Category Archives: Objective Knowledge

The Inhofe EPW Press Blog

Senator James Inhofe of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has an excellent blog on the Minority Page. Posts now include:

Breaking: Less Than Half of all Published Scientists Endorse Global Warming Theory

Scientific Smackdown: Skeptics Voted The Clear Winners Against Global Warming Believers in Heated NYC Debate

Global Warming on Mars & Cosmic Ray Research Are Shattering Media Driven “Consensus’

and my personal favorites:

Hollywood Celebrities Challenged To Take The “Gore Pledge”

Gore Refuses Pledge

During the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on March 21, 2007, “Vice President Al Gore’s Perspective on Global Warming,” former Vice President Al Gore refused to take a “Personal Energy Ethics Pledge” to consume no more energy than the average American household

The pledge was presented to Gore by Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. At the hearing, Senator Inhofe showed Gore a frame from Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” where Gore asks viewers:

“Are you ready to change the way you live?”


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When consensus of scientists proves false, Global Warming activists look to 4th Graders

According to 9-11 year old students at a Portland school, Global Warming is real and will be disastrous if not stopped.

A small group of students at our school has been researching and studying the effects of global warming. The evidence and data we collected is so overwhelming that we have decided to write about this issue.

Read more of this astounding research here at the Portland Press Herald.

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Lisa VanDamme on “Classical” Education

The Objective Standard recently published an article by Lisa VanDamme, owner and director of the VanDamme Academy, in which she explains the failure of “progressive” schooling and examines the claims of movements that promise instead a “classical” or “traditional” education.

I’ve enjoyed Ms. VanDamme’s articles over the past few months, which stress the hierarchical nature of learning. I’m finding that my own experiences in school were not so far off from the horror stories that she relays from parents. Modern education is the product of bad philosophy – specifically bad epistemology – and the poor student performance we hear about is the direct product of teaching methods that discourage the propert integration of concepts.

In fact, in my own high school, just getting students out the door took priority over education. My Sophomore year “social studies” teacher was also the football coach. To this day I don’t understand how he was ever hired as a teacher. I remember that he confused the Parthenon with the Pantheon, showed us a program from the BBC and thought that it stood for “Black Broadcasting Channel” and ranted on his experiences in Vietnam. This was a “Regents” class, part of NY state’s attempt to improve the quality of content in classes. The final exam of my pre-calculus class (which lasted one year rather than the usual half) was a group project, and much if not most of the time in that and my Advanced Placement Calculus class was spent learning to use our calculators and chatting with the people around us. One of the questions on our AP exam we were not prepared to answer, because the teacher admitted he didn’t think we would be tested on it. The highlight of the day was lunch period or a study hall, when I played Uno with friends.

Lisa VanDamme says in the current article that,

Rousseau opposed lessons; he urged the importance of an inactive mind; he scorned books, calling reading “the greatest plague of childhood.” Emile’s education was to be one of pure, unguided development.

You could say then that much of my education followed Rousseau’s ideal. Now I’m faced with the need to learn many things, particularly in the subject of history, which I never learned properly the first time. (and I’m noticing many others haven’t either)

She also examines”Classical” schoolsthat value reasoning and independent thinking, but which are based on a rationalist epistemology. That is, they are based on the idea that reason is “a priori”,that abstractions are not basedin experience.According to this view, subjects are taught in a dogmatic way by presenting “facts” without the evidence to support them. A teacher may expect their students to memorize poems, or names and dates, or equations, without teaching them the concepts or the history or the evidence that would give them an actualunderstanding of the subject. As Ms. VanDamme explains,

Rationalism is an erroneous method of thinking because, although abstractions are tools for grasping reality, they are valid only if and to the extent that they are based on reality, consistent with reality, and used to understand and succeed in reality.

This of course explains why there is so much of my education that I simply can’t remember. Many of my teachers certainly shared with these “classical” schools a reverence for the intellect, but also like these schools they simply did not teach the material in a way that could be integrated. Instead, I did a lot of rote memorization.

The article really is a fascinating study of educational techniques and explains for mea lot of what I experienced in school. The educational community seems divided between those who are openly destructive to young minds, and those who are well-meaning but have accepted a view of knowledge that is effectively as destructive. Students are torn between a resentment forteachers who refuse to teach, and frustration when they don’t understand what they are taught. The combination is enough to turn any bright child into a cynical adult.

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Hiatus from forum posting

And what makes “trolls” Nihilists.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with forums. I love to express myself, but most people who are not Objectivists tend to rely heavily on ad hominem arguments rather than reasoning in debates. Nothing is more frustrating than spending a half-hour to an hour constructing a reply, only for the argument to be ignored for sarcasm and insults. It has reached the point where I will be reluctant to even read a post following mine, because responding is such a chore. For years I urged posters to be civil and just continued to refute their ideas. This only seemed to fuel the fire. Some actually believe that insults make arguments more interesting and exciting! For them, to be told to attack the argument rather than the person is like being told not to have fun, and they of course resent it. So I’ve taken a break.

That some people seem to believe insults make arguments fun does imply though that ideas to them are not fun. If they feel they must make a debate exciting by committing logical fallacies, then that suggests disrespect for and misunderstanding of ideas and philosophy. The word philosophy of course comes from Socrates, who claimed to be a “philosopher”, meaning someone who loves wisdom. Why should one love wisdom? Because wisdom is knowledge of life on earth. To become wise means to learn to live a better life. Debate is an exercise of reaching the truth, in order to gain wisdom. What does that say of someone who debates in order to throw mud at his opponent?

I think poor behavior in debates is actually one symptom of a culture that has been teaching that ideas are relative and subjective and that reality is unknowable. It’s because so many people don’t believe in objective knowledge that they see no point to a reasoned debate. To them a debate is just two people with irreconcilable ideas butting heads against each other. To borrow a term from Kuhn, we all live in our own “paradigm”. Who am I to criticize the Muslims in Iran or Saudi Arabia? I’m just an arrogant American to say that their way is bad and my way is good! Who am I to say that Socialism is bad? Just because I prefer to own property doesn’t make Capitalism better! We’re living in a nihilistic culture that no longer takes ideas seriously. Instead we’re merely each members of cultures warring with each other for control, each a would-be despot looking to force their beliefs on others. Debate between two despots is truly hopeless, and a pretense of argument is dishonest. Maybe that’s why so many become bored with a real debate and look for blood. It isn’t even a question of who is right or wrong, but who will be left standing. In fact, that is the general measure of who wins a debate – not who makes the better case, but who “gets the last word”. A debate becomes not a search for truth, but a battle of wills. Why shouldn’t insults be used if that helps to become the victor?

I wonder then if it’s really a coincidence that the vast majority of posters who I’ve observed used ad hominem as “tactics” attack American principles and defend statists. They must truly hate the “dishonesty” that America represents! America was founded on the idea of natural rights, but more fundamentally on the idea that we can know nature. What made the Declaration of Independence right was the certainty of understanding what man needs to live. The arrogance! The self-deception! Socialism, on the other hand, is a system that does not pretend to care what man’s real nature is, but instead creates a mold for him deemed to be “moral”. That is something today’s nihilists and multiculturalists can respect! No illusions of knowledge, just the use of force to create a society to your subjective whim.

Ultimately,how can anyone who respects the human mind and believes ideas to be objective and practical, find a debate without insult boring? Debate is the most exciting intellectual exercise, and it most often occurs within your own mind as you develop your own ideas. The discovery of objective truth is a reward because it’s real and will improve your existence. What possible benefit could come of sabotaging that process? Nihil.

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