Thursday, July 14, 2016

You and I are not experiments

I understand that the astrophysicist Neil Tyson DeGrasse said recently that humans might be an experiment run by aliens.  I doubt that he was serious and I don't really care one way or another.  I have a PhD and I have taught statistics and experimental design to many reluctant students.  Before getting my doctorate, I taught the 5th grade for 4 years.  I didn't enjoy the college courses meant to prepare me to teach and I thought that learning scientific and statistical procedures might lead to ways to improve education.

For me, those studies didn't seem to help much.  As an undergraduate and while getting a doctoral minor in psychology, I felt that C.S. Lewis, an Irish/British professor of literature and a very famous Christian and children's author showed lots more insight into human life, behavior and principles than the rat psychologists and the behaviorists ever did.  I realize that experimenters were trying to establish fundamental truths based on more or less incontrovertible evidence.  Working that way, it is required to totally prove and persuade doubters and critics as to rightness of methods and procedures.

But over time, I have concluded that Lewis and my other favorite author, the French/American Jacques Barzun, were and are now in fact better guides to thinking and living than psychologists and social scientists.


Experiments on people or children take time.  Critical thinking may well be too slow and too controversial to assist students toward their goals.  Just as a mother may have to use her observation and her unverified insights to understand, support, guide, comfort and inspire her children, so teachers and others in the business of helping people have to constantly use their best antennae and intuition to grasp the worldview and reactions of students and learners.

You may have run into examples of artificial intelligence as depicted in the movie "Her" or in the forerunner program called Eliza. I wouldn't be surprised if a good artificial intelligence computer program was found to be a very big help in education and counseling at some time in the future. 

Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby