Corrupt US financial system - Dylan Ratigan

Dylan Ratigan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dylan Ratigan
Dylan Ratigan HEADSHOT.jpg

Dylan Ratigan
Born Dylan Jason Ratigan

April 19, 1972 (age 41)

Saranac Lake, New York
Occupation Television journalist and show host
Notable credit(s) Host of MSNBC's The Dylan Ratigan Show

2011 rant

On the August 10, 2011, broadcast of The Dylan Ratigan Show, in a round table discussion of the market meltdown following the Budget Control Act of 2011,
Ratigan went on a two-minute-long rant against what he perceived to be
the state of politics in the United States government, saying:

"We've got a real problem! This is a mathematical fact! Tens of
trillions of dollars are being extracted from the United States of
America. Democrats aren't doing it, Republicans aren't doing it. An
entire integrated system, financial system, trading system, taxing
system, that was created by both parties over a period of two decades is
at work on our entire country right now. And we're sitting here arguing
about whether we should do the $4 trillion plan that kicks the can down
the road for the president for 2017, or burn the place to the ground,
both of which are reckless, irresponsible, and stupid."[14]
The video of his impassioned speech went viral[15] and was praised by other media sources. TV Newser wrote that it was "a powerful, emotional editorial on the economy and Washington".[16]
On a follow-up post on his website the day after he wrote that he had
received a lot of positive mail from viewers, writing "I’m mad as hell.
And according to the piles and piles of responses I got after my rant,
so are you."[17]

BBC Future - Timeline of the far future

BBC - Future - Timeline of the far future

 Far Future Timeline


Robert T. Carroll biographical info - The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com

Robert T. Carroll biographical info - The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com

Biographical Information

Robert T. Carroll, Ph.D.

Bob Carroll 
I was a full-time teacher in the philosophy department at Sacramento City College from 1977 until my retirement in 2007. I served as chairman for several years and taught a variety of classes. 
I taught classes in:
I also taught courses in Ethics, Symbolic Logic, and Philosophy of
I received my Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego in 1974. My doctoral dissertation was done under the direction of Richard H. Popkin and was entitled The Common-Sense Philosophy of Religion of Bishop Edward Stillingfleet (1635-1699). It was published by Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, in 1975.
My textbook Becoming a Critical Thinker was published by Pearson in 2000. A second edition was published in 2005. The following chapters are available online for free: 

Also available for free download are booklets I wrote to help students develop their study and writing skills:
Student Success
Guide: Study Skills
Student Success
Guide: Writing Skills.

The Skeptic's Dictionary
was published in August 2003 by John Wiley & Sons. For more information on how that book came about click here and read the preface and introduction to the book.
Skeptic's Dictionary for Kids (for kids 9 and up) was published online on July 22, 2011. On December 2, 2012, that book was published as Mysteries and Science: Exploring Aliens, Ghosts, Monsters, the End of the World and Other Weird Things. The paperback is 110 pages and can be ordered from Lulu.com. The e-book is available from Amazon for Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, iPad, and iPhone. 

You don't need an eReader to enjoy the Kindle book. Free apps available from Amazon will let you read a Kindle book on your Mac, iPad, Windows PC, iPhone, Android, Windows phone 7, or Blackberry.

The E-book is also available for from Barnes & Noble for Nook.  You don't need a Nook to enjoy a Nook book. Free apps avaiable from Barnes & Noble will let you read a Nook book on your tablet, smart phone, or computer.

Unnatural Acts: Critical Thinking, Skepticism, and Science Exposed! was published in 2011 as an eBook by the James Randi Educational Foundation and is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble for the Nook, and from iTunes for the iPad.

The paperback edition is available from Lulu.com and Amazon. Free apps available from Amazon  will let you read a Kindle book on your Mac, iPad, Windows PC, iPhone, Android, Windows phone 7, or Blackberry. For more information on the book click here. The Critical Thinker's Dictionary: Biases, Fallacies, and Illusions and what you can do about them was published in 2013.The e-book from Amazon is $3.99. (The Amazon "Look Inside" feature provides a good overview of the book.)

The e-book for the Nook is available from Barnes & Noble for $3.99 and the print edition (248 pages) is availble for $16.18 plus shipping from Lulu. The audio version, read by Kristen James, is available from Audible.com, iTunes, and Amazon.com. The Critical Thinker's Dictionary grew out of Unnatural Acts That Can Improve Your Thinking, a blog that followed up on Unnatural Acts and is archived here.  Dr.Harriet Hall reviewed The Critical Thinker's Dictionary on the Science-Based Medicine blog.

