Posts Tagged ‘PAW’


August 19, 2022

Having just read two cracking books ‘Moneyland – why thieves and crooks now rule the world and how to take it back’ by Oliver Bullough, and ‘ The Establishment – and how they get away with it’ by Owen Jones , my blood was up and I was all ready to go out on the barricades and if necessary fight to the death. Alas there are no barricades and both books end rather limply. Why? Partly because matters are complicated in this globalised world, but mainly because we no longer have a shared moral compass to lead us to the battleground. Once we had religions – which held sway over at least limited portions of the world. Now we need a moral compass which holds good for the entire globe. Religion is no good now, if it ever was, because it isn’t shared. A shared moral compass will have to have a rational basis. The ambition of this essay is to show that such a rational moral compass exists, and always has but that 2,500 years ago it was mistakenly hidden away by scholars when they were searching for Certainty. It has only come to light again by accident in a search for something quite else – Common Sense (CS).

Progress in Science depends above all else on asking the right questions; thus in 1820 Hans Christiaan Oersted first asked himself why, during electrical storms at sea, ships compasses went berserk. He bought a battery – they’d just come on the market – and found to his, and to everyone else’s astonishment, that electricity and magnetism are related. Though he couldn’t know it he’d stumbled into the modern world of electric-power, broadcasting, computers, Relativity and mobile phones.

But progress isn’t always welcome, far from it. Too often societies are controlled by powerful parasites bent on gobbling up a grotesque share of the common wealth. To them progress is a threat because it might overturn their privileged status. So, to hold onto their status, they employ priests to tell stories to the public about why they deserve their exorbitant wealth. Thus, for 2000 years, ordinary Egyptians slaved in the desert to build tombs and pyramids for the royal family because they’d been led by priests to believe that the pharaohs actually controlled the Sun, the Moon and the seasons. Later (350 A.D.) after Emperor Constantine had appointed Christians to be the official Roman priesthood, their chief theologian St. Augustin preached : “There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity…….It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.” The Christians then burned down the great library at Alexandria which brought a halt to progress, indeed to Thinking altogether, for over 1000 years.

History appears to have been largely a struggle between progress parasites and priests , with brief but spectacular fits of progress interspersed between long periods of stasis when the parasites and their attendant priests were in control.

Where are we today? I suggest that after two centuries of unprecedented progress we’re slipping back into the grip of uber- rich parasites whose virtues are celebrated by a modern priesthood of Economists just as half-baked as their Pharaonic and Christian predecessors.

How are we going to escape from their powerful clutches? By taking thought. Partly by undermining their half-baked economic manifesto, but mostly by offering a far more robust, attractive and progressive alternative.

In so far as any individuals, or indeed societies have a moral compass it can only derive from the need of us all to survive, and indeed to thrive in a highly competitive natural world. That is Darwin’s law of Natural Selection – Survival of the Fittest and all that. And the mere fact that some successful modern societies – Protestant Europeans for instance, have had a strong moral compass , is good evidence of its survival value. The question is “Can we find a a rational basis for such a moral compass without having to rely on the haphazard vicissitudes of religion? I believe we can. By taking thought we can actually demonstrate that any society based on Curiosity, Honesty, Adaptability, Numeracy, Tolerance, Literacy , Democracy and Sustainability’. ( Acronym CHANTLiDS ) will eventually outdistance and outcompete its rivals.

However if you imagine that taking thought will be a simple matter

then I’m sorry to say you are quite wrong. Were you taught to think at school or University? I wasn’t. And do you know why not? Because scholars don’t know how! It’s an unlikely but fascinating story which we will touch upon in due course. But briefly speaking scholars were lured by the Ancient Greeks and the Abrahamic religions into a futile wild-goose-chase after Certainty when no such Certainty is to be found in the real world. And in being lured away they lost sight of Common-Sense Thinking (CST) which is altogether more powerful and productive.

So before we take on the parasites and their priests we’re going to have to pin down CST. We mentioned earlier that progress in science depends above all on asking the right questions . The Question we are going to tackle here is: “How do animals think, and why do we humans, who share 98% of our genes with chimps, think a million times better than chimps do?”

Just as Oersted stumbled into his puzzle over Electromagnetism so I stumbled into my quest to understand CST. As an astronomer and Space scientist obsessed with Hidden Galaxies (HGs) , I was looking to pin down The Scientific Method which I imagined, quite wrongly as it turned out, was already well understood. It turned out to be largely based on CST, but that too had evaded scholars, chiefly because they weren’t interested. So I finished up asking my question, our question above about animal-thinking, and slowly, out of confusion, enlightenment emerged.

This is not the place to go into the painful unearthing of CST ( See the Notes ) but we can show it in action in a historical context, noting both its strengths and its weaknesses. As our example we examine the controversial proposition “Scotland would have fared better outside the United Kingdom”. What CST does is gather clues bearing on the proposition, both for and against, give each clue a Weight– which can only have the values:

4 if strongly for the proposition

2 if weakly for the proposition

1 if neutral towards the proposition

½. if weakly against the proposition

¼ if strongly against the proposition

put them in an Inference Table ( see below) and multiply those Weights together as one goes down the table to note, in the final column, the Accumulating Odds either for or against the proposition


HYPOTHESIS: “Scotland would have fared better outside the UK

1Been governed locally (mixed blessing) 2 2
2 Spoken Gaelic not English ¼ ½
3 Gone bankrupt in 1707 (Darien scheme) ½ ¼
4 Kept control of its fish 2 ½
5 Kept control of its Oil 4 2
6 Prob conquered in Counter Reformation ½ 1
7 Prob conquered by Napoleon ½ ½
8 Conquered by Hitler 1/4 1/8
9 Less opports for talented Scots abroad ½ 1/16
10 Less trade with Eng. (eg shipbuilding) ¼ 1/64
11 Been no part of Brit. Empire ½ 1/128
12 Gone bankrupt 2009 (BOS) ½ 1/256

Table (1) shows my own attempt to tackle the proposition, starting with no particular opinion either way. Like most British bastards I’m of mixed Welsh, English and Scots descent, probably with some Irish thrown in.

The main strengths of the CST procedure are:

(a) It is transparent. All my arguments, and the Weights I attach to them, are laid out for criticism and amendment.

(b) All the Weights are individually modest so that no one single clue or argument can carry the day [ I call this the ‘Principle of Animal Wisdom’ or PAW for short.] That in turn stimulates broader research because many different clues may be needed , as here, to reach conviction either way.

( c) It is Provisional, leaving room at the bottom for new

clues to be incorporated, if they should turn up.

Its main weaknesses are:

  1. I have had to select which clues to include and which to omit. I discarded several as too equivocal to Weight.
  2. There is no logical justification for the values of most weights. They mostly have to be a matter of intuitive judgement – which could of course be wrong.

Nevertheless, in this case at least, my Odds finish up so high that I feel confident of my final judgement – as it happens against the proposition.

