Saturday, May 31

Do you over-estimate your own importance?

A big part of the problem is that people have a natural tendency to over-estimate their own importance. Nobody takes a job he believes is a waste of time, and people self-select into professions they happen to think make a big difference in society. So TSA security screeners believe they're making air travel safer, even when the evidence says they're not. Patent attorneys believe they're promoting innovation, even in industries where the evidence says otherwise. And adoption officials naturally believe that they play a vital role in ensuring kids get placed in loving homes.

Monday, May 26

nonsensical superstitions

It turns out, according to the study, that 17.6 of professors in the social scientists consider themselves Marxists. Only academics doing a survey of other academics could possibly think that this is low (actually, the authors use the term "rare"!). The next time someone tells you that conservatives avoid academic positions in the social sciences because they believe in nonsensical superstitions with no empirical or logical support, while liberals believe in the scientific method, remember that 17.6% figure. (Update: See also Freud and Freudianism, whose time thankfully seems to have largely passed.)
Freudianism's time has passed? I wish!

A minority in one's own body

The ... bacteria in the human microbiome collectively possess at least 100 times as many genes as the mere 20,000 or so in the human genome.

Since humans depend on their microbiome for various essential services, including digestion, a person should really be considered a superorganism, microbiologists assert, consisting of his or her own cells and those of all the commensal bacteria. The bacterial cells also outnumber human cells by 10 to 1, meaning that if cells could vote, people would be a minority in their own body.

Let's not give them the vote.