Teaching to the Test

Every educator know the temptation to “teach to the test”. It refers to the annual standardized tests which the state mandates almost all children must take to know which of their teachers are to be thrown in the chokie. By this, I mean that depending on the tests, teachers could lose their jobs, and if there is a particularly egregious screw up with the way the testing was administered, lose their license. Teachers are terrified during Testing Season not just for themselves, but for their kids and their schools. For students, failure can mean being held back or labeled “the stupid one”.

One has to question the rationality in all of this. One area principal made a very good point that it is insane that we judge a year’s worth of collective work of both a child and his teacher based on the performance on a single day, a day when they may be in near panic, when their dog could have been hit by a bus, their grandmother may have died, they could be sick, or maybe they just don’t do well on tests. This is not to mention that Testing Season itself amounts to a huge block of educational time including reviews and regular benchmark testing… time where they aren’t being taught actual classroom material, but practicing to look good for the state.

There’s a reason for this, of course, as the schools face real consequences for failure. Every year there is a school A-F report card and testing is a huge part of it. If too many kids fail, and if it becomes a pattern, the school can face punitive budget cuts or be shut down. That being the case, it needs to be said that it’s impossible to find two identical schools with the same balance of needs, same population, same wealth distribution, same ethnic diversity dynamic, or the same anything. But it’s okay to stack the test scores of one school against the others as if that determines the value of their teachers? This matters in vastly recessed parts of the state where the local tax base does little to supplement state funds. Then throw in the places with high percentages of kids needing ESL or ELL services, which often, unfortunately, stack on poorer communities. Given all this disparity, you think you are going to get scores on par with the rest of the state. But if a school is graded as an F on the school report card it should be shut down? That would be like killing off all the kids who don’t pass, an idea so terrifying, Hollywood literally made a movie about it called The Thinning.

Logan Paul Shares Trailer for YouTube Red Thriller 'The ...

That’s what it feels like for many poor schools. You have it hard? Tough. Pass or get closed and any poor teacher associated with you is marked as untouchable for the rest of her career.

For this reason, the schools have adapted by trying to make the single most stressful week of a kid’s year, as well as their own, into a circus with all sorts of asinine behavior from dressing up, decorating the halls, and matching T-shirts reading some silly affirmation like “Rock the Test”. Why engage in this utter nonsense and a complete waste of time? Because literally so much is riding on it, and while everyone is trying to pretend like they are having fun and to be relaxed, everyone is scared out of their minds.

It should surprise no one teachers do that ugly thing no one is allowed to admit to.

Teachers teach to the test.

It’s a fact. Let’s just own it, accept it, and deal with this horrible truth. Teachers teach to the test and screw anyone for judging them.

What does this mean?

It means that teachers don’t have the liberty to teach so that your kids understand the material. They teach so that they don’t get fired for having lost test scores.

Fine, okay. We have to somehow ensure that some standards are met. Obviously, we can’t have teachers telling kids that magical crystals govern the universe in accordance with the amount of positive energy you channel into them, right? But at what point did we cross a line from productive assessment to damaging our students? I’m not sure, but I will venture a guess that schools being so insecure in their teachers that they interrupt actual classroom time with endless benchmarks is probably counterproductive to education. Secondly, whoever allowed a system to evolve where school counselor dresses like a flipping taco so that the kids can relax to take a stupid test is someone who needs to be duct taped to a wall, and have the collected volume of the state tests thrown at them like a Bronze-Aged stoning. Test day Taco Teacher is where we know we crossed the line.

So how do teachers handle this? One of a few ways:

First, they can place insane amounts of stress on children to perform, not that there is anything in it for the kids because rewarding positive outcomes is strictly forbidden. I’m not being facetious, you’re literally not allowed to reward kids for doing well on the tests because rich schools can incentivize more. It’s fairer, but all that is left for kids is the negative consequences of failure. Not a good motivator.  Then make all this happen on a day when you get kids ripped from their classrooms into totally foreign environments where the teachers walk around like prison guards trying to telepathically relay the answers to their children. Couple this with telling them to relax and that everything will be okay, while teachers subconsciously communicate to them that if they fail the teacher’s life will be over, their lives will be over, the school’s life will be over, and the fall of the American Republic will soon be neigh, and no matter what you do, kids will be stressed to the point of breaking.

Hence Taco Teacher.

Some kids aren’t bothered, but then there are the others. The others are the kids who will freak out, have a panic attack, or who simply don’t care and are willing to fail to see the world burn. Yeah, there are monsters, but the problem is that there enough of these second two groups to completely break the average. Awesome.

Then there is the second option: Cheat. Look, you make the stakes high enough and the situation desperate enough, people are going to cheat.  You tell someone that their job and the food in their kid’s bellies comes down to the performance of 60 kids they have only had access to for about 1 hour a day for about 100 days before the testing season starts… Teachers are human and some will take the low road.

