agree about the soy sauce!!! My birthday is the end of the month and my friend offers to take me out and my words were “no place with soy sauce”. I explained why and she started arguing with me that I’m sure they’ll leave it out if you ask. Sigh. No, its in everything and if it wasn’t there the food would be the cuisine it is! We have the gluten free soy sauce at home but I’m not BYOS.

    It was told to me by the gastroenterologist that celiac is very common of those of Ulster Irish decent most, then UK heritage next. Genetic mutation that we’ve all passed down. I think anyone with any auto-immune though has celiac too even if the genetics don’t show it. Auto-immune is so common and when I look around I think many more people have it and are undiagnosed.

  254. Last night I caught a story on BBC radio about Facebook being shut off in Sri Lanka. Apparently the violence has been going on for over a month with the majority population attacking Muslims. The government felt that posts shared on Facebook thousands of times saying that Muslim nurses were making Buddhist infertile, Muslims are bred with dogs, and other unproven allegations was keeping the attacks going.

    It was asked “What is Facebook doing about these posts?” Reporter talks about monitoring for hate speech (I personally disagree with the idea of specific words being labeled “hate” as context is decisive and never a part of what is reported.), and how Facebook has two employees who speak Sinhalan in their offices in CA. So immediately I think, well that’s ridiculous two people can’t monitor a whole country – they need to sleep, the time zones are different, and half a million people are on FB there! And then I realize that two people are monitoring a whole country’s speech – everything people say online on FB can be erased or banned by these two people. Holy moly.

    We have given Facebook so much power over our sharing of our ideas and lives. Imagine if the post office fifty years ago decided to hire staff to open and read people’s mail to make sure we were sharing “good” things with each other. People would have not put up with it. I wonder if it is the abstraction of the writing being on a screen and not done with our own hands that causes us to not be angry with the speech monitoring?

    Zines and postal mail will be making a comeback I think.

  255. @ Shane

    Re Trump’s imperial withdrawal

    Potentially — yes, I would agree. I’ll take haphazard, seemingly-accidental steps in the correct direction over malinvestment in a dead-end status quo, most certainly. (As I said to a number of folks the day after the election: I’m not exactly happy he won, but I am profoundly relieved that she lost.) On the other hand, he’s still wasting precious resources by continuing to invest in a bloated military far beyond what we need to defend our territorial integrity, and those resources are not being spent on any concerted effort to transition our economy to what we’re going to need as our empire ends. But a half-loaf is better than none, I agree.

    As I lean leftward generally (the Political Compass grid places me almost dead-center in the Libertarian Left quadrant), I keep hoping that the Democratic Party will reform itself and become the needed vehicle for change. This hope is contrary to what my analysis projects is likely to happen — that the GOP as we know it will fragment; the Democrats will absorb the suburban Republicans fleeing the ruins of their former party; the Democratic Party will become the conservative party of the economic status quo, finally completing their purge of the annoying and bothersome economic left; and an opposition party (likely with a worker and nationalist focus) will form sometime later from the fragments of the left and right, once those groups find a way to bridge the issues that separate them. I see Trump as the harbinger of the destruction of the GOP whose election was a shattering blow to what remained of the core coalition of that party.

    The upshot is, while we might take a few shuffling step in a slightly better direction in the meantime, there is going to be an “empire strikes back” phase, I believe, with a renewed Democratic (Dem-Rep?) resurgence in the 2020s/30s simply because the opposition is fragmented, probably not terribly long before whatever crisis finally reveals to the world that the emperor is undeniably naked. And that ain’t gonna be pretty.

  256. John Michael, MSG is a great example. I myself am one of those unfortunate enough to have nasty reactions to the stuff. So I avoid it like the poison my body says it is. My reactions are pretty extreme. I end up with migraines that last for several months. The affects of that end up looking like sudden onset MS. Thankfully, I fired my Neurologist and went and saw a new doc who was happy to think out side the box.

