Extended Dunning-Kruger Effect and Hanlon’s Razor

Warning: At the outset I want to make something very clear … I would expect (given past experience) that with or without this warning (plus various other notes and caveats throughout this article), it is likely someone could read the following, take objection to it for some reason, and then ironically prove every point I’m making while believing they’re doing the exact opposite … and the reasons for this (as explained in detail by the article itself), can be summarised as follows:

  • People don’t pay close enough attention to the specific words and phrases used;
  • People sometimes don’t have an adequate understanding of the correct meanings of those words and phrases;
  • People often spend zero time in serious contemplation of what has been said before forming their opinion;
  • People often come into a discussion with a preformed opinion;
  • People often compare opinions with facts, neither recognising the difference, nor caring to learn;
  • People often invalidate their position due to reacting emotionally, and/or;
  • People often assume emotion immediately invalidates something;
  • People often connect too many additional conclusions to known facts;
  • People often mistake the fact as evidence for the conclusion;
  • … and so on …

So if you find yourself disagreeing with something I’ve written, consider for a minute that you might not be properly reading or considering what I’m actually saying, because I’m pretty damn sure that I haven’t actually stated anything to be an absolute fact versus merely a probability, without a pretty damn good reason.

People also have a tendency of mistaking absolute truth and probability, with the relative merit of statements made against a baseline of unstated and unsubstantiated assumptions and personal values … oftentimes without even realising they’re doing it, which is kind of the point of the article.

So … Following a recent online post and reply by another person reminding me of the Dunning-Kruger Effect (which I hadn’t looked at for many years), I went to Wikipedia (as you do) to read up about it again, and ran into a related concept called “Hanlon’s Razor” which I hadn’t seen before.

I thought I would use these as the basis for an article to extend these ideas a bit further.

So for those unfamiliar, here’s a quick summary and links for you to follow up if you want to read more:

The Dunning-Kruger Effect:

  • “The incompetent are unqualified to assess their own incompetence”;
  • Wiki page.

Hanlon’s Razor:

  • “Never attribute malice where stupidity will suffice”;
  • Wiki page.

Now, there are many other similar and related concepts, but what I want to do is extend this all into a slightly new direction, being the cognitive dissonance of the “well educated” … because even the wisest, most intelligent & best educated of us can believe profoundly stupid things at times.


Earlier today I mentioned in an online post about this general topic, 3 instances of the cognitive dissonance of the well educated, particularly in relation to the academic community.

Topic 1 – the subtle difference in definition of words:

This particular point relates to 2 of these cases, but if I were to sit down and think about it, I’m sure I’d find dozens of examples, as its perhaps one of the most (if not the most) common causes of misunderstanding in the world today.

The first example I want to raise is where in a lecture on genetics, the lecturer and her post grad research assistant both made the same mistake, and only 1 person other than myself (also a mature age student) recognised the mistake. The mistake was using the word “carcinogen” in place of the word “mutagen”.

Now, for those who don’t know, here’s a brief definition:

  • A mutagen is a generic classification (super class) encompassing all forms of influence, which can have an effect of causing mutation of genetic material … such that even a behaviour which increased the probability of a mutation occurring indirectly via that behaviour exposing an organism to another directly mutagenic influence, could arguably be classified as a potentially mutagenic behaviour;
  • A carcinogen is by contrast a specialised sub-classification of mutagen, which specifically causes a cancerous form of mutation, ie – if it doesn’t cause cancer, it is a mutagen but not a carcinogen … ie – all carcinogens are mutagens, but not all mutagens are carcinogens.


So there’s an important principle here across the entirety of languages, being that: for many concepts we will have a most generic word which describes everything fitting that generic concept, and; we will also have subclassifications of each generic concept, with more specialised words extending (but restricting) the meaning of the most generic parent word.

In this particular case here’s what actually happened:

  • We were learning about how genes could be uploaded to bacterium in order to synthesise proteins for us;
  • There was an experiment critical to the development of this capability, in which (amongst other things discussed) various chemicals were used to determine the uptake of the gene in a bacterial culture;
  • So the the point being that the technology works, BUT the following mistaken usage of words occurred;
  • It was said of this experiment, that the chemicals used had a certain effect, and this showed they were carcinogenic;
  • The reality is that it didn’t show that at all, it showed ONLY they were mutagenic AND EVEN THEN it only necessarily proved they were mutagenic to some circumstances but not necessarily others, hence potentially mutagenic, not definitely & universally mutagenic, and definitely not universally carcinogenic;
  • It was then argued, since some classifications of such chemicals were naturally present in various fruits and vegetables, therefore a GMO with this chemistry removed or reduced was healthier than organically grown produce of the same species.

