Yale economist William Nordhaus has done some of the best research on the economic effects of climate change. In a new working paper, Nordhaus and Andrew Moffat survey the literature (27 studies) and look at 36 different estimates regarding the global economic impact of climate change by 2100. They note that the IPCC stated in their 2007 report, “Global mean losses could be 1 to 5% of GDP for 4°C of warming” (pg. 2). Overall, “there are many studies of theoretical temperature increases in the 2 to 4 °C range, and that they cluster in the range of a loss of 0 to 4% of global output” (pg. 13). The authors’ own “preferred regression” provides an “estimated impact” of “1.63 % of income at 3 °C warming and 6.53% of income at a 6 °C warming. We make a judgmental adjustment of 25% to cover unquantified sectors…With this adjustment, the estimated impact is -2.04 (+ 2.21) % of income at 3 °C warming and -8.16 (+ 2.43) % of income at a 6 °C warming” (pg. 3).
This supports my previousposts about the economics of climate change. Once again, climate change will drastically reduce income over the next 100 years without intervention (and recent research suggests that we might have more time to intervene than previously thought). But people will still be be significantly better off compared to us today even if we fail to act. They just won’t be as well off as they could have been.
I would argue this might be especially true in insular groups like retirement communities, where a number of elements coalesce to create a perfect storm for social and personal dysfunction. One of these signs is the rise of divorce in the 50+ baby boomer American generation, what is sometimes called “gray divorce.” In a 2012 study published in The Journals of Gerontology, we learn first, that the United States has the highest rate of divorce in the world. And that Baby Boomers have shown high rates of marital instability beginning from young adulthood. As several studies indicate, Baby Boomers are carrying this marital instability into their latter years, giving rise to the gray divorce phenomenon. The study shows that the divorce rate for middle-aged (50-64) and older (65+) Americans has doubled since 1990.
…Looking for correlated variables, Cahn and Carbone dug into a 2016 study in an article for the Institute for Family Studies and found that financial insecurity and marital biographies (as Brown and Lin noted) were two major factors in Baby Boomer divorce. A notable third factor was the marital quality of the couple.
But if we consider the work of McDermott, Fowler, and Christakis, we cannot underestimate the social network effect on the Boomer generation. True, marital histories, economic stress, and marital quality can impact the health of a marriage, but social influence can act on a couple for good or for ill when they are in a weak position.
Information that is use both academically and practically.
A new working paper provides some interesting results about the interplay between immigration and minimum wage laws:
Our first empirical strategy exploits the non-linearity of the minimum wage across U.S. States to investigate the role played by the minimum wage in shaping the impact of immigration on the wages and employment of competing native workers. We find that on average, immigration has relatively small detrimental effects on the wages and employment outcomes of competing native workers. The main contribution of this study is not to provide yet another estimate of the wage and employment responses to immigration but, rather, to investigate the role of minimum wages in determining such responses. Indeed, we show that the labor market effects of immigration are heterogeneous across U.S. States characterized by different levels of minimum wage. In particular, we find that the impact of immigration on natives’ labor market outcomes is more negative in states where the effective minimum wage is relatively low. In contrast, sufficiently high minimum wages tend to protect native workers from any adverse wage or unemployment effects of immigration.
Our second empirical methodology uses a difference-in-differences approach. We use cross-state differences in the impact of federal minimum wage adjustments on state effective minimum wages. Over our period of interest, the successive rises in the federal minimum wage have fully affected the states where the effective minimum wage is equal to the federal one (the treatment group), with no impact in high minimum wage states (the control group). Thus, we can estimate the difference between the labor market impact of immigration before and after the federal policy changes between the treatment group and the control group. Our estimates indicate that the detrimental impact of immigration on natives’ wages and employment have been mitigated thanks to the federal minimum wage increases that occurred in three installements between 2007 and 2010.
Taken together, our results indicate that high minimum wages tend to protect employed native workers against competition from immigrants. This may come at the price, obviously, of rendering access to employment more difficult for outsiders such as the unemployed natives and new immigrants, a question we cannot investigate given the limits of our data (pg. 51-52).
Interesting, but not surprising. Case in point, consider my summary of Thomas Leonard’s Illiberal Reformers:
The book meticulously demonstrates that the progressive impulse toward inflating the administrative state was driven largely by self-promotion (i.e, the professionalization of economists), racist ideologies (i.e., the fear of race suicide), and an unwavering faith in science. Not only should the “undesirables” of the gene pool be sterilized, but they should be crowded out of the labor force as well. Those considered “unfit” for the labor market included blacks, immigrants, and women. In order to artificially raise the cost of employing the “unfit,” progressives sought to implement minimum wage (often argued to be a “tariff” on immigrant labor), maximum hours, and working standard legislation.
In the most recent issue of Nature Human Behaviour, neuroscientist Molly Crockett suggests that “digital media may exacerbate the expression of moral outrage by inflating its triggering stimuli, reducing some of its costs and amplifying many of its personal benefits.”
A recent study conducted in the US and Canada suggests that encountering norm violations in person is relatively rare: less than 5% of reported daily experiences involved directly witnessing or experiencing immoral acts. But the internet exposes us to a vast array of misdeeds, from corrupt practices of bankers on Wall Street, to child trafficking in Asia, to genocide in Africa — the list goes on. In fact, data from a study of everyday moral experience show that people are more likely to learn about immoral acts online than in person or through traditional forms of media…Research on virality shows that people are more likely to share content that elicits moral emotions such as outrage. Because outrageous content generates more revenue through viral sharing, natural selection-like forces may favour ‘supernormal’ stimuli that trigger much stronger outrage responses than do transgressions we typically encounter in everyday life. Supporting this hypothesis, there is evidence that immoral acts encountered online incite stronger moral outrage than immoral acts encountered in person or via traditional forms of media…These observations suggest that digital media transforms moral outrage by changing both the nature and prevalence of the stimuli that trigger it. The architecture of the attention economy creates a steady flow of outrageous ‘clickbait’ that people can access anywhere and at any time.
