Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Untitled #1

This is the power
This is the truth of the power
This is the power of the truth of the power

See things as they are.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Paid spokesperson for a bad idea

For critical thinking classes, I want to create a series of "talking head exercises," where students have to play spokesmen for proposals that are stipulated in advance to be really bad ideas. The first scenario I thought of goes like this: There are two courses of action, and one is twice as risky as the other. Option A has a 15% chance of a Very Bad Outcome, and Option B has a 30% chance. The Payoff if the Very Bad Outcome is avoided is the same in each case. You, the student, have been hired as a TV spokesperson for Option B by an organization that for some reason (money, ideology) wants to see it happen. You need to write up a series of talking points and coaching tips to yourself for your next TV appearance.

The answer for this particular scenario would involve two bullet points:
  • Emphasize  that both options have risks 
  • Avoid direct quantitative comparisons. 

The spokesperson needs to say things like "Look there are no guarantees in life. Even if we took option A, there is a possibility of a Very Bad Outcome, perhaps from set of circumstances X. [Elide the fact that these circumstances are unlikely.] If we want the Payoff, we are going to take risks. All we are saying is that we should give option B a chance."

If we got really fancy, we could do role play in class, although right now I don't do any public speaking type stuff in any of my classes. It would be nice to do this in combination with studying the techniques used by people in history advocating for what we now all agree are very bad ideas, such as Bill Buckley's oh so rational arguments for segregation, or the talking points for people paid to say that cigarettes don't cause cancer.

I need more scenarios, though.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

This alone provides immunization against the cavils of Dawkins-style atheists.

If you restrict yourself to beliefs that can be verified scientifically, you can't make it through your day. This alone provides immunization against the cavils of Dawkins-style atheists.

The question becomes then, what else to believe, in addition to what can be known by science. The next step that presents itself, to me at least, is to take our emotional responses to the world as at least potentially veridical. This doesn't just appear amazing, it might actually be amazing. This doesn't just appear disgusting; it is actually disgusting. We can clearly be wrong about such judgments. (When I was 17, I thought gay sex disgusting.) But we cannot be rid of all of them, or else, how do we get through our day?