Conspiracies without theories, theories without conspiracies, and theories about conspiracies.

A post last month on /r/slatestarcodex asked whether professors who believe in conspiracy theories should get to keep their jobs. That question seems pretty easy to me – if their beliefs interfere with their teaching, then firing or some other kind of discipline is appropriate, otherwise not. What’s more interesting to me is one of the follow-up comments:

“MKUltra, the Gulf of Tonkin, Bohemian Grove, CIA involvement with the Dalai Lama, Cigarettes causing cancer, the testomony of ‘Nayirah’ before the Gulf War, Operation Mockingbird, CIA involvement in the importation of Cocaine, The Iran-Contra affair, even the Chernobyl nuclear disaster all started as conspiracy theories.”

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Guidelines for lower back pain?

Scott Alexander wonders why we don’t have “guideline” algorithms for more difficult-to-treat problems, in addition to depression. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internet, the first steps toward establishing something like that for back pain.

That piece cites several journal articles, including lower back pain in spaaace!, but the most important one is this literature review – gated, but free.

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Book Review: The Nurture Assumption, by Judith Rich Harris.

The Nurture Assumption isn’t quite the book I expected. Amazon tells me that customers who bought it also bought The Blank Slate, by Steven Pinker, and The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray, which is what I expected. Based on that, you might expect it’s a book about how human nature is influenced by genes rather than the environment, possibly with a racist chapter or two thrown in there. But Harris is less interested in the relative influences of nature and nurture than in changing how we look at the idea of “nurture.” As Steven Pinker says in the introduction, “We all take it for granted that what doesn’t come from the genes must come from the parents.” This book is about why that assumption is wrong.

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The Dickens-Flynn model explains why my mom can’t figure out her iPad.

(In which I consider more implications of the model discussed in previous posts.)

James Flynn points out quite a few reasons to doubt that generational increases in IQ test scores really mean people are getting that much smarter. If IQ truly measures intelligence across generations and cultures, that would make our average parents notably dull and our average grandparents bordeline retarded – or, if you want to look at it the other way, most college graduates from my generation could have easily joined Mensa when it started in 1946. And – to put it bluntly – someone would have noticed if old people were that dumb.

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