Postmodern Physics

PHYSICS is the science dealing with natural laws and processes and the states and properties of matter and energy including of course the radiative transfer within the atmosphere that underpins the theory of anthropogenic global warming.  There is criticism amongst some physics teachers both in the UK and Australia that the physics curriculum has become corrupted in particular “calculation has been replaced by writing”, “precision is gone”.  Indeed according to one physics teacher: while physics was once a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, now everything must be described in words.   

Lamenting the problem with these teachers, biologist Walter Starck has suggested the problem is that the postmodernists using their position of influence in academia and their predominance in the government funded education sector are levelling the playing field and demanding that there be no objective truth anywhere so my truth can be as good as your truth.   According to Dr Starck: 

“For much of the past century the social “sciences” tried to adopt the evidence based, rationally consistent, empirically tested methodology of the basic sciences. Mostly they failed.  Not only did their subject matter often present insurmountable difficulties but a genuine adoption of such methodology would mean having to abandon large portions of the established canons of their entire disciplines.

“Toward the close of the last century they finally gave up on the scientific method in favour of a postmodern philosophy which denies the possibility of objective knowledge and objective reality.  Reality could be anything one chooses to believe and correctness is entirely a political choice to be determined by consensus. This approach nicely eliminated the ever increasing threat from ongoing scientific discovery which was calling into question more and more of their core doctrines.

“Denying the existence of an objective reality and of the success of science in discovering it is not easy.  It required a lot of obfuscation. A whole new terminology had to be developed and numerous existing terms were redefined. Like the new postmodern philosophy itself, this new terminology had to appear sophisticated and precise while not really committing to anything that could be empirically tested.

“Although the postmodernists were successful in severing all ties with reality, the obfuscation required resulted in nobody, including themselves, understanding what they were talking about and further marginalization of their disciplines.  While we all still agree they are important, nobody now knows why.

“Faced with increasing irrelevance and competing for influence and funding with other disciplines which have the unfair advantage of producing desirable real world results, the postmodernists have resorted to the final solution.  Using their position of influence in academia and their predominance in the government funded education sector, they are levelling the playing field. The other disciplines (and especially the sciences) will henceforth be taught in accord with postmodern methods, values and understanding. There will be no objective truth.  Texts will be deconstructed to expose the invited reading. Empirical evidence will only be allowed in support of a politically correct agends. And, most importantly, my truth will be as good as your truth.

“Soon the truths of physics will be on an even level with those of courses on gender studies, pop art, neocolonialism and the Illuminati conspiracy.  Welcome to a brave new world.”

Walter Starck
Townsville, Australia

*********************************

Notes and Links

A physics teacher begs for his subject back
Echoing many of the problems our latest report The Corruption of the Curriculum has examined, Wellington Grey writes in an open letter to AQA and the Department for Education:

I am a physics teacher. Or, at least I used to be. My subject is still called physics. My pupils will sit an exam and earn a GCSE in physics, but that exam doesn’t cover anything I recognize as physics. Over the past year the UK Department for Education and the AQA board changed the subject. They took the physics out of physics and replaced it with… something else, something nebulous and ill defined. I worry about this change. I worry about my pupils, I worry about the state of science education in this country, and I worry about the future physics teachers — if there will be any.

I graduated from a prestigious university with a degree in physics and pursued a lucrative career in economics which I eventually abandoned to teach. Economics and business, though vastly easier than my subject, and more financially rewarding, bored me. I went into teaching to return to the world of science and to, in what extent I could, convey to pupils why one would love a subject so difficult.

For a time I did. For a time, I was happy.

But this past academic year things changed. The Department for Education and the AQA board brought in a new syllabus for the sciences. One which greatly increased the teaching of `how science works.’ While my colleagues expressed scepticism, I was hopeful. After all, most pupils will not follow science at a higher level, so we should at least impart them with a sense of what it can tell us about our universe.

That did not happen

The result is a fiasco that will destroy physics in England.

The thing that attracts pupils to physics is its precision. Here, at last, is a discipline that gives real answers that apply to the physical world. But that precision is now gone. Calculations — the very soul of physics — are absent from the new GCSE. Physics is a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, but now everything must be described in words.

In this course, pupils debate topics like global warming and nuclear power. Debate drives science, but pupils do not learn meaningful information about the topics they debate. Scientific argument is based on quantifiable evidence. The person with the better evidence, not the better rhetoric or talking points, wins. But my pupils now discuss the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power plants, without any real understanding of how they work or what radiation is.

I want to teach my subject, to pass on my love of physics to those few who would appreciate it. But I can’t. There is nothing to love in the new course. I see no reason that anyone taking this new GCSE would want to pursue the subject. This is the death of physics.

Specific Complaints:

My complaints about the new syllabus fall into four categories: the vague, the stupid, the political, and the non-science.

The Vague:
The specification provided by the AQA (available at their website) is vaguely worded. Every section starts with either the phrase ‘to evaluate the possible hazards and uses of…’ or ‘to compare the advantages and disadvantages of…’ without listing exactly what hazards, uses, advantages or disadvantages the board actually requires pupils to learn. The amount of knowledge on any given topic, such as the electromagnetic spectrum, could fill an entire year at the university level. But no guidance is given to teachers and, as a result, the exam blindsides pupils with questions like:

Suggest why he [a dark skinned person] can sunbathe with less risk of getting skin cancer than a fair skinned person.

To get the mark, pupils must answer:
* More UV absorbed by dark skin (more melanin)
* Less UV penetrates deep to damage living cells / tissue
Nowhere does the specification mention the words sunscreen or melanin. It doesn’t say pupils need to know the difference between surface dead skin and deeper living tissue. There is no reason any physics teacher would cover such material, or why any pupil should expect to be tested on it.

The Stupid:
On topics that are covered by the specification, the exam board has answers that indicate a lack of knowledge on the writer’s part. One question asks `why would radio stations broadcast digital signals rather than analogue signals?’ An acceptable answer is:
* Can be processed by computer / ipod [sic]
Aside from the stupidity of the answer, (iPods, at the time of this writing, don’t have radio tuners and computers can process analogue signals) writing the mark scheme in this way is thoughtless, as teachers can only give marks that exactly match its language. So does the pupil get the mark if they mention any other mp3 player? Technically, no. Wikipedia currently lists 63 different players. Is it safe to assume that the examiner will be familiar with all of them? Doubtful.

If the question is not poorly worded, or not covered in the specification, it will be insultingly easy. The first question on a sample paper started:
A newspaper article has the heading: ‘Are mobiles putting our children at risk?’ A recent report said that children under the age of nine should not use mobile phones…
The first question on the paper was:
Below which age is it recommended that children use a mobile phone in emergencies only?
This is the kind of reading comprehension question I would expect in a primary school English lesson, not a secondary school GCSE.

The Political:
The number of questions that relate to global warming is appalling. I do not deny that pupils should know about the topic, nor do I deny its importance. However, it should not be the main focus of every topic. The pupils (and their teachers) are growing apathetic from overexposure.
A paper question asked: `Why must we develop renewable energy sources?’ This is a political question. Worse yet, a political statement. I’m not saying I disagree with it, just that it has no place on a physics GCSE paper.

Pupils are taught to poke holes in scientific experiments, to constantly find what is wrong. However, never are the pupils given ways to determine when an experiment is reliable, to know when an experiment yields information about the world that we can trust. This encourages the belief that all quantitative data is unreliable and untrustworthy. Some of my pupils, after a year of the course, have gone from scientifically minded individuals to thinking, “It’s not possible to know anything, so why bother?” Combining distrust of scientific evidence with debates won on style and presentation alone is an unnerving trend that will lead society astray.

The Non-scientific:
Lastly, I present the final question on the January physics exam in its entirety:
Electricity can also be generated using renewable energy sources. Look at this information from a newspaper report.
* The energy from burning bio-fuels, such as woodchip and straw, can be used to generate electricity.
* Plants for bio-fuels use up carbon dioxide as they grow.
* Farmers get grants to grow plants for bio-fuels.
* Electricity generated from bio-fuels can be sold at a higher price than electricity generated from burning fossil fuels.
* Growing plants for bio-fuels offers new opportunities for rural communities. Suggest why, apart from the declining reserves of fossil fuels, power companies should use more bio-fuels and less fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Suggest why, apart from the declining reserves of fossil fuels, power companies should use more bio-fuels and less fossil fuels to generate electricity.

The only marks that a pupil can get are for saying:
* Overall add no carbon dioxide to the environment
* Power companies make more profit
* Opportunity to grew new type of crop (growing plants in swamps)
* More Jobs

None of this material is in the specification, nor can a pupil reliably deduce the answers from the given information. Physics isn’t a pedestrian subject about power companies and increasing their profits, or jobs in a rural community, it’s is about far grander and broader ideas.