Forget Scotland. I have tried out the above mechanism for CST on hundreds of examples – scientific, every-day and historical and it generally leads to very convincing results when tested out against fresh evidence. Sometimes it changes my own mind – which is good – and sometimes it changes others. And when the answer proves indecisive that is good too, it’s a call for further thought and research. Best of all the PAW disallows anyone from declaring victory on the basis of a single strong opinion – so often the cause of strife in the past, even outright war. Animals in the wild cannot afford to make fatal mistakes – and the PAW is presumably an adaptation which has evolved to prevent them doing so too often. Wise decisions must rely on the coherence of a number of independent but weaker clues. Even so CST can, given enough cohering clues , lead to very decisive Odds . That means there is no need for the Certainty which priests and scholars have struggled so long in vain to find. The olden-day rejection of CST came from priests who objected to the use of gambling odds, the modern-day comes from the mathematically trained who imagine, quite wrongly, that they can calculate the odds far more precisely. But they are relying on a false analogy between games of chance with all the rules and cards predefined, and real-life where such is definitely not the case.

Two further remarks are in order here. Post Darwin (1859) we have to recognise that CST must have been the main survival mechanism for a host of creatures going back a million generations. If so it was likely to be very sophisticated. And secondly CST is limited by the number of clues a creature can accurately compound together. Even for a human that’s probably no more than three or four. But for a creature who can write that number becomes unlimited. Literate homo sapiens could suddenly take on mental tasks wholly beyond our forebears. As Einstein put it succinctly ‘My pencil and I are much smarter than I am’ . We needed to compound 12 clues to come to an opinion about Scottish history (Table 1) , solving Hidden Galaxies eventually required 24 – wholly beyond illiterate thinkers.

We begin, just begin, to glimpse the ethical dimension of CST. We have just discovered the absolutely essential nature of literacy to progress – we cannot think properly without it. But what about Curiosity – the passion to gather all those necessary clues in the first place – or Honesty – the compulsion to record and Weight them faithfully? It turns out that there are seven secrets to Progress, that is to say the ability to outcompete one’s rivals – they are Curiosity, Honesty, Adaptability, Numeracy, Literacy, Democracy and Sustainability [CHANTLIDS for short]. In other words humankind can construct a sensitive and robust moral compass which has nothing to do with religion. It is the behavioural system which will beat any rival.

At first sight the idea that a scheme for CST could itself lead to a detailed moral compass does seem unlikely. Recall however that it does so only in combination with the Darwinian need to survive, and in that context rules for collaborating within a species may make a great deal of sense. To see that working out look at Table 3 which compares the capacity to reach complex decisions of individuals, of teams and of the whole communities working together. Think for instance of the complex planning required to launch a Space telescope like the James Webb, or the even greater to successfully land a great army on the defended beaches of Normandy on D-Day.



(1) (2) (3)a (4)b (5)
Thinker N <W> 2topower<W> Oddsc
Our Cat 3 4 26 64:1 on; Decisive w. strong clues only
Me 3 4 26 ditto
Me and Pen 10 4 220 Millions to 1 on; Very decisive
Me and Pen 10 1.5 60 Decisive with conflicting evidence.
Team and Pens 15 1.5 400 Decisive with conflicting evidence
Research Community 25 1.2 100 Decisive with very confused evidence

Notes: (a) is the geometric mean Weight of all the N clues used. With PAW its maximum value can be 4, but as conflicting clues are included so the mean value will fall, until it may barely exceed 1. Yet with enough clues N

a decision can still be reached. (b) The combined Weight of the N clues compounded together. (c) Odds of 64:1 correspond to 3 strong clues, which are generally regarded as decisive in CST. Dismissal of the hypothesis would come with Odds of 64 or more to 1 against; in that case Col. (3) would needs be less than 1. Einstein summed it up: “My pencil and I are much smarter than I am.”

The opposition to CST, even today, comes chiefly from those who imagine that logical certainty can do better. To see why they are wrong consider the burning of witches. When the children in your mediaeval village started mysteriously choking to death the habit was to send for an expert witch-finder who would interrogate the inhabitants and finger the witch responsible, who would then be burned alive to rid (usually her) of the Devil. The villagers weren’t evil they simply had no comprehension of the microscopic pathogens which could give rise to diphtheria. The hypothesis set they had to choose between excluded the true hypothesis. And so it could always be in the real world. Allowance must always be made for the currently unknown and that, of its very nature, precludes certainty. Scholars who don’t understand this, of which there are all too many in academia (yes it’s hard to believe) don’t see that CST is the very best we can hope for.

That is not to say that CST hasn’t got limitations. Consider the interpretation of dreams. There is quite literally an infinitude of alternative interpretations of any dream which means that the odds against any particular one of them being right must be infinitely high. Thus dream interpretation must ever lie beyond the capabilities of CST, and thus of Science. And for the very same reason so must Psychology and Economics. Of course you could regard this as a failure of CS – or you could regard it as a signal triumph for CST which labels Psychology and Economics for what they truly are – voodoo subjects without scientific foundation. Sensible people have given up on dream interpretation but economists are too well paid to concede that they are merely a modern priesthood salaried to defend the modern Pharaohs who live not on the Nile but on the perfumed shores of Moneyland. Nothing but the names have changed with over 4000 years: the humble masses toil, the gilded parasites consume, but now they’re called Oligarchs.

In our hearts we know it’s all wrong, but we’ll never put things right until we have a universal code of conduct, a moral compass to which all we rational humans can appeal – and now we have it – supplied by Common Sense. There are no Ten Commandments but there are Seven indispensable characteristics of any progressive state:









Personally I was very disappointed to find no mention of fairness in there. Does that mean that Parasitism is okay then? To try and answer that, and other awkward questions, I have compiled a list of a dozen or so nations by their ranking in the Progress scale, judged by their performance over the last century:


Now that we have our 6 criteria (Not including Sustainability) it is interesting to weigh some existing nations on the scales of Progress, judged by their relative performances over the past century. Table 3 shows my attempt to do so. Each society is awarded a mark between 1 and 5 for each of the 6 criteria, their marks are multiplied together (which helps to separate them into distinct classes) and the resulting totals are used to assign them to ranks. Since a perfect score amounts to 5×5×5×5×5×5 = 15,625 one way to do so would be place those nations within a factor 5 of the perfect score within the first rank, those within 5×5 of it in the second, and so on. Table 4 is the result It will be easy to mock this scheme but I don’t see how we can analyse history without some measure of progress and decline. Valueless people [you know who I mean] simply disqualify themselves from taking part − I don’t intend to even argue about that. Alternative value systems are certainly possible, but they clearly need to be stated – and justified on fundamental grounds. It is at least much better than the gross and ephemeral measures so regularly used based on the numbers of dollars or warheads or tanks.

The most arbitrary feature of my list is its century timescale. For instance Japan and Germany might have done much better if I had chosen 50 years instead. But both countries only became progressive as a result of resounding defeats.

Nation Curio. Lity. Demo. Tol Hon. Adapt Total Rank
China 1 3 1 2 1 1 6 5
Congo 1 2 1 1 1 2 4 6
Denmark 2 5 5 5 5 4 5000 1
France 4 5 3 3 2 3 1080 2
Germany 4 5 2 2 2 4 640 2
India 1 2 2 2 2 2 32 4
Italy 3 4 2 2 3 3 432 3
Japan 3 5 2 2 2 3 360 3
Russia 2 4 1 1 1 1 8 5
Spain 1 4 2 1 3 4 96 4
Switz. 3 3 5 3 3 3 1215 2
UK 5 5 4 5 4 5 10000 1
USA 3 5 2 3 2 4 720 2

Before compiling the list I had no idea how it would turn out but it does seem to make common sense . For instance states in the first and second rank seem fairer than states lower down – with regard to their distribution of income for instance. Perhaps because they are relatively honest and democratic their parasites don’t get away with the monstrous greed they exhibit lower down, as for instance they did in Mogul India or Tsarist Russia.

