.Science (plus) Discussions
Personal wellness & economic health

Wellness demands brain work as well as muscle work.  We stay healthier if we exercise both mind and body. 

Scientific illiteracy is endemic in the U.S.  To too many, science is a kind of magic seemingly lying beyond human powers, at least "beyond my powers."

It needn't be.

Science teaching itself has recently become more scientific and has given its teachers some real power to help their students discover magic in science.  That discovery is fabulous fun, too. 

Any city which has a scientifically literate people will improve its economic wellness because modern industry is looking for that city.  Modern industry needs scientifically literate people, and those people want good science in their children's schools.

How can we help Portland become that city?

Science rests on a foundation of several principles that often evade understanding.  For example: Advertising, our most prevalent use of communication, uses information in ways opposite to, and often inimical to, science.  Searching for disconfirmations is the prime rule in science; convincing that the slightest bit of confirming evidence is sufficient to believe what we want to believe is the way of advertising.  And, science is usually abstract knowledge, but abstraction is usually understood to be "not real." That's a sure sign that the substance of the science was "not seen."  Furthermore, the abstract principle often shows the seer that something, though widely believed, could not possibly be.  Impossibility happens!(?)

Science fairs in the schools can get understanding to our society at an early age.  Here is an opportunity to turn young people into magicians--that is, able to apply those principles which so often seem "beyond human powers."  That's science.
Lillie and Paul's science fair at Bridlemile
Sound education
Puzzles that demonstrate impossibility

From The Washington Spectator
September 1, 2004

    Off the radar of all pundits is a little-know, least-selling 2002 study that may very well best describe what the 2004 presidential electorate is thinking--or isn't.  In The U.S. and the Wealth of Nations authors Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen conclude that, for complex reasons, the average brainpower of a nation ultimately determines its economic strength.  The citizens of China, Japan and Korea have been shown to have a higher average IQ than Americans.  The analysts' breakdown of our various states reveals the status of American minds in 2000.
    With an IQ of 100 being the average, the top seven states were: Connecticut (113), Massachusetts and New Jersey (111), New York (109), Rhode Island (107), Hawaii (106), and Maryland (105).  All voted for Gore.  The bottom seven states were: Mississippi (85), Utah and Idaho (87), South Carolina and Wyoming (89), South Dakota (90), and Oklahoma (90).  They all voted for Bush.

On explorepdx.org
link to this page
Look again!

Using IQ to rank by intelligence is always a great oversimplification a lot of orthogonal factors make human intelligence something that must be ordered in a many-dimensional space.  The above observation assumes a one-dimensional ordering.  That's dumb!

We should look for specific components of intelligence that might contribute to political opinions.  Something along this line was done by Harvard's Lawrence Kohlberg (See, "The Adolescent as Philosopher" by Lawrence Kohlberg & Carol Gilligan, Daedalus, Summer 1984, pp 75-95).  Kohlberg extended the work of Jean Piaget by examining morality, the way we respond to others, especially when mutual interests conflict.  As we develop our intellects from infancy to adulthood, we acquire many specific reasoning skills along the way.  The infant's concern with no more than the most limited sense of environment develops into an egocentric ability to effectively get some desires met--through mom.  And a bit later through the rest of the family.  The child gains ever more understanding of an ever wider range of relationships and by adolescence can grasp concepts of mutual reciprocity; which leads to some sense of community, perhaps a clan, perhaps a gang, perhaps a country or religion.  Some might even gain some sense of mankind as the most important group.

Those skills which develop into maturity--and expand our awareness of our physical and social world--are the most sophisticated intellectual skills.   They are those that produce science--and ultimately determine the economic strength of a nation.  The most sophisticated morality identified by Kohlberg is a reasoned morality (as opposed to an instilled or learned morality) based on the current (and changeable) situation.  The reasoning leads to a sense of the implications of the mutual reciprocity relationships that exist between people.  Kohlberg characterized this morality as "ethical-logical comprehensiveness."

