Truth and Reality

What can we do to know what the truth is?

How can we know what reality is?

Scientist have a way to learn about the world, we called it “The Scientific Method” and is the process by which we have studied natural phenomena and discover many of the things we know about the universe, including of course about our world. What is important to realize is that it appears that the more we know, the more questions we can ask. A kind of paradox: The More We Know The Less We Know. The More We Know The More We Want To Know.

Part of this process is the gathering of data. Data that has to be fitted to models, hypothesis  that conform a theory with laws, principles, and a-priori assumptions. Similarly social sciences, not being exact sciences, try to model human behavior in order to understand social phenomena and predict how societies will be.

Analyzing data through statistical methods is not easy in either case, in hard sciences or social sciences. On top of these difficulties we have semantics, as the meaning of words is many times obscured, confused, or out right spun out of meaning. Take for example “economics” as the study of the production and distribution of goods and services. (As I heard today a new friend William Denis to define it for me.) Directly economics has nothing to do with the welfare of a society as it is a secondary consequence of the production and distribution of goods and services, but, (there is always a but) why would goods and services be produced and distributed in the first place if there was no societal impact, mainly for some benefit of the individuals in that system. The name “goods” semantically will indicate that it is for a benefit. It will not be “goods” if it was not, for sure.

Likewise the idea of common sense, is one of those myths about truth, and reality. Books about “common sense” or “Against Common Sense” (Kevin Kumashido) have been written to articulate what the authors ideas are about the rights or wrongs in our society, claiming that what they believe is backed by common sense. This is the worst way of arguing about ideas as most common sense ideas in the past have been wrong. Reading history we can find innumerable examples of common sense being wrong, like the earth is flat or the earth is at the center of the solar system.

I will conclude that one way that will not reveal what the reality is, is common sense. So let’s turn around a find other means of finding the truth about reality. One way of course is what was mentioned at the beginning, it is the scientific method with Falsifiability as introduced by Karl Popper in his “Critical Rationalism” to analyze the scientific process. 

Priming and framing

We go through life unaware that we have been primed and framed.

Leaders like teachers prime and frame all the time. We live in a time that has sophisticated mean for control, education, and development of ideas. We have become aware of the differences between processes and objects. Particularly in education where the student learning objectives and outcomes can be separated from the learning that someone gets from the process.

Thinking about this, I have been intentional about having in every class activities directed to priming the learning of my students, intentional about developing activities to frame the content concept of that lesson. Finally being intentional on having means for the evaluation and assessment for each learning outcome. Being intentional about it is the first step (an indispensable first step) in achieving the course objectives.

Examples of these activities are playing games, telling jokes, stories, anecdotes and music. In each case the purpose is to set the right mood so students have the attitude needed to face challenging concepts. Attitude is everything when learning. As I constantly remind my students: “If you are not having fun… you are not learning!”

Stronger Than Steel

Steel is the symbol and embodiment of strength. An alloy made by adding carbon to iron and some other metallic elements in minor percentage. The strength of steel doesn’t come from the strength of iron or the strength of carbon, it come from the binding strength between iron and carbon; it is a great example of how the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Those elements that like titanium can be added as trace will also transform the alloy into a substance with properties that non of the individual elements have. These are the powers of unity.

and Watching this video from NOVA http://www.pbs.org/video/1701025927/

Today we are experiencing in our society dislodging forces that are working against unity, politically, socially, economically, and pedagogically. In this post I want to address the pedagogical implications of unity as they relate to the other aspects of our lives.

Over the years teaching has been designed in a way that subjects are taught individually and separate from other subjects, even though this seems impossible when dealing with areas like math and physical science. It sounds impossible to separate math from physical sciences but it is not about the use of it, it is about the learning of it. It is normally understood that when some one is using math, say algebra, in physical science the student is supposed to know the principles of algebra and not learn them as s/he learns the principles of the physical science. The problem is that when students learn something in a class, they find it extremely difficult to cross the line to another course and apply those ideas from the other class. This semester (Spring 2018) I am teaching an introductory college chemistry course, and finding out that basic mathematical operations have to be taught together with the chemical principles. Things like equality operations, where multiplying both sides of an equation by a constant doesn’t change the equation. Concepts that students learned while in middle school and are supposed to understand but when it comes to the time of applying these concepts have difficulty.

There is another aspect about the separation of learning about a topic and learning about how to deal with problems related to that topic. Let me explain.

