Friday, February 11, 2011

Learning, and not learning

We're surrounded by people who are convinced that they're smarter than we are.  That they're more scientific than we are.  That they're more open minded than we are.

We know that we're surrounded, because they rarely miss an opportunity to tell us so.  You can see them telling us, on the bumper of the car ahead of you when you're dropping your kid off at school.

And I can't argue with the general - minds really do function better when they're open.  Open to new data, especially data that contradict your comfortable assumptions.

Some folks have open minds, and learn things that they never though they could:
On the midterm, he gave us an extra credit question I still remember.
Using Kepler's Observations and Newton's law of Gravitation, derive the mass of the earth.
No one even tried the question. He then offered it as extra credit as a take home assignment, and I decided I wanted the points.


It took me three days, off and on, to gather that information, come to understand it, and write it up. I felt like my brain was on fire. I learned something. It was something I would never have been capable of discovering, it was all I could do to follow what they had done. I turned in four typewritten pages and was one of four students in the class that attempted the assignment.

The instructor gave me an A on that assignment. He even complemented me on the work I had done. It didn't matter. I knew I was just walking in the footsteps of great men.
He learned that he didn't know everything.  He also learned that he could learn things he'd never imagined before.  Sadly, some people don't:
We can understand the phenomenon of the eco-apocalyptics of the left as more of a conscious and willful abdication of rationality for the purpose of maintaining the delusion of imminent environmental catastrophe. Like the patient with the delusional disorder I described above, but without the biological etiology, the environmental apocalype envisioned by the left serves an important psychological purpose. It disguises the underlying reality of their desire to have power over other people's lives. They absolutely need the environment to be on the verge of catastrophe; just as they need victims for whom they can champion so that they can keep this image of themselves as being heroic, compassionate, champions of the oprressed (including the oppressed planet). They simply cannot accept that they desire power; that they want to control others; that, from a psychological perspective, they are not much different than any other dictator or authoritarian ruler who sees himself "above" the common masses.
ASM826 is still learning, as am I.  I emailed him a link to some sayings from Lord Acton - you know, the guy who said that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  He was a wicked smaht guy, and the rest of his stuff is as good, or better.  I emailed ASM826 because I knew that I couldn't do it justice - I'd write another 4,000 word uberpost that y'all would sleep through.  I knew that he'd distil it to the bare essence.  Man, oh man, was I right:
I feel the same way when I read about Lord Acton. I can find pages of his quotes, copies of books compiled out of his letters, ideas about freedom and government that I would never have come to on my own. His ideas speak to the issues of our day as well as they did to the issues of his time.
Learn as much by writing as by reading.
--Lord Acton
He's done a series of Acton posts that deserve your attention.  They're what I would have written, only not so wordy, and a lot better.

Power Corrupts

Truth Prevails

Moral Laws

The Will Of The People

Two Wolves And A Sheep Plan Dinner

What Socialism Means

I keep saying he's my identical twin brother, separated at birth.  But I'm the brother that won't shut up.  He's the one who understands what the world is, and why it's that way, and who can tell you without making you fall asleep.


ViolentIndifference said...

Vodka corrupts. Absolut vodka corrupts absolutly.

If you can't be smart, try snark. If you like reading the combination of both - like playing with fire - read Tam's blog. If you like the smell of your own burning hair - write your own smart snark.

Unknown said...

The only group missing are the willfully ignorant--the irony--learning not to learn. Appreciate the link to Random Acts of Patriotism--