Drugs ‘R’ Us

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 27/01/2020 - 8:50am in

This was a retweet from a Lincolnshire Police Chief Inspector which I encountered and which I feel is well worth drawing attention to. It is a quite devastating commentary by (I understand) the former Chief Constable of Durham : The end result is a fully self-defeating drugs policy. And not just for drugs, but also... Read more

A Philosopher Takes on Evolutionary Psychology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/01/2020 - 3:22am in

“Evolutionary psychological inferences commonly fail to satisfy reasonable epistemic criteria.” The failures are so significant that good evolutionary psychology may not be possible. 

So argues Subrena Smith, a philosopher at the University of New Hampshire. Her paper, “Is Evolutionary Psychology Possible?“, was recently published in Biological TheoryIn it, she argues that the popular research program of evolutionary psychology is methodologically unsound.

Dr. Smith also wrote a shorter version of the argument that was published at The Evolution Institute. In it, she first presents a description of the aims of evolutionary psychology:

The mandate of evolutionary psychology is to give true evolutionary explanations for contemporary human behavior. Evolutionary psychologists believe that many of our behaviors in the present are caused by psychological mechanisms that operate today as they did in the past. Each mechanism was selected for its specific fitness-enhancing effects, and each of them is responsive only to the kinds of inputs for which it is an adaptation.

To achieve the aims of evolutionary psychology, researchers “need to show that particular kinds of behavior are underwritten by particular mechanisms.” More specifically, evolutionary psychology confronts what Dr. Smith calls “the matching problem”:

For a present-day psychological trait to be related to an ancestral psychological trait in the way that evolutionary psychology requires, the present-day trait must be of the same kind as the ancestral one. It must also have the same function as the ancestral one and must be descended from that ancestral trait as part of a reproductive lineage extending back to prehistory. Also, importantly, the present-day trait and the ancestral trait must be of the same kind and have the same function because the former is descended from the latter. This is key because it might be that a present-day trait and an ancestral trait are of the same kind and have the same function without one being descended from the other. The architecture of the modern mind might resemble that of early humans without this architecture having being selected for and genetically transmitted through the generations. Evolutionary psychological claims, therefore, fail unless practitioners can show that mental structures underpinning present-day behaviors are structures that evolved in prehistory for the performance of adaptive tasks that it is still their function to perform. This is the matching problem.   

For the matching problem to be overcome, three conditions must be met:

First, determine that the function of some contemporary mechanism is the one that an ancestral mechanism was selected for performing. Next, determine that the contemporary mechanism has the same function as the ancestral one because of its being descended from the ancestral mechanism. Finally, determine which ancestral mechanisms are related to which contemporary ones in this way. 

We can’t just assume that the identities required in these conditions are met. “They need to be demonstrated.” More specifically:

Solving the matching problem requires knowing about the psychological architecture of our prehistoric ancestors. But it is difficult to see how this knowledge can possibly be acquired. We do not, and very probably cannot, know much about the prehistoric human mind.

Some evolutionary psychologists dispute this. They argue that although we do not have access to these individuals’ minds, we can “read off” ancestral mechanisms from the adaptive challenges that they faced. For example, because predator-evasion was an adaptive challenge, natural selection must have installed a predator-evasion mechanism.

This inferential strategy works only if all mental structures are adaptations, if adaptationist explanations are difficult to come by, and if adaptations are easily characterized. There is no reason to assume that all mental structures are adaptations, just as there is no reason to assume that all traits are adaptations. We also know that adaptationist hypotheses are easy to come by. And finally, there is the problem of how to characterize traits. Any adaptive problem characterized in a coarse-grained way (for example, “predator evasion”) can equally be characterized as an aggregate of finer-grained problems. And these can, in turn, be characterized as an aggregate for even finer-grained problems. This introduces indeterminacy and arbitrariness into how adaptive challenges are to be characterized, and therefore, what mental structures are hypothesized to be responses to those challenges. This difficulty raises an additional obstacle for resolving the matching problem. If there is no fact of the matter about how psychological mechanisms are to be individuated, then there is no fact of the matter about how they are to be matched.

