Subconscious propaganda, anchoring, and the law of unintended consequences


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Recently I watched several episodes of Unforgettable, a New-York-based crime show from 2011+. This show centres on a detective who has hyperthemesia, i.e. the ability to remember almost everything she ever has experienced. While this condition itself is intriguing and could trigger a look at what makes us human, it was one of the seemingly minor characteristics of the show that caught my attention: the subconscious propaganda of the benign surveillance state. Continue reading

Some few notes concerning Bayesian reasoning


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I am currently reading up on Bayesian inference in Richard Carrier’s book about proving history. I have known Bayesian’s approach for over a decade by now, mostly from my work in the natural sciences, and I was curious about how one would apply Bayesian to disciplines that are far less math-laden and that more often than not do not rely on measurements. I am quite aware of the flaws of this book, some of which have been addressed elsewhere. However, despite these flaws, I quite like Carrier’s Book, mostly since it has increased my appreciation for the utility of Bayesian inference, especially when applying it to foundational questions one typical asks oneself when debating a topic. Examples for such topics are:

  • How many times do I need to show that the opponent’s hypothesis does not track reality?
  • In case my opponent is hedging her bet, does this count against her hypothesis? And if yes, how much so?

Continue reading

Contraception reflects a moral fact


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Recently I read a blog post by Libby Anne about her disenchantment with the US “pro-life” movement. If you are not familiar with her blog, I recommend checking it out. She writes about “leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the harmful effects of the ‘purity culture,’ the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism”. In this blog post she points out many factual errors propagated by the “pro-life” movement, and she also makes a case that arguments like “zygotes are people and we need to save them” are not really what motivate the people behind this movement.

I agree with Libby Anne on the facts: the pill prevents fertilisation of eggs, and even plan B seems to suppress ovulation rather than prevent implantation of a fertilised egg. However, this is not why I am writing this blog post, rather I want to write about something that is not mentioned in her blog post, something more basic. One of the questions not asked is why we suddenly use all this contraception. Many of my readers might wonder how contraception in general could be a disputed issue, but it is. Think for example of the government-funded abstinence-only programmes in the US, through which many lies about contraception have been disseminated. Note well that these were not slips but deliberate lies meant to scare teenagers. Continue reading

Living in Europe – public transportation


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Outside the first snow is lying, the first snow of this year, this winter. The coldness and white darkness outside my window directs my thoughts inward, toward the brigt days of summer. It also makes me reflect about what makes living here so special. One of the first perks coming to mind is public transportation. Yes, I know, it varies, but what I often experience is an integrated public transportation network that takes you almost anywhere. One example is this bus that took us from Tegernsee in Germany up a pay road into the mountains. Mind you, most of the bus stops in the valley were there because a trail head happened there not because of settlements. Only very few people live up there. It’s one of the many “hiking” buses I have taken while living in the vicinity of the Alps. Oh, and in case it did not come across: this I love!


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