I am Dr. Schievella, a resident of Port Jefferson for 80 years, known as Pat. It would not surprise me to discover that I may be the oldest person in the room, since in two months I'll be 95 years old. I've live through Port Jefferson's growth and evolution into the beautiful and thriving village it has become. I was a student here and later a teacher. My contribution to it has not been tangible. Rather it was intangible in that as a teacher, I have helped to mold the minds of students.
I happen to own three acres of land and have been offered a great deal of money for it that would have enabled me to live as a king. But I stayed here. I tell you this to convey to you how much I love Port Jefferson.
Many of the residents, this evening have already stolen some of my thunder. But this much is certain, you, the Board, will not be able to solve their problems in a single year of a moratorium. Unpredictable circumstances are certain to take control.
Consider this, "If you pass laws diminishing the availability of land for building, you are making it difficult for people of means and talent to reside here, not to mention your own child, who may wish not to wander elsewhere, from being able to build a home in Port Jefferson.
However, other concerns relate to the idiocy of proposing a law that will deprive our citizens of their personal rights and full value of their property through a moratorium, thereby disrupting their plans in predictable and unpredictable ways for a full year.
There is, also, an employment consideration here: the economic fallout that will have an impact causing greater unemployment and depriving many workers of their livelihood. Possibilities for employment will be restricted to that of present commercial needs. No economic growth in employment will be possible.
But there is another concern of mine. I am a philosopher by profession but, I hope you will forgive me for sounding like one. Two great philosophers, John Stuart Mill and John Locke were concerned with the tyranny of the majority over the minority. Laws do not exist per se; They are the creations of fallible human beings. By what moral law does anyone assume the right to deprive another of his property of to diminish the value thereof"
Is it not obvious that to do so is an abuse of power and overreaching by the trusties elected to serve the best interests of each citizen of this village? No law is any better than the people who impose it. The majority is not justified by its numbers. After all, as the old saying goes, "Fifty million Frenchmen can be wrong," as exemplified by the last eight years.
There is little doubt in my mind that if one was not prone to putting such a law into practice, it was because , by doing so, it would be a financial loss to him, as according to hearsay, is the case with someone here who now is in favor of a Moratorium.
However, if the residents of Port Jefferson wish to curtail commerce, surely, out of fairness, they must be willing to pay for it, through increased taxation, to compensate for the loss of devalued property resulting from their actions and for the legal entanglement of determining the amount of the loss in value.
Moreover, it is hardly in our best interest to pass a law that would curtail the possibility of adding to our residency those minds and creative talents typical of what in the past contributed to the development of our village.
Consider also, is it not likely that the village will find itself subject to more lawsuits than it presently envisions?.
ON CRITICISM OF MY ADDRESS AT THE MORATORIUM MEETING OF FEBRUARY 2ND.
Published February 19.
Regarding the Editorial and the letters of two proponents of the moratorium in the Port Times Record of February 12, 2009, the two proponents falsely offer the impression that the majority of residents favor the moratorium. So much for the abuse of language.
My major concern here is to correct my poorly expressed remark of the tyranny of the majority that the Editor interpreted quite to the contrary of my intent. First, I wish to refer to his abuse of language referring to my short reference to the philosophical concept of the possible tyranny of the majority. It was hardly a "rail" against a tyrannical majority, a term implying the use of a highly emotional verbiage. It was a factual unemotional statement to the affect that the majority can be wrong, and often is.
My use of the term, 'Majority' referred, however, not to mere opinion and judgment, but, rather, to those who give force to their opinions by voting. I repeat, I was referring to a majority of voters. The majority of the evening of the meeting was not a voting majority.
My reference was to the Board, implying that a mere extremely small majority of the Board, if in favor of the moratorium, could tyrannically vote in favor of the moratorium despite the apparent wishes of the clear opposition of the members of the audience, admitted by the editorial, and even despite the wishes of the residents at large in the absence of a referendum.
Lastly, I must advise, having been an editor myself, that one of the responsibilities of an editor is to avoid the use of emotional verbiage. The use of it smacks of intent to influence acceptance of his personal opinion and interpretation of the facts.
If it is desirable that a person shall speak correctly, it is more desirable that he shall think correctly."
I completely agree with such great thinkers as Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Marilyn Vos Savant, and so many more, that our schooling institutions, including the college and university levels, emphasize what to think (and do it well), not how to think. Nor do they teach our children to think critically about how we abuse language, particularly neglecting to distinguish the uses of unfalsifiable and verifiable language, i.e., language that can’t be shown to be true or false from language that can. Yet, ask any teacher if she teaches her students critical thinking, our most recent educational mantra, and the most likely reply will be, “Well of course I do."
For close to fifty years of teaching experience, I pioneered, with little success as a voice in the wilderness, for the introduction of Critical Analysis (now renamed “Critical Thinking”) classes on the pre-college level. In 1960, I introduced the subject at E. L. Vandermeulen High School. In order to get in touch with the high schools throughout the nation, I founded and published two international journals, opened a website, and published books and articles on the subject.
When I moved to teaching on the college level, I was, and still am dismayed to discover how little “education” freshmen students had acquired from their pre-college studies, i.e., how to think, as opposed to being well schooled, i.e., accumulating a wealth of “facts," i.e., information.”
As a consequence of that experience, throughout my career as a college professor, I had little choice but to conclude that most teachers don’t have a clue as to the nature of “Critical Thinking.” Our universities failed to emphasize the importance of examining our abuses and uses of language.
Most “educators” believe “critical thinking” can be achieved osmotically as a residue of their areas of expertise, analogously to teaching mathematics in a music class. They see little need for an autonomous class for teaching clear, critical, and analytical thinking. Most teachers encourage their students to ask questions without first teaching them the right questions to ask, when to ask them, and what their unexamined assumptions are.
A critical thinker, at one time or another, possesses the following attributes: she is curious, questioning, speculative, creative, inquisitive, reflective, thoughtful, open-minded to evidence (i.e., verifiable claims), perceptive, persistent, observing, resistant to gullibility and accepting absolutes, interested in objective and rational discussion, prone to unambiguous definitions, sometimes analytical, and more.
“Critical thinking,” in its conventional usage, however, involves, not only these attributes but, also, the application of them.
Teachers of different academic orientation, define “critical thinking” in terms of their own areas of expertise. They are rarely concerned with examining the fundamental assumptions upon which their beliefs are founded that, if examined, could expose the errors of those beliefs – to mention a few:
Moralists and theists assume, and blindly accept, the existence of moral principles and then, ignoring their assumptions, imply their real existence.
Theists declare the existence of their unverifiable, i.e., unknowable gods, and then proceed critically to describe them in detail.
Scientists assume the existence of a physical world beyond our sense data and ignore the fact that the language of science (i.e., mathematics), describes our perceptions, not reality.
Poets and artists, not concerned with truth and knowledge as defined by scientists, think critically about choosing words or images that will stimulate personal meanings in those who view their works.
Mathematicians are not concerned with discussing the reality of geometric concepts. Bertrand Russell aptly put it, “Pure mathematics is the subject in which we don’t know what we are talking about is true.” Most often the critical thinking of students of mathematics constitutes a critical understanding only of the manipulation of little understood concepts. They have no idea, for instance, that “1+1=2” is an example of the fallacy of begging the question, i.e., assuming what is supposed to be verified.
In ordinary, i.e., conventional language, a child who is told to, "Hand me that yellow pencil," clearly and discriminatingly understands which pencil to select. She is unaware of the scientific evidence that since the pencil is rejecting, i.e., reflecting the yellow, the “real” color of the pencil is, in fact, a complex of all the colors not reflected.
At the very least our teachers should be required to teach our children about the weaknesses of language as well as its strengths, awakening them to the fact that language is the path not only to knowledge but, unexamined, also to a continued debilitating ignorance and great harm to humanity. Witness the state of our world today!
Imagine what a nation of people taught to be questioning, open-minded to evidence, interested in objective and rational discussion, etc., could do for this world.
Relevant to the above are two speeches I delivered to the New York Youth Council (of Port Jefferson), the first ( April 16, 2010) in honor of my almost fifty years of pioneering for the mandating of required courses on the pre-college level, the second on May22 2010). Its members are dedicating themselves to my cause in Critical Analysis that until now has been a voice in the wilderness.
April 16, 2010:
deeply honored to receive this Lifetime Award from The
New York State Youth Council. I
humbly accept it in the name of all those, over the centuries, from Socrates to
today, though there was little heed given to their eloquent warnings of the
pitfalls and dangers of abused language.
Michael Tessler spoke to me about the award.
Because of lack of success in my endeavors, I did have some reservations.
But as I thought about it, I recalled my own experiences in acquiring an
education that enable me to attempt the impossible.
age 23, after an eight-year hiatus, I decided to return to high school.
When I approached Principle Earl L. Vandermeulen about returning to the
classroom as a freshman, he kiddingly remarked, “Yes, if you behave
was a turning point of my life. But
another hiatus was in the cards I had yet to play.
Our country couldn’t win World War II without my four years,
months, and fifteen days of service. However,
the GI Bill came to my rescue and I was able to earn a PhD., in Philosophy at
Columbia University at the
age of 53.
recounted this bit of history of my life to prove to you that “Where there is
a will, there is a way.”
came to the conclusion that I was being given an opportunity to express my
opinion about the fifty years, out of my 96, of effort to bring change to what I
consider is a great failing of our schooling institutions and those in charge of
When I discussed this with President Tessler, to my pleasant surprise, I discovered that we were of like mind. He advised me that students of today want more out of high school than mere facts. Apparently they are aware of Albert Einstein’s words of wisdom from his book, Ideas and Wisdom:
. . . Education is that which remains if one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
or Stuart Chase from his book, The Tyranny of words.
is no more than crudely acquired before children begin to suffer from it, and to
misinterpret the world by reason of it. Is
the fault to be charged to the child or to the language taught him?
is heard of our failing schools and the catch phrase, “No child left
behind.” But strangely, and absurdly, the cure all is declared to be
the simple solution of graduating more students with little regard for the fact
that our students are not being taught how to think.