Or you have what most educators actually do. They learn about the test. Over the years, they stop teaching what is best to create well-educated students ready to tackle life’s challenges, and they teach to a test so that they can look like superstars and know they will be invited back next year.

I’ll leave it at this. If teachers, students, and schools got to write an A-F test for the Oklahoma State Board of Education, the “F” wouldn’t just stand for “failed.”


Frustrated Teacher


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The Myth of Classroom Tablets

But what about one-to-one technology? (That’s teacher parlance for tablets.)

As you can imagine, giving every student a tablet (as in one-to-one) is a massive initial investment. At least then you have them. Well, that’s still not “problem solved.” My last section described just how important textbooks are for educators.  At this point, there is no complete replacement for what textbooks offered: one complete program that covers an entire year’s worth of material (even if the standards change… again), along with activities for practice, and assessment materials that follow a clear progression through the academic year. Sorry, there’s just no app for that.

What we have instead are poorly integrated multimedia programs and video games disguised as learning aides disguised as video games (not a typo.) The games are billed as helping with conceptual skills and fundamentals, but any of those that actually do… no one actually plays. The multimedia is usually a long series of videos and reading material that the kids can usually click through in 10 minutes what should take them a few hours to complete. They have clever visuals and a few quizzes but are ultimately inferior because they aren’t made with the same depth and detail as the books, as many are produced at breakneck paces by software startups employing five engineers and zero educators. Add in the fact that one of the last things Oklahoma educators get for programs like this is training in implementation, particularly with advanced programs. Sure, the administrators make sure you know how to check kids in, but as far as actually working with the programs that help you teach… eh.

Where we have successes usually comes from the fact that technology-based learning offers tools older methods don’t. For example, if you’re able to have all your work done on tablets, the grading can be done automatically. For teachers who spend in excess of four hours a week grading worksheets this is a godsend. Also getting instant knowledge of who is understanding the material and who isn’t is an invaluable tool to an educator. Likewise, there also exists excellent communication tools making it easier for parents and teachers to work together. Those are great (Classroom Dojo FTW!), but in all honesty, a teacher can also use Classroom Dojo with just her phone, so the one-to-one isn’t necessarily part of that equation.

So, discounting the communication technology, the grading does very little if it isn’t part of a holistically integrated lesson plan. For most teachers, this is where one-to-one fails.

What this translates to is Mr. Jones or Miss Smith now with access to the power technology, tech that cost the Oklahoma taxpayer one of the few pretty pennies they still had. They have no training in how to use it but had two days during in-service to figure it and design their entire year’s worth of education around along with the other teachers equally as lost as they are. So when you think about the costs of these massive outlays to it shouldn’t surprise you when the lesson ends up being, “Go to this YouTube video then take the quiz in Kahoots I spent an hour making last night.”

Given that most schools don’t have the pull that major school districts do, (such as the Los Angeles Independent School District) they don’t have the resources to court companies willing to tailor education suites just for them. Of course, even with LA, that crashed and burned. This is why for all but a few, one-to-one technology does not replace textbooks unless the teachers build a curriculum from scratch… again… but this time digitally. This means teachers have the burden of not only teaching, but also creating all curriculum, which they may or may not have the resources to act upon, which is already impossible, but whatever. Add into that the need to develop technology skills that would make them way, way more employable in other industries…

Well, at least this time they won’t need paper.

Next up… those godforsaken tests!


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Twitter has no Principles

People are talking about the “white nationalist purge” of Twitter, which I honestly care little about. Those who are followers of the blog know that the Alt-Right hates me more than most because I have done as much as I have to literally teach people how to inoculate themselves from their rhetoric.

But Twitter honestly get’s no credit in this one. While it’s fine if they want to silence these types of people, it isn’t fine if they refuse to silence fanatics on other fronts. Twitter has long been host to organizing and empowering groups that support terrorism from the Islamic State to Anti-fa, so to suddenly take a stand now and expect praise for it, sorry, you’ll get none from me. When you only silence people who you specifically find detestable, but refuse to take action against far worse among people who violate your own rules but are politically incorrect to hold them accountable… we have a saying for that.

They have no principles.

This was outlined clearly with the banning of Roger Stone back in October. I wrote about it on Quora then and will share it again here. You can say that they did the right thing by enforcing some standard of decency on the platform. I’ll agree. I hate seeing the dumbing down of all media that eventually led everyone throwing around “F-this” and “F-that” on the nightly news or even Star Trek. I really hate it. I think what he said was important enough to be said, but a completely terrible way to say it.

That said, Twitter still has no principles… because you don’t get to only enforce the rules on ideologies you don’t like.

 I want to be upfront: I don’t like Julian Assange, but the man has a really big point.

So Twitter is trying to “take a stance against abuse”, but then they just ignore posts like this from only weeks ago?

