Dunning-Kruger goes Catallactic

I’ve long had the suspicion that the Catallaxy blog is an experimental test of the Dunning-Kruger effect. The clearest examples have been Sinclair Davidson’s posts on the question of “no significant warming since 199x”, where it seems as if he is angling to get the most super-confident commentator to reveal the fact that they have no clue what statistical significance means, while being sure that they can do climate science better than those who have spent decades studying the subject.

Now, with this post by well known hip-hop artist Samuel J, the hypothesis is beyond doubt. The post itself is about as extreme an example of Dunning-Kruger as could be imagined, but clearly Sam is just daring the commentary team to outdo him. With the exception of a handful of killjoys who take the post seriously and point out how silly it is, they deliver.

Hat Tip: Harry Clarke, who scratches his head in amazement, here.

22 thoughts on “Dunning-Kruger goes Catallactic

  1. I like 2 dogs’ comment

    “Those countries with the most severe climate change policies are getting the smallest share of the recovery pie”

    According to toxic Tony Australia has to biggest “carbon tax” in the world! so we here must be floundering on the edge of economic collapse on 2 dogs’ say so.

    Can anyone who has read Dunning Kruger’s work tell me if they callibrated their evaluation to compensate for the possibility that the parental ego of the first born might be a contributing factor in lack of self examination for the subject group?

  2. I had to look up the D-K effect to remind myself. Interesting that Wiki includes quotes from Darwin and Bertrand Russell that resonate with Yeats’ line “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity”. Pretty much sums up the Zeitgeist.

  3. From the wiki ref to DK comes the link to Anton–Babinski syndrome

    People who suffer from it are “cortically blind”, but affirm, often quite adamantly and in the face of clear evidence of their blindness, that they are capable of seeing. Failing to accept being blind gets dismissed by the sufferer through confabulation.

    Seems quite apt.

  4. Considering what Catallaxy has become they should now have the decency and integrity, and the courage of their libertarian principles, to un-ban Birdy.

  5. Here’s a quotable quote:

    “The 1990 [United Steelworkers] Convention also had as its backdrop the US Senate
    debate over amendments to the Clean Air Act. The amendments were vigorously opposed by the US steel industry because, it claimed, passage of these amendments would provoke wholesale closure of coke ovens and force American steel producers to purchase coke – a necessary steel ingredient – from overseas.

    “The USW withstood intense pressure from industry with its continued support for these critical environmental policies. This was, in part, because coke-oven workers suffered lung cancer rates two-and-a-half times higher than other mill workers and kidney cancer rates seven-and-a-half times higher than the general public.

    “At the 1990 Convention, a local union president at US Steel’s Clairton, Pennsylvania, coke facility spoke bitterly about the threatened closure of his plant and the union leadership’s commitment to environmental principles at the expense of jobs. But the union’s historic linkage of environmental issues with health and safety concerns was persuasive to the delegates, and the policy statement passed overwhelmingly.

    “The epilogue to the debate about the Clean Air Act amendments was a surge in capital investments in new coke-oven technology, as well as tens of millions spent on cleaning up facilities and the initiation of new work practices, which meant that five years after the amendments passed, domestic coke production was at 98 per cent of pre-Act levels. Ten years later, during the global steel crisis of 1999–2001, it was clear that investments in cleaning up the coke ovens had also made them more productive and energy efficient,
    proving the union’s contention that environmental investments actually preserved jobs. And when global demand for coke soared 450 per cent in 2002, those US steel companies that controlled their own coke supply were at a competitive advantage. US Steel’s Clairton Works is still operating today.”

    From David Foster (2010), “BlueGreen Alliance: Building a coalition for a green future in the United States”, International Journal of Labour Research 2010, Vol. 2, Issue 2.

  6. I went against the habits of a lifetime and visited Catallepsy (5 minutes I’ll never get back), and most of the comments (as far as I got, and with a few honourable exceptions) were even more bats**t insane than the original post.

    Where do these people buy their drugs, and can I have some please?

  7. Catallaxy is crowd sourcing for social psychology scientist’s experiments. Cool.

  8. @Paul Norton
    But that would distract from sane and sensible commentary such as, “The whole gay ‘marriage’ push was intended to be an exercise in psychic aggression directed against the Christian churches in general and the Catholic Church in paricular. It had no other purpose”.

  9. Sancho, thanks for drawing my attention to that thread of doom. Then again, ToDs seem to be the norm at Catallaxy these days.

  10. Thanks for reminding us of Eban Goodstein’s work, Paul Norton. His work on the economic impacts of environmental legislation show that it almost always leads to significant efficiency gains and innovation and that government, business and even environmental group CBAs tend to vastly over-estimate the costs.

  11. Rog’s reference above is very interesting and intriguing. The evidence of the veracity of science is all around us in the progress of technology and in the correctness of many scientific predictions. On the other hand, despite the clear and voluminous evidence that all religions are false and merely socio-mythic, the majority of people still believe in one or other of them.

  12. Ike,

    Science’s problem is really all about poor teaching practices.

    Religious teaching extensively deploys the carret and stick techniques. For instance when a religious indoctenee finally understands that God is good and Darwin is a dunce they are rewarded with wine and bread, and everyone crowds around laying on hands and chanting hallelujeh. But if one shows signs of backsliding to the dark side, they are threatened with being cast out and eternal damnation.

    That is not the way that it worked in any science class that I attended. Quite the opposite. The path to acceptance in the science club involved tedious assignments and endless home work. Failure led to the release of pressure and more time to spend at the beach. Only a very few were ever exiled to the Russian Space station, and they were the bright ones. The only positive reinforcement that science had to offer came with the encouragement to burn things with the bunsen burner and the occaisional opportunity to blow things up, which goes some way to explain why blokes are more likely to stick with science, but one does not need science classes to do those things normally.

