Tag: Columbia University

Rationally speaking ….

… it’s not that easy to be rational!

It’s alright! I haven’t missed taking my pills! 😉

My headline and sub-heading was me trying to catch your eye and persuade you stop what you are doing for eleven minutes and watch this video that was filmed earlier this year at the TEDxPSU conference.  It’s all about being rational.

The presenter is Julia Galef described by WikiPedia (in part) as:


Julia Galef (born 1983) is president and co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality. She is a writer and public speaker on the topics of rationality, science, technology and design. She serves on the board of directors of the New York City Skeptics and hosts their official podcast, Rationally Speaking, which she has done since its inception in 2010, sharing the show with co-host and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci until 2015. She also blogs with her brother Jesse on the website Measure of Doubt.


Galef received a B.A. in statistics from Columbia University. In 2010 she joined the board of directors of the New York City Skeptics. She co-founded and became president of the nonprofit Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) in 2012. The organization also gives workshops to train people to internalize and use strategies based on the principles of rationality on a more regular basis to improve their reasoning and decision making skills and achieve goals. She was elected a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in 2015.

Julia’s website further explains:

The problem I’m most interested in is how to change one’s mind. Starting from the premise that every human being is at least a little wrong about many things that matter — in our careers, or about health, science, politics, our self-image, and more — we should, in theory, be updating our views frequently as we learn more about the world. In practice, however, our opinions ossify.

So here’s that talk from Julia – I bet all of you will find it interesting! Rationally speaking, that is!

Published on Jul 11, 2016

Perspective is everything, especially when it comes to examining your beliefs. Are you a soldier, prone to defending your viewpoint at all costs — or a scout, spurred by curiosity? Julia Galef examines the motivations behind these two mindsets and how they shape the way we interpret information, interweaved with a compelling history lesson from 19th-century France. When your steadfast opinions are tested, Galef asks: “What do you most yearn for? Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?”

If only our leaders and power-brokers across the world yearned for truth!

The unconscious

A Biological Basis for the Unconscious? Surely not?

Ten days ago or thereabouts, I saw a piece on Big Think about the unconscious.  The title of the piece was as the sub-heading: A Biological Basis for the Unconscious?  I was intrigued, to say the least, and wanted to write about that on Learning from Dogs.

The article started thus:

What’s the Big Idea?

Eric Richard Kandel

Today, the question of how people make decisions is an animated and essential one, capturing the attention of everyone from neuroscientists to lawyers to artists. In 1956, there was one person in all of New York known for his work on the brain: Harry Grundfest. An aspiring psychiatrist who was born in Austria in the 1930’s, Eric Kandel took an elective in brain science during medical school and found himself studying alongside Grudfest at Columbia University.

“What is it you want to study?” Grundfest asked Kandel. “I want to know where the id, the ego, and the super-ego are located in the brain,” Kandel replied. Grundfest looked at him as if he was crazy. “I haven’t got the foggiest notion whether these constructs exist,” he said. “But the way to approach the brain is to study it one cell at a time. Why don’t you study how the cells work?”

Now it would be improper to republish the whole article, not having permission to so do, and I thoroughly recommend you going to the article here and reading it completely from the Big Think website.

But there are a number of interesting videos on YouTube and the one I have selected is a great example of Kandel’s power of mind.  As the short description of the video reveals, “A Conversation With Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, Who Continues to Look Forward at 80.”