    That is just one anecdote of many that has had me moving from architecture to natural medicine. My children are getting older, one has already moved away, and our last two aren’t far behind her. I will have more time on my hands and already do as they need my hands on help with their education less and less. I am working myself out of a job as it were. So I have been putting quite a lot of thought into what I want to do with this time freedom and a way to give back and share what I have learned. I want to be able to accomplish my goals without getting a typical university degree. One it just doesn’t sit well with me. Looking for a way to be a trusted guide for people to improve their health without having a M.D. or PhD. behind your name isn’t the easy route or the cheap one. It might work for the time being, but down the road those letters may very well cause automatic dismissal.

    I have found a way by piecing together what I already have (master herbalist certificate) and an integrative health coach certificates and yoga instructor among others. It will take less time to reach my goals and it’s a middle ground, but without grants and scholarships I will be paying using my crafting skills. Quilts and cloth shopping bags and clothing.

    In the future I will be commenting before attempting to catch up on comments. I do love reading the comments, but goodness there never is time to read them all.

  257. I have run into relativly little snap back from environmentalists about my own modest efforts to cut my carbon foot print; this could be on acount of my sharp tongue. Inner peace through superior fire power. Last night I did some research on my current carbon foot print, turns out that showers are by far my biggest waste on a luxoury. They use almost as much energy per minute of operation as an automobile! That’s the next low hanging fruit to pick.

    The biggest issue I run into with psudo environmentalists is communication clutter. Everything needs to be talked to death to get the first thing done. This year I am farming, by hand tools, about an acre I went to a meeting with a local group of green retirie good doers. They have eight people on a board to start a 2000 square foot community garden. I am all for community gardens, for the man hours that go into one meeting I could grow more food than their community garden with hands, hoes, and seeds. At the same time they are begging capital to start the farm; so far they have received about twice my annual income in support; for a project equilivent to what I could out grow while sleeping in on Saturdays. Similarly working with many of the local groups in other areas, to do anything you have to talk, talk, talk, send a message, repeat it, edit it, visit the meeting, make calls, so on and so on. Mostly elders are like this, especially retired managment types. pataQ! Sorry for that little rant; I guess I better go hoe something so I don’t end up with a log in my eye.

    Talk does not boil the rice.

  258. Hi Jessi,

    I think there is way too much to say to do the topic justice here, so I will just tell you a few questions about CO2 that occurred to me as I pondered some graphs about the deep geologic history of CO2 and temperature. For this I have to link a graph, and there are several similar ones to be found on line.
    I pondered these graphs because I am incredibly interested in ice ages, actually. That’s how I found them.
    First of all, we are in an ice age, currently an interglacial of the ice age of 1-3 million years. Looking at the graph, you can see that we are in the 4th major ice age of the past 600 million years. I don’t know if there were any prior, but that is when life takes off and it seems to me that the earth was forming its basic systems during earlier epochs which don’t relate to ours that well.

    If you look carefully at the onset of CO2 level changes and temperature changes, there is no correlation. There is a correlation during this current ice age, however, but even there if you look at a more detailed graph of more recent history, the temps rise first, and are followed by CO2.

    Temps are the blue line, CO2 is black.

    My questions are:

    Is the current panic over a slight rise in CO2 justified if we see CO2 levels as a lab value like the ones done by labs on human blood? We have certain values that can range pretty widely, whereas blood pH must be kept in a very narrow range. Since CO2 levels have fluctuated some 25X or so, all while life was thriving, is it reasonable to think that this lab value must be kept in an extremely narrow range?

    Since CO2 is vital to life, we must also ask how low can it safely go? Googling this, I came up with 150-180 ppm. There have been two times in all geologic history that CO2 levels came a little too close for my comfort to this extinction level value – once at the bottom of a prior ice age and at the end of the previous glaciation about 18000 years ago. In the last 600 million years of Earth’s history, only the Carboniferous and our present age has CO2 dropped below 400 ppm.

    If we see how CO2 levels have fluctuated, and we think of the accident that at one tiny moment in all of geologic history a species called homo sapiens got scientific know-how and suddenly measured CO2 in the late 1800s, getting about 280 ppm, isn’t it a little bit too much of a coincidence that the best and in fact only acceptable level of CO2 is exactly that which was measured in that moment of time? Why should that be so?