Copyright © 2010
Pasqual S. Schievella
Obviously this is neither the time nor the place to give a lesson in Critical Analysis, but here are a few extremely important concepts of which we
all be aware.
1) Among others, the major change to be brought about is to require our teachers to teach our students how to think as well as what to think.
In more technical terms, they must teach our students to be able to distinguish between falsifiable language (i.e., language that can be shown
true or false) and non-falsifiable language (i.e., language that cannot be shown
to be true or false – ever).
2) Herein lies the importance of teaching our students how and when to use the question, “What do you mean?” intelligently; not: “What doe
that word (i.e., symbol), mean?” since no symbol has an inherent meaning.
3) And the bottom line regarding the nature of language is that: all language is about our perceptions and conceptions, not about an
assumed reality beyond our perceptions leading us to the definitive conclusion that “Language is no more, and no less, than the attribution of
meaning to linguistic
symbols. And, from a human
being’s point of view, meaning resides nowhere other than within the confines
of the human brain
a course in Critical Analysis, including at least these three facts, was
mandated and emphasized throughout the semester and the nation -- for that
matter, the world, what a different and better one this present world would
Because our minds would then be forever faced with the fact that we have
a moral responsibility to reject those beliefs, we consider to be facts, as
we form our personal perceptions and conceptions so prone to error and so
often the result of not having been taught to be able to distinguish falsifiable
from non- falsifiable claims.
last words come as an appeal to you to communicate with your Boards of
Education, strongly and urgently insisting that if they wish to be honored under
the aegis of the term, ‘Education’ that they mandate the institution of
courses in Critical Analysis and its principles throughout the United States, a
change in our schooling institutions that despite, my failure, our youth
councils, as they spread across the nation, are determined to bring about.
NEW YORK YOUTH COUNCIL
For over forty years, I have endeavored to awaken our schooling institutions and their leaders, through publications, two international journals, lectures,
an extensive website, and attempted personal contact to inform this nation that it has not fulfilled its responsibility to educate our children. It prefers to
concentrate primarily on the teaching of facts, the acquirement of the necessities of a comfortable life, and such courses as will enhance the continued
American way of life.
My concern, however, is that our teachers, well schooled as they may be, and not having been educated themselves, continue the practice of primarily
schooling their students while insisting they are educating them. They can hardly be blamed, of course, because they are hired to teach the facts of their
subjects. However, it is worth repeating this from Albert Einstein:
. . . Education is that which remains if one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
It is a hard fact that from early childhood educating the mind is given short shrift. Surely at the origin of verbalized language, we could not expect to pay
attention to educating the mind. But as the centuries passed by, our brighter thinkers began to discern the difference between falsifiable language, that can
be shown to be true or false, and non-falsifiable language that cannot. Both constitute the nature of conventional language. Therein lies the great failure
of the world’s schooling institutions.
Stuart Chase observed, in his book, The Tyranny of Words:
Pasqual S. Schievella
is no more than crudely acquired before children begin to suffer from it, and to
misinterpret the world by reason of it.
Being educated requires recognition of the difference between falsifiability and non-falsifiability. Consequently, it is incumbent upon us to include
such terms in our teaching vocabulary and to clarify the use of the term, ‘language.’ Misunderstood, and consequently abused, it is the source of most
of the interpersonal and international ills of the world.
Unfortunately, by the time our children attend college, their minds having been subjected to the language of metaphysics, supernaturalism, abstractions,
transcendentalism, mysticism, and the like without detailed clarification are so full of misconceptions, and falsehoods, it is almost impossible for the
neurons of the brain to be disentangled from their conditioned state.
Hardly a student, or his teacher, is capable of determining why so simple a sentence as, “I like ham and eggs better than anything,” is utter
nonsense. It should be obvious upon examination of the language that since the term, ‘anything,’ includes ham and eggs, it is impossible to like ham and
eggs better than ham and eggs. Such is the nature of conventional language that we habitually accept it at face value. Our teachers neglect to teach us,
a la Socrates, that the unexamined sentence is not worth accepting.
It is simple enough to verify that the term, ‘language,’ including that of mathematics, does not relate to a physical world. To quote the eminent
philosopher, John Locke, of the year1689,
We should have a great many fewer disputes in the world
if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our
ideas only, and not to things themselves.
Countless simple tests will verify that fact. A person need only close his eyes to have his assumed physical world visually disappear.
Let us, then, get directly to the point: What is language? Obviously, the general public considers it to be the sound of our voices, the written
word, the black ink in encyclopedias, words in the dictionary, and the like. Conventionally, they are correct. That is how we use, and abuse,
the term, ‘language.’ Considering Locke’s clarification, however, I suggest that there is no such thing as language. There is only languaging, i.e.,
the function of the brain that attributes meaning to symbols, whether those symbols be a wink of an eye, a wiggle of a finger, the clothes we wear, or
the words we use.
No dictionary gives us meanings of words. The source of meaning is nowhere other than in a physical brain. Dictionaries do, however, record
the way we use, have used, and no longer use those out-dated symbols for attribution of meaning.
In my view, then, the definitive definition of the term, ‘language’ (i.e., languaging), is the attribution of meaning to linguistic symbols. I emphasize,
it is not the meaning, it is the act of attributing meaning to symbols.
Consider the primary evidence supporting this contention. Each of us acts, or fails to, on the meanings we attribute to the symbols we impose
or have imposed upon us whether we agree or disagree with them. The nature of the resulting acts stems from the fact that no two sentient creatures
experience the world in the same way. They attribute personal meanings to the daily human, national, and international events occurring throughout the
We call those events, “news,” whether they are the simple quarrel with a friend, a divorce, the waging of war, an act of terrorism, the lynching of a
person, or the multiple contradictory descriptions of an automobile accident at a police station. In essence, what happens in the world socially, nationally,
or internationally is a direct result of the totality of our attributed and so often disagreeing meanings. We make the world we live in. Since this is the case,
it is incumbent upon us always to seek the truth insofar as the interpretation of language (i.e., the attribution of meaning), is involved and to recognize the
distinction between falsifiable and non-falsifiable claims.
Though you will recognize some important principles I have already alluded to, in the list below, there are other rules, facts,
and information our students must be taught. Otherwise, it is impossible to become an analytical thinker (which is the definitive
attribution of the term, ‘education’) sufficiently to protect ourselves against the abuse of language that is, and will be, foisted upon
us all our lives.
In the final analysis:
Until teachers are required to emphasize the sources and methods
used to instill
or condition our beliefs,
the difference between verifiable and unverifiable language,
that knowledge is experience but not all experience
is knowledge, nor is it physical reality,
that there are no absolutes, including this sentence.
that truth and knowledge are only probable and dependent on language and
that though much is possible, it is not the
case that ANYTHING is possible,
that no symbol has an inherent meaning,
that words do not HAVE meanings; the attribution is a fleeting substitute
that all meaning is in a physical brain not in symbols, not
in words, not in
black marks on paper, or sounds from people's mouths,
that every declarative sentence is preceded by an
that every claim to truth and knowledge is preceded or ended with an unspoken
(sometimes spoken) ACCORDING TO
that recognizing the “level” of language being used is crucial to
understanding the meanings we attribute to symbols,
that education should never be equated with schooling, proselytizing,
indoctrination, and rote learning,
to emphasize the extent of our abusing language, and to
time explaining how we do,
we shall, because of our dependence on the crutch of blind faith, despite all the progress of mankind, be subjected to more of the horrific man-made
problems we are so efficient at creating, and to the centuries-old unverifiable epistemic nonsense, i.e., false claims to truth and knowledge, that has
diluted our thinking processes from the dawn of man, and will continue to do so, far into the unforeseeable future.
Having said this, a caveat is in order. It would be a gross mistake for anyone to think I am advocating that there is no value in the language
of art, ceremony, speculative language, expression of emotion, or any of the attributed meanings that are not falsifiable.
I reiterate, my concern is that our teachers meet their responsibility to inform our students, at the very least, how to identify unfalsifiable
attribution of meaning if they wish to wear the aegis of the term, “educator.”
Ask any teacher if critical thinking (i.e., critical analysis), is important, without examining her assumptions, and unaware of the complexities
of Critical Analysis, most will reply affirmatively adding that she already teaches her students “critical thinking.” Considering that “Fixing the Schools”
is concerned with unqualified teachers, their consent would amount to little more than a mouthing of the current shibboleths, “Critical Thinking” and
“Education,” the uplifting but presently false slogans of our profession.
A DENIAL OF RIGHTS
May 24, 1973
The attitudes expressed in
"Watergate's a Drag, . . . " May 17, 1973, are frighteningly similar to
those manifested by citizens of other countries.
Their societies fell into a morass of apathy and ethico-political neutrality which became the spawning of totalitarianism.
Attitudes of apathy and
neutrality are real socio-psychological forces that have emerged either from the
frustrations of imagined inability to influence the political scene, from lack
of concern and initiative, or from lack of strength to commit ourselves.
The encouragement of such attitudes undermines our moral and national character without which we could go "the way of Rome."
To suggest of Watergate that "Everybody does
it, "etc., is to deny the ideals, the values, and the goals essential to
June 27, 2008
Published July 10 2008
It is unfortunate that Montgomery J. Granger and Donard Pranzo do not seem to be informed about the relationship of language to our claims to knowledge. It should have been clear to them that Professor Elof Carlson: The inventions of life are largely molecular,” Port Times Record, June 26, 2008, was not using the term, ‘inventions’ anthropomorphically or with any sense of an underlying intelligence.
