I am not an idiot, but I play one on TV

Herman Cain was on The Daily Show a couple of night ago and once again made a fool of himself. He was once the head of a major corporation so that means that he cannot be a total idiot. Holding such a job requires one to be somewhat savvy and numerate and literate. So why is it that he now comes across as a grinning doofus? Has he realized that this shtick plays well with the Republican party and is his ticket to media fame in the twilight of his life? [Read more…]

The surprise that failed

I do not watch any of the convention proceedings because they are highly scripted and rarely produce any news. But I do read news items about them. One of the hot rumors that was going around was the appearance of a surprise speaker for the final night. I thought that was rather odd in itself, since it conveyed the underlying message that Mitt Romney and his speech were expected to be so boring that they had to find a way to attract a larger audience by promising a mystery guest. [Read more…]

Why is religion declining in the US?

I have referred before to the WIN-Gallup survey of 57 countries that showed a decline in religion worldwide and a rise in disbelief. When you have a global phenomenon, the reasons for it are likely to be global in scope as well. My argument (made in a series of posts titled Why Atheism is Winning) is that it is the inevitable march of modernity that is slowly but surely killing religion. Religion has no escape. It is anchored in the past by its holy texts and that anchor is a major drag on it, causing it to steadily fall behind even as science and technology are rapidly moving the world forward. [Read more…]

The mindset of people in abusive organizations

One of the puzzling things about the sexual abuse problems that have been exposed in closed, secretive, and hierarchical organizations like the Catholic Church, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, and football programs is the fact that these abuses were so widespread and long-standing that they could not possibly have been kept secret from others in the organizations. So why did they not speak up? It is suggested that the reason is that the higher ups wanted to avoid damage to the image of the institution by a public scandal and thus tried to address the problem internally. [Read more…]

Why we should second guess ourselves

A book given to people taking the GRE exam advises them that “Exercise great caution if you decide to change an answer. Experience indicates that many students who change answers change to the wrong answer.”

This advice represents a widespread belief that our instincts, our intuitive senses, are the most reliable guides to decisions. It is based on the assumption that instincts are based on prior knowledge and experiences and that our brains integrate all these things to enable us to make quick judgments that tend to be sound. This is the idea heavily promoted by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink. [Read more…]