TEDxMileHighSalon – Michael Huemer – The Irrationality of Politics

TEDxMileHighSalon – Michael Huemer – The Irrationality of Politics

Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney My topic for today is going to be
the irrationality of our politics. (Laughter) Now, I’m going to start
by giving a couple examples of what I mean
by political irrationality, and then after that
I’m going to give a theory of how we wind up
with irrational policies, and then finally, I’m going to try and draw some lessons
for us as individuals about combating the problem
of political irrationality. So I start with two examples; this is my first example of what I would consider
political irrationality. It’s the war on terror. (Laughter) Now, this graph shows
the number of fatalities due to terrorism in the United States. The RAND Corporation has an excellent
database of terrorist incidents, and so this is from their database. What you can see is there
have been about 3,200 fatalities, this is just in the United States,
over the course of about 50 years. You can see the big spike
is the 9/11/2001 attack. The smaller spike that you can barely see,
that’s the Oklahoma City Bombing. There’s a couple of other incidents, but they’re too small
for you to see on the graph. Now, it’s interesting
to compare this to two other things. This is the cost of the problem
that we have to deal with, and it’s interesting to compare this,
first of all, to another problem. So, compare it to the number of people who’ve been killed by murderers
in general in the United States. Now, I don’t know if you can see it, but on this graph, the red is, again,
the terrorist murders: people murdered by terrorists
in the United States. The blue is the people who were murdered
by non-terrorists in the United States over the same time period
– the last 50 years. The terrorists killed
about 0.4% of the total. The non-terrorists killed 802,000 people, or 99.6% of the total. Now, this initially makes it difficult
to understand the priority that’s been placed on terrorism
by the United States government, by the media, and even
by the general public. Now, the other comparison
that I think is interesting is comparing the costs of terrorism
to the costs of war on terror. So I have this on the next slide. On the left are the people
killed by terrorism, and on the right, this is just Americans who’ve been killed
fighting the War on Terrorism. That’s the deaths of U.S. serviceman,
it’s about 6,300, most of them in Iraq,
but also a lot of them in Afghanistan. Now, but that is actually
only the tip of the iceberg as far as the costs
of the War on Terror goes, so on the next slide, on the far right, these are the people who have been killed
in foreign countries, most of them civilians. It’s over 230,000, and again on the left, you have the people
who were killed by terrorism. I don’t have time to talk about
all of the costs of the war on terror; this is only the most obvious, and I also don’t have time to talk
about what alternative policies would be. But I just want to make the suggestion
that if you have a policy that kills 70 times as many people
as the problem you’re trying to solve, then that’s usually
a prima facie indicator that it might be an irrational policy. (Laughter) (Applause) Alright, now my second example- I don’t know if it will be popular
among the same people – my second example is protectionism. Protectionism is a policy
whereby the government attempts to discourage foreign imports
in order to protect domestic industries. There are two ways they do this. The first is quotas:
this is where there’s a legal limit on how much of a foreign good
you’re allowed to import. The second way they do it is tariffs. This is where the government
places special taxes on imported goods, the purpose of which
is to drive up the price of the good in order to help domestic manufacturers. There are a lot of people
who support this, both among the general public
and among political leaders. Now, I don’t have time to talk about
all of the arguments that people give. I’ll just say, virtually
every economist is against it, and that includes liberal economists
who are generally pro-intervention. The reason is that they think
protectionism harms your own economy. By adopting these measures,
you’re shooting yourself in the foot. As an example, this is the quotation
from Paul Krugman, the famous liberal economist. He says, “If there were
an Economist’s Creed, it would surely contain the words ‘I understand Comparative Advantage,
and I support Free Trade.'” Now, as I say, I don’t have time to talk about all the arguments
surrounding this policy, but I would like to suggest simply that if you think that the community
of experts on this subject are wrong, and especially if you think that while
being unable to state their arguments, then you’re almost certainly
the one who’s wrong. (Laughter) So that was it for my two examples
of irrationality. Now what I want to talk about
is why this comes about; why do we have irrational policies? First, there’s a theory
about political ignorance. I want you to consider
the following observations. The first observation
is political information is costly, so you have to spend a lot of time
collecting political information. You might even have to spend
a little bit of money maybe buying newspapers or magazines. Mostly, it’s just a whole lot of time
to become informed. Second, as a general rule,
people will accept a cost only if they expect
to receive greater rewards than the cost that they’re taking. That’s just a general principle
about human behavior, right? The third premise
I want you to consider is the expected rewards
of political information are negligible. They are approximately zero. The reason for this
is that most people know that their individual information
is not going to change public policy. In other words, if you go out
and become more politically informed, you personally are probably not going to change the policy
of the United States government, and so for that reason, if you’re doing
the calculation in a purely selfish manner you would say, “It’s not worth the costs.” The conclusion of this is that most people are not going to
become politically informed. Now, I just want to take
a brief survey of the audience. How many of you know
who your congressman is? A show of hands. Okay, so that’s maybe a majority. How many think that you can identify
the last vote that he made in congress? Yeah, he or she. How many? Look around the room,
