The power of “magic spells”

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I don’t believe in magic. But I have become convinced that some very real psychological state exists that can only be a “magic spell” without the magic. I have watched friends and relatives become so enraptured with Donald Trump that they have cast aside many of their most treasured religious and cultural norms in order to attest to the man’s… Read more »

Free will, determinism, and “the nudge”

Over thousands of years, humans have placed a lot philosophical and theological baggage on the overlapping concepts of free will, choice and volition. We have developed elaborate systems of ethics and religions to articulate “the right” choices to be selected from the array of options open to us daily. Yet there remains a split among neuroscientists as to the nature… Read more »

North Korea and Game Theory

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A recent post on this blog noted that the current North Korea nuclear showdown is not far afield from what I call “the first ethical dilemma.” This dilemma dates from the time in our distant hunter-gatherer past when our emerging extended-family “mini-civilization” was threatened by the encroachment of another extended family group into “our space.” I presented a 2×2 decision matrix… Read more »

The first ethical dilemma

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The discipline of Ethics is not really about “good actions versus bad actions.” Murder is bad. Got it. The most interesting and vexing ethical questions are those issues where good people disagree about basic issues of human volition (i.e., “choice” or “free will”). And beneath the conscious volition there are different parts of the human brain doing probabilistic survival planning, with… Read more »

Health insurance at Fox News

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There has long been a wide gap between the conservative view of “the insurance I want” versus “the insurance I want you to have.” You would think that some of the “free market” bastions in American media would institute “message-appropriate” forms of health insurance for their own employees, but you would be wrong. I have made several inquiries regarding the… Read more »

Ant choices and “t+1”

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Is there a “purpose” to the complex structure of ant colonies? Do ants make “choices” when they are constructing these colonies? When I begin to think about “human choice,” I first need to get “ant choice” straight in my head. So, here we go… The human mind has a hard time grasping how a colony of ants, each with extremely… Read more »

Privatization is not capitalism

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The slow-roll collapse of the ill-advised Iowa Medicaid privatization, which was put in place by former Governor Terry Branstad, continues under his successor, Kim Reynolds, to harm the lives of real Iowa citizens with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. Because of that fiasco, I thought it would be useful to dispel some widely-held myths about government privatization efforts in general…. Read more »

The casualties of culture

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How “normal” are you in terms of interacting with the culture around you? A continuing theme of this blog is that we can view a lot of medical and social problems as various aggregations of “probabilistic randomness.” That is, many conditions in nature at least appear to occur randomly, but with predictable patterns to that randomness. And when you see a… Read more »

Bank deregulation: Wash, rinse, repeat

With “bipartisan” bank deregulation rushing its way through Congress again (Why do bad bills progress so quickly?) I thought it time for a little history lesson. As if the 2008 housing debacle wasn’t enough to keep Congress understanding that the banks are rarely to be trusted, let’s go back a couple bank crises before that one, the forgotten one from… Read more »