Modern Scientific Method

I returned to college a few years ago as an older student, now age 62, and am surprised at some modern knowledge. It may be that I am old and inflexible, which is typical in older folks. Or it may be that our society is departing from sound reason.

About a half century ago in the mid 60’s I learned the scientific method (amazing I can remember anything from then) in this way: begin with observations, form a hypothesis, perform tests, revise hypothesis, if tests confirm hypothesis then it becomes a theory. So far this is the same today, but back then we took another step not included today. A theory may become a law or fact IF all other possible options are excluded. For some reason this last step is no longer taught and I don’t know why.

This last portion must be valid in much of science because my math teacher still insists that 2 + 2 = 4, and it always will. The law of gravity is considered a law because there are no other explanations for falling apples and all other explanations have been excluded. The physical elements as stated in the table of elements says that water or H2O is one molecule of hydrogen and two molecules of oxygen and that is a fact, not a theory.

Here is what the textbook of my environmental science class says; “Despite the fact that theories are generally accepted, there is no absolute truth in science, only varying degrees of uncertainty. Science is continually evolving as new evidence comes to light, and therefore its conclusions are always provisional or uncertain. It is always possible that the results of a future experiment will contradict a prevailing theory and show that at least one aspect of it to be false.” (Berg, Hager, & Hassenzahl 2012, p. 20). In this section the author was emphasizing science as a dynamic process so should be seen in that context. But still, environmental science should not be seen as a soft science like sociology. It is still based upon the laws of physics. If environmental science presents itself as the “maybe” science then how can we take it serious? Maybe carbon in the air is a greenhouse gas?

I appreciate the new humility within science. In the past the scientific method was used as a disproof of god or unseen things; “Prove there is a god! If you can’t test it by physical science then it does not exist.” Now the approach has shifted to admit that humanity never possesses all knowledge because there is always more to learn, and possible other dimensions we know nothing about. This aspect of modern science is truly refreshing.

I still hear textbooks and people claiming truth for the sake of an argument without any qualifications. In my current sociology classes they claim to use the scientific method because sociology is a science. That is what my text claims. The text makes many claims about underlying premises that are critical in forming policies in how we get along. It seems we humans can be very selective about when we desire truth to be rigid or flexible, to suite our current need. In many ways I deeply appreciate my textbooks and the accumulated knowledge our world has gathered. But because of these issues I am skeptical about the education I am currently receiving at an institution of “higher” learning. At my core I will reserve the right to stand back and discard as necessary.

 

Reference:

Liebman, M., Berg, L. R., Raven, P. H., Cann, A. J., & Verrell, P. (2012). Visualizing environmental science, by Berg, Hager, and Hassenzahl: SCI 103. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Custom Learning Solutions.


On Ferguson

It is odd that Whites tend to believe Wilson’s story and Blacks do not. Race must run deeper than we think.

When anyone, Black or White, attacks an armed person, especially an officer, they enter into a life or death struggle. I am convinced that if Brown had gotten the officer’s gun then Wilson would be dead today.

This country is in deep danger of increasing racial tension. I hold the media accountable for contributing to much of the social unrest surrounding this case. Media sensationalizes issues to benefit their own ratings and profits. The media’s choice of words to describe Michael Brown has mostly been, “unarmed teenager.” Numerically Brown at age 18 was a teen but legally at 18 he is an adult; a man. The word teen implies child and by using this word our sympathies are provoked. What if the media had used words such as, “man assaults officer and dies in scuffle”? The media should be more responsible and less greedy. They should at least attempt to be objective. Social unrest is at stake.

It has been noted by many that there are social problems in Ferguson that lead up to the Brown incident. A majority White police force serving a community of color will likely produce conflicts. White government officials over a community of color will produce conflicts. The Ferguson city website shows a city council of 5 members and one is Black. So who is to blame for this situation? Often in the media it sounds like Whites are being blamed. I really do not understand why Blacks and other people of color do not join the police in Ferguson. This is not a segregated government. The jobs must be available so I ask the community what is the problem? I commend the one Black city council member but wonder why the ratio is not reversed so that the community is better represented. Anyone one can run for these offices  so what is happening there? We White observers look from a distance and it all seems crazy. When Obama was elected president I and many Whites felt that this would helps Blacks, and all people of color, embrace this country as their own. When people feel alienated from society then the result is an increase in social problems.

Bottom line; I cannot accept that every police officer is unleashing his racial bias against the public, but when this does happen police need to be held accountable. I pray for our country; for our leaders, our police, to do their jobs without racial bias.