    Apparently, people in the plant business add CO2 to their greenhouses to get better growth, and they like about 1200 ppm. Considering that CO2 levels have been quite a lot higher during most of geologic history when plants and animals were evolving and thriving, does it make sense that perhaps plants actually do better in conditions that are more commonly historic? That higher CO2 levels are actually the norm?

    I’m also not sure, considering we are in an ice age, why we should be so terribly concerned about possibly losing some ice. 80% of earth’s history we have had a warm planet with little ice.

  259. PatriciaOrmsby,

    I have been experimenting with making baked goods with little or no wheat. I don’t seem to react much myself, but I am concerned about what they have done to modern wheat. Sometimes I put a little bit of wheat in but that is usually spelt flour. I have been making a wonderful banana chocolate chip muffin using mostly millet flour. I read a list of foods that have acrylamide in them like fruit pits and apple seeds (laetrile) and millet is one. I find it makes things light and fluffy, which is what you lose when you stop using white flour. Another good one but expensive is almond flour or meal. I also find when you use these alternate flours they seem to take a lot more flour in than wheat, which forms the right density or consistency quicker. Whatever. Another good flour to take some of that moisture out and very drying is teff. Just a little. I make pancakes without wheat and they are very hearty, nothing like the cakey things you get in restaurants. I add corn meal and buckwheat, almond meal, oat flour, teff – you get the idea.

  260. Hi John

    Thanks for the response. I would be fascinated to read your take on the coming economic changes over the course of the next decade within the context of the Limits to Growth modelling.

    I thought you may be interested in this report, written by an academic, on how the European Union is now in the zone of collapse due to over-complexity.

    In a recent comment you mentioned that you think the EU will survive in the coming decades, which surprised me a little, but I think on balance that you are right.

    I see the EU slowly falling apart from within over the next decade or so but not collapsing totally. As for the euro currency, I struggle to see how that can survive medium-longer term but I may be under-estimating the appeal and risks posed by exiting the eurozone from the public and elites.

    I see the Syrian crisis is heating up… hopefully President Trump will send a few missiles to Syria and make a hasty retreat rather then attempt anything more ambitious. Otherwise it could be a Twilight Last Gleaming scenario.

  261. @onething:
    In the interest of civil discussion of controversial topics, I will jump in again!

    I think nobody disputes that higher CO2 concentrations favor plant growth, and in fact all people who agree that there was such a thing as a carboniferous age also agree that our planet had more biomass at many points in the past than it has today. The harder question is the exact connection between CO2 and global average temperature, since several other variables also influence the temperature: solar output, configuration of the continents and the composition of the rest of the atmosphere, among others. The graph you posted obviously does not contain enough information to decide either way. It is also important to realize that the graph you posted is on an extremely long time scale and doesn’t show CO2 spikes on a time scale of less than a million years, much less of less than a century!

    So while I think we all agree that higher CO2, by itself, might be a good thing, and that in any case 280 ppm is not a special value, most people in industrialized countries outside the USA are concerned that a rapid rise of CO2 MIGHT lead to a fast rise in sea level and to a rapid migration of climate zones which we are not prepared for and which would more than compensate for any beneficial effect of CO2. This question cannot be answered with any degree of certainty, but the mere possibility is, for many people, reason enough to be concerned.

  262. Will, I know. When I mention in this context that I don’t own or drive a car. a fair number of self-proclaimed environmental activists turn around and start talking like publicists for General Motors, if they don’t melt down completely. It’s rather like watching the Democrats demanding war against Russia just now — what, exactly, do they believe in anyway?

    As for feminism — well, yes. It’s dispiriting to watch a movement that started off as the straightforward and healthy insistence that women are people turn into a movement that now too often insists that men aren’t.

    Simba, funny. Peter of Ravenna would have approved — he was a famous teacher of the art of memory in the late Middle Ages, and used images of his sex partners as anchors for his memory imagery.