Unnatural Virtue is a podcast segment I began doing in 2012 for Skepticality, the official podcast of Skeptic magazine.  Episodes are archived here

Besides writing a few books and creating the Skeptic's Dictionary website, two of the highlights of my career were being invited by James Randi to speak at the first Amazing Meeting in 2003 and to conduct a workshop on critical thinking at the 5th meeting in 2007. Another highlight was being introduced by Ray Hyman to give an invited talk at the CSICOP conference on Frauds and Hoaxes in 2003. I was also honored to address the Irish Skepticsin Dublin in 2004 on the subject of the scientific proof for the paranormal. In 2010, I was elected a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI).

I used to maintain a personal homepage.

For more information about me, see my

FAQ and Interviews page.

To contact me, write to skepdic338ATgmailcom
(replace the AT with @) and put the word feedback in the subject line. 

Last Updated

Topic index: critical thinking - The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com

Topic index: critical thinking - The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com


ad hoc hypothesis

ad hominem

ad populum fallacy

affect bias

affirming the consequent

anchoring effect


appeal to authority

appeal to tradition

argument to ignorance

autokinetic effect

availability error


Barnum effect

backfire effect

begging the question


change blindness

Clever Hans phenomenon

clever Linda phenomenon

clustering illusion

cognitive dissonance


cold reading

communal reinforcement



confirmation bias

continued influence effect

control group study




denying the antecedent

divine fallacy


evaluating evidence


face on Mars


file-drawer effect

false dichotomy

false implication

false memory

Forer effect


gambler's fallacy


hidden persuaders

hindsight bias

hypersensory perception


ideomotor effect

ignorance as a hindrance to critical thinking

inattentional blindness




law of truly large numbers

Littlewood's law of miracles


magical thinking


motivated reasoning


nasty effect


non sequitur


Occam's razor




perception deception

placebo effect

positive-outcome bias

post hoc reasoning

pragmatic fallacy

proportionality bias


recency bias

regressive fallacy


replication revisited

representativeness error

retrospective falsification


selection bias

selective thinking



single-cause bias/fallacy/illusion

straw man fallacy

subjective validation


sunk-cost fallacy

suppressed evidence


testimonials (anecdotal evidence)

Texas-sharpshooter fallacy




Wason Card Problem

wishful thinking

Last updated 14-Jan-2014


Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking: postings about cognitive biases, logical fallacies, and illusions.
Click here for an alphabetical index of postings so far.



Presentation on Teaching Critical Thinking
Teaching Critical

(html version) (click here for pdf

- expanded commentary from my CT workshop presentation at The
Amazing Meeting V

- Available on DVD

Free downloads of chapters from my textbook on Critical thinking, Becoming a Critical Thinker, 2nd ed.

Chapter One,
Critical Thinking

Chapter Two:
Language and Critical Thinking

Chapter Three:

Chapter Seven: Sampling and Analogical Reasoning

Chapter Eight: Causal reasoning

Chapter Nine: Science and Pseudoscience

Answers to selected exercises

For Teachers

Using The Skeptic's Dictionary for courses in


The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
by Christopher
Chabris and Daniel Simons (Crown 2010)

Doctors Think

by Jerome Groopman, M.D. (Houghton Mifflin 2007)

Power of Persuasion - How We're Bought and Sold

by Robert Levine (John Wiley & Sons 2003),

Get Taken! - Bunco and Bunkum Exposed - How to Protect Yourself

by Robert A. Steiner (Wide-Awake Books 1989), and

Full Facts Book of Cold Reading
(third edition)

by Ian Rowland (Ian Rowland Limited 2002).

for Memory - the brain, the mind, and the past

by Daniel L. Schacter (Basic Books 1996).

The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together by Charles T. Tart, Ph.D. (New Harbinger 2009)

The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death by Gary Schwartz (Atria 2003)

Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality by Dean Radin (Paraview Pocket Books 2006)

The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena by Dean Radin (HarperOne 1997)

Ghost Hunters - William James and the Hunt for Scientific Proof of Life After Death by Deborah Blum (Penguin Press 2006).

further reading


10 Problems With How We Think | Experts' Corner | Big Think

10 Problems With How We Think | Experts' Corner | Big Think

February 12, 2014, 12:00 AM


By nature, human beings are illogical and irrational. For most
of our existence, survival meant thinking quickly, not methodically.
Making a life-saving decision was more important than making a 100%
accurate one, so the human brain developed an array of mental shortcuts.