Moreover, even were Granger correct that the “second law of thermodynamics proves the theory of evolution is impossible,” it in no way would support his unfalsifiable and unverifiable language that the “unique intuition or genius mentioned in the invention definition above clearly belongs to the Divine “inventor” of all life, natural and man-manipulated, and that it is a being spiritual in nature,” which Granger states with absolute certainty and conviction without a smidgen of evidence or even a clear understanding of what he means. Is Granger aware that before the meanings attributed to the term, ‘spiritual’ evolved over the centuries, that it “meant” no more than the “moving breeze?
And had Pranzo, or any other reader, understood that symbols have no inherent meanings and bothered to check what meaning Carlson was attributing to the term, ‘inventions’ he would have discovered that Carlson was not attributing “personal human causation” but was, rather, alluding to man’s “discovery” of the stages of the evolutionary process.
As knowledge of Emergent Evolution teaches us, just as in human progress, the future is built on the progress of the past; in the evolutionary process each stage of the process becomes the requisite for a succeeding procession of a series of causes and effects giving emergence to newly unpredictable qualities.
Carlson is, according to the preponderance of falsifiable language and available evidence, correct in his excellent description of the process of evolution, a fact that any student in a chemistry class can verify by showing that it is not possible for Hydrogen Peroxide, H2O2, to evolve, to the disappointment of bottled blonds, if H2O had not first appeared in the evolutionary process.
In closing I will agree that Professor Carlson might have been more careful in his choice of word when writing for a society whose teachers have failed to inform their students that the nuances of language, not taught them, are the source of much ignorance in the world and that neglecting to teach, as they have throughout history, that language, particularly theistic language, not susceptible to recurrent and predictable perceptions, is the greatest source of unfalsifiable and unverifiable language that will forever be the bane of clear, critical, and analytical thinking.
This fact is clearly expressed
by J. Bronowski, in his book, The Ascent of Man:
Into this pond [at Auschwitz] were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.
PORT TIMES RECORD
Formerly The Port Jefferson Record
July 23 2008
Published August 7, 2008
Re: Montgomery J. Granger: Man: “God’s image or chimps DNA. July 27, 2008, Port Times Record.
As I read Granger’s response, it is clear all my efforts to help readers understand the weaknesses in the use of the symbols to which we attribute meaning had no effect on him. His response continues as a manipulation of convoluted language, innuendoes, and false accusations that cannot be tested. It bears the mark of proselytizing.
If I were to answer his five questions, they would make more sense than Granger could hope for from his spiritual world.
It is strange that he does
not seem to be aware of the difference between “religion” originally defined
to mean “togetherness” and theistic religion requiring a god.
As an agnostic, I am an ardent proponent of a god - free religion defined to mean, I am my brother’s keeper. I have lived a moral life for all my 94 years, and am offended to be branded by Granger as someone who is frightened by his believing neighbors, I live in peace with them all.
Granger claims, “Atheists and agnostics hate and fear those who argue that God’s existence is a necessary presupposition [A presupposition is not reality] of there being any moral judgments that are objective . . .”
Morality existed long before theistic authorities claimed it as their, “invention.” including in the mythologies of the Paleolithic period of an infinite number of gods. [EDITED OUT: and before the pre-Socratic Xenophanes, in jest, suggested the concept of one god,]
However, I do fear and detest the Golden Rule. It justifies allowing a masochist to impose pain upon me just because he’d like me to do it to him. I corrected it, in my book, Hey! IS That You, God?
Moreover, a god that murders everyone on earth except Noah and his family and, also, visits evil on those He is offended by, is an evil god [EDITED OUT: the mother of mass murders. – and hardly a role model.
Granger should study the history of how the great religions began. He may learn that the language of spirituality is not all he enjoys interpreting it to be.
Bewildering to me, however, is how an intelligent person like Granger, can still be saddled with the myths of antiquity that the most renowned mythologist in the world, Joseph Campbell, insists are not good enough even for children any more.
I only wish I had the space to list the thousands of atheists and agnostics from Jefferson to Lincoln, Billy Joel, Gloria Steinam and on and on who contributed and still contribute mightily to our culture. Check them out on Google! What a revelation it will be
PORT TIMES RECORD
Formerly The Port Jefferson Record
Published In The Village Beacon Record, November 26, 2009
In The Port Times Record, December 3, 2009
MORE TRUTH ABOUT OUR SCHOOLS – AND TEACHERS
Ms. Nancy Rauch Dozinas is to be commended for her revealing Opinion article, “More Truth About Our Schools, November 12, 2009. My concern, however, is that she did not reveal a more fundamental truth and that is that our teachers primarily TRAIN their students and are not much concerned about educating them. They seem to prefer to teach them mostly WHAT to think rather than H0W to think or are ill equipped to educate them.
Having taught on the pre-college level for many years and spent considerable time in the “faculty room” arguing about the failure of our teachers to put more emphasis on educating our children,” I came to the realization that thus has ever been the case.
As a linguist, to some degree, I have researched this issue for most of my studying and teaching career partly through my course, "Critical Analysis" and my extensive website. The cause can be exposed easily (The correction of it is another matter.) and can be shown greatly to lie, though not entirely, at the base of our schooling institutions.
It appears that most teachers don’t have a clue about the danger of ignoring the capacity of conventional language, and our abuse of it, to create havoc. Edited out: Ignorant of its complex nuances, they have a tendency to rely on the manipulation of it, with little knowledge or concern about the inherent dangers that lie in them. More specifically, they fail to recognize language that claims to state a fact when upon analysis it is exposed to be “saying” something else.
For instance, how many math teachers, if they do realize it, teacher their students that math is, in fact, a short hand substitute for conventional language and no more describes the assumed physical world than language in general does? Be advised by two great mathematicians:
The only justification for our concepts and systems of concepts is that they serve to represent the complex of our experiences; beyond this, they have no legitimacy.
G. H. Hardy
A mathematician is someone who not only does not know what he is talking about but, also, does not care.
How many teachers ask their students, when they teach, “There are as many points on the short leg of a Pythagorean triangle as there are on its hypotenuse,” if they understand what the language, in fact, is “saying,” but not conveying? No teacher of mine ever explained to the class that, in fact, it is “saying,” “There are as many IDEAS of a point” inasmuch as a “point,” as per one definition, is defined to have no dimensions.
How many teachers of a nation’s language explain, or even know, that linguistic symbols have no inherent meaning and that the only source of meaning, from a human point of view, “lies” within the confines of a human brain? Is it any wonder that bigotry, prejudices, misconceptions, poor argumentation, poor human relationships, terrorism in the names of different gods, etc., are rampant in the world?
How many teachers instruct their students that the definitive definition of language is the attribution of meaning – no more and no less? How many teachers know or teach that truth and knowledge are not absolute and are but functions of language and that if the attribution of meaning did not “exist,” so too would they?
These are only a few of the verifiable facts of knowledge teachers, throughout the world are, and history was, ignorant of, or if not, shamefully neglectful and still neglect to teach their students.
No doubt opposing arguments, offered repeatedly throughout almost fifty years of my teaching career, will be offered. But all one needs to do to be aware of the truth, is to ponder its effect upon the state of the world today as it has been throughout its distant past.
Most worrisome is a teacher’s inability to recognize and therefore teach the difference between falsifiable and unfalsifiable language. Moreover, it would be interesting to note how many teachers, give corrective lessons in response to publicly pronounced language like Pope John the Second’s (years ago), “Faith [the very antithesis of reason except for faith based on clear unquestionable predictable recurrable evidence] is the highest form of reason” or those that emanate from the political and theistic arenas or the media’s culpability in publishing such double talk as that of the God Squad in Newsday, every Saturday, implying that it makes epistemic sense.
Published July 01, 2010
I disagree with Elof Carlson’s usual excellent column, LIFE LINES: “Religion, philosophy, and science all strive to interpret the universe,” June 24. The term, ‘strive,’ implies an honest attempt and possible capability to achieve such an end.
The instruments available for such achievement are language and evidence. Many of us are unfamiliar with the complexities of language, with its potential for arriving at truth, knowledge, falsity, and ignorance and for its power to induce false beliefs as well as true beliefs because our schooling institutions neglect to mandate the teaching of how to distinguish falsifiable language that can be shown to be true or false, from non-falsifiable language that cannot. Carlson’s column lends itself to the impression that philosophy and religion are legitimate methods toward reaching that end with no harmful consequences. He is fully aware of the differences in approach. Science functions through method. The approaches of philosophy and religion do not.
In the distant past, a rudimentary interpreting of the universe was one of philosophy’s goals. Today, because it is so human oriented, it is difficult to define. As with science and religion, philosophy is part art, colored by the thoughts of fellow philosophers concentrating on the meanings attributed to philosophic symbols, our underlying concepts and principles, and their effect upon man.
God-based religions rely on the myths of the past cited by pre-scientific minds and edicts unsupported by evidence. Such myths along with theism are the epitome of non-falsifiable language.
The major difference between science and religion is four fold; the former is self-corrective, testable, and predictable and to a large extent, its language is falsifiable. False beliefs and non-falsifiable language that saturates attempts at communication are the causes of the ills of the world that exist today.
Consider his last sentence: “I don’t impose my belief on them and they do not impose their beliefs on me.”
Surely he must be aware that: "No man is an island." The false beliefs of others do affect each of us. Think, “voting booth.” I repeat, it is false beliefs and non-falsifiable language that often cause wars, and too many other problems to cite here.Everyone should do his part to encourage our schooling authorities to mandate courses, as in discursive logic, encouraging the study of non-falsifiable language to distinguish its positive and negative attributes.
August 10, 1995
I'm amazed that Timothy Mount
could have so profoundly misread Kenneth Schreiber's letter-to-the-Editor on the
subject of religion in our schools.
Mr. Mount chose to interpret Schreiber to be saying, or at least implying, that playing religious music at a school event is unconstitutional.
