The Truth About Mulder and Scully: William James’ Advice on Conspiracies, Part I

 

Fox-mulder GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHYThe great philosopher William James made a brilliant observation: We need to believe truth just as much as we need to avoid error, and we can’t always believe every truth and avoid every error at the same time.

The choice between these two priorities explains the difference between the lead characters from a remarkable TV show, The X-Files.  More importantly, their choice of what to believe–and not believe–illustrates the choices facing all of us now as we face a catastrophic breakdown in social trust.  These choices revolve around the issue highlighted by both James and The X-Files: How much risk of believing an error is worth the benefits of believing a truth about our world?

Let’s look at this in a bit more detail, shall we?

Mulder and Scully

You remember Mulder, don’t you? Fox Mulder was a star character in a superb sci-fi show from the ’90s to the early 2000s, The X-Files.  And you remember Dana Scully, right?  She and Mulder were partners at the FBI.  Their job–investigate paranormal phenomena!

Now, Mulder was a believer.  He believed all kinds of weird theories that explained the weird data he was investigating–and especially the one about the conspiracy colluding with the aliens who were planning to colonize the earth!  Scully didn’t believe, but she wasn’t some closed-minded skeptic.  She was willing to believe anything, but she wanted proof first.  One weird theory that explains things, even in the absence of any other explanation, was never enough for Scully.  She wanted positive evidence. She wanted hard evidence. She wanted evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.  She wanted proof.

xfiles #scully #gif | X files, Scully, Dana scully hair

I had the impression that the folks who made the show wanted us to think of Mulder and Scully as representing, respectively, faith and reason.  But they don’t.

They’re just different strategies of reason. Mulder is responding to the evidence, and Scully is open to any view if the evidence supports it well enough.  But Scully is always lagging behind the evidence, while Mulder runs ahead before all the evidence is available.  He is satisfied if he can get closer to the truth, while Scully is satisfied if she never makes a mistake.  

William James

William James says:

There are two ways of looking at our duty in the matter of opinion,—ways entirely different, and yet ways about whose difference the theory of knowledge seems hitherto to have shown very little concern. We must know the truth; and we must avoid error,—these are our first and great commandments as would-be knowers; but they are not two ways of stating an identical commandment, they are two separable laws. Although it may indeed happen that when we believe the truth A, we escape as an incidental consequence from believing the falsehood B, it hardly ever happens that by merely disbelieving B we necessarily believe A. We may in escaping B fall into believing other falsehoods, C or D, just as bad as B; or we may escape B by not believing anything at all, not even A.

Believe truth! Shun error!—these, we see, are two materially different laws; and by choosing between them we may end by coloring differently our whole intellectual life. We may regard the chase for truth as paramount, and the avoidance of error as secondary; or we may, on the other hand, treat the avoidance of error as more imperative, and let truth take its chance.

We need to avoid believing errors as much as we can, and we need to believe the truth as much as possible. But we can’t always do 100% of both.  In some situations where not all the evidence has yet come in, there may be some truth there to be believed, and there may not.  If we believe a possible but unconfirmed truth, we risk being in error.  The safest way to avoid that error is to not believe anything until all the evidence has all come in.  But that is also a good way of missing out on that truth–if it’s there to miss out on!

So which risk do you prefer–the risk of believing an error, or the risk of not believing a truth?

Now James is talking about the choice of whether to have religious beliefs when the evidence is not yet decisive, and his point is that there is no avoiding risk just by not believing.  We have to choose which risk to take. The point is not that we should believe. The point is that there’s no veto on faith just because faith risks error. We risk something either way. A faith-vetoer is just opting for a different risk:William James - Wikipedia

Better risk loss of truth than chance of error—that is your faith-vetoer’s exact position.

William James Explains The X-Files

James is not the only person who ever talked about this stuff; Augustine talked about this stuff a little bit.  (I explain the connections myself; you’re welcome.) But James is correct that “the theory of knowledge seems hitherto to have shown very little concern” about this.  And he’s correct that this is important!

Let’s talk about two reasons it’s important, a fun one and a very sobering one.