This could be a problem:
By increasing the frequency and extremity of triggering stimuli, one possible long-term consequence of digital media is ‘outrage fatigue’: constant exposure to outrageous news could diminish the overall intensity of outrage experiences, or cause people to experience outrage more selectively to reduce emotional and attentional demands. On the other hand, studies have shown that venting anger begets more anger. If digital media makes it easier to express outrage, this could intensify subsequent experiences of outrage. Future research is necessary to resolve these possibilities…[Online], people can express outrage online with just a few keystrokes, from the comfort of their bedrooms, either directly to the wrongdoer or to a broader audience. With even less effort, people can repost or react to others’ angry comments. Since the tools for easily and quickly expressing outrage online are literally at our fingertips, a person’s threshold for expressing outrage is probably lower online than offline…And just as a habitual snacker eats without feeling hungry, a habitual online shamer might express outrage without actually feeling outraged. Thus, when outrage expression moves online it becomes more readily available, requires less effort, and is reinforced on a schedule that maximizes the likelihood of future outrage expression in ways that might divorce the feeling of outrage from its behavioural expression.
So why the outrage?
[E]xpressing moral outrage benefits individuals by signalling their moral quality to others. That is, outrage expression provides reputational rewards. People are not necessarily conscious of these rewards when they express outrage. But the fact that people are more likely to punish when others are watching indicates that a concern for reputation at least implicitly whets our appetite for moral outrage. Of course, online social networks massively amplify the reputational benefits of outrage expression. While offline punishment signals your virtue only to whoever might be watching, doing so online instantly advertises your character to your entire social network and beyond. A single tweet with an initial audience of just a few hundred can quickly reach millions through viral sharing — and outrage fuels virality.
And while this outrage may “benefit society by holding bad actors accountable and sending a message to others that such behaviour is socially unacceptable,” for the most part
moral disapproval ricochets within echo chambers but only occasionally escapes. Second, by lowering the threshold for outrage expression, digital media may degrade the ability of outrage to distinguish the truly heinous from the merely disagreeable. Third, expressing outrage online may result in less meaningful involvement in social causes, for example through volunteering or donations. People are less likely to spend money on punishing unfairness when they are given the opportunity to express their outrage via written messages instead. Finally, there is a serious risk that moral outrage in the digital age will deepen social divides. A recent study suggests a desire to punish others makes them seem less human. Thus, if digital media exacerbates moral outrage, in doing so it may increase social polarization by further dehumanizing the targets of outrage.
The framework proposed here offers a set of testable hypotheses about the impact of digital media on the expression of moral outrage and its social consequences…Preliminary data support the framework’s predictions, showing that outrage-inducing content appears to be more prevalent and potent online than offline. Future studies should investigate the extent to which digital media platforms intensify moral emotions, promote habit formation, suppress productive social discourse, and change the nature of moral outrage itself. There are vast troves of data that are directly pertinent to these questions, but not all of it is publicly available. These data can and should be used to understand how new technologies might transform ancient social emotions from a force for collective good into a tool for collective self-destruction.
Something of this relationship might be seen if I relate a conversation with a friend of mine. He said, “My wife and I decided to face the front of our home with rocks. So I called around and located a place where I could get them.
“I started to get into my truck when my wife called to me and said, ‘Let me go with you. I want to help you.’
“When we got to the place where the rocks were located, we found them on the top of a hill. I complained, ‘That’s going to be a terrible job to get those rocks down.’
“My wife said, ‘I’ll go up to the top of the hill and roll the rocks down to you and then you’ll just have to carry them over to the truck. How does that sound?’
“I thought that was a good idea,” he said. “I watched her climb to the top of the hill and disappear for a few minutes. Soon she called out, ‘Here comes the first rock. Here comes another one.’ Then she said, ‘Oh, this rock is a beauty. I hope this one won’t be too heavy for you to carry.’
“I said, ‘I’ll carry anything you roll down.’
“Then she said, ‘Look at this rock. It has real character. Here comes my favorite.’”
He said, “She actually had me waiting anxiously for each rock.” And then he said, “In this endeavor, as in many other of our projects together, she had given me not only the help I needed but a perspective that often eludes men.”
I would like to see all sisters, particularly Relief Society presidents, acting as helpmeets to the priesthood in the rendering of welfare assistance.
The relationship between husband and wife is something we’re all still figuring out, I think. To one extend, this is because every marriage is as unique as the people in it, and so even if we had the general pattern figured out (and we don’t), we’d still need to figure out the specifics.
But we don’t even have the general pattern figured out to general satisfaction. We’re figuring out how to reconcile (and to what extent to even try) teachings about the husband as leader of the family (which seems unequal) with the belief that men and women are equal and that marriage is an equal partnership.
I’m not sure exactly how this story relates to that question, but I do like the story and I thought I’d share it.
A recent working paper looks at the effects of India’s 1986 anti-child labor law. Once again, good intentions and actual outcomes are at odds with one another:
The estimated effect of the ban is to increase relative employment among children under the age of 14. Having an underage sibling leads to a 0.3 percentage point increase in the likelihood of engaging in work after the ban for the very young. While this point estimate is small, it is both statistically and economically significant; the pre-ban proportion of children employed in that age range is only 2 percent so the effect of the ban is to increase employment by 15% over the mean for this group. The ban increases the probability of employment by 0.8 percentage points (5.6% over the mean) for young children ages 10-13. However, older children ages 14-17 overall are unaffected by the ban. The effect for this group is both small relative to the mean and statistically insignificant. Again, the largest increase in child labor is in agriculture…which is consistent with the partial mobility case of the two-sector model where there is restricted entry into manufacturing (pg. 22).
