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The Intellectual Decline of the Presidency

Bush is my Hero

John McWhorter on Elvin Lim’s The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush:

“…[This] is not one more rant about the limited cognitive abilities of George W. Bush but a brisk, methodical deconstruction of ‘the relentless simplification of presidential rhetoric in the last two centuries and the increasing substitution of arguments with applause-rendering platitudes, partisan punch lines and emotional and human interest appeals.’ “

via FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life

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Patternicity

Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise: Historian of science and Skeptics Society foun...Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer: “…whenever the cost of believing a false pattern is real is less than the cost of not believing a real pattern, natural selection will favor patternicity.”

via Scientific American

By the way, I am enamored of the term apophenia for this phenomenon. Patternicity seems too cutesy. As a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of psychosis, I think apophenic thinking is at the heart of the paranoid process and one of the core disturbances in schizophrenia. But Shermer’s argument that natural selection will favor patternicity when it has the best adaptive cost undercuts his crusade against irrational belief, doesn’t it? As I have previously pointed out in discussions of apophenia, finding patterns (in the sense of “believing superstitions“) has helped human groups to survive.