Conclusion:
My pupils complained that the exam did not test the material they were given to study, and they are largely correct. The information tested was not in the specification given to the teachers, nor in the approved resources suggested by the AQA board. When I asked AQA about the issues with their exam they told me to write a letter of complaint, and this I have done. But, rather than mail it to AQA to sit ignored on a desk, I am making it public in the hope that more attention can be brought to this problem.

There is a teacher shortage in this country, but if a physicist asked my advice on becoming a teacher, I would have to say: don’t. Don’t unless you want to watch a subject you love dismantled.

I am a young and once-enthusiastic physics teacher. I despair at what I am forced to teach. I have potentially thirty years of lessons to give, but I didn’t sign up for this — and the business world still calls. There I won’t have to endure the pain of trying to animate a crippled subject. The rigors of physics have been torn down and replaced with impotent science media studies.

I beg of the government and the AQA board, please, give me back my subject and let me do my job.

Sincerely,
Wellington Grey
http://www.WellingtonGrey.net/

95 Responses to Postmodern Physics

  1. Louis Hissink May 23, 2009 at 9:00 pm #

    I have to support Walter’s analysis.

    We are, like it or not, in another Dark Age,

  2. SJT May 23, 2009 at 9:18 pm #

    All I am seeing from Walter is words to support his assertion, and no objective facts.

  3. Neville May 23, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    While I’m an uneducated person compared to a physics teacher I can still appreciate his arguments.
    If what the two men have said here is true I’m absolutely astounded, it shouldn’t matter whether you are labor or conservative there should be no place for social studies or PC nonsense in a physics course.
    If as they say questions are framed so they must be answered in a very narrow band or you don’t pass then corruption has indeed entered the classroom.
    I remember though Ron Brunton complained many years ago that similar corrupt nonsense was invading anthropology courses at university, so I suppose the same PC numbskulls are trying to extend that corruption even further.

  4. sod May 23, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    I have to support Walter’s analysis.

    there is no analysis in the part of the text, written by Walter.

  5. Jan Pompe May 23, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    I with you on this Louis. It’s a bloody mess.

  6. SJT May 23, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    Physics has entered a stage where there is no definite answer to a lot of questions. That’s not a problem with us, it’s a problem with the fact that we have gone as far as our instruments can take us. Look at what is necessary to move onto the next stage, a multi-country coalition that has to fund billions of dollars on a significant amount of real estate and custom machinery to to peer into sub atomic particles, in the hope we will find some new breakthroughs. The machine is so complex that as soon as it is fired up there is a problem, that will take a year to fix, partly because it has to be run at close to absolute zero. At the scale they are investigating, the uncertainty principle is very important, since everything they measure will affected by the fact they are measuing it. Much of what is studied is expressed in terms of probabilities, not certanties.

  7. spangled drongo May 23, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    “Physics has entered a stage where there is no definite answer to a lot of questions. That’s not a problem with us,”

    Sounds like it’s right up your alley. Al Gore has that philosophy too.

    Rob people blind and never be accountable.

    Where can I apply to invest my super?

  8. bazza May 23, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

    SJT: Physics is not alone with no definite answer to a lot of questions”. Anyway despite Heisenberg, I thought everyone knew Physics was boring as it used to be taught to vanishingly small numbers. So of course it had to dumbed down with some loss leaders to get a few more in the door and maybe catch a few who really find it exciting compared with a lots of other more exciting ways to challenge kids. Well, maybe it didnt work for maths, but there are lots of teenagers out there who believe compound interest is a miracle. And they believe astrology isn’t. So, you may conclude , we might as well accept that only half our brain is really interested in tight rational evidence based stuff. The other half likes to play around a bit. The trick is not to confuse which half you are in.

  9. Grendel May 24, 2009 at 12:06 am #

    So what has the state of the UK physics curriculum now got to do with the physics on which AGW is based – assuming of course that the physicists involved in the mathematics of AGW graduated at some time prior to the ‘post-modern’ curriculum changes and are therefore not spotty teenagers from Britain?

  10. Hasbeen May 24, 2009 at 12:24 am #

    This is all part of the feminisation of the education system. It started 20 years ago, with a seemingly reasonable aim, of making education more girl friendly. This seemed fair. What we didn’t realise was this was feminists speaking.

    Like the greens, they have forked tongs. You should always look to what they are not saying, rather than what they are. The aim was not to help the girls match the boys, it was to screw the boys.

    Girls have always been better at literary subjects than boys, so we got more questions requiring little essays as answers. When my son came home, complaining of a question in a maths test, asking him to describe a number, I realised we had lost the war before we even knew we were fighting the thing.

    Iy’s a good thing our car industry is about to die. In a few years we won’t have any one able to design the things here. But we’ll have lots of graduates able to write the advising copy.

    I wonder if any of us will be able to earn enough to buy the things?

  11. MattB May 24, 2009 at 1:50 am #

    The wrote does not realise that he is a postmodernist too.

  12. MattB May 24, 2009 at 1:51 am #

    Should obviously be “writer” not “wrote”…

  13. Nasif Nahle May 24, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    Comment from: Louis Hissink May 23rd, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I have to support Walter’s analysis.

    We are, like it or not, in another Dark Age,

    Indeed. The three main former-factual sciences, physics, biology and chemistry, are being corrupted by confusing philosophies. There are many cases on this antiscientific stream. Most recent case has been on the toxicity of carbon dioxide and water. The biological terminology has been manipulated to bring it in agreement with the ideas of those “thinkers”. The parameters of survival of the species have been narrowed so almost all microbial species, fungus, plants and animals fall into consideration of being in danger of imminent extinction.

    Within the science of climate, the concept of blackbody has been modified surreptitiously so that the atmosphere can be considered as a blackbody which is capable of absorbing the whole load of energy that it receives from the surface and send it back towards the surface. It’s not uncommon to read papers where it is assured unashamedly that convection stops during nighttime. On this issue, AGW proponents dismiss laws of thermodynamics and other physical processes which obstructs their way of thinking. Other physics concepts have been modified to engage in the machinery of climate change. And so on…

  14. dhmo May 24, 2009 at 6:57 am #

    Keith Windschuttle wrote about this exactly in “The Killing of History” and he refers to it many times in “The Fabrication of Aboriginal History” volume 1. What is happening? Has the West just lost it’s way in intellectual thought? I know it is not physics but it is the same mode of thought.

    At the moment there is much discussion with China about AGW. I think the reactions of the Chinese show they realise the foolishness of the arguments we present. Consequently they play the West for fools. We are living in an intellectual virtual reality of thought in which we believe we do not have to research reality. We always can find “truth” in a computer model!

  15. Demesure May 24, 2009 at 7:20 am #

    In France, of the 26 heads of regional education ministries (rectorats), only 2 are scientists.
    It seems that nicely illustrates what Walter Stark says.

  16. Jan Pompe May 24, 2009 at 8:01 am #

    “So what has the state of the UK physics curriculum now got to do with the physics on which AGW is based ”

    The curriculum has followed mainstream climate science. What we see in the classroom now has been going on for years already, with computer games replacing “copper and glass” experiment and fiction replacing experience.

  17. Neville May 24, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    I think we can say that education has become more superstitous and trending to groupthink as opposed to individual thought to solve or understand problems.
    Therefore we can understand how a failed US politician can produce a sci fi movie riddled with misinformation, even errant nonsense and then win an oscar and nobel prize.
    A number of top aust scientists backed the science (?) in the movie and one of the top scientists retired from the csiro and became like hansen one of gores strong supporters.
    Throw out the groupthink and superstition and we can see why a British judge could easily come to the conclusion that the b grader had at least nine errors that school kids should not be subjected to unless an alternative opinion was offered as well.

  18. Neville May 24, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    Before any of the resident groupthinkers challenge me on AIT, yes I’ve watched the silly bloody movie.
    I couldn’t believe it could be so bad and instead of accolades should have earned the creators a good swift kick in the nuts ( metaphorically speaking) not a nobel prize and oscar.
    Actually I bought the movie from a video store, it was reduced s/h for $3.95.

  19. Luke May 24, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    What a load of theoretical twaddle from unengaged observors. High school physics is about the same as it was 30 years ago and most kids don’t like doing it coz “it’s too hard”.

    Neville couldn’t lay straight in bed – the judge said it was substantially correct with some errors. Unlike Durkin’s dogshit which you guys bow down in front of. But hey when have faux sceptics ever been discriminating. Any old skunk evidence will do.

    As for alternative opinions in schools – bring it on. Along with a serious critique of why the alternative opinions are bunk and how right wing scum special interest groups undermine science for political purposes.

  20. Jan Pompe May 24, 2009 at 9:28 am #

    “High school physics is about the same as it was 30 years ago and most kids don’t like doing it coz “it’s too hard”.”

    Is that why you gave up on it?