In fact, he was merely stating that there is a great deal of religion infused in public school teaching and that "religious" music is an example of that.
He is absolutely right!
As to what Schreiber's "misguided" principles could be, I cannot fathom.
Maintaining the separation of church and state is hardly a "misguided principle."
Think back to when the Church was the State.
"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."
We are, of course, far from that state of affairs today. But there are powerful forces supported by multi-millions of dollars trying to make the United States a "Christian" nation despite the fact that one of our basic principles as a democracy is that each of us shall be free to worship -- OR NOT -- as and when he pleases -- even silently and privately in the classroom.
As for "religious music" in the popular but inaccurate use of that phrase, it is beautiful and spiritual -- as is all art and all beauty -- especially the beauties of nature.
MUSIC, however, in a strict sense of the term, is pure sound -- NOT WORDS OR INK ON PAPER.
It is usually theistic language or lack thereof that through the passage of time has, through association, determined whether music is called "religious" or "secular."
By no sense of logic can it be declared that UNVERIFIABLE theistic language PUT TO MUSIC, however constitutional, spiritual, or beautiful it may be, is not still proselytizing, teaching, and indoctrinating young, uncritical, unanalytical, and impressionistic minds.
Schreiber, as am I, is one of the millions -- not "of a few individuals"-- who are profoundly concerned with the possibility that our multi-religious freedom may "inch by inch" be slowly eroded by unrecognized, deceptive, and/or innocent-appearing activities or methods.
It is extremely unfortunate
that our pre-college institutions of learning, excellent as they may be in
training, rote learning, and a smidgen of critical thinking, have little
interest in offering "Critical Thinking" courses.
The consequence is that we become pawns of those, especially in government and seats of power, who are adept at using language as a regulatory device.
Many teachers proudly proclaim that they are teaching their students critical thinking.
It is a shibboleth of our age.
In fact, few of them understand the complexities of clear, critical, and analytical thinking or can distinguish one from the other.
Children cannot become critical thinkers by osmosis just because we expertly teach them the three Rs.
Nor can a few years of rote learning of other academic subjects such as English, History, Mathematics, Psychology, etc., achieve it.
Not only must students be taught but teachers must learn to recognize and analyze basic assumptions and the complexities and nuances of uses of language -- especially the basic rule: No word has an inherent meaning.
"Critical Thinking" is an autonomous subject with its own complex subject matter including processes of thought that the average person and the vast majority of teachers not only do not use but also are incapable of using or even imagining.
They, with rare exceptions, have not been subjected in our institutions of learning to the rigors of analytic thought.
It must be taught using examples from various academic studies and life experiences as the medium through which an understanding of the facts and rules fundamental to clear, critical, and analytical thinking can be achieved.
Until our teachers become proficient in understanding the complexities of clear, critical, and analytical thinking and the concepts, language, truth, and knowledge, they will remain mistakenly content to believe that inducing students to ask questions is a sufficient "method" for producing critical thinkers.
If Joe Darrow’s report, Science and Religion -- not so far apart after all?" The Port Times Record, November 09, 2006, of Reverend Guy J. Consolmagno’s lecture at Stony Brook University is accurate, it is evident that not enough attention has been given to the proper interpretation of language particularly since so much of it is couched in metaphor and poetic irrelevancies, i.e., nonobjective expressions.
It is important to distinguish between “religion” and “theism.” Not all religions are predicated upon the existence of a god. As Einstein said, “I am a deeply religious non-believer.” There may well be a god. However, as defined, there is no way to verify it.
Obviously faith plays a role in science. However, it is not blind indoctrinated faith in a god that eventually evolved out of countless concepts of gods in the polytheistic ages or gods of today.” Nobody worships a god. Each worshiper has faith in his personal, nonobjective concept of a god.
The Reverend claims science “is ultimately nonobjective -- it requires a belief in a universe characterized by order and intelligibility, a belief similar to faith in God.” The dictionary defines “objective” as “having to do with a known or perceived object [such as a tree] as distinguished from something existing only in the mind of a person thinking” [like the concept of a god]. Faith in science, however, is trust in perceptual and recurrent evidence [the tree] until new evidence shows a need for refinement or correction.
It is not enough to say, “science and religion rest on belief.” Much depends on the nature of the belief. Is its language warranted (based on evidence) or unwarranted (incapable of being based on evidence)?
The Reverend says: “All scientific discovery comes from the motivation and perspective of the scientist making the observation.” In this day and age, not only do scientists work in teams but also, the claims and discovery of any one scientist are immediately subject to the final judgment of the world-wide scientific community.
When the Reverend says, “Thinkers like Stephen J. Gould miss the point: Science and religion meet in the human being who is the scientist, the human being who is the believer,” it is he who misses the point. Obviously “science and religion” are intended to mean, “the beliefs of science and religion (which is to say, theism).” If so, he does not seem to understand that countless nonsensical and unfalsifiable beliefs held by the uninformed also “meet in the human being” who is firmly convinced they are true.
Scientific achievements and language are self-corrective, predictable, public, testable, and verifiable. Theistic dogmas and conditioned beliefs are not.
The Unbridgeable Chasm Between Science and Theism
USAGE OF WORDS
Sent March 23, 2007
Published March 28, 2007
Leah Dunaief, “Between You and Me,” March 22, 2007, deserves much credit for her exposure of the strange way in which we use words, i. e., language. I fear, however, that the deeper implications to be drawn from her excellent display of different usages, will be lost on the general public as a result of the great failure of our society and schooling institutions, and especially most teachers in general. Words have no more meanings than is music the “musical” notes on paper.
Almost everyone mistakenly refers to our conventional usage of words as “meanings” of words. No linguistic symbol has an inherent meaning. Evolution of language clearly attests to that. Each of us attributes to words what each of us means according to the conventional usages of our cultures and according to instruction by our parents, teachers, religious authorities, etc.
Both our society and schooling institutions, including much of the college and university levels, fail in their responsibility to educate our students in the true sense of that term. Generally, they teach us what to think not how to think. They neglect to emphasize the abuses of language and the distinctions of the various kinds of language that affect our webs of belief related to truth and knowledge.
Few teachers on the pre-college level bother to distinguish for their students the uses of language that is either unfalsifiable and/or unverifiable. Most students as freshmen in college, not to mention those who never get to college, are even acquainted with those terms.
It goes without saying, though I will say it, anyone incapable of distinguishing unfalsifiable or unverifiable language from falsifiable and verifiable language is not an educated person, no matter his degrees.
As George Orwell so dramatically conveyed in his book, 1984 and President Bush and company, as well as arrogant leaders throughout the world, so clearly demonstrate: who controls language controls our beliefs and actions.
NEW YORK TIMES
February 9, 1992
This is in regard to David
Sobel's review of Ferris' The Mind's Sky, "New York Times Book
Review," February 9, 1992.
If even Plato never succeeded in verifying a connection between universals and particulars (forms and the "Physical" world--i.e., appearances), and subsequent philosophers (and scientists) have not, on what grounds can it be determined that Ferris, as Sobel suggests, has succeeded in relating the universe of stars to the universe of the mind?
All Ferris is experiencing is his universe of mind.
He cannot, in fact, get beyond his experiences.
He is assuming, even if rightly so, that there is a universe of stars "out there."
If he is guilty of other metaphysical suggestions like "The mind and the universe are complementary bodies of information" (my italics), I think Sobel should allow Ferris the right "to pass off this book [accurately] as 'a ramble.'"
Evolution and Faith Can coexist
November 8, 1996
May 18, 2000
August 27, 2000
HOLD ON! NOT QUITE!
We have yet to see, and are unlikely to see
soon, an American citizen with a heritage as a Latino, a Muslim, an Asian, an
Indian, an ADMITTED Atheist or Agnostic, to mention a few, be considered for his
democratic and inalienable right to be nominated for the "workplace"
of President or Vice President of the United States.
July 26, 2001
March 18, 2002
August 22, 2002
Newsday is to be commended for
its editorial on behalf of Amina Lawal (Nigerian mother's Death-by-Stoning Must
Be Halted, Aug. 21,2002).
What is distressing, however, is the appalling absence of attention by the UN, news media, its columnists, women's organizations, and the world's public in general.
For nations which mouth about human rights and are so openly enamored of sexual freedom to sit silently by, except for one lonely editorial, speaks mightily about their values.
To stone even a dog, here in America, raises the hackles of animal lovers. But to stone a woman -- what the hell -- "She's a nobody."
Any nation that resorts to such a brutal and murderous act under the guise of its religiously supported and outdated laws ought to be condemned by civilized nations.
How is it possible for people of the world, who raise a hue and cry about the most inane matters occurring in the entertainment and sports worlds, stand by silently while this atrocity is in the making?
What has happened to our concepts of morality that we do not, in outrage, rise to the defense of this woman?
The silence is deafening!
February, 10, 2003
February 14, 2003
April 20, 2003
September 2, 2003
March 31, 2004
I heartily agree with Pete
Hoegel's astute observation and proposal to "amend the Pledge,"
"More Leeway," March 31, 2004.
However, if we are to preserve the poetry and semblance of prayer of the Pledge, it would be more readily acceptable to insert merely "under gods."
MAY 17, 2004
I admire Bob Hoffman, for his
response to "Pat Tillman's beliefs," Newsday, May 12, 04, wherein he
states "...who arrive at their set of beliefs in much the same way as those
with religious convictions."
He may be correct about atheists.
As for agnostics, however, they derive their "set of beliefs" through study, education, (as opposed to schooling), and reason.
Believers have been indoctrinated, i.e., conditioned by theistic authorities, their parents, and society to believe theistic language that cannot be tested, verified, or falsified, from the day they were born as non-believing babies.