So do you see what they did here? They used the incorrect word to argue (or at least imply) that healthy food would cause cancer, which of course is a load of absolute fucking nonsense … and they also ignored entirely how such chemical properties may in fact be quite beneficial to the balance of the biome of the gut, which would actually mean the very same science they were quoting, had actually proven the opposite of what they claimed it to prove.

So why!?! Why would they argue such an insane case? Simple … the university in question has a glycomics institute, they’re thus influenced by a conflict of interests … and I wouldn’t mind betting also, by some very clever and intentional spin inserted by the vested interests of the commercial organisations of the chemical and GMO industries.

Now, we can even go further to disprove their case by showing how:

  1. There’s a vast difference in organic certification standards (not to mention marketing loopholes in the commercial usage of the term “organic” and the phrase “certified organic”), such that people with a cognitive bias or vested interest in undermining the move to organics can easily argue all sorts of nonsense by simply ignoring these differences, and by cherry picking the version which suits their case (as if it were the only truth);
  2. Studies of the nutritional content of foods has shown that GMO crops ONLY out-produce (crop yield) and out-nourish (nutritional density) versus the best in organics and biodynamics in a handful of again cherry picked circumstances, where the thermodynamic (energy / emergy) investment in the GMO crop is so insanely high, that it isn’t worth the occasional payoff that might occur … furthermore, this benefit is almost never achieved in low energy traditional farming practices, also any nutritional gain is not across the board but solely in one or two nutritional factors (ignoring all the rest), such modifications of plant biochemistry completely ignore their evolutionary reasons for doing it differently in the first place, most notably ignoring any symbiosis with other species in their ecosystems … meanwhile the best organic / biodynamic practices can achieve almost universally comparable or better yields, and almost universally greater nutrient density in foods, plus far better ecological and social outcomes, but without the thermodynamic intensity (and other ecological and social damage) caused by massive scale monoculture agribusiness.

So the reality is, there is one and only one argument for GMO crops: profit and control for corporate interests.

Anyone who claims differently is lying or at best self deceived … but getting back to the point, it all just shows you how a single subtle difference in the meaning of words can be used to trick otherwise intelligent and well educated people.

Case Two: Another case I’ll just quickly mention before I move on, is how in a subject on Environmental Sustainability (day one lecture one), our lecturer basically said the following (paraphrased):

“I got into sustainability because I felt bad about all the things I had done while involved with the chemical industry”

(To which I thought, good for you mate). He then went on to say:

“… and for the duration of this course, we’ll be using the United Nations definition of sustainability”

(Which he then put up on the overhead projector) … which went something like this:

“Sustainability is what we choose to save because of human values”

(ie – if we don’t care, and something goes extinct, then it’s not an issue, because we didn’t value it)

I kid you not, that’s how fucked up and delusional the UN / IMF is on the subject of sustainability … so is it any wonder we are still fucking things up at an ever accelerating pace?

This delusional definition is the consequence of an business/economics/management agenda & belief paradigm, ie – the people whom are teaching in these fields are commenting on that which they know little or nothing about, and thus an example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The business world has basically asked for and gotten a definition of sustainability, which absolves them and their precious system of any responsibility, allowing the continuance of the status quo, and the usage of the word “sustainability” in a marketing context with little or no relevance to any scientific or logical reality.

The same thing happens where other words are given a meaningless marketing context, but which people take to be the reality, such as “healthy”, “ethical” and “innovative” (amongst a great many others).

Topic 2 – the conclusions versus the results:

Taking the above example about gene splicing, and I am sure you can probably think of your own examples of this … Having come up with a technology that “works”, many people make the mistake of concluding that because it works and it is based on science, therefore no possible statement associated with it could be wrong … NOW, they might not realise this is what they’re doing (that’s entirely possible), but what is at issue is not whether they’re aware of their mistake, simply whether or not they’re making it and what the consequences of the mistake are.

So using our example, think about it like this:

  • Did a man invent an experiment which allowed us to successfully synthesise proteins by splicing genes into bacterial cultures? YES (roughly something like that, the precise details aren’t important)
  • Did this man use chemicals which had a mutagenic effect? YES
  • So does the science work? YES
  • Ignoring completely the incorrect usage of carcinogenic instead of mutagenic by my lecturers, would anyone otherwise have any other unbiased reason for validly concluding that GMO foods are healthier than organics? NO
  • Is there evidence to the contrary? Fucking tons of it.

One fact (incorrectly used or not) doesn’t necessarily equate to all other conclusions drawn also being true.