That is not the end of the problems, though. Dr. Smith says, “Even if these obstacles could be surmounted, the problem remains of identifying these behaviors with particular kinds of behavior that are hypothesized to have existed in prehistory,” and she goes on to explain the difficulties this further task faces.

You can read Dr. Smith’s full paper here and her summary of its argument here.

Over email, I asked Dr. Smith what the reaction to her argument has been amongst the evolutionary psychology crowd and she reported that there hasn’t been much of one, apart from some dismissiveness.

Discussion welcome, especially from those who work in psychology, biology, and philosophy of science.

The post A Philosopher Takes on Evolutionary Psychology appeared first on Daily Nous.

And now 20 ways to try to prevent ‘Justice denied’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 7:00pm in

The Secret Barrister, he of book fame, has a wonderful tweet which recalls my previous piece on the criminal justice system but is much more detailed. It is unfortunately, even worse than I initially thought. I’ve linked to the thread here so if you are interested – and I think we all ought to be,... Read more

Justice denied

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/01/2020 - 7:00pm in

In Johnson’s very soft and undemanding breakfast interview yesterday he said he wanted ‘county lines gangs totally wound up‘. I , (together with the Evening Standard!) have already suggested an educational route that would help. But, if he’s actually serious, in order to achieve that ‘winding up’ he will have to spend some money on... Read more

Outrage as Iain Duncan Smith Given Knighthood

This is a really sick joke, and shows the absolute contempt the Tories have for the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of the Tories welfare reforms, has been given a knighthood in the New Year’s honours. Smith is the pompous nonentity who was briefly the leader of the Tory party at the beginning of this century before David Cameron took over. It was a period of failure, in which the party utterly failed to challenge Blair’s Labour Party. He was, however, a close ally of his successor, and has also served Boris. He tried to stand up for Johnson when our farcical Prime Minister was denied the lectern in Luxembourg, claiming that the Luxembourgers should be grateful to us because we’d liberated them during the War. But we hadn’t. The Americans had. And under Tweezer he’d also peddled the line that there would be no legal divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

But what Smith is most notorious for is mass murder. As head of the Department of Work and Pensions, he was responsible for the welfare reforms, including the Work Capability Assessments and the system of benefit sanctions, that have seen hundreds of thousands denied the welfare payments they need and deserve. He is also responsible for Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments. UC is supposed to combine all the welfare payment into a single system. It has proven catastrophically flawed, with people waiting weeks or months for their payments, which have been significantly lower than the previous system. Mike in his article about it quotes statistics that some of those on UC are £1,000 a year worse off. But this jumped-up, odious little man boasted that Universal Credit would be as significant in lifting people out of poverty as the ending of slavery in the British Empire in 1837.

The result of IDS’ reforms is that at least 130,000 people have died. The true figures may well be higher, as the DWP has been extremely reluctant to release the true figures, as Mike and other disability campaigners have found. His attempts to get the Department to release them under the Freedom of Information Act were refused, then stonewalled. Finally Smith’s Department released some figures, but interpreted his requested so that they weren’t quite the figures Mike had requested.

As well as the financial hardship there is the feelings of despair and humiliation that his reforms have also inflicted on the poor. Doctors and mental health professionals have reported a rise in depression and suicide. The Tories, naturally, have repeatedly denied that their policies have any connection to people taking their own lives, even when the person left a note explicitly stating that this was why they were.

Some sense of the despair IDS’ wretched reforms has produced in young people is given by the quotes from them in Emma Bond and Simon Hallworth’s chapter, ‘The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People’ in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. ‘Julie’ said

The way that it feels walking into the JobCentre is that you are there to do what you are told to do and that’s it and then you leave. They are not there to actually help you it is just like, you have to do this and if you don’t do this or you won’t get no money. (p. 79).

And ‘Bridget’ described how she felt so low at one point she contemplated suicide.

