Sunday, May 03, 2009

American Studies is BACK!

A pyhsical proton proton chainImage via Wikipedia

Despite persistent H1 N1 rumors, and after several grueling weeks outside of class researching and writing the Junior Theme, both of your teachers were in clear agreement that it was a fantastic return to form on Friday. No matter where you stood on the issues, clearly, American Studies is BACK.

One thing I really learned in class was how important it is for us to continue to rely on face-to-face communication. Most of us love the tech, but looking back on the previous post, it was striking to me how quickly the virtual discussion (below) diverged from the intended focus.

But another important point was that even though the comments began to devolve into borderline nasty discourse, (referencing a beast of burden defined here), I still feel that we are all a pretty tolerant, respectful bunch of people. Doc OC and I briefly considered deleting a few comments, but realized that this is a teachable moment to remember that we shouldn't assume the worst, and that it's best to critique the ideas, not the person.

So, in the interest of debating the ideas, can we continue this discussion in a civil way?

My main concern is that there was a lack of critical thinking regarding the various terms we toss around rather casually. Can we agree upon certain "operational definitions"? For instance, the term, "theory". Here is the definition I will use, taken from Kenneth Miller in the On the Media piece cited here:

[theory]: a unified testable explanation that actually explains how different facts, how observations, how fossils, how facts about genetics or molecular biology, how these can all fit together.

So the interesting thing is that theory actually represents a higher level of understanding than fact. Fact is just a single isolated, repeatable observation. A theory is something that explains how all these facts fit together.

And we use the word “theory” like atomic theory, for example, not because we're not sure that atoms are real – we're pretty darn sure – but rather because atomic theory explains all these isolated observations and facts.

My other concern was with what is a common logical error, made by many of us in the heat of the moment. It's sometimes called a "negative proof fallacy", which basically means that if you can't provide evidence that my idea is wrong, then my idea is right. The problem with that, of course, is that we all know from many discussions that the burden of proof is on the person making the argument, not the person who is perceived to need convincing.

So, in a blog post that ended up being far too long, bring the evidence for your particular point of view. Stay focused on ONE thing at a time for clarity's sake. Be realistic about the limits of Church/State interaction in U.S. public schools. And, if you need help embedding links, you know where to find me!
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6 comments:

Adam said...

I'm glad that we are finally moving away from JT. After a month of reading blogs solely based on JT it gets pretty repetative. While I know it's necessary, it would have been nice to have some alternate blogging assignments during this period of time. Regardless, I think our class is off to a good start with all this creationism and evolution talk.

Kimber said...

I didn’t read this blog post before I commented on the previous one. However, there is an argument supporting my claim that both of these theories seem flawed. First, creationism is solely based on a story from the Bible where God created the world in seven days. There are no scientific facts to support this story except that man exists on earth today. That realization neither affirms nor refutes creationism. In contrast, evolution fails to explain how the beginning species of the evolutionary process came to be. Scientific evidence supports Darwin’s observations of the Galapagos finches and their evolving beaks. The question that arises is: can you take this information and use it to explain the creation of man?

Doc OC said...

What EVIDENCE are you providing here, Kimber? And why are you avoiding the critical distinction of the word "theory"? By beginning species do you mean homo sapiens? This is a different question than either of the posts. Perhaps you can re-read Mr. B's post (particularly the "burden of proof" fallacy and the importance of operational definitions) and then respond again with those ideas in mind.

andrea said...

I just have to say that i really like what mr. bolos pointed out that "the burden of proof is on the person making the argument, not the person who is perceived to need convincing"... It made me think of the term, innocent until proven guilty. Unless you have evidence to support that someone is guilty, they are innocent and it is the responsibility of the person proving them guilty to find sufficient evidence.

WELL PUT BOLOS

andrea said...

I just have to say that i really like what mr. bolos pointed out that "the burden of proof is on the person making the argument, not the person who is perceived to need convincing"... It made me think of the term, innocent until proven guilty. Unless you have evidence to support that someone is guilty, they are innocent and it is the responsibility of the person proving them guilty to find sufficient evidence.

WELL PUT BOLOS

KBolos said...

Thanks Dad! Haha I wish I had read yours before I commented on the first one... Actually I'm glad I didn't because I liked getting my thoughts out.

Kimber, the question is not "can YOU take this information and use it to explain the creation of man?" but rather, "did Darwin take that info and use it to explain....?" because HE is the expert. It doesn't matter what we highschoolers think is logical in our heads and whatnot, it matters what the experts have proven for us. Darwin DID connect it to the evolution of humans. So the flaw you provided isn't there.