Wed 21 Jan 2009
Detail of the Pool of Knowledge by Ian Muttoo
John Locke in Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) states that everything we know is from experience. He identifies two fountains of all knowledge – “the observation of external sensible objects”, and ” the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected on by ourselves.” As a society, we extend the personal experience by reporting the fact of occurrences upon sensible objects such as news of events, scientific reporting, TV, Radio, The National Enquirer, gossip, blogging, etc. We also report the results of the internal operations of our minds, such as sermons, fiction, soap operas, symphonies, publications like Relativity, the Special and General Theory, and The Communist Manifesto.
Each of the sources of community experience comes with its own imprimatur and detractors. The New York Times reporting is considered very factual by many, but political conservatives consider it to be “just a liberal rag”. Those same folks believe that Fox News is “fair and balanced” while liberals decry it as “a conservative propaganda house”.
Educators have instructed their students to use “standard references” because internet sources like Wikipedia are not vetted by experts, and can contain information which is biased or conjectural. Using internet sources other than institutional ones, like cdc.gov, census.gov and redcross.org is verboten.
I believe that the orientation to “standard references” in K-12 education is fatally flawed. Much more important than factual accuracy in eighth grade reports is learning the skills to find and sift the truth in a information environment filled with spin and distortion. (more…)
Tue 20 Jan 2009
The Supreme Court Building
If the test that former Supreme Court Justice O’Connor used to decide Establishment Clause issues relating to the separation of Church and State was:
“Encouragement”; i.e. did the State encourage a religion, and in doing so, made others not of that religion feel ‘excluded’;
Why, then doesn’t the concept of “marriage” (which is the religious ceremony piece of a civil union) violate the same Establishment Clause? Wouldn’t same sex couples feel excluded on the basis of a religious belief?
Perhaps the solution to arguments on same sex marriages is to remove the word “marriage” from the purview of government. If the states and federal government only recognized civil unions, and left marriage to religious and other nongovernmental bodies it moots all the political arguments.
Under this regime, two Individuals who wished to be considered a unit for tax, inheritance, medical, child custody and all other legal and practical matters would enter a civil union. This civil union could be “blessed” and become a marriage by whatever church, lodge, association etc. the parties may choose. As far as the state is concerned, nothing except a civil union is required. A marriage without an underlying civil union would have no force of law, and a marriage ceremony would have no effect on rights or privileges of the couple. The governmental and legal benefits would accrue solely through the civil union.
This concept would simplify the law with respect to polygamy. A person could be a member of only one civil union at any time.
Tue 20 Jan 2009
Numbers are tough to learn as a child. One, two – many. That is how you first see the world, and as how lots of other mammals and birds see the world. Then you learn the numbers and the idea of counting, then connecting the idea that you can count a large number of individual things which makes the number of things. It might seem that we understand numbers as adults, but unfortunately we cannot easily deal with large numbers. Remember poor Carl Sagan with his “Billions and Billions” of stars, atoms, lightyears or whatever else he was talking about. – We had no clue how many suns, galaxies, base pairs, cells or light years he meant, just that it was a lot.
Wed 19 Nov 2008
The goal of this site it to open minds. These are days of change, and the changes should be guided by fact and thoughtful consideration.
Please join in to illuminate the information found here. This is my site, and I want to hear opposing views. Two rules: All posts must be respectful of others and their opinions. No false witness – facts stated here must be true to the best of knowledge of the writer.
Tue 18 Nov 2008
Reading Carl Sagan’s “The Dreams of Dragons” is like reading an ancient polymath’s writing – Bacon or Voltaire proposing their best insights from renaissance knowledge. Sagan draws on 1970’s knowledge of the human brain and consciousness to propose a broad vision for what was known from “recent” researches from the likes of Bronowski, Dement, Eccles, Gazzaniga, Gould, Leakey, Minsky, Sperry and Von Neumann. Many of their researches were cutting edge at the time, but have been overshadowed, modified or overturned by new work by themselves and others.
Tue 12 Aug 2008
This is a seminal little book. Edwin A. Abbott‘s Flatlands, A Romance in Many Dimensions is what allows thousands of us to be able to visualize higher dimensions.
Flatlands is the story of a two dimensional person who has become aware of the existence of three dimensions. He tells us, from a two dimensional perspective all about his world – its features, science, society, social classes, intriques.
What the story achieves within the first few chapters is to expose us three dimensional beings to what it means to live in a world constrained by the dimensions we inhabit. He lives in two and has learned about three. We live in three dimensions universe and can be be aware of four or more additional dimensions by extrapolation.
For many, this is a difficult task – even with my hands free I cannot describe a four dimensional square, or tessaract. Abbott has done this in an easy reading romp through our two dimensional friend’s world.
The world he describes is bizarre but understandable. The first several chapters set up a framework to visualize higher dimensions, and these chapters should be required reading for every student planning to study solid geometry.
Abbott explores, in a matter of fact way, the social structure of his flat world. Our flatlander friend’s description and opinions about his society also provide a framework for thinking about the society of our world – by extrapolation. To understand this concept it is necessary to read the entire short book. I am sure that his intention was to show that his flatlander’s class structure was just as arbitrary as Victorian society.
Sun 20 Jul 2008
We all have a personal reality, shared throughout society, more or less.
Tue 15 Jul 2008
I read in Science Times in the New York Times today of some new discoveries about the “sexually deceptive” tongue orchids of Australia.
Mon 5 May 2008
It is cool to find an inside joke about uncertainty, and everyone gets it! Check out this from icanhascheezburger.com!
Sun 4 Nov 2007
Naomi Wolf is an outstanding pamphleteer. She makes the case that all ten steps to fascism are in play in America. Her arguments are clear, convincing and persuasive that an an organized plot is afoot to strip us of our freedoms and institute an American fascist state.
The ten steps to fascism, as outlined by Ms. Wolf:
- Invoke an internal and an external threat
- Establish secret prisons
- Develop a paramilitary force
- Surveil ordinary citizens
- Infiltrate citizens groups
- Arbitrarily detain and release citizens
- Target key individuals
- Restrict the press
- Cast criticism as “Espionage” and dissent as “Treason”
- Subvert the rule of law
Unfortunately, she made her case in the first half of each chapter, then filled the chapter out to make book length. This would have been a great 50 or 75 page pamphlet. There is just too much fluff to be Thomas Paine.