The authors then look at five measures of household welfare:
Per capita expenditure.
Per capita food expenditure.
Caloric intake per capita.
Staple share of calories; i.e., “a measure of household nutritional adequacy in the presence of caloric needs that are unknown or variable across households. [The] logic is that if households attach a high disutility to having caloric intake below caloric needs, they will substitute towards the cheapest sources of calories (staples)” (pg. 25).
Household index asset; i.e., “a set of variables that capture the quality and quantity of housing, the type of energy used for cooking and lighting, and the quantity of electricity used (which is likely to be correlated with the number of appliances and durables used by the household” (pg. 25).
We find a negative and statistically significant point estimate of the ban’s effect on four out of five welfare measures. The one exception is caloric intake per capita which has a positive but not statistically significant coefficient. This is consistent with households near-subsistence – the ones likely to be most affected by the ban – being unable to cut back on calories and instead reducing other aspects of household welfare (consuming more less tasty staples or selling assets) as well as the idea that increased child labor for these households may increase household caloric requirements and thereby constrain households from adjustment on this margin. However the changes for all of the welfare measures are quantitatively small – about 0.01 standard deviations of the pre-ban cross-section – and the standard errors are small enough to rule out large positive or negative effects of the ban (pg. 26).
Nonetheless, “we take this as evidence that the ban makes these households unambiguously worse off” (pg. 5). They conclude,
This paper is the first empirical investigation of the impact of India’s most important legal action against child labor. While the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 prevented employers from employing children in certain sectors and increased regulation of child labor in non-family run businesses, the net result of this ban appears to be an increase in child labor in some families. We find that child wages decrease in response to such laws and poor families send out more children into the workforce. Due to increased employment, affected children are less likely to be in school. These results are consistent with a two sector model with some frictions on mobility across sectors where the ban is more stringently enforced in one sector than the other. Importantly, we also examine the overall welfare effects of the ban on households. Along various measures of household consumption and expenditure, we find that the ban leads to small decreases in household welfare.
This paper does not intend to suggest that all child labor bans are useless. In fact, well formulated and implemented bans could absolutely help in eliminating child labor; but as we do in this case, research would have to examine how a decrease in child labor affects child and household welfare (Baland and Robinson (2000); Beegle, Dehejia and Gatti (2009)). To echo the reasoning in Basu (2004): “Legal interventions, on the other hand, even when they are properly enforced so that they do diminish child labor, may or may not increase child welfare. This is one of the most important lessons that modern economics has taught us and is something that often eludes the policy maker” (pg. 30).
In 1993, child workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart, and Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets–and that a significant number were forced into prostitution.
The consequences for the dismissed children and their parents were not anticipated. The children may have been freed, but at the same time they were trapped in a harsh environment with no skills, little or no education, and precious few alternatives. Schools were either inaccessible, useless or costly. A series of follow-up visits by UNICEF, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) discovered that children went looking for new sources of income, and found them in work such as stone-crushing, street hustling and prostitution — all of them more hazardous and exploitative than garment production. In several cases, the mothers of dismissed children had to leave their jobs in order to look after their children.
Most economic historians conclude that…legislation was not the primary reason for the reduction and virtual elimination of child labor between 1880 and 1940 [in the United States]. Instead they point out that industrialization and economic growth brought rising incomes, which allowed parents the luxury of keeping their children out of the work force. In addition, child labor rates have been linked to the expansion of schooling, high rates of return from education, and a decrease in the demand for child labor due to technological changes which increased the skills required in some jobs and allowed machines to take jobs previously filled by children. Moehling (1999) finds that the employment rate of 13-year olds around the beginning of the twentieth century did decline in states that enacted age minimums of 14, but so did the rates for 13-year olds not covered by the restrictions. Overall she finds that state laws are linked to only a small fraction – if any – of the decline in child labor. It may be that states experiencing declines were therefore more likely to pass legislation, which was largely symbolic.
Earlier this year, I highlighted a 2016 study that unsurprisingly found that professors vote Democrat. The same researchers released an updated version of the study, having accidentally omitted two Florida universities. Of course, this didn’t change the outcome much:
The findings for the two omitted Florida universities, the University of Miami and the University of Florida, are consistent with the findings in our initial sample of 40 institutions. With the present addendum, our revised investigation now covers 42 top universities. In the new grand set, the either registered-Democrat-or-registered-Republican faculty from the newly added universities constitutes 6.1 percent of that of faculty of all 42 schools. As it turns out, the overall Democrat to Republican ratio (or, D:R ratio) changes so little that it is the same to the first decimal point, 11.5:1. Three of the five disciplinary ratios change slightly (pg. 56).
These findings are consistent with previousresearch. As I pointed out in my last post, economics departments tend to be more politically diverse than other social sciences. You can see the political diversity of various departments below, with the most diverse toward the bottom.
I read an interesting book called The Swerve: How the World Became Modern last week. It won a Pulitzer and National Book Award, but I wasn’t that impressed. There were some really interesting points, however, and a couple of them reinforced this lesson that I feel like I keep learning again and again and again but never fully internalize: the world isn’t the way you think it is. Let me give you two examples.
