It’s Symbols All the Way Down


https://soundcloud.com/isaacmorehouse/symbolic-meaning-of-trump-protests-and-covid-policies?in=isaacmorehouse/sets/isaac-morehouse-podcast

Statelessness and the Burden of Proof


Normie: "It's not possible to live without govt"

Voluntarist: "Here are dozens of examples of stateless societies, many lasting hundreds of years"

Normie: "Life without government would be worse"

Voluntarist: "No stateless society has done nukes or genocide"

Normie: "It's not possible to live without govt"

----------

Normie: "You must prove that government is bad"

Voluntarist: "Why is the burden of proof on me to prove that an institution that has murdered more than 100 million people in the last century alone is bad?"

Normie: "Because Hobbes said we couldn't live without it"

Voluntarist: "But we have lived without it"

Normie: "Because its good"

The Myth of the Rule of Law, by John Hasnas


“The Myth of the Rule of Law” was written by John Hasnas and originally published in 1995 in the Wisconsin Law Review no. 199.

I read it (with a few mumbles and mistakes) in its entirety from the written version here.

Thanks to Prof Hasnas for writing this excellent essay, as well as another called "The Obviousness of Anarchy", both of which were profoundly influential on my thinking.

https://soundcloud.com/isaacmorehouse/the-myth-of-the-rule-of-law-by-john-hasnas

 

What is Reality?


Had a really great conversation with Steve Patterson about the nature of reality, materialism vs idealism vs dualism and his attempted resolution with pluralism, and a lot more.

 

https://soundcloud.com/isaacmorehouse/what-is-reality

 

Epistemic Humility and Confidence


I allowed myself to briefly engage in a conversation on Twitter that I normally avoid. It was about data. Worse, it was someone asking me to opine on data shared by someone else. I really had no business engaging, but I was feeling charitable so I did.

It was a waste of everyone's time. I shared the data I found, they shared theirs which did not agree, and everyone was supposed to base their interpretation of reality off one of these conflicting data sets. Inevitably, the motives or credulity of the person sharing the data comes into question, since the conflicting data itself can't be resolved by staring at it.

Of course neither of us can prove the veracity of any the data. It's all aggregated from third parties (most of whom have a history of poor data and all of whom have bad incentives and public choice problems). Does that mean beliefs about reality must be formed a priori, and not need any data?

Probably not. But it has to start there. That's inescapable. Data is meaningless without a theoretical lens through which to interpret it. That lens is always there, acknowledged or not. So you've got to at least work out a foundation a priori.

After that, when it comes to external data, I try to work in concentric circles of probability. Things I observe and experience first hand have the highest probability of being true and useful. Things one layer of reality removed have slightly less (e.g. something I have observed before, but not this time, being shared by someone I know in a context where motives are known). The further removed the data from my own experience, the lower the probability it is true and the less it should factor in to my view of what is real.

I consider this epistemic humility. To discount the probability of truth in proportion to its closeness to experience. I don't have to have solid true/false answers to everything. Nor do I need to pretend such answers don't exist. I can approach what I know directly with high probability and lower it with each step beyond experience.

Where does the confidence part come in?

It's the part that keeps me sane.

Epistemic confidence is to not need anyone else to perceive reality the same way you do.

It's incredible how freeing this is.

At any given time, I have ideas about reality, informed first by my a priori theories (law of identity, non-contradiction, action axiom, etc.), then by my direct experience, then by lessening degree with increased remoteness, data shared by others. It's always probabilistic, and changes as the information changes. Any conclusion is temporary fair game except those which violate basic logic. And at any given time, I don't need anyone else to understand or agree with this flux of worldviews.

That's when enjoyable discourse and discovery are possible.

Still, I sometimes get sucked into conversations about data and counter data that is so far from my experience I have no reason to weight it enough to justify serious debate.

My Summary of 2020


Prevailing narratives determine "reality" for society.

There's always a gap between those narratives and on-the-ground experience.

In 2020, that gap blew so wide open that two different realities seem to be co-existing.

New Threats Don’t Demand We Stop Living


One of my favorite entries from Present Concerns, a collection of essays by C.S. Lewis.

On Living in an Atomic Age

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat at night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented… It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds...

What the atomic bomb has really done is to remind us forcibly of the sort of world we are living in and which, during the prosperous period before, we were beginning to forget. And this reminder is, so far as it goes, a good thing. We have been waked from a pretty dream, and now we can begin to talk about realities...

It is our business to live by our own law not by fears: to follow, in private or in public life, the law of love and temperance even when they seem to be suicidal, and not the law of competition and grab, even when they seem to be necessary to our own survival. For it is part of our spiritual law never to put survival first: not even the survival of our species. We must resolutely train ourselves to feel that the survival of Man on this Earth, much more of our own nation or culture or class, is not worth having unless it can be had by honorable and merciful means.