Just a few weeks ago I asked the question Why isn’t Twitter banning people celebrating the Las Vegas Massacre? and still, there has been nothing but silence as far as doing anything about that. Literally, thousands of people reported those tweets and the users are still active.

Or how about the real head-scratchers, people with millions of followers who can get away with murder… provided that they are targeting the right people. Or, should I say… people on the Right.

Habitually.

And it isn’t just President Trump. Olbermann does this sort of thing all the time to many, many people. Twitter does nothing about these cases which are reported again, and again, and again.

So the message that Twitter is sending out, clearly is that they won’t respect targeted abuse, but they will only enforce that policy on right-wingers when they start imitating the left-wingers who have made their careers off it.

So having said that, Twitter deserves nothing but condemnation for this move. Suspending Roger Stone is something I would be totally fine with… if he was the only one acting like he does. If he set this bar so low, then I would say that the punishment was fair. Since he’s not, not even the worst, and since Twitter regularly proves itself to be such an irrefutably biased platform, then no, this is a complete mockery of the site.

Look, everyone understands fairness. Everyone. You don’t get to suddenly come down and start enforcing the rules… but only for the right people. I should say, only for the right-wing people. It shows absolutely no integrity on the platform to demonstrate their principles, but making clear the only principles they have are partisan loyalty. Look, I’m fine with suspending people acting like dirtbags… but suspend all the dirtbags.

Fair isn’t fair if you only treat people you hate “fairly”.


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Military and Technology

Let’s look at this a different way. I’d argue that militaries don’t adopt new technologies. The tech is simply out there, but whole nations must adapt to fulfill the desires of a particular military strategy, not simply the military.

Here is the M1-Abrams. It was designed in the 1980’s. It has few secrets left, but other nations around the world still fail to produce a better tank. Why?

Because technology isn’t simply “unlocked” or “adapted”. It must be built. For that, a nation… not the nation’s military… must be capable of creating the thing. Not only this, they must also be able to balance building enough of them for a meaningful strategy, with not spending so much that the nation goes bankrupt. So for the Abrams, that means that each of its 10,000 parts (baseless guestimate) must be built in various factories. They must then be assembled together in other factories. They must then be brought together somewhere else, and they must then be shipped to wherever they need to go. Furthermore, ammunition needs to be produced, fuel refined, and replacement parts fielded. There are very few nations on Earth who could meet this demand.

Let’s look at that another way. Why does Australia not produce cars? They are well educated, wealthy, capitalist, and with many trade partners. So why not build cars?

For a nation to be profitable in the automotive industry, it must produce and sell in excess of 200,000 cars a year. The process to build a car from raw ore to a revved-up engine is so extensive that it is virtually impossible to achieve economies necessary for national profit until about the 200,000 mark. Long ago, Australia could do, even though the industry was heavily subsidized by the government. But as cars became more complex, more technical, and requiring more specialties to produce the new parts and equipment, Australia couldn’t keep up. Simply put, Australia doesn’t have enough people to sell that many cars. More than that, they don’t have enough people to build that many cars. Just as important, they don’t have a logistical trade network to connect all the people who can make that happen, nor do they have resources cheap enough to make it economical. A better way to think about it is that Australia may have enough for all these, but to do so, they would have to stop doing other profitable activities, which would hurt them in the long run. The massive investment the government would have to make to retooling their economy is such that no matter how much was spent, no matter how much technology they incorporated, Australia would never be able to profit from such as venture. So they don’t make cars. There is a reason that only a few nations in the world even try.

Keeping economics in mind, 99% of nations in the world would never in their wildest hopes be able to build an Abrams tank, even if they had the plans sitting on their president’s desk.

Nevermind this guy:

Or these puppies:

And don’t even get me started on these:

In fact, there is only one nation in the world that has the education base, technical proficiency, scientific support, economic capital, logistical networking, and manufacturing infrastructure to build all of the examples above…

The one that has them.

While there are some Top Secret classified technologies in the world, most of them could be copied in a lab almost anywhere in the world. Even a small nation could invest a great deal into solving most problems of producing one revolutionary new technology… on paper. Larger nations would have little problem figuring out how anything anyone else is doing could be done. But simply discovering it in a lab doesn’t mean much. Can you use it?

In that way, Generals don’t adapt to new technologies. They know everything that is available, to anyone. With that, they are inspired with a wishlist of everything they would need for a strategy they have in mind for the particular goals of their particular country. They must understand their nation, it’s people, it’s culture, the resources, and if its nation can fulfill that wishlist. Invariably, it won’t be able to, so a new strategy must be made with a new wishlist. At some point, someone will say that we simply can’t do more, and nations must scale back somewhere.

This isn’t a failure to adapt. It’s a failure of the nation’s economy to be capable of fulfilling the wishes of its planners.

Simply put, Russia could produce a design for a wondrous Aircraft Carrier, but they don’t have the nation to make it anything more than a model in a box.
Russia’s New Supercarrier Is A Total Pipe Dream

Is this a failure to adapt?