The fun one is simple: James’ insight reveals the real difference between Mulder and Scully!

Mulder is a “Believe truth!” kind of guy, and Scully is a “Shun error!” kind of gal.

Scully is working hard to avoid error, and she’s willing to miss out on a few truths in the process.

Not Mulder: He’s determined to catch all the truths he can, and he’s willing to risk a few errors for it.

Biography - Augustine of Hippo

Of course, he’s rarely if ever wrong, but that’s just his good luck being a character in a tv show whose creators wanted him to be right about a weird world with alien conspiracies and more.  Don’t expect things to work out so smoothly in real life.

What Should We Believe?  What Should We Not Believe?

But now for the very sobering reason this is important: James’ insight applies to our situation nowWe’ve learned a lot lately about how we can’t trust the institutions we thought we could.  The FDA operates under the influence of Big Pharma. Federal law enforcement goes after conservatives disproportionately.  The FBI has a long history of shady illegalities.  The FBI conscripted Big Tech into its policy of censorship and social control, and did a lot more too.  We can’t trust Pfizer.  We can’t trust Fauci; as a result and to at least some extent, neither can we trust the vast regions of the NIH or of healthcare research that were under his influence. We can’t trust any number of other institutions sacrificing all the old standards for the current woke shibboleths–make your own list!  (I haven’t trusted Disney or the mainstream media since I was a kid, but they do seem to getting worse, don’t they?)

Maybe, like me, you’re wondering: Just how bad are things?  How extensive and corrupting are the influences of politics, groupthink, money, power, and fame?  How much of that corruption crosses a line into illegality?  How much of it is organized and coordinated? Just what is going on behind the scenes? How long has it been going on?

I’m so glad you asked.

I don’t know either.

But life gives us limited choices about what to believe and not believe.  Some choices, like James points out, we can easily avoid: We don’t have to either accept or deny, for example, the theory that Ukrainian oligarchs are influencing American foreign policy because they have dirt on the Biden family.  We could easily enough have no opinion on the matter.

But we can’t avoid the choice between believing it and not believing it.  Same with all the other theories about Epstein, Schwab, the Clintons, the Bidens, the Deep State, the vaccines, Pfizer, Fauci, election machines, 2,000 mules, and on and on and on and on and on.

We have the same choice as Mulder and Scully: Are we more afraid of missing out on a truth, or are we more afraid of believing an error?  We can do some things to minimize both risks, of course.  But we can’t keep both risks to near-zero at the same time and all the time.

To illustrate the difficulty: Way back in early 2021, the “Believe truth!” crowd was probably making some errors about the mRNA vaccines, thinking they were designed to kill people in large numbers, that they had microchips, and so on.

I did not join those errors.  Instead, I played the role of Scully.  As a result, I missed out, for a while, on at least one important truth: These vaccines actually are dangerous.

Missing out on just that one truth that the believers had already accepted was a real risk: For a time, I remained ignorant of an important truth. That ignorance even led me into a different error, the belief that the vaccines were a good thing for people like me.  There were consequences: I took two Pfizer shots.  Even Scully learns to believe in the conspiracy with the aliens, and I’ve gotten at least as far as learning that the mRNA vaccines aren’t that great, and are dangerous for many. It would probably have been better for me not to take those shots.  (As far I know, I wasn’t harmed, but for a male under 40, that was a real possibility.  Dr. Prasad and Benjamin Knudsen explain: “Myocarditis is a serious adverse event that disproportionately affects men under 40, with highest risk among men aged 12–24 who receive a second dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.”)

William James’ First Piece of Advice on Conspiracy Theories and Other Unapproved Opinions

Let’s summarize:

William James’ insights give us some useful counsel on what to believe about what’s going on in the world: Until all the evidence comes in, we have to choose between the risk of believing something wrong about what’s going on and the risk of not believing something true about what’s going on.

William James also has some other advice on these matters, but I will need a second post to consider it.

And What Should We Do with This Information?

