The rational skeptic world view

Humans have always tried to make sense of the world we live in. We have always tried to come up with simple explanations that covers what we see. From the four elements and a flat earth inside a dome to a spherical earth and a heliocentric world view, our view of the world has evolved. But the quest has always been to come up with a complete and consistent model that will explain all of existence. Just like Newton’s classical physics. He viewed the world as clockwork obeying a complete and consistent set of physical laws. And when those laws didn’t quite fit the bill, Einstein extended this quest with his theories of relativity. His goal was to come up with a grand unifying theory that could be encompassed in an equation no longer than two inches.

Einstein’s famous discussion with Niels Bohr where the former exclaimed “God does not play dice” was his rejection of the spookiness of quantum mechanics. This branch of physics seemed to destroy the quest to unearth a model for an ultimately orderly and rational, complete and consistent world.

And despite the hints like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the Double Slit Experiment and Bell’s theorem, some physicists still believe in a deterministic world where everything is neatly explained and codified.

Graphics by Geir Isene

Had they only looked to mathematical philosophy and seen the same quest fail there. At the start of the 20th century, there was this adventure in mathematics where the major thinkers of that field tried to codify all of mathematics into neat axioms and rules to rule’em all. But alas, Kurt Gödel shot it all down with his Incompleteness Theorems. And decidedly so. There cannot be any complex axiomatic system that is both complete and consistent. And to those who would like to believe that the universe we can observe is all that can be, mathematics is a subset of our universe. And as the universe is then a superset of mathematics, then the universe itself cannot be both consistent and complete. And that has some profound implications that I will cover in a OnePageBook sometime in the future.

Now, what prompted me to again delve into this? I was inteviewed by Aaron Smith-Levin the other day, and one of the comments on the resulting Youtube video read:

“Geir, so much of your world view hinges on the “law” a system cannot be both complete and stable, including the large conclusion that humans are spiritual beings, have you ever questioned the conclusion on systems, and if the conclusion about systems were the opposite, would you conclude you are not a spiritual being? If you were not a spiritual being, would you feel you should adapt the rational skeptic world view?”

To which I answered:

“The proof that complex axiomatic systems cannot be both consistent and complete is among the most solid mathematical achievements in human history. It’s irrefutable. So is the double slit experiment, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Bell’s theorem. There is nothing rational about refuting any of these. They all point in the direction of consciousness being non-physical. Read my OnePageBook in free will for details:”

Just like the old, classical Newtonian world view was naive, I believe the modern “rational skeptic world view” to be equally naive.

As for the rest of the interview, here it is:

Truth vs Emotions

Truth is what is real and factual. Application of logic yields new facts, new understanding of truth.

But logic breaks where emotions rule.

We see this easily in betting games. The term “pot committed” comes from poker. A person’s reasoning and logic goes out the window when he has committed so much money in the pot that he disregards his actual chances of winning and keeps throwing money into an already losing proposition.

We see this in science where a scientist can become so emotionally committed to a theory that no amound of contrary facts will sway him. Witness the late Fred Hoyle and his commitment to his Steady State theory. Regardless of how much evidence pointed to a Big Bang or similar theory, he kept on insisting that the universe was in a steady state.

We see this so often than in politics. People get so committed to a certain ideology that their intellect has taken a permanent leave of absence.

And of course religion. Forget the facts, the Earth is 6000 years old. Because an old book says so.

Science owns the realm of facts and truth. Politics and religion should be confined to areas where certainty is elusive – like what solutions to apply to global warming or praying for a loved one’s life. But when science comes up with a definite answer to how we should mitigate climate change, politics should step aside and let the factual solution be applied. And when the doctor with scientific certainty prescribes the medicine that will save your wife’s life, you can still pray – but you should not reject the medicine. Only when there are uncertainties regarding the medicine, then it boils down to judgement, ideology, religion or hunch. But when there is certainty, let facts and logic prevail.

Facebook discussions are rampant with emotions and virtually devoid of logic. And the way you can see this is the incessant display of logical fallacies; Straw Man, Argumentum Ad Hominem, No True Scotsman, Appeal to Authority or other Red Herrings. And the way you handle it is to keep calm, remain on the subject, observe the facts, listen carefully and stay with logic.