June 19, 2004
December 8, 2004
Phone called received, not published
Judge Sol Wachtler did not “miss the point,” in Newsday, “Opinion,
It is Michael Egnor who misses the point in “Judicial Power, Newsday, December 8,” who does not understand that words do not have inherent meanings.
They have only the meanings human minds attribute to them.
Our forefathers apparently had the wisdom Egnor seems to lack, when they signed the Constitution that was written in terms requiring interpretation related to the mores of a given epoch as opposed to those of the 18th century.
They intended the Constitution to be a document, not of absolutes, but as a guide, a “living document,” that can relate to the changing mores resulting from the evolution, not only of technology but also, and especially, of ideas.
Otherwise, no provision for amendments, i.e., living documents, would have been an essential part of the Constitution.
The Constitution does not “mean" what conventional usage of the 18th century "seems" to say.
Lawyers and politicians of the 21st century interpret the words, i.e., give them meanings, according to their beliefs, convictions, prejudices, and political inclinations, to apply to the judicial issues of an evolving society.
Hence, a living Constitution is an absolute necessity.
Our forefathers had the wisdom to recognize that fact in view of their inability to predict or even conceive what the moral, legal, societal, cultural, and judicial problems of today and future centuries might be.
To believe otherwise is to denigrate their intelligence.
To my utter
astonishment, Newsday's editorial page shows its ignorance of the crucial
difference between science and religion, "Awe Together," March 11,
2005, ". . . what -- or Who -- behind the universe and its abundant
Religion has no method for acquiring knowledge. It speculates, proclaims edicts, and indoctrinates with its unverifiable and unfalsifiable theistic language; i.e.; it conditions our children's minds.
Through the ages, its dogmas, rising out of the primitive beliefs of troglodytes, has caused divisiveness throughout the world and the history of humanity, as they are still doing today, even as they brought and bring comfort to the uninformed.
Science, to the contrary, with a self-corrective method, despite the probabilistic nature of all knowledge and the theories that have fallen by the wayside, has helped mankind immeasurably in spite of the misuse of its discoveries by our world leaders.
It has proved, over the centuries, that its knowledge and its methods work as shown by its achievements and the predicable recurrence of its evidence.
Are both Representative Peter
King and Pope Benedict XVI, "With This Pope, etc," Newsday, April 26,
2005, ignorant of or willfully blind to the fact that, according to available
evidence, absolutes do not exist?
Are they also willfully blind to the fact that the espousing of belief in absolutes, often fractures a relationship with anyone with whom one may disagree and that throughout the history of theistic religions and the world such deep conviction in the existence of absolutes has been and still is responsible for the behavior of terrorists, extremists, anti-abortionists, anti-gays, anti-agnostics, anti-atheists, even some politicians, as well as diverse individual religious believers?
Both King and the Pope have a moral responsibility to accept the evidence, and to use their powers and influence to teach the people of the world to espouse beneficial values AS IF they are absolutes, and to behave in a manner that will uplift humanity rather than pit us against each other because of beliefs in absolutes.
How naive of Frank J. Russo, Jr., and Valerie Spiller, “Put evolution to the
Test,” Newsday, Sept. 15, 2005, 1) to suggest that it has never been tested,
and 2) to espouse the need of vermin in the ecological system in defense of
Just how intelligent is the Intelligence, of Intelligent Design, that is incapable of creating an ecological system without the need of vermin, not to mention evil, suffering, misery, etc.? More to the point, it is outrageous that the proponents of Intelligent Design first, distance themselves from Creationism, since the existential claims for both are almost identical, and second, insist that Intelligent Design, without presenting verifiable evidence, is a scientific inquiry into their claim that Evolution does not explain all the issues of the advent of life and the universe.
Clearly to maintain such a position blazingly exposes their ignorance of history and of the open-ended and self-corrective nature and methods of science and the vacuity of their claims from a linguistic point of view. They are blind to facts of biology acquired over the centuries and to the investigative characteristics of all branches of science.
They are the monkeys on the backs of the scientists and philosophers who have long been, and still are, concerned with these ancient questions only now being re-discovered by proponents of Intelligent Design.
Long before Darwin, his contemporary, Alfred Russell Wallace, their predecessors, including J. B. Lamarck, and their opponents wrote of their differences as to how living species evolved, the concept, if not the terms, was born at least six centuries BC. Even as the Greeks were creating their gods in the image of man, there were thinkers pondering not only the evolution of species but especially Emergent Evolution that investigates both the appearance of life and the evolution of all things out of which life does or does not emerge, an issue to which proponents give little attention or even recognition. I can only conclude that these Johnny-come-lately “thinkers” have resurrected, in phoenix fashion, the Trojan Horse of history in order to undermine the methods and integrity of science in the pursuit of truth and knowledge.
October 19, 2005
Phone call received, not Published
In regard to the comments of Ronnie Lago and Christina Prufita, “A Public Expression Of Faith Is Our Right,” Newsday,
October 19, 2005, would they admit that a banner displaying one’s lack of faith in THEIR personal unverifiable god, whose “acts of god” permit such
suffering and evil throughout history and the world,” displayed on a public building, to be “our right” also?
As a Social Studies teacher,
Thomas E. Dennelly’s comments, Newsday, December 2, 2005, “ACLU should
display religious tolerance,” seem to belie his understanding of the force
politics plays for the purpose of acquiring votes and anything relating to
government. Thomas Jefferson,
according to some sources, was not a devout believer.
He was a politician fully aware of what would be accepted by a nation of
people, particularly other politicians, predominantly well conditioned to the
concept of a divine entity.
The Declaration of Independence was not a governing document. It was only what the title states, implying one of the chief reasons for the exodus from Europe: freedom of religion that necessarily includes “from theistic religion.”
I am sympathetic with Dennelly’s unhappiness with the ACLU’s selectivity, ignoring the danger of supporting ideas undermining our democracy. However, such a stance is no reason for supporting the conditioning of accepting unverifiable ideas.
Dennelly makes no mention of the fact that our governing document, the Constitution of the United States, offers no reference of an unverifiable divine entity. Nor does it offer any implication of a relationship between the Constitution and an unverifiable divine entity. Rather it emphatically states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . .” Notice the term, “respecting.”
Is Dennelly insisting, despite the Constitution, that the political decision to place the term, “God,” a theistic-religion term, obviously in a Christian dominated nation, in our salute and on our money, is not respecting the biblical god? Where in the Constitution does one find the consent of our forefathers to do that?
Is Dennelly unaware that Laws are man-made and do not have to be written? They are known as “unwritten laws.” And an unwritten law, by any other name, is still a law so long as the citizens of this nation are compelled to accept it.
could not agree more with Alfred S. Posamentier: Add math at home where it
counts in kids lives, Newsday, April 14, 2006, when he emphasizes the importance
of encouraging the study of math at home and in the schools.
I would add, college as well.
Overlooked, however, is the issue of how Math is taught. In short, it is taught in rote-learning fashion, comparable to grade-school arithmetic, as the manipulation of symbols with little to no understanding of its character and function as a language.
Posamentier is correct when he speaks of the “power and beauty” of mathematics. But let us not forget, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” It is true that most parents and students find little use for math, beyond grade-school arithmetic, in their lives considering the plethora of concerns, pressure to survive economically, interests, and calculators thrust upon us in today’s world.
If our teachers of math continue to teach the subject as rote learning with no concern for emphasizing its function as a linguistic tool in its relation to the “physical” world and our perceptions of it, I see little hope of increasing interest in it. It should especially be taught as an examination of its role as a language about our perceptions of the world showing clearly that geometric figures and mathematical symbols in general are ideas and do not, in fact, exist in the “real” world. This has been clearly stated among many great thinkers and especially by Albert Einstein, G. H. Hardy, and Bertrand Russell.
If Math were taught in this manner it would certainly pique the interests of those who are in college for a true education beyond merely satisfying their economic style of life and the needs of Corporate America. Our students would learn the very important fact that not only the language of math but every other form of language when abused, particularly unfalsifiable (theistic) language, has a profound effect in creating the horrific problems that plague our world. Consequently, language should never be accepted at face value as indicators of truth and knowledge when they are presumed to relate to our perceptions of reality.
Raymond J. Keating in his diatribe against “activist judges,” refers to “Gay Marriage” in his July 10, 06, Newsday column entitled, “Marriage ruling showed proper restraint.” He draws an analogy with Justice Byron White’s statement on the problem of abortion rights, “This issue, for the most part, should be left to the people and to the political process the people have devised to govern their affairs.” History shows that Justice White's conclusion is doomed to failure.
Inescapably, the general public and those in government involved in creating, judging, or interpreting what laws will determine how we are to be governed are influenced by their secular, theistic, or emotional convictions and political inclinations as well as societal and parental upbringing.
Despite a majority that is opposed to gay marriage, in this day and age it should be clear that laws conceived in an evolving culture will require change as its intellectual temper improves, and its prejudices and bigotry become less severe. [deleted: Our forefathers were amply aware that they should not write laws, absolute in their meaning that could not be “adjusted” to “fit” a society beyond their ability to conceive in their unforeseeable future.]
A study of history, human nature, and the negative aspects and interpretations so blatantly evident in a money-driven political process, seem to have eluded Keating’s thought processes. If he had his way, we could still be buying and selling slaves and women would not have the right to vote.
For all its capacity for being wrong, the very nature of the human process for determining the laws we are to be governed by demands the intelligent contributions of “activist judges.”
[deleted: John Staurt Mill had it right: someone has to protect the minority against the tyranny of the majority, “the people”-- as well as against the minority. If not “activist judges,” who?]
Msgr. Daniel S. Hamilton in, “Nature says same sex rights not ok,” Newsday, July 15, 2006, shows not only an abysmal ignorance of the nature of nature but also the role of sex in nature. He claims, “It is nature, not opinion that dictates marriage as exclusively a man-woman relationship.”
