Saturday, July 19, 2008

... Or are we?

     One movie I rather liked was "Interstate 60." If you can find it, you should watch it. Here's one part I really liked.
     "Just remember, no matter how hot <stuff> you think you are, it's always going to be more of the same -- just another high school."
     "High school?"
     "<Heck> yeah! Ev'rthin' in life is high school! They just change the names. Take this place. Instead of a principal, you got a boss. Instead of teachers, supervisers. Instead of assignments, they give us work orders. And... if you <mess> up those work orders, you get fired, instead of expelled. Yep, the names are different. But it is the exact same <stuff>. High school!"
     Well, uncritical acceptance, hasn't really changed much either. Instead of preachers, we have scientists. Instead of scriptures, we have journals. And if you question those journals, you get labeled a nutcase, intead of a servant of Satan. Most people have never seen quarks. But we're supposed to believe in them. The scientists said that they're there. For the most part, people can't have come to the conclusion that these things are correct through critical examination. Only the people who work with it directly can possibly come to it as a conclusion. Everyone else is expected to accept it uncritically.
     While I currently see a lot of lip-service paid to skepticism, I also see that it is not appreciated when applied to certain ideas.


Clostridiophile said...

Yeah, yeah. I have figured out how to explain this, something that I understand intuitively, but have been unable to figure out how to explain the problem with your argument, until now:

Sye TenB said...

Don't look now, but pvblivs is starting to sound a little like a presuppositionalist, he just comes to the wrong conclusions. :-)

get_education said...


While I currently see a lot of lip-service paid to skepticism, I also see that it is not appreciated when applied to certain ideas.

Well, I see the big problem here pvblivs. In my case, I do look at those things I do not work directly with, with lots of skepticism, and those I do work with, with ... lots of skepticism. The big difference is that I have to trust the other community to do their best to come to the right conclusions, while I try to work out whether those I work with are true or not. But nobody is expecting you to completely believe anything. They just expect that if you are going to completely disregard what the scientists have found, well, you should have a very good basis for it.

This is different to religion in the sense that in religion the whole paraphernalia is just there, you know there is nothing to sustain it, just "faith." So, yep, the scientists ask you for "faith," but a different kind of faith. Nobody will say you are lunatic if you state that maybe the big bang never happened. They might say you know very little about it to criticize it, but not that you are a lunatic. A lunatic is one who thinks that the theory of evolution implies that the sun can be a penguin tomorrow.

See the huge difference? You do not buy it, but you know you do not know enough, fine. You pretend you know and understand, and conclude shit, you are a lunatic.

I have stated doubt about the big bang to physicist friends, and had lectures, some quite illuminating, some beyond my preparation, and never got classified as a lunatic.

Yes, yes, at some point it might look a lot like we all want you to believe things with no critical thinking, but I sincerely think you are exaggerating. Now, yes! I think we should concentrate the curriculum much much more on the critical thinking side, than on the facts side. This should definitely change, otherwise there will be little progress. Each year the number of facts to memorize increases way too much, and every community thinks the new facts are all that important, but the sacrifice of true intellectual development should take precedence. Or so I think. What do you think?


get_education said...


Where it said "but the sacrifice ..." well, while editing I made a mistake, I meant that true intellectual development should take precedence, not be sacrificed.

Pvblivs said...

     Hmm... I hadn't get_education's comments there. I am not exaggerating. I state my perceptions as I see them. It is always possible that I am mistaken. My own thoughts are that most people should, in fact, be undecided on a lot of these things. I, for example, have no direct on whether the Big Bang happened or not. I cannot meaningfully come to a conclusion myself. And it does not impact my day-to-day life. I accept that scientists in the field believe in the Big Bang.
     I fully agree that the number of "facts" has increased beyond reason. That is part of my objection. That which one must memorize is so overwhelming that critical thinking cannot really be applied.
     I think that, if something is important enough that I should take it as a "scientific fact," I should also be able to draw the conclusion myself and not rely on someone else's judgement. It does not matter if a construction worker thinks the earth is flat. It doesn't really matter if an electrical engineer or a nuclear physicist thinks the world is flat, provided they have an understanding of the materials with which they actually work. Now, for an astronomer or a space shuttle designer, the curvature of the earth is significant to what they do.
     Overall, I think that it is inappropriate to require someone to learn that something is true if he is going to understand why it is true.

get_education said...

Overall, I think that it is inappropriate to require someone to learn that something is true if he is not going to understand why it is true.

Agreed. (I corrected a typo in your statement.)

I think critical thinking and good reasoning should be a big part of the curriculum. When I was in high school we had a course in logic. Today there is no such thing. Not in public schools, or not that I know. Science curricula should use the main stuff as themes for doing the critical thinking, rather than just fill the whole thing with facts to memorize. Memorizing has its virtues, but should not be the main thing.