The basic idea in stoichiometry is that there is conservation of mass in a chemical reaction, the amount (in mass) of reactants must be conserved and therefore the amount (in mass) of the products should be the same. If, for example, there are 5 carbon atoms as reactants yielding products, there must be 5 carbon atoms in the products!

Similarly with our society where the union has different properties than the individuals that conform it. A situation where the total is greater than the sum of its parts. In science we have system theory where one can analyze the behavior and characteristics of the whole independent of the characteristics of the individual components without forgetting there are individual components with their own characteristics and properties. The main problem we have in our dualistic thinking is that you can study them separately without having in mind both. Having both in mind is critical for the solution of the problems now affecting society.

 

Dear Democrats: We Really Need to Up Our Game

John Hawthorne clearly signals a way forward in this post. Enjoy!

Source: Dear Democrats: We Really Need to Up Our Game

The Need For Semantics

If we say that words matter is because words have meaning, but if words lose their meaning then what?

Not a trivial question in today’s political discurse, as politicians are talking and spinning the words as they please. For instance the word conservative is now used to describe the politics of extreme right wing ideologies based on a selfish policies that benefit the richest members of our society. Some would argue of course that it is not that what we mean by conservative. Who is right? Does it matter, who is right? Does it matter what the significance of the word conservative is?

Does it matter what is the meaning of any word?

For educated citizens the answer is unequivocally and a resounding YES! But then what is the meaning of educated? Who would these educated citizens are? Where are they? Looking at the (so called Fake by President Chump) news there are lots of intelligent and educated people on TV. We might look at this media to find meaning on words that are now used by the commons.

I’d like to talk about the word “humiliation” because it will be the front page tomorrow (6/30/17) of the New York Daily News

Humiliation

US citizens are now in a state of mind that is difficult to describe so the Daily News is using this word, humiliation to try to communicate it. But being humiliated that according to the dictionary is the feeling of shame, ashamed by injury. In a way it describes how many Americans feel but doesn’t cover the whole feeling, some like me are also angry, fired up, and ready to action. There is some one, some thing in the White House, something that it is called president, something that doesn’t represent me. It doesn’t represent most Americans that are decent, respectful and not deplorable. Because the White House occupant is behaving deplorably. The damage it is inflicting in the future of the USA is immense and will last for years to come.

Our youth and our future generations deserve better. It is shameful that an important country like the USA is behaving in such an indecent way. (Finding it difficult to express using written language the anger and shame that I feel.) But this is the only language we have, and we must articulate as best we can, with the words we have, how stupid and idiotic this president is. But there is much more shame than this. There is also the humiliation inflicted by those who support it and enable it. Where are the decent republicans? Where are the (so called) Christian republicans that are always vociferating their religion and using it (like the hypocrites they are) for political gains?

 

Bright Spots: STEM Week

Source: Bright Spots: STEM Week

Looking at a continuously changing world we can’t miss what is happening in education. Not only we are teaching different subject matter in our schools but we are doing it in a different way too. Great Britain is leading the way with these innovative programs.

Is It Changing Again?

Nothing stays the same, the only constant in life is change. How we cope with change is a reflection of our intelligence. Be it analytical intelligence or emotional intelligence. Developing skill and competencies for change is what for me is developing intelligence. The aptitude for adaptation.

As we live in a world that is continually changing we get anxious and afraid. We want to be in control, and we believe that the easiest way to control is to keep things as they are, to keep them stationary without change. An impossible task.

Going to the circus is a great experience because we see change first hand. We experience the moment when jugglers, trampolinists, trapeze artists, and everyone on scene are moving. Life is in a way like participating in a circus, many times it has been used as a metaphor. Planning is necessary but being ready for the unexpected is also part of the experience. Being prepared is more than having a program for the show in our hands. It requires an attitude.

As we experience a dynamic world today, with socio-economic-political forces many times out of our control, we need to be prepared. Prepared with a plan, and with the right attitude for experiencing the unexpected. This is where having core values that lead and enlighten our way is crucial, values that reinforce our humanity and by doing that reinforce the relationships we have. Relationships at a diverse level of interaction, work related, family, friends, and neighborhood. Technology is as has always been part of that interaction. From direct to indirect communication, now of course with the use of cyber-space that is changing the dimension of size, things are now closer and get here sooner. Distances are shorter and times are smaller.

If there is one thing I have learned is that as times are changing there is not effort capable of stopping the change so there is only one thing left, the intelligence for adaptation.