  21. Larry May 24, 2009 at 9:58 am #

    Although I do have an intuitive side, I approach much of life from a scientific perspective. And I’m not much of a philosophy buff. So I have difficulty in understanding the latest anti-intellectual fashion: Postmodernism. A few years ago, a Postmodernist online acquaintance, named Maple, came to my rescue. Perhaps Maple’s insight can help others who are trapped in a reality-based universe.

    The Maple Principle:

    1. I’m nothing but a brain in a vat.

    So far, this sounds a bit like garden-variety Solipsism. But there are a few new wrinkles thrown in.

    2. The only thing that I know with certainty is that other brains in vats exist.

    3. Moreover I must treat these other brains in vats with respect.

    Corollary: ‘Truth’ is consensus, since all opinions are of equal value.

    This is hard for me to swallow. Some opinions are pure garbage. However I am comfortable with the more old-fashioned kind of egalitarianism: All people are equal.

    Observation: It must be very difficult to be both a Postmodernist and a scientist. One would have to live a very compartmentalized life, and do a lot of hat-switching. On the other hand, Postmodernism may have some appeal for climate modelers whose livelihoods depend on research ‘results’ that coincide with the IPCC’s foregone conclusion of AGW Disasterism.

    Most of us live in a reality-based universe. If we choose to ignore the realities, they’ll return to bite in the arse. Perhaps Maple’s insight can help others who are as hopelessly provincial as I am.

  22. Louis Hissink May 24, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    The real problem is state controlled education – the looney lefties are indeed in charge of the state school rooms and they producing a generation of illiterate slaves. It started during the 1970′s at University when the trend to not doing final examinations was implemented, to be replaced with “in course assessment”.

    I recall doing a physics exam at UNSW, worked out a problem, got the wrong answer and said so in my exam paper – that particular question got a pass mark despite the wrong result. I made a simple arithmetic error which I could not, in the time available, locate.

    Same for the AGW hypothesis – increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 must cause the baseline temperature to rise – it hasn’t. Hypothesis is falsified. That the effect is so weak that it requires statistical manipulation to demonstrate its effect suggests we are dealing with pathological science. That the term global warming has been changed to climate change is a telling change – the latter term is scientifically unfalsifiable, and hence not science.

    AGW is the logical outcome when empiricism has been purged from science, leaving only a rump of specious deductive reasoning in its place. This rump dominates astrophysics, pyschology, economics while physics itself has been taken over by the mathematicians.

    Science is indeed a mess.

  23. Graeme Bird May 24, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    Isn’t it great to see Jennifer grappling with the deeper stuff. Trying to find out WHY THE RELENTLESS LYING AN UNSCIENCE from our leftist friends. Now that she found out that they really had nothing and that they really were mindless liars.

    For me the only source of rightful certitude is CONVERGENCE. This bullshit that we cannot know nothing and we can never be certain of anything has got to go. As a practical matter we-as-individuals….. can seldom be totally certain of any one thing, but a civilised science-respecting society could bring more and more things under the orbit of CERTAINTY if they followed the principle that rightful certainty comes from convergence and nothing else.

    Here is one of my first essays ever explaining this point.

    http://graemebird.wordpress.com/2006/05/03/deductive-bivalent-exactitude-versus-rightful-certitude/

  24. Graeme Bird May 24, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    SOMEONE SEZ:

    “High school physics is about the same as it was 30 years ago and most kids don’t like doing it coz “it’s too hard”.

    SO JAN SEZ:

    Is that why you gave up on it?

    SO I SEZ:

    But Jan you are really just jacking off here aren’t you? Because the last time we went around on this score you could only justify your mainstream voodoo on the basis that your opponents were not adepts and did not understand your preferred voodoo model.

    No model can be justified with reference to itself-alone.

  25. Gary P May 24, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    I became a physicist because I loved how it actually used math and applied it to the real world. Without at least calculus one cannot teach physics.

    That being said, I despair at find good books on science subjects. There seems to be two types of books. Those I consider fluff with no equations at all so you really learn nothing or the math books with page after page of incomprehensible differential equations with little description of what is going on or the meaning and limitations of a final result. Or look up a statistical function on Wikepedia. More mathematical gibberish for the casual viewer. No detailed examples or discussion of what happens if one is using the wrong analysis. I still cannot find a good explanation of the autocorrelation problem with climate modeling. I know it has something to do with the residuals not being randomly distributed after calculating a trend but I really did not want to spend a bunch of evening to figure it out. How do I fix it in Excel?

    Richard Feynman once wrote in one of his fluff books how upset he was that his students could not understand some polarization effects they were seeing while looking at the ocean right after studying polarization. The students probably knew the math but never saw good descriptions of many of the effects or applications of polarized light.

    The problem is always to get the balance right. Perhaps one page of math to 5 pages of descriptions and examples. And please get the environmental propaganda out of the text books. If they have to talk about windmills it might be worthwhile to show a calculation of the subsonic pressure waves from them and why they need to be kept a good distance away from residences and livestock.

  26. Graeme Bird May 24, 2009 at 11:29 am #

    ” I still cannot find a good explanation of the autocorrelation problem with climate modeling.”

    Well the problem is premature. Maybe you could explain the problem to me. But before doing so you could engineer a model to find the likelihood of me finding the problem premature. And you could go to the UN and have all these cocktail-drinking sessions, where you do no actual work, but you decide on a consensus model, to find an estimation, with certain confidence boundaries, as to what you could second-guess me thinking, that the problem was premature.

    The idea is to find out what the science says. Before you go dudding up these bogus models.

    Any climate-science model that doesn’t use fuzzy-logic alogarithms is a farce and a fraud for starters.

  27. Louis Hissink May 24, 2009 at 11:47 am #

    Gary P – interesting observation re the text books – I studied physics using Ference, Lemon and Stephenson, and it had a pretty good balance in equations and descriptions. Resnick and Halliday was the other preferred one.

    Some years back while waiting for someone, I cruised into the Uni Bookshop and looked at the “latest” phjysics texts – mostly pretty pictures and not much else. Given that English comprehension isn’t taught at school anymore, publishing science texts in English would seem pointless these days – none of the students would understand it.

    Thanks heavens the engineers haven’t succombed to this madness.

  28. Graeme Bird May 24, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    FOUR FAILED INFERENCES IN A ROW:

    1. I’m nothing but a brain in a vat.

    THATS FAILED INFERENCE ONE.

    So far, this sounds a bit like garden-variety Solipsism. But there are a few new wrinkles thrown in.

    2. The only thing that I know with certainty is that other brains in vats exist.

    THATS FAILED INFERENCE TWO AND THREE.

    3. Moreover I must treat these other brains in vats with respect.

    FAILED INFERENCE FOUR.

    Lets stop mucking about hey?

  29. spangled drongo May 24, 2009 at 2:15 pm #

    Sadly, the people on this earth who can do something worthwhile like producing a functioning, useful product are all going broke and these PM wankers are thriving on govt jobs, indoctrinating our youth and trashing all our hard earned with huge, spiralling govt deficits.

    Producers Unite! [Dyslexics can untie at their leisure if they wish]

  30. Nasif Nahle May 24, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    Yes, it’s the state which controlled and still controls education; however, private institutions also filter didactic data and let pass only what they believe is the best knowledge for their students. I was a teacher of science for high school students in a private college in 1980.

    I renounced to the chair because the prefect suggested that I had to teach evolution from a creationist viewpoint.

    My chair was at first hour and I had to wait until they finished their praying. I felt as if I was surrounded by nuns and priests. The problem was not that the religiosity of those people, but their request for modifying the content of science programs through their own impractical programs. It is improbable that a boy or girl from that school has graduated on physics, biology, etc., because the prefect made the science seemed repulsive.

    I have to mention that I have nothing against religion; I just don’t consent that both fields get mixed into a colossal gibberish.

    I know that the state schools also offer some kind of disturbed science to their students. Nothing less, in the University, we can hear phrases like “Oh, God! Make this PCR protocol works well”.

    Things get worse when someone convince the students that science is the product of our imagination which is real only for the person who imagined it and it changes when one modifies that piece of knowledge through one’s desires.

  31. Luke May 24, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

    How many of you dudes have any serious experience with the topic – like kids at school for example.

    Oh that’s right – how silly of me – you’d have to be with a woman and not be living in a caravan …. hahahahahahahahahaha

  32. Graeme Bird May 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    What are you talking about Luke?

    You are an idiot and an a proven idiot and a proven idiot with proven bad motives. The only thing left is to put you on some list or other. You are just filth mate. You have to think about ending your seed at YOU on account of your seed being no good.

  33. Louis Hissink May 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

    Goodness me, Luke has caught SJT’s ailment of non sequiturs.

    The late Tommy Gold wrote an interesting article in the JSE some time back that is featured as the lead article in the next AIG News. Once it’s out perhaps Jennifer could post here for discussion.