For me however the exciting point of this analysis is how positive it is, how optimistic we can all be, whatever our nationalities. A moral compass based on nothing more than common sense and competition appears to point straight towards Progress and Civilisation, whilst that awful American aphorism ‘Nice guys come in last ’ is clearly nonsense, and helps to explain why the US comes so low down in the Table of Progress.

The reason that the Establishment and the Moneylanders presently get away with their hideous behaviour, as they do, is because the legal and political systems of different states allow the parasites, aided by their smart-arse lawyers and accountants, to squeeze through the cracks between them. If such systems were aligned with the same moral compass that wouldn’t be possible any longer. But if we don’t align, and align soon, the parasites will eat us all alive.

I can’t resist finishing with an anecdote. In 1986 I went deep behind the Iron Curtain on a scientific mission. There I met a Jewish scientist who had been raised on the extremely remote Kamchatka Peninsula, where his mother still lived.

“Can’t you get her out?” I asked.

“She will never leave” he replied.

“Why not?”

“Because only good people live there.”

When I asked him what he meant he said that his people, the Moscow Jews, had been exiled to Kamchatka in the 1940s by Stalin in one of his paranoid rages. Intellectuals and bureaucrats, they’d been thrown out into the snow with an axe, a box of matches and a sack of potatoes each:

“According to my mother the bad people died during the first winter, the selfish people during the second and the dishonest during the third. Only the very best are left.”

PS The Establishment often claim to belong to The Neoliberal Cause which indeed has a philosophical basis chiefly laid down by its two main prophets Alexander von Hayek (1944, Old Testament) and Milton Friedman (1962, New) . Anyone eager to take these parasites on should be au fait with their Bible, their Koran. I review both Testaments elsewhere in this blog in a Post entitled THE BILLIONAIRES BIBLE.


This is a vast subject necessarily touched on here in a highly superficial way. Those who would like to know more can find it at:

  1. ‘THINKING FOR OURSELVES’ by M J Disney, Amazon Books, 2021, Paperback, 610 pp, £14.99
  2. ‘COMMON SENSE THINKING ;the secrets of Einstein’s success’, by Mike Disney, an abridgement of  TFO above. Amazon Books, Paperback,70pp, £5.99; Kindle e-book version £3.99
  3. ‘HISTORY OF THE BRITS – from a scientist’s point of view’, by Michael Disney, 2020, Amazon Books, 270 pp, paperback £10.00. e-book version Kindle, £4.99.


November 4, 2021

Despite three decades of effort and tens of millions of dollars spent on accelerators and their like, it looks as if Particle Physics is coming to a sad end. No new particles beyond those such as the Higgs Boson proposed 50 years ago, and in particular none of those Supersymmetric particles which theorists had hoped would explain that greatest of all scientific mysteries — Dark Matter. Of course there will now be cries for more money and even larger machines, after all the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva is a mere 27 kilometres in circumference. But wait! Perhaps there is something far more interesting and fundamental at work: Perhaps Particle theorists have misled themselves, and everybody else , through neglecting a philosophical principle at least a thousand years old called ‘Ockham’s Razor’ (OR), named after a mediaeval monk called Friar Ockham.

At the heart of the Scientific Method is the business of Hypothesis Testing, which is where OR comes in. It states “Always prefer the simplest hypothesis first” and that, I suggest, is where Particle Theorists went so horribly wrong. Their “Standard Model” — as they call it, is fiendishly complex — what with its Quarks, Gluons, ‘Asymptotic Freedom’ and so on and so on. How do we measure complexity in Science? By the number of ‘Free Parameters’ (FPs) needed to describe a theory. One way you can think of them is to say they are arbitrary numbers brought into a theory to force it to fit the experimental data. A ‘good theory’ doesn’t need many FPs because it fits the experimental world naturally(for instance Newton’s very successful Theory of Gravitation has only 2 FP s) The so called Standard Model of Particle Physics needs no less than 18 FP s which has always suggested that it is an ugly and unnatural construct. It should be no surprise then to find now that it actually looks to be wrong.

So why did theorists construct such an ugly model in the first place, mostly back in the 1960’s and 70’s? Probably because they didn’t understand just how fundamental OR is. And there’s some excuse for them — because the Philosophers of Science, the self-appointed arbiters of the Scientific Method, didn’t understand OR themselves. Even Einstein, who relied on it extensively, waffled about some plastic ‘God’.

As I see it Hypothesis Testing works like this. You have some data-points, with error bars of course, and you have your hypothesis which generates a smooth curve which you must try to fit through those points. If there are lot of points the Odds on your hypothetical curve fitting them all by chance must be small. So if it does so fit then the Odds are that the hypothesis is probably right. If it doesn’t fit then you can always complexify your hypothesis ,so twisting your hypothetical curve until it does fit. But you can see that’s not a very convincing way to proceed, because eventually you are always going to force a fit. In that case the Odds in favour of it being actually right vanish. And that, I would suggest is what happened to Particle Theory, starting half a century a century ago.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with modifying a theory to fit the facts, after all that’s how science progresses. But you have to be very frugal in doing so. Only introduce a new concept (FP) into your theory if it fits at the very least two more data points than its simpler predecessor. And that’s hard to do, but it won’t degrade the Odds on it being right. But if it only fits one more data point the Odds will generally degrade dramatically. And that’s what Particle Physicists were tempted to do; making names for themselves at the expense of undermining the Odds on their so called ‘Standard Model’ theory. And that’s why almost nobody believes in their theory anymore. It’s as if they’d undermined their currency by printing too many notes. It works for a while — then collapses!

I am not a Particle Physicist, thank God, I am an Astrophysicist. And what worries me is that those same Particle theorists have dragged their own dodgy practices into our subject, with predictably unhealthy consequences. Take “Dark Energy”, an entirely artificial concept dragged into Cosmology by a particle theorist called Ed Turner from the Fermi Lab (and the University of Chicago). Now astronomers are raising hundreds of millions of dollars to chase this fantasy around the cosmos when there’s no justification for doing so, none at all. It was a thoughtless quick-fix extra Free Parameter to fit the apparent acceleration of Cosmic Expansion inferred from Supernova measurements in 1998. Had its introduction explained TWO or more discrepancies between theory and observation we might have welcomed it in. But it didn’t. So it should never have been introduced in the first place. Never!

PS Actually the situation is far worse than I am implying because the bloody particle theorists who have undermined their own subject actually introduced two more unnecessary FPs into Cosmology before Dark Energy: ‘Inflation’ to cure Isotropy and nothing else, and ‘Dark Matter’ to fix the Cosmic chemical abundances. We need to throw them out too.