Another similar example:

  • Do some GMOs have higher levels of vitamin A than another non-GMO (naturally occurring) variety? YES
  • Does this mean we need them? NO …
  • Why not? There are plenty of other non-GMO species of things with equal or greater levels of vitamin A, as they’ve effectively cherry picked a crop which isn’t normally considered a natural source of vitamin A in the first place, in order to show a dramatic increase in this one nutrient from a particularly low baseline, thus to “prove” the importance of the crop, when you could have more easily just chosen a different crop in the first place with a naturally high level of vitamin A, and chosen agricultural practices that don’t require all the big machinery etc. … ie – they cherry pick the problem, the circumstances, and the solution to justify a case for something with a much better existing solution; so their vested interests can achieve a financial reward while pretending to solve a human problem.

Topic 3 – the argument versus the solution:

For the 3rd case, I want to raise a discussion I had over coffee with a senior lecturer from the chemistry department (in fact I think he was basically in charge of all chemistry labs on campus), and a mature age student / lab assistant who was also a lecturer, as well as a PhD candidate in biology.

Now in this conversation, we were discussing the vaccines debate, and I basically blew them both away by presenting an alternative 3 scenario which summarised and resolved the differences between both sides of the debate, and to the satisfaction of both, such that the PhD candidate even said:

“I honestly never thought anyone would change my view on this topic, but you just did”

… but don’t make up your mind until you’ve read the whole thing and all the following notes, it was a long discussion amongst related topics, so I’m summarising this as best I can a couple of years after the fact.

There’s a caveat at the very end before the conclusion of the article just to emphasize this further.

What I said was something like this:

  • If we ignore for a minute the very suspicious nature of enforced vaccinations;
  • If we ignore also the vitriolic debate in which the label “anti-vaxer” is applied with the connotation “scientifically illiterate tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist”;
  • We still have a problem … as follows:
  • The human immune system is strengthened in various ways, including environment, diet and lifestyle;
  • The pro-vaccinate side almost (if not completely) ignores this, and pretends in its arguments that it is impossible for a person to defend themselves from viruses without vaccination;
  • The principle of vaccination (put simply) is a good one, whereby a dead or inactivated virus is introduced, and thus teaches the immune system to deal with it without the same risk factors … however;
  • The reality is the human body encounters viruses all the time, just as it does with bacterium;
  • For all we know we actually need this interaction (at least in some cases) even considering those risks;
  • We naturally encounter dead / inactivated viruses from time to time, even without vaccines;
  • The purpose of the vaccination is simply to ensure certainty (rather than mere possibility) of exposure to a dead / inactivated virus prior to a live one, thus (on average) reducing the probability of more harmful consequences;
  • However: if we are properly nourished, and in a healthy environment, our own immune system is by far the best defence, with the greatest possible reduction of probability of harmful consequences … in fact (in ideal circumstances) it is entirely possible this could never be exceeded by any possible vaccination technology;
  • Which is not to say vaccines serve no purpose, but it’s a little rich to argue they’re a must;
  • EITHER WAY: the general principle of vaccines is corrupted (just like everything else) by commercial interests, as we are told we absolutely need these things more than we really do (to support their profit margins), and thus such things are stockpiled at immense cost, much of which can end up completely wasted;
  • MAKING MATTERS WORSE: the company who manufactures these things is also concerned with non-therapeutic / non-medicinal factors which exist exclusively for economic reasons, and which can have an impact on the method of manufacture and the ingredients, for example the concern about shelf life, whereby chemicals may be added to increase shelf life, but which may have an otherwise detrimental impact on quality or add some other health risk;
  • ALSO: in a world that is considered by so many to be “overpopulated”, a poor person (or one without the education &/or information to know otherwise), and who considers it a suspicious possibility that people might be trying to chemically castrate their children via enforced vaccination, is not a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, they are a parent whom is validly concerned about what evil people might do to their children given the opportunity … to say otherwise is to be very naive about the reality of discussions that have gone on for decades about population control measures, and the cultural & class warfare that continues to this date across almost every nation on the globe;
  • THEREFORE: with all these factors at play, people are naturally suspicious when they are being forced to vaccinate their children, and when the arguments used to justify that mandate are in complete disregard to any reason and logic to the contrary, but instead of actually answering the points against, the pro side of the debate simply conducts ad-hominem attacks, yells “straw man”, cherry picks which arguments they actually respond to, and finishes with a statement around as meaningful and convincing as “trust me”;
    • Make an open source database of all intellectual property on vaccinations;
    • Offer a publicly funded financial reward for anyone whom can improve or add to this database;
    • Equip all private and public laboratories with the equipment & other resources required for manufacture;
    • So IF an outbreak occurs, rather than centralised manufacture and stockpiling in advance, you can have local supply on demand wherever you are, and anyone with the knowledge can assess the methods etc for themselves without needing to trust the intentions and vested interests of others.