  34. Haldun Abdullah May 24, 2009 at 4:14 pm #

    Hi Louis,
    Engineers nearly went into a chaotic situation about the mix of physics, mathematics and engineering science courses at the university level before ABET (the US accreditation board)imbeded a definition for engineering in its 1980 crteria document.
    In this definition distinction was made between the mathematical, natural and engineering sciences and how they would be placed in engineering education. (remember Jennifer? ı mentioned this in my very fırst comment at your blog more than 2 years ago)
    This definition cleared my mind to further emphasize the difference between the mathematical sciences as man-made science (in the sense of putting down definitions, using logic, algorithms etc.) and the natural sciences as human discovered (in the sense of dicovering the laws and forces of nature and utilizing mathematics to verify experiments and shorten the prose), engineering science would then according to that ABET definition be the human-made science that utilizes the mathematical and natural sciences to put down on paper info and experience leading to engineering design (hopefully inovative!).
    In my opinion and experience this is very important at the BS level. At the graduate level courses these sciences may overlap it does not really matter. The students usually would not be confused.
    In all those informative nice comments above I sensed that there is a mixed feeling of what should come through understanding and what should come through plain dogma at a fırst exposition to any science in the teaching paradigm. When we make the clear distinction between a mathematical science and a natural science it is clear to me that the emphasis (in an introductory course at the U level) should be at the dogma when it is mathematics and obsevation, explanation and verification (when and if possible) when it is physics, chemistry, biology or ecology (the natural sciences).
    Sorry, no experience of teaching at the highschool level.

  35. Graeme Bird May 24, 2009 at 4:58 pm #

    Since mathematics is a tool of science then to say something is a mathematical-science is like saying something is a HAMMER-SCIENCE or a CHAINSAW-SCIENCE. But we know that there is no hammer-science outside the narrow science of hammers, And Chainsaw-science is nothing that need concern us here.

    The natural language of science is ENGLISH and not Maths. Maths is a tool of science and English is the language of science and we ought to get that right for starters.

  36. Louis Hissink May 24, 2009 at 5:18 pm #

    Hi Haldun,

    Yes, that was a close call in the US – and here in Australia, probably not that much different.

    The interesting aspect of the AGW movement is its association with the progressives, or the collectivists, though there are some exceptions. It’s this sectional division that’s significant – and hence why most academics believe in it. Walter has identified the problem quite accurately – post modernism and its baleful influence in the teaching area. I even recall reading some days ago that high school science is now taught in a social context, though the precise source of that information escapes me for the moment.

    I do know it started in earnest during the middle 1970′s here in Australia – though I managed to graduate with 90% science subjects, I still was forced to do a couple of social science topics, pyschology and English Language. But the migration of the PM’s started then.

    Fortunately we here in West Australia have a good High School geology education program in one school, Kent Street High, though with the present commodity crash, many young geoscience students will be wondering if there’s going to be work when they graduate. C’est la vie, as they say. But geology has it’s own scientific problems of inability to test hypotheses as rigorously as the hard sciences, physics, chem and biology. It shares it with astrophysics – one deals with the long, long ago, the other with far, far away and Dr. Don Scott touched on this topic in respect of astrophysics in his recent book “The Electric Sky”.

    The late Tommy Gold added another perspective when he described the human habit of herd behaviour – and how a paradigm becomes entrenched and extremely resistant to change. AGW has reached this stage and thank heavens for the economic incompetence of the various central banks around the world, for we can at least pour cold water over some of the mad schemes by having predictable recessions.

  37. Luke May 24, 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    Birdy – you can’t have an opinion from a failed arts graduate on matters of the hard sciences.

  38. Green Davey May 24, 2009 at 6:55 pm #

    More than a decade ago, Alan Sokal wrote a hoax philosophical paper, dressed up in pseudo-mathematical gobbledygook, and submitted it to a leading post-modern journal. It was refereed, accepted and published. (Sokal, A. (1996) Transgressing the boundaries: Toward a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity. Social Text 46/47: 217-252).

    With French physicist Jean Bricmont, he then published a book revealing his hoax, (Sokal, A. and Bricmont, J. (1998) Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science).

    It is certainly worth reading. There is a follow up book of essays on the same theme (Koertge, N. (1998) A House Built on Sand. Oxford University Press).

    I often get email invitations from my university to attend strange seminars on post-modernist themes. I immediately zap them. I must attend, one day, and ask some awkward questions.

  39. Graeme Bird May 24, 2009 at 7:19 pm #

    Its not just my opinion and I’m not a failed arts graduate. I successfully graduated in commerce.

    Lets go over it again dummy. Just for Luke. Science is totally independent of my degreed status. English is the language of science although at one time German was probably the key language of Chemistry. But maths is no language of science. Maths is merely a tool of science. As is statistics, computer modelling, and other various tools. We get rightful certainty in science only from full spectrum convergence with no outstanding anomalies. So for example we cannot be certain of the current mainstream view of how the sun predominantly produces its energy since we have the outstanding anomaly of the suns Corona being vastly hotter than the suns “surface”.

    I could have studied two more years and got the Masters, not studied at all, or studied entirely different subjects and the above would still be true quite independent of anything happening in my life for your fucking-information you idiot Luke.

  40. Thin king man May 24, 2009 at 7:25 pm #

    The hard sciences are not fundamental: they rest hierarchically upon an epistemological foundation, which in turn rests upon the metaphysical.

    Science is defined as the systematic gathering of data through observation and reason.

    Math is defined as the science of measurement and quantification.

    Philosophy cannot establish scientific laws, neither does it deal with math, or experiments, or so-called systems.

    Philosophy does, however, possess veto power over all these things and more, because philosophy forms the foundations upon which these things and all others are built.

    Of human disciplines, therefore, philosophy is the lowest common denominator, as Mr. Michael Luke Walker no doubt remembers from the old ANU days.

    Thus, postmodernism is an entire worldview; it is not confined to any one particular branch of science or any one particular endeavor. In an essay semi-recently written about this very subject, I noted the following:

    In order to get any kind of grasp on postmodernism, one must grasp first that postmodernism doesn’t want to be defined. Its distinguishing characteristic is in the dispensing of all definitions — because definitions presuppose a comprehensible universe.

    One must understand next that postmodernism is a revolt against the philosophical movement that immediately preceded it: modernism.

    We’re told by postmodernists today, that modernism and everything that modernism stands for is dead.

    Thus, whereas modernism preached the existence of independent reality, postmodernism preaches anti-realism, solipsism, and “reality” as a term that always requires quotation marks.

    Whereas modernism preached reason and science, postmodernism preaches social subjectivism and knowledge by consensus.

    Whereas modernism preached free-will and self-governance, postmodernism preaches determinism and the rule of the collective.

    Whereas modernism preached the freedom of each and every individual, postmodernism preaches multiculturalism, feminism, environmentalism, egalitarianism by coercion.

    Whereas modernism preached free-markets and free-exchange, postmodernism preaches Marxism and its little bitch: statism.

    Whereas modernism preached objective meaning and knowledge, postmodernism preaches deconstruction and no-knowledge — or, if there is any meaning at all (and there’s not), it’s subjective and ultimately unverifiable.

    In the words of postmodernism’s high priest Michel Foucault: “It is meaningless to speak in the name of — or against — Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.”

    Why?

    Because according to Mr. Foucault again: “Reason is the ultimate language of madness.”

    We can thus define postmodernism as follows:

    It is the philosophy of absolute agnosticism — meaning: a philosophy that preaches the impossibility of human knowledge.

    What this translates to in day-to-day life is pure subjectivism, the ramifications of which are, in the area of literature, for example, no meaning, completely open interpretation, unintelligibility.

    Othello, therefore, is as much about racism and affirmative action as it is about jealousy.

    Since there is no objective meaning in art, all interpretations are equally valid.

    Postmodernism is anti-reason, anti-logic, anti-intelligibility.

    Politically, it is anti-freedom. It explicitly advocates leftist, collectivist neo-Marxism and the deconstruction of industry, as well as the dispensing of inalienable rights to property and person.

    There is, however, a deeply fatal flaw built into the very premise of postmodernism, which flaw makes postmodernism impossible to take seriously and very easy to reject:

    If reason and logic are invalid and no objective knowledge is possible, then the whole pseudo-philosophy of postmodernism is also invalidated.

    One can’t use reason to prove that reason is false.

  41. Graeme Bird May 24, 2009 at 7:52 pm #

    One of the upshots to what you are saying is that these dumb-leftwingers now feel belligerently able to believe in crap science, like they are some kid wishing upon a star. But science-fraud is a crime. And we ought to see it in this way. Not only are these lunatics trying to imagine scientific unreality into life by pure tribal conjuring. But they want to go further and impose their lies on the rest of us.

    If imprisoning these people sets a bad precedent then at least we can cut them off from the public purse. Since this is after-all, fundamentally a taxeaters crusade.