Nothing is more likely to destroy a species or a nation than a determination to survive at all costs. Those who care for something else more than civilization are the only people by whom civilization is at all likely to be preserved. Those who want Heaven most have served Earth best. Those who love man less than God do most for man....

Let the bomb find you doing well.

Diet Pills and Persistent Error in Health and Science


Earlier this year, I was doing a deep dive into virology. Coincidentally, this was before Covid, in effort to solve my own health-related problems and mysteries. I had the same experience I've had when I went deeper into any field. A realization that nobody in the field knows what the hell is going on.

I don't know what viruses are or how they work exactly (no one seems to really), but I came across enough published work to discover the current theories are insufficient to explain reality. There are many things observed and documented in the world that would not be possible if the dominant theories were true.

It is a disconcerting notion. An entire body of science with widespread and accepted beliefs, billions in money and man-hours, and real-world implications could be operating partly or mostly in the dark? Yes. In fact, that is the norm in the history of science, not the exception.

People tend to respond to such claims with indignance. A common argument goes something like this:

If a theory were incorrect, and being incorrect had real-world implications, the theory would not persist. The fact that it does persist, and so many experts and laypeople alike believe it and billions are spent on the assumption it is true, must mean it is true.

Let's see if we can disprove the above argument. All you need to disprove a claim like that is a single example of where it does not hold. Then it can no longer be used as a proof. And we have such an example.

Diet pills.

Magic pills that make you thin have been around for a long time. The theories they are based on are faulty, AND this faultiness has real world implications, i.e. people buy the pills and don't get the results.

Yet millions are spent on them and they don't vanish.

This clearly proves that a false theory, with real-world implications for being false, can persist. But why?

Because people benefit.

If an incorrect theory that leads to outcomes that disprove it can benefit people, they can keep on believing in it for a very long time. The people making and selling diet pills benefit in terms of money. The people buying them also benefit. They get to relieve some psychic discomfort about their weight and appearance by buying a pill and feeling like they're at least doing something. They are buying hope. Trust in experts. Marginal relief from feeling like they're not making progress, all the while avoiding the hard work.

So it persists.

The majority of theories in human health can be explained the same way. The more you dig, the more you find that almost all the dominant theories are incorrect. There are too many stubborn facts that contradict them. But they persist because it benefits the researchers to have a theory, it benefits policymakers to have a specific target to which to direct money, and it benefits the public to feel safer believing that the health troubles in the world are understood by experts and have cures. Most are not and do not.

This is different than placebo. Placebo is probably the most effective and efficient form of treatment in the history of health. Unlike these incorrect theories, placebo actually works. We just can't explain the causal mechanisms that make it work. Incorrect theories and diet pills have theories we can explain, but they are incorrect and do not work. They are anti-placebos; beliefs that makes us feel better but make our outcomes no better or worse.

Science at large faces this problem far more than the diet pill industry. Many if not most theories that are treated as fact fail to produce outcomes they'd predict. They are demonstrably false. But because no clearly correct theory can be found, pretending to understand persists. Researchers get money for concrete claims of knowledge. Policymakers get to have definable problems and solutions to tout. The public gets the comfort of "knowing" how it works, complete with cute little animated posters and 3-step action plans.

Nobel Prize winning biochemist Dr. Kary Mullis, inventor of the PCR process (incidentally this is the process used in Covid tests, despite its inventor's insistence until his death that this was not valid use of the process), spent the last years of his life fighting against the claim that HIV causes AIDS. I was shocked when I came across him and the other researchers and a substantial community around the AIDS not caused by HIV claim.

I do not claim to know whether this is true, but according to Mullis, he watched his own technology (PCR) be misapplied to diagnose disease, and he watched sloppy science get rushed out to meet a social and political demand for an answer to AIDS. The money, press, and public would rather have an answer than take the time to prove the answer correct. He said he watched nearly all his colleagues shoehorn their unrelated research into AIDS-related research, because billions were being doled out, as well as status and fame, all because the political class, media, and public wanted to believe there was a known cause and therefore clear research to be done to cure it.

Mullis maintained that no one had yet figured out what caused AIDS. There were some theories, some with fewer problems than the HIV theory, but none of them were free from contradictory evidence in the real world. He said, however, that public science cannot abide the very thing science is supposed to do best; questions. It needs answers. Incorrect theories that provide clear action steps, even if they lead to broken outcomes, exist and persist.

The history of science and medicine confirm this. Theories have been believed and acted upon even while making the problem worse. Over and over and over.