Now IF you’re one of the people who says to all this: “you’re putting my child at risk by not vaccinating your child”, here is your entire argument comprehensively debunked:

  • Your claim is basically this (at best): the vaccination sometimes doesn’t “take”, so my child may still be at risk, therefore all children should be forcibly vaccinated to remove the risk;
  • However, here’s where that falls down:

    • EVEN IF the vaccine did “take”, the child is still at risk if their immune system is compromised;
    • IF the vaccine didn’t “take”, they’re still at risk from those for whom it did take, but are nonetheless carriers, AND at risk from those for whom it didn’t “take” but already had a natural immunity and are carriers;
    • ALSO IF the vaccine didn’t “take”, they’re still at risk from other viral vectors;
    • ALSO IF the vaccine didn’t “take”, you have no evidence this failure of the vaccine is actually for any reason other than their immune system having already been compromised;
    • There’s actually no evidence to conclude that vaccines are the sole cause of reduction of viral disease … I don’t doubt they’ve played a major role, but remember also that it was only a few hundred years ago we had the industrial revolution and developed modern agriculture which made food more plentiful … in which time we’ve destroyed a lot of the world’s soils, thus reducing nutritional density, developed fast / processed foods with very poor nutritional density, polluted every aspect of our environment, massively increased psychological / psychosocial stress for many people … and so the cessation of intergenerational malnourishment (from for example such events as the famines people used to experience prior to modern agriculture), may have come into play alongside vaccines in strengthening immune systems, which is now being undermined by fast / processed foods, destruction of ecosystems and soil quality, pollution, stress etc. … all of which leads to something we know makes us vulnerable, which is a weakened immune system … and to conclude that diseases have returned due to lack of vaccination alone is probably only partially true;
    • So in the modern world, there is so much junk food and otherwise nutritionally poor quality food, and even intergenerationally passed on malnourishment amongst those whom are otherwise well fed (calorie rich but nutrient poor foods) … all of which can compromise human immune systems (ie – the diabetes and cardiovascular disease epidemics);
    • Additionally we have so much incidence of heavy metal poisoning, chemical poisoning, and various other factors undermining human health, that to conclude the only solution is enforced vaccination instead of changing the utterly irresponsible causes of all this insanity, is just plain wrong;
    • All we really need to do is to regulate food production to make it healthier and remove various othe stressors which leave people with compromised immune systems, clean up our environment, make the open source vaccine database to remove perfectly rational fears based on the disingenuous draconian nature of enforced vaccination, and respect people’s right to go to the extra effort of supporting their immune systems at the exclusion of vaccines if they so choose, instead of saying somehow they are responsible for the laziness of someone else who cannot be bothered, and when enforced vaccination wouldn’t remove the risk anyway.


  • Vaccination is a great technology
  • It is however corrupted by vested interests like everything else;
  • Draconian measures to enforce vaccination do not remove all risk (nor even necessarily any significant risk at all);
  • Enforced vaccination is also morally reprehensible;
  • The best possible measure is supporting your immune system;
  • Either way, the debate can be ended by open sourcing all vaccination data, and enabling everyone to develop their own vaccines which they can therefore be assured are not a Trojan Horse for any agenda (paranoid or otherwise).

PLEASE NOTE: (caveat) I’m not saying I’m for NOR against vaccination, BUT I am definitely against compulsory vaccination based on the evidence and reason I’ve seen so far, which I find to be a bit of a stretch and likely very disingenuous. I’m quite happy to agree the scientific concept of vaccination is valid, while disagreeing the execution is high quality, and doubting the intentions of mandatory vaccination are anything but highly suspicious … such a varied position is entirely compatible, and not even slightly contradictory.


Whether by definitions of words, drawing conclusions that go beyond what the results actually show, or by proposing solutions which assume correctness of application … the otherwise well educated and intelligent can suffer from this extended version of the cognitive bias of the ignorant and unqualified. We also know that whether or not malice is intended, stupidity is nonetheless likely (Hanlon’s Razor) even amongst the otherwise intelligent … so perhaps we could extend the razor to state (let’s call this the extended Hanlon-Rose Razor):

Feel free to consider malice, because arguably a lot of people are cunts, but consider first that stupidity, gullibility, arrogance and pure laziness probably have a lot to do with it too.

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