Start with understanding each other, I guess.  That’s the first thing.  All those Mulders out there–they’re not all crazy.  They’re following the evidence, and perhaps interpreting it brilliantly.  They’re after some important truths, and sometimes they may have some truths the rest of us are missing out on.

But if you’re a Mulder who believes more about what’s going on than some annoying Scully person who seems impervious to evidence, then at least keep in mind that Scully is trying to avoid falling into error–including some error you might be believing.

And there’s a second thing: Know what situation we are in–the situation we are always in when the evidence has not cleared everything up yet.  For every possible truth not yet fully proven, we risk being in error if we accept it, but we also risk missing out on it if we avoid that error by simply having no opinion.

But don’t freak out.  There are some things we can do to mitigate these risks: Admit what you don’t know, consider as much evidence as you have time for, question both the claims and the counterclaims, and so on.

And there’s one other very important thing: Each of us still has the responsibility to be good, and that’s true no matter what‘s going on in the world. More on that in my next post.

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  1. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Saint Augustine:

    Scully is working hard to avoid error, and she’s willing to miss out on a few truths in the process.

    @TobyYoung

    Not Mulder: He’s determined to catch all the truths he can, and he’s willing to risk a few errors for it.

    @jamesdelingpole

    • #1
  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Saint Augustine:

    Now James is talking about the choice of whether to have religious beliefs when the evidence is not yet decisive, and his point is that there is no avoiding risk just by not believing. 

    James is responding to W. K. Clifford.

    I put this magnificent philosophical combat to Avengers music.

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I believed in the integrity of the FBI and the wholesomeness of Disney.

    Believed.

    Excellent post, Augie.

    • #3
  4. Mark A., Dubious Authority Coolidge
    Mark A., Dubious Authority
    @MarkAlexander

    Excellent!

    • #4
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Percival (View Comment):

    I believed in the integrity of the FBI and the wholesomeness of Disney.

    Believed.

    Excellent post, Augie.

    Don’t tell me. Pray William James is in Heaven somehow, and tell him when you get there.

    • #5
  6. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Saint Augustine:

    There are some things we can do to mitigate these risks: Admit what you don’t know, consider as much evidence as you have time for, question both the claims and the counterclaims, and so on.

    Not to mention this:

    If you’re a believer, be like Mulder by always paying attention to the evidence; Mulderism at its best is always responding to all the available evidence.

    And if you’re a doubter, be like Scully in keeping an open mind; Scullyism at its best doesn’t rule out any weird theory in advance; it just hangs back waiting for proof.

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    It’s hard to sort out the facts on the covid vaccines. I don’t have a lab, and I am not a scientist. And although there are many highly qualified doctors opposing the vaccines, there are also many highly qualified doctors endorsing them.

    I suspect something is up because I’ve had four doses, and with each successive dose, the prequalifying list of questions gets longer and longer. There is concern there from the manufacturers. Of that I’m sure.

    But I also see life returning to normal, and it seems to me that the vaccine may be responsible for that. Given that the virus is still in circulation, I wonder how the antivaccine doctors explain that very obvious phenomenon.

    The 1918 flu burned itself out. So did SARS I in 2004. Perhaps this virus did that too somehow, although the variants keep coming, and in Boston, one of the Omicron subvariants brought a significant hospitalization and death toll, even though Omicron started out in (I believe it was) Africa as a mild subvariant.

    Of course, this virus is unstable because it has been altered by humans. So who knows what is happening out there. But the numbers are down, in spite of the fact that we know that people can succumb to it many times. Having a bout of covid does not mean you have durable immunity to it.

    So what is going on out there? I don’t trust anyone anymore. I have no idea. Not even a guess.

    I’m one of thousands of people who have had the vaccine with no ill effects. I’m in a high-risk group for the virus should I get it, so it’s a risk-benefit calculation for me, and the smaller risk is on the side of the vaccine. But I can understand others who are in good health saying they prefer to take their chances with the virus. I respect both opinions.

    The vaccine debates sound like the covid debates but in reverse. On one side, there were those who said, “The government is inflating the death and hospitalization figures. I’m not tripping over people who have died from it. It’s not that serious. It’s all panic porn.” On the other side, there were those who saw all pneumonia deaths those two years as covid deaths. I suspect the truth was somewhere in middle.