No, it’s just the geopolitical realities facing nations. They all know what they want and they know what it takes to get it, and more importantly if what they want is possible. When all that information is compiled they have nice reports from well-educated analysts that say something to the effect of:

“We will not win with war. Play nice for a few decades until we figure out a cheaper solution.”

So the short answer: When a country can’t adapt its production capabilities to the needs of its military, it must reinvest into new infrastructure, maybe even changing its culture to produce new technologies in a quantity that is reasonable for its goals. While that is happening, it must be diplomatic. If it can’t do either of these sufficiently, it must change its goals, or else it won’t be around for very much longer.


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Is Religion Anti-Science?

The two convey knowledge in completely different ways. To begin, “myth” doesn’t mean “lie.” It simply means that knowledge is conveyed indirectly through narrative, and that’s exactly why the stories of religion have lasted so long and impacted so many people.

Let’s think about this: Can doing enough science teach you the importance of saving?

Go ahead, think about it. I’m sure someone really clever might come up with a good anecdote, but really there is little in science that would teach us the importance of self-sacrifice of goods we could use right now, on the hope that we will have some reward later on. Science would never have come up with the question.

Religion did, though.

Let’s look at the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Atheists love this Biblical tale because it captures all the barbarity of belief, that a distant, maniacal, and very vain God commands Abraham to sacrifice the beloved son God gifted him, just to show God how much Abraham loved him. If that’s what the story was, it would be barbaric, but there isn’t much chance that it would have lasted long.

Let’s also ask this, if that was the lesson, why is there no tradition of human sacrifice in Abrahamic culture? It was rather quite common throughout the world at the time, but not with the Hebrew or those that came after, even with this story where God asks specifically for it. Why is that not a thing?

A better answer is looking at the meaning of all these elements and what it says about the culture that gave us the story.

I really want you, the reader with an open mind and a willingness to see the world differently, to take yourself back to a time before our modern civilization, before civilization at all, and think about what it was like for our cavemen ancestors. In fact, even earlier than that. Think back to a time where our species lived on the margins in the strictest of means. Every day they could die from nothing more than starvation. Now, you ask how could our more ape than man ancestor be convinced to hunt some food and not eat it right then and there, when their entire life, the universe told them very clearly to take whatever you could right now or you will surely die. You couldn’t, but that is what we did some 20,000 years ago when we started taking these ideas necessary for the evolution of man and putting them in a narrative.

We looked around and said, “You know, if I eat this now, I will live well, but if I save it, then I can live longer with less risk.” How profound is that? How monumental was it that the first person who said this somehow transcended some plane of existence that apes before him never could. They didn’t even have words for such ideas, but still managed to become more than simple beasts with a few thoughts we today would think trivial, but to them, may have been the equivalent of single-handedly inventing the Saturn V rocket, which took man to the moon (which we’ve lost the technology to build today.)

That’s important – that knowledge is gained, but also lost, as well. We aren’t all descendants of that first guy who thought of saving his fruit or the first people who thought to share resources. I’d say that even if he did have that great idea, there was still a 99% chance a lion got him, or maybe some disease. It was probably tens of thousands of people who had the idea before one survived long enough to teach others who would survive long enough to have an actual behavioral advantage from the epiphany. Just as such, the first guy who thought to share probably got clubbed to death by some jerk who stole the rest of his food. That probably happened to thousands more who had the notion. Probably, many thousands more who did learn to get along were slowed down by the effort, as are all who are first learning to be friends, to say nothing of those who invented the concept. One of them died or was a drag on the relationship, and the better off of the two bailed. How many eons passed before a stable tribe could form based on the concept of sharing?

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’m telling you a story, and that’s what turned everything around for these people.

When people started telling how to survive, how to treat people, and how to view the world in the form of a story, we became something profoundly different than what we were. For two million years we wandered aimlessly, always on the brink of extinction, but then, 20,000 years ago everything started moving much faster. Our transfer of knowledge accelerated exponentially. People need to think about the fact that 6,000 years ago, there were no words. No one had any form of written language, but today we have our footsteps on the moon and people seriously believe we can have a colony on Mars within my lifetime. How amazing have the last 20,000 years been?

Now, we need to realize something. Religion did this. We saw our world and experienced what lessons it had to teach us. Then we crafted those lessons into narratives that gave us the guide by which to live our lives. The stories that impact people on deep, deep levels is what religion is and why we aren’t still living in caves.

