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Science succeeds by recognizing two conflicting quirks of human thinking:

A tendency to oversimplify in the service of confirming wondrous wishes
&
Discovery of abstract patterns of Nature that cannot be denied
Self deception
vs
She who must be obeyed

Both quirks lurk about in the shadows of Keith Devlin's "fourth level of human abstraction."
This "fourth level" could be a bridge between scientific reasoning and reasoning about social issues.


Discussions about "political biases" virtually never enter this level of abstraction.
Effective political discussion must recognize this deeper level of thinking.

Science is impossible and pseudoscience dominates in a society blind to such abstractions.
Likewise, effective and compasionate politics is impossible without the deeper, but necessary, insights.

Is "Compasionate conservatism" a fourth-level insight, or is it Newspeak?

1984
War is Peace
Slavery is Freedom
Ignorance is Strength

BELOW ARE SOME ASPECTS OF POLITICAL LIFE THAT ALMOST NEVER GET DISCUSSED.
HOW MIGHT WE BUILD THIS BRIDGE BETWEEN LOGIC AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR?
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The fourth level of abstraction is routinely ignored . . . because it is seldom seen.

PERCEPTION . . . IMAGINATION . . . METAPHOR . . . MATHEMATICS . . . MAGIC

 
Fascist
Left
Right Patriot
Socialist
Wrong
Communist
Liberal
Bigot
Somnolent

Humanist

Terrorist
Reactionary
Libertarian

Anti-democratic

Progressive

 Independent

fascist      
Democratic
Republican Conservative
Radical

What do they mean?
Where do they come from?
Where do they lead?
 

HUMAN PERCEPTIONS . . . HUMAN WISHES . . . HUMAN WORDS . . . HUMAN CONCEPTS
a shadow of the world — which has been brought to us by evolution

1950's Jean Piaget asked what specific human skills evolution developed that let us comprehend the world the way we (sometimes) do, especially those skills which lead to science and mathematics
...and how it managed that task.
Human information functions are biological.
1960's Lawrence Kolhberg applied the concepts of Piaget to those interactions with the world we call "social."
 
...and met with opposition reminiscent of Galileo's troubles with the authorities
Social interactions are based on human information processes.
2000 Keith Devlin points to four distinct levels of abstraction that represent levels of increasing sophistication of human recognition of patterns in the world, 
 
...patterns that lead us to ever more effective interactions with that world.
Perception
    Imagination
        Metaphor (language)
            Mathematics
Magic
1970's Richard Feynman became "a volcano" (according to his wife) as he read through the seventeen shelf-feet of K-12 science textbooks he reviewed for the California State Curriculum Commission, all of which
... were written by people "who don't know what the hell they are talking about."
Elementary science comes out of evolution's human brain--capable of abstraction leading to more and more complete grasp of the world's patterns (to let man avoid Mother Nature's traps)
...but even the "experts" who wrote those texts only rarely got it right

The scientist who uses science sees the concepts at the fourth level of abstraction.
Teachers and learners who do not use the science too often work in the third level.
"He who can does; he who cannot teaches."
                                                            ...GBS

Desirable products of imagination often seem real when they are not.
Science is not simply discovery of facts
Or learning of facts.
It's seeing certain abstract relationships
Seeing patterns that exist much deeper than our perceptions.
Science is simple, but seldom seen.
Science is simple but subtle.

Mathematics, too, is something very different from what it's usually thought to be.
Mathematics is the discovery of patterns at the edges of human comprehension.

 
The same is true for social interactions.
Even the "experts," whom we appoint to make the decisions, rarely get it right!
-- rarely use the deeper insights that could better our plight --
A CRITICAL EXAMPLE

Discussions of social issues only rarely examine the simple abstractions of the fourth level.
...even when those abstractions are the core of the problem...
they then say,
"All opinions are equally valid because there is no 'correctness' in matters of political opinion."  (OFOT)
...and so, the discussions often resemble discussions of paint mixing by a society of persons with a variety of colorblindnesses.
The Boolean relationship of implication is an example of a fourth-level abstraction.

See it seen, and see it missed:
Look at a fascinating "difference of opinion" concerning an intriguing
puzzle from Scientific American.