  42. Louis Hissink May 24, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    You who hides behind a facade,

    “The hard sciences are not fundamental: they rest hierarchically upon an epistemological foundation, which in turn rests upon the metaphysical.”

    You need to prove that physical observation is preceded by a prior belief system based on observations made from those same physical facts.

    Your initial sentence is, to put it politely, bullshit.

  43. Mark C May 24, 2009 at 11:13 pm #

    I am a PhD student in postmodern hermeneutics as applied to the Bible. As one critical of postmodern thought and method I can only explain it all as irrational fury. Just as words don’t mean anything, neither do scientific experiments. The postmodern mind will always irrationally deconstruct what it doesn’t like and then reconstruct it into a more “equitable” way of understanding. I have read enough of their their theories and methods to know they are mad and will not stop until they render everyone as irrational as they are. I always delight in pushing them to their illogical conclusions. The whole global warming issue is a veritable playground for postmodern thought, but it does offer an opportunity to keep forcing them to face the facts. My fear is that someday I will have to fly on a plane engineered and designed by a postmodern engineer!

  44. cohenite May 24, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    Yes, Thin king man, I tend to agree with Louis that the opening paragraph detracts from your otherwise typically insightful post; you have rightfully isolated Foucalt as THE intellectual of postmodernism; I first encounted this disease during my first degree when I was studying Pound and Eliot; the plaintive cry from some of the ferrels was “but how can we really know that’s what they meant?” PM is a traducing of the capacity for apotheosis in humanity because it enshrines anti-ambition, anti-endeavour and negates achievement and progess; it replaces these things with solipsism and nihilism because without an external reality there is nothing to measure progess and true communication by.

    But getting back to the hard sciences; PM has its denialist roots in Kant and the recantation of an objective reality beyond what humans can see [and with PM at its most profound, feel]; it is a nonsense because it is like saying there is no reality which can affect us beyond what we can sense now; that there are no mysteries waiting still in the universe. Hard sciences are the means by which humans extend their senses. In this sense PM is atavistic, a reversal of the intellectual progress humanity has made.

  45. Luke May 25, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    So we’ve got a failed commerce graduate and a legal eagle lecturing us on science. We don’t talk to to anyone who hasn’t done a square root or log-ed something in the last 24 hours. You lot sound like a bunch of post-modernist content free arts grads. Wankers !

  46. Graeme Bird May 25, 2009 at 2:26 am #

    Get used to it idiot. Because you’ve shown you cannot do the job. If you could do the job how is it that you’ve fallen for this global warming racket and stick up for it still. You have no evidence. So you are fundamentally wishing upon a star. Attempting to conjure scientific reality rather than discover it. You ought not be working in the field.

  47. kuhnkat May 25, 2009 at 2:49 am #

    Lukey say:

    “Birdy – you can’t have an opinion from a failed arts graduate on matters of the hard sciences.”

    I think we agree. The question then becomes, why is Lukey giving an opinion on this subject??

  48. Magnus May 25, 2009 at 2:56 am #

    I read this book in the early 90s and think it’s quite fascinating:

    http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Reason-Penetrating-Analysis-Thought/dp/0877845387

    Escape From Reason: A Penetrating Analysis Of Trends In Modern Thought

    Francis A. Schaeffer is a Christian philosopher.

  49. Graham Young May 25, 2009 at 4:22 am #

    I don’t remember doing a single essay answer in any physics exam that I did at school, and I really would be shocked if the teaching of physics has changed in Australia to the extent suggested in this post. We have evidence from this post that the UK curriculum really has changed, but has anyone got some real examples from Australia? The discussion really is a bit content free at the moment. I haven’t been able to actually find an online curriculum, but have come across this paper from the National Curriculum Board which seems to suggest that at least at the senior secondary level physics will be taught based on equations http://tinyurl.com/qqsxqq.

    I also came across this laughable study from USQ comparing students who did a problem based learning physics course versus those who did a more traditional course. Not only did they coach the PBL course on the correct answers to the quiz, negating any basis for comparison, but none of the students from the traditional course actually completed the questionnaire for the survey! Doesn’t say much for the academics involved in writing the paper. http://www.aip.org.au/Congress2006/136.pdf

  50. MDM May 25, 2009 at 5:30 am #

    Sounds like a science curriculum Al Gore can finally excel at. Perhaps soon he can add “Professor” to his title.

  51. Thin king man May 25, 2009 at 7:45 am #

    My dear Mr. Hissink,

    You astonish me with your salutations. “He who hides behind a facade”!? My dear fellow, what on earth do you mean? Don’t you know that I would tell you anything about myself that you could ever possibly wish to know? All you need do is ask. Only one thing: I make it a rule never to bore people I haven’t know for at least a thousand years.

    Sir, my full name is Raymond Alan Harvey, but you can call me Ray. I’m from a small mining town in southwestern Colorado called Ouray (pronounced yoo-ray, after the Ute Indian chief, Chief Ouray): population 600. My father Firman Charles Harvey, who was 55 when I was born and who died when I was 17, was a WWII veteran: he was an Army Ranger, a Sergeant, and he participated in D-Day and even stormed the beach at Normandy, one of the lucky who survived. After the war, the old man went to work in the mines. In fact, if you’re at all interested, I once wrote a semi-fictionalized account of him here, from the perspective, that is, of a fictional character. Not unlike yourself, he was a geologist, except in his case he was self-taught; as such, he possessed all the autodidact’s unsystematic and sprawling erudition. He was also an extraordinarily knowledgeable mineralogist. The old man mined everything from uranium, to coal, to copper, to zinc, to silver, to galena, and for the last decade of his life he was the Superintendent of what was at one time the biggest gold producing mine in the world: the Camp Bird Mine, located 10,000 feet high, in the spiky San Juan mountains above my hometown.

    I am a muscular mid-thirty, as you can see. I like fast cars, and I like fast women. I don’t really care about food or drink; I don’t cook — unless of course I’m in the bedroom. Dropout, pilpulist, poet, prestidigitator, I’m an atheist who says his prayers. When I’m not getting filthy rich off my book, I work mainly as a bartender, though I’ve worked a number of other blue-collar jobs as well. In fact, Mr. Hissink, I regard work as our highest purpose. I believe jobs are healthy; jobs are good for the soul. They provide an outlet not only for aggression but also expression.

    I have 9 half brothers and 4 half sisters; I’m the youngest in the family. My mother Cecilia, a full-blooded Spaniard (maiden name Montano, which is Castilian for “by the mall”), is doing very well at 77 years young. I love her with all my heart. Before she met my father, she was widowed with 11 children: 4 girls and 7 boys. Meanwhile, the old man was a widower with 2 children, Bill and Frank Harvey. My mother and father met some 5 years later; I am the only fruit off that dubious union.

    I worship at the shrine of Shakespeare. I once ran the metric mile in 4 minutes; the two mile in 8 minutes 19 seconds. My (non-political) novel More and More unto the Perfect Day is due out in six weeks, and I’d very much love to send you a copy. It’s a philosophical-psychological mystery story, 120,000 words long. Thematically, it’s about absolute morality in a Godless universe. I’ve typed my soul into it, sir, and it’s taken me over 8 years to write. I think you’re going to really love it.

    The thinking man dot com is soon being moved to the Fort Collins Tea Party dot com, and I do very cordially invite you and everyone to please visit me often. Your comments are always welcome and never censored. Also, there is much on that website in unmitigated condemnation of that stupendous fraud known as environmentalism, and all that the word entails. I believe — and am even prepared to prove — that no human and no government possesses legitimate authority over the property or person of any human being.

    Anent your statement above — “You need to prove that physical observation is preceded by a prior belief system based on observations made from those same physical facts,” which was made in response to my observation that the hard sciences are not fundamental but rest hierarchically upon an epistemological foundation, which in turn rests upon the metaphysical — I would respectfully remind you that physical observation is not preceded by any prior belief system. Not at all. How could it be? See the developing child.

    Human consciousness develops in three stages: sensational, perceptual, and conceptual. Perceptions, as none other than John Locke pointed out, are “retained sensations.” And sensations, as the very name implies, are those things that impinge upon the senses: i.e. those things that in some way come in contact with touch, taste, smell, site, sound, sonar. The perceptual is the self-evident, sir; knowledge of those sensations, which eventually make up perceptions, comes only much later — conceptually — when consciousness has developed sufficient awareness. By definition, therefore, belief-systems cannot come prior to physical observations because all knowledge (which of course includes belief-systems), begins (and ends) with observation. You must not ever put the cart before the horse. Sensory data comes first; it is fundamental. It is the building blocks of all human knowledge and all subsequent beliefs. Proof requires observation. Indeed, proof is observation. In the full Aristotelian sense, proof is defined as “the process of deriving conclusions from the evidence of the senses, in accordance with the law of non-contradiction (i.e. logic).”

