"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Emboldened Mischief-Makers, Part One

Part One

There is a post today in Slate about "Creationism" in Colorado--that is, the Colorado legislature is proposing a bill which will
direct teachers to create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning.
The author of this post, an astronomer and writer, says
The antiscience bill HB 13-1089 is one of the Orwellian-named “Academic Freedom” thrusts by creationists, where legislators claim they just want teachers to have freedom about what they can teach, but is in fact a clear and obvious attack on scientific fields that disagree with the beliefs of the conservative lawmakers.
He points out the irony that Colorado is home to myriad Research centers, both private and state funded.

I find it amusing, really.  I mean, the arguments are disingenuous in so many people's mouths but they are also just as much sincerely felt by many others.

The thing is that these are mighty trees that misdirect our forested view.

We are stupid in the midst of an ever-growing cache of data.  In fact we can argue that this mass of data is a factor in our growing stupidity.  What I mean is that we are unable to distinguish, discern, discriminate, due to a Noah's flood of babble (I know, that was too cute) that we deem scientific discoveries.  As our "eyes" become more acute and our machines "see" things that are conveyed, via machine, to screens that we interpret as fact, information, data, truth, reality, we lose a sense of "fleshly" mediation.  We cannot actually understand any of it and we cannot trust any of it as every single bit of it must come through a mechanical conveyance to be received by our "mechanical" brains.

Now, I am not one willing to argue "truth" and "belief" (perhaps this essay, "The Fixation of Belief," by Charles Sanders Peirce from 1877 will help).  But I am willing to argue about the way we think about these chimeras.
The early scientists, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, and Gilbert, had methods more like those of their modern brethren. Kepler undertook to draw a curve through the places of Mars; and to state the times occupied by the planet in describing the different parts of that curve; but perhaps his greatest service to science was in impressing on men's minds that this was the thing to be done if they wished to improve astronomy; that they were not to content themselves with inquiring whether one system of epicycles was better than another but that they were to sit down to the figures and find out what the curve, in truth, was. He accomplished this by his incomparable energy and courage, blundering along in the most inconceivable way (to us), from one irrational hypothesis to another, until, after trying twenty-two of these, he fell, by the mere exhaustion of his invention, upon the orbit which a mind well furnished with the weapons of modern logic would have tried almost at the outset. (Peirce)
In "The American Scholar" Emerson quotes the proverb, “He that would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry out the wealth of the Indies,” to direct us to the creative, thinking, reasoning, understanding, that must be the proper object of attention in EACH of us as single beings.  Time and again in his Essays and journal entries, letters and lectures, Emerson makes the point that is the individual who must find out for herself all things she will hold true in her heart and mind.  That is the thrust of EXPERIENCE: that is the twenty-two "irrational" hypotheses of Kepler.

Our educational systems, as much as our religious systems, and this includes all other forms of institutionalized "mind," require nothing of us BUT belief.  "Here," we insist, "is truth.  Commit yourself to it.  Be saved or be damned, the choice is yours."

The one thing that we have developed via our linguistic capacities that might save us is this thing called "the scientific method."  It need not offer proof, rather, it needs to offer an active approach to thinking--that is to say, it needs to avoid a normative regress, that is a cessation of thinking.

All of this babble in politics is manipulation and power.  All of our "beliefs" are a form of regress.  We stop when we fear the answers to the next question.

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