So where do we go from here? Cosmology should chuck out Dark Energy, Inflation and Dark Matter and start again without them. As for Particle Physics I suspect that they may have to go back 50 years and try to reconstruct a more parsimonious theory of particle interactions than the ‘Standard Model based on quarks and gluons. In his wonderful book ‘Constructing Quarks’ Andrew Pickering (Univ. Chicago Press 1981) suggested that that theory was a social construct anyway, the product of trendy acclamation, rather than sober assessment.

More generally all of us need to understand the process of Hypothesis Testing on which the modern world of ideas is entirely built. Because if that isn’t sound ,God help us all.

For much more on Ockham’s Razor see our post “Fuzzy Thinking and Ockham’s Razor’ under the ‘Thinking’ category here on our blog. For a detailed explanation of Ockham’s Razor and why it works go to the url:

But if you want to go into the whole business of Common Sense Thinking (CST) , of which Hypothesis Testing is only a part, try my book “Thinking for Ourselves” publ Amazon (2020) which is described in the ‘My Books ‘ Category on this site.



August 21, 2021


This post is so titled because it stands for “THINKING FOR OURSELVES-ADDITIONS” where “Thinking for Ourselves” refers to my book with that title originally published in 2020 and updated in 2021 (For details see elsewhere under ‘My Books’ Category or under Tags on ‘Thinking’.) But from now on I want the book to become live, so that it can be continually updated here on line. Here you will find Exercises with Answers, corrections, images, calculations, supporting data, more detailed and improved arguments, readers comments with my responses to what is intended to become what I call ‘A LIVING BOOK’.See at the bottom of this Post how to make such Comments.

All the additions are shown below, mostly under a Chapter number and page number in the paperback book, version 2021.



at the following url:


         I finished the book 3 years ago with the surprising but triumphal discovery of Categorical Inference – which connects the whole scheme for Common Sense Thinking so naturally and necessarily with Animal Thinking and Evolution. And IF it’s right it could change the world.

         At that point I sometimes get struck with what  I believe they call ‘Imposter Syndrome’– how could little me have unearthed a powerful scheme entirely missed by giants such as Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein? It doesn’t seem likely does it?

         But then I look at some of its manifest achievements such as:

  • Explaining Humankind’s dramatic leap in mental capability around 1000 BC.
  • Its unique mechanism for balancing conflicting evidence, as illustrated with its success with Hidden Galaxies.
  • A first transparent and convincing explanation for Ockham’s Razor.
  • Its powerful mechanism (PAW) for dealing with Systematic Errors, which have kept us back so many times  for so long.
  • It’s perfect dovetailing into Animal Thinking and Darwinian Evolution.
  • The multiple new insights which spring from it – see this blog and my other book “History of the Brits’ [HOB ch.5]. For instance  it comes up with the keys to human Progress, what I call ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ .

So then I am reassured. But, but……Why little me again? All I can say to myself, and to potential readers is :

 “It was bloody minded doggedness more than anything else. I started out with the modest ambition to find out what I believed was already known  –  the Scientific Method, only to find to my surprise that it was not, but that it probably had something to do with Common Sense, but that hadn’t been defined either. So I asked myself a different question: ‘How could animals think?’ and thereafter progress became relatively rapid  because now I could entirely  ignore Philosophy, Mathematics and Religion.

So I didn’t have to be a genius, which I definitely am not. And one doesn’t have to be a genius to make a great discovery. Look at Darwin – he spent the first  30 years  of his idle life slaughtering wild creatures for fun. Basically he was an illiterate lout – but he stumbled upon the greatest scientific discovery of all because he happened to be in the right place at the right time – the Galapagos Islands  in 1838. But he was only there because his exasperated father had sent him out there as a punishment, saying “You wouldn’t even make a decent rat-catcher.” Indeed there’s little evidence of ‘genius’ in science more generally [ See Chapter 3 of TFO to see how great discoveries have been made in history] – so even if I’m not a genius , TFO  could still be right.”


As of 21/8/21 there are only 2 because I have just made two dozen corrections to the original paperback edition.They are

P 302: replace ‘Sherman’ with ‘Pershing’.

P 456, line 7: replace 13 with 23.

But the most important of those for purchasers of the older editions are at:


CHAPTER 1 (‘Can we learn to think better?’) p 15

CHAPTER 2 (‘Different kinds of Thinking’) p25

CHAPTER 3 (‘How do Scientists Think?) p46

CHAPTER 4 (‘Natural Thinking and Bayes’ Rule’) p95

There are several Posts on the fascinating subject of ‘Galaxies’ , including ‘Hidden Galaxies’, in the ‘Astronomy’ Category here, with many images.

CHAPTER 5 (‘The Detective’s Equation’) p132

CHAPTER 6 (‘Numbers and Thinking’) p154

CHAPTER 7 (‘Woolly Thinking and Ockham’s Razor’) p170

There are several posts here on ‘Big Bang Cosmology’ — which I use as a case study in dodgy thinking, under the ‘Astronomy’ Category’.

CHAPTER 8 (‘Common Sense’) p198

CHAPTER 9 (‘Error Analysis’) p236

CHAPTER 10 (‘Systematic Errors, The Elephants in the Room’) p268

CHAPTER 11 (‘Statistics – or Terror Analysis’) p294

Statisticians turned themselves from humble clerks into a dogmatic priesthood based on several misunderstandings, on their part. They need to be put firmly back on their stools. Having spent 30 years trying to teach Statistics at university, I gradually came to realise that the profession has got itself hopelessly lost in the No-man’s land between Induction and Deduction. Look what confusing advice they have given to the government over the Covid pandemic, They’re not scientists, they’re mostly priests, who hide behind higher mathematics when they are challenged. See Post “Statistics: exposed at last” under ‘Thinking’ Category.

CHAPTER 12 (‘Persuasion’) p342 t

CHAPTER 13 (‘Poor Thinking’) p357

CHAPTER 14 (‘The Extraordinary History of Thinking’) p407

CHAPTER 15 (‘The Peculiarities of Science’) p451

In Sect (15:12) ‘What about Mathematics’ I only gave some modest examples because I didn’t want to frighten off non-mathematical readers but on this site its maybe worth drawing attention to some more spectacular examples. For instance on pp 471-472 I then failed to recognise the full and dramatic implications of mathematics when applied to immigration: basically because immigrants arrive every year, while children arrive only a couple of times or so in a female’s life, immigration is no less than 160 times more significant than natural birthrate when it comes to population increase! Thus immigration into the UK at present is equivalent to 3 British mothers out of 4 having an extra child! If you don’t believe me, and I found it very difficult to believe it myself, you should consult the url:

Then the modern world, including radio, broadcasting, television, Relativity, satellites, mobile phones, the internet…. were all implicit in a set of equations derived by two Brits in the 19th century, James Clerk Maxwell and Oliver Heaviside. You don’t have to understand the equations in detail but one can certainly admire a human artefact millions of times more momentous than either The Rosetta Stone or Tutenkamun’s Tomb. See:

CHAPTER 16 (‘Consequences and the Ascent of Mankind’) p476

On p486 there is a very brief discussion of Time. If you want to see a deeper discussion of a profound topic see the Post “WHAT IS TIME?” under the Category ‘Thinking’. Those who want to look deeper into TIME can look at the Post ‘MAXWELL’S EQUATIONS’ (under ‘Thinking’ Category )which explains why Relativity has changed our view that Time is absolute; it’s not, according to physicists. Even so Time is still a great mystery; there seem to be several different kinds of time. all mistakenly labelled with the same four lettered word.



APPENDICES pp 547 to 604

INDEX p612


February 20, 2021

If you wanted to know what to think of some fringe activity such as Spiritualism or Water Divining I doubt one would consult a professional first. After all you know that they must be committed. But what if you wanted to evaluate Big Bang Cosmology? Once again you can’t turn to the biased professionals, although they might argue that unless you are a professional you cannot know enough about the subject to take an informed position. But of course that is a dangerous stance to adopt, and the way in which priesthoods germinate, metastasize and sometimes come to dominate the world. They become immune to criticism because they will admit none but believers as critics. They become malignant, if not necessarily malign.

So what is the wise outsider to do? I would suggest they might consult those whose business it is to know much about the arcane subject- material in question without having to become paid exponents themselves. Cosmology for instance is in practice largely extra-galactic astronomy, so why not consult an extra-galactic astronomer who doesn’t claim to be a Cosmologist? Such an astronomer will know most of the technical arguments – without having to commit to them. That is where I stand with regard to Big Bang Cosmology, or BBC. My passion lies in Galaxies, the largest discrete objects in the Universe. But as they seem to be almost as old as the Cosmos, their origin must be entangled in the early evolution of the Universe itself, so I cannot ignore Cosmology, any more than Cosmology can ignore Galaxies which, so far as we know, comprise most of everything we can actually observe. And as visible galaxies exist in hundreds of thousands of millions, and can be observed in some detail nowadays, they should tell us more about Cosmology than vice-versa. And here is the rub: in BBC galaxies shouldn’t exist. As has been known for fifty years they would have been torn apart by radiation pressure before they could even form. So a desperate fix called CDM, standing for ‘Cold Dark Matter’ was adopted to try and repair the awful hole in the story. But despite many efforts to find out what it is, no one has been able to find any trace of CDM in half a century. Umm.

And there is another stark confrontation between galaxies and Cosmology. In an expanding Universe – the core assumption of BBC – distant galaxies should be totally invisible because of the ‘Tolman Effect’, a test for Expansion, which goes back to 1930. Then we didn’t possess the the telescopes to test it, but now, in the Hubble Space Telescope, we certainly do. And what do we find? That the observed Universe fails – and fails most dramatically – as you can see for yourself. Look at the figure:

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, the deepest image of the Universe , taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, which I helped to design. All those tiny dots are actually high redshift galaxies a long long way away. If the Universe is really expanding we shouldn’t be able to see them. But……..

You can see it’s covered all over with a rash of tiny high-redshift galaxies – which simply shouldn’t be there, not if the Universe is expanding. If it was they ought to look no less than ten thousand times dimmer than they appear to be. Surely this is something BB Cosmologists ought to acknowledge? But they don’t. It’s been known since 1993 when we first fixed the telescope’s aberrated mirror, but ever since there has been a conspiracy of silence about the matter. As a designer of the existing and earlier cameras, I was staggered when I first saw the earliest deep Hubble images because I’d been assured by Cosmologists that Hubble would never see high-redshift galaxies. Yet there they were. There they are in their hundreds and thousands.

The only precedent I can think of occurred back in 1610 when Galileo pointed his little spyglass at Venus and found it to be a brilliant crescent pointing towards the Sun. The two-thousand-year-old Geocentric picture of the Cosmos was quite wrong, All the Planets, including the Earth, must be orbiting the Sun.

But what happened? Galileo was eventually seized by the Inquisition, forced to retract, and then imprisoned for life.

We don’t have an Inquisition any more but we do have Priests of a different kind: experts whose livelihoods, reputations and ambitions enforce adherence to a certain dogma. It’s not easy when you are an elderly, respected professor of Cosmology, with several books and hundreds of peer-reviewed papers behind you, to admit that you have been wasting yours, and everybody else’s time. And if the old won’t recant, why should the young, who still have their reputations and their livings to make? There is no Inquisition it is true but there are, in a highly competitive profession, appointment and tenure committees to please, journal-referees to propitiate. Brave myths to the contrary, academic success is based above all on allegiance to the Common Book of Prayer.

I know it will be hard for outsiders to believe in such conformity, I certainly wouldn’t have believed in it myself if I hadn’t experienced it at first hand, and to some extent colluded rather shamefully in it myself. Yes I went to conferences and politely pointed out the anomalies facing us in the sky. I even published papers in elite journals like ‘Nature’ demonstrating that real galaxies couldn’t possibly have formed in the CDM manner proclaimed by cosmological theorists. But when nobody responded, shouldn’t I have bellowed and trumpeted my doubts?

Honestly I should. But two things held me back; lack of self -confidence for one. Cosmology is a huge and complex subject mired in the hardest Mathematics and Physics – and perhaps I’d missed something – which the experts had not? Then again it wasn’t my real love. If I acquired a reputation as a madman I wouldn’t get the observing time on top telescopes I absolutely needed to do my Galaxy research. Many of us subscribe to popular myths, knowing them to be untrue. One well-known colleague told me that when he is applying for observing time he always alludes to CDM, which he knows to be diseased, because he’s found that if does not, he won’t get the time. And so CDM, a central dogma of BBC, continues alive, when it is so obviously wrong.

But enough of personal anguish and Sociology. How could the uncommitted thinker look dispassionately at the arguments for and against BBC and come to a balanced opinion?

There is a way – using Common Sense – if you know how it works – which most scientists, let alone other scholars, do not. All it will deliver is a provisional conclusion, with some kind of Odds on it attached. What I will do next is to exhibit two different attempts of mine to have a go at the BBC problem, so that readers can appreciate some of the philosophical subtleties involved.

The first, entitled “Doubts about Big Bang Cosmology” was published back in 2011, where my Odds against it being broadly right were only 4 to 1, disappointing, but hardly decisive. It is reasonably short yet contains the main arguments in a not too technical fashion I hope, so readers may care to see how those Odds were reached. You can find it at

In cosmology itself nothing much changed dramatically over the next 4 years. But my understanding of Common Sense did when, in 2015, I stumbled upon the vitally important PAW or ‘Principal of Animal Wisdom’, indispensable to all thinkers who might otherwise be blown wildly off course by Systematic Errors. Now my Odds against BBC shot up dramatically to 128 to 1 against it being broadly right. Not only are they far more conclusive but they are , in my opinion , far more robust too because they rely on a whole network of interlocking and broadly concordant evidence. Without any need to repeat the cosmological arguments the new Inference Table, with its condemning Odds O(H|E) {i.e Odds on the Hypothesis H given all the evidence E} is briefly exhibited at

The conclusion I would draw from all this is that the Universe is trying to tell us something profound and interesting about itself, but we professionals, soaked in our preconceptions, and deafened by our Church choir, are unprepared to listen. After Galileo’s experience we should have anticipated, and some of us on board the Hubble did. But ….

Our susceptibility to misconceptions lies in our weak grasp of Common Sense today, and in particular our total ignorance of PAW, or The Principle of Animal Wisdom. Animals whose very survival depends on sound judgements, cannot afford to be taken in by misleading clues. So how do they discount them? That was the question I asked myself back in 2015. The answer is they cannot allow any single clue a predominating Weight – because that clue might be false, and fatal. They must rely on a network of weaker clues which reinforce one another. That is what I call PAW. And when I apply it to BBC the Odds against it shoot dramatically up. BBC can’t be right, it can’t. Something at least about it is deeply wrong, never mind the technical details. [To see more on the PAW go to Post ‘ANIMAL WISDOM & US’ in ‘Thinking’ Category].

If the PAW is so damned vital for animals then how did we ever lose sight of it? Because Priests preach Certainties – their influence, their power and their livelihoods all depend on proclaiming Certainties, whilst the PAW stands out firmly against them. And, to be fair, many of us prefer Certainties to uncomfortable uncertainty – which is all the natural world has to offer. So over the last few thousand years the PAW, which is grown-up, has become submerged by a childish and misbegotten craving for Certainty, which only priests, but not men of Common Sense, can deliver. As Voltaire put it: “Uncertainty is uncomfortable; Certainty is absurd.” See a talk on Youtube by me on this topic at

What IS the universe trying to tell us ? It could be exciting.


November 26, 2020



As far as I can see Common Sense Thinking (CST henceforth) works like this: we all get ideas, they constantly bubble unasked to the surface of the mind; the real challenge is to decide which ones are sound [‘Hypothesis Testing’ it is called]. To determine that we look for evidence (clues) bearing on our idea or hypothesis H and place each clue in one of only 5 categories (This is the ‘Principle of Animal Wisdom’, or PAW for short):

TABLE (5:1) The Weights of Clues bearing on Idea H





Strongly in favour of H



Weakly in favour of H



Neutral towards H



Weakly against H (underlined)



Strongly against H (underlined)



We then combine (symbol ★ ) the Weights in obvious ways thus:

w★w = s

w★w = n

s★s = ss

s★w = w and so on.

And we finally decide to act on H only when the combined evidence reaches either sss [decide for H] or sss [decide against H]. This is a precautionary measure which saves us from making premature, possibly fatal decisions based on only two strong clues, one of which might be unsound.


A detective is having to decide whether to charge X with a crime [her hypothesis is ‘X is guilty’. Her thinking, based on the available evidence, might look like this:



Her Weight

Accumulated Weight














Witness A




Witness B




Witness C




Witness D







Charges X


My scheme is nothing more than the systematic Association of an Idea H with different clues, combined with a simple precautionary mechanism for avoiding overhasty decisions. I suspect such CATEGORICAL INFERENCE (CI for short) is our main survival mechanism with roots that go back a billion years. You won’t find it in text-books on Inference or Logic; they appeal instead to notions such as Probability Theory, Bayes’ Theorem and Parsimony. The problem is that their authors disagree violently among themselves – so something must be seriously wrong. That’s why scientists ignore them and go on using Common Sense CI to progress.

Notice three important features of this scheme:

1) The more evidence the better. With a sufficiently long string of clues, even when they conflict, we can eventually reach a decision [sss or sss ] about H, one way or the other, provided (a major proviso) a record has been kept of the incoming clues, together with their Weights. For instance I was eventually able to bring my own tangled research project to a triumphant conclusion but only after using writing to compound 25 separate clues, some in stark conflict with the rest. This means the scheme can be used, but only by the literate, to handle highly complex tasks such as voyaging to the Moon.

2) The process is open-ended; there is always room to add new evidence to the tally whenever it is found. Thus it is Provisional in nature, and even after a decision to act has been taken there must be room for a change of mind – in other words to Adapt.

3) Rather than remember these unfamiliar symbols it turns out to be much easier to use betting Odds and replace “combine” (★) by the multiplication sign ×, ‘n’ by the number 1, s by 4, w by 2, underlined-w by ½, and underlined-s by ¼ . Then a decision in favour takes place when the Odds are 64 to 1 on or better, and against at Odds of 64 to 1 against or worse. In future that is what we do. But remember it is still Categorical Inference, no more and no less, a process innumerate animals could have used to survive in the wild. We have just changed the symbols

NB. This extract was taken from Chapter 5 of my book “History of the Brits” where it is later used to tackle some very thorny issues such as ‘Is America Britain’s friend or enemy?’, or ‘Would the Scots have been better off Independent’ and ‘Is mass immigration good or bad for Britain?’.


November 18, 2020

Evolution is a painfully slow process. Modifications from generation to generation are generally imperceptible. How come then that humankind can launch telescopes into Space while our cousin the Chimpanzee, with whom we share 98% of our genes, is still struggling to crack nuts in the jungle? No wonder thoughtful people have invoked Divine Intervention, or the arrival of wisdom from elsewhere by interstellar spacecraft (Arthur C Clarke in the story/film “2001”) . If we are not to believe in miracles then we are faced with a fearsome puzzle: ‘How have we become so clever so quickly?

Had aliens come to the Earth a mere 10,000 years ago they would have had no good grounds for believing that humans would soon erect Santa Sofia, build Venice on piles in the Lagoon, devise the Hay-on-Wye Festival, organise the D-day landings, get to the Moon or launch the Hubble Space Telescope. In a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms, a marginal species has so come to dominate the Earth that we now worry that we will damage it irreparably. The zoologist Peter Medawar wrote: “For all their intelligence and dexterity. — qualities we have always attached great importance to — the higher primates (monkeys, apes and men ) have not been very successful. Human beings have a history of more than 500,000 years. Only during the last 5000 years or thereabouts have they begun to be, in a biological sense, a success.”

Then again the more we learn about other animals the harder it is to believe that we are much smarter than some of them. Jane Goodall found that we are by no means the only tool users; Cetaceans hunt collectively; birds navigate the globe precisely in ways we do not understand while crows can solve puzzles that defeat many humans. So it doesn’t look as if we are that much smarter than some other creatures….. and yet. Then again our advance has happened so recently, and spread so quickly. That sounds more like something cultural to me than organic Evolution. What trick have we learned in the last few thousand years or so that could boost our thinking capacity by a factor of something like a million? Finding it is not merely a colossal challenge, it may be the very clue we need to establish how we actually think. Explaining that factor of a million will be the acid test for any proposal which claims to understand Common Sense Thinking (CST).

After studying how scientists appear to think I found that we almost certainly use a method based on The Detective’s Equation. Now look hard at that Equation. Doesn’t it give you an idea?

The DETECTIVE’S EQUATION and its potential implications for the Miraculous Ascent of mankind, Can you work out the secret? It’s staring us in the face. Mind you it took me months to see it. But you have got an extra clue in the format of this script.

Yes it was WRITING! With it we were suddenly able to handle 10 or more clues instead of the 2 or 3 we could when we were illiterate. And in an EXPONENTIAL process like the Detective’s Equation that can make a difference of order millions. If you don’t believe me study the following Table of Odds derived from that Equation:

THINKERNo.of Clues N Average Weight (Av.) (Av.)N DECISIVENESS ODDS
Our Cat34 64 64:1 Decisive in favour
Me 34 64 Decisive
Me & pen104 Millions Very Decisive
Me & pen101.5 60 Decisive with confused Evidence
Team & pens152 30,000 Very Decisive with confusing evidence
Team & pens 151.525,000 Ditto but more confusing
Research Community251.2 100 Decisive even with Very confused evidence
Decisiveness values for different numbers of clues with different average Weights per clue. If the Av’s were less than 1 the Odds would be equally decisive but against; for instance if N were 10 but the average weight were 1/4, the Odds would be millions to one against the hypothesis H.

