Author: Hunter Maats

Why did humans evolve to be so defensive of our beliefs?

Working with teenagers, you get used to seeing a very particular and charming side of the human animal: defensive behavior. A simple suggestion that students might want to ask their teacher for help or actually open their textbook can lead to them quickly adopting the policy that “a strong offense is the best defense.” Of course, you don’t have to be a teenager to act this way. We all do it sometimes and right now a lot of people are doing it. Why is this behavior come out so strongly in teenagers/21st Century humans? Because of insecurity. Teenagers are...

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Truncate and Renormalize: Do Scientists Actually Think of the Earth as Round?

The wonderful thing about living in the age of the internet is things people long thought but never dared say have come bursting out on the world. As someone who loves science, I’m glad that all the anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, creationists, global warming deniers and more have come bursting out of the wood work. You have to get these ideas out in the open so you can actually find people who believe these things and help them test their ideas. And while science lovers generally focus on the problem of people who believe things that are a bad fit for...

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The Orange Belt – The Tribe

By achieving the first two belts in this series you have learned: you’re in a cult(ure) that’s adapted to environment, you downloaded your culture through awe, and that culture binds and blinds. The orange belt is about understanding The Tribe. Facebook has revealed that even though computers allow us to accumulate thousands and thousands of “friends” our brains can’t care about all of them. In fact, thanks to the work of a scientist named Robin Dunbar, we know there’s a limit to how many meaningful relationships the human brain can maintain. The Dunbar Number(s) is a cognitive limit on relationships...

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The Iron Throne: Why do Americans cheer for Khaleesi but want to depose dictators?

‘The breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.’For all the praise that has been rightly heaped on Game of Thrones its greatest accomplishment has yet to be realized: Game of Thrones has set the American people up to finally realize that they’ve been getting foreign policy wrong for a very long time. Consider this irony. Every week, millions of Americans root for Daenerys Targaryen to bring order and stability to the land by using force to seize power. Will Daenerys hold elections? Probably not. And yet, in the political realities of Westeros, Americans want Daenerys as the least bad option. Politics is not about what we’d like. Instead, it’s as Otto von Bismarck said. Game of Thrones may seem like a fictional story but it is a distillation of massive amounts of real history. George R.R. Martin famously based the book on England’s War of the Roses when multiple claimants to the throne sparked a series of wars that raged for 32 years. And it powerfully reveals why the Arabs say “Better a hundred years of tyranny than one day of anarchy.” As bad as the rule of King Robert Baratheon may have been, that indifferent tyranny was much better than the anarchy that followed. The problem is that this is not the frame of reference of most Americans. Most Americans have as their frame...

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How Do You Deliberately Create a Golden Age?

Golden Ages: Why Not Deliberately Create Them? Across the world and throughout the ages, Golden Ages have appeared. Ancient Greece, Han Dynasty China, the early days of Islam, Italy during the Renaissance, the Scottish Enlightenment to name just a few. During these times and in these places, there is a great flourishing of human creativity, innovation and progress. And yet, somehow, these periods then fade. The lights turn off just as quickly as they turned on. The Golden Age gives way to a Dark Age. If you ask most people why Golden Ages appear and then disappear, they probably couldn’t...

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