The Bible describes the kingdom of Jesus, “people from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Therefore I cannot follow God and be a racist. I must treat all people with respect.


Fix Immigration Proposal

Fixing immigration could mean lawless anarchy to some, or locking down more rigid controls to others. The phrase gets tossed around like a cheap hamburger by anyone wanting to take advantage of our crises. I want to hear discussion on some real solutions. Here is my proposal.

#1- Widen the gap between citizenship and legal residency. When we only talk about immigration with the term citizenship then we are using a broad generalization that does not do justice to the immigrant workers who do not desire US citizenship nor are patriotic to the USA. If I were to go work in another country for a few years that would not change my allegiance to America so why should we expect immigrant workers to forsake their allegiance to their homeland? US citizenship should also carry certain rights such as voting that are not given to other people residing in America.

#2- Building upon principle #1 we should greatly increase the number of work visas and make them much easier to obtain while making citizenship more difficult to obtain.

#3- The “anchor baby” law should be modified so that citizenship is not automatically offered to those born on US soil. Only those with at least one parent who is a US citizen should be offered citizenship. With the current law we entice people to take advantage of the law by entering the country temporarily to give birth then hope for the day that their citizen child can bring them to the USA. Obama cited a situation in which an undocumented mother of two citizen children would be granted legal status for her children’s sake. We should honor the heritage of parents by giving the children the same citizenship.

Our crises over immigration reveals a much deeper problem with economics. It reveals that Americans still desire to remain at the top of the economic food chain. We should really be talking about global economic reform. If economic conditions were better in other countries there would be much less pressure to leave those lands for the “land of opportunity.” I propose a minor remedy in which workers in the electronic industry are paid a living wage as discussed in the essay, “Wages To Live By” which you can read here: Wages to live by You can also support this cause by liking the page Facebook.com/Big world Dreams


Assad Must Stay

American foreign policy, bent on democratic expansion while being ignorant of the cultures beyond its own borders, naively supports the undoing of rulers that are deemed unworthy by American liberal values. In support of the Syrian revolution President Obama proudly proclaimed that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. He cited the cruelties inflicted by Assad upon the revolutionaries as justification. So the USA in coalition with Saudi Arabia has been arming the revolutionaries. In a radical turn of events this week the Syrian revolutionaries have formed ISIS the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and have invaded Iraq. What our naïve American government does not understand is that Assad understands his people better than we do. There is something in the Islamic culture that only understands heavy handed leadership. Islam at its core is based upon sever authority and when outsiders attempt to meddle then we are messing with things we just do not comprehend. George W Bush began the invasion of Iraq declaring that Iraq would become a democratic “beacon of light” in the region. This was a classic beacon of American arrogance and ignorance. The only hope for American foreign policy is a constitutional amendment that would limit the ability of the USA to interfere in other countries.


Terms that Burn; white privilege

Since returning to College it has been good for me to be challenged to think deeper about social issues. It was in my first class that I encountered the term “white privilege.” There were several terms tossed around that students could not really define, we could only discuss the symptoms. My philosophical nature compels me to analyze issues to find the core problems and establish a working premise that will be a consistent guide. For the issue of racism and privilege I first start with the premise that each race or ethnic heritage has a right to its own place of respect; that each person should be allowed to rejoice in and affirm their own race or ethnic group. So if each group is allowed a healthy sense of identity, then what is racism? Racism is when we distort that healthy sense of identity and exalt our group above another group, in a way that leads to oppression of any kind. And privilege is defined as any group holding a place of “advantage or special benefit” (Oxford).

I would like to propose alternatives to the term “white privilege.” The problem with this term is that it is inherently a racist term, criminalizing a race of people rather than addressing behaviors and policies, which are the root issues of our social problems. I propose use of the terms “majority privilege,” “elitist privilege,” “power privilege,” “financial privilege,” and “race privilege” which are more accurate in dealing with the true problems and remove any one race from being the primary perpetrator of injustice.

I am not raising this issue as a means to deny, ignore, or obscure the privilege that white people in America have held and continue desperately grasping. It would be devastating to our social progress, and deceitful to deny the association of race and privilege. But when the source of privilege is addressed rather than blaming a group then we will truly be working towards a society based upon justice for all.

Majority privilege is an asset enjoyed by a group that gives them a larger voice and establishes their cultural values over other groups. In many of our social science classes we have discussed Peggy McIntosh’s essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Most of the privileges listed in it can really be attributed to majority privilege. For example privilege #1 “I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time” (McIntosh). Globally this is true of anyone living a community where they are part of the majority. In China who holds majority privilege? In Japan who holds majority privilege? It is not whites. This is not denying that white people have partaken of and relished in their majority privilege. However, acknowledgment that there is a degree of privilege that all majorities receive is a key to analyzing our social injustices.

Related to majority privilege, is our democratic value; majority rule. The writers of our US Constitution were apprehensive about majority rule referring to it as “mob rule” and cautioned against the potential of the majority trampling the rights of the minority. If majority rule really is a cause of injustice for minorities then we need to amend our laws. If democracy is really an illusion, then get rid of it.

Elitist Privilege is often gained through education. Colleges advertise that privilege can be gained through education and is a valid motivation for enrollment. At times white people in America have dominated this area and so have held privilege. But it is not really an issue of race; it is a systemic problem. For example, two highly educated professors may both experience privilege; one is white the other a person of color. If we say that one holds white privilege and the other has earned status through the hard work of education, is this justice? If there is something wrong in our society with granting privilege to the educated, then let’s fix the real problem.

Power Privilege may be seized through violence or military force. Whites have obviously committed this aggression. They violently seized lands from the original inhabitants of this continent and they violently bought and sold people. The principle of privilege by power is as old as mankind. That does not justify it. But it also should be noted that people of every color have committed this aggression. What color was Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, or Chairman Mao? By using a term such as “power privilege” rather than “white privilege” we objectively look at the issue of power and violence. By re-framing the conversation around actions rather than a particular race we will focus on the problem of power, violence and privilege.

Financial Privilege has allowed whites to hold inordinate amounts of privilege. Financial privilege is claimed in various parts of the world by people of various colors. Maybe Marx was right, our capitalist system is at fault. We cannot assault whites with racist terms for doing only what other groups are trying to do. This is only envy, not justice.

Every person in America, regardless of color, holds great financial privilege over the workers in other countries who manufacture our goods. But why is this called “white privilege?” We all want to retain this privilege! Can’t we all share the guilt? In reality this has become American privilege. The challenge for us is to see beyond our borders and realize that as a country our privilege may be an issue of injustice on a global level.

Race Privilege: When any race of people is able to use a combination of these sources to gain control over others then this should be acknowledged as race privilege. At the core of race privilege is racism, or tribalism; one group against another. By using the term “race privilege” we are able to identify behavior, which ever race is committing the injustice.

When one tribe of people is able to align several of the sources of power in their favor they become similar to a dirty card dealer, one that you can never win against. Imagine a poker game in which you and the dealer are both dealt hands that at first seem fair. You naively believe that you could play by the rules and win. You begin to be suspicious when his opening hand has three aces. You try harder and double your bet. But after the draw the dealer gets four aces and a wild card-the race card. This is why race privilege is resented so deeply, and is an obvious source of injustice.

Why be upset about a term? Clearly terminology is important in our society. Derogatory racial words that were acceptable in previous generations have now been banned, which has effectively sent a message to the public that racism is not acceptable. Proper terminology should:

Not stereotype groups but address behavior

Not deprive people of their constitutional right to innocence

Seek justice for all

Continued use of the racist term “white privilege” is an insult to our entire society because it reveals that our quest for justice is not impartial and not justice for all. A failure to recognize the demeaning nature of this term reveals our double standards and shows that racism against whites is acceptable in America. To truly seek justice for all, we cannot use racism to fight racism. We cannot forbid racist terminology for most groups and then use and even promote racist terminology for others. And most of all, it alienates whites from the conversation, to which they so desperately need to be involved in. In the cases that this term may be used in our textbooks or in public discourse, I ask that this racist term be removed and replaced with terminology that will truly help to address our social problems.

 

Works Cited

 McIntosh, Peggy. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1988. Paper 189. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.

Urdang, Laurence. The Oxford Desk Dictionary. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. Print.

 

Copyright; Mark Anderson 2014


Any Revolution Will Do

America seems eager to support almost any revolution under the naive assumption that democracy that will flourish anywhere, regardless of the cultural foundations, and assuming the the goal of democratic imperialism is is good for the whole world.

rev40001

 


Strange Value of the Tea Party to America

The Strange Value of the Tea Party to America

            In the Federalist Paper #10 by James Madison he addresses the issue of “factions” as a real problem to the unity of a strong federal government. This was an era during the formation of our final constitution during which the merits of a strong federal government were weighed against the merits of individual states rights; very similar to today’s problems. Specifically he is addressing how members of congress are elected. Madison defines the problem of factions as; “By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse or passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or of the permanent and aggregate interests of the community”. This description fits the Tea Party well. He proposes the merits of a strong federal union in his opening sentence, “Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction”. But then Madison issues a great caution that appears to be the core of his concern, “Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority”. Madison appears to be acknowledging the reality of factions disrupting unity but also acknowledges the necessity of the minority voice that is in danger of being squashed by the majority, which by necessity requires the existence of factions. Majority rule is also referred to as mob rule and is viewed with caution by some of America’s founding fathers.

