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Dave Cohen
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Interests: evolution, energy, the economy, climate, astrobiology, music, paleontology, culture
Recent Activity
I'm still working on a short essay which will attempt to explain all the embarrassing political nonsense happening in the United States and much of the western world. It's coming along very nicely. But with the midterms tomorrow, could the great truth this former Trump voter received at a Swarthmore poetry slam tip the balance for ordinary voters? We shall see. Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2018 at Decline of the Empire
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Despite my best defensive instincts screaming duck and cover, keep your head down, try to stay invisible, I plan to publish a short essay to try to explain how human nature drives the political & polarization crisis in the West. I will of course be using my model of human nature as described in the 4th flatland essay. In so doing I will fill in many of the gaps in that model. In particular, I will finally fulfill this promise— An updated discussion of (instinctual) Sociality will be published as an addendum to this essay. I started this project in... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2018 at Decline of the Empire
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First watch this video. Politics and polarization have obviously gotten very bad and are getting worse by the day, not only in the United States but also in the rest of what has historically been called "western civilization." Tribal behaviors are primitive in the sense that they are entirely instinctually driven, so those engaging in these behaviors are never aware that they are doing so. These unconscious behaviors can be overridden over time, but only with great effort and only rarely. The rules below are for non-tribal observers who want to understand what they're looking at. It is always alleged... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2018 at Decline of the Empire
I remember when I used to give a shit... . < Comic Doug Stanhope lays out the Human Condition Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2018 at Decline of the Empire
Not going to write about this human horseshit anymore. All in all, my experience emotionally and psychologically after I posted a few things has been god awful. I opened Pandora's Box again. Sure, there are a few—very few—old readers who are OK, but there are also trolls, readers providing links to articles written by dumb fucks who dismiss climate change under the false banner "skepticism," and other human atrocities of the usual sort. And there will be many more to come if I continue to write here. So fuck it. Writing this blog stresses me out for no good reason.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2018 at Decline of the Empire
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This is a note on pointless suffering, one of main subjects of an essay I am writing. That post will stand as the last and ultimate addendum to my Adventures In Flatland essays. That addendum will be finished when I get around to finishing it. That essay will contain a theory of the origins of religion, a subject I avoided for a long time because I didn't understand what was going on. At this point, I wouldn't call it a "theory" so much but rather an obvious truth, a truth so obvious that it only took me 35 years to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2018 at Decline of the Empire
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I was thinking about the pointlessness of writing a series of posts illustrating a "good enough" model of human behavior which few people have read and even fewer have understood. So I won't do it. I have a few other things to talk about which follow from the model (for example, religious behaviors), but that's about it. I'm done. The flatland model implies that important human behaviors at their root are predictable and therefore meaningless in anything other than an evolutionary (Live & Grow) sense. That is literally the last thing humans want to be believe about themselves. They want... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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The first three Adventures In Flatland essays were written in 2014 and appeared on this blog (DOTE). Adventures In Flatland Adventures In Flatland — Part II Adventures In Flatland — Part III This essay presupposes that you have read the original, but it would be helpful to read all three. This fourth and final long essay does not review those earlier essays. You've got to read them. I use the term "flatland" in different ways. As a hypothesis, the flatland model posits a set of unconscious core instincts which drive our most important characteristic behaviors. I also use the term... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
File Under: we do not make this stuff up I have nearly completed the 4th Flatland essay. After that, I will send it to a few early reviewers for comments, make the final changes and publish it late next week. Or so I hope. Anyway, science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson makes a brief appearance in the essay's conclusion. And if you read this article, I think you'll see why (Bloomberg, March 8, 2017). I saw this after I had used Robinson as a Flatland example. I may have to change the text (or link to this). ... His 18th... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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Still writing the 4th essay, which is coming along nicely. I'm pleased with it, although some you may not be (it's getting a little technical). Pertaining to that essay we have Bruce Hood talking about the socially constructed self (2nd video). But first, and this is really far more pertinent and important here in America in 2017, we have Spicey briefing the White House press corps. Carry on. Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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In an article called Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds which appears in The New Yorker this month, Elizabeth Kolbert discovered Flatland (sort of). Did she actually read my Flatland essays, especially the 3rd one, which directly addresses the issues she writes about? Hell, no! That would be way to much to expect. However, in reviewing three books on predictable human irrationality, Kolbert actually discovers (or at least writes about) the salient Flatland point, which is emphasized in the reprint below. I will reference and quote this article in the 4th essay. I'm not going to express false humility here.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
Some time ago I wrote a short post called What Are We Up Against. The post featured a video by Hans Rosling, who passed away last week. Hans was very popular among the humans. And if you watch the new video below, you'll see why. This obituary is from the New York Times. Hans Rosling, a Swedish doctor who transformed himself into a pop-star statistician by converting dry numbers into dynamic graphics that challenged preconceptions about global health and gloomy prospects for population growth, died on Tuesday in Uppsala, Sweden. He was 68... Even before “post-truth” entered the lexicon, Dr.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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Still working on the 4th essay. Trying hard to get it right. An article in Vox explores the pros and cons of the March For Science, which is scheduled for Earth Day 2017 (April 22). The idea is that lots of scientists will descend on our nations's capital to tell our leaders ... what? ... that science matters? Ah, there's the rub. Once you march for science, science becomes political. And of course the Usual Suspects will be all over this one (from Twitter)— colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, & econ justice are scientific issues... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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I'm still working on the 4th Flatland essay and will be for some time to come. So I thought I'd post something during the interim. Two articles caught my eye recently. Both had a similar theme — inevitable inequality. I was startled to read this opening text in 700 years of Western inequality, in one chart (Vox, January 23, 2017). We tend to think of rising income inequality as a 21st-century problem. A more equal distribution of wealth is normal, and the growing clout of the 1 percent is an anomaly. The problem is that in the long arc of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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Just letting you know I'm still alive and kicking. Still working on the 4th essay. Getting down to business has focused my attention. Since this is the last essay, I want to get things right. You know, to cement my soon-to-be-exalted place in human history It is a "special" day in Flatland — they're all special! — because today the "Insane Clown" begins his hostile take-over of the White House. The Tweeter-In-Chief now speaks for the nation! You would have thought, thinking counterfactually as you should always do in contemplating Flatland, that the irreducible absurdity of a former Reality-TV star... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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Still working on the 4th Flatland essay. This is clearly going to take a while. — Dave Reader BJ wrote as follows in the comments section of Flatland Nihilism. The thing that I see missing from the discussion is that happiness doesn't change for even good events, such as winning the lottery (studies done in both 70s and 00s). No matter what we experience good or bad, we return to baseline brain chemistry or programming or whatever you want to call it. That is true nihilism. Yes, it is. I like the Teflon metaphor best because, with humans generally, it... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing — Shakespeare's MacBeth No Ted Talk has ever angered and disgusted me as much as Dan Gilbert's The Surprising Science of Happiness (video below). Gilbert's talk was recently featured on NPR's Ted Radio Hour. I will be quoting from the transcript below. I was angered and disgusted by two things— Gilbert's Flatland interpretation of Flatland What the data... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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I gave some thought to the future of DOTE during the holiday break. I'm not getting any younger There's some unfinished work I need to do in 2017. In particular, I need to write the 4th and final Flatland essay. That essay will— summarize previous work (the delusional blank slate, filtering, bullshit, our relationship with nature, etc.) include and explain the updated Flatland model discuss the anthropocentric instinct discuss the nature of consciousness discuss human story-telling and contrast that with reality (e.g., tribal narratives ≠ reality) discuss all-pervasive social instincts and the default mode network It will probably run 30-40... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2017 at Decline of the Empire
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This will be my last post of 2016. Once again there was no indication this year that Homo sapiens can change its aggregate behavior in some positive way. Indeed, bad situations like politics in the U.S. and the state of the climate got considerably worse this year. My Flatland stuff can and should be viewed as a hypothesis about our benighted species. With each passing year in which humans fuck-up by failing to address the great anthropogenic problems of the 21st century, Flatland "pessimism" looks more and more realistic. In short, there is more and more confirming evidence supporting the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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You are not aware of your own anthropocentrism in the same way you are not normally aware of the air you're breathing. Only in extraordinary circumstances where the air is very thin or almost absent would you become aware of the invisible oxygen which keeps you alive. On Earth, in the case of anthropocentrism, there are no analogous extraordinary circumstances at this time. The natural world is thus entirely at our mercy with no exceptions until that inevitable time in the future when ... never mind. Anyway, anthropocentrism is irreducibly instinctual in the human animal. There is abundant evidence that... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Here I am staring at this blank page trying to figure out what I might say about anything. Obvious flatland fuck-ups were on display everywhere you looked this year. I am still sometimes surprised that I need to point them out to get a few humans to notice them. That's important to me, for others to see the same train wrecks I'm seeing. Only human after all. I suppose that's why I kind of lost it when I read that, for humans— Developing situational awareness ... will not require altruism or idealism or self-sacrifice, only accurate self-perception and enlightened self-interest.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Astrobiologist David Grinspoon, whose book Lonely Planets sits on my bookshelf, has a new take on the Anthropocene, which can be defined as the era of human dominance of the Earth. (Geologists argue about the dating.) Those few thousands of people (out of 7.4 billion) who understand the importance of maintaining a livable planetary environment regard the anthropocene as a total disaster for the non-human biosphere and, eventually, for Homo sapiens itself. Not Grinspoon. He is "a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and an adjunct professor of astrophysical and planetary science at University of Colorado. His popular writing... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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It is not much of an exaggeration to say that my Flatland model of how humans work was born of an ongoing sense of learned helplessness as my life progressed. What is learned helplessness? It is the existential experience that nothing good can or will happen. It is utter hopelessness, the very real experience that your choices don't matter much, or a recognition that you're not even making choices at all—you're locked in. I was taken aback when J.D. Vance used the definition above in his excellent Ted Talk America's forgotten working class (video below). But before I get into... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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I was reading Ronald Brownstein's How Carbon Emissions Explain Trump's Win, which was just published in The Atlantic. Let's get right to it. Trump’s polarizing appeal has deepened the existing geographic and demographic fault lines in American politics into a chasm so imposing it could mark the border between two countries. On one side, Hillary Clinton routed Trump in the racially and culturally diverse metropolitan centers that are helping forge a globalized, information-based, and low-carbon economy. On the other, Trump posted crushing margins in the places that feel eclipsed, or threatened, by all of those trends. Later, Ronald refers to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Here's the last part of Tormod V. Burkey's essay Can We Save The World? (Stanford's Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere, December 13, 2016). “Can we save the world?” should be an important enough question to justify submitting it to our best thinking and a thorough review of everything we know that has bearing upon it. Perhaps it is one that we have shied away from, for fear that a negative answer would breed despair and passivity and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet it is hard to see that compiling everything we know in an accessible manner could be a... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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