Sunday, November 11, 2007

Requiring certainty in science - The "craving for authority" - Sigmund Freud

Must one kiss every frog, in order to conclude that none is likely to be a prince? Requiring certainty in anything stops anything in its little tracks.

Fair use quotation of Sigmund Freud, from article on Sigmund Freud by Dr. C. George Boeree at
// re science cannot and should not be a fixed "catechism" substitute - Emphases and asterisk added -

"It is a mistake to believe that a science consists in nothing but conclusively proved propositions, and it is unjust to demand that it should. It is a demand only made by those who feel a craving for authority in some form and a need to replace the religious catechism by something else, even if it be a scientific one. Science in its catechism has but few apodictic * precepts; it consists mainly of statements which it has developed to varying degrees of probability. The capacity to be content with these approximations to certainty and the ability to carry on constructive work despite the lack of final confirmation are actually a mark of the scientific habit of mind. -- Freud"

Am looking up the actual source for the quote. It is repeated in this Hindu-information site on the connectivity of religion and science, at // Repeated often, but can't find yet the first source.

Found this one: "Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity." Sigmund Freud, at Rand's Quotations, see
* Apodictic - means "uncontrovertible" - see

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Anyone can be Brutal. Sales, Pain-Infliction, the Milgram Study. Studies in Inflicting Pain. You can be sold on it.

The Milgram Studies
Part I, and Part II

Intentional infliction of pain. Even when not personally affronted. The joy of it.

Brutality can be sold, and most people will buy. Read about the Milgram Study. The first time it was conducted, the testers did not say what they were studying. And they found that people will be brutal when they can use the excuse that they are being directed to do it. That was seen as ethically bad - putting people in that position - so decades later, they corrected the problem and came up with the same results.

Equivocation for science. Did not affect the ending.

The "Milgram Psychology Studies" examined angles of brutality: who did it, who didn't. The studies are written up by PublicEye, at //

PublicEye is a 501(3) charitable organization on the left looking largely at the right, but that may be the filter for the article's inclusion, and does not necessarily reflect on the accuracy of the reporting of the studies. See writeup on PublicEye at this guide to charitable giving, laying out group's purposes, at ://

The result: some people can and to resist the temptation or order to be brutal, others (most) do not and cannot. Most get sold on the idea and carry on on their own. Acting out us versus them is easier and more satisfying than trying to grapple with underlying causation issues.

Read how the study was constructed and its results at :// Title: "The Milgram Experiments: A lesson in depravity, peer pressure and the power of authority." This next site calls it "Milgram's Study of Obedience," and includes illustrations, at

Note that the PublicEye article tempers the result there with the somewhat hopeful news that some people do resist being brutal - but most can get sold on it. Watch the seller, be careful of propensities including trust, reliance on authority, fear.

Rudeness sells brutality. Loudness and repetition work. Talk shows can sell brutality, starting with numbing people's own sense of fairness and decency. Titillation can sell brutality. Lay out a long-legged, big-maned loud talker and some would like very much to be liked by that person. No big deal, ordinary sales, but unless we are aware of how we are sold, we won't resist well because we won't even see it as sales.

The issue is again in the news - update December 2008 - see Update 12/2008 - the Milgram Study in the news again - see ://