Think back to Isaac and Abraham. Why isn’t there a human sacrifice cult in Hebrew tradition? Because that isn’t the moral of the story. It is the story about the willingness to sacrifice what you have to the unknown if you want better, and that that sacrifice has to be one of great meaning, to give up your food or your wealth, or your land to a risky future that you don’t know for sure will ever reward you back. This idea is the premise of everything from farming, where people could take seeds they could grind or eat and plant food, and even more so when they gave up their best crops for the seeds they bore, evolving the food we eat today. Just as much, this idea of sacrifice is the premise of modern-day saving, investing, and finance. Imagine the culture that could encapsulate that idea in metaphor, to pass on in a moving enough way to their descendants thousands of years later. Our students in school can barely sit through a Sciclassroom room they are paid to go to. Ask them if they remember any of it 10 years later. Good luck, but here we are 6,000 years later still wired for doing the wise thing of saving what we can, investing it in the unknown in a hope of future returns, talking about a culture that… for some reason… is still impacting our lives today.

Think about the original stories, the first stories of religion even beyond the Judeo/Christian tradition. Go back as far as we have records, to the time of the Ancient Sumerians, where the hero god-king slays a mighty dragon which was born from the sea to create the land and all the people. You think there is no significance to those metaphors?

The God-King, Marduk, born of gods, possessed many eyes and spoke magic words. He was born a powerful man from a powerful family, literally gods, and from this, we see that we obviously knew that children are greatly influenced by their families and that if you are a bad parent, your children and your line will also fail. He also had many eyes, which has long been narratively synonymous with wisdom, that someone with great vision is one who can see far off into the future, meaning that Marduk didn’t simply have many eyes, but that he was wise and knew many things. He also didn’t speak magical incantations but could say things that moved people in ways that others couldn’t. Sound familiar?

Or the dragon born from the sea. Do you think there is any reason why so many myths from the world feature the great evil as resembling a snake? Don’t you think that there is something deep-seated in our mind about the innate evil of serpents that is captured in these metaphors? Go back 80 million years and ask our rodent ancestors what they thought of snakes and you’ll find a very ancient and very primitive part of our brain that still fears them long after we became the master of slithering things. Now make it huge, give it wings, and make it spit fire. The dragon is pure and unadulterated fear, hardwired into our minds.

But even more amazing is what neuroscientists discovered later, that the part of your brain that is triggered by fear of snakes is the same part which is wired to ignore things we know we need to do, things that begin as something simple, but then grow into these overwhelming beasts that devour our lives. So every story you’ve ever heard about dragons since the beginning wasn’t some imaginative tale, but a deep, almost innately, understood strictly human narrative urging us to acknowledge our deepest fears and conquer them.

But why the sea? Long ago in narrative the sea symbolized chaos, not the type of chaos of high stress, but the unknown from whence everything came. It was a place of great creation, but also fear, because no one could know how far it went or how deep it went down. It was to them endless and unknowable, which made it terrifying. It was at the same time a source of endless potential and endless calamity and destruction.

So what does the hero do? He slays the dragon from the sea, creates from the corpse of the dragon that which makes all of our lives possible — the land. He creates order.

So the first story wasn’t just about a cool quest or even a creation myth to explain a universe in possibly the weirdest way imaginable. Let’s look at these metaphors, so complex that people of the age couldn’t have possibly understood why they felt the way they did, but they knew how they felt, and knew what needed to be taught, and through the power of narrative, told a story. It was a creation story, but quite honestly, no one then cared about that. They wanted to teach something far more important to the lives they lived then.

The story of Marduk was a story to teach men how to behave.

The story of Marduk is not a creation myth, but one of a wise and charismatic leader who confronts his fears, and defeats the chaos in the world around him and creates order for himself and for others. This is the quintessential text of how to be a man. So important, that the Sumerians kings had to always compare themselves to Marduk and ask if they were good. It’s also no surprise that once myths like these became widespread, the Sumerians rose up to become one of the first civilizations spanning multiple cities and lasting for centuries.

There is a reason that myths work as well as they do. They are stories built on many layers of understanding from the conscience to the subconscious, to the instinctual to teach lessons in ways that make them necessary for new people to survive. Science can’t do that. It can titillate our senses with the grandeur of new insights, but science doesn’t affect us in the way these old stories do. It doesn’t convey meaning to the world, give us direction as people, or in any way tell us who we are, what we were, who we are going to be.

And no, no it doesn’t. The moment you try to make science do these things, you’re personifying that which isn’t human. You’re giving character to data. You’re building layers of meaning above raw facts. To make people care about Science, you have to do it by telling stories, and conveying knowledge through narrative. You don’t believe me? Consider the apocalyptic overtones attributed to climate change, the gravitas and mystery of the black hole, or the vast and unknowable scope of the universe, both immense and small. Take Carl Sagan, one of the most famous scientists of not so long ago. He wowed the world with explorations of the universe and then terrified us with omens of “nuclear winter”, where dust and fallout from nuclear war would blot out the sun and lead us to a new extinction event. It’s odd this was so compelling, no? This image of nuclear winter combines the burning of the world by the fire of Biblical Revelation and also the freezing of the planet not unlike the religion of the Norse. Powerful themes, so powerful we still believe in this idea of nuclear winter even though it was proven that all the bombs in the world couldn’t cause the types of years of devastation Sagan predicted. Even in the 80’s, we knew that in the worst case scenario we could have a Nuclear Autumn, of the world a few degrees cooler for a few years. Still, the idea of Nuclear Winter remains to bring fear to children, to teach them how to live, and to guide our leaders.

