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Tangentially Speaking

418 – WMTBG? “What You Can’t Say,” by Paul Graham

A reading and discussion of “What You Can’t Say,” a very powerful essay by Paul Graham, that shows the importance of tolerating thoughts and statements that may be “offensive,” “inappropriate,” and/or “heretical.” More importantly, Graham shows how to find wisdom in our taboos and prohibited speech and thoughts.

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Music: “Brightside of the Sun,” by Basin and Range; “Bill Lee,” by Warren Zevon.


  • Fernando Castro says:

    Holy Shit Batman, that was a good podcast. thank you Dr. Ryan

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  • Tory Jackson says:

    That was awesome man ! So much psychic nourishment to be had !

  • As a (semi)professional weirdo, I take issue with Paul Graham’s assertion that people in the ‘hard’ sciences (e.g. Physics, Biology, etc) are taught to be rebels and question the assumptions of their peers and predecessors –or at least, that they are more questioning than their colleagues in the human sciences. Two thorny topics highlight how that’s not the case at all: The UFO phenomenon and the ‘hard’ problem of human consciousness.

    Here is a very interesting video of famous physicist Richard Feynman which serves as a cautionary tale for not shooting down revolutionary new ideas in science, just because they haven’t been sufficiently developed or are not able to yet yield as accurate results as older, more traditional models. He puts the example of two Mayan priests, who were incredibly proficient astronomers using a particular method of keeping track of celestial bodies in the sky and using elaborate mathematical methods to predict their trajectory. Suppose the younger priest told the older one, “hey maybe those orbs in the sky are balls circling around the sun and our own world is following a similar trajectory!”, but then the older priest asks “how good is your idea for predicting eclipses?” and the young priest would have to sheepishly reply he hadn’t thought this model long enough for that. To which the old priest would then conclude that this new model was completely useless, seeing how their old ways off keeping track of the planets already allowed them to predict the eclipses and the rainy seasons, which is all Astronomy was ever needed for, right?

    I think about this video a lot whenever I hear skeptics like Neal DeGrasse Tyson demand UFO advocates to *fully explain* the origin and nature of these objects. That’s like asking an oncologist to fully explain how a patient developed cancer.

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