    And I think the same may be true of the covid vaccine debates, that the truth lies in the middle between the two extreme opinions. On one side, people are attributing all heart attack deaths to the vaccine, and with good reason, I suspect. But without full health histories and autopsies, it is hard to know, just as it was hard to know what the actual figures were concerning deaths from covid. I suspect not all of these unexplained deaths are due to the vaccine. I suspect some really are due to the virus. It is a bad bug.

    • #7
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    I believed in the integrity of the FBI and the wholesomeness of Disney.

    Believed.

    Excellent post, Augie.

    Don’t tell me. Pray William James is in Heaven somehow, and tell him when you get there.

    James may be. I will be. This I believe.

    • #8
  9. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Saint Augustine:

    We could easily enough have no opinion on the matter.

    But we can’t avoid the choice between believing it or not believing it.

    This seems so black and white.  Just about everything I know is on a scale of trusting it to be real or true.  From 0 to 100%.  Everything fits into a jigsaw picture.  And slowly all kind of things take form, some near enough to be positively identifiable, some only hinted at enough to make a suggestion, and things that I can’t be positive about, but would bet my life on.

    Very few things are black and white.  It’s even popular these days to say, But our memories are not even correct, and that is only partially true.  Some memories are exactly correct, some are cut and pasted, and some are simply wrong.

    We can know things that aren’t solid facts.  And what we know doesn’t have to be facts verified by the few who convince others that they each are the one who knows the truth.

    • #9
  10. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    MarciN (View Comment):

    It’s hard to sort out the facts on the covid vaccines. I don’t have a lab, and I am not a scientist. And although there are many highly qualified doctors opposing the vaccines, there are also many highly qualified doctors endorsing them.

    I suspect something is up because I’ve had four doses, and with each successive dose, the prequalifying list of questions gets longer and longer. There is concern there from the manufacturers. Of that I’m sure.

    But I also see life returning to normal, and it seems to me that the vaccine may be responsible for that. Given that the virus is still in circulation, I wonder how the antivaccine doctors explain that very obvious phenomenon. The 1918 flu burned itself out. So did SARS I in 2004.

    It may be a factor, but so are the facts that nearly everyone has had Omicron by now anyway and the facts that new variant tends to be less lethal to the person infected even if they do tend to spread faster.

    Natural mutation to lower lethality is what happened to Spanish flu, isn’t it?

    So what is going on out there? I don’t trust anyone anymore. I have no idea. Not even a guess.

    That’s the spirit!

    And I think the same may be true of the covid vaccine debates, that the truth lies in the middle between the two extreme opinions. . . .

    Likely.

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Natural mutation to lower lethality is what happened to Spanish flu, isn’t it?

    I forget exactly what I read when I was immersed in this subject, but as I recall, the weakened-strain theory was only a theory. Another theory was that a weakened variant emerged and essentially inoculated people against the stronger parent virus. 

    SARS I burned out as suddenly as it started, it seems. I think there is a good possibility that it actually attenuated and continued to circulate, which would explain why the human-altered covid virus fifteen years later seems to have infected only 20 percent of people exposed to it. They were “inoculated” years ago by a weakened SARS I. 

    All that aside, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for what I’m seeing now, which is a return to normal life with only a very small number of people getting sick and/or dying from the original covid virus or its variants. 

    If our resident microbiologist Mendel were here, he would probably say that the covid virus attacked and maimed or killed the “low-hanging fruit”–senior citizens, as it were–and the people left are able to fend it off or recover from it. 

    It is tempting to accept that but I’m also seeing that people don’t seem to build up durable immunity. They are getting successive infections. 

    So I have no idea what is happening with this bug. 

     

    • #11
  12. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    MarciN (View Comment):

    So I have no idea what is happening with this bug. 

    That’s the spirit!

    Hooray for Socrates!

    • #12
  13. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    So I have no idea what is happening with this bug.

    That’s the spirit!

    Hooray for Socrates!

    Indeed! :) :)

    • #13
  14. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    So well written I am gob smacked.