    Sensations, you see, are the fundamental stuff, the material, if you prefer, of consciousness — any consciousness, not just human — and for this reason sensations can’t be demonstrated or expressed via that material which is derived from them. Do you see? Consider it carefully, I implore you; I promise it’s not just sophistry. To be sure, the things that produce sensations can much later be codified conceptually (for example, the mechanisms at work when light impinges upon the rods and cones in the human eye), but try defining sound, for instance, to a person born deaf. You cannot do it, no matter what “belief-systems” this deaf person has. Do you know why you cannot? Because it’s what’s called an ostensive definition. An ostensive definition is the ultimate definition: it requires, in essence, that you show the person directly what is being referred to, and then saying “I mean this. An ostensive definition is pouring water over Helen Keller’s hand and then spelling “W-A-T-E-R” on her palm to show her, ostensively, what W-A-T-E-R is.

    Obviously, the existent (i.e. the metaphysical) that’s being referred to must first in some way impinge upon one or more of the senses, and then consciousness (i.e. the epistemological), which is the faculty of awareness, retains, in healthy a species, what it has just sensed. Concepts — i.e. beliefs and belief-systems — which are complex, come at a much higher level of development; they do not and cannot, by virtue of what they are, precede sensory perception and observation. In fact, sir, it is exactly the other way around.

    Best of all possible regards,

    Ray Harvey

  52. Eyrie May 25, 2009 at 8:06 am #

    Wow Jennifer, this blog is really dragging the nutcases out of the woodwork.

    A couple of years ago at a niece’s wedding I met the father of the groom who was a senior physics teacher in the WA high school system. After a little entertaining conversation I discovered a died in the wool AGW proponent who was indoctrinating his students with AGW propaganda. We had a couple of email exchanges later as I expressed interest in what was being taught in the curriculum nowadays and a typical exam. Didn’t look anything like the physics exam I did in matric in 1965 in WA.

    Wishy washy garbage mostly. Then again in 1965 the human race was going to the Moon and a universe awaited our talents unlike now when kids are taught about gloom doom and disaster and all they can look forward to is an inward looking future of ever more pollution and constrained resources.

  53. Louis Hissink May 25, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    Eyrie,

    Trouble with our generation is that we are the last of the empiricists – we went to the moon, using our physics, and today that’s been replaced by a, a err, thoroughkly post modern ecologically sustainable, gender balanced, socially meaningful dialog.

    As Rudd is going to build 4 sooper dooper solar plants in Australia, (which means a lot of silicon chips, a lot of copper for the bus bars, an enormous battery capacity to store the electricity, as we need power at night, and I can sense another grand folly in the making.

    And I wonder who the rent seekers are this time round.

  54. Green Davey May 25, 2009 at 11:10 am #

    Returning to the fray, I must apologise for my statement that Alan Sokal’s paper on ‘transformative hermeneutics’ was refereed. It seems that the postmodern journal ‘Social Text’ was not, at that time, peer refereed. The editors’ opinion sufficed. But that’s not too different from some ‘science’ journals, where the editor selects the referees.

    Those interested in the Alan Sokal Affair will find much information in Wiki, and other sites. He discussed Foucault, Derrida, and a few others. I would have thought that ‘post-modernism’ would have quietly disappeared after that blast, but no, it drivels on. It should be a joke, but it does seem to twine its tentacles into universities and the political arena.

  55. Larry May 25, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    In this discussion thread, we’ve been relatively successful at beating bad physics education to death. But what about good physics education?

    My Armenian-American mathematician/physicist friend claims that the old Soviet Union had the best-ever mathematics and physics curriculum, thanks to “Uncle Joe”. Here’s how the story goes. Stalin gathered the top educators in both of these fields in one place, put a gun to their heads, and ordered them to produce a world-class curriculum, or else! Surprise, surprise! They succeeded. Here are two highlights of the Soviet approach, which continued to evolve after Stalin’s death.

    At the secondary school level, when a mathematical concept was taught one day, it was applied to a physics problem the next day. Talk about integrated subject matter!

    Paradoxically for a totalitarian society, Nonstandard Thinking was a buzz-phrase in their mathematics education. And it was actively encouraged. Martin Gardner had rock-star status in the Soviet maths educational system. (Gardner was famous for his mathematical puzzle writing, much of which was published in his column in Scientific American.)

  56. Joel May 25, 2009 at 11:36 am #

    If Schneider actually agrees to this debate with Pielke Sr. it will be interesting:

    http://climatesci.org/2009/05/24/comments-on-the-global-warming-debates-stephen-schneider-in-the-may-24-2009-issue-of-the-examinercom-by-thomas-fuller/

    Here we’ll have a Professor of Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies:

    http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/

    Debating a Professor of Atmospheric Science:

    http://cires.colorado.edu/science/groups/pielke/people/pielke.html

    Postmodernist versus Empiricist?

  57. Jan Pompe May 25, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    Louis “an enormous battery capacity to store the electricity, as we need power at night”

    That’s ruddiculous!!

    Kevin will supply the light at night, you know where the sun shines from.

  58. Green Davey May 25, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    Dear Thin King Man (may I call you Ray?),
    Anent your contribution above, I approve your use of a much neglected, but useful, word. I support the views of Hobbes (1651) and Wittgenstein (1953) on words. They are wise men’s counters, but can be the money of fools, used to bewitch the mind.
    I suspect that post-modernism is partly the result of a decline in the standard of English. We need to get rid of ‘sesquippledan verboojuice’ (H.G. Wells?), and revive good, pithy old words like anent, whilom, ninny and shent (Shakespeare/Marlowe) and pardee, sikerly, ywis, sith, nas, and eft (Chaucer).
    For those who choose, instead, to tread the academic career path of post-modernism, their publication count can be accelerated by using buzz phrase generators. I give a short example below, which will generate 100 impressive phrases:
    A B C
    critical intertextual epistemology
    relativist fideist metanarrative
    idealist foundationalist signification
    feminist symbolic metafiction
    dystopic deconstruction

  59. Green Davey May 25, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    Oops, the dratted computer bewitched my buzz phrase generator. Put a few spaces in, and all will be clear.

  60. TheWord May 25, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    When epidemiology started being accepted as part of “medicine”, then later as part of “science”, I knew we were in big trouble.

    http://www.sph.emory.edu/epi/episcience.php

  61. Louis nHissink May 25, 2009 at 8:04 pm #

    Jan,

    Of course you are right – and then it would be described as a Ruddite Ramp, whoops, Lamp. (too much Asian influence I am afraid, as I am now involved in the iron ore and manganese mining business).

  62. SJT May 25, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    The irony of a blog that parades so much pseudo science being so concerned about the debasement of science is overwhelming.

  63. Terry May 26, 2009 at 1:30 am #

    SJT-

    “Physics has entered a stage where there is no definite answer to a lot of questions. That’s not a problem with us, it’s a problem with the fact that we have gone as far as our instruments can take us.”

    Um, no. Particularly not at the secondary (highschool) level. Gravity works just as it did in Newton’s day (GR still existed back then, too). d = vt, v = at, d = (1/2at^2), ke = (1/2)mv^2. All approachable, all quite exact unless velocities approach the speed of light. Further, any number of people can do simple experiments and agree on the results. In other words, there is objective reality, and math is terribly useful in its description. All of this is apparently lost with the current “physics” curriculum in the UK. Very sad.

    Science works, postmodernism doesn’t. One will endure.

  64. Winston Smith May 26, 2009 at 4:29 am #

    The other day I re-read Orwell’s 1984; often thought wrongly to criticise communism. 1984 predicts the postmodern improvisation of knowledge. Postmodernists seek safety by altering our speech and so our thoughts so as to avoid conflict. They don’t realize that the contol of thought is so powerful that once acheived is not ever relinquished. Orwell’s warning that Power becomes its own justification should be of interest to those who seek to control our thoughts for any purpose.

  65. SJT May 26, 2009 at 8:57 am #

    “Um, no. Particularly not at the secondary (highschool) level. Gravity works just as it did in Newton’s day (GR still existed back then, too). d = vt, v = at, d = (1/2at^2), ke = (1/2)mv^2. All approachable, all quite exact unless velocities approach the speed of light. Further, any number of people can do simple experiments and agree on the results. In other words, there is objective reality, and math is terribly useful in its description. All of this is apparently lost with the current “physics” curriculum in the UK. Very sad.”

    You confusing cause and effect. Science teaching is trying to keep up with a new generation that has been conditioned to only expect and tolerate pleasure. The problem is students just won’t do the ‘hard’ subjects like science and advanced maths in the numbers the used to, and of those that do, many struggle to keep up. The curriculum is trying to cater to their needs. It’s not creating them, it’s trying to deal with them.