While real scientists do their work well, the ambassadors of Science are little more than great clerics of a mythology that doesn’t look backward, but forward.

This isn’t a complete dismissal of Science. Good scientists even agree with the sentiment. Just ask them how hard it is to get published, especially when scientific journals only really want to publish findings that are “groundbreaking”, “revolutionary”, or “highly controversial”. If we are playing the work of good scientists, then most of what you do is boring and what is to be expected, however try to get a paper published that proves something no one cares about or one which has no political incentive to anyone, and the big one, one which disproves another discovery. There are whole journals which exist to doing nothing but provide a venue for scientific works which are examining the findings of other scientists, the fundamental act of Scientific research… because no one would read them. The problem of bad science becoming social norms is even worse and explored at length by one of my favorite scientific YouTube channels, Veritasium. Is Most Published Research Wrong?

And have you ever tried to request funding for a research grant? Better bring the wow factor there too.

But while we continue with our P-hacked essays self-selected for their ability to wow the readership of science journals more than their ability to inform us on the nature of our world, and when only the most terrifying or awe-inspiring of this break out to touch us in the broader culture, usually through some post-apocalyptic thriller marketing itself as a “warning of a possible future”, rather than a “warning of science-based horror fiction run amok”, I have to ask… why are people so critical of religion for being the misleading institution?

And that’s also something worth noting. Science is progress, no? Science marches on, but can science alone predict the destruction of those who wield it carelessly? Don’t forget about the creation of narratives. Science can’t do that alone. Science only records things we see. That’s it, that’s all it does. The moment you try to make a story out of it… you’ve just created a work of fiction.

But religion does this quite well, giving us lessons against our own destruction and a caution against recklessness. Or do you think it coincidence that every great civilization has a Flood myth? It isn’t just the Abrahamic religions that believe in something like an ark. It’s interesting, don’t you think, that every religion has this same story, one which is perhaps 10,000 years old. I believe even India has a myth of the entire planet covered with water, and all the good people escaping to canoes to survive the waters and rebuild the world. Let’s not forget what waters mean, the chaos and the unknown. Did these civilizations experience some great war, famine, disease? Who knows, but they knew to be afraid of losing themselves. It is a story of caution, not just as individuals, but of whole societies from the disaster of losing their way; too much progress, as it were.

At the heart of this question, is a controversy — Creationism vs Science.

It picked out one of the most extreme cases in religion to justify a belief of all religions. The above image is, therefore, somehow representative of Religion, as in religion with a capital “R”. Literally every religious person on the entire planet falls under that description. Now, normally the creationist people are matched with evangelical Christians. Well, here I am a guy who argues for evolution, the Big Bang, carbon dating, and can probably explain most of these better than your average person who just loves their science. But I am also as Southern Baptist as they come.

So why is that such an extreme minority of extreme people are allowed become representatives of a much broader culture, even billions of people? We’re willing to call that out when other people do it. Look, you can point to creationists and say they represent all of us. I can point to Stalin and say that represents the other guy. If we are claiming the moral high ground here, I win with the guy who believes man and raptors hunted side by side rather than the guy who hunted down Christians and murdered tens of millions of people.

That’s because there are many people who know nothing of the sciences they preach. They don’t care. To them, “Scientism” is just the religion they choose because on some level they simply hate religion. This is especially true of Christianity. Anything which can make it easier to belittle the other rather than acknowledge what they bring to the table is much easier than respecting the fact that they survived and evolved civilization for thousands of years, even created the Scientific Method, not in spite of their beliefs, but because of them.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself to explain the fine-tuning argument.

As science allowed us to rid ourselves of the creation myths and “God of the Gaps” explanation for why things happened, we started to see that throughout our universe, the whole universe, every part of it followed certain laws which did not change and which the universe itself required to remain so that it could exist. Some of these constants were things like C, the speed of light. The speed of light through a vacuum is always 299,792,458 m/s, never more, never less. It isn’t like throwing a baseball on a train, you can’t add the velocity of one to the other. C is always C and nothing else. But there are others.

  • N, the ratio of the strength of electromagnetism to the strength of gravity for a pair of protons, is approximately 1036.
  • Epsilon (ε), a measure of the nuclear efficiency of fusion from hydrogen to helium, is 0.007: when four nucleons fuse into helium, 0.007 (0.7%) of their mass is converted to energy. The value of ε is in part determined by the strength of the strong nuclear force.[13]
  • Omega (Ω) is the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the Universe. It is the ratio of the mass density of the Universe to the “critical density” and is approximately 1.
  • Lambda (λ) describes the ratio of the density of dark energy to the critical energy density of the universe, given certain reasonable assumptions such as positing that dark energy density is a constant. In terms of Planck units, and as a natural dimensionless value, the cosmological constant, λ, is on the order of 10−122.[15]
  • Q, the ratio of the gravitational energy required to pull a large galaxy apart to the energy equivalent of its mass, is around 10−5.