    Now you state: “Maybe, like me, you’re wondering: Just how bad are things?  How extensive and corrupting are the influences of politics, groupthink, money, power, and fame?  How much of that influence crosses a line into illegality?  How much of it is organized and coordinated?”

    I do not know that I am all that worried about normal every day politics, groupthink, money, power & fame.

    But the WEF & the WHO terrify me. They represent the forces you mention smacked up on  steroids and adrenochrome.

    I have been finding out that what has been happening since March 2020 with the National Emergency being put in charge of our lives, and   Overlord Corporate Science using one ring  to rule us all, all of it most likely would not have occurred if various enactments had not occurred one after the other for decades.

    Take a peek at the early 1970’s Kissinger Report, known as the NSSM, where strategies to control whatever nation(s) might be on  the USA’s hit list are revealed.

    Not surprisingly, food and oil and gas are the items that would offer the USA the most ability to control foreign places:

    https://archive.org/stream/NSSMHenryA.KissingerReport200435/NSSM%20Henry%20A.%20Kissinger%20Report%202004-35_djvu.txt

    In the above 2 page report, the idea is touted that critical and usual US food assistance programs should be offered to those nations who were considered as overly populous only if the nation(s)  would be  determined to develop population-controlling programs like an effective contraception plan.

    Kissinger also insisted that the USA be ready and able to insist on  withholding food supplies & rationing to help persuade nations to limit their birth rate. This strategy is now likely being used against us!

    Of course these strategies were both preceded and  followed by onerous Executive Orders that can easily be implemented if necessary.

    Here are major EO’s of concern to anyone who values civil liberties:

    • #14
  15. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    I’m not sure I agree with this analysis.
    I am not so sure that the choice is whether to believe the evidence you have been exposed to like Mulder or to be skeptical of it fearing an error unless the evidence is so overwhelming  that it cannot be denied, I guess like Scully.

    You see there is an elephant in the room in this discussion. That elephant is that a great many people want someone else to examine the evidence for them; they want “authoritative voices” to tell them what to believe so they don’t have to think and these same people get very agitated and upset when a guy like Mulder wants to really delve into the evidence presented by these august and anointed “Authoritative Voices”.  

    Mulder is a crazed “conspiracy theorist” because  he doesn’t always believe whole hog what the anointed”Authoritative  Voices” say particularly when there is clear evidence to the contrary. Such an attitude is a clear affront to those so afraid of making an error and a direct challenge to their world view.

    But with the evidence gained from the Twitter revelations and the evidence presented on government intimidation and censorship by the Federal lawsuit presented by the Louisiana and Missouri Attorney Generals, it has become abundantly clear that our anointed “Authoritative Voices” have been gratuitously lying to us on virtually every important subject.

    For those so used to relying on these anointed Wise Men and Women, these revelations amount to a dis-orienting crisis of faith. No longer are there go-to experts that can be counted on to be right without fail, so one can be absolutely sure one will not be in error. No, now one must learn ways to evaluate the evidence presented by a wide range of sources. In short, we must learn to think for ourselves.

    • #15
  16. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Unsk (View Comment):

    I’m not sure I agree with this analysis.
    I am not so sure that the choice is whether to believe the evidence you have been exposed to like Mulder or to be skeptical of it fearing an error unless the evidence is so overwhelming that it cannot be denied, I guess like Scully.

    You see there is an elephant in the room in this discussion. That elephant is that a great many people want someone else to examine the evidence for them; they want “authoritative voices” to tell them what to believe so they don’t have to think and these same people get very agitated and upset when a guy like Mulder wants to really delve into the evidence presented by these august and anointed “Authoritative Voices”.

    Mulder is a crazed “conspiracy theorist” because he doesn’t always believe whole hog what the anointed”Authoritative Voices” say particularly when there is clear evidence to the contrary. Such an attitude is a clear affront to those so afraid of making an error and a direct challenge to their world view.

