After hearing the Theories of Everything Part 1 and Part 2, everyone got suuuuuuper jealous that Hunter was getting Spiros all to himself. In the spirit of Mixed Mental Arts, Hunter decided to share Spiros with Dave Colan, Cate Fogarty, Andrew Hunter and Christopher Leon Price.
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Continuing off from the last conversation, Spiros unpacks how he thinks of truth in thinking about physical reality. Then, Dave Colan (after struggling to remember Sam Harris’ name) brings up Sam’s recent comments about Hunter on the Joe Rogan Experience. Sam’s comments prove to be an excellent teaching opportunity because they reveal the sort of theories we form about other people based on limited and emotionally provocative evidence.
The whole point that I (Hunter) was trying to clumsily make on Joe Rogan was that because of the Dunbar Number most humans are an abstraction. We have to stereotype. The question is what we stereotype around. Spending time at Oaks Christian, it was clear that the stereotype people had of scientists was formed around people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins was formed around people who insulted beliefs they did not understand. In fact, I came to realize that Jesus Christ was a better neuroscientist than Sam Harris which you can read about here.
Now, Sam has proved my point. He has formed an opinion about me based on very limited evidence and his feeeeeeeeeelings about me. It’s an amazing demonstration of #DescartesError and the #DunbarNumber. Is the model that Sam Harris laid out of Hunter Maats a good model of me? Well, I’ll leave that for you to judge. But take a look at what he has said here.
For regular listeners to Mixed Mental Arts, you’ll see that while Sam’s impression of me is perfectly understandable that it’s a great example of what Spiros talks about with “truncate and renormalize.” Sam has a truncated data set around who I am and that he has then renormalized around that very limited data. Can he justify his impression? Of course! He can point to that very limited amount of information and justify his impression.
And yet, there’s other data. There’s over 200 episodes of Bryan and me interviewing hundreds of different scientists and then synthesizing those ideas together into a coherent worldview. Sam Harris has said I’m wrong about the “relevant biology.” That’s a huge problem. Whether I’m wrong or he is doesn’t much matter. What matters is that the “relevant biology” has become so overcomplicated and atomized that either me (a Harvard biochemistry grad who has interviewed hundreds of scientists) or him (a neuroscience PhD) don’t understand the “relevant biology.” If we can’t figure it out, then it’s no wonder science can’t win the public over. Science needs to figure out and present a coherent worldview in order to effectively win people over. The #MarchForScience is a nice show of support…but which science are these people in favor of? Is it rationalism or intuitionism? Is it the multi-level selection of David Sloan Wilson, Jon Haidt and Joe Henrich or the gene-centric model of Dawkins and Harris? And, more basically, what is science anyway? Because it’s clear that Spiros, Jon Haidt and me are operating on a very different understanding of what science is than Sam Harris is.
Sam Harris has painted a picture of religious people with statistics that is actually a terrible model of who they actually are. I’m an apatheist. I don’t really care about God. I don’t go to Church or Mosque. I care about practically improving people’s lives using whatever tools are available. And that’s why I’d moved on from Sam Harris and was focused on making Smart Go Pop but then Brentwood Boy got so emotional about the whole thing that he couldn’t help saying Candyman five times. As Cate Fogarty points out in this article, I was just doing exactly what Joe Rogan did with Carlos Mencia. I was calling out someone who was hurting the community. Why does Joe defend Sam? Because Joe has feeeeeeeeeelings about Sam that cause him to value defending his friend over examining the evidence impartially. Sam Harris is Joe Rogan’s sacred cow. And that’s okay. That’s the way humans work. All of us. You, me, New Atheists and old school Arabs. And if we want to have a better world, then we all have to stop pretending like we have it all figured out and start reflecting on the problems in our own culture and do the difficult work of self-reflection and calling out the Fundamentalists who have wrapped themselves in the flag of our cherished causes.
As I’ve covered in earlier episodes, the challenge for people is to spot who is and who is not a Fundamentalist and to see who preaches our values but doesn’t actually practice them. Joe Rogan’s defense of Sam Harris will reveal before this community just how hard this is. Thank you, Sam Harris! You’re the best. You beautifully proved my point and have created the social drama that will drive attention to the science.
Don’t believe me. Decide for yourself. That’s what science is about. It’s not about authority or Harvard or PhDs. It’s about forming better Theories of Everything by breaking your old theories to make room for better and better ones.
People do that all the time with TV shows. Look at Game of Thrones. People had theories about whether Jon Snow was dead. Then, they were confronted with the evidence of the next season. Many theories died and people moved on. You can’t break your old theories unless you’re exposed to the evidence and you can’t be exposed to the evidence if the people who are the public faces of science don’t tell you about it.
That’s why Mixed Mental Arts has branded an alternative to The Four Horsemen. We call it The Holy Trinity of Cultural Evolution. They present newer and much more powerful Theories of Everything.
WE DO NOT WANT YOU TO BELIEVE US.
That’s not what science is about. It’s not about human authority. It’s about the evidence. So, examine it and draw your own conclusions and then let’s hash them out and see if we can all evolve better Theories of Everything together.
The internet is our intellectual thunderdome. Sam Harris just dragged his public persona into the arena when he said I was wrong about the “relevant biology.” May the best ideas win.
Two ideas enter. One idea leaves. Idea dying time is here.
In other news, Spiros is now going to be taking any and all questions and answering them for you through Mixed Mental Arts. Send questions to @quantum_spiros! Also send him requests for more 80’s cartoon theme songs in Greek.
Love to all humanity – Toto