Logic: The science or art of exact reasoning, or of pure and formal thought, or of the laws according to which the processes of pure thinking should be conducted; the science of the formation and application of general notions; the science of generalization, judgment, classification, reasoning, and systematic arrangement; the science of correct reasoning. [1913 Webster]

Global Warming deniers: Get a grip

From the data I’ve seen and been able to verify, it does seem that humanity’s greatest challenge is Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW – Humanly caused Global Warming). The data supporting AGW is overwhelming. Still there are those who choose to deny it or remain sceptical.

I can understand and appreciate the sceptics – as long as they make an effort to inform themselves – by being open to the underlying data and science and dig down into the underlying physics and statistics.

But when I encounter deniers, uniformily they come across as very certain that either 1) there is no Global Warming, or 2) the Global Warming is not caused by humans. They also tend to believe that there is some sort of conspiracy to forward the idea of AGW to funnel money into research and green energy. I have yet to meet a denier that has been to areas affected by Global Warming or who has any scientific knowledge to understand the physics or statistics involved.

It seems the belief in conspiracy theories is the driving force for the majority of deniers. They loudly proclaim that one should “follow the money trail”, because money is the driving force of conspiracies. It baffles me how they do not heed their own advice. The amount of money to be gained by oil companies in denying AGW totally dwarves the money gathered into scientific research and Green Energy – by a factor of at least ten. Much, much more is gained by “The Establishment” in lobbying against AGW than for it.

For some deniers, it seems safest to kill AGW at its roots by denying there is any rise in temperatures at all – citing local “cold spots” as evidence, or simply just invent data or opinions to counter facts. This type of deniers are marginalized and may soon find themselves as scarce as the Flat Earthers.

The majority of deniers would admit there is warming going on but deny there is any human connection. Again, the data and science is mounting against this position. The problem is that they almost never try to actually defend their position with any facts. They use opinions, hand waving or Internet memes trying to “discredit” science.

The deniers I’ve met are usually right-wing extremists. Denying AGW seems to be a political position and has very little to do with facts. It is the old conflict between propaganda and science.

It’s strange how people still would defend the fossil energy industry when there are more jobs to be made in the green industry. And wouldn’t the deniers also want cleaner air and water at least? And wouldn’t you rather err with science than take a position that could potentially be catastrophic for mankind?

I have been to the arctic and seen the effects of AGW with my own eyes. I understand the statistics and physics involved. The deniers I’ve met rely on second hand information and none have been able to show any signs of understanding the underlying science. If anything would motivate me to man the barricades, this issue would be it.

Trump for President!

After several weeks of trying to raise awareness of the disaster it would be to elect Donald Trump as the president of the USA, I have changed my mind.

I will now support Trump and cheer on him from abroad – hoping he will hit a Home Run next week.


I will support him precisely because it will be a disaster. It will set the effort to curtail global warming back decades when he pulls the US support for the Paris Agreement. Trump is notoriously anti-science and pro-conspiracies and conveniently believes climate change to be a hoax. I believe global warming is the single most important issue facing the Earth for the next century. And we cannot fail in our efforts to not fuck up our planet.

But, it’s better to fail hard and fast than to fail in ten years when the crisis is even tougher. And I don’t believe we can afford not to fail now. We must let Trump win so that he can fail in public so that the US can learn fast – and then join in with other nations that want to pull our weight together. The alternative is worse – having 150 million disaffected Americans sulking and bitching for the next 4 years.

Shielding the US from Muslims, Mexicans, Syrian refugees (which is largely due to the US intervention in the Middle East), free trade and everything Mr. Trump doesn’t like is certainly not the way forward. But no amount of rhetoric, persuasion or facts will convince Trump supporters that we need to pull together. The egoism runs too deep. He needs to wreck havoc in order for people to understand that this right wing lunacy is a dead end.

I believe in failing. And learning. It’s core to my coaching of athletes, executives and artists. US needs to learn. Since the world has never been socially better off than now, we should afford 4 years of crazy shit to accommodate for better decades to come.

It apparently wasn’t enough for Bush to fail, he’s simply been written off later as “part of the establishment”. We need another fast and solid failure.

Vote for Trump. Make America Fail Again.