Liberal - Conservative - Radical - Reactionary - Libertarian - . . .

Ranking political-economic opinion in a one-dimensional "liberal-conservative" is always a great oversimplification.  Sociolgists often start to avoid such oversimplification by using a two dimensional ranking such as "authoritarian vs autonomous" on one dimension and "self-centered vs others-inclusive" on the other.  Scientific American recently published a study of progressive society vs traditional society that plotted many of the world's societies onto a two-dimensional chart closely related to those two parameters.  (I'll try to find it and put it here--it's important.)

The conservatism of the Bush administration is both authoritarian and self-centered, and it is rather extreme on both dimensions.  One of the most salient dimensions of conservatism is its failure to sense the implications of mutual reciprocity in inter-human relationships (a la Kohlberg) making "compasionate conservatism" one of our most oxymoronic of linguistic inventions (right up there with "War on terrorism").

The many dimensions of the liberal-conservative measure are mostly matters of recognizing logical relationships, very often with those at the liberal end recognizing relationship not seen by those at the conservative end.  Ethnocentric opinions leave out the legitimacy of the interests of other cultures, punitiveness fails to recognize the positive feedback of fighting evil by doing reciprocal evil, giving to the wealthy most or all of the necessities of life at the expense of the poor fails to recognize the multidimensionality of "value" of a human being; etc.

Bush's declaration, "Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes," reveals failure of the very intellectual developments that Kohlberg's work suggests underlie the ability to recognize the implications of  mutual reciprocity.

However, the political left is more prone than the right to believe in pseudoscientifc nonsense such as levitation through Transcendental Meditation, Therapeutic Touch and psychic healing, biorhythms, etc.

Gil writes:

You pose a difficult issue.  It is most worthy of discussion.  Where to start?  The public mind seems is clouded  with the noise generated by politics, war, and the pervasive campagin of fear promoted  by the Bush administration.  There is no room for reasoned discourse or careful thinking.  How can rationality be returned to our community?

"Political" issues are usually felt to be "merely personal opinion" and not subject to logic.  In fact, labeling something "political" usually announces that logical analysis will not be allowed.  Logic always guides effective thinking, and logic relationships must be examined, in politics, science, or anywhere else.  The advertisers message is mere demagoguery until it's examined critically and seen to be nonsense..

Overcoming demagoguery is one possible starting place.  I think this can be more successful in examining pseudoscience than in examining politics. 

The logic--which might be subtle--spans all of our thinking.  The fallacies found in "Energy is the capacity to do work" are found in "Saddam is evil; 9-11 was evil; therefore, Saddam caused 9-11."  The unseen statistics logic that leads gamblers to slaughter is the unseen logic that led the mass media to the conclusion that Gore had not won Florida as the exit polls showed--especially in the face of apparently tampered-with butterfly ballots and fallacious ex-felon lists conveniently slanted toward probably-Democrat voters.  In third-world countries, we use exit polls to test for ballot-tampering and election fraud..

Phil, 9/28/04


...from the earlier posting on this page:
These are important distinctions between liberal and conservative viewpoints.
Each is an issue that the conservative view fails to recognize some important factor.

effective and humane decisions involve webs of many relationships which are at the edges of easy human comprehension. 

Six sinister oversimplifications that bring suffering to too many people: 

 When we embrace:
We do not recognize:............
Ethnocentrism The legitimacy of the interests of other cultures or countries. 
Egocentrism The necessity that others have the same rights as ourselves.
Punitive Morality The positive feedback of fighting evil by doing reciprocal evil.
Scalar Ranking The necessity of using a multidimensional space when ranking.
Shallow Insight The deeper level of abstraction at which mathematics exists.
Oversimplification The multiplicity of causes and effects; the fallacies of propaganda.
bumper to bumper

What topics would you like to see discussed at the next meeting? Or discussed here on this page?  Send in your ideas for posting on this page.