the rational minority

Disclaimer: I am aware that no one is perfectly rational, even me. However, it’s much easier to write in absolutes and to include myself as a rational person. The text written below is meant to describe situations in which scientific consensus is not converted to public acceptance or policy, and should not be taken to be a manifesto supporting the creation of classes of human, rational above irrational, with me being king of the rational.


Rational people have many problems. One of them is getting people to listen to them and do the things that will make life better. This is sometimes difficult because the majority of people are irrational, at least with regards to some specific subjects. Probably just in general, but definitely given choice cases.

Since rational people are rational, the way they think is to gather the evidence, examine it, and draw conclusions based on that evidence. Since rational people are people, they then often make the irrational leap to assume other people will do the same. If you make this mistake you would think that if people just had easy access to all the information they would make the rational decision. This, of course, doesn’t happen.

I admit to frequently falling into this mode of thinking. It is a known trap, but one that is difficult to avoid. One tends to assume others will think like one does, and that differences are based off of differences of taste or information. Rational people cannot afford to make that mistake. So what options are there available to us, to pull the irrational our way.

One good option is to rely on different modes of communication, probably provided by different people. Scientists as a population are near 100% rational, at least in their field. They read the papers, do the research, examine the statistics, and form and opinion. When new evidence is present, opinions are adjusted accordingly. All is as it should be. However, scientists are not trained to present this information to non-scientists, aka the irrational masses. It’s not really a scientist’s job to do so, and as such, they are not necessarily any good at it. It would be great if they were, but I think the skill sets are too diverse and rare to expect the majority of the scientific population to be skilled in both. And we can’t rely on the occasional Gould, Segan, or Tyson to do all the work.

That’s why we need middle men. There are lots of people out there who are rational people, really like science the concept, but don’t really enjoy science the school subject. Some of these people have valuable communication and persuasion skills. Some are creative, able to write movies, songs, books, interesting text of all forms. These people need to be conscripted to promote the conclusions of the scientists to the irrational. People with these qualities should be looking for ways to offer their services, and science as an institution should be reforming itself to allow this new relationship to exist. By this I mean there should be works in the public media in promotion of the scientific view of things, and scientific bodies should be working to promote and fund these projects.

These middle men should be given lots of freedom by the scientists. Basically, there should be only one rule and that is strict accuracy in presenting the facts. Then the middle men are free to use their talents to communicate to the irrational in ways they’ll actually understand and care about.

The anti-science movements out there use all kinds of cheap marketing and gimmicky ploys to convince people to think their way. We rational people think they’re a joke, because we’d never fall for it, but there’s a large chunk of the population out there that will, and they’re the one’s we’re fighting for. Essentially, I’m advocating for using the same tools being used against science, for it. At least until such time as we can improve education enough that rational thinking is less of a rarity.

This goes against my instincts. It seems wrong to lower ourselves to the level of our detractors. However, I can think of no other way. Risks are high. Failure an unpleasant option. As such, it seems wise to go with the sure thing.

Democracy is only a good idea if you have something else preventing tiny majorities from bullying large minorities. That’s why we have the court system, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. We rational people need tools to keep the irrational majority at bay, and I think appealing to their irrationality may be our only chance. It might nauseate your idyllic sensibilities, as it does mine, to admit that marketing could be helpful, but when one pragmatically looks at human nature, I think it is the rational conclusion.

randomly annoying


K, you’ll have to follow the link to see the full size and actually read this, but trust me it says in the blurb,

This rapid evolution of the Y chromosome has led to a dramatic loss of genes on the Y chromosome at a rate that, if maintained, eventually could lead to the Y chromosome’s complete disappearance.

I saw this and read it cause the story itself might actually be interesting, but the blurb, in an attempt to be sensational, succeeds in being really dumb. Loss at any rate, from anything finite, will certainly eventually lead to the disappearance of that thing. Speed doesn’t matter, so mentioning this doesn’t impress upon anyone some huge loss rate. Further, they say only ‘could’, in an attempt to be more accurate (and probably cover their ass in good journalistic fashion) when, in fact, it must lead to the disappearance of the chromosome, so they actually become more wrong. Retarded!

The blurb is stolen straight from the actual article about the science, so it’s not just the fault of some random digger. Yay science journalism.  🙄

If you don’t want to take the time to read it, it basically says that the Y chromosome is shrinking, but it still exists, so scientists tested their (obvious) hypothesis that some the genes were essential and some weren’t, and thus the important ones were staying while the unimportant faded away. They found that they were right, so the fading rate will likely slow, since essential genes don’t just fade away easily. However, they say, there’s still a chance the chromosome could totally disappear eventually. Of course, anything is possible eventually. So, yeah, the title is dumb. Shocker!

My internet is so slow

Personal: I’ve implemented a new comment system.  It should be all fancy and stuff.  I primarily did it so you guys could comment using your facebook as a login as opposed to registering for something new.  Hope ya’ll enjoy it.

Science: This is cool.  Just so you know, generally advances don’t come in 8 orders of magnitude steps.

Politics: Obama has a digg type system for making policy recommendations.  People can submit proposals, and vote on them, the most highly rated ones will be given in some big book to the President for consideration.  Who knows what that means but I voted up this proposal because it’s a good pro science anti nonsense proposal.  You should vote it up, too.

Charity: Freerice is onto my little game and has reduced the rice reward for answering questions with fewer options.  So, now I’m down to my old rate of donation again.  🙁

Entertainment: I listened to all the Stephen Fry podgrams.  He’s got quite the vocal and rhetorical skill.  I think he pretty much played himself in V for Vendetta.

Fitness: I have been on push-up hiatus due to a mysterious abdominal injury.  It seems to have healed now, though.  So today I did push-ups on my new swivel devices.  They make things significantly more difficult.  They, combined with degradation from my inactivity, take my count down to 40.  So that’s where I’m starting.  I plan to attempt to climb back up to 100 in 2 months.  We’ll see how feasible that pace is with these contraptions.

Conclusion: I’ve stayed up to see the sunrise.  It’s really not my fault.  The internet was so slow as to necessitate it.  If any of you Central people read this it’s ok to bang on my door around 1:30 if you want.  Extra sleep won’t kill me, I guess.