virus: Re: virus-digest V3 #42

Reed Konsler (
Sat, 13 Feb 1999 14:06:25 -0500

>Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 21:01:45 -0600
>From: "carlw" <>
>Subject: RE: virus: Building Faith in Science
>> What is "historical backgrounding"? Could you describe the process?

>The establishment of an understanding of the social and technological

How do you "establish" this understanding? Could you describe the process as opposed to citing authorities? What did you do...write it as if it were an experimental proceedure.

>> An SEM *image*? A computer *model*? Both are pictures on a
>> TV screen. Have you seen any TV recently? Is that real, or fiction?
>> An energetic skeptic wouldn't buy a TV image as the truth. You have
>> faith in the apparatus and the principles on which it is
>> designed. You
>> believe it is an accurate representation of what you cannot see with
>> your own eyes. When the 8 year old asks you "How do I know this
>> isn't made up in Adobe Photoshop?" what are you going to say?
>> How many years do you have...and how does the eight year old
>> know the truth of your words from Greek Mythology?

>Because if s/he had a grounding in how the models that we use today
>developed, and looks at the early SEM papers and images of the "crude"
>laboratory equipment that proved that it worked, s/he could see that there
>is no "magic" behind it. The principle is very clear and suprisingly easy to
>explain. Especially if you have done some preliminary work with
>electrostatics (comb and paper stuff) and feedback (model robot arms etc).

And how do you provide the child with these understandings? What would drive a child to "spontaneously" rub a comb with a piece of paper or construct a robot arm which would illustrate the principle? Of course there is not "magic" behind it. The magic is in the assimilation which allows a child to apprehend thousands of years of knowledge in a decade. Each of us begins "in media res", more or less at random, and builds a worldview simultaneously forwards and backwards in time such that, when we have reached adulthood, our mind holds a reasonable map of everything...a bit myopic to be sure, but highly useful.

And it's such an adaptable system that all you have to do is suggest that a child rub a comb with a piece of paper and they "spotaneously" think it's a good idea. Why? Becuase they believe. They believe in authority, their parents, the good books, the culture, their protectors. Why shouldn't they? I bet each of them feels very lucky.

>Umm, I don't know about you. I was lucky. The adults around me kept
>encouraging me to say why. I know that I kept asking why and still haven't
>stopped :-) .

If your authority figures had encouraged you to go to church every day you would feel just as lucky...after all, the process provided you with such a satisfying worldview, didn't it? I feel lucky, too. My parents insisted that I do a little bit of everything but never encouraged me to pursue what I didn't like. They let me watch TV, read fantasy books, do science experiements, join the cub scouts. They were never very religious, but when my sister wanted to go to church and join the social groups, they took her. They didn't express any more or less interest in it than when they took her to soccer practice...if it made her happy, they wanted to know about it, too.

I remember my father talking to me about Star Wars. He said he liked the movie becuase, while he had difficulty believing in God he liked the idea of The Force. He thought there was good and evil, and that we all had to strive towards good, and that we were often blinded to what that might be.

What struck me was that he was talking about a movie, I knew it was all fake. "But it isn't real", I said.

"No," he said, "but I liked it. I liked the idea".

I love Star Wars. I feel very lucky, and I'm not alone.

>I also know I am not unique. A long time ago, in a far away
>land, I was involved in a project designed to take "gifted" children...

"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away"...

It brings chills to me even now. May The Force be with you. I can't wait for the new movie, can you?

>I guess it depends on the children. And even more, on the teachers.


>> you made the inevitable conclusions...all according
>> to that "Good Book".

>Ummm, any experiment that doesn't have a theory to attempt to disprove (<---
>That was the key to my education and the stimulus program) before performing
>it, is not an experiment, it is simply mucking about in the lab or the mind.

But who made the hypothesis? You, or the book? Do you think you just suddenly wondered "what will happen if I mix alcohol and water?" or "I bet if I run an electrical current through salt water gas will bubble off the electrodes?" That strains credibility.

>Disproving things is so much more fun anyway.

In your world, I guess it is.

>Nothing like a classical grounding to give you the words - and if you are
>smart, lessons in realizing that having worked from 'a -> b' that there is
>probably a 'c' floating around and waiting to be discovered too.

Nothing like a moral grounding to give you the tools? Back to traditional family family of course. ;-)

>Well, I am not sure I was indoctrinated as a kid. Innoculated perhaps.

Against what?

> My Alma Mater tried very hard, with very limited success; and I have
>had a long time since then to "unlearn" things - at which I have succeeded
>fairly well I think.

What did they try to do...teach you? How did you know they were wrong? How do you judge what was right? Could it have been based upon what your parents taught you? Ah, get um early...that's always the way with indoctrination. Children are so plastic, you can tell them anything and make them believe they thought it the whole time.

Especially the smart ones. They can see the next lesson before it even arrives.

>> The medium is the message. You use the medium, ergo, you've
>> been infected by our message. I'm floored that you think you
>> made all this up yourself.
>To communicate effectivly, you need to know not only the words
>used by that discipline, you need to understand how to play with
>them in context.

True. Very true.

>As an example: May I suggest, without being rude, that "The
>medium is the message" while an effective soundbite, is both a
>"compositional error" and an "untestable fallacy". Maybe even
>an example of "style over substance".

Well, I suspect that it made a greater impact than your analysis of it did, so who is being more intelligent? You have a classical grounding yes? Have you read "Julius Ceasar" by Shakespeare?

Friends, Virians, Countrymen...lend me your ears!


  Reed Konsler