  263. Regarding vehicles and traveling, has anyone else on here noticed a major uptick in compulsive traveling by people they encounter? No one seems to be able to sit still and stay home anymore! Everyone I seem to know is compulsively going somewhere, whether for work, pleasure, or otherwise. That’s part of the reason I think there is no community where I’m living–no one seems to stay here long enough to develop community. Of course, needless to say, all this driving and jetting everywhere has a ghastly carbon footprint, but what, psychologically, is behind it? Is it like screen addiction, just another way to distract ourselves? Is it unconscious fear of the unspoken, which is that such excessive travel is not long for this world? It baffles me–I’ve spent way to much time behind the wheel trying to get away from myself that even a trip to Tenn. seems too far now.
    IDK about the GOP fracturing, they seem to be doing a good show of standing behind their man now, whatever their private misgivings may be. I think they’re too afraid to cross him, or more importantly, the movement behind him. More likely is a Dem fracturing along Bernie/Hillary lines. I too, have identified in the past as progressive and am registered Democrat, and I still don’t identify as a Republican, and still find Trump somewhat bemusing if I don’t really identify with him.

  264. Don’t know if any of you have been watching the situation in Syria, but it looks like a situation that could turn very ugly very fast. Trump, goaded by the neocons, has been threatening to attack Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack against a rebel-held city near Damascus.

    Where it really gets scary is that Russia is threatening retaliation if US military attacks jeopardize Russian military forces. Among other things, Russia has placed all of its military forces on high alert, the Black Sea Fleet has been ordered to sea and there are now reports of Russian bombers being deployed to Syria and Iran.

    This sounds an awful lot like the scenario in Twilight’s Last Gleaming.

  265. @Onething,
    Thank you for the tip on millet! It’s something I can find here, but I will have to grind it for myself. They usually add it t rice to supplement it. If I like it, I can try growing it. I’ll see if I can find teff (looking it up in Japanese first). They use some kind of French name for almond flour (amond poodle? no way to tell what the spelling might be) and price it accordingly. (-:

  266. Shane, thanks for the data points. I’m delighted to hear that the Trumpistas have kicked the Randroids to the curb; if I saw any use for the concept of evil, I’d have to assign that label to Ayn Rand’s belief system.

    Patricia, you’re welcome. Your take seems at least as sensible as any, and considerably more so than the official line being spouted by the UK and US governments.

    Onething, the wife of a friend of mine suggested the term “radiation entrapment.” “Global warming” sounds nice and kind and friendly, but “radiation entrapment” sounds as dire as the situation actually is.

    Jon, thanks for both of these stories!

    Lydia, thanks for this.

    Chris, no argument there. It’ll be good news for farmers in Siberia and Lapland, but over most of the rest of the world, not so much…

    Fred, you don’t start with issues. You start by finding other things to talk about, building trust and common ground, and then move into issues by way of things that matter to the people you’re talking to. You might be surprised by how many redneck good ol’ boys who like to fish are concerned with keeping streams clean enough for fish, for example. More on this as we proceed!

    David T., the classic method of loci was used with imaginary spaces just as often as with real ones, but I find that it’s best introduced using real spaces, thus the kitchen example. I once had quite a bit of the University of Washington campus in regular use as a memory palace! More on this as we proceed…

    William, thanks for this.

    Alantabor, exactly — it’s when people stop being able to work together on necessary projects, and treat defeating the other guy as more important than the survival of the overall system, that disaster follows promptly. We’re in that state now.

    David BTL, I see these as frantic last-ditch defenses against cognitive dissonance. What will happen when reality dawns is another matter entirely.

    Lydia, thanks for this also.

    Millennial, I bet! You might be amused to know that the second of two quarters of experimental design and statistics I took back in college was taught by a phenomenologist. (He was low man on the totem pole, so got that class dumped on him.) He spent the entire quarter laboriously teaching us how to do all the usual quantitative analyses, then sat us all down on the last day of class and explained to us just how meaningless most statistical results are, and why. The lesson stuck…

    Hubertus, fascinating. Here in the US the vast majority of people seem never to have encountered it, and find it baffling when it’s first presented to them.

    Shane, that’s one of the reasons I fled the Left Coast. Please accept my sincere condolences that you’re getting Californians in Kentucky!