To personify nature he fails to understand, or ignores, that nature is nothing more than the existence of physical things in the universe and their necessary interactions with each other. It does not and cannot “dictate.” There is nothing in nature that gives heterosexual entities exclusive rights to social privileges, human needs, or the definition of marriage. All are subject to human opinion. Nor can nature “dictate” that a child will be nurtured and raised by its biological parents, one parent, foster parents, or same sex parents.
All of nature’s creatures have sex in one form, or another. If the Monsignor would bother to study the history of sexual behavior throughout nature’s domain, he would discover that same-gender sex, and/or commitment, is not one of its “prohibitions.”
To attribute intention and deliberateness to nature, and to equate the possibility for propagation of children by opposite sexes, as a rationale for a social invention called “marriage,” he seems to be unaware that pre-Homo sapiens sexual relationships existed, other than for the purpose of propagation, long before social strictures and marriage rituals were imposed -- and according to a preponderance of evidence, since. Moreover, the natural biological urge for sex should not be equated merely with a desire to propagate children. It is, after all, a natural and beautiful expression of love and commitment.
Even Monsignor’s god did not make marriage a requisite for the propagation of children when, “male and female He created them,” and told them to “Be fruitful and multiply;”-- through incest and without the ritual of marriage.
It is time for the media to stop playing handmaiden to the Bush administration’s abuse of language and war powers. Students of history are aware that a nation cannot be maneuvered or manipulated into waging war unless its citizens are first persuaded to do so. It is true that we were at war in Iraq after being deceived into invading it. Contrary to Bush’s persistent war cries, the world continues to be deceived into believing that we are still at war.
We are in fact merely reacting to a greater number of acts of terrorism and insurgency, since 9-11, than ever before. And though there may be a civil war brewing in Iraq, it is no longer our war.
But so long as Bush can succeed in persuading us, through the acquiescence of the media, that we are “at war,” he will succeed also in acquiring all the powers allowed to him by the constitution for waging a war.
NEVER HAVE I HEARD SUCH AN ABSURD AND SOPHOMORIC RESPONSE TO THE ISSUE OF FREEWILL AS THAT OFFERED BY (inserted: God Squad Columnists, Rabbi Marc) GELLMAN (and Msgr.) HARTMAN IN THEIR, "FREE WILL MEANS LIFE'S CHOICES ARE PRECIOUS," NEWSDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2006 (Inserted: Faith, Oct.21), TRUE AS THEIR HEADING MAY BE.
GIVEN THE HORRIFYING EVENTS THAT OCCUR IN GOD'S UNIVERSE UNDER THE DESCRIPTION, "ACTS OF GOD," AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR THAT WE DEFINE AS "INSTANCES OF EVIL," CONSIDER THESE THREE BIBLICAL "CERTAINTIES":
1) GOD BEING "OMNIPOTENT," CREATED THE LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH EVERYTHING OPERATES, INCLUDING "FREEWILL," DETERMINED BY OUR GENES, AND SOCIAL AND FAMILIAL UPBRINGING.
2) GOD, BEING "OMNISCIENT," KNEW, BEFORE INTELLIGENCE EMERGED, EVERY ACT OF EVIL EACH OF US WOULD COMMIT. AS WOULD A GOOD PARENT, HE SHOULD HAVE ACTED TO PREVENT IT,.
3) GOD, PROFESSED TO BE OMNIBENEFICENT, CREATED THE POSSIBILITIES, TEMPTATION, AND MAN'S PROPENSITY FOR EVIL. MOREOVER, HE SET AN EXAMPLE FOR EVIL ACTS BY COMMITTING MASS MURDER OF ALL LIFE ON EARTH EXCEPT FOR THE FAMILY AND OTHER LIVING CREATURES ON NOAH'S ARK, AS WELL AS ELICITING THE HELP OF SATAN TO TEMPT JOB.
IF THERE WERE A HEAVENLY SUPREME COURT, GOD WOULD HAVE BEEN PUT ON TRIAL FOR SUCH EVIL ACTS. EVEN HE SHOULD NOT BE "ABOVE HIS OWN LAWS" OF GOOD VERSUS EVIL.
SINCE (insert: Because) God allows evil to exist, we CERTAINLY need to be able to distinguish it from good. But to claim that “a world with terrible evil is better than a world with no evil and no freedom” commits the fallacy of bifurcation and shows an unawareness of a third and far superior possibility, a world without evil (A FACT THAT PROMPTED WOODY ALLEN TO QUIP "GOD IS AN UNDERACHIEVER), in which we do choose “freely” from among countless events that are immune to moral “laws,” and instances of good THAT GIVE EMERGENCE TO HAPPINESS, JOY, HARMONY, ACHIEVEMENT, AND THE LIKE with no conscious comparison with evil.
IF GOD, WISELY, HAD CREATED A UNIVERSE ABSENT EVIL, THERE'D BE NO NEED FOR ONE TO KNOW ABOUT EVIL. BUT, IF THERE IS A NEED TO CONCEIVE CERTAIN EVENTS AS "EVIL," THERE IS NO NECESSITY FOR A PREDOMINANCE OF SUCH HORRIFYING EVENTS AS SICKNESS, WARS, MURDERS, AND ACTS OF GOD SUCH AS FLOODS, MUDSLIDES, EARTHQUAKES, TORNADOES, ETC., MERELY TO RECOGNIZE ONE'S PERSONAL VALUE OF GOOD.
IN HIS WISDOM, IF GOD COULD HAVE CREATED SIMPLY ONE OR TWO TEENIEST EXAMPLES OF EVIL, THEY WOULD HAVE SUFFICED.
DEUTERONOMY, CHAPTER 30, VERSE 19 TO THE CONTRARY, WE COULD LIVE INFINITELY BETTER LIVES WITHOUT THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL.
We Don't Teach Students How To Think
Michael Skube raises the perennial issue, Newsday, March 8, so many times raised by the great thinkers of the past and even by many of us in the present, though not in these explicit words: Our schooling institutions teach our students what to think -- not how to think. But it seems evolution has not yet evolved ears, minds or will in those responsible for educating us in the true sense of that term.
Who are to blame? Just about everyone is, but particularly parents, teachers, politicians, and the media. They should be at the forefront of concern that our institutions are most efficient at destroying our inborn curiosity for understanding in preference over the instilled felt need for absorption of information, i.e., “facts.”
It is not enough to complain in generalities. Along with many other voices, I have throughout my 50 years of teaching, and through journals I have founded, books and papers I have written, and a website on Clear, Critical, and Analytical Thinking, over 600 pages in length (index.htm), addressed the issue as a voice in the wilderness.
Until our society and our teachers learn, and themselves realize, that a failure to emphasize the importance the abuse of language plays in reinforcing our ignorance, ever shall we continue to be ignorant of our ignorance.
Until teachers recognize the value of distinguishing between and examining the uses and abuses of unverifiable and/or unfalsifiable abstract language and verifiable concrete language, and their relevance to truth and knowledge, clear, critical, and analytical thinkers will be the least of the issue of our schooling institutions.
TRUST VS BELIEF
In “Faith, Science, and Trust,” Newsday, July 1, 2007, Robert P. Crease poses the thesis that trust not belief should be the major concern between science and religion. He makes no distinction between unverifiable “theistic religion” and “religion” which is quite a different thing. Nor does he seem to be aware of the existence of spirituality in the beauties of nature, science, math, and other non-religious aspects of life.
Among other uses of the term, the dictionary reports ‘spirituality’ to be: “concerned with the intellect or . . . the better or higher part of the mind.” And as Albert Einstein, who did not believe in a personal god declared of the secrets of nature: “. . . behind all the discernable laws and connections . . . . Veneration for this force . . . is my religion. . . . I am a deeply religious [spiritualistic] non believer.”
What is most disconcerting about Crease’s thesis on trust is that he seems to be completely unaware of or choosing to ignore the fact that trust unsupported by evidence is a very dangerous mindset, as can be deduced from Hitchins’ excellent book, God Is Not great: How [Theistic] Religion Poisons Everything. Throughout history, instilling trust in the absence of evidence has ever been the means of unconscionable minds and many in positions of power.
Science founds its trust on corrective and verifiable evidence. Theistic religions, on the contrary, found their trust on unverifiable dicta, edicts, dogmas, and claims on the complete absence and impossibility of evidence.
A WORLD WITHOUT FREEWILL
Rabbi Marc Gellman, in his column, "Freewill," February 2, 2008, in his appeal to authority, cited philosopher Gottfried Leibniz's teaching that, "A world without free will is worse than a world with it, and God could only (sic) make the best of all possible worlds. But according to the Bible, God, by definition, being all-powerful, has no limitation on His power. There is nothing He can't do.
Bare in mind, the Rabbi's god is responsible for the monstrous amount of evil His all-knowing god created (or if Satan is to be blamed, allowed) and made man capable of, not to mention that His "acts of God" constitute much of the evil that is immune to our ability to choose, such as a child born to die within a few days of birth.
In addition, the Rabbi commits the fallacy of bifurcation inasmuch as, aside from a world free of evil or saturated with evil, there is a third possibility, a world with an extremely miniscule amount of evil that his god is, by definition, capable of creating.
In support for his own conclusion, he claims that without the ability to reject evil as a choice of action, we would not have freewill. The Rabbi is oblivious to the fact that, by his reasoning, we still do not have free will.
The choice between good and evil is only one among countless other possible choices his god denies us. His god did not give us all superb brainpower so that we could make the choices Einstein was capable of making. He did not give us the entire essential potential in order to fulfill our choices to be expert in myriad mental, physical, and moral activities. Need I go on?
