Saturday, May 13, 2017

Variations On The Theme of Knowing and Ignorance

I don't like to just repost what others have done.  I feel some need to include some sort of value-added.  The value here is fairly minimal.  It's merely putting these together with what I see as the common themes of ignorance, the difficulty of knowing, and the greater difficulty of being able to assess what you know.

I got a link that sent me to McSweeny's Internet Tendency.  It turns out McSweeney is a publishing house in San Francisco.  Had I known that last week, I might have tried to stop and and see who is behind these two posts.

Here are two examples from the piece of talking about other things like people talk about gender:
Cats: “A Manx is not a cat. Cats are defined as having tails. Maybe it’s a koala.”
Ice cream: “Avocado is not a valid ice cream flavor because I’ve never heard of it and it does not appeal to me.”
There are lots more such examples.


Oh my!  There must be a kind of genius that allowed Happel to create this essay of twisted logic.

'Zombie Research' and how the study that led people (like Trump) to incorrectly conclude that non-citizens were voting in big enough numbers to impact election results was used to impact an election.  This comes from Nate Silver's Fivethirtyeight website.  It's about a very sophisticated ignorance - the kind that always made it hard for me to submit academic articles, because I was always certain there was some important piece that I had missed entirely.

  • "The greatest enemy of knowledge is NOT ignorance, it's the illusion of knowledge."
I first wrote about the  Dunning-Kruger effect  a year ago April.  This video is actually an example posted by Alberto Cairo - the professor who taught the online class I took on infographics for journalists -  of how videos are an improvement over simple graphics (Cairo's area of expertise.)  His post includes three more such video examples on:   the visualization of uncertainty, the first of  a series about elementary statistical methods titled Methods 101, and a discussion about Cairo's book, The Truthful Art.  

(The 'greatest enemy of knowledge' quote comes at the end of the video.

The notion that I had to confront the 'knowledge' my students already had embedded in their brains about any given topic before they could really consider a different 'truth' came about a third of the way into my teaching career, and radically changed how I taught. If someone 'knows' something, it's really hard to displace that 'knowledge' with something else unless you get that person to consciously confront the existing 'knowledge' and how it was acquired.

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