    Denys, excellent. Yes, that’s a good summary! As for sushi, glad to hear someone else has found that option. Now that the weather’s warming up, inarizushi is on the agenda… 🙂

    Lathechuck, I’m not in the least surprised. Trashing your television remains the most revolutionary act available to most people these days — which is of course why so many self-described revolutionaries would sooner fry their rump in its own fat than do so.

    Shane, yep. Around and around we go…

    Heather, thanks for this. I’m grateful for people who choose to live in California, by the way — better them than me. 😉

    Inohuri, thank you for all these!

    Quin, delighted to hear it! I’ve certainly found the art of memory extremely useful over the years

    Denys, yep. My guess is that one thing we’ll see in the years immediately ahead is the dismembering of the internet into regional blocs subject to local governments, and the replacement of global social media with much more closely monitored regional and local systems.

    Aubrey, ouch! My one food additive sensitivity gives me 24 hours or so of migraine with nausea, and that’s bad enough. Your strategy sounds like a good one, though of course you’ll have to be careful of the medical industry’s habit of jailing the competition for “practicing medicine without a license.”

    Forecastingintelligence, the EU is a walking corpse, but history shows that such things can lumber on for quite a while until the inevitable final crisis pushes them over the brink into collapse. I’d give it a few decades yet, though.

    Shane, fascinating. I haven’t noticed that, but then I run with a strange crowd.

    Felix, yes, I’m watching it very, very closely.

  267. patriciaormsby, my rudimentary French suggests that you are looking for amande poudre (almond powder). Presumably “poudre” is the equivalent of “meal” as in cornmeal. The ordinary word for flour (or maybe just wheat flour) is farine.

  268. onething,

    You wrote, “All I ask is can I be accorded the respect to be allowed to be wrong based upon my own assessments of the merits of the arguments of the case? But to accord me that, I suppose, you have to allow the very slightest crack in your belief that you are utterly and totally and incontrovertibly right. Perhaps that is the problem. In order for a reasonable human being of good will to take a different position, you would have to understand that there is at least the slightest merit to the idea this is a valid scientific issue of some complexity and that not everyone who disagrees is a moron of some sort.”

    I have lots of cracks. Including the one you mentioned further down this comment stream, that CO2 seems to follow, not drive, temperature increase. I have never been able to get a satisfactory answer to that observation, other than it’s a timescale issue, and that historically C02 levels have never risen as quickly as they are currently (which still doesn’t address why it appears that on long times scales, CO2 seems to follow temperature).

    Not ever questioning, or being allowed a voice against, mainstream science feels too much like the old catholic church, where the constituency was not allowed to read the bible for themselves and instead were admonished to trust only the priest, who was the person of god you must depend on, and only on, to tell you the truth and to interpret the bible in the correct way for you.

    After learning what I can about our climate, from scientists who support global warming, scientists who support abrupt climate change, and those, sometimes scientists and sometimes not, who support natural earth/sun changes as being the main driver of climate, I am choosing, at this time, to believe we are headed for disaster due to man-made global warming and we need to act quickly to prevent mass deaths in nearly all species.

    I do not think you are a moron of some sort. I very much appreciated and enjoyed your posts, and look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

  269. @Felix the Cat,
    Dmitri Orlov has a more sanguine view on this than most:
    And a really fantastic photo to go with it.
    The latest of the commentary at the Saker points in the direction of a limited impressive attack against some “chemical facilities,” as a face-saving maneuver, with Russia standing back. The problem is the Russian people are beginning to get sick of this sort of charade.

  270. John Michael, you are quite right about that. While I was doing my Herbalism studies it was required that I take a legal class on just what was and what was not practicing medicine. Unfortunately, the state of California shut the school down. I’ve always wondered if that class was why, they weren’t allowed to tell us anything. It’s sister school is still running in Canada last time I heard.

  271. Had the Zuckerberg at the Senate live-streaming while making dinner yesterday. It was one softball question after another, except for Cruz who attacked him on lack of differing political views. There’s a reason Cruz is the most hated Senator among his colleagues – refuses to play along to get along.