    But with the evidence gained from the Twitter revelations and the evidence presented on government intimidation and censorship by the Federal lawsuit presented by the Louisiana and Missouri Attorney Generals, it has become abundantly clear that our anointed “Authoritative Voices” have been gratuitously lying to us on virtually every important subject.

    For those so used to relying on these anointed Wise Men and Women, these revelations amount to a dis-orienting crisis of faith. No longer are there go-to experts that can be counted on to be right without fail, so one can be absolutely sure one will not be in error. No, now one must learn ways to evaluate the evidence presented by a wide range of sources. In short, we must learn to think for ourselves.

    Um.

    Yes.

    Are we disagreeing here?  I don’t know much about the lawsuit you mention–or indeed anything at all.  But it sure looks like I have no objection to anything you say here.

    If we had trustworthy institutions to do some of the thinking for us, it sure would help.

    • #16
  17. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Natural mutation to lower lethality is what happened to Spanish flu, isn’t it?

    I forget exactly what I read when I was immersed in this subject, but as I recall, the weakened-strain theory was only a theory. Another theory was that a weakened variant emerged and essentially inoculated people against the stronger parent virus.

    SARS I burned out as suddenly as it started, it seems. I think there is a good possibility that it actually attenuated and continued to circulate, which would explain why the human-altered covid virus fifteen years later seems to have infected only 20 percent of people exposed to it. They were “inoculated” years ago by a weakened SARS I.

    All that aside, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for what I’m seeing now, which is a return to normal life with only a very small number of people getting sick and/or dying from the original covid virus or its variants.

    If our resident microbiologist Mendel were here, he would probably say that the covid virus attacked and maimed or killed the “low-hanging fruit”–senior citizens, as it were–and the people left are able to fend it off or recover from it.

    It is tempting to accept that but I’m also seeing that people don’t seem to build up durable immunity. They are getting successive infections.

    So I have no idea what is happening with this bug.

     

    The people who are not building up any immunity to the offshoots/variants of the original strain of SARS COVID II usually are people who have gone and gotten vaxxed. Quite frequently they are the ones who have a rough go of it in terms of high fevers, aches, pains, chills, and headaches.

    Each vaccine for COV has pushed a person’s immune system out of shape by 15 to 23%. The one way out is to stop loading up on more jabs and boosters. This seems to be something many people are realizing, as so many people discuss on social media how  they initially went and got jab one and two, but then quit. Another contributing factor as far as the  COV vax dropout rate is  that some of the people have experienced the loss of a spouse, parent, sibling,   child, friend or neighbor or else seen any of a number of people around them being injured.

     

     

    • #17
  18. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Saint Augustine:

    We’ve learned a lot lately about how we can’t trust the institutions we thought we could.  The FDA operates under the influence of Big Pharma. Federal law enforcement goes after conservatives disproportionately.  The FBI has a long history of shady illegalities.  The FBI conscripted Big Tech into its policy of censorship and social control, and did a lot more too.  We can’t trust Pfizer.  We can’t trust Fauci; as a result and to at least some extent, neither can we trust the vast regions of the NIH or of healthcare research that were under his influence.

    And there’s more corruption in medicine than we knew. Honest, trustworthy doctors don’t know, and don’t know what they don’t know.

    https://listen.stitcher.com/yvap/?af_dp=stitcher://episode/90326487&af_web_dp=https://www.stitcher.com/episode/90326487&deep_link_value=stitcher://episode/90326487

    • #18
  19. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    Saint Augustine:

    How much risk of believing an error is worth the benefits of believing a truth about our world?

    I’ll believe until the marginal benefits of believing equal the marginal costs of not believing. 

    But I may have been mal-educated.

    Or perhaps as Peirce suggests in his economics of research, that we are led to action by our irritation at the unknown, and spend our effort and resources to learn enough to relieve (not erase) our doubts, and move on.

    • #19
  20. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    Saint Augustine:

    Not Mulder: He’s determined to catch all the truths Pokemon he can, and he’s willing to risk a few errors for it.

    Sorry, what? My mind wandered.

    • #20
  21. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    MarciN (View Comment):

    It’s hard to sort out the facts on the covid vaccines. I don’t have a lab, and I am not a scientist. And although there are many highly qualified doctors opposing the vaccines, there are also many highly qualified doctors endorsing them.

