They Really DO Change Our Lives…

I often tell people that Stanford alumni change our lives on a regular basis. I came across an unexpected angle on that today…

Stanford alumnus Tiger Woods is perhaps the best known (and loved) athlete in the world today. He’s also a key figure in clothing trends!

When Tiger Woods wakes up this morning, he will not have to think twice about his outfit. It was picked out for him a year and a half ago, just like the clothes he will be wearing Friday through Sunday at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields.

It is all part of the marketing strategy for Nike Golf, which scripts Woods’ clothes for the majors and then ships the merchandise to stores around the country a couple weeks after each major. Woods’ popularity and the television exposure generated by the tournaments combine to increase sales of the selected items.

‘I was just inundated with phone calls after he wore [a short-sleeved mock turtleneck],” said Lynda Reis, the apparel buyer for Chicago Tennis and Golf. ”I could not believe the response. There have not been too many things I’ve had so many phone calls about. And the men will come in and say, ‘I don’t know if I’d wear it playing golf, but it looks so cool on him.”’

That’s not exactly what I had in mind when I told people about the influence of Stanford’s alumni, but it does illustrate the point in a bizarre sort of way. Tiger–a role model to us all.

Read about Tiger’s stylistic influence.

Intelligence vs Integrity

Andrew found an interesting article called Too Smart To Be Dumb.

Here’s an excerpt:

Reading [the relevance of intelligence] in a book review the other day reminded me (for reasons you’ll soon understand) of a car accident my wife and daughter were lucky to walk away from three years ago. A 16-year-old driving a new Lincoln coupe hit them at 70 mph–twice the speed limit–after careening off a hillside. Later that night the kid’s mother told me how shocked she was by the witness reports of his reckless driving. “But he got 1550 on his SAT,” she cried.

“What do you do for a living?” I asked.

It was no surprise to hear that she’s a college professor.

Like millions of intellectual elites and wannabes, this woman presumes an inherent connection between intelligence and goodness, and between intelligence and wisdom, as though there exists some objective domain of ethicality to which Mensa members are automatically admitted.

The article is primarily a political one, but it’s got a recurring theme that I found quite interesting: smart doesn’t imply moral. Read the article.

I Was Predestined To Believe In Free Will

Questions about free will ever keep you up at night? I just read a great rambling roundtable of an essay called Faith and The Science of Free Will.

It’s a response to an essay by John Horgan in the New York Times, which reads in part: A couple of books I’ve been reading lately have left me brooding over the possibility that free will is as much a myth as divine justice. The chief offender is The Illusion of Conscious Will, by Dr. Daniel M. Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard.… We think of will as a force, but actually, Dr. Wegner says, it is a feeling“merely a feeling,” as he puts itof control over our actions. I think, “I’m going to get up now,” and when I do a moment later, I credit that feeling with having been the instigating cause. But as we all know, correlation does not equal causation.

The exchanges (several people comment) are insightful, such as this one: My response to this is based on The Volitional Brain: Towards a Neuroscience of Free Will, edited by Benjamin Libet (Imprint Academic, 2000). As I understand it, Libet was actually one of the scientists involved in the experiments that Dr. Wegner refers to. The fact that Libet’s position is nowhere mentioned makes me very suspicious of Wegner’s agenda.

The conscious will appears to be initiated by an unconscious brain event. If the experiment is correct, then this calls into question free will. But Libet says the conscious will can veto these subconscious decisions (see page 51 of The Volitional Brain). The conscious veto may itself have a preceding unconscious process. But this would become an unconscious choice of which we become conscious rather than a consciously causal event (52). The conscious veto is a control function, not just simply becoming aware of a wish to act. The role of conscious free will would be, then, not to initiate a voluntary act, but rather to control whether the act takes place. The ethical implications of this are actually consistent with most ethical and religious systems. Most of the Ten Commandments are thou-shall-not commandments (54). The experiments cited by Wegner give us no indication that actions cannot be consciously controlled.

Pretty cool stuff. You can read an expanded version of the essay here.