I am ashamed to admit it but I did feel suicidal at one point. I felt so down after I was made redundant that I felt that there was no point. I had worked really hard at school and I got good grades but for what? I was happy when I got my job, it wasn’t that well paid but it had prospects and a career path – or so the recruitment agency told me – I had my flat and that and I thought I was OK. But when it [the redundancy] happened I felt like I had been hit by a brick wall. I got really down especially when I went to the JobCentre and they would not help me. I felt so depressed. I could not afford my rent. I lost my flat and the few things I had saved up for. I did not know where to turn. I took drugs for the first time in my life – I felt so wretched. I wanted to die. I was too ashamed to tell my parents that I had lost my job. (p. 80).

But IDS, as Zelo Street reminds us, is the man who laughed at a woman talking about her poverty in parliament. He’s also blubbed on television, describing how he met a young woman, who didn’t believe she’d ever have a job. ‘She could have been my daughter!’ he wailed. But this is just crocodile tears. He, like the rest of the Tory party, have no love whatsoever for their victims as the guffaws with Dodgy Dave Cameron in Parliament showed.

Mike in his piece about the wretched man’s ennoblement has put up a large number of Tweets by ordinary people expressing their outrage. One woman, Samanthab, states how rotten the honours system is when it rewards not just IDS, but other creeps and lowlifes, like the sex abusers Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris.

The outrage is so great that one NHS psychiatrist, Dr Mona Kamal Ahmad, has launched an online petition at Change.Org calling for the scumbag’s knighthood to be withdrawn. She describes him as responsible for some of the cruellest welfare reforms this country has ever seen and notes that Britain is the first country the United Nations has investigated for human rights abuses against the disabled. She states clearly that the suffering and impoverishment in Britain today is a direct result of Smith’s welfare reforms.

30,000 people, including myself, have already signed it. If you want to too, go to Mike’s article at: and follow the links.

See also:

Boris’ Insulting Views on the Children of Single Mothers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 10:39pm in

Yesterday Mike put up a piece revealing our comedy Prime Minister’s views on the children of single mothers, taken from Mirror Online. As you would expect, they were characteristically ignorant and boorish. Johnson had written in a magazine column that they were ‘ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate’. Men were ‘feeble’ if they were reluctant or unable to take control of their children. It was also ‘outrageous’ for married couples to have to fund the desire of single women to procreate without fathers, and he felt that a way had to be found to ‘restore women’s desire to be married’.

Mike goes on to demolish these awful generalisations, and begins by pointing out that many children raised by single mothers are actually valuable members of society. Also, may single-parent families are the product of the break-up of two-parent families. As for men being feeble if they’re unable to control their wives or female partners, some of the best women he knows are uncontrollable, and woe to the man who tries. He also characterises Boris’ remarks about ‘women’s desire to be married’ as that of a ‘sexist control freak’, and points out that he says nothing about men’s desire to be married.

Mike states that

Allowing such a sexist, misogynist ignoramus to the highest office in the land will reflect appallingly badly on the UK among other nations – and who knows how much harm he could do domestically?

and asks if the people who think he has something to offer are prejudiced in their own ways against good government.


In fact Johnson’s views are fairly standard Social Conservatism. This values marriage and the traditional sexual morality of restraint and rejection of homosexuality. Now I’m concerned about the decline of marriage and the traditional family in Britain, and I don’t feel that it is healthy, either psychologically or for society, for children to be brought up by a single-parent. But many single mothers, it has to be said, do an excellent job of raising their children. During and after the War there was a generation of children raised by single mothers, which had nothing to do with family break-up or illegitimacy. They were caused through the fathers’ death during the War. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the absence of a father may make no difference to the psychological welfare of the children of such families if there is another male figure around, who can perform that role, such as an uncle. As for women’s desire to be married, that was the product of the very restrictive norms past society placed around women, which located them very definitely in the home raising children. It’s the traditional women’s role which has been comprehensively attacked and rejected by feminism. As for his attacks on single women’s desire to procreate, not only is he here objecting to ordinary married couples having to support single women, but there’s also an implied objection to the state having to provide fertility treatment for them. He hasn’t articulated it, but it could also be seen as a coded attack on conventional, heterosexual couples having to fund through their taxes fertility treatment for single, lesbian women.