LETTERS BY READERS OF NEWSDAY AND OTHER VOICES
Source Of Beliefs
There's lots of people -- this town wouldn't hold them, who don't know much excepting what's told them. (Will Carleton)
Obstacle to Learning
Learning is undone by what we already "know." ------- There once was a popular television program called "College Bowl," in which academic teams competed over the facts that each knew, spitting them out just as a well-informed computer might. It gave us the dangerous illusion that this was all that education consisted in: that you go to school to learn things from an encyclopedic list; that you do not first need to purge yourself of false beliefs. That illusion persists, perpetuated by best-sellers and the secretary of education. And destroying that illusion would be a much more costly matter than merely adding to the facts that we all should know, for it would require first learning how to think. (David Glidden)
People with untrained minds should no more expect to think clearly and logically than people who have never learnt and never practised can expect to find themselves good carpenters, golfers, bridge-players of pianists. (A. E. Mander)
Vague and insignificant forms of speech, and abuse of language, have so long passed for mysteries of science; and hard and misapplied words, with little or no meaning, have, by prescription, such a right to be mistaken for deep learning and height of speculation, that it will not be easy to persuade either those who speak or those who hear them, that they are but the covers of ignorance or true Knowledge. (John Lock)
As far as the laws or mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. (Albert Einstein)
Pure mathematics is the subject in which we don't know what we are talking about nor whether what we're talking about is true. (Bertrand Russell)
A mathematician is someone who not only does not what he is talking about but also does not care. (G. H. Hardy)
Science uses consistency and new evidence. It looks for contradictions. When it rejects the paranormal, it is not because fields like palmistry, astrology, alchemy, creationism and mind-reading are different and competing ways to experience the world. The claims of these departures from the material world of science do not allow themselves to be tested by the tough consistency standards of real science. When such standards are applied, pseudo-sciences usually become falsified and they rarely can prove their claims. Sciences that cannot be put to experimental test, however, like most of astronomy and evolutionary theory in biology are constantly being challenged by new data, forcing contradictions and new theories to make sense of a more complex universe. For most of science truth is not an equation. It is an interpretation of some aspect of the universe that is consistent with what is known and testable. (Elof Axel Carlso)
Knowledge vs Ignorance
It is the wise man who knows the limits of his knowledge and the scope of his ignorance. (PSS)
Language vs Truth
Truth is linguistic conformity to perceived public evidence. (PSS)
Freedom From Religion
One day I was looking at the money in my
hands, and I noticed, as if for the first time, the words, "In God we
trust," on every coin and every bill of every denomination.
"What's this?" I wondered. I don't trust in God. I'm an
atheist. Don't I count as an American? Isn't ours the country that
holds itself out to the world as the beacon of religious liberty? Isn't
there something in the Constitution that says that the government can't take
sides in a religious debate?" To find the answer, I read the
Constitution. There they were, the first 10 words of the Bill of Rights:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
Saying on our coins and currency that Americans trust in God surely didn't seem to be in keeping with the spirit of that clause. I started doing research and learned that in the middle of the McCarthy era in the 1950s -- Congress went religiously berserk in its battle against "godless" communism.
In 1954, 62 years after the Pledge of Allegiance was written, the words "under God" were added. In 1955, "In God we trust" was made our national motto.
The United States had done quite well for almost two centuries without that barrage of theistic dogma, yet our legislators felt it reasonable to violate both the spirit and the letter of the establishment clause in order to pander to a religious majority at the height of the Cold War. So in 2000, I decided to make the intrusion of "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance the target of a legal challenge. Since then, I have learned some of the history that I regretfully never picked up in school.
We had some amazing men -- the framers -- who literally invented our extraordinary form of government. Fifty-five visionaries set themselves in a building for two months in 1787, and they developed a completely novel set of principles dedicated to forming a truly free society. They argued, discussed, researched, debated -- maybe even prayed -- until they came up with one of the most glorious documents of all time: our Constitution.
Unlike the constitutions of the colonies, our federal Constitution has no mention of God. Despite the fact that every colonial preamble referred to "the Almighty," "the Supreme Ruler of the Universe," or some similar divinity, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution contains no such references. Furthermore, we have a clause that specifically prohibits any religious test as a qualification for public office -- a concept that broke strongly with the traditions of the times. The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution because people feared that without its specific guarantees, the federal government might trample on their freedoms. The words of the establishment clause were revised over and over until it was formulated in the broadest and most explicit language imaginable: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
Reading the cases, I learned that, despite its frequent use of inspiring rhetoric, the Court has nonetheless ruled that giving tax exemptions to religious organizations doesn't provide them with financial benefits, that it's OK for Congress to begin every session with a chaplain-led prayer, and that displays of the birth of Jesus are not religious. I have also learned how deep is the antipathy toward atheists. According to a 1999 Gallup poll, half the population would refuse to vote for an atheist.
I learned that politicians are as spineless as we've all been led to believe.
Despite the Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas still have clauses in their constitutions that deny atheists the right to hold public office. Similarly, not a single senator -- and fewer than 1 percent of the House members -- has been willing to stand up and acknowledge that there is at least a valid constitutional concern underlying the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision last June in my case.
The court ruled that having public schools lead children in reciting the words "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. More than anything, I've learned to truly appreciate the genius of the constitutional democracy left to us by the founders. It's still amazing to me that one individual can force the entire nation to at least ponder the ideals upon which our laws rest. I feel that only one more lesson lies ahead: the one showing that our citizens understand that the security of liberty rests on the adherence to those ideals, even when we don't personally like the results. (Michael Newdow)
It seems to me that "God" is a
crutch used by those needy one way or another. The Bibles were written by
men, not gods. People who hear voices or are spoken to by "gods"
should be undergoing mental treatments. Christ was born and died a
Jew. Yet, today many religions have adopted him as their savior.
Heaven and hell are creations of man. Good deeds and acts should be
acknowledged here and now; people should not be waiting to be rewarded in some
fictitious hereafter. Imagine these idiot volunteers willing to act as
human bombs to get the exotic rewards of a hereafter.
Without the hate generated by the various "God" beliefs, the peoples of the Earth would share in universal peace. How can we accept the tsunami, the Holocaust, the Crusades, the genocides in Sudan, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, China and many more, and say these nightmares were acceptable to a caring, loving God?
We are worried about a theocracy in Iraq. Yet, with a puppet president who hears from God, and a Senate leader wanting to set religious criteria for our judges, we are on our way to becoming a theocracy run by the immoral majority.
God help us.
Our forefathers brilliantly set apart church and state. If we do not keep this separation, we will inevitably fail as did many of the great empires. (Alvin Frohman)
"God" is the name we give to the limitless scope of our ignorance. (PSS)
We must be greater than God because we have to undo his injustice. (Jules Renard)
Religion controls us with fear that we are evil. Psychiatry controls us with fear that we are crazy. Society controls us with fear that we are less than others. (Source?)
In August, a federal appeals court judge ruled that atheist inmates at a Wisconsin prison have the right to meet as a study group, citing the U.S. supreme Court's recognition of atheism as equivalent to a religion. According to the Supreme Court, it has to be considered a religion, but . . . the definition of a religion to me is belief in the supernatural. And the supernatural cannot really be proved, because it depends on who is seeing the supernatural and who is believing in it. People like myself have a tendency . . . to be more factual about things . . . I believe it's in the Constitution that we have the right to assembly . . . so if we can assemble under one banner or another, atheism's as good as Christianity, Judaism or any other credo. (Suzy Lanza)
No, it is not a religion. Theism means belief in the existence of a god or gods. Atheism is anti-theism. Dictionaries define religion as the service and worship of God or the supernatural. Free-thinking atheists find no basis for believing in anything supernatural, including a god or gods. Atheism also cannot accept any faith-based cause, principle or system of beliefs. Every religion is a matter of faith, not a matter of fact. Atheism is free from religion. Atheism worships reason and promotes secular, ethical living wedded to facts and science, divorced from dogmas and mysticism. Atheism follows logic, not magic. (Venketachalam Ramchandran)
I don't want to make it difficult for those prisoners, but I would say atheism is not a religion -- because if it's supposed to have a belief or be worshipful, that's not what atheism is about. Belief, faith -- those words -- are anathema to atheists. Atheists do not believe in the supernatural, including angels, devils, god, goddesses, etc. . . . But I do feel those inmates should be able to meet to discuss their non-beliefs. (Patricia Berger)
My personal response is yes, because I believe the essence of religion is that it is a philosophical position relative to the existence of one or more supernatural beings. The essence of atheism is that it is a deeply felt belief system that excludes supernatural forces. . . . It is within that overarching system of how man interacts with his universe. Your question is analogous to asking whether anarchy is a system of political belief. I think it is. (Harvey Osgood)
I don't think there's a yes or no answer. My feeling is, if you're going to do anything to limit rights, then let's define atheism as a religion. But if the definition of religion is that it involves a supreme being, then it's not a religion. . . . It doesn't have a mystical basis, but it does have a set of ethics and morals and a humanistic [approach]. If you're going to take people's rights away on the basis of atheism not being a religion, though, then it damn well is a religion, because in no way should somebody's beliefs limit their human rights. (Judy Sager)
There's something that mystifies me about the intelligent design concept being advanced by religious fundamentalists. The eye, the ear, humans, doves, gazelles. They could have been created by an intelligent designer. But rats, roaches, lice? Where's the intelligent design with them? Unless, as the fundamentalists like to rationalize, vermin are around to "test our faith." (Howard Rosen)
I've never been presented with the ironic suggestion that the case for evolution is fragile, but that's what was said in a letter on Wednesday ["A public expression of faith is our right," Letters, Oct., 19]. I don't mind religion at all, but it rather irks me that people seem to forget that the Bible's case is no less fragile. If people want to believe in the facade of intelligent design, that's their right, but those of us in the know understand it's just a disguise for the Holy rollers to impose their narrow view on all segments of our society. And, as in previous attempts, people will lose the culture war because there never will be an implicit sanctioning of any religion in America. School prayer and the court display of the Ten Commandments in Alabama have been deemed unconstitutional, but that doesn't prevent anyone from having faith. Just remember that God is in your heart, not anywhere else, so keep Him there so we Americans can continue to appreciate what a fine document the Constitution is. (D. R. Rosenberg)
"Evolution debate needs deference to knowledge" [Opinion, Oct., 14],
Jane R. Eisner points out the need for greater public acceptance of scientific
knowledge in the United States and greater deference to the opinions of the
knowledgeable among us. I suggest that pollsters pose other questions
beyond those that have been reported on creation, evolution, and intelligent
design, such as: "Does the sun revolve around Earth, or Earth around the
sun?" And: 'What are the stars in the sky?" The Bible says
they are simply God-given "lights in the firmament." I am
convinced the responses would be so primitive and uninformed that they would
make public views on creation more vulnerable to fact-based
refutation. Other enlightening questions might include: "Why did the
so-called intelligent designer put nonfunctioning nipples on men's
chests?" "Why were our body's cells so badly programmed that
they often turn cancerously on themselves and agonizingly slaughter
us?" This is intelligent design? (Gerald Albert)
The notion that God is being pushed out of public
life is ludicrous. Our society is awash with religion. You can't go
anywhere without seeing religious displays and slogans on churches, bumpers ant
T-shirts. Our public airways are clogged with religious programs.