    It’s a little known fact that, when they gave me my bachelor’s degree in physics, they handed me a labcoat too, and the right to pronounce authoritatively in any technical question however little related to physics. No, wait, that didn’t happen to me. That doesn’t happen to anybody, with the possible exception of Tom Nichols.

    Humility about what you know is fine. We should also have some skepticism about what anyone else knows, no matter how fancy their laboratory. I’m not objecting to you in particular. One of the things that the ‘rona has taught me is that we’ve been far, far too lax in holding the labcoat class to account to prove what they think they know.

    • #21
  22. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    SKully was presented as a Skeptic that would not believe despite the evidence. Sorry, but she was not reasonable at all. She was not presented as realistic at all. 

    • #22
  23. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Saint Augustine: William James’ insights give us some useful counsel on what to believe about what’s going on in the world: Until all the evidence comes in, we have to choose between the risk of believing something wrong about what’s going on and the risk of not believing something true about what’s going on.

    Interesting post, Augie.  But I don’t agree with your premise – which is that it somehow matters what one “believes.”  I don’t think so.  The truth remains true, whether you believe it or not.  A falsehood remains false, whether you believe it or not.  The fact that one does not “believe” something does not preclude one from acting as if it were true (or false) – even in the face of uncertainty.  So I fail to understand the “risk” of not believing something that is true.  The alternative to “belief” is to figure things out as best you can, based on the evidence that is available.  And, yes, also keeping an open mind.

    “Belief gets in the way of learning.”  ― Robert A. Heinlein

    • #23
  24. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine:

    We’ve learned a lot lately about how we can’t trust the institutions we thought we could. The FDA operates under the influence of Big Pharma. Federal law enforcement goes after conservatives disproportionately. The FBI has a long history of shady illegalities. The FBI conscripted Big Tech into its policy of censorship and social control, and did a lot more too. We can’t trust Pfizer. We can’t trust Fauci; as a result SNIP  neither can we trust the vast regions of the NIH or of healthcare research that were under his influence.

    And there’s more corruption in medicine than we knew. Honest, trustworthy doctors don’t know, and don’t know what they don’t know.

    https://listen.stitcher.com/yvap/?af_dp=stitcher://episode/90326487&af_web_dp=https://www.stitcher.com/episode/90326487&deep_link_value=stitcher://episode/90326487

    One important thing that Abramson brings forth is just how easy it was for him to have a book he wrote go on to be discussed in the major media outlets back in 2002 to 2008. Whereas now, for him to have anything critical of Big Medicine/Big Pharma will not ever be given any air time on those outlets because  the pharma ad monies support the TV networks.

    The exception to the above is sometimes how these days the major outlets will bring forth this or that book, or author or study, but only to discredit the opinions and facts presented.

    Abramson also has the bravery to state openly that we in the USA do not have any sort of mechanism to oversee health matters. He mentions that many other countries do have these mechanisms.

    His first criticism regarding this is regarding how  the “peer reviewed” process  is basically BS.

    Somewhere in the middle of my 30 years of researching Big Pesticide & its mechanisms for escaping both oversight or penalties was my realization of how screwed up peer reviewed happens to be.

    “Peer reviewed” means very little. If I were to  bring forth a new pesticide or medical product, I can call on anyone I know with standing in any industry to read my study on the product & offer up “a peer reviewed” study. So then  I can state that my pesticide review of product safety of my Product X was peer reviewed by Albano Modiquoudious, who holds a PhD.

    Do I need to reveal that Dr Modiqupoudious is a specialist in latex technology and knows nothing about human health – only knows about how to be formulating a better tire for much cheaper using an enhanced  latex process? Nope, no need to detail that. All I need to do is  just list his doctorate and the schools that he attended and the institutes where he has worked.

    I doubt that 2% of the American public at large knows that. It is possible only 5% of all our doctors who serve as GPs know anything about this either.