First, the book introduced me to Thomas Harriot. Who’s he? Well, you’ve never heard of him, but in a nutshell he came up with all of the ideas that Galileo and others are credited with before they did but–since he didn’t want to get vilified–he kept his ideas to himself. Here’s the passage from the book describing him:
Thomas Harriot…constructed the largest telescope in England, observed sunspots, sketched the lunar surface, observed the satellites of planets, proposed that planets moved not in perfect circles but in elliptical orbits, worked on mathematical cartography, discovered the sine law of refraction, and achieved major breakthroughs in algebra. Many of these discoveries anticipated ones for which Galileo, Descartes, and others became famous. Bu Harriot isn’t credited with any of them. They were found only recently in the mass of unpublished papers he left at his death. Among those papers was a careful list that Harriot, an atomist, kept of the attacks upon him as a purported atheist. He knew that the attacks would only intensify if he published any of his findings, and he preferred life to fame. Who can blame him?
I know this isn’t new, but it just reinforces this notion I have that if we ever got access to a giant library in the sky where we could see who came up with what when, we’d find that the list of famous people credited with major discoveries and the list of people who actually thought them up first would be almost entirely distinct. But it’s not as simple as just lazily saying, “everything’s been thought of before.” As far as I can tell there really are a few singular geniuses–Newton and Einstein come to mind–who made breakthroughs that are unambiguously their own. So there is such a thing as being the first person to discover something. It’s just that the record we have is really, really inaccurate.
Another example was the long, long list of ideas from Epicureanism that show modernity is a hoax. I talked about this in my review, and here’s what I said:
I was also utterly shocked–once again–at how many of the core tenets of modernity from evolution by natural selection to materialism are actually retreads on philosophy that’s thousands of years old. I don’t know if they still teach this way, but when I was in school we learned about progress. In order to make the progress narrative stick, they had to go out of their way to ridicule caricatures of Greek thought that–without the ridicule and the caricature–would be so similar to modern thought that the progress narrative would go out the window. So, while we believe in atoms today, of course that’s much different than the atomism of Democritus, right? Well, yes and then again no.
I transcribed a lot of the list of core principles from Epicureanism (in The Swerve) today, and on top of evolution by natural selection and materialism, we’ve got all the core tenets of New Atheism (e.g. ” The universe has no creator or designer,” “The soul dies,” ” All organized religions are superstitious delusions,” and ” Religions are invariably cruel.”) and many more basic scientific tenets, including the idea that there is an underlying set of physical law that govern the interactions of atoms to generate all material phenomena.
I think some of this is overblown. My biggest complaint about the book is that it’s too partisan in favor of New Atheism, and so it’s easy to suspect that Stephen Greenblatt read his own ideology back on top of the ancient Epicureans (intentionally or not). I completely lack the training to have a strong opinion on that. But it seems abundantly clear that–of not a carbon copy of New Atheism–quite a lot of the raw material for cutting-edge pop philosophy is literally thousands and thousands of years old. Which, again, is not the message that I got in school.
So–like I said–nothing is the way you think it is. The more you read and learn, the more you realize just how fragile and provisional all your beliefs truly are.
These readings have made me more interested in ways of knowing and–as the publishers should indicate–our institutions of knowledge. What do those within these institutions (and thus those typically generating new knowledge) think and believe?
According to sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund’s study, 47% of elite scientists in U.S. have a religious tradition, while 34% of American scientists profess atheism, 30% profess agnosticism, and 36% profess at least some form of belief in a “higher power” (God or otherwise). Furthermore, she explains, “Nearly 60 percent of scientists I interviewed displayed a spirituality that scholars might call “thin.””
Philosopher Helen De Cruz summarizes the sociological data on spirituality within academia:
Atheism and agnosticism are widespread among academics, especially among those working in elite institutions. A survey among National Academy of Sciences members (all senior academics, overwhelmingly from elite faculties) found that the majority disbelieved in God’s existence (72.2%), with 20.8% being agnostic, and only 7% theists (Larson and Witham 1998). Ecklund and Scheitle (2007) analyzed responses from scientists (working in the social and natural sciences) from 21 elite universities in the US. About 31.2% of their participants self-identified as atheists and a further 31 % as agnostics. The remaining number believed in a higher power (7%), sometimes believed in God (5.4%), believed in God with some doubts (15.5%), or believed in God without any doubts (9.7%). In contrast to the general population, the older scientists in this sample did not show higher religiosity—in fact, they were more likely to say that they did not believe in God. On the other hand, Gross and Simmons (2009) examined a more heterogeneous sample of scientists from American colleges, including community colleges, elite doctoral-granting institutions, non-elite four-year state schools, and small liberal arts colleges. They found that the majority of university professors (full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty) had some theistic beliefs, believing either in God (34.9%), in God with some doubts (16.6%), in God some of the time (4.3%), or in a higher power (19.2%). Belief in God was influenced both by type of institution (lower theistic belief in more prestigious schools) and by discipline (lower theistic belief in the physical and biological sciences compared to the social sciences and humanities).
These latter findings indicate that academics are more religiously diverse than has been popularly assumed and that the majority are not opposed to religion. Even so, in the US the percentage of atheists and agnostics in academia is higher than in the general population, a discrepancy that requires an explanation. One reason might be a bias against theists in academia. For example, when sociologists were surveyed whether they would hire someone if they knew the candidate was an evangelical Christian, 39.1% said they would be less likely to hire that candidate—there were similar results with other religious groups, such as Mormons or Muslims (Yancey 2012). Another reason might be that theists internalize prevalent negative societal stereotypes, which leads them to underperform in scientific tasks and lose interest in pursuing a scientific career. Kimberly Rios et al. (2015) found that non-religious participants believe that theists, especially Christians, are less competent in and less trustful of science. When this stereotype was made salient, Christian participants performed worse in logical reasoning tasks (which were misleadingly presented as “scientific reasoning tests”) than when the stereotype was not mentioned.
