There’s truth and then there’s, well lying!

We have been discussing what we believe is truth and how we determine what is truth in our lives. We have discussed it in a way dealing with one of the most powerful of human actions, murder, the act of killing another human being (or as some in the class pointed out any animal, regardless of whether or not they’re human). So this last class we began our look at the other side of truth: lying. It seems that we had some difficulty determining what should qualify as a lie, but we began our investigation of the truth of lying (so to speak with this video).

This led us further into the discussion of what we can do about lying, but importantly what does it mean for our society if we lie as much as seems to be predicted from the research. One thing we looked at was the potential impact on the criminal justice system. Police officers and courts rely extensively on eye-witness testimony, but what happens when they are not so accurate. The Innocence Project (an American group working for the defence of the wrongly accused) claims that eye-witness testimony is the single largest contributory factor in wrongful convictions. If true, it appears that the heart of our system of justice might be deeply flawed.

So how well do you do in the following test.

So, now in many cases that might not be lying, but it does seem to show that we are susceptible to other information, and also easily influence by it. We can, in effect hold two completely opposing ideas in our brains at one time. So how about something even more personal read this example here, the potential for a lie or real lie has serious impacts on another person, in this case the child.

Ethics – oh baby, do we have issues?

What does it mean to be ethical? What are the things that we need to do to lead an ethical life?

Michio Kaku is one of the most well-known scientists of our time and we can find him here speculating on things that might soon come to pass in the world of genetics and science. The question that remains unanswered, but which is vital to this whole discussion is: are any of these experiments, as he describes them, ethical? Is this something that we should as a species be doing?

Here Dr. Kaku talks about some of the great threats to humans as a species. These can only be done if scientists chose to work on this. However as we move down the scale to high school (yes, even high school) students and give more and more people the ability to create DNA and other genetic material how should we teach people to be ethical? Then of course there’s the ‘guy in the basement’ theory, what can we do about those? Can we teach  people to be ethical?

It is not uncommon for scientists to do things without thinking through all of the potential outcomes. Here is the somewhat disturbing story of Fritz Haber (who was discussed in history class). In this case he knew exactly what he was doing, but what is the ethical requirement for scientists to consider their impact on other humans. Should he have won the Nobel Prize? Here is the aforementioned biography of Herr Doktor Profesor Haber.

Needless to say the effects of Professor Haber’s creations have been long-lasting and had a huge impact. How can we use this knowledge to help us with ethical decisions in science, or elsewhere  for that matter.

PS Wow, there’s always something, here’s the story of the scientist who discovered the oldest living thing on earth and promptly killed it. Oops!

 

What can belief do? Well…

Would you take a sugar pill to treat a headache? Why or why not? Think about it before you answer…

Now watch this short video

Does the information in here surprise you? What does it tell us about the abilities of our brain? The role of emotion in what we believe? In what ways is this potentially dangerous?

Now knowing what we know about placebos. let’s look at a much larger issue. How might that impact the information that we have on medical issues. Here’s Ben Goldacre’s take on what problems we have. Look at the limitations that we have identified in ToK (assumptions, biases, values and problems) that he identifies as being part of the process that gets drugs approved and accepted in the general population.

How do *you* know?

Instinct seems to suggest that we all want to know the truth.  Sometimes that truth may be painful, but even then we seem to be inclined toward that truth rather than living under false pretenses which our inner voices tell us are not the truth.

Give an example of how we know truth for each of the following ‘pathways’ to belief.

  1. Empathy
  2. Introspection
  3. Instinct
  4. Faith
  5. Perception
  6. Memory
  7. Conscience
  8. Logic
  9. Practice
  10. Moral Belief
  11. Acquaintance
  12. Authority
  13. Evidence
  • Are there any other avenues through which we arrive at the truth?
  • Rank these thirteen (or more) pathways from those which lead only to personal belief to those which most likely will lead to universal certitude.

After our discussion of these matters it would be a good idea to use some of the things that you hear or are thinking about the way that you acquire knowledge as a blog entry. One possibility would be for you to compare the tops of your list and the bottom of your list and think about why you made the choices you did for the top one or two ‘paths to knowledge.’

