Sagan on self-skepticism

Perhaps the sharpest distinction between science and pseudoscience is that science has a far keener appreciation of human imperfections and fallibility than does pseudoscience (or “inerrant” revelation). If we resolutely refuse to acknowledge where we are liable to fall into error, then we can confidently expect that error—even serious error, profound mistakes—will be our companion forever. But if we are capable of a little courageous self-assessment, whatever rueful reflections they may engender, our chances improve enormously.

Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Ballantine Books, 1996. p. 21

Bhargava and Luce on practical radicals

We wrote this book for a specific audience: the segment of the Left who might embrace the label practical radical. These are organizers who hold big visions for transforming society and are willing to do what it takes to win in the real world. Legendary organizer Bayard Rustin, a consummate practical radical, criticized two other dominant ways of approaching social change: “My quarrel with the ‘no-win’ tendency in the civil rights movement (and the reason I have so designated it) parallels my quarrel with the moderates outside the movement. As the latter lack the vision or will for fundamental change, the former lack a realistic strategy for achieving it. For such a strategy they substitute militancy But militancy is a matter of posture and volume and not of effect.” Practical radicals are not content to be on the right side without a plan to make their vision a reality. And they are not satisfied with working on small issues without an analysis of what’s wrong with society and a vision for how it could be better.

Bhargava, Deepak and Luce, Stephanie. Practical Radicals: Seven Strategies to Change the World. The New Press, 2023. p. ix-x (bold and italics in original)


Reviewing an unreleased book and TV show

While it won’t help with my rent, I nonetheless have some very interesting work for the next few days.

I am doing a close read twice of Professor Peter Russell’s forthcoming memoirs, which has been a privelege because of the respect I have for him as a thinker and a person, and a joy because of their colour, humour, and personality.

I am also previewing a new series of James Burke’s TV show Connections, which previously ran in 1978, 1994, and 1997. I have seen those old shows many times, and I thought a lot about his book The Axemaker’s Gift back in high school. I have the chance to interview him from Monaco on Wednesday, so I am giving the new material a careful viewing and thinking through how to make the best use of the conversation. There is scarcely a person I can think of who has a more educated and wide-ranging understanding of the relationships between science, technology, and human society. Since human civilization is presently hurtling toward a brick wall which threatens to rather flatten us all, it may be invaluable to get Burke’s views on how a defensive strategy from here can be undertaken.


Exciting reading material

I am still job-hunting, but life has given me a bit of a treat to work on between those efforts. I have two new books from professors I know at U of T to read.

Already published and available to everyone, there is Steve Easterbrook’s Computing the Climate: How We Know What We Know About Climate Change.

Still in the works, possibly for another year, are Peter Russell’s draft memoirs, which he has been kind enough to let me read.

I will be working on both before today’s Critical Mass bike ride, which I expect will be the last with decent weather before spring.

Emotional maturity and self-reflection

Emotionally mature, responsive people have an emotional engagement instinct that works smoothly. They like to connect, and they naturally give and receive comfort under stressful conditions. They are sympathetic and know how crucial friendly support can be.

They reflect on their actions and try to change. Emotionally mature people are capable of taking a look at themselves and reflecting on their behavior. They may not use psychological terms, but they clearly understand how people affect each other emotionally. They take you seriously if you tell them about a behaviour of theirs that makes you uncomfortable. They’re willing to absorb this kind of feedback because they enjoy the increased emotional intimacy that such clear communication brings. This shows interest in and curiosity about other peoples’ perceptions along with a desire to learn about and improve themselves. Willingness to take action as a result of self-reflection is also important. It isn’t enough to just say the right things or apologize. If you’re clear about what bothers you, they’ll remain aware of the issue and demonstrate follow-through in their attempts to change.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 11, 25:00 – 26:20

Awareness others don’t automatically share our wants

Emotionally mature people will respect your individuality. They never assume that if you love them you’ll want the same things they do. Instead, they take your feelings and boundaries into account in any interaction. This may sound like a lot of work, but it isn’t. Emotionally mature people automatically tune in to how others are feeling. Real empathy makes consideration of other people second nature. An important gesture of courtesy and good boundaries in relationships is not to tell partners or friends what they should feel or think. Another is respecting that others have the final say on what their motivations are. In contrast, immature people who are looking for control or enmeshment may psychoanalyze you to their own advantage: telling you what you really meant, or how you need to change your thinking. This is a sign that they disrespect your boundaries.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 11, 7:54 – 8:33

Boundaries and the assertion of will

Even in minor encounters, you can adjust how much you give so you won’t be exhausted by trying to fulfill others’ needs. I recommend using the maturity awareness mindset to observe how your parents react when you ask them to respect your boundaries. Notice whether they try to make you feel ashamed and guilty — as if they have a right to do whatever they want, regardless of how it affects you.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 10, 18:04 – 18:31

Driven parents

Out of sync with their child’s moment-to-moment experience, they don’t adapt themselves to their child’s needs. Instead, they push their child toward what they think he or she should be doing. As a result, the children of driven parents always feel they should be doing more, or be doing something other than whatever they are doing.

John’s story: Although John was 21, he spent a lot of time with his parents and didn’t feel any ownership of his life. Describing how he felt around his mother, he said: “I’m constantly on her RADAR.” John felt so pressured by his parents’ hopes for him that he had lost all confidence in his own ideas for his future. As he put it: “I worry so much about what they expect from me, I have no idea what I want! I’m just trying to keep my parents happy and off my case.” This was especially true on family vacations, when John felt that his father got really angry if John wasn’t having a good enough time. John’s parents were so over-involved in his life that he was afraid to set any goals, since that seemed to make them even pushier about what he needed to do next. They were killing his initiative by always urging him to do a bit more or try a little harder. At a conscious level they wanted the best for John, but they were tone-deaf when it came to respecting and fostering his autonomy..

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 5, 15:51 – 17:18

Distinguishing self-centred opportunism from premeditated manipulation

Emotionally immature people may seem to be emotional manipulators, but actually they’re just very opportunistic tacticians pressing for whatever feels best at the time. They have no investment in being consistent so they say whatever gives them an edge in the moment. They may be capable of strategic thinking in their work or in other pursuits, but when it comes to emotional situations they go for the immediate advantage. Lying is a perfect example of a momentary win that feels good but is destructive to a relationship in the long run.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 4, 33:14 – 34:02

Adult tantrums as means of influencing outcomes

They communicate by emotional contagion. Because emotionally immature people have little awareness of feelings and a limited vocabulary for emotional experiences they usually act out their emotional needs instead of talking about them. They use a method of communication known as emotional contagion, which gets other people to feel what they’re feeling. Emotional contagion is also how babies and little children communicate their needs. They cry and fuss until their caretakers figure out what’s wrong and fix it. Emotional contagion from an upset baby to a concerned adult is galvanizing, motivating a caretaker to do anything necessary to calm the child. Emotionally immature adults communicate feelings in this same primitive way. As parents, when they’re distressed they upset their children and everyone around them, typically with the result that others are willing to do anything to make them feel better. In this role reversal, the child catches the contagion of the parent’s distress and feels responsible for making the parent feel better. However, if the upset parent isn’t trying to understand his or her own feelings, nothing ever gets resolved. Instead, the upsetting feelings just get spread around to others, so that everyone reacts without understanding what is truly the matter.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. Tantor Audio, 2016. ch. 4, 9:19 – 10:41