Are you sure your causal arrow points the right way? What if it is not so much that creatives turn to cheating but cheats get creative?

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Michael, I agree with you that most of what passes for science these days is not done by hyper-rational individuals. I don't dispute that a lot of what it takes to be “successful” as a scientist these days requires treating science as a business and like any business providing what ever it is that the customer wants. That can mean lying to get funding, and sucking up to the “leaders” of the field and following the fashionable hype to get funding and get stuff published, and whoring your integrity for money (no disrespect to waged sex workers). People doing that should not fool themselves that they are doing science.

I agree that people who are poor at lying don't do as well at getting funding as people who are better at lying. People who are good at lying also are not as good at doing science because they also are good at fooling themselves. This is a problem with how science funding is determined. Those who want to do good science should look to what Feynman said:

The most important principle is to not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

The only way to have real success in science, the field I’m familiar with, is to describe the evidence very carefully without regard to the way you feel it should be. If you have a theory, you must try to explain what’s good and what’s bad about it equally. In science, you learn a kind of standard integrity and honesty.

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

The "paradox" is only a conflict between reality and your feeling of what reality "ought to be."But if you don't care about doing good science and only care about doing science as business, then it will be just like every other business. That is what “tobacco industry science” was, and what “AGW denialism science” is. It is propaganda trying to masquerade as science.

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After working at an aerospace non profit for half a decade, I'm now a fan of incremental creativity for complex projects. I guess that would be a sort of "near mode" creativity. The idea is that you think out some long term goals and then figure out a way to work towards those goals. The creativity is in trying different paths to see what works and figuring out ways to "pay your way" to the final goal.

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Define "cheat". If I don't believe in your morality, then my action is not cheating.

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Science is not particularly more tied to "theory of reality" than are most other businesses. Science requires a bunch of resources, including access to other brilliant scientists. In this sense it is like business. You get those resources by succeeding socially and politically. The system is not particularly corrupt, so a significant factor in your success is the amount of apparently honest high quality science you actually do. But this is far from the only thing that matters. I am significantly more successful than some people with more raw science power than me because I am willing to play the social game, asskiss people who can help me, help others strategically and set myself up as apparently very helpful, like that. This keeps me in jobs which means it keeps me in resources and in contact with the other brilliant minds.

Further, championing a hypothesis before it is proved is a form of lying. "I know if you give me this grant I will be the one who sorts out the two photon flogiston effect because my theory of it is the right one." It is not lying in the sense that we all in some real sense believe our own hypotheses. But contrary to some rationalist wet dream, science is not done by highly rational unemotional minds who know that a negative result is as valuable as a positive one. It is done by people who are passionately involved at multiple levels, including jostling elbows, back stabbing, and shmoozing to acquire scarce resources.

If there is an area of modern life where theory of mind is irrelevant, it certainly involves some pursuit that you do by yourself involving a not particularly impressive pile of resources. Maybe video gaming, but not the Multi Player ones? Maybe reading, but not writing. Without theory of mind creativity, there is no communication with the other minds.

Even you write a blog and comments to posts and want your ideas read and considered and (presumably) respodned to. You can't escape the human interaction if you want to use resources including the minds of others.

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Nothing ignorant about the term denialist. Sorry if it hit a nerve. There is a new book out that discusses it in the context of AGW denialism.

The Inquisition of Climate Science

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Nonsense. Also, use of ignorant, base-stealing words like "denialists" is nothing more here than a blatantly pathetic attempt to build up your own self-image as some righteous crusader.

Your quick resort to absolutist thinking and emotionally-charged attack language is pretty funny considering the nature of a site like OvercomingBias.

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That is not always correct. It is specific to what the person is creative in.

People who are more creative using their “theory of mind” that is in language, literary, social and political realms may also cheat more because cheating in those realms can be advantageous.

People who are creative using their “theory of reality” gain nothing from “cheating”, because “cheating” interferes with the accurate perception of reality that is necessary to do good science and to invent and engineer products that actually work.


This is why people who are good liars are not good scientists. They have a hard time living in the reality based community.

Good scientists may “cheat” by breaking social conventions and not obeying the “leaders” of the field the way that social convention requires. But when the Emperor has no clothes, who is going to point that out?

The problem is that good liars (i.e. people with a good “theory of mind”, and the ability and will to lie and cheat) are not good at perceiving reality. They are too good at lying to themselves, in pretending to themselves that reality is actually what they wish it was and not what it actually is. They can't handle reality, and so they don't.

Unfortunately, reality doesn't care what reality deniers think, and AGW is going to really hammer the human race unless the denialists can be bypassed.

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That people who are more creative cheat more than people who are less creative makes eminent sense in terms of evolutionary psychology. The brain and communication don't exist to find the truth and to communicate it to others. They exist to help the individual survive, to enhance his stature in the group, and to get him laid. Being creative, being able to imagine a bunch of possible hypothetical futures and work through some of the issues and implications of them, what use is it?

People who are more creative lie and cheat more because they are better at it.

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Thanks to this post, I have a newfound appreciation for the term "creative accounting."

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