Join us as we restart our Chicago meetup series with a presentation and discussion on the Fundamental Attribution Error.
The Fundamental Attribution Error is a cognitive bias that causes us to misinterpret the failures and successes of others as being caused by their character or personality rather than by their circumstances.
There will be a brief presentation about rationality to kick off the meeting.
We are grateful to have the Exchequer Pub as our host for this meeting. Please order food and drink.
Confirmation bias is the universal human tendency to search for and evaluate evidence in a way that reinforces what we already believe, or even just hypothesize. If I think, for example, that some politician running for office is a terrible candidate who behaves unethically, I’ll have an easy time thinking of examples of him or her treating people badly. It probably won’t occur to me to look for examples of the candidate being kind or generous. If I’m presented with such examples, my initial impulse will be to view them as exceptions to the rule, or to explain them away. And there’s a good chance I’ll later forget about the positive examples, while retaining my memories of the candidate’s bad behavior. All of this will happen automatically and, to a large extent, unconsciously.
Rather than seeking an increasingly accurate picture of the world, our brains seem designed to maintain whatever picture we already have.
Why does our thinking work this way? Does the confirmation bias confer some benefit? What are its consequences in our lives and in the world? And what can we do to mitigate it?
Join us for an overview of confirmation bias and a discussion of these questions.
What is rationality, and why is it important?
Rational thinking enables us to most effectively adopt true beliefs and achieve our goals. Unfortunately, the human brain is not optimized for the accurate evaluation of evidence and is riddled with cognitive biases that distort our thinking. By understanding the basics of probability, cognitive biases, and techniques for mitigating these biases, we can think more accurately and act more effectively. This allows us to accomplish our goals—both our individual goals and those we share as a society.
Join us for a discussion of these issues. Ivan will present a talk on the basic principles and uses of rationality. This will be followed by group discussion about rationality and the exciting prospects for a society that understands it!
Ivan Phillips, theoretical physicist and co-founder of the Rational Future Institute, speaks Sunday, December 8th, on “What It Means to Be Rational—Updating Our Beliefs.”
Ivan will explain the principles of rational thinking. He will show how we can overcome our biases and change our minds in the light of new evidence.
Event details page: http://ethicalhuman.org/speaker/phillips.html
A donation of $5 to the Ethical Humanist Society is requested at the event.
Our Program for Children:
The Golden Rule Sunday School (http://ethicalhuman.org/sunday-school-ethical-humanist-chicago.html), for children from birth through 8th grade, also meets every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to noon. For more info, contact the Sunday School director at [masked] ([masked])
Park in the EHS lot, on Howard or Jerome St, or in the nearby Albany Bank lot.
Bayesian Reasoning and Evolutionary Biology
A talk by Dr. Ivan Phillips
After reading and learning about the theory of evolution, many of us (and almost all biologists) find the theory to be quite compelling. The theory makes sense to us. It just seems ‘right’. However, as people who aspire to be rational, we don’t want to accept theories merely on the basis that they 'seem right' or that they are persuasive in some vague manner. We prefer to accept theories after they have been formally justified.
Bayesian reasoning is a formal way to update one’s beliefs in the face of new evidence. In this presentation, I’ll explain the basic principles of Bayesian reasoning, and show how they apply to the evidence for evolutionary biology.
NOTE: Due to the number of attendees, we've had to move the location a second time, now to Sofra Turkish Kitchen. They have food and drink and plenty of space. Please order food and drink. Thank you, and sorry for the confusion!
Join us for a discussion about epistemic versus instrumental rationality!
Crudely speaking, we can classify rational assessments as concerning either "the way things are" (epistemic rationality) or "what I should do" (instrumental rationality).
In popular culture, rational people are depicted as emotionless agents who will all agree on what course of action to take (e.g., Vulcans from Star Trek). Understanding instrumental rationality is the key to overturning this confused picture of the rational agent.
There are some very interesting questions about the interplay of epistemic and instrumental rationality.
Is it rational to prioritize long term goals over short term ones?
Should I always undertake the task most likely to succeed?
Is it rational to improve my preference for meeting long term goals over meeting short term goals?
Can instrumental rationality trump epistemic rationality, that is, is it ever rational to convince myself of something that isn't true if the new belief is more likely to facilitate my goals?
Note: The east side of Racine Ave is permit parking only.
- A discussion of our goals and plans for 2012, including suggestions for speakers, topics and events.
- Our first presentation!
A Primer on Bayesian Reasoning
by Ivan Phillips
Bayesian reasoning is the proper method to update one's beliefs in light of new evidence, and it's an aspect of rational thinking that is not well understood by the general public.
Ivan will give an introduction to the concepts used in Bayesian reasoning, and present some ways to intuitively grasp the method.