A profile outline of a human head with various foods in place of a brain.

Back in 2007, Michael Pollan wrote an article for New York Times Magazine in which he summed up his take on food in seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He had much more to say, but as often happens, the soundbite is what stuck in most people’s minds (certainly mine). Somehow I think he’s probably fine with this.

The advice is pithier than it appears. By “eat food,” he means eat real, whole foods, not “foodlike substances” or “nutrients.” As he says, “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” By “not too much,” he means…

I’m fond of making fun of pop psychology. Mostly, it’s in good fun, and I respect the friends I have who find value in it. However, I’m also a fan of having justified beliefs about things, preferably based on good evidence. This is a bar that typically proves too high for pop psychology to meet. That’s the case with the Enneagram, which is the latest in a line of “personality inventories” or “typologies” to make the rounds amongst a certain type of white middle class religious person. For my fellow 90s kids out there, think Myers-Briggs on steroids.

For reasons…

I recently found myself saying to a friend, “I literally can’t imagine a lower epistemic bar than ‘Don’t trust people who think the X-Files are real.’” I won’t bore you with the details (though you may guess them), but the gist is that someone said some incomprehensibly dumb things, some other people defended trusting this person anyway, and my brain broke a little.

Many thoughtful, kind people — because they are thoughtful and kind — think that ignoring someone or a point of view entirely is somehow wrong. Or even more strongly, that not giving equal attention to every point…

Step 1: Make sure you’re actually having a disagreement.

Lots of people think they’re having disagreements when they’re not. For example, here are some things that, as stated, are not disagreements:

  • Person A: “Hiring decisions should consider diversity.” Person B: “Hiring decisions should consider qualifications.”
  • Person A: “Black lives matter!” Person B: “All lives matter!”
  • Person A: “Defund the police!” Person B: “Defund the media!”
  • Person A: “Humans are the product of biological evolution.” Person B: “Evolution is nonsense; humans obviously didn’t come from monkeys!”
  • Person A: “Cilantro is great! So fresh!” Person B: “Cilantro tastes like dirt!”

There’s no…

Most of us aren’t epidemiologists, so we have to take the word of others for what to believe about the novel coronavirus, and COVID-19, the respiratory disease that it causes. And misinformation about it abounds.

This misinformation comes in several forms, including false remedies; conspiracy theories; memes that downplay or politicize the threat, or trivialize it by comparing it to well-known, treatable diseases; and conflicting testimony from authority figures. These forms of misinformation all have serious consequences, and they can fool even those who are in a position to know better.

Furthermore, this misinformation often stems from a basic psychological…

Kyle Whitaker

philosopher writing about disagreement, public discussion, trust, expertise, and (occasionally) politics and religion

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