Though not as necessary as they once were, these shortcuts -- called
cognitive biases or heuristics -- are numerous and innate. Pervasive,
they affect almost everything we do, from the choice of what to wear, to
judgments of moral character, to how we vote in presidential elections.
We can never totally escape them, but we can be more aware of them,
and, just maybe, take efforts to minimize their influence.

Ross Pomeroy summarizes ten widespread faults with human thought at Real Clear Science. You can read the original here

1. Sunk Cost Fallacy

Thousands of graduate students know this fallacy all too well. When
we invest time, money, or effort into something, we don't like to see
that investment go to waste, even if the task, object, or goal is no
longer worth the cost. As Nobel Prize winning psychologistDaniel Kahneman explains, "We refuse to cut losses when doing so would admit failure, we are biased against actions that could lead to regret."

That's why people finish their overpriced restaurant
meal even when they're stuffed to the brim, or continue to watch that
horrible television show they don't even like anymore, or remain in a
dysfunctional relationship, or soldier through grad school even when
they decide that they hate their chosen major.

2. Conjunction Fallacy

Sit back, relax, and read about Linda:

Linda is thirty-one years old, single, outspoken, and very bright.
She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with
issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in
antinuclear demonstrations.

Now, which alternative is more probable?

1. Linda is a bank teller, or

2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

If you selected the latter, you've just blatantly defied logic. But
it's okay, about 85 to 90 percent of people make the same mistake. The
mental sin you've committed is known as a conjunction fallacy. Think
about it: it can't possibly be more likely for Linda to be a bank teller
and a feminist compared to just a bank teller. If you answered that she
was a bank teller, she could still be a feminist, or a whole heap of
other possibilities.

A great way to realize the error in thought is to simply look at a
Venn diagram. Label one circle as "bank teller" and the other as
"feminist." Notice that the area where the circles overlap is always
going to be smaller!

3. Anchoring

Renowned psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman once rigged a
wheel of fortune, just like you'd see on the game show. Though labeled
with values from 0 to 100, it would only stop at 10 or 65. As an
experiment, they had unknowing participants spin the wheel and then
answer a two-part question:

Is the percentage of African nations among UN members larger or
smaller than the number you just wrote? What is your best guess of the
percentage of African nations in the UN?

Kahneman described what happened next in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow:

The spin of a wheel of fortune... cannot possibly yield any useful
information about anything, and the participants... should have simply
ignored it. But they did not ignore it.

The participants who saw the number 10 on the wheel estimated the
percentage of African nations in the UN at 25%, while those who saw 65
gave a much higher estimate, 45%. Participants' answers were "anchored" by
the numbers they saw, and they didn't even realize it! Any piece of
information, however inconsequential, can affect subsequent assessments
or decisions. That's why it's in a car dealer's best interest to keep
list prices high, because ultimately, they'll earn more money, and when
you negotiate down, you'll still think you're getting a good deal!

4. Availability Heuristic

When confronted with a decision, humans regularly make judgments
based on recent events or information that can be easily recalled. This
is known as the availability heuristic.

Says Kahneman,
"The availability heuristic... substitutes one question for another:
you wish to estimate... the frequency of an event, but you report the
impression of ease with which instances come to mind."

Cable news provides plenty of fodder for this mental shortcut. For example, viewers ofEntertainment Tonight probably think that celebrities divorce each other once every minute. The actual numbers are more complicated, and far less exorbitant.

It's important to be cognizant of the availability heuristic because
it can lead to poor decisions. In the wake of the tragic events of 9/11,
with horrific images of burning buildings and broken rubble fresh in
their minds, politicians quickly voted to implement invasive policies to
make us safer, such as domestic surveillance and more rigorous airport
security. We've been dealing with, and griping about, the results of
those actions ever since. Were they truly justified? Did we fall victim
to the availability heuristic?

5. Optimism Bias

"It won't happen to me" isn't merely a cultural trope. Individuals
are naturally biased to thinking that they are less at risk of something
bad happening to them compared to others. The effect, termed optimism bias,
has been demonstrated in studies across a wide range of groups. Smokers
believe they are less likely to develop lung cancer than other smokers,
traders believe they are less likely to lose money than their peers,
and everyday people believe they are less at risk of being victimized in
a crime.

