Is the Moon a Magnet for Ignorance?

is the moon

Google’s search-suggestions for “is the moon,” shown above, clearly indicate support for the “magnet for ignorance” conjecture.

My favorite one from this list: “is the moon real”? I’ve looked into this, and there are apparently quite a few people utterly convinced that the Moon is a hologram, created by NASA, for reasons I have not been able to discern.

Information, and Misinformation, About Ebola

ebola

Much is now being written about ebola, for obvious reasons. I previously addressed the subject, on this blog, before the news became flooded with ebola-stories (my post was made in late July), and I did so mathematically (because that’s the way I am), right here: https://robertlovespi.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/a-graph-of-infections-and-deaths-during-the-first-four-months-of-the-2014-ebola-outbreak/.

While I am pleased that ebola is now getting more attention in the media, I am not at all pleased about the continuing spread of this epidemic — and am also utterly horrified by the misinformation being disseminated, by many writers, on the subject. Some of what is now being written makes sense, but much of it does not. Here are four examples of logical, and well-written, information on this timely subject:

1. http://www.vox.com/2014/10/10/6953637/ebola-out-break-lesson-outbreaks-public-health/in/5712456

2. http://www.vox.com/2014/10/10/6954071/the-nightmare-ebola-scenario-that-keeps-scientists-up-at-night

3. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-31/ebola-timeline-deadliest-outbreak/5639060

4. http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/09/opinion/osofsky-ebola-wildlife/index.html?hpt=wo_r1

By contrast, the three articles which follow are, well, not helpful at all. They either are hysterical nonsense, or are helping spread hysterical nonsense. Neither of these things benefit anyone.

A. http://www.liberianobserver.com/security/ebola-aids-manufactured-western-pharmaceuticals-us-dod

B. http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/993247-ebola-zombies-article-says-3rd-person-rose-from-the-dead-still-false/ (only “likely false,” according to the opening sentence)

C. http://www.examiner.com/article/liberia-ebola-zombies-supposedly-rise-from-the-dead

I enjoy zombie movies as much as anyone, but let’s be clear on this:  people who have died from ebola do not rise from the dead! Also, no, the ebola viruses were not created deliberately for genocidal purposes, or any other purpose. Conspiracy theories, on any subject, are all false, for one simple reason: large-scale conspiracies require many human beings to keep real information (as opposed to misinformation) secret, for long periods of time, and that simply doesn’t happen. As an old saying puts it, “three men can keep a secret — if two of them are dead.”

There is an out-of-control ebola epidemic raging in several African nations, and a real risk exists of widespread outbreaks forming on other continents, since cases already exist in both North America and Europe. However, there is also a second problem:  we are already in the middle of a worldwide ebola panic. This second problem will not help with the first problem — at all. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

What will help? Rational, clear thinking — as well as deliberate, well-considered, intelligent, rapid, and well-funded action. The unfortunate truth is that no such action happened much earlier, but that error cannot be unmade, for time travel into the past is physically impossible. What is possible is for intelligent action to be taken now.

What will not help? Hysteria, panic, superstition, ignorance, greed, the “blame game,” and, especially, old-fashioned human stupidity.

How does one separate the “wheat from the chaff” — or, in this case, the real information from the misinformation? I know of only a few ways to do this: think about what you read, and think, then rethink, about what you write (and then post on the Internet) — and, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, well . . . just shut up. Please.

My Australia Story

australia

I once got into a huge argument, as a 7th grade student, in a “talented and gifted” section of Social Studies. The issue:  how many countries are there in the continent of Australia?

The assignment was to choose a continent, and draw a map of it on a full-size posterboard. I had worked for hours on this map, only to get it back, ruined, for the teacher had taken a red ball-point pen, slashed through my line “state and territorial boundaries” in my map’s key, and had written, as a correction, “not states — COUNTRIES.” She also docked points from my grade, but that was a minor issue, to me, compared to her ruining my map. She could have, at least, written her incorrect comment on the back of my map!