    • #24
  25. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Internet's Hank (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine:

    Not Mulder: He’s determined to catch all the truths Pokemon he can, and he’s willing to risk a few errors for it.

    Sorry, what? My mind wandered.

    Yeah, I’d been thinking the same thing.

    • #25
  26. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine:

    How much risk of believing an error is worth the benefits of believing a truth about our world?

    I’ll believe until the marginal benefits of believing equal the marginal costs of not believing.

    Right on.

    But I may have been mal-educated.

    Or perhaps as Peirce suggests in his economics of research, that we are led to action by our irritation at the unknown, and spend our effort and resources to learn enough to relieve (not erase) our doubts, and move on.

    I just don’t do enough Pierce! But . . . right on!

    • #26
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Internet's Hank (View Comment):
    One of the things that the ‘rona has taught me is that we’ve been far, far too lax in holding the labcoat class to account to prove what they think they know.

    Amen.

    • #27
  28. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    SKully was presented as a Skeptic that would not believe despite the evidence. Sorry, but she was not reasonable at all. She was not presented as realistic at all.

    Well, . . . it has been years since I watched it!

    But I remember her believing. Eventually. “I wouldn’t second-guess him, Sir” she says of Mulder. (I think.)

    • #28
  29. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine: William James’ insights give us some useful counsel on what to believe about what’s going on in the world: Until all the evidence comes in, we have to choose between the risk of believing something wrong about what’s going on and the risk of not believing something true about what’s going on.

    Interesting post, Augie. But I don’t agree with your premise – which is that it somehow matters what one “believes.” I don’t think so. The truth remains true, whether you believe it or not.

    Not all truths.

    But this is no time to talk about that!  Wait for the next post.

    The fact that one does not “believe” something does not preclude one from acting as if it were true (or false) – even in the face of uncertainty. So I fail to understand the “risk” of not believing something that is true.

    Knowing the truth is reason enough in and of itself.

    The main point is that we don’t believe without acting.

    But your point seems to be that we can act without believing.

    To some extent, we can; and, to that extent, James’ logic may simply be applied to the choice between avoiding error and acting on possible truths.

    To some extent, we can’t.  But this is no time to talk about that!  Wait for the next post.

    • #29
  30. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    MarciN (View Comment):

    It’s hard to sort out the facts on the covid vaccines.SNIP

    I suspect something is up because I’ve had four doses, and with each successive dose, the prequalifying list of questions gets longer and longer. There is concern there from the manufacturers. Of that I’m sure.

    But I also see life returning to normal, and it seems to me that the vaccine may be responsible for that. Given that the virus is still in circulation, I wonder how the antivaccine doctors explain that very obvious phenomenon.

    SNIP

    So what is going on out there? I don’t trust anyone anymore. I have no idea. Not even a guess.

    I’m one of thousands of people who have had the vaccine with no ill effects. I’m in a high-risk group for the virus should I get it, so it’s a risk-benefit calculation for me, and the smaller risk is on the side of the vaccine. But I can understand others who are in good health saying they prefer to take their chances with the virus. I respect both opinions.

    SNIP

    And I think the same may be true of the covid vaccine debates, that the truth lies in the middle between the two extreme opinions. On one side, people are attributing all heart attack deaths to the vaccine, and with good reason, I suspect. But without full health histories and autopsies, it is hard to know, just as it was hard to know what the actual figures were concerning deaths from covid. I suspect not all of these unexplained deaths are due to the vaccine. I suspect some really are due to the virus. It is a bad bug.

    How does the “anti-vax” crowd explain the fact that “life is returning to normal.”

    Well I don’t think that any of us believe that. Over the year 2021, there were 1.2 million people disabled with that number being in excess of the usual number of disabled for recent prior  Fiscal Years. And that number of 1.2 million was only for those people who worked at jobs where they held disability insurance – which removes the average Tom or Sally from the statistical pool.

    As far as you basing your thoughts on your survival of the vaccine as some type of statement of the vaccine being innocuous: each day in Calif, drunk drivers use the same style of refrains: “I was totally plastered 2 Friday nites ago when I drove home. Yet here I am: alive and well!”

    • #30
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