Nothing prevents anyone from speaking about their religion or praying to God in
any public place -- including public schools. Public professions of piety
are the order of the day for many politicians and professional athletes who
constantly extol the virtues of religion and offer thanks for the blessings they
think they have received from the deity they worship.
How would the nation react if President George W. Bush had nominated an Islamic fundamentalist to the Supreme Court rather than an Evangelical Christian? My guess is that, other than the small percentage of American Muslims, the country would rebel. What's the difference between the two creeds? In my opinion, there is no difference. Both let their religious beliefs guide their lives, their thoughts, their actions and their agenda -- whether political or not. This country was established by people who wanted to escape religious persecution. Our founding Fathers were wise enough to clearly separate church and state. How is it that we've come to a point that in order to satisfy the conservative right, a president has to assure it that "She is one of us," -- an evangelical Christian? (Robert Zuena)
Science has proof without any certainty and Creationism has certainty without any proof. (Ashley Montague)
It's better to keep your mouth shot and be thought a fool, than to open it and prove it. (Abraham Lincoln)
As a science teacher, I wish to thank Sheryl McCarthy for bringing to our attention the agenda of the religious right when it comes to presenting Creationism in the classroom ["Darwin's foes try an 'intelligent' tactic," Opinion, Aug., 4]. Science separates itself from religion largely because scientific ideas and theories are falsifiable. This means that any scientific theory or principle could possibly be proven to be false when better evidence is found. Once again, there is a subversive attempt to "dress up" religious belief in the costume of legitimate science. We should not be fooled. The principles of intelligent design are not falsifiable. There is no way to prove or disprove the main ideas presented, and there are no experiments that can test these ideas. Real science is subject to change and correction. If the sun were to rise in the west tomorrow, the scientific world would adjust its theories of planetary motion. There is, however, nothing that could change the minds of the creationists. The bumper sticker that states, "He said it, I believe it, that settles it!" is fine for a religion, but it has no place in a science class. (Lee Gerber)
It amazes me that so many people are either unable or unwilling to recognize the important difference between individuals speaking for themselves versus governments presuming to speak for us all. Citizen, Steve Bellone has every right to display "God bless America" banners across the columns in front of his house. Citizen Steve Bellone is protected by the First Amendment. But Babylon town Supervisor Steve Bellone does not have the right to display religious messages on Town Hall property ["Supervisor denies request to pull banners," News, Oct., 14]. This is prevented by the Establishment Clause. Town hall property belongs to us all, not just Steve Bellone and not just to the 86 percent of citizens who believe in God. The Bill of Rights limits government rights in favor of individual rights. If this is hard to understand, just imagine if the banner read, "Godless America." There would be outrage -- justified outrage because it's just as wrong for the government to be endorsing godlessness as it is wrong for the government to endorse godliness. Leave matters of religion, faith, and God to the citizens, without government intrusion. Town Hall is not a forum for people's religiosity. (Robert Ruggiero)
Regarding the "God Bless America"
banner on Town Hall, I'm surprised that Steve Bellone doesn't seem to understand
the principle behind the First Amendment of the Constitution providing for the
separation of church and state. The First amendment protects religious
institutions from governmental interference. This allows for a free
expression of religion by people. At the same time, it also provides that
our government institutions stay away from religious expressions. People
and private institutions are different from government. People are
afforded rights of religious expression, not the government. Although this
banner on Town Hall appears to be in itself a trivial expression of religion and
"no big deal," it is coming at a time when our government has been
ignoring the separation of church and state in more and more sinister ways.
Taxpayer dollars are going to religious schools and to faith-based organizations. There is a push to teach "intelligent design" in schools. It is easy to ignore a smaller transgression like the banner posted on Town Hall. I am also surprised at people's reactions to the groups asking that this banner be removed. Why is it that, when people object to something, they are told to go to another country where they can't voice their opinion?" They are missing the point. (Deirdre Ettus)
Gulia Gorin ["We need faith in God and science," Opinion, Oct.24], based her entire patronizing article on the notion that it is only extremist atheists who are pushing to remove all mention of intelligent design or creationism from the classroom. Not so. A great many people from all faiths and no faith support the separation of church and state. Since faith is not science -- and persons of faith who would suggest otherwise are doing a disservice to their own beliefs -- it has no place in the classroom. End of discussion. Religion is best taught by parents and by one's house of worship, where teachings do not have to be watered down to account for multiple views. (Emily Corvelle)
Upon reading Julia Gorin's essay on god and science, I was initially appalled at the misinformation concerning the peppered moth study supporting evolution and the real meaning behind British philosophy professor Antony Flews' video, "Has Science Discovered God?" and his unwavering adherence to scientific naturalism. Then I realized that she was just trying to do her standup comedian act on paper. I have a suggestion for Gorin: don't give up your night job. (Jeff Anthony)
Julia Gorin launches an attack on those who believe that evolution belongs in the science curriculum and that creationism belongs in the religion curriculum. She goes so far as to suggest that those who favor evolution over creationism must be Communists ("Fidel Castro or Joseph Stalin"). She seems determined to link understanding and belief in evolution with atheism, and to link atheism with Communism. Her language is slippery and her logic is faulty. Notwithstanding her snide accusation of McCarthyism on the part of some evolutionists, it seems to me that the McCarthy shoe fits more appropriately on Gorin's foot. (Peter Rogatz)
cannot change the cards you are dealt. Just how you play the hand.
Don't complain. Just work harder.
Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.
QUESTIONS, AND ANSWERS BY MARILYN VOS SAVANT
As a parent, I hear other parents calling their children "smart" because they can recite the alphabet or count to 50 or memorize the state capitals. Yet, if my 2-year old could repeat 26meaningless sounds at will, I doubt anyone would think this means she is smart! As a high school teacher, I hear countless parents make the same mistake. Most students are good at memorizing information, but many are unable to see relationships or draw conclusions from the data. Do parents have a poor understanding of what it means to be smart? (L. A.)
We all think our kids are the greatest, of course. But aside from that, many people are impressed by certain uncomplicated intellectual functions, one of which is the ability to memorize. this may include memorizing all sorts of material, including conclusions drawn by the authors of textbooks. For this reason, plenty of well-educated [read: schooled, PSS] sound knowledgeable, but they are not especially intelligent. Intelligence surely is not a single ability but rather the successful convergence of many cognitive functions. (Marilyn)
One of my favorite jokes is about a pollster who asks a man: "Which is the greater problem facing Americans today: ignorance or apathy?" The man replies, "I don't know, and I don't care." What would be your reply? (J. Driscoll)
Twenty years ago, I would have said the greater problem was apathy. Now I believe the greater problem is ignorance. Plenty of people care, care wildly, and even care irrationally. But in this new information age, Americans are so snowed with misinformation and disinformation, many simply don't know what to believe anymore. Even worse, some think they know what to believe, but they're wrong. (Marilyn)
I'm 17 and fed up with the inconsistencies in adult thought. For example, I hate it when people say that anything is possible. For that to be true, nothing would be impossible, and we know that's not true. Do you think anything is possible? (Nick Morgan)
No, I don't. Compared to the possibilities, the impossibilities are vastly more numerous. What I don't like to hear is adults telling people your age that you can be president or anything else you want to be. That's not even remotely true. The truth is that you can run for President and that's all. Likewise, you can try to get into medical school, but there are more applicants than places, and you may not get one of them. In our free society, you can try to be just about anything,-- but your chances of success are another thing entirely. (Marilyn)
Do you have any ideas about why more people don't understand math any better than they do? The problem seems to begin in school and the struggle -- for too many -- lasts a lifetime. (Jean Acerra)
I believe that much of the problem lies in the lack of logic and reasoning skills. Math is just logic with numbers and symbols attached, and success with it requires the ability to reason effectively. But children usually are taught what to think not how to think. That's why so many adults live in a state of perpetual misunderstanding about the world. (Marilyn)
STUDENTS, AND EDUCATORS, TAKE HEED
No Absolutes In College
[Nor Should There Be In Pre-College -- PSS]
College-bound students cannot be content with learning "truths," because much of campus life entails challenging so-called truths and reaching new conclusions. Hofstra University President James Shuart delivered that message in Suffolk County's top 63 high-school scholars last week, at a second annual awards luncheon for valedictorians. The Melville event was sponsored by the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association. Shuart advised the valedictorians to prepare for college experiences vastly different from high school. "Argumentation and debate will play a much larger part in the process. . . . Textbooks will be treated more as contenders for the latest and best interpretations of the topic at hand, rather than sources of absolute truth." (John Hildebrand)