do you see any hands? There’s like one hand in the back. That’s the problem of political ignorance. That is not the only problem; the other problem
is the problem of political irrationality, which I am even more exercised by. Now the premises here are very similar. First, political rationality is costly. Why is that? Well, if you’re rational, then you don’t get to believe
whatever you want to believe. (Laughter) In other words, if you’re committed to rationality, then you’re putting
your belief system at risk every day. Any day you might acquire more information and then be forced to change
your belief system and it can be very unpleasant
and emotionally disturbing, right? (Laughter) The other thing is it just requires
a lot of effort to be rational because you have to exercise effort
in order to overcome your biases. To identify your biases,
and then figure out how to overcome them. Again, most people will accept a cost only if the expected rewards
exceed the cost. But, again, the benefits in this case
are negligible because most people realize that the probability that they’re going to
change the outcome of an election with their vote is very close to zero. It’s not zero, but it’s maybe
one in 10 million or something like that. The prediction of my theory is that most people will not be rational
about political issues. That is the problem. Now, what can we do about this problem? I want to say this: It seems to be pretty easy
to convince most people that most people
are irrational about politics. (Laughter) But the reason why
I talk about irrationality is not to convince you
that other people are irrational so that then you can dismiss
other people’s opinions. (Laughter) The reason why I talk about it
is to cause you to reflect on yourself to see whether you might have
certain biases and irrational tendencies, so that you could hopefully correct them. How could you correct
the problem of irrationality? Sorry, the first thing
is why is it important for you to correct the problem
of irrationality? The reason is, though it is kind of in your self interest
to continue to be irrational, it’s against the interest
of society as a whole. You’re imposing serious risks
on the rest of society. Now there’s only a small probability
that you’re going to change public policy with your attitudes,
your behavior, and your beliefs, however, the consequences
to society as a whole are very large. And, of course, if a large number
of people are irrational, which is in fact the case, then it’s a virtual certainty that society
is going to suffer negative outcomes. Now, I claim that this is
the most serious social problem. The worst social problem that we’re facing
is not the problem of world poverty, or the problem of pollution
and destruction of the environment, or even the problem of war. The most serious problem that we’re facing
is the problem of human irrationality because this is the problem that prevents us from solving
the other problems. If you’re going to solve a problem, you generally have
to have accurate beliefs about it. Take, as an example,
suppose that you have a doctor who is trying
to cure one of your illnesses, and the way that he’s going to
come up with a cure is, he’s going to reach
into a hat and pick something out. You’re probably going
to be made worse off, right? You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t
make you worse off, he’s certainly not
going to cure the problem. This is roughly how I see
our political system, right? Because if you’re forming beliefs
in an irrational manner, it’s like you’re picking out of a hat. What could you do to combat irrationality? My claim is, at least the first step
is to identify the problem. The first step is admitting
you have a problem. You’ve heard that before, right? (Laughter) I can’t tell you all of the steps
because that would take too long. I will just tell you these are some signs
that you might be irrational. (Laughter) The first thing is if you’re becoming
angry during political discussion. Now, I don’t mean if the other person
is insulting you or punching you, but I mean if another person is advancing
a political position and arguing for it, and that makes you angry, that is a sign
that you have certain biases that might be preventing you from thinking
objectively about the subject. The second sign you might be irrational
is if you have strong opinions about a subject before acquiring
relevant empirical evidence about it. (Laughter) Now, most of these political issues
that are discussed in our society, there is a lot of evidence
out there about them. For most of them,
there’s actual academic literature, and people have done studies,
and collected all kinds of statistics. If you haven’t looked
into any of that literature but you have an opinion about it,
it’s probably irrational. A related sign is if your opinions
do not change as you gather evidence, that is a sign of irrationality. (Laughter) (Applause) Of course, it could be
that you’re just lucky and you happen to get the right answer
without having evidence, but what’s more likely is that you have
a phenomenon known as dogmatism, where you just stick
with your existing opinions and when new information comes in, you just fit it
into your existing opinions. A couple more signs
of possible irrationality: I didn’t put these up as examples
of the irrational people, although it could be taken that way. I put this up as an example of people
who are used as information sources. If you collect your information only from sources that you already know
you’re going to agree with, that is a sign that what you might
be trying to do is to reinforce your existing beliefs
rather than to learn new things. The people that you’re most likely
to learn something that you don’t already know from
are people who disagree with you. The last sign you might be
being irrational is, if you think that people
who disagree with you must be evil. (Laughter) Now, there are some
evil people in the world, however, it is unlikely that a large
segment of the population are evil. So if you’re under that impression,
the most likely explanation is, again, that you’re suffering
from this problem of dogmatism, whereby you’re unable to see
the arguments for another position. My last slide is- this is if you want
to learn more about this. There’s an interesting book, The Myth
of the Rational Voter, by Bryan Caplan, which is the source of the theory
of irrationality that I was explaining. And this is my essay about why people
are irrational about politics. That’s on my website
at the University of Colorado. It looks like that’s all
we have time for, so thank you. (Applause)