Of course these view aren’t confined to Boris by any means. The Conservatives always have had a deep hatred of single mothers. Way back in the 1990s they were included among the various groups Peter Lilley despised, and who he claimed he had in his little book as he pranced across the stage at a Tory conference in a parody of the Mikado. And then there was Thatcher’s mentor, Sir Keith Joseph, and his infamous comment about how single mothers were a threat to ‘our stock’. Which is a eugenicist statement that could have come from the Nazis. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t adopted the Nazis’ watchword for creating a good marriage – ‘choose a partner, not a playmate’.

As for the attitude towards men, there are two, mutually contradictory reasons for Johnson’s silence on male willingness to marry. The first is that he probably subscribes to the traditional view that it’s women, who are most concerned about securing a long term relationship, while men are more interested in keeping everything casual. It’s the received view you can see every day in agony columns with titles like ‘Why Men Are Afraid of Commitment’ and so forth. The other, opposing view, which is far more common on the anti-feminist right, is that men are more concerned with marriage and preserving the traditional family. It’s women that are a threat to this, because of their promiscuity. They’re only interested in settling down after they’ve had their fun, are entering their middle years and need a provider. As you can see, it’s a misogynist view that is deeply distrustful of women’s sexual freedom.

Boris also clearly shows his own reactionary view of family structure with his comments about ‘feeble’ men being unable to keep their women in line. He obviously doesn’t believe that marriage or the bond between two partners shouldn’t be one of equals, but rather the women should be clearly subordinate to the male head of the house. It’s another view that’s been justifiably attacked and largely discredited by feminism.

There’s undoubtedly much more that could be said of Johnson’s comments. They clearly those of someone, who has a highly reactionary view of the family, and they’re dangerous. I’d like to see the traditional family preserved, but families break up for a reason, and not all of them are as trivial as some of the more notorious instances. Spousal abuse – most often by the male partner against the female, but sometimes the other way round – is very often a factor. The Tories have cut down on funding for women’s refuges, which has left some women in abusive relationships in real danger, as they no longer have safe spaces they can flee to.

And although he hasn’t mentioned it, the right are also worried about the declining birthrate throughout the developed world. In Britain and many other countries, it’s actually below replacement levels, so that without immigration the population would actually be shrinking. But I can remember reading an article about this over a decade ago in the New Scientist. Some demographers concerned with this problem have pointed out that the most fertile nations are those like Scandinavia, where men take more part in domestic chores. They’re lower in nations like Italy and even China, where they tend to be left to women. From which you could argue that if you want to create more stable, fertile families, then men should be encouraged to help more around the house.

I’d like to see a revival of the two-parent family, but Johnson’s views don’t offer this. Instead, they’re just a reactionary yearning after an idealised family unit that ignores the real problems besetting family life, problems that have caused families to break down for perfectly good reasons. Johnson and the Tories would like to restore that family by severely restricting women’s freedoms to leave.

And finally, Johnson himself is a massive hypocrite. For all he’s written about two-parent families, he himself has been married many times and has fathered a number of children outside the marriage bond. He isn’t married, but lives with his current girlfriend in No. 10, which should make some of his supporters with very traditional attitudes to marriage take pause.

He is here, as in so many other areas, a bigoted hypocrite, whose views may actually be dangerous, and prevent the creation of happy, secure families. He should not be in No. 10. Get him out!


Planning for the Financial Future Takes Vision

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/11/2019 - 12:00am in



SSRN continues to grow research networks in an open-access online community readily accessible to everyone.

In the spirit of always growing, always something new, we are pleased to announce our latest research network!

Introducing the SSRN Financial Planning Research Network FinPlanRN. This new addition is made even more special due to our collaboration with the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning as our research network sponsor.

Director of Academic Initiatives, CFP Board Center for Financial Planning, Dr. Charles R. Chaffin says: “The CFP Board Center for Financial Planning is pleased to partner with SSRN to launch the Financial Planning Network. We see this as the next stage in bringing more cutting-edge research to practice, Financial Planning Review, our annual Research Colloquium, and the financial planning profession.”