  66. Eli Rabett May 26, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    Far be it from the bunny to be serious, but have you folk realized that algebra and calculus are in pretty much the same position that arithmetic was in 1970. Why sweat integrating functions when Mathematica/MathLab/Maple can do it for you? If you think Eli is exaggerating MathLab has been pretty well integrated into the engineering curriculum (see comments about ABET).

    To the same extent, you have to know the rules in order to spot problems (ill stated inputs, etc), but you don’t necessarily have to master the minutia.

  67. Patrick B May 26, 2009 at 10:35 am #

    Looks like hasbeen has a few problems with the ladies. What a mysoginistic attack. “Girls have always been better at literary subjects than boys”. What abolute ignorance. Girls have been encouraged to study literary subjects. Girls have been discouraged from studying the sciences. It only takes a modicum of reflection to realise this. I pity your son if this is the quality of analysis that he is exposed to at home.

  68. kuhnkat May 26, 2009 at 11:05 am #

    SJT says,

    ” The curriculum is trying to cater to their needs. It’s not creating them, it’s trying to deal with them.”

    Well, reading drivel like this makes it much easier to understand your Religious beliefs.

    At exactly what age are these children already used to not doing difficult things and seeking only pleasure?? The article appears to be about later education, BUT, the same problems extend all the way down to the first classes to which most children are exposed.

    Did you “GET” that SJT????? The problem begins much earlier in the education process. You may say that it begins at home and I would agree with you. There is STILL a dumbing down in the schools in addition to the home environment.

  69. SJT May 26, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    “At exactly what age are these children already used to not doing difficult things and seeking only pleasure?? The article appears to be about later education, BUT, the same problems extend all the way down to the first classes to which most children are exposed.”

    They have grown up to be good consumers, that’s the problem, schools don’t teach them that.

  70. Patrick B May 26, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    Speaking of religion, I’m so happy for you guys that a Catholic Caridinal has endorsed Plimers book as I know how much you all know and love Prof Ian. It’s nice to see that you’re not adverse to bringing other faiths to your own table of beliefs. Three cheers for the ecumenical looie, cohie, birdy, motty and co! What a group of confused tossers you are. If you ever got you heads out of each others arses and read anything other than your own drivel you might have some idea of philisophical positions such as postmodernism. Postmodern science? The fact that you can type the phrase shows how shallow an understanding you have. Bunch of blouses.

  71. Graeme Bird May 26, 2009 at 3:22 pm #

    So you must have that evidence then hey Patrick B you blockhead?

    No?

    Well it looks like its you that are the idiot with your head up Tim Lamberts ass now doesn’t it. You said it was the other people but it turned out to be you. This is the way with leftist projection.

  72. Graeme Bird May 26, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Any of you dumb leftist CO2-bedwetters found any evidence then. For your irrational beliefs. Anyone. Someone come up with some evidence that would support cost-imposition for the purpose of LOWERING the level of atmospheric CO2.

    Speak Patrick you blockhead? How about you SJT you lowdown belly-crawling scumbag?

    Lets have that evidence.

  73. Green Davey May 26, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

    Birdie,
    Are you sure you are not Luke in agent-provocateur mode?

    (Actually, I just wanted to test my new gravatar)

  74. Green Davey May 26, 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    Dammit.

  75. Alan M May 27, 2009 at 12:18 am #

    I have found this discussion very timely.
    I have a daughter in year 12 here in WA looking at heading to UWA next year to study science, probably Human Bio. At the moment we have at home the “glossies” from the various universities “selling their wares”.
    Being a science graduate from the past in the Earth Sciences (Msc in all)who now works in the resources industry (where we have data quality standards to meet and real peer reviews) I thought I would have a look at what was on offer from what is regarded by some as WA’s top university.

    Amoungst the normal options is a course which commenced this year, a BSc (Climate Studies). This attracted my attention having studied the then elements back in the 70′s during the global cooling scare- you know Physics, Mathematic ,Statistics, Chemistry, Oceanography, Climatology ,bla bla which generally required a decent background in proper science.
    So what are the prerequisites for this 4 yr science course at our premier Uni ;- English competence and “Any TEE Mathematics”!

    At L1 you study Plant & Animal Bio; Earth & Environment; Environmental Systems; Environmental Economics and with the added comment ” you may also need to study Chemistry and Mathematics”. Options at Yr 3 and 4 are Climate Science and Environmental Modelling. How do you do complete this with-out good maths and physics.
    For crying out loud there are more social science subjects in this course than real science. I don’t wish to knock social sciences but we are dealing with physical sciences here, and these will be the grduates advising the governments of the future.

    Must be time to head back and complete another JORC compliant resource where the three elements are relevance,transparency and materality. ( just for Louis)

  76. Eli Rabett May 27, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    There was no global cooling scare in the 1970s outside of the papers you read on a checkout line. Obviously your kid is in trouble.

  77. Alan M May 27, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    Look what the cold weather has bought out! Back to your “warren” old son, you must have still been influenced from something you were smokin in the 60s during the 70s.

    Typical, circular argument linking to RC wiki and making assumptions about my kid, don’t worry she is doing just fine. Perhaps I could say its obvious you are still smokin something from the 60s.

    So do you actually have anything intelligent to say about the point of my comment?

  78. Larry May 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    Hi Ray,
    Don’t take Louis too seriously. He’s mainly curious about how well you can take the piss. BTW in your bio, you neglected to mention your show size. :P

  79. Louis Hissink May 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    Larry,

    ???

  80. Louis Hissink May 27, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    Larry,

    Oh, Just realised who it was – The confusion was the “Name” and the signature at the bottom.

  81. Louis Hissink May 27, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    SJT

    This is for you:

    “Study plunges standard Theory of Cosmology into Crisis
    May 5th, 2009 in Physics / General Physics

    As modern cosmologists rely more and more on the ominous “dark matter” to explain otherwise inexplicable observations, much effort has gone into the detection of this mysterious substance in the last two decades, yet no direct proof could be found that it actually exists. Even if it does exist, dark matter would be unable to reconcile all the current discrepancies between actual measurements and predictions based on theoretical models. Hence the number of physicists questioning the existence of dark matter has been increasing for some time now.

    Competing theories of gravitation have already been developed which are independent of this construction. Their only problem is that they conflict with Newton’s theory of gravitation.
    “Maybe Newton was indeed wrong”, declares Professor Dr. Pavel Kroupa of Bonn University’s Argelander-Institut für Astronomie (AIfA). “Although his theory does, in fact, describe the everyday effects of gravity on Earth, things we can see and measure, it is conceivable that we have completely failed to comprehend the actual physics underlying the force of gravity”.

    This is a problematical hypothesis that has nevertheless gained increasing ground in recent years, especially in Europe.

    http://www.physorg.com/print160726282.html

    It’s called pseudoscience and it’s what you believe in.

  82. Louis Hissink May 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm #

    Why, from EXPERIENCE, AGW is wrong.

    “Richard Feynman, lecturing his students on how to look for a new law in physics, said, “First you guess. Don’t laugh; this is the most important step. Then you compute the consequences. Compare the consequences to experience. If it disagrees with experience, the guess is wrong.

    In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your guess is or how smart you are or what your name is. If it disagrees with experience, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”

  83. Jan Pompe May 27, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

    For Louis

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b240PGCMwV0&feature=related

    The sequel is equally important

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b240PGCMwV0&feature=related

  84. Green Davey May 28, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    Ahem, returning to the thread, I found some old notes which quote from ‘Only One Earth’, by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos (1972). Although postmodernism perturbs me, perhaps Barbara and Rene suggested an interesting change in emphasis within society, and education. They said:

    ‘The balance of man’s scientific drive and interest is beginning perceptibly to shift, especially among the young, from the vast and heady triumphs of physics and engineering – speedier machines, more powerful rockets, deadlier weapons – to the deciphering, with all the exact patience that is required, of the minute balances, the tiny trade-offs, the intimate structures of living things in their complex, vulnerable, and interdependent ecosystems.’

    From the perspective of thirty years on, did they get it right?

  85. Eli Rabett May 28, 2009 at 2:20 pm #

    Alan dear, your ignorance is your kid’s problem. The kid probably knows to follow the links. RTFL darlin.

  86. Larry May 28, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    Louis wrote:
    “Richard Feynman, lecturing his students on how to look for a new law in physics, said, “First you guess. Don’t laugh; this is the most important step. Then you compute the consequences. Compare the consequences to experience. If it disagrees with experience, the guess is wrong.”

    Linus Pauling said something similar. During an interview, he was asked how one makes important scientific discoveries.

    His answer. First you have lots of ideas. Then you throw out the bad ones.

  87. peterd May 29, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    AlanM: WHAT GLOBAL COOLING SCARE OF THE 1970s?

    Louis: what is called “pseudoscience”? Also, can you not be more careful about what you are quoting, and what are your own words? If you’re quoting someone else’s words, put them in quotation marks.