The odds are incredibly, ridiculously slim that that is not happening right now with almost every theory. The more public and political the health or science issue, the greater the odds that the theories funded are incorrect. The incentives are just stacked too far against the truth, which is usually something like, "We don't really know what's going on, but sometimes this helps some people."

This is why science tends to progress in sudden, violent lurches, instead of the smooth linear path you might expect. Incorrect theories are prematurely turned into gospel by the scientists with the best political skills because the incentives to have an answer are so strong. This means falsifications and superior theories face an incredible battle and require a massive cataclysmic shift and/or changing generations to break through.

PS - One of the more interesting things I came across was the many cases through history of healthy sailors at sea for months (long after the incubation period claimed by viral theory) suddenly contracting the flu at the exact same time as people on land a thousand miles away. This has been observed and studied for several hundred years, and to date, no mainstream viral theory can explain it. Therefore, all current viral theories must be incorrect or incomplete. How unsatisfying.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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It’s Symbols All the Way Down


https://soundcloud.com/isaacmorehouse/symbolic-meaning-of-trump-protests-and-covid-policies?in=isaacmorehouse/sets/isaac-morehouse-podcast

Statelessness and the Burden of Proof


Normie: "It's not possible to live without govt"

Voluntarist: "Here are dozens of examples of stateless societies, many lasting hundreds of years"

Normie: "Life without government would be worse"

Voluntarist: "No stateless society has done nukes or genocide"

Normie: "It's not possible to live without govt"

----------

Normie: "You must prove that government is bad"

Voluntarist: "Why is the burden of proof on me to prove that an institution that has murdered more than 100 million people in the last century alone is bad?"

Normie: "Because Hobbes said we couldn't live without it"

Voluntarist: "But we have lived without it"

Normie: "Because its good"

The Myth of the Rule of Law, by John Hasnas


“The Myth of the Rule of Law” was written by John Hasnas and originally published in 1995 in the Wisconsin Law Review no. 199.

I read it (with a few mumbles and mistakes) in its entirety from the written version here.

Thanks to Prof Hasnas for writing this excellent essay, as well as another called "The Obviousness of Anarchy", both of which were profoundly influential on my thinking.

https://soundcloud.com/isaacmorehouse/the-myth-of-the-rule-of-law-by-john-hasnas

 

What is Reality?


Had a really great conversation with Steve Patterson about the nature of reality, materialism vs idealism vs dualism and his attempted resolution with pluralism, and a lot more.

 

https://soundcloud.com/isaacmorehouse/what-is-reality

 

Epistemic Humility and Confidence


I allowed myself to briefly engage in a conversation on Twitter that I normally avoid. It was about data. Worse, it was someone asking me to opine on data shared by someone else. I really had no business engaging, but I was feeling charitable so I did.

It was a waste of everyone's time. I shared the data I found, they shared theirs which did not agree, and everyone was supposed to base their interpretation of reality off one of these conflicting data sets. Inevitably, the motives or credulity of the person sharing the data comes into question, since the conflicting data itself can't be resolved by staring at it.

Of course neither of us can prove the veracity of any the data. It's all aggregated from third parties (most of whom have a history of poor data and all of whom have bad incentives and public choice problems). Does that mean beliefs about reality must be formed a priori, and not need any data?

Probably not. But it has to start there. That's inescapable. Data is meaningless without a theoretical lens through which to interpret it. That lens is always there, acknowledged or not. So you've got to at least work out a foundation a priori.

After that, when it comes to external data, I try to work in concentric circles of probability. Things I observe and experience first hand have the highest probability of being true and useful. Things one layer of reality removed have slightly less (e.g. something I have observed before, but not this time, being shared by someone I know in a context where motives are known). The further removed the data from my own experience, the lower the probability it is true and the less it should factor in to my view of what is real.

I consider this epistemic humility. To discount the probability of truth in proportion to its closeness to experience. I don't have to have solid true/false answers to everything. Nor do I need to pretend such answers don't exist. I can approach what I know directly with high probability and lower it with each step beyond experience.

Where does the confidence part come in?

It's the part that keeps me sane.

Epistemic confidence is to not need anyone else to perceive reality the same way you do.

It's incredible how freeing this is.

At any given time, I have ideas about reality, informed first by my a priori theories (law of identity, non-contradiction, action axiom, etc.), then by my direct experience, then by lessening degree with increased remoteness, data shared by others. It's always probabilistic, and changes as the information changes. Any conclusion is temporary fair game except those which violate basic logic. And at any given time, I don't need anyone else to understand or agree with this flux of worldviews.

That's when enjoyable discourse and discovery are possible.

Still, I sometimes get sucked into conversations about data and counter data that is so far from my experience I have no reason to weight it enough to justify serious debate.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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