Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Issue in Question

Let us begin where we ended.  For Friday, please repost the scientific snippet on which your classmate has written.  Then critique, refute, reinforce, and explore both the quotation and your colleague's close reading.  In the same way we did in class, identify the questions of knowledge at play, and evaluate them.  Plan your writing and craft your thoughts.  Be careful; be exact.

For Tuesday, I invite you (without the possibility of demurral) to explore and share your thoughts on the IB experience thus far.  Please write 600-800 words about how the IB has impacted your life.  It’s early, I know, but it’s never too early to reflect.  This is a formal piece of writing, as the structure, diction, and syntax should reflect.  Be careful, be exact, be honest.  Before class, please email me your essay as an attachment, and bring a printed copy to class.


  1. Alysha's quote was, "It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover." -H. Poincare

    I agree with Alysha in her saying that in science class we learn different types of laws and experiments. These teachings and laws have been proven to work. She also went on to explain how this can same idea can be used in history. One has to look at certain artifacts and use specific tools to determine the age. Therefore it is true that "through science we can prove." Alysha then went on to talk about how "through intuition we discover." Using an example of her curiosity towards the forest, she discovered a new world. It was through her natural instinct of curiosity that she discovered.

    When I analyzed the quote, I pondered the following:
    Science has become so advanced, that many of our questions can be answered. Now we are trying to solve the tough questions. "Does God exist? Why are we here? Are there other life forms out there in the universe?" Maybe someday mankind will find the answers to these questions. Sir Isaac Newton was most certainly able to solve the age old question of gravity through scientific fact. Everyday for thousands of years we have been able to prove through science. But intuition can also lead to discovery. The definition of intuition is, 'the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning.' Its quite simply an instinctive feeling. There have been many cases in which scientific fact has been challenged. People who had been told that they could never walk again because science said so, followed their intuition and learned how to walk. Cancer patients who had been told that they only had a few months to live, lived ten more years because of their strong will to live. All of this and more, shows that one can discover through intuition.

  2. “If what we regard as real depends on our theory, how can we make reality the basis of our philosophy... But we cannot distinguish what is real about the universe without a theory... it makes no sense to ask if it corresponds to reality, because we do not know what reality is independent of a theory.” Stephen Hawking

    In simple terms, Hawking starts off by saying that people depend on theory to tell them what their reality is. He then goes on to state that without reality there would be no basis for one’s philosophy or no room for one to theorize. One must look at the statement that without theory there would be no reality, there would be no basis for knowledge and no way for humans to create their own truth. This quote is very true in many ways. The way that one comes up with an ultimate decision is often based on theory or some sort of rational thinking. Your reality or what you know about the world is largely influenced by science in general. Obviously, there are limitations on that statement, as not everyone believes in science as one general idea but just glimpses of it. Even through that statement though, your reality has been affected by a theory, whether or not one chooses to trust that statement is irrelevant. To understand this, look at the following example of this statement (on a small scale): You don’t like the way that apples look, and from this you theorize that you will not like their taste. Your reality is that you dislike apples, and no matter what people tell you, your reality will always be that you do not like apples. If one day you try an apple and you change your mind, your reality changes, but only because now you have official proof that you like them- but this, once again, is not relevant. At one point in time you had theorized and that theory had become your reality. This idea of theory and reality can be seen on larger scales, for example, how humans came about, or even how the world came to be. It is often theory but large masses of population believe it, it become their reality, and the basis of their beliefs.

    Analyzing Emilie’s analysis:

    Emilie states, “it would be very narrow minded and naive to say that the world we live in is not real or is an illusion, because there has been many mathematical calculations about everything around us and there has been proof to provide explanation about the world we live in.” Personally I completely disagree with that statement as a whole. If the world you live in IS and illusion, then wouldn’t the mathematical calculations to prove the world you live in is real not an illusion as well? In which case it would not be reality to anyone but you. One can argue that everyone has their own sense of reality and that your world and everything that is in it or involved in it a solely true to you. There have been many scientific calculations to prove that the human brain is powerful. If that was the reality then would you not be able to create a whole world of your own and thus your version of reality is confined to your brain.
    I do agree, though, with Emilie’s statement about the fact that not all humans believe things that have been scientifically proven. One’s reality is often based on faith, it is the reason that there are such things as religion.
    Emilie states that for some, real is solely based on belief and faith, and she uses this to back up her statements on refuting the quote itself. But think about the fact that faith can be considered a science. And is science not backed up by theories in general? In which case beliefs would be rooted to theories, making Hawking’s statement true and accurate.
    Overall I think that Hawking’s quote is true in many ways, and although it may have flaws it is perpetually accurate.

