We’re wrong! But maybe that’s not so bad!

Looking at the problems that exits it’s sometimes hard to imagine how they can be solved, but what happens when the information that we are using is out-of-date? This article explores the problems with the way information has been generated and curated and it is worth a good look. The information that we all may be living under may actually be wrong, that statement makes it to believe that we can make the right decisions. What does that mean for us when we chose politicians, what does it mean for us when those politicians don’t do their work. Does it change what we can trust? Read the article and decide what within the article surprises you? How important do you think the information contained within this article is?

On a different tack about what wrong means, here is Kathryn Schulz talking about her take on being wrong. Is it something in our society that prevents us from easily admitting that we should be wrong?

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.’

Do we fear the truth?

To what extend did Truman fear the truth about the real world? Was the more outside rather than in the world he knew? Ultimately the truth is really hard to get at, what happens when people talk about something that is considered a taboo subject or something people don’t really want to talk about.

Bjorn Lomborg has gained a reputation as the ‘Skeptical Environmentalist’.  Listen to what he has to say about climate change. Many people disagree with what he is saying, others agree but seem to miss his point that something still needs to be done. What do you think of what he has to say?

  1. Is there sometimes a fear that we will hear or find out things that we don’t really want to know?
  2. How does that reflect on us?

‘Simple’ science

Quick – who first measured the circumference of the earth?

This is only seven minutes long, but in so many ways it encapsulates human potential, our ability, when provoked, to investigate and seek an answer. The video is really two simple stories of people’s investigations, but the results, considering many factors, are impressive.

Btw – it will answer the question asked at the beginning of this entry.

An interesting look at … ‘Bad Science’

Ben Goldacre is one of the more thought provoking writers/bloggers that I’ve recently discovered.  To be sure it was because he was flogging his book, but having said that I have found what he has written in his posts for the Guardian newspaper in the UK and cross-posted on his blog to be interesting and eye-opening (and I’ve only read a few).

I challenge you to look into his blog and find a posting or two that interests you and then respond to it, either positively, negatively or however you feel after reading it using your blog.

This is his TEDTalk where he challenges all of us to critically appraise the information that often comes across our radar. He very importantly analyzes the different types of way that science information is presented to us. Challenge yourself to think of these problems when you are presented with information through popular media, social media, or in your classroom (especially from Social Studies teachers – they’re the dodgiest of all!)

While you certainly don’t have to watch another of his talks, there is one, and it has some more and very specific cases (some of which are the same) that where he challenges perceived wisdom.

What does it all mean?

Please read the following

How much math do you really need in everyday life? Ask yourself that — and also the next 10 people you meet, say, your plumber, your lawyer, your grocer, your mechanic, your physician or even a math teacher.

Unlike literature, history, politics and music, math has little relevance to everyday life. That courses such as “Quantitative Reasoning” improve critical thinking is an unsubstantiated myth. All the mathematics one needs in real life can be learned in early years without much fuss. Most adults have no contact with math at work, nor do they curl up with an algebra book for relaxation.

Those who do love math and science have been doing very well. Our graduate schools are the best in the world. This “nation at risk” has produced about 140 Nobel laureates since 1983 (about as many as before 1983).

As for the rest, there is no obligation to love math any more than grammar, composition, curfew or washing up after dinner.

-G. V. Ramanathan

  1. Do you agree with the sentiments stated in the excerpt?
  2. Did you ask the people in your circle about their need for mathematics?
  3. So what problems does this present for mathematics?
  4. Do you agree with the sentiments expressed in here?

The Truth? You can’t handle the truth!!!

Happy New Year! Things were definitely slow in December so to being with let’s look at some fun facts. Here are some interesting stories from the ether, and they things that we often see, but do we really think about what we’re seeing? Are we really conscious of the details. As you read these stories think about the truth that lie behind them.

Please read the following (sometimes fun news stories):

Answer the following by creating a list for each of the stories:

  • Identify which facts are likely true
  • Identify which facts could be true, but there is reason to doubt
  • Identify which facts are likely untrue – those doubted out of hand

Write about these in your blog and defend your choices. When you are done with everything find your own news story (whether video, print or other) and consider the answers to the questions here (if you want this could easily be split into two blog entries).

You might be very interested in watching this as well. Consider the following – are we really interested in the truth – or only what we want to know? Do we create our own bubble and take the knowledge that we find and fit it into what we already know for fear that it might really cause us to rethink what we are doing (think of our society’s approach to environmental issues for instance).


So, you think…

Some of you have responded to my previous post and have been very sure that what I presented to you in that post was art. It should be pointed out however that that particular installation has little that could be seen as a controversial topic. What happens, however when someone’s presentation includes things which are decidedly controversial, and which provoke extremely strong emotions from people?Emotions that lead, for instance, to demands to restrict access to the installation. What happens if the presentation deals with nothing out of the ordinary, or nothing at all?

Are these three examples art? If so, or if not, who decides?

Mother and Child Divided (displayed at the Tate Gallery – London in 2007) – please read the information from the ‘texts‘ tab.

Fountain (displayed at the Tate in 2008) – please also read this article about the origins of this work.

4’33 (shown on BBC Four) – you can also find out a little bit more by reading this

A note about the selections I made:

There are many extremely controversial pieces of art. I could have chosen from a huge number, but I had to chose ones for this entry that would be somewhat more respectful of the nature of our environment at school, I tried to chose ones that would provoke but not offend. In the end it was extremely hard, because if I chose not to use some, was I in a sense censoring what I thought you should see. It was not a feeling that I was terribly comfortable with. You should consider this as well when making comments, and realize that there are some far more controversial ones that exist.


What we were talking about?

On Wednesday I mentioned that there is currently some debate about whether or not some neutrinos seem to be able to travel faster than the speed of light. Yesterday a report appeared (which by the way seems to be changing as I write this post) regarding the tests that were being conducted at the CERN super-collider. Again the results seems to indicate that it might (emphasis on the might) be possible. Remembering our question: “How do we know that a given statement is true?” How will we become convinced that this is a possibility?

Here’s a video from when the report first came out, it’s interesting to see the reaction of the scientists to their findings.