Sunday, August 02, 2015

Supplemental Materials

Eli is happy to present some supplemental materials expanding on a previous post and more

Shortly after coming across these, via a tweet from MT, now back at the old Only in it for the Gold stand, the Bunny happened on a post by Jeff Rouner in the Houston Press,  "No its not your opinion, you are just wrong".  It begins with a quote from Mick Cullen
I have had so many conversations or email exchanges with students in the last few years wherein I anger them by indicating that simply saying, "This is my opinion" does not preclude a connected statement from being dead wrong. It still baffles me that some feel those four words somehow give them carte blanche to spout batshit oratory or prose. And it really scares me that some of those students think education that challenges their ideas is equivalent to an attack on their beliefs. -Mick Cullen
Rouner points out that many things people claim as their opinion are actually statements about facts, and facts are not opinions.  Some things are opinions, such as Eli believing that carrots are the most superior food stuff.
There’s nothing wrong with an opinion on those things. The problem comes from people whose opinions are actually misconceptions. If you think vaccines cause autism you are expressing something factually wrong, not an opinion. The fact that you may still believe that vaccines cause autism does not move your misconception into the realm of valid opinion. Nor does the fact that many others share this opinion give it any more validity.
He continues
And yes, sometimes scientific or historical data is wrong or unclear or in need of further examination. Everyone knows water expands when it freezes. Do you know why it does that? when literally nothing else in the world does? Nope, and neither does science.[ *See correction below and related article] Or hey, here’s a question; what was the racial heritage of the Ancient Egyptians because historians can’t come to a consensus;and Egyptian art is too stylized to accurately judge.
Eli and several others pointed out that yes, science and a lot of people know why water expands when it freezes, and Jeff added a correction.  A very important correction, not for what it said about water, but for what it said about how misconceptions can and should be corrected.
* Correction:  I did get something wrong in the article. I said that science didn’t know why water was the only substance that expands when it cools. Turns out water is one of the few substances that expands while it cools, not the only one, and that we do know the reason it expands. I took finding this out with chagrin and further proof of my point that we all have much to learn. My opinion was based on bad data. Now it’s not.
This, to Eli is a major point, that one has to recognize one's own limits.  This is so unusual that one can only point to the title of Michael's most recent post:  They concede nothing, they can't


John said...

When liquid water is cooled in the range 3.98 C < T < 100 C, it contracts
However, when the temperature is in the range 0 < T < 3.98, and the temperature of the liquid water decreases, the liquid water expands.

So the maximum density of liquid water is reached at 3.98 C.

Why does this happen? Because at 0C, liquid water can be converted to solid (ice), and it is well known that solid ice is less dense than water at T= 0C. That's why an iceberg (or an ice cube!) floats in liquid water.

It's unusual, but not a mystery and not unique.


guthrie said...

The thing is, it is a lot easier in life if you take a more scientific viewpoint, because then you can go "Oh well I was going by old data" and change what you know. That way your ego isn't as involved. Whereas denialists and suchlike their egos are often involved and everything is personal, thus being wrong is unpossible, because that would involve damage to their sense of self and an admission that they might not be wonderful and infallible.

Brian said...

From a pedagogical perspective, one can have an opinion on innately subjective issues that can never be wrong. One can also have an opinion on factual issues where the factual issue is unresolved. The latter can change due to factual developments.

These students seem confused because one can have an opinion at some point about factual issues, so they conclude they can always legitimately have an opinion on factual issues.

Seems like a good thing to work out in middle school grades. Too bad somebody skipped the issue.

John said...

An historian friend of mine was teaching a course in early US history. The professor was nonplussed when a student asked him to explain the FACT (!!) that all the signatures on the original Declaration of Independence were forged.

And there's a bunch of people who maintain that the original moon landing was faked. No, the National inquirer is not a peer-reviewed journal.

Pete Dunkelberg said...

John, somehow I don't think you've put your finger on causation.