Madison goes on to speak in favor of the unity of the Union as he clearly sees the negative effects of factions. But he warns against a reaction against factions that may lead to a restriction of freedom, “There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, same passions, and the same interests. It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire,” In spite of the negative effects of factions or minority voices he insists that restricting liberty is not a valid alternative.

People have been outraged that the Tea Party, a minority voice, can have so much power within the Republican Party and even force a government shutdown. I am not trying to make a statement about Obama Care, I think it is important to acknowledge the significant role of the minority voice that cries out to the majority for justice. In the two centuries since the writing of his essay it has been proven that the minority voice has been critical in the guidance of this country. We have heard minority voices speak out for labor rights, ethnic minority voices speak up for civil rights, and minority voices speak for environmental protection. There is something vital about not quenching the minor voice of those who cry out to the majority that there is a real problem that needs to be addressed. This current crises being brought to our attention by a radical minority may in fact be the voice of reason that needs to be heard.


Science and the humanities

The beauty of science is consistency; two plus two is four, and always will be. We love science because it can explain our universe by finding order in it. In some ways it takes the mystery out of life by offering rational explanations. Science offers answers.

But then along comes the humanities with its questioning spirit; “Why? Are you sure?” The artists, poets and movie makers ask questions and then speculate. About the best answer they ever come up with is a hypothesis; nothing is ever proven. The humanities have an important job; they keep check on the scientists against presumption by asking, “Are you sure? Are you sure the world is flat? Why do people need love? Are you sure there is no god?” The scientific mind tends to proclaim that its all just a matter of some biology, some genes or something. Without these questions we humans might run off the cliff of presumption.

ski-bw-track

But then, rethinking my understanding of science, (oops, its that questioning spirit that I can’t control) I realize that questioning is really a basic element of science as well. The scientific process, like humanities starts with observations and questions; “Why did that person get sick? Are you sure?” The greatest scientists probably are great questioners. Hmm, maybe science and the humanities are not really at such odds.


un armed peasants

A brief historical reference to issues of gun control

Source: “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” 3rd Ed. Vol 1, 2012 WW Norton n Co. Inc

Page 389, 1000-1300ce     “The collapse of Charlemagne’s empire had exposed much of northern Europe to invasion, principally from the Vikings, and left the peasantry with no central authority to protect them from local warlords. Armed with deadly weapons these strongmen collected taxes, imposed forced labor, and became the unchallenged rulers of society…The most important change was the peasant’s subjugation to the knightly class. Previously, well to do peasants had carried arms as freemen. The moment the farmers lost the right to carry arms, they were no longer free. They slipped back to being mere agricultural laborers. Each peasant toiled under the authority of a lord, who controlled every detail of his or her life. This was the basis of a system known as feudalism”.

Page 430; Peasant revolts in 14th century Europe

“Since the Roman era, peasant uprisings had occasionally erupted. But now they escalated into large scale insurrections. In France and England, massive revolts signaled the peasants’ resentment against lords who failed to protect them from marauding military bands, as well as their exasperation with feudal restrictions that now seemed too much to bear (recent survivors of the plague and famine). In 1358 the French revolt, or Jacquerie, broke out. Armed with only knives and staves, the peasantry went on a rampage, killing hated nobles and clergy, and burning and looting”. This revolt was brutally suppressed by the armed nobles’ military. In England in 1381 the English Peasants Revolt began as a protest. When peasants gathered at the gates of London demanding abolition of the feudal order they were brutally suppressed by the king.

The framers of the US Constitution had just finished a revolution against a well-armed British military and were not naïve about human nature and oppression. In our modern liberal thinking we seem to be very optimistic about the power of psychology to miraculously heal the ills of society. I think that kind of naivety will leave us very vulnerable to oppression. I would be the last to propose violence as a first resort. However, in my old age I have come to acknowledge that self defense is necessary when dealing with the evils of aggression and oppression. For a recent example, try to imagine any of the Arab Spring uprisings, if the government had been able to first disarm the citizens.


the icecream debates

With all the raging issues of the world and within America; at a moment of crises, Americans should be thinking about real sacrifice rather than who is going to make life nice and easy with the most benefits. But, as usual to get elected one must make promises;