  3. “It is the theory which decides what can be observed.” - Albert Einstein

    I believe that this quote of Albert Einstein’s is very straightforward in meaning. I think that it is very straightforward because it is simply what the author wants readers to take away with them.

    Like LolaTOK, I believe that the first two lines mean that a theory must first be recognized, and that, in turn, decides or allows the components of that theory to be observed. To add on to her ideas, the second and third lines in the beginning of her response ("It is an idea or thought that decides what can be observed.
    It is the idea or thought that determines what can be looked at and taken notes on") also reinforce this idea with a bit more detail. The quote basically says that something, a thought, theory, notion, etc- is what the variable is to be observed and extracted. For example, the theory of evolution: Because this theory came about, scientists chose certain aspects of human history to observe. Because of the theory, scientists looked at the evolution of man to try to prove the theory. If the idea of Evolution hadn’t come about, scientists would not have known what to look for and observe dealing with that, because it simply wouldn’t have existed. I think this is also what LolaTOK means when she writes “What is observed, or what is witnessed and recorded, is based on the theory.” Einstein is stating that first a theory, idea, or even a thought must be introduced or recognized first in order for observations and notes to come after.

  4. "The only means of strenghtening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing -- to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party." - John Keats

    When I first read this quote, I automatically agreed with it, simply because it tells the readers to be open-minded. After reading this quote four or five times I started to find excuses as to why it is, one almost impossible to be not selective and two how would the world be able to move forward without being selective? Mr. Keats tells the readers to "let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts," then I started to think of how often do people get "all thoughts" on one issue, almost never. However if he met "all thoughts" as all types of information then we won't know how to respond to situations. The question here is if it is possible to not be selective and still be progressive and would progression be evidence of the "strengthening of one's intellect"?

    I agree with Anna on all her thoughts. She states, "Keats's exclusive language stops me from agreeing totally with him," which is how I feel. Maybe if Keat had simply stated that Open-mindedness gets you to learn and take respect for new things, I would have agreed with him. She also mentions that without being selective we are simply holding information, which is one of my reasons for not agreeing with this quote.

  5. I had Sara’s quote:
    “Ironic as it sounds, inaccuracy is the central assumption of science. No scientific conjecture or hypothesis or theory or statement is 100% accurate. Only the “empty” tautologies of math and logic enjoy that status. Inaccuracy pervades science. The goal of science is to remove as much inaccuracy of description as possible, as much as experimental error and good guesswork and “physical” laws permit.” (Bart Kosko, Fuzzy Thinking: The New Science of Fuzzy Logic. New York: Hyperion, 1993, 86).

    In Sara’s analysis, I highlighted a few interesting thoughts that really got me. The first part I highlighted in Sara’s analysis was her statement “I believe that saying something is 100%, is too definite because how can we, as humans, be so sure that something is 100%?” But at first I thought, well when if I get a quiz back and it says 100% on it, that’s how I know. Then I took a second to think, is it really 100%? It makes me realize that 100% really means “this is all correct”. To me when saying something is 100%, it also makes me think that they are saying it is perfect, and in my personal opinion, I do not believe that anything can be completely perfect. Also, when relating back to the quote, the author gets to the point that science will never be accurate, which means it will never reach 100%, it might reach 99.9%, but never 100% accurate.
    Sara also analyzed the idea that scientists do an experiment over and over again, hoping to get the same result so that they have a sense of accuracy. This process of trial and error is commonly used in scientific experiments, and it is a more accurate way to reach “100%” but still the data can not confirm its gatherings clearly because there may be some mistakes. Sara wrote that, “they simply conclude it to be accurate”, which is true. Scientists know that there must be some error; however they give this as their conclusion.

    In my own analysis of the quote, I agree with Kosko’s ideas in the subject of science, but also in other subjects or areas in life. Like I stated before, I do not think that all conjectures, hypotheses, or statements can always be proven 100% correct. I say this because in the quote, the author talks about using experimental error (trial and error) and good guesswork to get rid of inaccuracy as much as possible. With this, I can also conclude that no conjecture, hypothesis, or statements is “100%”. However, with these methods of trying to reach accuracy are as close to 100% than ever.
    My favorite part of this quote was the first line when it said, “inaccuracy is the central assumption of science”. It makes me a little puzzled because many people depend on science for the answer to many problems in the world. Also, many scientific laws are out there that are supposed to be a definite explanation for basic laws, such as gravity. Not saying that it’s inaccurate because I’m no science expert but just the fact that the law of gravity or another law comparable to that could be inaccurate; or questioned about its accuracy. Overall I like how bold Kosko is by questioning the accuracy of science.

  6. "I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." - Richard Feynman

    If I understand correctly, Nafisatou - aside from her justified praise of Feynman; what an interesting person! - interprets this quote as follows: Feynman wants to be neither wrong nor right, because he understands there are many situations in which an idea is not and should not be the final answer. Open-endedness is as good a thing as open-mindedness, because it leads to voluntary exploration and thus experience, instead of certainty ending in wrongness.

    I must say I agree with much of her assertions and interpretations. On a personal level I believe open-mindedness is one of the best policies to keep going through life. However, Feynman does not mention keeping an open mind. He merely states his peace with the idea of not always having the answer. Because he understands the dangers of needing a definite correctness or proof in all his knowledge, he embraces uncertainty. As Nafisatou said, this does not mean living in ignorance; it can mean "exercis[ing] uncertainty". I think this is a fabulous point. Discovery, data, science, and invention are wonderful, useful, and vital to human development so long as they do not presume to say they have all the answers. After all, when one learns but does not firmly decide on a set of answers for everything in one's life, one is never done learning. When one thinks one has found the answer, one is no longer open to further learning. Seeking is much more satisfying than sitting there in assumed knowledge, having decided to be finished with the search. This is unrealistic on a basic level: one will never have all the information. There will always be something left to be learned. Feynman says he can live with this, and that he finds it more interesting than to have answers that may be wrong, and, like Nafisatou, I completely agree.

  7. “If we only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain… In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar” Richard Feynman.
    In this quote, Richard Feyman is basically saying that we as a society or as human beings can only progress if we allow that we will never reach the stage of total knowledge. If we claim to know everything, then that ultimately defeats the purpose of growth and strive to perfection.
    Feyman is also implying that errors very normal and they have to be made by the people who want to achieve something great. This quote reminds me a lot of Steve Jobs's popular phrase "Stay hungry, stay foolish". These two quotes bring the same message which is that, its is only by wanting to know and allowing that you can never know enough that one can truly progress and get where he or she wants.
    Both these quotes also suggest that we should not let insecurity blind us, but rather use that insecurity in our advantage. So by knowing or being aware that you can never know it all, will only push you to wanting to know more!
    I very much agree with you TO, when you said "If we only think things happened around us are just happened the way it is supposed to be without wonder and questioning, we won't find out its reality, instead, we remain who we are and just stop growing in many ways". So on top of admitting that one can never know enough, one also has to WANT to know in the first place. If we think that things just happen because they just happen we will never grow or develop, so that "why" part is a very essential key to the understanding of knowledge and its power.

  8. “The voyage of discovery lies in not seeking new horizons, but in seeing with new eyes.” –Marcel Proust
    The word voyage may lead one to believe that discovery is a time consuming event. Most people don’t talk of voyaging down the road to their neighbors’ homes; they speak of voyaging across the Atlantic. Also, voyage doesn’t necessarily imply having reached the destination. The voyager may have made it to a different location and been satisfied or deceived by this other location. An excellent example of this would be Columbus- he was in search for India and ended up in North America. Horizons can be viewed at being different ideas or opinions. Seeing with new eyes is seeing in a different perspective. Basically, a new idea or opinion doesn’t come from searching for that opinion but seeing old in different, new ways.
    I read the bulk of SaskiaTOK’s response after my analysis and found, that for the most part, we agreed on what the quote really meant and how to translate it and reword it. After reading her example as well, I felt a deeper understanding of the quote and could actually see the argument she depicted unfolding. The example she used enriched her analysis and painted a clear picture for her reader.