Recall that [‘Principle of Animal Wisdom’ or PAW] individual Weights can only take the values 4, 2, I, 1/2 or 1/4 so their averages in a particular investigation could take any value between 4.0 and 0.25. Where the evidence is confused or conflicting that average will tend towards zero as the various clues cancel one another out. Even so, with enough clues (N), we could still come to a decisive view regarding H, whatever H might be.

So I am suggesting that the Miraculous Ascent of Humankind can be ascribed entirely to our development of writing.

To back up that suggestion note:

(a) It fits almost perfectly into the chronology. The earliest phonetic script appears on the sarcophagus of the King of Biblos, a port in Phoenicia just North of present day Beirut and dated about 1200 BC. According to Herodotus, about 800 BC Cadmus took this script to the Greeks who modified it considerably, to include vowels (previously ‘understood’) and reversed it to write left to right. About 600 AD, via Etruria, it reached the Latinas, fore-runners of the Romans; and so we were off. Previous non-phonetic scripts were probably not flexible enough for sophisticated thinking, as well as being confined to a tiny priestly cast because so many glyphs were needed, thousands instead of tens.

Phonetic scripts, Phoenician in the centre, Greek first Left, Latin second; Persian first Right, Arabic second. The great similarities suggest that phonetic script was invented only once, probably around 1500 BC somewhere near Biblos in what is now the Lebanon. Courtesy Wikpedia, in which there are many fine articles on the history of scripts and languages,

(b) To demonstrate to yourself just how vital writing is to thinking, try to do a puzzle such as a Sudoku, a Crossword or a Codeword, without writing anything down. It can’t be done. As Einstein put it: “My pen and I are smarter than I am.”

(c) Daniel Boorstin the American scholar wrote: “I write to discover what I think.” Me too.

(d) Large or complex projects are absolutely dependant on documentation. It may be a pain in the arse but it is indispensable. For instance I was a member of the Hubble Space Telescope project for 35 years. So many teams were involved, so many individuals passed in and out of each team, so many subsystems relied upon one another, so many modifications were and had to be made that, without precise and regularly updated records, the whole thing would have been impossible. For instance Wide Field Camera One was vital, and depended on its CCD detectors. But when the first batch got ruined they couldn’t be replaced because the highly skilled technician at Texas Instruments who had ‘thinned’ them had gone off to have a baby and no one could either repeat her feat or find her. Had there been relevant documentation……. Likewise the effectiveness of your treatment by the NHS will be entirely dependent on the medical records that are meant to follow you around. It’s not bureaucracy, it is the indispensable accumulation of relevant information.

(e) If writing is all that makes us so smart we can no longer suppose that we are smarter than many other illiterate animals, be they chimpanzees or pelicans [see below]. Perhaps we should leave more room for them on this planet?

(f) There are so many fascinating and sometimes profound connections between Writing and Thinking, that one could write a whole book about them: in fact I have [see Thinking for Ourselves under Category My Books]. But let me mention just one last one here. The human need for Certainty gave rise to both Deduction (Logic ) on the one hand and Dogma (religion) on the other. But with Common Sense Thinking, allied with Writing, we no longer need either because, at least in principle we could reach sufficiently high Odds for or against any hypothesis to act on it with safety.

Being short this has to be a fairly superficial post. But you can follow up the rationality for the Detective’s Equation and Weights at:

or in my aforementioned book Thinking for Ourselves (see ‘my books’ Category here). I also have a couple of essays about really smart animals who have taught me much including ‘Our Jack‘ about the young Jackdaw who shared my life for a short while at:

and ‘Browning and the Cockatoos‘ about a troop of Cockatoos which outsmarted the smartest guy in Canberra, which is at:


October 29, 2020

The world is full of bad arguments, the resentments they cause, and the messes they leave behind. I have recently discovered a far better way to argue, which I want to share.

Serious Thinking amounts to having an argument with oneself — looking at the evidence, weighting the various clues, then coming to a measured conclusion — if the combined Odds look good enough. There’s no need to become angry with oneself in the process. So why do we sometimes get angry with someone else who disagrees with us about Brexit say or Immigration?

I am a scientist who has spent the past 20 years trying to find out exactly how successful scientists think. And now I know. It turns out that they use “Categorical Inference (CI)” which I will describe shortly. The point is that if Categorical Inference is the way to think successfully it should also be the way to argue successfully , where ‘successful’ doesn’t mean ‘winning’ but arriving at the correct conclusion.

I suspect that we sometimes get angry with our opponents in a conventional argument because we imagine that they are trying to cheat us by using illegitimate tactics. That may sometimes be the the case but most often it is because we cannot see how they have arrived at their conclusions, just as they cannot see how we could possibly have arrived at ours. In other words the conventional process of argumentation is insufficiently transparent.

But that is only part of the problem. A second bone of contention is the Weighting of the different pieces of evidence (Clues). At present one side can pick a certain clue and then weight it so heavily as to claim victory, whatever the other side might have to say. That cannot be either productive, or right. Finally there has to be a sensible way of putting all the clues, with their chosen Weights, together so as to arrive at their Combined Odds one way or the other. All these things Categorical Inference does, and has been doing for millions of years, for CI is nothing more or less than Common Sense (CS) — the main survival mechanism of all us creatures on Earth. It is just that we humans have latterly allowed Culture, Religion and Baducation to overwhelm it.

Let me give one dramatic, and ultimately tragic example: ‘Ludendorff’s Lie’. General von Ludendorff was the brilliant but unstable commander of the Kaiser’s armies in the First World War. In August 1918 those armies were comprehensively defeated in front of Amiens by the combined French and British Commonwealth forces, and recoiled in irreversible retreat towards Berlin. Ludendorff panicked , rang up his prime minister and demanded that the government conclude an armistice at once, before Germany was occupied. But after the Armistice he claimed that his brave armies hadn’t been defeated at all, but had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the civil government. A lot of angry Germans, including Corporal Hitler, believed him, and so the war had to be fought all over again in 1939, with tragic consequences for everyone, including Germany.

Now the point here is that a single clue — which happened to be false — carried enough Weight to plunge an entire continent into war. But there is a lot of misleading evidence out there in the world, not all of it deliberately false. In any productive argument there has to be a mechanism for curbing its influence, and in Categorical Inference there is; I call it ‘The Principle of Animal Wisdom‘ (PAW for short). Without PAW our species would never have survived.

If I am right in suggesting that Categorical Inference is an extremely ancient mechanism which evolved many millions of years ago among our animal forbears, then it must be pretty straightforward and indeed it is. In fact it was so bloody simple that I missed it altogether until I’d finished my Thinking book and had to go back and add it in retrospectively (Appendix 9). So let us look at a short outline of CI which can be found at:

If we don’t know how to argue dispassionately, either we will hold a passionate argument — seldom fruitful — or we will avoid the argument altogether, which could be even worse. Thus finding out how to argue dispassionately was an intensely liberating experience for me. Now I am prepared to discuss tendentious matters which I would have shied away from before. Let’s look at an example.