Looks can deceive

Please take a look at this article.   What are two things that you found new, different or interesting?

  1. Think about how it talks about reality (truth) and our perception of it.  What does this mean for the way that we perceive our reality?  What does this mean about the way our brain’s interpret reality?
  2. Think about it in the context of the Truman Show, in what ways does it reflect how Truman saw the world versus what was his reality?

Read this article.

  1. What does this mean for our perception of reality?
  2. Before you read this article did you think that you could be manipulated into not noticing major difference like the subjects of these experiments are?

Biohacking?!?

You might have heard of hacking in the context of computers. Essentially the ability to dig around within computer applications and hardware to make alterations and changes. Of course we are all aware that this can have both beneficial and harmful effects. So what about hacking biology? Or biohacking as it’s called?

I have to admit that I had never heard of this before I was listening to the radio when the CBC show Spark happened to come to this discussion. It’s fascinating and apparently there are people all around the world developing a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) hobby of biohacking. Apparently it all begins with the extraction of DNA. Here’s a video to show you how!

You should listen to the to the recording of the interview which is located part way down this web page. Once you have listened to it, think about what this might mean for knowledge and innovation itself? Does it have any potential?

Reflections on the Truman Show

Who's looking at whom?

Today you watched (although some of you watched at a separate time) the Truman Show, one of the most interesting movies that deals with the material important to our class. Truman lives in a world that is controlled to by the media world. His actions reflect how someone wants him to reflect, until one day, he begins to see things that don’t seem to match his preconceived notions of the way life should be. The questions for us to consider are:

  • To what extent is this true in our lives?
  • Are we blind to certain things, how important is it to understand that blindness to truly understand something?
  • To what extent are we limited by our own limited abilities to perceive things?
  • If we are able to only perceive a limited amount, metaphorically what Truman might have been able to see, what can we do uncover more details?

Truman stepping into a new reality

These are important questions to think about anytime we begin to examine or study something. Truman certainly found the answers to his questions wanting, do you think you might find the same thing?

 

What affects how we perceive?

I like to watch 60 Minutes, and last night I was enthralled by this two part segment on ‘Face-blindness’. An actual affliction that impacts a lot more people than I thought and I was fascinated by what this means for our ability to perceive things. Can a very small change in our brain function, brain chemistry or makeup totally change the way we can perceive something so simple? How do we as humans cover up for our own shortcomings? As a teacher I could not imagine having this problem, but yet they interview somebody who was a teacher and was afflicted by this disorder. I would imagine that the one thing that she had to do was to set up a seating plan for every class and stick to it. Still a very challenging disorder to have in, what can only be described as, a super social career. Without further ado here are the videos from last night’s episode. Hope you enjoy and find them troubling at the same time.

I also happen to be a fan of Dr. Oliver Sacks, as one of the most fascinating and interesting neurologists I have ever heard speak. I encourage you to check out his website and challenge your preconceived notions about how we perceive. It is so complex but yet so essential to what we are as human beings.

There’s even a test that you can do in this video here. I don’t know if all the people used in here will necessarily ‘click’ in your mind because they sure didn’t in mind. I attribute that more to ‘pop-culture blindness’ than anything.

Altruism – Do you believe in helping others?

Before beginning this exploration, think about the following questions and be prepared to discuss them.

  • How important is it to help others?
  • Do you think that most people think it is important to help others?
  • What value does our society place on helping others?

Watch this video which looks at the nature human altruism?

Please contribute to the conversation by answering the following questions.

  1. Did anything stand-out about the nature of human beings helping one another?
  2. Do  you agree with the main point of this video?
  3. What are some counter-claims that might be made to the position taken in the video?

Would you cheat

So I found the last video of Dan Ariely that I put up to be very interesting. The science of choice is of course a marketer’s dream, and it made me look completely differently at the way things were placed in the grocery store, an interesting side effect of that little video.

Having found a second video from Dan Ariely, the next question is what would cause you to cheat. Are your ethics impermeable to peer pressure, to our instincts? Watch this video and think about how you might have seen this play out in your own life. Would you, could you be swayed by some of the examples that are laid out here? It’s interesting to postulate our answers.