  1. this presentation is so wrong in that it presents all deaths equally without reference to context. Equating deaths resulting from individual murders to terrorism to voluntary servicemen is unconscionable.

  2. This is an excellent video. He makes some amazing points, however I think he makes only ONE logical mistake. He completely neglects the cost of doing nothing during the war on terror. If in fact, had he included the data on the number of attacks that were prevented, and/or caught by our government then there would be far more deaths from terrorism than from homicide during the same time as the war on terror. Other than that, great video with a lot of insight!

  3. @TheClosestcontinuer The only logical error in that argument is the assumption that the United States has the power to hand carve international events at will. I don't think we are as responsible for terror events as we give ourselves credit for. However I would like to think that we, as Americans, have that kind of power…..or is it arrogance?

  4. Huemer doesn't know economics. Read Ian Fletcher's book Free Trade Doesn't Work. Comparative advantage is a cute theory in a bubble. In reality the USA is NOT CREATING ALTERNATIVE INDUSTRIES to those jobs that got exported to China. Ricardo's theory is dead in the water if a country is priced out of the market in EVERYTHING that it produces. That is the reality for the USA, it simply cannot compete. Free trade is a cult and Huemer is another sheep bleeting mindless propaganda. Baaah.

  5. @xntubes Comparative advantage is one of the hardest concepts in economics for people to get their minds around. I do disagree with your assessment, because the data actually does support it. Further, what you are confusing is "trade in simialr goods" between nations, which Krugman is a respected expert in as well. You are also confusing absolute advantage. Further, a nation can't be priced out of all markets. At worse, you will produce what you have a least disadvantage in.

  6. @TheClosestcontinuer I don't know where you are going with the, "CIA", "Al-Qaeda", etc. You just brought that up, not me. We have also been extremely unsuccesful at military interventions. Most of those times, our defensive focus was containing the activities of the Soviet Union, which acted in a much more aggressive and interventionalist way than we could at the time. It's vital to see those re-actions in the context of the Cold War, which was directed against the us.

  7. @TheClosestcontinuer Further the original context of my argument was the data he presented. I think there would have been a much higher rate of death due to terrorist action than murders, had we done nothing. Think about it. If you can't raise a standing army to fight an enemy, then you have no choice, but resort to the next best thing: individual acts of terrorism. If you let them get away with the 9/11 attack, then they will have the green light to do more with more.

  8. Actually,most people have been irrational at various levels. The reason for it is stated on the video, it just takes energy and effort to be one. Usually, those who are rational most of the time are expending time and effort to be one, aside from being indifferent to the eyes of most.

  9. @lucidmaze
    I think that you raise a good point but I am still reminded of an old joke:

    There is a guy standing on the street corner snapping his fingers.
    A woman walks up him and asks him, "Why are you snapping your fingers?"
    He replies, "To keep the elephants away."
    "Why there isn't an elephant within a 1000 miles." She exclaims.
    "See! It works!"

  10. @lucidmaze In reality, the trade deficit means the US imports far more than they export. So how can they ever expect to return to full employment with this imbalance? They can't. All China buys from the US is debt and assets. This is not sustainable. It is suicidal. Transferring economic and military power to China is insane. Barking mad.

  11. @GabbyJay121 So long as the massive trade deficit continues, the USA cannot recover full employment. It is simply transferring economic and military power to China. This is suicidal. It is nuts.

  12. He made some good points at the end of the discussion and provided some good self-analysis tools. I disagree with the use of the term "irrationality", though. Human beings are always acting in a way to improve their subjective well-being, however defined. Perhaps "emotional" is a better description that "irrational", but I see where he is coming from.

  13. @bronyaur71 Terrorism never occurs in a vacuum. If one sees an act of terror, one should always ask what political violence preceded it. I maintain that terrorism is everywhere and always a response to political violence, and more specifically by the weak in response to the strong.

  14. 2 finish….
    I would have probably ignored the comment,if not for one of my older children….I have 5 sons from 15 to their early 20s ..
    My son asked me ,why I was giving this person cover,by being their fb friend…I was puzzled by this….My teen said if the pro abortion guy,had told you he had thought molesting little boys was okay .What would, I have done??….I would have defriended him instantly…..But what he said was in ways worse,he believes in killing them…

  15. Nonsense. In politics there's always the reason given to the public and the real reason for a policy. The War on Terror is more about maintaining control in a region with a strategic resource than fighting terrorists. It's a reasonable thing for an imperialist power to do. That it hasn't gone well is beside the point. Voter irrationality is also irrelevant, nothing important is decided by them. Policies aren't random, someone always benefits. Probably some industry baron.

  16. I wish he was able to discuss more about the irrationality of protectionism instead of just saying that experts say so.

  17. @eviltreesloth Google my PowerPoint "Why Do They (Terrorists) Hate Us Slideshare" It should be the first link at the top. NY Times bestselling historian Tom Woods called it a "very good presentation" on his blog and another guy added "You made this PowerPoint? Someone linked me to it a while back and it really had a big impact on my foreign policy views. That was very good work–thanks for putting it together."

  18. He's good at rhetoric. Which is instrumentally rational. But he seems almost too good at it to be epistemically rational.

    Basically, he makes a plausible (though far from bulletproof) argument that there's a problem, then presents one plausible explanation for that problem. Even if his explanation (or two, if that's how you count) is/are part of the truth, there's no reason to believe they're the most important part.

    In fact, even if everyone were rational, plurality voting would still suck.

