Monday, September 28, 2020

Open vs closed minded people

There's a thoughtful blog here I'd like to call attention to:

The blog makes an important point:

The ability to change your mind is a superpower.

I'm especially interested in the psychology of conversion. As a member of a missionary-oriented Church, I've observed and experienced the conversion process for many years. Why is it that the vast majority of people in the world stick with the religion they grew up with? What is it that leads people to change religions? How do principles of conversion apply outside of religion?

The blog post discusses 7 concepts from Ray Dalio's book Principles. They are worth considering and reviewing from time to time.

Here's the first one, which I hope will lead you to want to read the rest.

1. Challenging Ideas

Closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees.

Closed-minded people are more interested in proving themselves right than in getting the best outcome. They don’t ask questions. They want to show you where you’re wrong without understanding where you’re coming from. They get angry when you ask them to explain something. They think people who ask questions are slowing them down. And they think you’re an idiot if you don’t agree.

In short, they’re on the wrong side of right.

Open-minded people are more curious about why there is disagreement. … They understand that there is always the possibility that they might be wrong and that it’s worth the little bit of time it takes to consider the other person’s views….

Open-minded people see disagreement as a thoughtful means to expand their knowledge. They don’t get angry or upset at questions; rather, they want to identify where the disagreement lies so they can correct their misperceptions. They realize that being right means changing their minds when someone else knows something they don’t.

Friday, September 18, 2020

US Constitution Day

This is mostly cross-posted from another blog, but I have some additional comments here because yesterday was a good example of how difficult it is to get consensus even on such a basic concept as the merits of the U.S. Constitution.

There are always critics. Some are more subtle than others.

Yesterday, September 17, was Constitution Day in the United States. 

On September 17, 1787, 39 of the 55 delegates from the States signed the Constitution. Would you have signed the Declaration of Independence and/or the Constitution? 

There's a cool webpage that let's you add your own signature. Go to 


In commemoration of Constitution Day, I'm speaking on the topic of "The Liberty of Righteousness" at an online forum tomorrow on the Title of Liberty.


Yesterday, President Trump announced a highly significant initiative - the 1776 Commission.

Trump discussed the “left-wing indoctrination” in many American schools as well as curriculum that “views every issue through the lens of race." The 1776 Commission will lead to “patriotic education,” in connection with a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop a ”pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation's great history." 

In that paragraph, I used quotations to show the terms used by the President, not to convey any sense of irony. I think this is an important initiative because students in public schools today are not learning basic facts of American history, the context of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, or even basic life success strategies.

In a new nationwide study of more than 10,000 Americans age 18 to 39 (200 randomly selected in each state), nearly two-thirds of respondents didn’t know 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, 48% couldn’t name a single World War II-era concentration camp or ghetto, and more than 10% believed Jews themselves caused the Holocaust.


This is comparable to the results of education in the Church, including the Saints book and the work of the M2C citation cartel. Most young LDS know nothing about why the hill in New York is called Cumorah, and most now believe that Joseph didn't use the Urim and Thummim or the plates themselves because he just read words off a stone he put in a hat. 

We need an 1830 Commission in the Church to revitalize what the founders taught.


Regarding the 1776 Commission, public schools have always been designed to indoctrinate kids to become productive citizens, but in recent years, teachers with private agendas have imposed their own views in many cases. 

As expected, critics framed the 1776 Commission with the latest code words from the left. Notice the adjectives the author chose, and which words are in scare quotes and which are not.

In austere, starkly divisive remarks, President Trump on Thursday said he would create a commission to promote "patriotic education" and announced the creation of a grant to develop a "pro-American curriculum." The move is largely political — a reaction to a growing push by some academics for schools to teach an American history that better acknowledges slavery and systemic racism.

Here's another way the same story could have been told.

In direct, specific and clear remarks, President Trump on Thursday said he would create a commission to promote patriotic education and announced the creation of a grant to develop a pro-American curriculum. The move is largely political — a reaction to a growing push by some academics for schools to teach an American history that "better acknowledges slavery" and "systemic racism."

These editing tactics are commonly used to influence readers, often without readers even realizing it.


Attorney General Barr also gave an important speech about the Constitution. The text is here:

The speech was a straightforward explanation of how the Justice Department is supposed to work, but predictably, leftist organizations and politicians performed outrage theater.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Good example of bias confirmation

The "worse than Watergate" guy, Bob Woodward (who always comes on CNN to explain that whatever Trump is doing is "worse than Watergate") has released a new book that is an awesome example of bias confirmation.

Here's one of the many articles about the book:

In the book, Kushner is quoted describing four texts people should "absorb" if they want to truly understand the President. Woodward writes the texts do not paint a flattering picture of someone who is both Kushner's boss and father-in-law.

Of course, Kushner's list of texts can also be explained as painting a flattering picture of someone (Trump) who understands human nature very well and knows how to get things done by employing that knowledge. 