The mission of CFP Board is to benefit the public by granting the CFP® certification and upholding it as the recognized standard of excellence for competent and ethical personal financial planning.

The CFP Board Center for Financial Planning seeks to create a more diverse and sustainable financial planning profession so that every American has access to competent and ethical financial planning advice.

Shirley Decker-Lucke, SSRN’s Content Director, says “SSRN is pleased to be working with the CFP board to create an early stage research sharing space that is specifically customized for the needs and interests of financial planning researchers and practitioners.”

Financial Planning denotes the process of determining whether and how an individual can meet life goals through the proper management of financial resources. The Financial Planning Research Network on SSRN includes research in all areas of financial planning, welcoming contributions from a broad range of fields, from retirement planning and portfolio choice to psychology and sociology, all indirectly or directly informing financial planning practice.

Individuals benefit from financial planning by stepping through the process to meet life goals and managing financial resources to ensure a comfortable future. SSRN helps researchers and practitioners discover the most cutting-edge research long before it is published, while showcasing the broad range of fields that relate to financial planning theory and practice such as economics, financial economics, and management.

The CFP Board has invested in a Partner in Publishing relationship with SSRN further engaging with like-minded practitioners and scholars for the distinct benefit of financial planning and making the future bright. Author content is now managed all-in-one repository easily accessible to the masses. The PlumX Metrics further associates social media and other mentions by collecting the data as part of the author profile.

Step into the future by sharing your early stage research today.


Let's Think About... Booklet (1971- )

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/11/2019 - 12:06am in

The Let's Think About... booklet was published by Scarfolk Council Schools & Child Welfare Services department in 1971. It was designed for use in the classroom and encouraged children between the ages of five and nine to focus on a series of highly traumatic images and events.

Parents and teachers assumed that the booklet was based on psychological research but it had no scientific basis whatsoever. The booklet's medically untrained author was one of the dinner ladies from the council canteen before she was fired for attempting to slip strychnine into bowls of blancmange.

Despite the scandal, the booklet remained on the school curriculum for many years and the author was invited by the council to pen an updated edition from her prison cell in 1979.

Is X-Phi P-Hacked? (guest post by Mike Stuart, Edouard Machery and David Colaço)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/11/2019 - 11:13pm in

Has experimental philosophy (“X-Phi”) exhibited signs of “p-hacking”? In this guest post*, Mike Stuart (Geneva), Edouard Machery (Pittsburgh), and David Colaço (Mississippi) report their findings.

Is X-Phi P-Hacked?
by Mike Stuart, with Edouard Machery and David Colaço

Journals in psychology, neuroscience, and medicine pretty much only accept papers with significant p-values, usually setting the significance level at 0.05. Given that scientists are under immense pressure to publish often, and their papers will only be accepted if they report a p-value of 0.05 or lower, they may be tempted to make choices that help them reach this level.

Without cooking the data, a significant p-value can be obtained in a number of ways, collectively known as p-hacking: You can perform statistical testing midway through a study to decide whether to collect more data (“optional stopping”); you can simply collect masses of data and then perform statistical tests on your data until something shows up (“data dredging”); you can drop outliers or rearrange treatment groups post hoc, etc.

P-hacking is one of the main culprits for the replication crisis in psychology, neuroscience, and medicine. But what about experimental philosophy? Does it also suffer from p-hacking? In a paper just published in Analysis, David Colaço, Edouard Machery, and I examined a corpus of 365 experimental philosophy studies, which includes pretty much all the studies in x-phi from 1997 to 2016. We analyzed the p-values reported in these studies by p-curving them.

A p-curve plots the frequency of significant p-values in a set of studies. Roughly, if scientists are p-hacking in order to reach significance, they probably aren’t going to the trouble of making their p-values much lower than 0.05. So, if most of the p values in a series of studies are hovering right below significance, we have reason to be suspicious.

Once we have the p-curve, we can use its shape as an indicator of whether p-hacking has taken place (there are more sophisticated metrics lurking in the background, but the shape is a good proxy). If the curve starts high and slopes down as we move to the right, this tells us that most of the p-values are very low, and therefore some of the null hypotheses tested are false. If many p-values are at or near 0.05 (so the curve slopes up as we move toward p = 0.05), then scientists have engaged in p-hacking.

To illustrate, look at the figure below (taken from here). The black line displays a p-curve in which there are real effects, while the red line shows how the curve would look if p-hacking had taken place.

We produced p-curves for 2001-2006, 2006-2011, and 2011-2016, as well as p-curves for each subfield of experimental philosophy, papers co-authored with non-philosophers vs. philosophers only, and studies with small vs. large sample sizes. (In a recent blog post, we also produced p-curves for the corpora of specific philosophers, with their permission, just for fun).

Here is the p-curve for the entire experimental philosophy corpus:

Here it is for just the first period (up to 2006):

And here it is for the most recent period in our dataset (2011-2016):

As we can see, early experimental philosophy does show evidence of p-hacking. Recent experimental philosophy does not. Also of note is that philosophers publishing on their own do no worse than they do when co-authoring with non-philosophers, papers published in collected volumes are no worse than those published in peer-reviewed journals, while studies with small sample sizes (n < 20) do appear to suffer from some p-hacking, while those with large sample sizes don’t.

Overall, the most important takeaway is probably that every subset we looked at, even those that appear to suffer from some p-hacking, had evidential value. That is, many of the null hypotheses tested are false and (very probably) many of the studies identify real effects. Impressions of methodological progress also appear at least partially justified. Experimental philosophy, it seems, has always been on to something (though what that something is is still up for debate).

The post Is X-Phi P-Hacked? (guest post by Mike Stuart, Edouard Machery and David Colaço) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Radio 3 Programme Monday to Friday Next Week on Blade Runner

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/11/2019 - 10:10pm in

It’s November 2019, the time when Ridley Scott’s SF classic, Blade Runner, is set. Radio 3’s programme, The Essay is running a series of programmes next week entitled The Essay: The Year of Blade Runner, looking at the film and the issues it raised. The programmes are all on at 10.45 pm. The first installment, ‘Los Angeles, November 2019’, is on Monday, 4th November. The blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

Ridley Scott’s 1982 Sci-fi classic film Blade Runner, based on Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is set in November 2019. Five writers reflect on the futuristic elements of the film and what it is to be human or a machine starting with Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum in London. He considers Ridley’s depiction of Los Angeles and its life beyond the screen as its influence bled into architecture and design.

There’s another little piece in a sidebar on the same page by Tom Goulding, that says

Like Kubrick’s vision of 2001, or 2015 as depicted in Back to the Future Part II, in November 2019 we have finally caught up with the future envisaged in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The classic sci-fi noir, an adaptation of of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is often touted as a benchmark of the genre. This week the Essay’s presenters offer their thoughts on the film’s grandiose themes, starting with how its dystopian versio of LA compares to cities of today. Let’s hope things have improved by the time we reach Blade Runner 2049.

Tuesday’s installment is entitled ‘The Year of Blade Runner 2: Sounds of the Future Past’. The Radio Times says

Frances Morgan, writer and researcher into electronic music, explores the sonic landscape of Blade Runner, with a Bafta-nominated score by Vangelis, and how the film shaped perceptions of how the future will sound.

Wednesday: ‘More Human than Human – Ken Hollings’

Writer Ken Hollings takes the film’s Voight Kampf test as he examines the ethical barriers between humans and machines.

Thursday: ‘Zhora and the Snake – Beth Singler’

Dr Beth Singler, junior research fellow in artificial intelligence at Homerton College, Cambridge, is inspired by Zhora the snake-charming replicant to ask what is real and fake when it comes to AI love.

Friday: ‘Fiery the Angels Fell – David Thomson’

Writer on Film David Thomas takes a look back at Ridley Scott’s rain-soaked mash-up of existential noir and artificial souls, released in 1982 and set in November 2019.

Blade Runner is definitely one of the classic, and most influential Science Fiction films, and it’ll be very interesting what they have to say about it.

And just to remind you how awesome the film was, here’s the opening titles from Guillermo St’s channel on YouTube.