I mentioned and shared, a few posts ago, a brief presentation on Free-Will I gave to Teesside Sceptics in the Pub last week, but I also wanted to mention the other contributions:
Sue Whitcombe was probably the highlight of the night, partly because it was delivered with the passion of direct personal experience and partly because it was an unexpected topic for such a group. How child-psychology aspects get overlooked in cases of Parent-Alienation that accompany typical family break-ups. The key point for me and my agenda, was the binary nature of the child’s perception (particularly 7 to 11-ish?) of “one parent good, one parent bad”, and how easily and almost randomly that conclusion could be set by the (well- or bad-intentioned) communications of adults around the child, despite any previous normal (imperfect) shared loving relationships. A craving for the simplest explanation. Sue’s point, as a practicioner, was for more expert transparency in social organisations (and courts) that deal with family separations. (Also of interest, the extreme cases that result in entirely fictional abuse accusations against a previously loving parent. But that’s another story.)
More typical of expectations were the presentations by Chris Diboll and Adam Baker. Chris gave us a warning on being Sceptical About Economics and the harmful misinformation that typically accompanies economic claims and predictions. Hear, hear, I say. The problem I often characterise as “autistic economics” – we and economists often mistake economics for a science and expect meaningful objective facts and numbers on which to hang decisions. Politicians – evil conspiracy or incompetent cock-up and all grey areas between – exploit the misunderstanding we all share, and there was some good discussion. Talking of which, Adam presented examples of Conspiracy Theories with some of the psychological reasons why so many of us are tempted to believe them and how typically believing one tends to correlate with believing many to be part of wider over-arching establishment conspiracies. Again something of interest to my own agenda, the memetic effect of wanting to believe simple arguments that fit most easily with existing perceptions and the consequence that these become the easiest ideas to spread and take root. An effect reinforced in our times of mass social-media, but the mainstream press suffer from it too.
Thez Alan gave us a heartfelt rant on the local housing crisis. Apart from raising the profile of the issue, his main point seemed to be that building more houses wasn’t necessarily the solution. The problem at the social housing end of the market doesn’t benefit from building to expand the home-ownership market.
Reece Hanrahan had opened the evening with million-miles-an-hour wizz through Parallel Universes, Buddhism and Psychedelics mentioning a zillion topics and sources, but without any clear message other than these things are all somehow connected and that we should find it controversial. Wasn’t sure if he ran off immediately to a prior engagement because of the (presumed) sceptical question I’d asked about what, if any of the topics he’d listed, did he actually believe in? I wasn’t sure if he thought he was being deliberately controversial. If he’d stuck around he might have found out I am sympathetic and have taken an interest in practically everything he mentioned. I’m good with the multiverse, but not with parallel universes as a quantum kludge. I’m good with Buddhism as an alternative to the objective exclusion of the world from ourselves as subjects – Zen and the Art of …. you name it – is a recurring meme around here. I’m good with psychedelics as “doors of perception” breaking down the objective blockages to direct experience of the world. Many respectable philosophers and scientists have explored all of these, and still do, and I could list several hundred already referenced here. Pity.