None of these sound like big deals but imagine a world where the electron rested some distance farther from its proton core, where the speed of light was different, where gravity itself was more, or less powerful. It wouldn’t just be that we would float away. Our universe would cease to exist as we know it. More importantly, the Universe would never have come to be at all.

  • If N were significantly smaller, only a small and short-lived universe could exist.[12]
  • If ε were 0.006, only hydrogen could exist, and complex chemistry would be impossible. If it were above 0.008, no hydrogen would exist, as all the hydrogen would have been fused shortly after the big bang.[10]
  • If gravity were too strong compared with dark energy and the initial metric expansion, the universe would have collapsed before life could have evolved. On the other side, if gravity were too weak, no stars would have formed.[12][14]
  • Lambda (λ) is so small that it has no significant effect on cosmic structures that are smaller than a billion light-years across. If the cosmological constant were not extremely small, stars and other astronomical structures would not be able to form.[12]
  • If Q is too small, no stars can form. If it is too large, no stars can survive because the universe is too violent.

Virtually every fundamental law of the universe is one which cannot change or else life itself would not be possible, much less a life where you and I could sit around debating if it happened at all. This is the Anthropic principle or the argument for a Fine-tuned Universe. It suggests that (not a scientific theory) the level of complexity, interrelatedness, and overwhelming chance required to create a universe where the evolution of a thinking sapient entity was not a chance event, but a foregone conclusion that would definitely eventually happen, suggests something greater than the Universe itself. It suggests that some thinking, planning entity structured those laws to allow such a universe to be created. To put it another way, when Sir Issac Newton began studying astronomy, he suggested that the uniformity of the planetary system is proof that someone chose to make it that way.

This isn’t science, but it does shake up many of the notions that science disproves God, however, atheism offered its own anti-scientific notion to counter it.

This is where multiple universes come in. The concept of the multiple universes theory suggests that our Universe is nothing special, but one of many universes, an infinite number of universes actually, in which the laws so happen to work for us to live as we do. The other universes are out there, but they function under different laws and are outside of our view, as any means we have to study them would be built instruments of this universe, and could never be made which could experience anything outside of it, nor especially something of a different universe with laws fundamentally different than our own in every way.

Simply put, let’s review why we have a hard time proving God.

We have no means to observe or measure something which exists beyond our physical universe and which functions under different laws than our universe, or as Christopher Hitchens, one of the “Four Horsemen of Atheism” said:

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Exactly the same argument can be levied against this idea that beyond our own is an infinite number of other universes that just so happen to not be so nice and which we can never detect nor disprove. So it isn’t that I don’t think the Multiverse is cool, especially when my favorite superheroes do it, but it isn’t in the slightest what good scientists would call Science. I mean, you can continue to believe it, but I just don’t have that kind of faith.

Here’s the bottom line, religion is not about disproving science. It isn’t about proving anything. Religious texts are not scientific texts meant to explain the universe as it is. They are moral texts created to help people lead better lives. Maybe they are divinely inspired guides by an all-knowing benefactor, or maybe they are simply the wises meditations of countless generations filtered to such a fine degree that they impact on us on deeply profound levels. Either way, science and religion are not at odds, and once the science and religion camps accept this truth, then both will lead happier and more productive lives. Furthermore, religion will no longer feel the need to be something it isn’t, while Science can finally deal with the reality that it simply doesn’t have all the answers, and maybe shed a bit of the arrogance when it starts accepting how many of the answers it does have are simply wrong.


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Google Employees Blacklisting Conservative Peers

Image result for Goolag

The context of this is an Inc article which states that Google is not specifically blacklisting conservatives as much as there are a documented number of Google employees and managers who are internally blacklisting fellow employees from working as part of teams with them.

From the article Google’s Other Ugly Secret: Some Managers Keep Blacklists

… An unknown number of Google managers maintain blacklists of fellow employees, evidently refusing to work with those people. The blacklists are based on personal experiences of others’ behavior, including views expressed on politics, social justice issues, and Google’s diversity efforts.

Inc. reviewed screenshots documenting several managers attesting to this practice, both in the past and currently, explicitly using the term “blacklist.”

It also states, to reiterate, that this isn’t condoned by Google officially.

A Google spokesperson told Inc. that the practice of keeping blacklists is not condoned by upper management, and that Google employees who discriminate against members of protected classes will be terminated. It’s not clear whether that principle applies in Damore’s case. Although political affiliation is a protected class according to California labor law, the views expressed in the manifesto and echoed by others who oppose political correctness do not seem to merit legal protection.