  9. "Every problem lacks a solution. None of us unties the Gordian knot; all of us either give up or we sever it. We let our emotions do violence to our intelligence through hasty decisions, and we do this either because of a tiredness of thinking, or because of a timidity to reach conclusions, or because of the absurd necessity to find easy answers, or because of a social impulse to get in touch with humanity and with life. Because we can never know all of the facts about a question, we can never answer it. We lack sufficient data to arrive at the truth, and the intellectual processes that will exhaust the interpretation of that data” (Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet).

    I agree with Mary that “Pessoa continues on to explain that humans have a tendency to let certain emotions take over their decision making processes. We tend to resort to easy resolutions if we are tired of thinking critically or afraid of reaching conclusions.” In additional, Human is extraordinary intelligent compare to other animal on earth, the lack of motivation to questioning is naturally polluting our mind, and we cannot go toward with the emotion, otherwise, we will fall in to the trap that is given by the reality.

    The quote is using complicated examples to express an idea, and yet, the idea is so clear when we are once observer, we might not know if ourselves is doing it because our emotion tent to stop us from thinking deep and find out truths. In Chinese, we a phrase called “find out roots until the end”, it means that to find out answers to the questions, you have to really dig into the ground until the bottom of the hole; unfortunately, most people does not have the courage and motivation of doing this, we give up after what we think the hole is deep enough.

  10. “Physical concepts are the free creations of the human mind and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world” –Einstein/Infeld in ‘The Evolution of Physics’.

    Kate’s description and close reading of this quote really helped me get a sense of what exactly Einstein and Infeld were speaking about and trying to convey. Kate’s close reading was great, and I agree. These physical concepts that the quote speaks of, for instance gravity, are definitely not determined by the external world. For instance, when we see a dog, we call it a dog because that is our own physical concept or label of the animal with four legs and a wagging tale and a particular shaped face that doesn’t look like a cat’s.

    Some of our knowledge is based on what we are taught in classes or told. There is no issue with that. When presented with a new piece of information, we store it in the manner that it came to us. So, when I first learned how to weave string using two needles, I was told it was called knitting. It did not spark into the external world as knitting. It was rather a technique that was waiting to be discovered and tried. Einstein is clearly hinting that the things we think we know about this world are so complex and so much bigger than us. Our understanding of these happenings is just a way for us to identify what it is we are dealing with. It is our own dichotomous key. Still, we don’t even know the half of it. All we have the power to do is take what we see and experience, and give it some type of name. We took the idea of humans being able to have the blessing to wake up and live every day, and called it things like “breathing” or our “heart beat”. Einstein and Infeld are saying it is way more than what we humans experience. This world and its phenomena are way too big for us to grasp. Our concepts give us a feeling of comprehension or grasping. That being said, I wouldn’t say that what we human see as true has “no substance” as Kate said, but rather small substance.

    I would also like to add: The way everything is set up in this world is just so perfect! We have gravity, or else we would all be floating. We are on the only planet that can support life, partly since we are the perfect distance from the sun. Standard humans have a head with two eyes, a nose, a mouth with teeth and a tongue, and even a brain! Our thumbs themselves are miracles! Without them, we would not even be able to do half the things we are accustomed to doing. Forget your morning coffee! If the slightest thing was different, for instance if Earth was not tilted on its axis, life would be a whole lot different. Even when science throws all these processes and structures at us, we should be forced to realize that it is just so perfect. It is too perfect.

    No one would be able to have it any other way.

  11. I have Ami’s quote
    "New ideas are always criticized - not because an idea lacks merit, but because it might turn out to be workable, which would threaten the reputations of many people whose opinions conflict with it. Some people may even lose their jobs."
    - Physicist, request anonymity

    I agree with Ami’s comment. She stated that people “may not have the ability to always restrain from criticizing new ideas. It is human nature to love ‘the norm’.” She also stated that “As we become adults and have grounded those theories into our minds, it is hard to approach a new theory without criticism.” I agree with her statement and this quote. When people learn things that they believe is true it would be difficult for them to disregard that idea or except another idea that goes against it. This quote by the Physicist is saying that ideas are criticized and picked at not because they are without meaning or importance but because they may counter the original idea that was taught or goes against “the norm”.


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