  19. Huemer couched free trade as if it is unanimously cheered by economists. This is false. While all agree there are efficiency gains, this is not enough to cheer lead. There’s also efficiency-to-displacement ratios, which often reveal small gains compared to large domestic displacements; gains in efficiency also tell you nothing of their lags to realization, frequently taking years. The failure of the Washington Consensus in developmental econ should instruct him, but he seems oblivious to it.

  20. Absolutely excellent presentation! I guess since I didn't get all freaked out by this lecture then I must be uber-rational! 🙂

  21. what if irrational arguments make you angry? ..I usually just say nothing and/or leave..still fuming inside the whole time.. 😛 lol.

  22. You can't agree with him unless you first hear arguments from another point of view. But doing so, means that you agree with him. It's a catch 22!

  23. I can't make it through the whole video, the sheer number of baseless assumptions that he makes is just too much for me personally.

  24. It's a 14-minute talk about politics, not an exegesis of the current state of the science of cognition.

    I would also assert that 'rational' is well-understood in common parlance: it means consciously attempting to make optimal choices given your objectives and the constraints under which you operate.

    It was obvious from the counter-examples: teaching by counter-example has been around since Socrates.

  25. Yeah, the "don't get angry" part gave me the shits. It can be rational to tell someone to go fuck themselves if they're talking total fucking bullshit (especially if they are not amenable to changing their mind… e.g., religiotards and moralfags).

  26. Michael Huemer's book on libertarianism made me angry. Then I watched this video and felt embarrassed that I was angry.

  27. Rational requires defining, it's done either through axiomatic methods or dialectic methods. Logic doesn't mean constricted choices, it means the next reasonable choice proposed by a particular course of action. Rational thought is purposefully defined purely on the logical form that is used or the process used during it's evolution. Without that logical basis it is not rational.

    Congrats you managed to misinterpret how to apply rational thought.

  28. I didn't think it was possible to pack that much meaningless gibberish within the character limit, but you managed to.

    Logic doesn't constrain choice sets? By DEFINITION it RULES OUT those choices that fail logically.

    Also, "rational" is so well understood in the philosophical, economic, cog-sci and psychological literature that the VERY FIRST line of the definition on Wikipedia (excerpted from "Reason and Rationality") reflects EXACTLY what I wrote.

    Repeat Philo 101 until you pass, kiddo.

  29. Note that his argument against the War on Terror is based on statistics – facts, numbers of people killed. There, you see his conclusion before he states it, on the weight of the evidence. His argument against tariffs is based on *authority* – "the vast majority of economists" – which is a very weak argument. You have no evidence for or against his conclusion; he's actually arguing for you to be *irrational* and accept it because its popular, at the moment, with most -but not all- experts.

  30. Well, he could present all of the evidence – empirical data, simple logic, etc – but that would take up time and when you've only got 15 minutes, you have to be very sparing in how you use it. Yes, it's an argument from authority and thus a logical fallacy, but it also happens to be right.

  31. He's not saying disagreeing with the is irrational. He's saying disagreeing while not even being able to state their arguments is irrational. Which is almost everyone who supports protectionism. If you understand the arguments, you will almost certainly be converted.

  32. Read on Adam Smith the father of modern economics Now he would never condone what has happened to a perfectly functioning economy but he also explain why free trade is needed if a counties economy is to remain healthy. Free trade has not killed the economy. Financial institutions that have been allowed to gamble with their assets on the chance of making gains for themselves and their investors and the whole time damaging the economy.

  33. Adam Smith is not that father of modern economics. He believed in cost-based theory of value, similar to labor theory of value, but more general to all costs. Cost-based value people think they know what is or isn't "wasteful spending" in government. The real answer is value is subjective, so you don't know what is "wasteful" because you don't know how other people value things. Carl Menger set up subjective value which led to the law of supply and demand 100 years after Adam Smith died.

  34. The reason he doesn't discuss tariffs is because it's a lengthy topic, as seen here:

    daviddfriedman. com/Academic/Price_Theory/PThy_Chapter_19/PThy_Chap_19.html

  35. Michael Huemer argues for libertarian anarchism in his book "The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey."