It is unclear whether religious and scientific thinking are cognitively incompatible. Some studies suggest that religion draws more upon an intuitive style of thinking, distinct from the analytic reasoning style that characterizes science (Gervais and Norenzayan 2012). On the other hand, the acceptance of theological and scientific views both rely on a trust in testimony, and cognitive scientists have found similarities between the way children and adults understand testimony to invisible entities in religious and scientific domains (Harris et al. 2006). Moreover, theologians such as the Church Fathers and Scholastics were deeply analytic in their writings, indicating that the association between intuitive and religious thinking might be a recent western bias. More research is needed to examine whether religious and scientific thinking styles are inherently in tension.
How about philosophers? A 2014 study came up with the following numbers (from pgs. 14-16 of the ungated version). I’ve highlighted a few that stand out to me:
1. A priori knowledge: yes 71.1%; no 18.4%; other 10.5%.
2. Abstract objects: Platonism 39.3%; nominalism 37.7%; other 23.0%.
3. Aesthetic value: objective 41.0%; subjective 34.5%; other 24.5%.
4. Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes 64.9%; no 27.1%; other 8.1%.
5. Epistemic justification: externalism 42.7%; internalism 26.4%; other 30.8%.
6. External world: non-skeptical realism 81.6%; skepticism 4.8%; idealism 4.3%; other
7. Free will: compatibilism 59.1%; libertarianism 13.7%; no free will 12.2%; other
8. God: atheism 72.8%; theism 14.6%; other 12.6%.
9. Knowledge claims: contextualism 40.1%; invariantism 31.1%; relativism 2.9%;
10. Knowledge: empiricism 35.0%; rationalism 27.8%; other 37.2%.
11. Laws of nature: non-Humean 57.1%; Humean 24.7%; other 18.2%.
12. Logic: classical 51.6%; non-classical 15.4%; other 33.1%.
13. Mental content: externalism 51.1%; internalism 20.0%; other 28.9%.
14. Meta-ethics: moral realism 56.4%; moral anti-realism 27.7%; other 15.9%.
15. Metaphilosophy: naturalism 49.8%; non-naturalism 25.9%; other 24.3%.
16. Mind: physicalism 56.5%; non-physicalism 27.1%; other 16.4%.
17. Moral judgment: cognitivism 65.7%; non-cognitivism 17.0%; other 17.3%.
18. Moral motivation: internalism 34.9%; externalism 29.8%; other 35.3%.
19. Newcomb’s problem: two boxes 31.4%; one box 21.3%; other 47.4%.
20. Normative ethics: deontology 25.9%; consequentialism 23.6%; virtue ethics 18.2%;
21. Perceptual experience: representationalism 31.5%; qualia theory 12.2%; disjunctivism
11.0%; sense-datum theory 3.1%; other 42.2%.
22. Personal identity: psychological view 33.6%; biological view 16.9%; further-fact
view 12.2%; other 37.3%.
23. Politics: egalitarianism 34.8%; communitarianism 14.3%; libertarianism 9.9%;
24. Proper names: Millian 34.5%; Fregean 28.7%; other 36.8%.
25. Science: scientific realism 75.1%; scientific anti-realism 11.6%; other 13.3%.
26. Teletransporter: survival 36.2%; death 31.1%; other 32.7%.
27. Time: B-theory 26.3%; A-theory 15.5%; other 58.2%.
28. Trolley problem: switch 68.2%; don’t switch 7.6%; other 24.2%.
29. Truth: correspondence 50.8%; deflationary 24.8%; epistemic 6.9%; other 17.5%.
30. Zombies: conceivable but not metaphysically possible 35.6%; metaphysically possible
23.3%; inconceivable 16.0%; other 25.1%
What’s interesting is that while nearly 73% of philosophers are atheist, only about half are naturalists or physicalists when it comes to the mind. Furthermore, nearly 40% would consider themselves Platonists, indicating the possibility of a Platonic atheism. Yet, when you consider philosophers of religion, the numbers reverse:
So, I’m way behind on my book posts (much like I was behind on my TV/movies posts). So, I’m going to forego the mini-reviews and instead post the books’ descriptions with an accompanying video.
Daniel J. Siegel, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation (Bantam Books, 2010): “This groundbreaking book, from one of the global innovators in the integration of brain science with psychotherapy, offers an extraordinary guide to the practice of “mindsight,” the potent skill that is the basis for both emotional and social intelligence. From anxiety to depression and feelings of shame and inadequacy, from mood swings to addictions, OCD, and traumatic memories, most of us have a mental “trap” that causes recurring conflict in our lives and relationships. Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, shows us how to use mindsight to escape these traps. Through his synthesis of a broad range of scientific research with applications to everyday life, Dr. Siegel has developed novel approaches that have helped hundreds of patients free themselves from obstacles blocking their happiness. By cultivating mindsight, all of us can effect positive, lasting changes in our brains—and our lives. A book as inspiring as it is profound, Mindsight can help us master our emotions, heal our relationships, and reach our fullest potential” (Amazon).
John Gottman, Nan Silver, What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal (Simon & Schuster, 2012): “In this insightful book, celebrated research psychologist and couples counselor John Gottman plumbs the mysteries of love and shares the results of his famous “Love Lab”: Where does love come from? Why does some love last, and why does some fade? And how can we keep it alive? Based on laboratory findings, this book shows readers how to identify signs, behaviors, and attitudes that indicate a fraying relationship and provides strategies for repairing what may seem lost or broken” (Amazon).
Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History (Modern Library, 2002): “No religion in the modern world is as feared and misunderstood as Islam. It haunts the popular Western imagination as an extreme faith that promotes authoritarian government, female oppression, civil war, and terrorism. Karen Armstrong’s short history offers a vital corrective to this narrow view. The distillation of years of thinking and writing about Islam, it demonstrates that the world’s fastest-growing faith is a much richer and more complex phenomenon than its modern fundamentalist strain might suggest. Islam: A Short History begins with the flight of Muhammad and his family from Medina in the seventh century and the subsequent founding of the first mosques. It recounts the origins of the split between Shii and Sunni Muslims, and the emergence of Sufi mysticism; the spread of Islam throughout North Africa, the Levant, and Asia; the shattering effect on the Muslim world of the Crusades; the flowering of imperial Islam in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries into the world’s greatest and most sophisticated power; and the origins and impact of revolutionary Islam. It concludes with an assessment of Islam today and its challenges” (Amazon).
Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters (Oxford University Press, 2017): “People are now exposed to more information than ever before, provided both by technology and by increasing access to every level of education. These societal gains, however, have also helped fuel a surge in narcissistic and misguided intellectual egalitarianism that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues. Today, everyone knows everything: with only a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia, average citizens believe themselves to be on an equal intellectual footing with doctors and diplomats. All voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism. As Tom Nichols shows in The Death of Expertise, this rejection of experts has occurred for many reasons, including the openness of the internet, the emergence of a customer satisfaction model in higher education, and the transformation of the news industry into a 24-hour entertainment machine. Paradoxically, the increasingly democratic dissemination of information, rather than producing an educated public, has instead created an army of ill-informed and angry citizens who denounce intellectual achievement. Nichols has deeper concerns than the current rejection of expertise and learning, noting that when ordinary citizens believe that no one knows more than anyone else, democratic institutions themselves are in danger of falling either to populism or to technocracy-or in the worst case, a combination of both. The Death of Expertise is not only an exploration of a dangerous phenomenon but also a warning about the stability and survival of modern democracy in the Information Age” (Amazon).
Angus Deaton, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality (Princeton University Press, 2013): “The world is a better place than it used to be. People are healthier, wealthier, and live longer. Yet the escapes from destitution by so many has left gaping inequalities between people and nations. In The Great Escape, Angus Deaton–one of the foremost experts on economic development and on poverty–tells the remarkable story of how, beginning 250 years ago, some parts of the world experienced sustained progress, opening up gaps and setting the stage for today’s disproportionately unequal world. Deaton takes an in-depth look at the historical and ongoing patterns behind the health and wealth of nations, and addresses what needs to be done to help those left behind. Deaton describes vast innovations and wrenching setbacks: the successes of antibiotics, pest control, vaccinations, and clean water on the one hand, and disastrous famines and the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the other. He examines the United States, a nation that has prospered but is today experiencing slower growth and increasing inequality. He also considers how economic growth in India and China has improved the lives of more than a billion people. Deaton argues that international aid has been ineffective and even harmful. He suggests alternative efforts–including reforming incentives to drug companies and lifting trade restrictions–that will allow the developing world to bring about its own Great Escape” (Amazon).
Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger, Mark A. McDaniel, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014): “To most of us, learning something “the hard way” implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners. Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never before encountered and drawing inferences from facts already known. New insights into how memory is encoded, consolidated, and later retrieved have led to a better understanding of how we learn. Grappling with the impediments that make learning challenging leads both to more complex mastery and better retention of what was learned. Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another. Speaking most urgently to students, teachers, trainers, and athletes, Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement” (Amazon).
Dan Ariely, Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations (TED Books, 2016): “Every day we work hard to motivate ourselves, the people we live with, the people who work for and do business with us. In this way, much of what we do can be defined as being “motivators.” From the boardroom to the living room, our role as motivators is complex, and the more we try to motivate partners and children, friends and coworkers, the clearer it becomes that the story of motivation is far more intricate and fascinating than we’ve assumed. Payoff investigates the true nature of motivation, our partial blindness to the way it works, and how we can bridge this gap. With studies that range from Intel to a kindergarten classroom, Ariely digs deep to find the root of motivation—how it works and how we can use this knowledge to approach important choices in our own lives. Along the way, he explores intriguing questions such as: Can giving employees bonuses harm productivity? Why is trust so crucial for successful motivation? What are our misconceptions about how to value our work? How does your sense of your mortality impact your motivation?” (Amazon).
Monica C. Worline, Jane E. Dutton, Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations (Berrett-Koehler, 2017): “Suffering in the workplace can rob our colleagues and coworkers of humanity, dignity, and motivation and is an unrecognized and costly drain on organizational potential. Marshaling evidence from two decades of field research, scholars and consultants Monica Worline and Jane Dutton show that alleviating such suffering confers measurable competitive advantages in areas like innovation, collaboration, service quality, and talent attraction and retention. They outline four steps for meeting suffering with compassion and show how to build a capacity for compassion into the structures and practices of an organization—because ultimately, as they write, “Compassion is an irreplaceable dimension of excellence for any organization that wants to make the most of its human capabilities”” (Amazon).
Deirdre N. McCloskey, The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (University of Chicago Press, 2006): “For a century and a half, the artists and intellectuals of Europe have scorned the bourgeoisie. And for a millennium and a half, the philosophers and theologians of Europe have scorned the marketplace. The bourgeois life, capitalism, Mencken’s “booboisie” and David Brooks’s “bobos”—all have been, and still are, framed as being responsible for everything from financial to moral poverty, world wars, and spiritual desuetude. Countering these centuries of assumptions and unexamined thinking is Deirdre McCloskey’s The Bourgeois Virtues, a magnum opus that offers a radical view: capitalism is good for us. McCloskey’s sweeping, charming, and even humorous survey of ethical thought and economic realities—from Plato to Barbara Ehrenreich—overturns every assumption we have about being bourgeois. Can you be virtuous and bourgeois? Do markets improve ethics? Has capitalism made us better as well as richer? Yes, yes, and yes, argues McCloskey, who takes on centuries of capitalism’s critics with her erudition and sheer scope of knowledge. Applying a new tradition of “virtue ethics” to our lives in modern economies, she affirms American capitalism without ignoring its faults and celebrates the bourgeois lives we actually live, without supposing that they must be lives without ethical foundations” (Amazon).