    So its obvious once again that the government isn’t going to do anything meaningful to protect its citizens from our corporate overlords. That was the case in banking, finance, and the environment under Obama and Bush. Disappointed Trump is turning out to be the same. Well its the same congressional members so I guess not really a surprise.

    And the Syria battle drums beating makes me nauseous and want to curl up under the covers.

  272. We have had a parliamentary election recently in Hungary. It was preceded by a nauseating electoral campaign. (Well, one could argue that the government has been in a campaign mode for most of its term but hey, that’s modern politics, yay). The governing party has been practically owning the media for a few years now and, oh boy, they pumped up the fearmongering, fake news, conspiracy theories, etc.

    I was sad to realize that my parents have fallen to this propaganda as well. But the worst part is that I am completely unable to talk to them about the controversial topics in any meaningful way because their reality is so full of all the lies, misinformation and fear from the media that we would have to first systematically dismantle everything they believe they know for a fact about the world which would take us months. I see them a few times a year so that’s not gonna happen and this makes me so sad. We live now in different realities so to speak.

  273. Concrete vs abstract – the last two days have been a series of petty frustrations over things I thought were readily available which have disappeared or been cheapened rapidly. I could rant about the “crapification of daily life,” and have been well and truly warned about NOT taking it out in a tirade against the evil machinations of a set of evil villains. But when you’re trying to feed and elderly and picky cat, set in his ways and find that 90% of the canned food is now “In gravy” (or sauce) – which translates to “He’ll lap up the gravy and leave the meat!” and the rest is all-chicken-all-the-time (at which he’ll wander off, bored) it is frustrating. But at least it is concrete frustration with specific targets – about which nothing can be done! [No. I will NOT go to the “grain-free-organic-made-with-genuine-imported-wild mice” food for the felines of the affluent unless forced to.] So – that off my chest and moving on –

    Re: diet and celiac disease, especially Sara’s diet. I understand the traditional Japanese diet of rice, seafood, vegetables, and fermented soy was quite healthy, barring the poverty-based malnutrition of the period. (A farmer getting a bowl a rice gruel a day won’t thrive on that any more than American POWs did. So sorry!)

    Pat, running as fast as I can to keep from going downhill faster.

  274. Thank you, Deborah Bender! Your rudimentary French is miles ahead of mine. Still, the Japanese transliterations of French are such a scream: petit –> poochy; Renoir –> Runoaru. “Shoe cream” for what we call “cream puffs.” But at least they do try to catch something close to the actual pronunciation, arguably better than Anglified renditions of French, and much better than Japan’s English transliterations.

  275. @onething–
    No apology necessary re: vaccinations. I still think this is the most polite and respectful vaccinations discussion I have ever had on the internet, and that certainly includes you! 🙂

    Re the Gaia decreasing humanity comment– I guess I meant to convey that large numbers of people refusing to vaccinate their children feels to me like a ‘madness of crowds’ issue, or a lemmings-off-the-cliff thing. And temporary exponential growth of a pathogen _is_ one way that nature deals with monocultures. Examples include wheat rust in wheat fields, or that virus that wiped out lots of tomatoes a few years ago. Is the global monoculture of humans exempt from this? IMHO probably not. Nature has ways of dealing with overgrowth that may not take into account the feelings of ‘them as is being pruned.’

    I don’t believe I said vaccines are innocuous, or that they are all equally effective, or that non-vaccine methods are ineffective. There is a lot more to this issue. I like to talk about it, but was trying to keep my comments brief.

    I don’t think I said that parents don’t have a right to refuse to vaccinate their children, or that people should not have the right to refuse any vaccination for themselves. Any bad decision I have made in my own parenting has been something that I and my family have to live with. I just want people to make informed decisions, whether I agree with those decisions or not.

    I did say that it has become increasingly difficult within the medical system to sort the reliable information from biased and spurious information by paid shills. Discussions like this one tell me what people think and how they think, and have helped me consider and recommend options that I had discounted before, such as homeopathy. It’s been extremely informative! Keep up the good work everybody!

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