    I highly recommend it.

  36. The interesting thing about Huemer's three touchstones in determining the possibility of irrationality is that points 1 and 3 are equally exhibited by people to whom point 2 doesn't apply. That is, some people are rational about politics, study a wide range of sources, apply rational analysis to them, and form a political views based upon that research. They are very likely to become angry, because they see their opponents are underinformed or willfully evil. And they are quite right.

  37. The truth is, most people actively avoid learning of all kinds, not because the perceived benefits are minuscule, but because of the basic fact that new knowledge tends to challenge one's identity, the most fundamental aspect of our consciousnesses. People behave emotionally, not rationally, and it is the emotions to which we must appeal in order to get people to reconsider their identities.

  38. i think it's more laughing at themselves, because the traits he mentions for irrationality i think are things we're probably all guilty of at times.

  39. Stats are funny, but far from convincing… It is not very likely that the war(s) were fought solely to defeat terrorism committed on American soil.

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  41. the thing is a nation is not built based solely upon rationality. it's more complex than that. what about love of nation, patriotism, etc? Isn't those likely being driven by irrationality? and I don't think that irrationality is similar with ignorance: someone that has gathered large amount of information related to some issues could be doing on irrational way either. Irrationality is not something that should be negated from politics, in fact, it has to be taken into account when someone talking about politics. Just remember: Irrationality is not same as violence.

  42. Free trade? no body wanted saudi arabia running US ports or Chinese state owned companies buying up oil companies in Texas. Economics is the most failed science of all the sciences. 

  43. The purpose of terror is to start wars. Even if the terror doesn't kill many people, it is certain that wars do kill a lot of people.

  44. It is worse than this. The whole political class is composed of people whose mission in life is to encourage irrationality. Who is the political class? Certainly politicians and journalists.  But also lawyers, marketers, and educators.

  45. The "war on terrorism" is not about protecting us from terrorists, it's about the people who call themselves government using fear to increase their power.

  46. So if I don't agree with your idea's of anarcho-capitalism the problem is clearly because I am the irrational one. Got it.

  47. Don´t know if anyone ever watched "Donnie Darko", they made a simple joke in this movie about a teacher, who thought, that actions are primarily motivated by two emotions – love or fear, … a simple and smart joke, same problem here, you can make loads of rational choices which are morally completely wrong, life is not that simple, you can say a rational choice is always the right choice, but in reality maybe that is not enough. Aside from that, I think, it is worthwhile to watch this. 

  48. The war on terror is not an irrational policy ffs, it is carrying out it's function perfectly, it's function is death and destruction and bringing America to it's knees and perpetuating fear, the PR is that it is to keep you safe.

  49. 11:50 it depends on the political position. Imho it is normal to get angry at people who have certain political positions, e.g. racism.
    13:04 imho this actually is what most people do.
    13:50 probably most people are not evil, but imho most politicians are evil, because some behaviours that are considererd evil are very helpful if you want to get a political position, e.g. egoism and opportunism.

  50. this guy is a genius. near the end i started to get really angry because he kept proving me to be extremely irrational.
    it was vicious.

  51. Fascinating how many commenters here describes the talk as something that supports their individual ideologies. I think you missed the point.

  52. Good presentation, and yes I agree we should seek information from sources we disagree with, but what if those sources are propagandists? I don't see the sense in that.

  53. The low terror murders may have something to say about the effectiveness of our military. Our four branches' diligence and lethality may have reduced terrorists' supply of resources (arms, facilities, recruitment opportunity, etc.) and their output of killed civilians and families shattered may decrease as a result. I wouldn't dare withdraw forces from the middle east with the thought that ISIS would have an opportunity to reestablish key facilities to train more troops, build their bases, and take hostages.

  54. Politics is irrational. But so is omitting total number of people killed by terrorists. He shouldn't be comparing the world total civilian casualties killed by fighting terror with the U.S. total civilians killed by terror. He should be comparing the world total civilian casualties of fighting terror with the world total civilian casualties of terrorists.

