Re: [asa] pursuing objectivity in the classroom (Global W.)

From: Merv <>
Date: Thu May 17 2007 - 23:48:27 EDT

Thanks Rich, (and Janice). They (the high school students I was
referring to) aren't doing any huge research project on this (it wasn't
even in a science class). But it was just a little end-of-year
classroom task where they could begin whetting their curiosities on this
issue. Next year, I may make a more substantial project that uses some
of this in a science class. I'm trying to think ahead how they can be
challenged to be informed and be aware of the players.

Janice, your links have a lot of good challenges too. Among the links
of yours I perused, I didn't find any skepticism directed at the claims
of the b.a.u. proponents. (All that would be amply provided by the
"other side" you will rightly insist.) You are keenly in tune, it
seems, only with skepticism directed towards large government and
grant-funded university projects. Much of that ire is well-deserved, I
don't doubt. But it isn't the case that the b.a.u. folks are helpless
or above being "motivated" to promote only certain slants of truth. In
fact, if an informal and non-scientific tour of the web is any
indicator, it isn't clear that the "pro-b.a.u." folks are losing the
shouting match. In terms of sheer volume, they are well-represented in
the blogosphere. But if any of my students ever have any trouble
finding objections to the scientific findings indicating global warming,
then your links may be just what they need.


Rich Blinne wrote:
> There's no such thing as truly objective but the closest we can
> probably get is the technical summary of the IPCC. This differs from
> the summary for policy makers (SPM) in that the politicians didn't
> touch this report. But don't stop there. Inside the report are markers
> of confidence of how certain the scientists believe they are correct.
> This is not merely a "gut feel" kind of indication of confidence but
> rather an indication of the "error bars" in the measurements. Only
> take the high confidence and very high confidence statements for
> granted. Or alternatively you can take the medium confidence as areas
> where the case really isn't closed and more work needs to be done. A
> particular example that could be used as an exercise is the issue of
> determining sea level rise (Chapter 4). Your students can compare this
> against the "true believers" and the "skeptics" and see how well their
> respective positions can be supported. It's also a helpful exercise in
> decision making when there is large amounts of uncertainty. This
> report can be found here:
> The technical summary is here:
> <>
> There's also a very good FAQ here:
> Chapter 8-9 are especially helpful so that you can see how the climate
> models are evaluated and how the root causes of climate change are
> attributed. They can apply what's seen here and determine if for
> example you can attribute the recent climate change to solar
> irradiance or anthropogenic CO2.. Your students can also look to see
> if there are any methodological flaws here. They could also run down
> the thousands of footnotes, etc. etc.
> On 5/16/07, *Merv* < <>>
> wrote:
> I challenged a couple students yesterday to "see what they could find"
> on the net regarding glacier loss and its connection to global
> warming. It was an open ended challenge (and a dangerous one --
> I gave
> no direction or "guidance" whatsoever.) So they were free to
> migrate to
> the sites that would most line up with their own opinions (or those of
> mom and dad at home). In fact, I am blissfully naive of most high
> profile political organizations on this and can peruse web sites
> myself
> which would probably curl the hair of most policy savvy citizens who
> have a major ax to grind here. But I let each site's contents
> speak for
> itself. And I'm hoping that I can model a kind of open-ended
> objectivity on this to my students. Very few today are actually
> interested in truth, but instead have departed from any truth-questing
> in favor of persuasion and marketing. And this may be appropriate --
> what else are you supposed to do after all when you are already
> convinced of the truth of something? But meanwhile, those of us who
> haven't issued a personal verdict yet, find ourselves surrounded by
> nothing but committed "defense lawyers" and "prosecuting attorneys".
> The actual Jury seems to be almost non-existent as everyone has
> become a
> lawyer/marketer who can be counted on to reveal only what is favorable
> to his cause. So the jury has to do its homework listening to all
> sides. Granted. But meanwhile, I am wondering how I can nudge my
> class to at least set their sites on such objectivity as is humanly
> possible. I know I can insist that they seek out sites that are
> contrary to their present convictions. But that can still just be a
> case-building exercise (you scout out enemy territory searching for
> their weak points).
> Any tips any of you may have on this would be appreciated. I realize
> most here are probably grinding axes of their own and will tell me
> "there is no real scientific debate on this" (global warming) ---
> which
> whether or not it is true, is decidedly unhelpful in any educational
> sense. Everybody is happy to declare "case closed" exuding personal
> candor and confidence such as only a professional marketer could
> muster. And we are left still deciding who to trust.
> --Merv
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Received on Thu May 17 23:43:28 2007

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