Thomas Nagel, Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press, 2012): “The modern materialist approach to life has conspicuously failed to explain such central mind-related features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, and value. This failure to account for something so integral to nature as mind, argues philosopher Thomas Nagel, is a major problem, threatening to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology. Since minds are features of biological systems that have developed through evolution, the standard materialist version of evolutionary biology is fundamentally incomplete. And the cosmological history that led to the origin of life and the coming into existence of the conditions for evolution cannot be a merely materialist history, either. An adequate conception of nature would have to explain the appearance in the universe of materially irreducible conscious minds, as such. Nagel’s skepticism is not based on religious belief or on a belief in any definite alternative. In Mind and Cosmos, he does suggest that if the materialist account is wrong, then principles of a different kind may also be at work in the history of nature, principles of the growth of order that are in their logical form teleological rather than mechanistic. In spite of the great achievements of the physical sciences, reductive materialism is a world view ripe for displacement. Nagel shows that to recognize its limits is the first step in looking for alternatives, or at least in being open to their possibility” (Amazon).
Christopher H. Achen, Larry M. Bartels, Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (Princeton University Press, 2016): “Democracy for Realists assails the romantic folk-theory at the heart of contemporary thinking about democratic politics and government, and offers a provocative alternative view grounded in the actual human nature of democratic citizens. Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels deploy a wealth of social-scientific evidence, including ingenious original analyses of topics ranging from abortion politics and budget deficits to the Great Depression and shark attacks, to show that the familiar ideal of thoughtful citizens steering the ship of state from the voting booth is fundamentally misguided. They demonstrate that voters―even those who are well informed and politically engaged―mostly choose parties and candidates on the basis of social identities and partisan loyalties, not political issues. They also show that voters adjust their policy views and even their perceptions of basic matters of fact to match those loyalties. When parties are roughly evenly matched, elections often turn on irrelevant or misleading considerations such as economic spurts or downturns beyond the incumbents’ control; the outcomes are essentially random. Thus, voters do not control the course of public policy, even indirectly. Achen and Bartels argue that democratic theory needs to be founded on identity groups and political parties, not on the preferences of individual voters. Now with new analysis of the 2016 elections, Democracy for Realists provides a powerful challenge to conventional thinking, pointing the way toward a fundamentally different understanding of the realities and potential of democratic government” (Amazon).
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are (HarperCollins, 2017): “By the end of an average day in the early twenty-first century, human beings searching the internet will amass eight trillion gigabytes of data. This staggering amount of information—unprecedented in history—can tell us a great deal about who we are—the fears, desires, and behaviors that drive us, and the conscious and unconscious decisions we make. From the profound to the mundane, we can gain astonishing knowledge about the human psyche that less than twenty years ago, seemed unfathomable. Everybody Lies offers fascinating, surprising, and sometimes laugh-out-loud insights into everything from economics to ethics to sports to race to sex, gender and more, all drawn from the world of big data. What percentage of white voters didn’t vote for Barack Obama because he’s black? Does where you go to school effect how successful you are in life? Do parents secretly favor boy children over girls? Do violent films affect the crime rate? Can you beat the stock market? How regularly do we lie about our sex lives and who’s more self-conscious about sex, men or women Investigating these questions and a host of others, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz offers revelations that can help us understand ourselves and our lives better. Drawing on studies and experiments on how we really live and think, he demonstrates in fascinating and often funny ways the extent to which all the world is indeed a lab. With conclusions ranging from strange-but-true to thought-provoking to disturbing, he explores the power of this digital truth serum and its deeper potential—revealing biases deeply embedded within us, information we can use to change our culture, and the questions we’re afraid to ask that might be essential to our health—both emotional and physical. All of us are touched by big data everyday, and its influence is multiplying. Everybody Lies challenges us to think differently about how we see it and the world” (Amazon).
Terryl L. Givens, Feeding the Flock: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Church and Praxis (Oxford University Press, 2017): “Feeding the Flock, the second volume of Terryl L. Givens’s landmark study of the foundations of Mormon thought and practice, traces the essential contours of Mormon practice as it developed from Joseph Smith to the present. Despite the stigmatizing fascination with its social innovations (polygamy, communalism), its stark supernaturalism (angels, gold plates, and seer stones), and its most esoteric aspects (a New World Garden of Eden, sacred undergarments), as well as its long-standing outlier status among American Protestants, Givens reminds us that Mormonism remains the most enduring-and thriving-product of the nineteenth-century’s religious upheavals and innovations. Because Mormonism is founded on a radically unconventional cosmology, based on unusual doctrines of human nature, deity, and soteriology, a history of its development cannot use conventional theological categories. Givens has structured these volumes in a way that recognizes the implicit logic of Mormon thought. The first book, Wrestling the Angel, centered on the theoretical foundations of Mormon thought and doctrine regarding God, humans, and salvation. Feeding the Flock considers Mormon practice, the authority of the institution of the church and its priesthood, forms of worship, and the function and nature of spiritual gifts in the church’s history, revealing that Mormonism is still a tradition very much in the process of formation. At once original and provocative, engaging and learned, Givens offers the most sustained account of Mormon thought and practice yet written” (Amazon).