  55. politics is not about cognitive biases. It is about ideologies, emotions, etc. and these make it "irrational". You may think that this should be changed. But I think this is not possible and realistic. It may even be not desirable? Human life is irrational as a whole.

  56. There is an attempt all over the world by the same people, to discredit institutions, governments and laws. It's a denial of democracy created by jewish New World Disorder to destroy what is in his way to control Humanity and countries. People are not irrational voters. We don't need specialists and experts to tell or show us what is good for us, we know, we see.

  57. I'm sympathetic to Dr. Huemer's intellectual tendencies; however, TWOT example is pretty weak. It can be broken down into "about 3,000 died on 9/11 due to a terrorist attack; more people died from non-terrorist attack, therefore, TWOT is irrational, given costs of blood and treasure." Couldn't I make the same argument for World War Two? "'Only 2,403 people died on 1941.1207; many more Americans undoubtedly died that year from non-terrorist/military causes; given that WWII cost 405,399 American lives and +$5.5 Trillion (adjusted for inflation), it was irrational." His underlying thesis is correct; however, he needs to strengthen the examples he uses.

  58. Most economist agree free trade is good.

    Krugman is a gawd awful example of an economist that believes in free trade.

  59. Irrationality in economics is too often used to abuse differences in values.

    Example: someone might say, "you're a smoker, smoking cigarettes is irrational, you are irrational."

    On the surface, that may seem obvious, it's intellectually disingenuous.

    On might say, "you say you want to be healthy, you say you don't want to get lung cancer, the data on causality of cigarette smoke to lung cancer is overwhelming, so your smoking cigarettes is irrational."

    These are actual disparagements of people and ignorance of economics.

    The truth is, if a person knows smoking is bad for them, and smokes anyways, it's because they value smoking over the consequences, full stop. Value is subjective. Just because you don't hold the same values, just because you can't conceive of the rationality of someone else's values, doesn't make them irrational.

    It's true, someone may be irrational about their justifications. They may use faulty data or statistical analyses to justify the consequences of their smoking (and this goes both ways, such as many of the health claims of 3rd hand smoke), the smoking its self isn't irrational. It may be irrational to you.

    Most people are irrational about something, irrevocably so. That is to say, most people cherry pick information that justifies their beliefs. That includes brilliant scientists. In fact, brilliant people are the worst, they're that much more intelligent at justifying their beliefs.

    Irrationality isn't a bad problem, humans have ALWAYS been irrational. It's only a problem in a way that an unsolved mathmatical equation is a problem. It's something to be solved, uncorrelated to any moral assumptions, it can only be solved on an individual by individual basis, all attempts to educate people on rational thinking has resulted in a eugenics on the exchange of memetics (ie and echo chamber) that limits innovation and understanding.

  60. 13:32 "The people I'm most likely to learn something I don't already know from, are the people who disagree with me".

    Btw also "Unless Love is present, the Truth cannot enter"** also is a Natural Law that I am certain is true based on my own experiment & experience. No use discussing when when ppl are projecting rage or not open to a basic respectful conversation.

    **Quote by Jesus, but different sources.

  61. 1. According to Human Rights Watch on Wikipedia, Saddam Hussein's Ba'th Party killed 250k+ Iraqis. Huemer sure didn't mention that. That omission makes his glib bar chart look downright dishonest.

    2. The Iraq war is broadly unpopular right now. Criticizing that is reaffirming most existing viewpoints. Apply the same simplistic logic to WWII or the US Civil War and Huemer would be boo'd off the stage, and he knows that. The Pearl Harbor attack there were 2.4k US casualties. The Confederate attack on Fort Sumter had basically zero casualties, and the Confederates considered it was an act of defense deep in South Carolina. I believe Huemer does argue that both those wars were also illogical, but he wouldn't dare say so to the TED audience.

  62. That's hilarious. Do you know the last vote of your congressmen in the legislature? One hand goes up. Woohoo!

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