One of my family, who was being taught history at his school in Hackney, passionately claimed that “The Brits should be utterly ashamed of their empire”. I wasn’t so sure so I decided to put the evidence together using Categorical Inference and here is what turned out: an Inference Table which you can examine here:

In this context it doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with the conclusion. But you can see there is at least a transparent procedure for carrying out an argument about such a tendentious matter. You can examine all my chosen clues, the Weights I have attached to them, and the Odds for or against, building up in the final column. The vital PAW enters in preventing me from attaching a Weight of more than 4 in favour any clue , or of less than 1/4 against.

These rules for dispassionate arguing are no more and no less than the rules for wise thinking (Common Sense) laid out in black and white. Subconsciously perhaps, great scientists have followed them because they know that in the natural world evidence frequently conflicts, whilst even the strongest appearing clues may later prove to be unsound. For instance the evidence used to dismiss Evolution, namely that the Earth was far too young, turned out, once radioactivity was discovered, to be spectacularly wrong.

If we can’t all learn to argue dispassionately, then when is mankind ever going to move on?

There is a more detailed discussion of CI at:

but if you really want to delve into thinking and arguing, along with their entangled history, then you might like to look at my book Thinking For Ourselves which is intended to be accessible to everyone . It is described elsewhere on this site under the ‘My Books’ Category,.


October 23, 2020

Common Sense is our chief survival mechanism. It has seen us through a billion years of Evolution. Without it any organism would quickly go under. Watch any wild animal, even birds in your garden. They are constantly having to weigh the Odds of Opportunity versus Risk — and when they get it wrong they die.

Making decisions wisely will dictate the course of our lives: how we make a living, who to marry, where to live, how to raise our kids…… But how do we decide? Almost entirely by using Common Sense. But how does it work? They certainly don’t teach us at school or university. You might say: “But they don’t need to, we inherit Common Sense with our genes”. True enough, but today we live in such a changed world from our hairy ancestors that to apply Common Sense Thinking (CST) to it we need to understand exactly how it works. That means we have to learn concepts such as Bayes’ Gambling Rule, Categorical Inference and the Principle of Animal Wisdom (PAW)….., as anyone over the age of 14 could.

There is no room here to explain how CST works but if we look at some few of its manifold implications that might encourage readers to dig deeper:

(1) Philosophers don’t understand serious thinking — they never have. For instance the Ancient Greeks thought it was based on Deduction which, as one can demonstrate, it cannot be.

(2) If CST is an inherited survival mechanism, and we share 98 percent of our genes with chimpanzees, how come we can launch telescopes into Space while they are still struggling to crack nuts in the jungle?

(3) It turns out that, because of an invention made about three thousand years ago near Byblos in Asia Minor, humans have multiplied their capacity to use Common Sense a million-fold .

(4) If that is so, does that mean that some other animals might be, genetically speaking, just as smart as us? Very probably yes. For instance Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have solved the Population Control Problem, which seems to be alas, entirely beyond us.

(5) All serious thinking turns out to be provisional. One’s conclusions can always be overturned by new evidence. Thus Certainty is unattainable in the real world! This has profound moral, philosophical and historical consequences. All civilisation and progress must rest on provisionality, and thus tolerance.

(6) It is possible to demonstrate, using CST, that even small amounts of dishonesty can fatally handicap any agent involved in a competitive situation, be it an individual in society, a firm in business, or a nation at war. ‘Nice guys come in last’ is complete nonsense. In the long run ‘Honest chaps will come in first’.

(7) The secret of Science’s success is not just Logic, Mathematics, Experiment or superior evidence; it is CST.

(8) Not all subjects are amenable to the scientific approach enabled by CST. For instance Economics and Psychology can never become sciences and are mostly hocus-pocus capable, like witch-doctory, of inflicting considerable harm. For instance the case for Free Trade, beloved of Economists, is , as one can show using CST, arrant nonsense. Indeed half-baked economics is the cause of much misery, including mass employment.

Those who would like to get to the bottom of Common Sense Thinking could read my paperback ‘Thinking For Ourselves’ [Amazon, 2020, 605pp, £14:50. There are exercises with answers on this site as well as stuff about the book in the ‘my books’ category] .Meanwhile there is more about the History of Thinking which you can download from:

More recently (2022) I have published a very much abridged version of the big book (600 pages) above called Common Sense Thinking, which is only 60 odd pages long and which anyone 14 or older should be able to read and understand in a matter of days (because I’ve left all the tricky bits out). See a complete description of it under the My Books Category in this blog.


October 21, 2020

Science works, so we suppose, because it is more evidence-based, more logical and more objective than other subjects. So much so that nowadays we are all urged to argue in an ‘evidence-based’ manner.

The extraordinary truth though is that nobody knows what ‘The Scientific Method’ is, or how it actually works.

Back in 1997 when my own scientific project sank into a quagmire of ‘Conflicting Evidence’ I felt that the only way to rescue it would be to track down The Scientific Method and apply it to my problem. Easier said than done. Little did I realise that I was embarked on a quest that would last 20 years and range across 25 centuries. The gurus of the business, the Philosophers of Science and the Statisticians, turned out to have little grasp of real Science and were embroiled in squabbles of their own making, having to do with the colour of angels. Indeed they’d so befuddled the subject that no proper scientist would go anywhere near it. Instead scientists carried on, as they always had done, using Common Sense. Unfortunately, from my point of view, none of them seemed willing, or able, to explain just how Common Sense Thinking worked. So I set sail to find out, starting from the suspicion that Common Sense must be a survival mechanism largely inherited from our animal forbears.

Finally (2018) I cracked it . If it seems insane, not to say downright immodest, to claim that one is the first to understand how Common Sense Thinking, and The Scientific Method (much the same), work, I entirely agree. But sometimes the truth dawns first not on the brilliant, but on the first to ask the right question — in this case “How do animals Think?”, because of course they do, otherwise they wouldn’t still be here.

Einstein averred that ; “Science is no more than a refinement of everyday thinking” but admitted “The physicist cannot proceed without a much more difficult problem (than physics), the problem of analysing the nature of everyday thinking.”

If Science stems from Common Sense, and Common Sense is born with us as a vital part of our inherited survival strategy, then why do we need to understand it? Because it must be adapted to a modern world vastly different from the ancient one in which it evolved. To think straight nowadays, and make best use of wonderful modern tools such as search engines and the Internet, we need to become thoroughly familiar with Bayes’ Rule, Ockham’s Razor, the Principle of Animal Wisdom (PAW), Gambling Theory and The Detective’s Equation — almost none of which form part of a contemporary education, even though they could all be picked up by 14-year-olds. Indeed much of modern education actively undermines our capacity to think straight.

If you are interested in thinking as well as it is possible for us humans to do you might want to look at my book Thinking for Ourselves [ Amazon paperback, 2020, 605 pages, £14.50]. The book is described in more detail elsewhere on this site while there is a short and I hope readable resume’ to be read at: