Suggested readings, #128

Here it is, a rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

Peer review of a VAERS dumpster dive. There is a new preprint study of COVID-vaccine-associated myocarditis (C-VAM) by Hoeg et al. being shared on social media and several news sites that has not passed peer review. The claim from the study authors is that they replicate the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice’s (ACIP) analysis of C-VAM event reports from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and found a much higher incidence than previously reported. The study falls short of this claim in many ways but perhaps most significantly, it appears the authors wandered into the VAERS quagmire with no understanding of how the system works. … (Science Based Medicine)

A tale of two resignations. Last week, Peter Boghossian publicly announced his resignation from Portland State University. In his announcement, he complained about both the character of the university—its emphasis on social justice and what he sees as its “illiberalism”—and about how he was treated by some students, faculty, and administrators. … (Daily Nous)

Towards a new Enlightenment. Socrates’s legacy is one of philosophy as intervention and enlightenment of public life. Could contemporary academic philosophers play a similar role? The Enlightenment’s legacy, still alive in the academy today, sees philosophers as the holders of reason and the guides of progress. But those are philosophical myths best left behind. What is called for is a new Enlightenment, one that interrogates grand buzzwords like “reason” and “progress”, is more historically grounded and pragmatic, writes Michale Hampe. … (IAI news)

Reproducibility: expect less of the scientific paper. In 2018, we embarked on a journey to assess the reproducibility of biomedical research papers from Brazil. Thus began a multicentre collaboration of more than 60 laboratories to replicate 60 experiments from 2 decades of Brazilian publications1. We randomly selected experiments that used three common laboratory techniques: the MTT assay for cell viability, RT-PCR to measure specific messenger RNAs and the elevated plus maze to assess anxiety in rodents. … (Nature)

Psychologists are learning what religion has known for years. Even though I was raised Catholic, for most of my adult life, I didn’t pay religion much heed. Like many scientists, I assumed it was built on opinion, conjecture, or even hope, and therefore irrelevant to my work. That work is running a psychology lab focused on finding ways to improve the human condition, using the tools of science to develop techniques that can help people meet the challenges life throws at them. But in the 20 years since I began this work, I’ve realized that much of what psychologists and neuroscientists are finding about how to change people’s beliefs, feelings, and behaviors—how to support them when they grieve, how to help them be more ethical, how to let them find connection and happiness—echoes ideas and techniques that religions have been using for thousands of years. … (Wired)

Howard University’s removal of classics is a spiritual catastrophe. Upon learning to read while enslaved, Frederick Douglass began his great journey of emancipation, as such journeys always begin, in the mind. Defying unjust laws, he read in secret, empowered by the wisdom of contemporaries and classics alike to think as a free man. Douglass risked mockery, abuse, beating and even death to study the likes of Socrates, Cato and Cicero. Long after Douglass’s encounters with these ancient thinkers, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would be similarly galvanized by his reading in the classics as a young seminarian — he mentions Socrates three times in his 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” … (Washington Post)

Can psychologists tell us anything about morality? Lately, it’s (again) become fashionable to raise questions about the relevance of human psychology to human morality. On its face, the notion seems singularly unpromising – isn’t what we’re like relevant to what we ought do? But in fact, this idea is an old one, which has been discussed by moral philosophers for centuries. We therefore enter discussion with an unwelcome sense of déjà vu. But the recent exchange between Tamsin Shaw and Steven Pinker and Jonathan Haidt in the New York Review of Books compels us to consider the old idea in its most recent incarnation, which holds not that human psychology doesn’t matter for morality, but that what professional psychologists tell us about morality doesn’t matter for morality. … (The Philosopher’s Magazine)

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

10 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #128”

  1. Interesting mix. Had of course heard of the Boghossian, but not the other resignation, though that’s just 100 miles from me.


    Psychology and religion, though, of course, differ MASSIVELY on *why* one is working to improve one’s life. That “but if we remove the theology” is a BIG if … and wrong in other ways. Per you, I and Horgan, for example, meditation isn’t always beneficial. Some of DiSteno’s other claims? Behavioral psych was on shaky grounds even before the latest academic and intellectual fraud by Ariely. Kind of sad Wired would run something like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the Wired piece does make some interesting points. But yeah, the “I we remove the theology” bit is (unintentionally) hilarious!


