Who am I and why should you bother reading this?
I am Thomas Harper, scientist and aspiring author and Youtube science educator. This blog is where I post thoughts and ideas on various subjects of interest to me. It is also a way to promote my books, as well as books by other authors when, in my infinite wisdom, I deem them acceptable. Feel free to disagree with me on anything I write, but try to keep things civil.
As far as philosophy and politics, I am an autodidact. For science, at least as far as chemistry and biochemistry, I have an actual degree (Masters), research experience, and articles published.
As a scientist, my undergraduate research at Grand Valley State University was on beta-lactamase enzymes, which are the enzymes that antibacterial resistant pathogens use to breakdown beta-lactam (penicillin-like) antibiotics. I used steady state kinetics assays and x-ray crystallography to study a new strain of beta-lactamase dubbed OXA-239. My graduate research was using cryo-electron microscopy to study the structure of the CDK8 module of the Mediator complex, which is involved in cell signaling and mRNA transcription. You can view my research publications here.
Politically I am closest to classical liberalism, though I am nihilistic and pessimistic about all political and economic systems. Thus, true to the “cynical” part of Cynical Philosopher I am critical of everything: capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism, democracy, oligarchy, authoritarianism, and anything else humans have attempted. For more on this, see my posts “Why I Voted Third Party” and “Why I Am No Longer a Libertarian.”
As an author (and when I get around to reading fiction) I tend towards science fiction and fantasy, usually with a darker bent. I am not a fast (or even particularly focused) writer, but what I have currently planned is my five-part Incarnate series (Book 3 of my Incarnate series, “Incarnate: Schism” is out now). I have a couple of standalone novels that take place in the same universe as the Incarnate series (one is still in the planning stages, the other I have a few chapters written). I have completed a standalone novel, which is about the last remnants of humans on a spaceship nearing the end of a 30,000 year long journey, with which I am querying literary agents and independent publishers (several have turned it down so far). I have another standalone about alien contact that is all planned out and has a few chapters written (I’m thinking of using it to query agents since I am not having luck with my spaceship novel). I have a fantasy series I am working on (first draft of book one is 3/4 complete; it will most likely be a trilogy) that takes place in a World War 1 like setting. You can see the synopses of my Incarnate series here.
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Other places you can find me (from time-to-time), since by now I’m sure you are just ravenous for the thoughts of such a towering intellect like myself, are:
BookLife (Publishers Weekly):
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More about me, for those who are interested.
My personality according to the Big Five:
The Big Five personality traits tend to be taken the most seriously by psychologists, since it appears to translate across cultures. Other personality traits (such as those in the MBTI; see below) tend to have less support from the psychological sciences community.
Here is a breakdown of the five traits as given by the Wikipedia article:
Openness, sometimes called openness to experience, is described by Wikipedia as “…a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, open to emotion, sensitive to beauty and willing to try new things. They tend to be, when compared to closed people, more creative and more aware of their feelings. They are also more likely to hold unconventional beliefs. High openness can be perceived as unpredictability or lack of focus, and more likely to engage in risky behavior or drug-taking. Moreover, individuals with high openness are said to pursue self-actualization specifically by seeking out intense, euphoric experiences. Conversely, those with low openness seek to gain fulfillment through perseverance and are characterized as pragmatic and data-driven – sometimes even perceived to be dogmatic and closed-minded.”
Conscientiousness is described by Wikipedia as “…a tendency to display self-discipline, act dutifully, and strive for achievement against measures or outside expectations. It is related to the way in which people control, regulate, and direct their impulses. High conscientiousness is often perceived as being stubborn and focused. Low conscientiousness is associated with flexibility and spontaneity, but can also appear as sloppiness and lack of reliability. High scores on conscientiousness indicate a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behavior.”
Extraversion vs. Introversion I think most people are familiar with, so I won’t copy-paste the Wikipedia description here.
Agreeableness is described by Wikipedia as “…reflects individual differences in general concern for social harmony. Agreeable individuals value getting along with others. They are generally considerate, kind, generous, trusting and trustworthy, helpful, and willing to compromise their interests with others. Agreeable people also have an optimistic view of human nature. Disagreeable individuals place self-interest above getting along with others. They are generally unconcerned with others’ well-being and are less likely to extend themselves for other people. Sometimes their skepticism about others’ motives causes them to be suspicious, unfriendly, and uncooperative. Low agreeableness personalities are often competitive or challenging people, which can be seen as argumentative or untrustworthy.”
Neuroticism is described by Wikipedia as “…the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression. It is sometimes called emotional instability, or is reversed and referred to as emotional stability. … Those who score high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive and vulnerable to stress. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening. They can perceive minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They also tend to be flippant in the way they express emotions. Their negative emotional reactions tend to persist for unusually long periods of time, which means they are often in a bad mood.”
My Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) type:
I am an INTP: introverted, intuitive, thinking, prospecting. The MBTI is fun, but I think it has serious flaws and so I don’t tend to take it all that seriously.
My position on the 2-axis political compass:
I have always scored on the libertarian side of the Libertarian/Authoritarian axis, but when I’ve taken this test in the past, I have wavered between left and right as my political views evolve.
My Moral Foundations score:
Mostly what I would expect, but I would have thought my equality score might be higher (though if we look at the percentiles, it apparently isn’t as low as the graphic would suggest). It would be nice if the graphic displayed the shape of the curve in order to see what the variance looks like and if they are skewed in one direction or another. For instance, the graphic shows my care/harm score as being slightly above average, but I’m put in the 41st percentile, which doesn’t make sense unless the average refers to the mean while the percentile is calculated from the median (or vice versa), but this is not indicated anywhere.
Moral Foundations is described thusly:
Moral Foundations Theory was created by a group of social and cultural psychologists (see us here) to understand why morality varies so much across cultures yet still shows so many similarities and recurrent themes. In brief, the theory proposes that several innate and universally available psychological systems are the foundations of “intuitive ethics.” Each culture then constructs virtues, narratives, and institutions on top of these foundations, thereby creating the unique moralities we see around the world, and conflicting within nations too. The five foundations for which we think the evidence is best are:
1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, we emphasize proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
4) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).
The division between liberals (in the American sense of left-leaning) and conservatives on these moral foundations is:
The above graphic doesn’t include proportionality, but as the quoted description above says: “proportionality … is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives” and seems to be one’s attitude toward meritocracy. I score high on care/harm and proportionality (though not particularly high on either) and quite low on everything else, which makes sense in a way, since I don’t tend to fit any of the liberal-conservative dichotomy in the U.S. My extremely low score on purity (or sanctity/degradation) also doesn’t surprise me given my propensity for nihilism.
My Social Dominance Orientation score:
Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) is one’s propensity to prefer authority, order, and hierarchy, in particular with one’s self in positions of authority at the top of the hierarchy. I score particularly low, which I think is also reflected in my libertarian political orientation from the Political Compass test and my low score on authority/subversion and loyalty/betrayal on my Moral Foundations test.
iresearchnet describes it thusly:
Social dominance orientation (SDO) is a measure of an individual’s support for group-based hierarchies. It reflects a person’s attitudes toward hierarchies in general, as well as beliefs about whether one’s own group should dominate other groups. People with high SDO believe that society should be structured in terms of inequality, with some groups at the top (i.e., possessing more power and resources) and others at the bottom. People with low SDO, in contrast, believe that society should be structured in terms of equality, with no single group dominating others.
And Wikipedia says:
Social dominance orientation (SDO) is a personality trait measuring an individual’s support for social hierarchy and the extent to which they desire their in-group be superior to out-groups. SDO is conceptualized under social dominance theory as a measure of individual differences in levels of group-based discrimination; that is, it is a measure of an individual’s preference for hierarchy within any social system and the domination over lower-status groups. It is a predisposition toward anti-egalitarianism within and between groups.