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Class Notes from Nov. 30

jaranda's picture

 Doubting and Believing


Our third 4 page paper is due online Friday at 5. Anne would be interested in seeing collaborative papers. 

For Thursday, we should read the first half of Call of Stories, and think about the role of stories in our lives. The book might be a little outdated, but we should compare our stories to his, and think about the role stories play in our lives. 

Anne has been doing webpapers for 10 years. She invites us to think beyond papers and to consider doing projects that are beyond just papers. As we think about the evolving genre of nonfiction, we should consider other mediums. 

We went over stuff for finals, and everything that is due by December 17th. 

Everyone will give a performance for the last class, which should show what was have learned over the semester. These performances can be done in groups or alone, and can be interpretive, or it could be an activity, poem or song. Pretty much anything. 

After the performance, we have to write up a description of the performance - one per group is fine – and post on serendip. 

We should collect and reflect on all of our work done this semester, and compile it in a folder. 

            The portfolio should include all papers with any comments and all postings. All work should be arranged chronologically from newest to oldest, and the checklist should be on top. 

            We should also include a 2-3 page paper tracing what has happened to each of us over the semester. How have we learned? What have we learned? We should be very specific and evaluative. Review our participation in class and online. How have we contributed to others learning? How much effort did we put into our writing? 

Meetings with Anne for the final 12 page, or 12 page equivalent project are required. Email Anne to set up a meeting next week. The performance and project don’t have to be related. 

Anne doesn’t spend much time on grades, but she will spend a lot of time looking over these portfolios. 

A lot of the class felt overwhelmed to see everything we still have to do written down. Some people were excited for the performances, others thought they were a little unexpected. There was also a request for mocha brownies. 


Moving on to Carl Sagan. 

Adding to and expanding on what we’ve learned so far. Last week we shared experiences of belief, which we can use as test cases to explore Sagan’s test binary. 

            Sagan’s binary is easy to believe. Science is a profound source of spirituality, openness to new ideas and skeptical scrutiny of everything. 


There is kind of a paradox in Sagan’s beliefs. How is it possible to be open-minded and skeptical at the same time? 



            Owl – The book makes it seem like science is easy to get into, people just have to be willing to learn, but Owl doesn’t think so. 

            TyL – Read about a boy who was raised as a girl, and after finding out that she was actually a boy, his grades in science and math improved dramatically. 

            SandraGandarez – Studies show girls do poorly on math tests even if there are boys in same room taking the same test. 


On page 317, Sagan writes that the proclivity for science is embedded deeply within us. 


What is the claim of the book? 

            Science is always with us? Science is different?

            Rachelr – We all have potential

            veritatemdilexi – Doesn’t like the idea that everyone should be interested in science

            EVD – Felt there is a certain science for everyone

            AyaSeaver – Sagan is concerned about people being mislead by UFOs, but is personally more concerned about being mislead by pharmaceuticals

            Anne – Sagan cares about democracy. The last two chapters are much more political


Gullability kills. The larger agenda – preparing questioning citizens for a democratic society All of us need to take the position of Doubting Thomas


kgould – thinks we need to make sure we don’t label all scientists skeptics.

TyL – thinks believing in science is important, but that Sagan goes after easy targets like UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster. He should have gone after more serious topics. He only really critiques pseudoscience. 

ckosarek – would have gone in a different direction, maybe into media sensationalist stories like HPV. She would have had more respect for Sagan if he had gone in that direction. 


What is the darkness?

            TyL – pseudoscience, religion

            EVD – accepting restrictive government and whatever they say is true. Science culturally has an authority that religion used to have. 


What are the demons?

            TyL – aliens, witches

            AyaSeaver – Sagan stressed fantasms, given weight because they were pseudoscience. Science has taken an authority we aren’t skeptical enough of. 


Pseudoscience trades on the idea that science is an authority. Does science thrive on mistrusting authority? 

We should be rigorous in our skepticism

AyaSeaver – Why does Sagan think we only have to be skeptical about science? Sagan confines his attitude of skepticism to his field, science

            Anne – Is science different from all other fields?

EVD – People tend not to use the scientific method in religion


Is the call to skepticism convincing? Should we be more skeptical? 

            AyaSeaver – Doesn’t know if skepticism is as comforting as Sagan thinks it is.

            FatCatRex – Sagan was probably writing this book for people who do believe and need to let go a little bit


Should there be limits on skepticism?




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