  2. On the last piece, I’m not familiar with Tamsin Shaw, but am of course plenty familiar with Haidt and Pinker. Whatever they’re claiming, I’m by default prepared to more than 50 percent take the opposite stance.

    That said, the authors of the piece engage in some gaslighting. As places like Democracy Now have documented in detail, the American Psychological Association endorsed psychologists doing what Mitchell and Jessen did in the SERE … torture … for the Bush Administration. (Note: The American Psychiatric Association rejected this.)

    In short, it was far more than a couple of “bad apples.” So, I wouldn’t consider the authors of the piece to be totally trustworthy on that basis.

    Also, some specifics of the piece are wrong. Disgust as a moral issue, vs. disgust as a purely physiological issue (ie, rotten food) is NOT universal or even close to it, as far as what specific issues are considered disgusting. Exactly what constitutes an incestuous relationship, by degree of kin, among otherwise consenting adults, immediately comes to mind. Food taboos, which often invoke disgust in the culture which holds a certain food taboo, come next to mind.

    As for implicit bias? I know you don’t agree with me on that, or you didn’t in the past, but I also know you’re not totally in Kaufman territory either. That said, per the authors, if one has taken some of those implicit bias tests, and accepts at least in part the reality of the idea, then by simple philosophy of mind, one is now more conscious than before about at least the possibility, and hence, one’s culpability has risen.

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  3. Those interested in VAERS dumpster dive should go straight to the website, Respectful Insolence:
    To be sure, David Gorski, MD, PhD, also “co-posts” at Science-Based Medicine. Gorski is a prolific and accurate critic of all manner of pseudomedicine. He deserves a medal of honor.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The VAERS system is surely 95% useless, but the whole system is broken at this point (and not only of side-effect reporting, but also of data collection and information dissemination on COVID generally due to our betters trying to game the system). For example, any discussion of natural immunity is poo-pooed by the establishment (did you see Fauci side-stepping this long overdue question on CNN a few weeks ago?!?) because they are afraid that we hillbillies will use that as an excuse not to get vaccinated; the EU nations that are requiring COVID cards DO take this into account (e.g., Italy, France, UK), but in the good ole’ USA the authoritarian establishment thinks we are too dumb to deal with the truth, and too dumb to know that the elites think we are too dumb to deal with the truth–this is where the hesitation comes from; the citizenry knows that they it is being played). The elites are relying on censorship of alternative viewpoints and intolerant and illiberal tribal chants of “follow the science, shut up and get in line for your injections” to carry the day, and so far they seem to be right (although trust and confidence in Biden and Fauci has been seriously waning in the past couple of months, I think largely due to the obvious misinformation being presented by them; for example, you surely saw this week how Biden said

    “We’re making sure health care workers are vaccinated, because if you seek care at a health care facility, you should have the certainty that the pro- — the people providing that care are protected from COVID and cannot spread it to you.”

    Cannot spread it to you? Right. This is how stupid they think we are. And half the country chants “yes! pandemic of the unvaccinated! let’s go watch some more Rachel Maddow!”

    Regarding VAERS, when I was vaccinated I was told to expect possible headaches, body aches, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, etc. I didn’t happen to experience any of these but if I had I would not have reported them, not to my doctor (who surely would have said “keep an eye on it and if it gets worse let me know”), not to VAERS, and Fauci is not taking my calls. I doubt that so many anti-vaxxers are plugging up VAERS with false reports to overcome the under-reporting of side effects due to doctors’ admonitions about what to keep quiet about.

    The article on religion reminds of Bret Weinstein’s discussions of things that are “literally false, metaphorically true.”

    I figured Boghossian would not be long for academia after he (hilariously) laid bare the woke anti-science foundation of modern academia. I highly recommend his pseudo articles on the penis as a social construct (responsible for climate change) and the rewording of Mein Kompf as a feminist manifesto. Classic.

    As always Massimo, you are highlighting some great current topics, thanks!


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