  88. AlanM May 29, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

    I was going to leave this but obviously my sarcasm was a little subtle and has drawn in more than one bunny. Next time I will perhaps use quotation marks or use sarc on/off. Is there a time zone problem? Sorry do I actually mean a cultural difference?

    Having been there in the 70’s I am fully aware it was mainly, but not all a popular press driven “scare”, but hey what is different to now? Hindsight is a great skill.There is a considerable gap between what genuine science is stating and what the popular press reports. There is no more “real evidence” now for anything out of normal limits (geological time) than there was in the 70’s. Maybe the science was better then or at least properly reviewed and contested. One big difference is that research funding is quite different, far more political now.

    So I will return to the point of my original post and related to the topic. How can a major university offer a science degree with so little hard science? And to be fair to the UWA they are not the only institution doing this. I await your on topic comments.

  89. Gordon Robertson May 31, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    Do we have to abandon traditional physics because a few loose screws want to study reality as a an exercise probabilty? Do we have to turn science over to screwball environmentalists bent on brainwashing students?

    It bothers me to admit that yet another socialist regime has messed up royally. The socialist idiots in power in the UK have set science back on its heels. The only comfort I can draw from the situation is that right-wing governments are just as bad on AGW theory, but that’s a small comfort.

    The guy writing the article is telling it like it is. Whereas physics has gone too far into the objective, with it’s math-based calculations, it still represented a precise science in that an exam answer was ‘essentially’ right or wrong. Richard Feynman was quick to point out that a scientific fact should not only be supported by mathematical proof, it should also be explanable in words. He lectured on that basis, refusing to present a lecture he could not explain in words. There is room for both on a physics exam but abandoning mathematics-based problems is not on.

  90. Gordon Robertson May 31, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    Graeme Bird…from his linked article…”But everyone knows that this is futile. Since we haven’t even proved that reality isn’t imaginary through this largely worthless methodology”.

    I was in an awareness seminar once and got in a philosophical argument with the seminar leader. We were arguing reality and I was presenting some highly philosophical arguments about what it ‘might’ be, or what ‘might’ be possible. He called me on stage and pointed to a wall at the back of the stage and asked me if I could walk through the wall. In my demented mind at the time, I talked of the possibility one day of the atoms of my body fitting between atoms in the wall. He told me to cut the bullshit and walk through the wall if it wasn’t real.

    That was my cure. Seeing that wall as a real object that I could not walk through started me on my way to becoming aware of the mental processes that distort reality for us. That’s when I got off the mental crap that afflicts most of us, the crap that leads us to believe reality is an illusion. Mind you, reality is far more than we think it is. We see real objects that appear to be solid and define them based largely on light shining off them. The notion, however, that the Earth’s reality would not exist without the human mind to qualify it is based on absurd arrogance.

  91. Gordon Robertson May 31, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    Reading my reply to Birdie, someone might think it absurd that another person could argue that a wall is real. After studying physics for a few years at a university level, however, it becomes apparent that matter is a collection of atoms bound together in certain arrangements. The possibility then becomes available that it might be possible to fit one set of bound atoms between another set of bound atoms if a means could be found to deal with the interatomic forces without disturbing the overall makeup of either object.

    In this manner, the possibility can be confused with the reality. If you take that to the nth degree, where it’s undecided whether atoms are particles or waves, reality could be energy fields with solid points. So reality moves closer to the dreamer’s philosophy that it is nothing more than an illusion. The danger in that thinking, however, is the obvious: it is nothing more than a thought, and a distorted one at that.

    That is the philosophy that comes from science and it is a basis for quantum theory, some of which is completely absurd. Scientists get into thought experiments but they can get out of hand and confused with reality. The danger to a human, however, is in losing his/her grounding, or centering, a vague reference to the need to be in touch with where one actually is in life…the here and now. Many people spend large amounts of time in thought of future and past events, excluding the reality of now.

    For me, I needed to get out of that mental space where everything, including reality, became merely a thought. The wall experiment was a good example to me that some things were too real to be avoided. Whereas it was fine to theorize about life, getting caught up in the theory was a serious problem to my awareness of what was actually going on. I never want to lose the understanding that a brick wall is only a collection of atoms bound together by inter-atomic forces yet I don’t want to lose the awareness that it is a real impediment for me if it’s in my way. From that point of view, acknowledging reality as a definite construct was far better than leaving it as an abstract reality.

  92. Gordon Robertson May 31, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    Louis Hissink “In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your guess is or how smart you are or what your name is. If it disagrees with experience, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”

    One thing you might add, Louis, is that the great scientists have no problem laughing at their mistakes. I can’t see any of the AGW ego-trippers ever getting over their mistakes. Linus Pauling once laughed at missing a third Nobel for discovering the structure of DNA. He was so close that a trip to England to consult with an xray crystallographer would have revealed the evidence he needed. Instead, he clung to another theory. Even Mrs. Pauling gave him gip for that. The point to note is that the discoverers of the structure, Watson and Crick, were so green they had to consult Pauling on how to put the theory together. That came about because Pauling’s son was hanging out with them.

  93. Gordon Robertson May 31, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    Larry “Linus Pauling said something similar. During an interview, he was asked how one makes important scientific discoveries”.

    Linus was quite a character…one of my favourite scientists. Before his death, he was doing work with Matthias Rath on heart disease. They reached the conclusion that heart disease was due largely to levels of vitamin C being far too low in humans, causing leakage in the arteries. Vitmain C is a key component in the production of collagen, the glue that sticks cells together. Pauling theorized that humans had lost the gene responsible for producing it’s own vitamin C and that liporproteins had been evolved to plug holes in the arteries caused by the lack of C.

    When Rath, through experiement in a lab setup for him by Pauling, discovered that lysil deposits were causing plaques to form in relation to the lipoproteins, Pauling immediately saw that the amino acid lysine could be used in conjunction with vitamin C to prevent heart disease and possibly reverse the effect of it. This has become known as the Pauling Formula, but it will no doubt be a century before it is taken seriously.

    It wasn’t just that Pauling took ideas and threw out the bad ones, he had the ability to know what was good or bad when it came to ideas. For example, a 150 pound goat makes 12 grams of vitamin C for himself in a day, while the human makes none. Pauling saw the intelligence in that and wondered why the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C was so incredibly low. It’s barely enough to prevent scurvy yet C is the main ingredient in much of the bodily processes. It is involved twice in muscle growth alone. Pauling recommended 3 grams of C a day for humans, and took up to 18 grams a day for himself.

    When it was suggested that was a waste, because humans just peed it out, Pauling went into the lab and proved that 5 grams of a 10 gram intake was retained in the body. He claimed the 5 grams expelled in the bowels helped prevent cancer. That was the difference between Pauling and other scientists, he didn’t hide behind double-blind studies, asking why they were necessary when an outcome was so obvious.

  94. Larry June 1, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    Hi Gordon,
    My opinion on Vitamin C, cancer, and heart disease is that more research is needed. Yeah, I know that that’s a pretty wimpy position. So what’s the optimal intake for humans? That’s not an easy question.

    We have higher levels of uric acid than most other mammals who home-brew their own Vitamin C. And uric acid has a sparing effect on Vitamin C. So extrapolating from goats to people is not a conversation-stopper.

    I’ve experimented on a convenient guinea pig, myself. My conclusion, based on a sample size of one, is that the 60-mg Recommended Daily Allowance is a joke. However Pauling-sized doses have an interesting side-effect on me.

    Despite my sustainable exercise routine and trying be mindful about when I’ve had enough to eat at each meal, I’m still slightly overweight, which is a risk factor for various health problems. Anyway, taking even 300 mg of Vitamin C at a meal increases my appetite. I need that like I need hole in the head! So Linus, wherever you are, please forgive this poor sinner.

    One more point about Vitamin C. In the real world, we have to make decisions on the basis of less-than-perfect information. For most people, the risk of a Type 1 Vitamin C error is probably much smaller than that of a Type 2 error. You’re definitely not going to turn into a frog if you take more Vitamin C than you need–even if your physician makes stupid expensive-urine jokes.

    Getting back to the larger issue. Yes, Pauling had incredible intuition about how the natural world worked. But he wasn’t a god. It’s still necessary for people with lesser minds to get their hands dirty, and do the bloody experiments. With better information, people will make better health decisions.

  95. spangled drongo June 2, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    I’m sure Linus Pauling was right in regard to vit C.
    As a young man I was a victim of Barcoo rot which is the desert dweller’s equivalent of scurvy, the old sailor’s disease from lack of vit C. This lead to the early deaths of many of those DDs from bowel cancer from that almost exclusive diet of salt beef and damper.
    I later used the Afghan trick of carrying a small store of dried dates for which I used to get ridiculed for “eating camel shit” and today I still have a high fruit diet.

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