Optimism bias particularly factors into matters of health(PDF), prompting individuals to neglect salubrious behaviors like exercise, regular visits to the doctor, and condom use.

6. Gambler's Fallacy

On August 13, 1918, during a game of roulette at the Monte Carlo
Casino, the ball fell on black 26 times in a row. In the wake of the
streak, gamblers lost millions of francs betting against black. They
assumed, quite fallaciously, that the streak was caused by an imbalance
of randomness in the wheel, and that Nature would correct for the

No mistake was made, of course. Past random events in no way affect future ones, yet people regularly intuit(PDF) that they do.

7. Herd Mentality

We humans are social creatures by nature. The innate
desire to be a "part of the group" often outweighs any considerations of
well being and leads to flawed decision-making. 
For a great example,
look no further than the stock market. When indexes start to tip,
panicked investors frantically begin selling, sending stocks even lower,
which, in turn, further exacerbates the selling. Herd mentality also
spawns cultural fads. In the back of their minds, pretty much everybody
knew that 
pet rocks were a waste of money, but lots of people still bought them anyway.

8. Halo Effect

The halo effect is a cognitive bias in which we judge a person's character based upon our rapid, and often oversimplified, impressions of him or her. The workplace is a haven -- more an asylum -- for this sort of faulty thinking.

"The halo effect is probably the most common bias in performance appraisal," researchers wrote in the journal Applied Social Psychology in 2012. The article goes on:

Think about what happens when a supervisor evaluates the performance
of a subordinate. The supervisor may give prominence to a single
characteristic of the employee, such as enthusiasm, and allow the entire
evaluation to be colored by how he or she judges the employee on that
one characteristic. Even though the employee may lack the requisite
knowledge or ability to perform the job successfully, if the employee's
work shows enthusiasm, the supervisor may very well give him or her a
higher performance rating than is justified by knowledge or ability.

9. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is
the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their
beliefs. Even those who avow complete and total open-mindedness are not
immune. This bias manifests in many ways. When sifting through evidence,
individuals tend to value anything that agrees with them -- no matter
how inconsequential -- and instantly discount that which doesn't. They
also interpret ambiguous information as supporting their beliefs.

Hearing or reading information that backs our beliefs feels good, and
so we often seek it out. A great many liberal-minded individuals treat
Rachel Maddow or Bill Maher's words as gospel. At the same time, tons of
conservatives flock to Fox News and absorb almost everything said
without a hint of skepticism.

One place where it's absolutely vital to be aware of confirmation
bias is in criminal investigation. All too often, when investigators
have a suspect, they selectively search for, or erroneously interpret,
information that "proves" the person's guilt.

Though you may not realize it, confirmation bias also pervades your
life. Ever searched Google for an answer to a controversial question?
When the results come in after a query, don't you click first on the
result whose title or summary backs your hypothesis?

10. Discounting Delayed Rewards

If offered $50 today or $100 in a year, most people take the money and run,
even though it's technically against their best interests. However, if
offered $50 in five years or $100 in six years, almost everybody chooses
the $100! When confronted with low-hanging fruit in the Tree of Life,
most humans cannot resist plucking it.

This is best summed up by the Ainslie-Rachlin Law,
which states, "Our decisions... are guided by the perceived values at
the moment of the decision - not by the potential final value."

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

More from the Big Idea for Wednesday, February 12 2014

Cognitive Bias

Being smart doesn't mean you aren't just as vulnerable to a wide
array of biases and fallacies. So learn to recognize them. 
In today's lesson, Ross Pomeroy helps us to do just that, by walking...

Read More…


What is the Difference between a Sage and a Philosopher?

February 13, 2014, 1:25 PM
A philosopher is a wise man distinguished for wisdom and
sound judgement while a sage is a wise man distinguished for wisdom and
from experience.


The philosophers   

Philosophy is concerned with fundamental problems regarding
existence, values, mind, language, etc., by a critical, systematic
approach that relies on logical argument and reason. Academic
philosophy, on the other hand, is distinguished from the activity
philosophizing by a pre-set of technical terms and pre-existing
concepts, curriculum, and methodology that take years of study to
internalize. [...]

The philosophical approach to thinking ideally leads to system building.
Besides, only the creators of the most memorable philosophical
systems – Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Georg W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, for
example – are remembered as great philosophers. Yet, none of the great philosophers’ great philosophical systems – all purely intellectual inventions (we say: Vorstellungen or representations), no doubt – seemed to have passed the test of time.

