Monthly Archives: December 2011

Scientific Literacy: What It Actually Is Part 1

Scientific literacy is obviously needed in the world today but it’s presence is not necessarily as easy to measure as the percent of population that can read or write. The definition of scientific literacy depends on which scientific facts you perceive as important and whether the beliefs of the layman count for anything.

It’s fair to say that knowledge involved in scientific literacy then must be broad in scope and involving an idea of how the process of science works. But also a complete understanding of each concept is not expected. Yet I will argue that something else is expected; adherence to the status-quo of knowledge.

My mom’s friend believed that Newtonian Gravity explained the cosmos and had not yet superseded by a more complete theory. Another person I knew was well up to date on the latest theories of the origin of the universe and gravity but did not believe in evolution. Evolution is central to scientific understanding of everyday life, but the minutiae of gravity is not. In one sense the latter is more scientifically literate than the former. OECD defines scientific literacy as the ability of people to apply scientific knowledge to understand phenomena but the person who is clearly quite up to date on most sides of science puts holes in this definition. Nor is the ability to apply scientific method to a problem a great way of defining scientific literacy because knowledge of scientific method does not necessarily lead to rational outcomes. Many creationists think that their theory is scientific and results may very closely resemble scientific method.

Since literacy is defined as ‘competence or knowledge in a specified area’ it would be thought that literacy would be improved by greater exposure to science. A person cannot become less literate by greater exposure to a subject. But it seems that scientific literacy of an individual can actually regress if they are to buy into dogma or delusion, as the one individual above did. Literacy in any other subject doesn’t work like that, one doesn’t forget to read because he is exposed to more reading. A person does not become less literate in literature for like Twilight. So I hesitate to call ‘scientific literacy’ as anything with any sort of validation. Literacy does not encompass a persons views of a subject of their reasonableness .

Scientific literacy is more a euphemism for knows when to ‘trust the right sources’. Science is too complex for people to understand without investing large amounts of time and an idea of the basic principles will not illuminate anything but the most basic phenomena to the layman. Instead it is trust the biology to the biologists and medicine to the doctors. Trust authority and stop listening to the pope.

A person is scientifically literate if:

1) They accept theories that a reasonable person would think of as true. Even if sometimes this means putting blind faith in ‘experts’.

2) They can understand and apply these theories to identify pseudo-science.

Advertisements

Decline of The American Hegemony

The fall of Rome was slow, devastating and changed the course of history. With all luck the decline of the American hegemony will be a far smoother transition. I may even grow to miss the American overlords, the the world with China at the helm will be a far less welcoming place. even though the Americans were not the most principled or even effective police of the world, the rule was never Imperial in nature and at the heart of its policy was a genuine concern. This will not be the case in the next two decades when China comes to power and will be tempted to use its influence in shocking ways.

Today American politics is a mess to look at, special interests have embedded themselves within the government and the philosophies of the major players is as skewed worldview as anything that would be said by a feudal baron. The government is corporatism, anti-civil rights, and the worst kind of religious. Although the problems of stupid governance are worse in the Republican Party they are by no means limited to it. In order for it to maintain its standing it will no longer be able to rely on military might and will have to rely on it’s voice. Hopefully this realization will be sobering and snap Americans and their idea of American exceptionalism back into reality.

Maybe America will fall like Rome, or maybe it will fade gently into the background.

Sexual Scandal

A politician falls from grace because of a sexual scandal; it’s an often repeated story that happens all too regularly. When a politicians public face, fails to carry over into his private life the public pounces on the politician and their political career is over. Even those who survive only do because of exceptional circumstances, and only remain as shadow of their former political selves. Bill Clinton’s semi-successful stint in the white house is overlooked for a poorly timed blow job that almost got him impeached. But it is the tabloid fascination with sex and drama that distracts from issues far more relevant to a politician’s ability to do his job. The fascination with sex scandals has everything to do with our soundbite political climate, sex scandals are not actually concerned with morality but are one of the medias successful ways of turning political theatre into the central element of politics. It is this rather sick fascination what goes on in the bedrooms of our politicians that dilutes any reasonable conversation.

What separates a politician from us? Clearly we hold them up to different standards. I think it’s fair to say that politicians are expected to be better versed on current issues and have a passion for whatever their dealing with. Politicians are usually also very charismatic although this is not an ironclad rule, but there is a kind of politician, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, people with infectious personalities that you remember. Of course you always end up with candidates of convenience that have very little charisma, but they usually make up for it in intellect or political savvy. They also happen to driven by different things, they are attracted to power, it’s important in the current political situation that no one show this kind of ambition but among the public it’s kind of taken as a rule of thumb that most politicians are out for power, we seem to be satisfied though if they take the courtesy not to show it.

More confusingly there’s a double standard of morality for politicians. This double standard seems to focus more on their personal lives and less on their public ones. Almost all prominent politicians have a scandal or two that is in the sphere of general knowledge but very few scandals are enough to end the politician’s career so long as what they do is not clearly illegal. In some cases even an illegal action is not enough to bring the politician down. But this standard seems to be less lax for a politicians bedroom habits, no one will give up with the opportunity to report on a sex scandal. Eliot Spitzer was a promising candidate until it got out that had an affair, there were no allegations of any other wrongdoings, but his political career was effectively over because he had not been monogamous. Yet it seems that the actions of monogamous evil men aren’t nearly as bad, so long as it doesn’t get completely out of hand and a scandal isn’t bad enough they can have political careers spanning decades. Corruption is illegal, affairs are not, but if affairs are to be treated on at least the same level as corruption, I suggest we make affairs illegal and punishable by prison.

Sex sells and politics doesn’t, there is very little ratings wise to talk about policy minutiae. It’s also a great opportunity for the opposition to unambiguously deride the fallen opponent without any chance of an effective counterattack. People interested in very small scopes of things will find sex scandals immediately relatable, unlike most things in politics it is a unhealthy nonpartisan show of hypocritical shaming. Yet a politicians commitment to monogamy has very little to say about the ability to do their job, it has less to say about their commitment to a cause or their ability to manage. Does any of this really matter to anyone, if they are not getting into a relationship with that person? The standards of a politicians conduct by the public is strikingly high in regards some things and striking low in regards to others.

5 Lessons From Skyrim

  1. Money talks: Skyrim is a massive world with hours of dungeons to explore so it is most telling that my character has become little better than a accountant who occasionally kills monsters as a hobby. Most of my time has been spent shuffling from shop to shop trying to make money
  2. Dungeons are scary: For what is a three dimensional dungeon crawler my character avoids dungeons like the plague. They seem to make him scared, perhaps he will never emerge from one of these dungeons, only to be found years later by a wandering skeleton to have his body defiled in the worst ways possible.
  3. Polytheism is stupid: its Johnny god of the unseen and unknown. *Yawn*. Like ancient Greece there’s a god for every stupid thing you can think of. Theology in real life is boring enough already.
  4. Routine is king: I have four places that I go regularly, these places make me money. I dare not go anywhere else because that’s exploring which sounds dangerous.
  5. Diplomacy is for suckers: Sorry bandits, if given the choice between avoiding you and bludgeoning you into eternal sleep to steal all your goodies, well you know which one I will pick. Really I feel guilty about it though.