Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Theory Toolbox

I hope you all won't mind this short break from politics.  The book at left is one I have recently become aware of and will be using in a freshman seminar in the spring.  The subtitle, "Critical Concepts for the Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences," definitely makes it sound like a textbook, which is how I will be using it.  But it's not your average textbook.

Young people, or at least many of the ones I see in my classrooms,  are not sufficiently curious about the great big world around them.  Part of that may be a result of growing up in the Bible Belt, but the lack of curiosity goes beyond that.  It's not that they are afraid to ask questions, they don't quite understand why any questions need to be asked in the first place.

The authors of this book provide a pretty cool introduction to some pretty big theories.  The idea is not to knock some healthy skepticism into them as much as it is to help them figure out how to think about theoretical concepts that are in conflict.  Or at least that is one way I plan to use the book.

Even though you won't be enrolling in my freshman seminar, I recommend this book.

18 comments:

  1. Actually, I think this is very political. I work with a lot of university scientists and science educators, and this is a problem for them as well -- getting students to ask questions, to think critically, and (gulp) weigh evidence.

    With issues like climate change and environmental protection, there's a lot of political pressure and money out there for voters not to act (assuming they have the proper identification to even get into the polls).

    I read this by Ron Brownstein and actually began to wonder if even education may not be enough:

    http://nationaljournal.com/politics/the-great-divide-20110823

    Good luck to your students! The future is in their hands.

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  2. Yeah, it's like the dinner parties my wife and I attend in our neighborhood. After every one I come home amazed how anywhere from 6 to 10 intelligent adults could have spent three hours together and discussed nothing of any importance whatsoever. Which reminds me, we're having one here the Saturday after next. Maybe I'll leave a copy of The Theory Toolbox lying around somewhere.

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  3. At dinner with a friend tonight we discussed the political apathy in this country. My friend is in the 9th District where they just replaced Weiner with Republican Turner. We agreed that most people just don't care or follow any of this and few people voted.

    I think the great American pastime is shopping. Pretty sad.

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  4. Along the lines, Hampton Sides had a very interesting chapter on the New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) which is devoted to pre-Columbian cultures of Meso-america. This foundation was funded largely by BYU with the hope by Ferguson and others that the foundation would discover the roots of the lost tribe of Israel, which the Mormons claim is their antecedent, in Meso-America but to their credit enlisted reputable archeologists like Alfred Kidder and Gordon Willey, confident it seems that they would find the genesis for the golden tablets that Joseph Smith purportedly unearthed in 1830.

    As far-fetched as all this sounds, NWAF did some ground breaking work in Meso-American archeology. Unfortunately, it became increasingly apparent to Ferguson that there were no signs verifying anything Smith had to say, and a result he began to lose his faith. After 25 years of diligent hope, he reached the uneasy conclusion that the Book of Mormon had no basis in reality.

    It shows that even the most misguided fools can alter their views when evidence repeatedly and consistently tells them otherwise. And, that even if the NWAF was a Mormon-based foundation, it still did highly reputable work in archeology.

    Will post more later. The chapter was wonderfully written with Sides not belittling Mormonism, while at the same time pointing to the folly of expecting science to resolve matters of faith.

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  5. Marti, I have to think that a large part of the apathy in District 9 is that it is on the electoral chopping block. Very low voter turnout from what I read, which of course favored Turner.

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  6. But now that it has a Republican rep, they are unlikely to eliminate that district.

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  7. Democrats control the state assembly, do they not?

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  8. ''the Book of Mormon had no basis in reality''

    Precisely what Professor Alice Felt Tyler wrote in her classic ''Freedom's Ferment'':

    https://encrypted.google.com/books?id=S652ypXaFZ0C&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&source=gbs_api

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  9. Gintaras, Dems are majority in the state assembly here. I don't know exactly how they were planning to change that district, but I'd heard they were going to get rid of it. I don't see anything about it here, but here is the state assembly's website:

    http://assembly.state.ny.us/

    Sheldon Silver is the Speaker.