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (Yale University Press, 2013): “Despite the recent ferocious public debate about belief, the concept most central to the discussion—God—frequently remains vaguely and obscurely described. Are those engaged in these arguments even talking about the same thing? In a wide-ranging response to this confusion, esteemed scholar David Bentley Hart pursues a clarification of how the word “God” functions in the world’s great theistic faiths. Ranging broadly across Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Vedantic and Bhaktic Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, Hart explores how these great intellectual traditions treat humanity’s knowledge of the divine mysteries. Constructing his argument around three principal metaphysical “moments”—being, consciousness, and bliss—the author demonstrates an essential continuity between our fundamental experience of reality and the ultimate reality to which that experience inevitably points. Thoroughly dismissing such blatant misconceptions as the deists’ concept of God, as well as the fundamentalist view of the Bible as an objective historical record, Hart provides a welcome antidote to simplistic manifestoes. In doing so, he plumbs the depths of humanity’s experience of the world as powerful evidence for the reality of God and captures the beauty and poetry of traditional reflection upon the divine” (Amazon).
Charles Duhigg, Smarter, Faster, Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity (Random House, 2016): “At the core of Smarter Faster Better are eight key productivity concepts—from motivation and goal setting to focus and decision making—that explain why some people and companies get so much done. Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics—as well as the experiences of CEOs, educational reformers, four-star generals, FBI agents, airplane pilots, and Broadway songwriters—this painstakingly researched book explains that the most productive people, companies, and organizations don’t merely act differently. They view the world, and their choices, in profoundly different ways…What do these people have in common? They know that productivity relies on making certain choices. The way we frame our daily decisions; the big ambitions we embrace and the easy goals we ignore; the cultures we establish as leaders to drive innovation; the way we interact with data: These are the things that separate the merely busy from the genuinely productive. In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charles Duhigg explained why we do what we do. In Smarter Faster Better, he applies the same relentless curiosity, deep reporting, and rich storytelling to explain how we can improve at the things we do. It’s a groundbreaking exploration of the science of productivity, one that can help anyone learn to succeed with less stress and struggle, and to get more done without sacrificing what we care about most—to become smarter, faster, and better at everything we do” (Amazon).
Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford University Press, 2011): “This book is a long-awaited major statement by a pre-eminent analytic philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, on one of our biggest debates — the compatibility of science and religion. The last twenty years has seen a cottage industry of books on this divide, but with little consensus emerging. Plantinga, as a top philosopher but also a proponent of the rationality of religious belief, has a unique contribution to make. His theme in this short book is that the conflict between science and theistic religion is actually superficial, and that at a deeper level they are in concord. Plantinga examines where this conflict is supposed to exist — evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion — as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. Plantinga makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science. On the other hand, science can actually offer support to theistic doctrines, and Plantinga uses the notion of biological and cosmological “fine-tuning” in support of this idea. Plantinga argues that we might think about arguments in science and religion in a new way — as different forms of discourse that try to persuade people to look at questions from a perspective such that they can see that something is true. In this way, there is a deep and massive consonance between theism and the scientific enterprise” (Amazon).
Paul Bloom, Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil (Crown, 2013): “From John Locke to Sigmund Freud, philosophers and psychologists have long believed that we begin life as blank moral slates. Many of us take for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society—and especially parents—to transform them from little sociopaths into civilized beings. In Just Babies, Paul Bloom argues that humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality. Drawing on groundbreaking research at Yale, Bloom demonstrates that, even before they can speak or walk, babies judge the goodness and badness of others’ actions; feel empathy and compassion; act to soothe those in distress; and have a rudimentary sense of justice. Still, this innate morality is limited, sometimes tragically. We are naturally hostile to strangers, prone to parochialism and bigotry. Bringing together insights from psychology, behavioral economics, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, Bloom explores how we have come to surpass these limitations. Along the way, he examines the morality of chimpanzees, violent psychopaths, religious extremists, and Ivy League professors, and explores our often puzzling moral feelings about sex, politics, religion, and race. In his analysis of the morality of children and adults, Bloom rejects the fashionable view that our moral decisions are driven mainly by gut feelings and unconscious biases. Just as reason has driven our great scientific discoveries, he argues, it is reason and deliberation that makes possible our moral discoveries, such as the wrongness of slavery. Ultimately, it is through our imagination, our compassion, and our uniquely human capacity for rational thought that we can transcend the primitive sense of morality we were born with, becoming more than just babies” (Amazon).
Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone (Random House, 2017): “Social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives—experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging. Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And that path cuts right through the wilderness. Brown writes, “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand”” (Amazon).
Brian C. Hales, Laura H. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding (Greg Kofford Books, 2015): “In the last several years a wealth of information has been published on Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy. For some who were already well aware of this aspect of early Mormon history, the availability of new research and discovered documents has been a wellspring of further insight and knowledge into this topic. For others who are learning of Joseph’s marriages to other women for the first time, these books and online publications (including the LDS Church’s recent Gospel Topics essays on the subject) can be both an information overload and a challenge to one’s faith. In this short volume, Brian C. Hales (author of the 3-volume Joseph Smith’s Polygamy set) and Laura H. Hales wade through the murky waters of history to help bring some clarity to this episode of Mormonism’s past, examining both the theological explanations of the practice and the accounts of those who experienced it first hand. As this episode of Mormon history involved more than just Joseph and his first wife Emma, this volume also includes short biographies of the 36 women who were married to the Prophet but whose stories of faith, struggle, and courage have been largely forgotten and ignored over time. While we may never fully understand the details and reasons surrounding this practice, Brian and Laura Hales provide readers with an accessible, forthright, and faithful look into this challenging topic so that we can at least come toward a better understanding” (Amazon).