    Furthermore it is not as if failure at science carries any carreer penalty. There are so many other easier things to do. One can be a lawyer, a teacher, a car salesman, a politician, or even an economist.

    So as I say more thought needs to go into the science carriculum, and the teaching method, jazz it up a little. A suggestion or two. Rather than get immediately bogged down with physics day one, teach a little chemistry first, mixing cocktails for instance. Then blend in some physics with the an understanding of how heat can interplay with mixtures to produce bread. The kids just might come back for a second class if there are some fringe benefits to learning, and being cast out of science would carry a degree of loss. But I have to say that the laying on of hands thing is just creepy most people can do without that.

    And then science needs to point out that God lives out there…in the deep cold of space. Earth is the warm place to be. The theologians got that all wrong,…and possibly a lot of other things as well.

  13. @BilB

    An amusing reply BilB and more than a grain of truth in it. Religion often does function as a self-congratulation club. “We are the elect, the saved, the beloved, we are in possession of the one truth etc etc etc.” But science tends to mostly reveal inconvenient, disconcerting, humbling and even frightening truths about existence. Most people would rather live in delusion than face facts.

  14. Patrickb :I had to look up the D-K effect to remind myself. Interesting that Wiki includes quotes from Darwin and Bertrand Russell that resonate with Yeats’ line “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity”. Pretty much sums up the Zeitgeist.

    yeah,this is true,
    however, passionate intensity is quite hard to sustain at a level of social acceptability
    without falling into a parody of itself.
    unless the passionate intensity can be reinforced in some way,
    (brutality,shame,outright lying,etc)
    it sort of has to run harder to stay in the same place.
    the most recent example is
    “the carbon tax lie is going to destroy the ozeconomy”going through its passionate permutations to arrive at “squeezing the ozeconomy like a python”.
    what’s that?
    a python?
    called Monty?
    we now have a gazelle,a bishop and an abbott.
    no-one expects tha blandish inquisition.

    if every religion comes equipped with a post mortem torture chamber and if i can only enter the heaven of the religion that owns me,does that mean i am damned to the hells of all the others?
    if so,how do they sort it out?

    i saw you on TV JQ.
    you don’t look any thing like my mental picture.
    i would have sworn you would be bald with tufty fine white hair over your ears.
    i’m doomed, my telepathic far viewing facility doesn’t work.

  15. I’m a bit dubious about the DK effect explaining Catlax behaviour; it fits me. I think I’m a great driver but nobody else does and the things I’m ‘good’ at, according to other people, I think I need to work harder on them.

    So anyway I think Vaillant’s “defence mechanisms” (see wiki) work a lot better as an explanation. I haven’t previously heard of these but they seem to be describing that behavior we have all noticed.

    These are the relevant mechanisms;

    1. Delusional Projection: Grossly frank delusions about external reality, usually of a persecutory nature.

    So climate change isn’t happening and the carbon tax will destroy the world as we know it.

    2. Denial: Refusal to accept external reality because it is too threatening; arguing against an anxiety-provoking stimulus by stating it doesn’t exist; resolution of emotional conflict and reduction of anxiety by refusing to perceive or consciously acknowledge the more unpleasant aspects of external reality.

    Climate change isn’t happening and even if it is we will be better off letting it happen and adapting to the changes.

    3. Distortion: A gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs.

    Lord Moncton is an intelligent person who would have something more rational and useful to say about climate change than people who have spent their working life doing the research on climate change.

    4. Splitting: A primitive defence. Negative and positive impulses are split off and unintegrated. Fundamental example: An individual views other people as either innately good or innately evil, rather than a whole continuous being.

    People on the left are evil, Bob Brown is the devil, poor people are all lazy and stupid and welfare destroys all the good in people but people on the right are never racist or publish lies for their own ends, business men never steal or cheat or lie. Plenty more examples of this black and white thinking.

    5. Extreme projection: The blatant denial of a moral or psychological deficiency, which is perceived as a deficiency in another individual or group.

    This is the best one. Selfishness is good, not just for bastards like me (them that is), but for everyone and I don’t feel like helping people so altruism doesn’t exist and if it did, it would be a bad thing.

  16. This is what happens when a Catallaxy-style libertarian gets into the witness box:

    “[28] The respondent is aged 77 and appears to be a successful businessman but as a person and a witness he was difficult, demanding, unrealistic, rude, unco-operative, self centred, uncompromising, rigid, untruthful, selective in what he said he could and could not remember, selfish, mean, grossly irresponsible, uncaring for the rights of others and dismissive of the case against him despite compelling evidence to the contrary. He couldn’t care less that activities he allows to be conducted on his land have caused and are causing significant environmental nuisance problems for others in the near neighbourhood. He is dismissive of any regulatory attempts to limit or control his activities and is unwilling to consider any suggestion that he may have some responsibility for what is happening.”

    – Department of Environment & Resource Management v Clark [2011] QPEC 20

  17. @Julie Thomas
    Simple tribalism can account for much – the more outrageous and egregious the claims, the more profound is the expression of tribal loyalty. I wasn’t aware of Vaillant – those defense mechanisms look able to coexist comfortably with Dunning-Kruger and help short circuit rational thinking.

    I do think that Denial – because acceptance brings the burden of having to act, and having to face something like climate and emissions head on looks really hard – describes much about where mainstream politics is stuck. The Coalition is in outright denial but even with a policy of Carbon Pricing Labor won’t concede that action on climate and emisssions should ever have any significant impact on coal mining and export.

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