New philosophical systems come and go, and – as a rule – the most
easily impressionable students who take any of them too serious and as a
matter-of-fact run into the dangers of growing up as pungent and
intolerant followers of another man’s intellectual fantasies.

The sages

In his essay 'Thinkers and Philosophers', the linguistic sage Ji Xianlin compared philosophers to other great scholars, “thinkers”, and observed the following:

"Thinkers I have in mind are not like that. They may
have their own views on the things I just mentioned. However, they would
never engage in any system-building nor engage in its cumbersome
analysis. [...] Nor do they write obscure texts, and much less do they
dream up a philosophical system. What they write down is moderate,
peaceful, and non-pretending, and everyone understands their thought.
After reading it, our eyes shine bright and blister, our minds are clear
and free of confusion, and we realize: Yes, this is how things truly

A sage can do philosophy, but not every philosopher is a sage. A sage practices sagehood, which is linked to self-cultivation and
the striving for balance, harmoniousness, and human perfection. A
sage’s thinking is concerned with the relationship of himself with other
human beings, and the relationship of human beings with the greater
order of all things. Here is a striking definition given by Robert C.

"Sages understand memories and expectations, guilt and
frustrations, joys and sorrows, suffering, pain, triumph, ecstasy,
nobility, depravity, honor, degradation, sincerity, mendacity, stress
and release. They understand the combinations and ambiguities of these
in the lives of persons and in the affairs of peoples, and their
understanding allow them so to follow the trail of what is important
through the underbrush of triviality that they cleave to what is
essential. Sages are those who understand people. What people? Anyone.
[…] Sages must live from long experience, not from intuitive

Philosopher vs sages

“Judgment”, according to Immanuel Kant, the father of German rationality, is subjective universality.
It means: “being indifferent to the existence of the object”. As a
result of that indifference, the philosopher’s judgments will be
(ideally) “free from interest and inclinations”. A philosopher does not
need to connect to anything or anyone, nor does he have to be a
morally good person (as saints do) or prove himself a worthy member of
the community (as sages do). Not the philosopher’s person or moral
character is idolized; his merits rest solely on the novelty and
challenge of the argument he presented.

The ancient Greeks thought of a philosopher as an eternal seeker of wisdom:
someone who always searches the truth, comes close to it, but
ultimately cannot attain perfect wisdom. That was reserved for the gods.
As opposed to a philosopher, the sage (or “sophos”) in ancient Greece
was considered the bearer of wisdom: someone who already possessed wisdom and only needed to self-actualize himself.

Plato was proud to be a philosopher. He argued that a sage or
“sophos” by definition was impartial to the joys of truth seeking,
because a sophos claimed he already possessed that wisdom. [...] Sages
were light, and Plato could not take light. He preferred the law. Only
the eternal condemnation to searching the truth was true love.
Consequently, Greek philosophers developed an aversion to sages and their perceived hypocrisies, their sagacity.

The triumph of the philosophers...

In The Sophist (c. 360 BC) and The Republic (c. 380
BC), Plato described the sophos as having a false sense of divine
inspiration and suffering from a delusion about their own mythical
status. Plato further ascribed to the sage a highly manipulative character and
an erroneous belief in human supernatural and esoteric powers. From the
philosopher’s point of view, the sages did not seek nor did they really
care much about the truth; all the sages thought and cared about was,
allegedly, their status, power, and influence. Like a
false prophet who seeks an elevated place from where he could air his
false views and propagate his erroneous teachings.

... marked the end for the sages

More than two thousand years have passed in Europe since Plato and the triumph of the philosophers over the sages. Not even Jesus Christ himself dared to call himself a sage; he could not! Highest wisdom was now with God. In the New Testament,
The Book of James 3:17-18, we read: “Contrasting the false wisdom is
true wisdom – Wisdom from God. God’s wisdom is pure, peace-loving,
considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and
sincere.” False wisdom, on the other hand, is that of the mere people,
human wisdom. Finally, the Western Enlightenment and all rational
academies schooled sagacity out of the European minds, and made the
sages become obsolete and a relic of the past.

Image credit: Laurin Rinder/Shutterstock.com

This is a condensed version of a chapter on 'Philosophers and Sages' from the manuscript Shengren. In the next post, we shall have a look at 'saints' - another great archetype of wisdom.

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