 
 
Those political spectrum terms need to be analyzed by examining how they are used.  Their meanings lie in the third level--their significance lies in the fourth. 

Can we identify those arguments rife with oversimplification in the service of confirming wonderful wishes?  Can we identify logical imperatives being missed by arguments which are blind to that logic?  Can we demonstrate the correctness of our identifications? 

Our Web sites have pages (many are hidden) that explore these issues.  Gentlemen, and ladies, start your discussions.
LINKS
 

1.
Two hidden pages look directly at the "right - left" distinction by presenting several statements or attitudes that will usually be seen as defining a person's position "on the specturm."  A quote from Russell Baker introduces this section. The "Statements" page has many hidden comments that
are revealed by selecting the text.  The page is accessed
from the "Rational Politics"  pages (below) via a microlink 
located directly under the center of the line of dots in the
text that reads:  "to the left..........to the right."  The
microlinks connecting these two pages are under the space
between the "0" and "1" of the date.
 

2.
"Rational Politics...Is it possible?" is presented on four connected hidden pages: These pages are reached via microlink on a page of
visual misconceptions that is linked from "The
Misconceptions Workshop"--icon is "starry, starry night."
The microlink is the star immediately above the moon.
Be wary of
"a philosophy of government that advocates or exercises a  dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of belligerent nationalism."

"One reason the U.N. was founded after the Second World War was to confront aggressive dictators actively and early, before they can attack the innocent and destroy the peace."
GWB...3/17/03
Too abstract for some
 

3.
Ethnocentrism, Punitive Morality, and Positive Feedback are developed in links that diverge from the fable of the Primitive Man journeying through Devlin's four (plus) levels of abstraction. There are two versions of the fable; the hidden version is
accessed thru a microlink on the left eye of the bald eagle
on the "Perceptions" page.  Follow the links from there to:
"Every person or nation that commits atrocities easily sees those atrocities as 'bettering humanity.'"
 

4.
The Trap of Overspecialization (trap of oversimplification)...  Students only rarely understand the science they learn and the consequences can be tragic.  The truly terrible tragedies will come from failure to realize the importance of fourth-level abstractions. Ethnocentrism and trends that seem to be leading toward "the greatest war in the history of the world"--recent comment by physicist J. Archibald Wheeler. This page is reached via a somewhat hidden link.
In the "9-11 2001" link in "Man thoughts...".  The "2001" is
the link.
"Nature is full of traps for the beast that cannot learn."
 
 

"Ethnocentrism has the power to destroy humanity.  A powerful nation must have decision makers who see beyond the trap of ethnocentric blindness."

 

5.
Scalars, Vectors and Tensors

Right - Left is not a scalar measure.  It is a rare person, indeed, that recognizes a vector, tensor, quaternion, or other multicomponent measure when looking squarely at it.  Understanding measure as position on a line was a pretty big step in the development of mathematics.  The universes that lie beyond that step is one of the biggest terra incognitas awaiting exploration by those outside the fields of study that force the student to work there.  Furthermore, it's a territory that is spawning terrible social viruses that are causing potentially fatal societal diseases.

"Each person is free to select the one component out of millions that puts him or her 'at the top.'"
 

6.
Advertising is our culture's predominate mode of communication, of manipulating behaviors.

What would an extraterrertrial visitor from an intellectually advanced species examine to judge the human species?  The ways we use information to adjust behavior, of course.  What would that advanced visitor conclude from its analysis of our advertising?

"Accentuate the positive, elmininate the negative, and don't mess around with Mr. Inbetween."



7.
Religion is so highly correlated with political-economic behaviors that it screams out for study of its deeper, abstract commonalities with the political spectra.  "Two topics to avoid are religion and politics."  The reasons for avoiding those topics in our conversations are the most compelling reasons to discuss them—at the deeper levels of abstraction, from where the complexities of human thought are driven.
"Declaring the 'under God' part of the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional is ridiculous; it's crazy; it's just plain stupid.  Everybody knows that!"



Fourth-level abstractions usually reveal greater complexity that was previously suspected.
 
 

The noise in the news is the sound of Mother Nature sharpening her pruning shears.