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  10. Scientific inquiry can be a bitch. At least the Mormons didn't build a museum to the Lost Tribe of Israel, like the nutty Creationists have in Kentucky. Nevertheless, "Biblical archeology" remains a thriving industry,

    http://www.bibleandscience.com/archaeology/ark.htm

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  11. As I understand it, marti, two districts were on the chopping block, I imagine one Republican and one Democratic, but now that District 9 has gone Republican, the NY Assembly may have to look for another Democratic one.

    What gets me about these "district" elections is the amount money pouring in from outside, through the Tea Party and other conservative groups. The same was the case in Wisconsin. These are no longer "local" elections.

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  12. ''Lost Tribes of Israel''

    In the mythological "Book of Mormon'', it is alleged that Native Americans are descended of the Lost Tribes of Israel. In New Testament times the 12 tribes were still known as shown in James 1:1. This means that these tribes were not lost until after about 100 AD. History shows there is ample evidence to prove Native American tribes existed well before the Common Era. Therefore it proves that Native Americans can NOT be descended of those tribes. We have already read of that evidence when we discussed ''1491'' by Charles Mann (and that was an EXCELLENT discussion!). Further proof that "The Book of Mormon'' is a fraud as shown by Professor Tyler in 1944.

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  13. I think you're preaching to the choir here, Trippler. Not to kick a hornet's nest myself, but aren't all these religious books mythological? Isn't that their purpose, to pass on the myth and lessons of the "tribe." Well -- and to solidify power of the churches that build up around them.

    One thing that is interesting about the Mormons, though, is that they are truly an American religion, based on the settling of the West, but also built on some good old American hucksterism. I think Smith himself was a failed magician, so it seems only fitting that he would found a religion instead.

    Speaking of Mann, he has a new one out -- 1493 -- if anyone is interested in reading that one. As I recall, 1491 was based on a lot of previous academic scholarship, so it was nothing new. But well written nonetheless. Might be fun to pick up where we left off.

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  14. hi avrds,

    At least the Bible makes reference to tribes that actually existed and other historical references that can readily be affirmed. But how people can believe such a bogus piece of crap like the Book of Mormon is beyond all reason.

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  15. Beats me, too, but we may have one for President ...

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  16. I was surprised to read that the Mormon leadership at the time was determined to "scientifically prove" The Book of Mormon. Apparently now they accept it largely as myth. I don't think they feel all Native Americans are descended from the "Lost Tribe of Israel," as part of the book talks of the great battle that took place between this "lost tribe" and that of the Native Americans who were here at the time. This battle apparently took place around 400 AD. At the time Ferguson set up the NWAF, the church became obsessed with the idea that this tribe existed in the Yucatan. This belief apparently dates back to Stephens' book on the Yucatan,

    http://books.google.com/books?id=gg-ou82z7GUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=incidents+and+travels+in+the+yucatan&hl=en&src=bmrr&ei=SbB6TsfyKqKJ4gT2x9XVDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=incidents%20and%20travels%20in%20the%20yucatan&f=false

    but then many Catholic missionaries also thought the Mayans may have been direct descendents of the lost tribe of Israel, as the "cross" was part of their religious iconography. The Mormons have apparently gone out of their way to convert present-day Mayans.

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  17. I grew up down the road a bit from Palmyra NY and when I was 15 I went to the Hill Cumorah show they hold each summer with a friend and his parents.It was like a drive in where you park your car and sit and listen to this Vegas style show on the start of the Mormon religion.It was really a well done show with great visual and sound effects but even then I thought it was a great piece of hokum.Went back a few years later and ate schrooms with some buddies and it was even better!(bosox)

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  18. I'll start a separate heading because it seems we are getting further and further away from Rick's subject. But, it seems this Hill Cumorah Show is their version of the Passion Play.

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