Category Archives: education

Functional Ignorance


It’s not what he says that bothers me. It’s that what he says is all he knows. His worldview is informed only by his worldview, and maybe by his worldview’s prefabricated responses to other worldviews, so investigation won’t be necessary. And of course he’s sure he’s right.

From an interview with Michael Ruse on ‘What is it Like to be a Philosopher?’


From Cliff Sosis’s interview with Florida State University philosopher Michael Ruse (born in Britain to a Quaker family) on the blog “What is it Like to be a Philosopher?”

You recently became a citizen, correct? Do you think religious fundamentalism will always have a place in American politics?

Yes, I feel that if I am going to live here and teach students, I should make a commitment. Also by being a US citizen I can criticize without being a hypocrite. In my lifetime yes, I think these things will always be around so long as we are still fighting the Civil War – perhaps as the Hispanic vote and other immigrants get more sizable we shall see a shift – but not in a hurry.

Do you think creationism is ever going to go away? Where do you think the new atheists get things right?

Creationism isn’t going to go away in my lifetime! I don’t think a fondness for pseudoscience or irrational religion will ever go. Well, I think the New Atheists are right that Christianity is false! I think they are wrong to say that all religious believers are charlatans and fools.

You’ve worked a bit with the intelligent design guy, Bill Dembski. How did that come about?

Just meeting him at conferences or when we were on the same platform – if I were a scientist, I would hesitate about collaborating, but I think as a philosopher one ought to be open to debate – that is our job.

What are your political views?

Left wing – socialist but not Marxist – very much in the British Fabian tradition – Mill, the Webbs, that sort of thing. That said, there are days when I have a bit of a libertarian streak. I wish universities would stop being therapy units and get on with teaching and research.

Read the entire interview at what is it like to be a philosopher?

via what is it like to be a philosopher?

Consider and reconsider the humanities: thoughts from Marilynne Robinson and Laura Skandera Trombley


My morning readings were connected on a fundamental level: the necessity of the humanities.

First, Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson, in her book Absence of Mind:

The Freudian neurasthenic is not the Darwinian primate, who is not the Marxist proletarian, who is not the behaviorists’ organism available to being molded by a regime of positive and negative sensory experience. To acknowledge an element of truth in each of these models is to reject the claims of sufficiency made by all of them. What they do have in common, beside the claim to sufficiency, is an exclusion of the testimonies of culture and history.

Second, Laura Skandera Trombley, president of Pitzer College, in a speech adapted and published yesterday on The Huffington Post, drawing on a recent passenger jet flight:

It struck me that flying in a beige and white steel tube with nothing to occupy my time might be a reasonable analogy for what existence might be like devoid of the humanities. You’d live, but the experience would be decidedly lacking.

Do I need to explain how deadening and joyless it is to ride in that cylindrical tube? Do we really need to explain why poetry, art, philosophy and theater matter? Really, at what point did we have to start defending the value of knowing ourselves? Of human complexity? Of analysis? Of communication? Of meaning?

The sciences and the humanities have always been intertwined and one cannot prosper without the other. My favorite Greek philosopher, Aristotle, is properly recognized as the originator of the scientific study of life or, as we know it, biology; but he was also our first philosopher of art and theater. My guess is that Aristotle would be troubled by the way we have siloed our ways of knowing.

Takeaways:

  1. Culture and history belong at the center of any account of being human.
  2. Genuine knowing must be an act of integrating not silo-ing.

American Christianity: Older and less educated


Click here to access a larger view of the following graphic from the Religion News Service, based on figures from the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey.
American Christianity is aging and uneducated, according to this Religion News Service graphic and the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey

A few thoughts spurred by the above graphic:

  • To expand your church, look for younger, uneducated people (see the “nothing in particular” circle).
  • Anglicans are smarter but older.
  • Ecstatic experience seems less likely among the educated.
  • Protestant evangelicals want to reach many people who are both better-educated and younger than they are.
  • On balance, Anglicans are better educated than atheists and agnostics.

‘Dear Lord, I know the right positions, and I don’t listen to the wrong ones…’


“…so why won’t You let me pass these classes?”

A quick note on digital humanities


Maybe Mark Driscoll is a product of his time: 2013 poll on plagiarism, fair use, & copyright


As Warren Throckmorton’s examinations of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s “citation problems” continue, I’ve been researching “intentional plagiarism” and “unintentional plagiarism,” as well as what common academic and publishing style guides say about fair use, copyright, and paraphrasing.

More on those matters in upcoming posts. First, I wanted to share some relevant information from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Back in July, NBC News reported the following based on a Pew report that had just been released:

Most writing teachers believe that digital tools — from wikis to whiteboards — make it easier to teach writing, but say they worry about plagiarism and informality in their students’ work, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

More than 2,400 Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) middle- and high-school teachers were asked about the use of digital tools including interactive whiteboards, wikis, websites, blogs, and collaborative Web-based tools (such as Google Docs) as sources of help for writing.

“In addition to giving students low ratings on their understanding of fair use and copyright, a majority of AP and NWP teachers also say students are not performing well when it comes to ‘appropriately citing and/or referencing content’ in their work,” the study found.

“This is fairly common concern among the teachers in the study, who note how easy it is for students today to copy and paste others’ work into their own and how difficult it often is to determine the actual source of much of the content they find online.”

Those issues have become so important that 88 percent of the teachers said they spend class time talking to students about the concepts of “citation and plagiarism,” while 75 percent make sure they talk about the notions of fair use and copyright with their students. [boldface added]

Apparently, few really understand the academic, ethical, and legal implications of an inappropriate use of another person’s ideas and (or) creative work.

While the websites of some acclaimed universities (e.g., see here and here) note that students might not always be aware of when they are plagiarizing, those same sites name such unawareness “unintentional plagiarism.” In other words, it’s still plagiarism.

This would be a different take than that held by the folks at Driscoll’s publisher Tyndale House, who defensively have suggested that plagiarism requires an intentional act.

“While there are many nuanced definitions of plagiarism, most definitions agree that plagiarism is a writer’s deliberate use of someone’s words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source,” Tyndale House said in part of a statement released back in December.

“Nuanced definitions of plagiarism”? Cut the nonsense. Tyndale House might as well had told us the definition at hand depended on what our definition of “is” is.