It was clear to Woodward that none of this was meant to criticize Trump, just as a way to help understand him. That said, Woodward was surprised and writes, "when combined, Kushner's four texts painted President Trump as crazy, aimless, stubborn and manipulative. I could hardly believe anyone would recommend these as ways to understand their father-in-law, much less the president they believed in and served."

Look at that list of Woodward's adjectives, none of which are supported by either the texts Kushner cited nor the evidence of what Trump has actually accomplished. When combined, these for texts also paint Trump as someone who knows there is never just one point of view, only one possible decision, only one possible outcome, etc. He works in a world of multiple operating hypotheses, knowing that the best information surfaces through a competitive and confrontational system.

Which is similar to President Nelson's teaching that good inspiration comes from good information.


This is a good lesson in bias confirmation, but the article also includes an insight into how our M2C scholars, their employees and followers, influence the Church.

"And if people try to get a quick answer out of him, it's easy. You can get him to decide in your favor by limiting his information. But you better be sure as hell that people with competing views aren't going to find their way to him. And when that happens, he's going to undo his decision."

The M2C citation cartel employs every possible tactic to limit the information available to Church members. They seek to prevent members of the Church, as well as Church leaders, from getting information that contradicts their theories.

We've seen how the Saints book, for example, censored Cumorah. Cumorah was censored from the Gospel Topics entry on Book of Mormon Geography. Joseph Smith's own statements about the Urim and Thummim were censored from the Gospel Topics Essay on the Translation of the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon Central continues to censor evidence and explanations that contradict M2C. Now they're doing the same with the Urim and Thummim. The entire M2C citation cartel participates in this, and it's amazing to watch.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

How memory works

Brief note from twitter:

It is vitally important to know that our changing memory is not a flaw but a feature of what it is like to be human. For it is this “memory drift” that allows us to “forgive and forget” and to grow. What was a crisis memory in the past may become less so in later perspective.

The most important understanding of the Human Brain is that memories are not stored in the brain a static thing.

We store memories in a dynamic way that keeps changing the perspective and relationships the memories have with each other.

Our memories keep changing and adjusting

Friday, July 31, 2020

Note on Producing Ancient Scripture

If you wondered why it is so difficult to reach consensus on basic issues such as whether Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, here's a fascinating example.

On another blog I've been discussing the book Producing Ancient Scripture.

Readers have been debating  the book at the FairMormon blog, here:

The participants are among the most prominent scholars in the Church today, all awesome people, smart, informed, etc.

You can see the range of opinions about the translation, the direction of the Maxwell Institute and other members of the M2C citation cartel, and even the Book of Abraham.

Notice the apparently unanimous agreement that Joseph "translated" with the "seer stone in the hat."

If you follow these issues, you know that people in the debate are essentially defending and promoting ideas they've been advocating for years. They are deeply invested in their ideas; hence the display of bias confirmation.

One lesson I take away from this: people will believe whatever they want (they develop a bias) and then find evidence to confirm their bias while ignoring, disputing, or not even seeing contrary evidence.

The exchange of ideas and facts is productive, even essential. We can only think and do things that we first imagine or conceptualize. After you read an exchange such as this, you are somewhat freer to make informed decisions for yourself.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Learn, unlearn, relearn

All the way back in 1970, Alvin Toffler provided an insight that is even more relevant today:

"By instructing students how to learn, unlearn and relearn, a powerful new dimension can be added to education…Tomorrow's illiterate will not be the man who can't read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn."

now usually quoted as ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn’
Future Shock (1970)

Technically, there are problems with this statement. For example, those who cannot read in the 21st century are still illiterate. But Toffler's claim suggests that a person with obsolete knowledge has just as much a disadvantage as a person who cannot read. Maybe more so.

The learn, unlearn, relearn paradigm explains not only how we improve by adapting to rapidly changing knowledge and understanding, but also how we improve by converting to different ways of thinking and believing.

The paradigm can be applied in two ways. People learn (school, from parents, peers, school, etc.) When new knowledge comes along, if they are flexible and open, they unlearn what they had learned and relearn the new knowledge.

Everyone in the world has learned, from a young age, a framework for understanding the world. They learn language, customs, culture, and values, often (but not always) within a particular religious context.

As we mature, we learn new things that force us into a choice: we can incorporate new things into our existing framework, or we can unlearn that framework to adapt to the new things.

A couple of scriptures help apply these ideas:

54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
(Doctrine and Covenants 84:54)

1 Now, behold, I say unto you, that because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.
2 And you also lost your gift at the same time, and your mind became darkened.
3 Nevertheless, it is now restored unto you again; therefore see that you are faithful and continue on unto the finishing of the remainder of the work of translation as you have begun.
(Doctrine and Covenants 10:1–3)

the end

Thursday, July 16, 2020

discovering the simulation

One way to achieve some degree of consensus is seeing more of the same movie on the screen. Here's an idea:

The closer a civilization gets to being able to program a simulated universe, the closer it gets to discovering it is one.