When I confronted her about her mistake, she maintained that the political divisions you see above are independent countries. In my opinion, “Northern Territory,” especially, doesn’t sound particularly sovereign, and I said so, but she may not have understood the definition of “sovereign,” for that did not work. Confronted with this absurd situation, I proceeded to grab the “Q” volume of a nearby encyclopedia, and began reading the article about Queensland, loudly enough for the entire class to hear: “Queensland:  one of the states of Australia….” I freely admit that, at the time, my goal was to embarrass and humiliate her right out of the teaching profession — for the benefit of her present and future students. I’ve changed my approach, a lot, since then.

A huge brouhaha ensued, and we ended up taking each other to the assistant principal’s office:  her, to report a disruptive and defiant student; and me, to report an incompetent teacher, who, in my view, at that age, should have been fired on the spot. Dealing with this situation was probably one of the stranger, and more difficult, situations of that assistant principal’s career, for he knew that Australia is both a single country, and a continent — but he could not, for political reasons I did not yet understand, agree with me in front of this teacher. As for me, I was simply incredulous that someone could be a certified social studies teacher, and not know this basic fact about world geography. The whole scenario, to me, was surreal.

The assistant principal handled it well. To the teacher, he said, “You can go back to class — I’ll handle Robert.” He then “handled” me, after she left, in the only way that could have possibly worked:  with an apology, and a polite request to do my best to endure her ignorance until the upcoming end of the year. I respect honesty, was being given a request, not an order, and he had conceded that I was correct. I therefore chose to cooperate — with his polite request.

If he had not taken this approach, I likely would have added him to the list I had, at the time, of people (a mixture of administrators and teachers) whom I was trying to drive out of the education profession, for the benefit of all — but he did the right thing, thus earning my respect.

As for the teacher, I survived the rest of her class, brain intact, and assume she is now retired, this being well over thirty years ago. I’m now in my twentieth year as a teacher, myself, and am pleased to report that average teacher quality has dramatically improved since this fiasco happened. (I wish I could say the same about average administrator quality, but there are, at least, a few competent people working in that field, as well.) During my years of teaching, I haven’t encountered a single teacher who lacked this basic bit of knowledge about world geography. In fact, I count, among my colleagues, many of the smartest people I know.

I am glad, however, that I don’t have to call the teacher in this story a colleague. I simply cannot respect willful, stubborn ignorance, especially in the face of evidence that one is wrong. When one of my students catches me making a mistake, I do the right thing: I thank them, make certain everyone understands the correction, and then we move on with the lesson. That’s what this 7th grade teacher of mine should have done, as well.

Tom Cotton Is Running for the U.S. Senate with a Two-Digit IQ

TomCotton

I’m not a Democrat, but I usually end up voting for Democratic candidates, simply to vote against their Republican opponents, since we have no viable third party in the United States. Why? Sometimes it’s because I disagree with particular Republicans on actual political issues — issues involving personal liberty, most commonly.

Often, however, my primary reason for opposing Republican candidates is more fundamental:  I’m horrified by the idea of stupid people running the government, and a growing subset of prominent Republicans are shockingly deficient in intelligence, as revealed by numerous dumb things they say, or, in this case, tweet. Examples of this sort of Republican include George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann — and now this one, Tom Cotton, currently running for the U.S. Senate in Arkansas, where I live.

What is it about the Republican Party that attracts politicians with two-digit IQs, and why does this trend seem to be getting steadily worse?

There Are No Stupid Questions?

“The Beatles? Wasn’t that Paul McCartney’s old group?” (high school, ~1983)

“Plutonium? Isn’t that the stuff the planet Pluto is made of?” (in Chemistry class)

“Is the planet Mercury made of the element mercury?” (in Chemistry class)

“Is this Algebra Two or Algebra Eleven?” (to a colleague)

“Do you ever get cysts on your ovaries?” (to me)

“Did you get a haircut?” (innumerable times)

 

There are, of course, many other examples. Feel free to leave your favorites in a comment.