Welcome to another edition of Digestable, the short, weekly email where I share information, ideas, and what’s new with me. This email was sent to subscribers on May 9th, 2021.
Here we go!
- The Danger of Fact-ist Politics: This essay by Taylor Dotson claims that both sides of the raging political war share the same root issue: an unrealistic demand for certainty. On one side lies “scientism“, and on the other “conspiracism“. Each side “see themselves as capable of sifting through all the available evidence to discover unerring truths that their political opponents are too biased, ignorant, or corrupt to see“, and that “this obsession has been tearing at American politics throughout the Covid pandemic, and continues to imperil debates over vaccination, masking, and lockdowns.“
The fallacy of scientism is that ““the facts” do not compose an imperfect map of an incredibly complex reality but instead constitute the territory itself.“ (For example, our “maps” of complex interconnected systems such as human physiology and nutrition are still crude pirate maps.) As a result, politicians and citizens abdicate “responsibility to scientific experts. Expert advice is treated as value-free even when it is clearly not . . . Experts no longer merely advise the policy process but are now in the driver’s seat.” The important role of true discussion, where citizens debate and compromise on how to apply and weight the scientific data in accordance with their values is cast aside because “all political opposition is cast as the product of misinformation or science illiteracy, compromise becomes irrational, the sacrifice of truth to appease the ignorant.“
The author concludes with some ideas for moving forward. “The first step is to move from a preoccupation with certitude to embracing politics as a learning process. This will mean being more honest about the uncertainties of expert advice.” This is a long, meaty, essay, and it provided me with a valuable lens to view current political discourse. Thank you Kyle Eschenroder for the link.
- Why You’re Christian: In this rich essay, self-described “tepid non-believer“, David Perell, wrestles with reconciling his atheism with his belief in human rights. He values this iconic statement from America’s founding documents “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” but admits, “there’s a problem: human equality isn’t self-evident at all . . . our “unalienable rights” are a result not of secular rationalism, but rather an omnipotent God who endows us with those rights.” Spoiler alert: he isn’t able to find the logical coherence he is searching for, and arrives at the honest and humble conclusion that his “worldview rests on two contradictory axioms.” I highly recommend this educational and insightful look at both Christianity and US political history.
- Letter to Premier Kenney Re: Restrictions on Outdoor Fitness: This is the letter I wrote to Premier Kenney and my local MLA objecting to the restrictions on outdoor group fitness announced on May 4th. “Activities like these are part of the solution to our current situation and to building a long-term pandemic-resistant population. They are not part of the problem . . . I recognize we must make sacrifices to reduce the spread of this virus. However, scientific data is always interpreted and weighted through our own lens of values and experiences, and in this voter’s opinion, the restriction of outdoor fitness is putting too much weight on one data set, while not providing enough weight on others. Please reconsider this restriction.“ Read the backstory here, and if you feel similarly please voice your concerns to your local representative.
- Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers: “Sometimes MBA types would ask me, “What’s your growth rate? What’s your retained earnings rate as a percentage of gross? What are your projections?” I’d just say, “I have no idea. I don’t even know what some of that means.”Read more unconventional business advice like this in my book notes on this beauty. Derek Sivers took his music hobby and turned it into CD Baby, which eventually sold for $22M. He rejected business-school rules the entire way.
- Quote I’m Pondering “use this same rule on yourself if you’re often overcommitted or too scattered. If you’re not saying, “Hell yeah!” about something, say no. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” then say no” – Derek Sivers, in Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur.
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P.S. My talented brother sketched this epic portrait of me based on an equally epic photo. Thanks bro!