That should be enough information to place this in a proper frame of reference, as the question itself is a little misleading.

The question with what most of the Right usually thinks comes down to whether or not we agree that a business has a right to do whatever it wants. I would fall into that camp, however, I believe in the law that is already set forth and that companies have an obligation to follow that law. California law treats political affiliation as a protected class, therefore, being that we’re now seeing employees fired for “views that are inconsistent with the mainstream”, as the article puts it, then we are dealing with a question of if Google need to rethink its internal positions before it starts suffering some major legal problems. We also need to contend with the fact that Google itself isn’t the one acting in a partisan discriminatory manner by refusing to hire based on partisan lines, but rather, it’s employees coordinating internally to discriminate other employees by way of denying them access to projects or future promotion opportunities.

So I have to ask where the line is. The law is the law, and while most Conservatives or Libertarians might argue whether a law should exist, they agree that a law that is in the books is to be honored. This is especially true of the Conservatives as a major vein of Conservatism is respect for the law as without it, society descends into anarchy. The question comes in whether the employees have crossed the line in blacklisting people for holding Conservative views and more so than this, if Google itself is to be held as complicit with this discrimination on grounds of being unresponsive to the continued behavior of their employees to systematically limit the potential of its employees who have dissenting opinions.

As far as what do Conservatives think, obviously it sucks. There is a growing body of evidence that Silicon Valley culture has an intolerance to anything which fails to fall in-line with it’s Progressive Technocratic culture. While rarely do we see explicit intolerance stated by the companies, we do see numerous times where individual employees or even teams have the ability to exercise their intolerance over crucial elements of various products, such as manipulating Google’s pagerank, the Facebook feed, or Twitter’s trending topics. Given the overwhelming power these companies have over daily life, and the dominance of what appears to be a monocultural atmosphere with expressed amity with the rest of the country, I’m wondering if the tech bubble is going to burst when words like “anti-trust” start being raised more seriously. Companies who don’t take this form of expressed ideological intolerance seriously, such as Google with their blacklists, may see a day where they meet the fate of companies like Standard Oil.


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Uncertain Future – About the Author

Thank you for reading, seriously. You’ve probably wondered why I would bother writing a 16,000 word essay on every terrible thing that could happen in the next twenty years.

That said, I wanted to write on this subject in particular, is a matter of background. I am a Marine, honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps in 2008. My primary military occupational specialty was Tactical Data Network Specialist and this was the role I carried on my first tour in Iraq in 2005 along with my second in 2007.

My job centered on building and maintaining the information network with which mission critical information and communications were carried out. Our responsibility was to ensure that that data network was secure from outside threats both physical and through our network. I maintained my base’s SIPRnet that is discussed over and over in the Manning case. We knew the information was critical, mission-important and not necessary for the general public at their malls. Below, you’ll see what were effectively my area of operations during 2005. Yeah, starting to see why I care so much about internet and military security so specifically now?

Since leaving active duty, I went to college and became a writer. It is through writing that my greatest achievements have been realized. I’ve met people I never thought I would and learned lessons I never would have imagined. In that time, I’ve focused on educating others about the military. From Iraq to what it was like and what it means to be a military veteran, there was so much that needed to be understood. In doing this, I’ve learned a great deal about the conflicts of our world and the dangers we face. Since growing to understand all of this, it’s been a personal mission of mine to explain all of this to as many as will listen. That said, it’s also been among the great joys of my life to build and be a part of a community dedicated to understanding the world, its dangers, and bravely pushing through to live in the world we all want so badly. That said, there is another reason why I have been writing so hard this last week.

A few months ago, my wife peed on a stick and now my life is going to change forever.

This is my daughter Gabi and in July we look forward to introducing her to all of you. Nevermind the blue bear, trust me there was some confusion. That said, because I am about to be a dad, this could be one of my last posts like this where I get to drive my focus towards a single massive project, eating away my time for the benefit of others. A good dad has to provide a future and sharing knowledge pro bono, while an endless source of self-fulfillment, doesn’t give Alex the life I want him to have. I’ve been very lucky where I work to be able give time to my second profession. Where do I work? I’m a teaching paraprofessional in Oklahoma. I work with the kids at our school who make bad choices. In my room they mentorship and discipline, learning to write essays and pick up trash in the way only an obsessive compulsive Marine writer could make them.

That said, being a teacher, let alone a paraprofessional teacher, isn’t all that great. The benefits don’t provide much, and the pay is terrible. According to the Washington Post, Oklahoma ranks 48th this year in Teacher Pay at about $44,000 a year [84]. Yeah, and as a para… I can expect about a quarter of that. Did I mention that my wife is also a teacher? If you would like to know what it is like for our house take a look at the title of this little gem: Superintendent: Budget Cuts ‘Worst Financial Crisis To OK Schools In Decades’.

That said, the last real chance for me to keep writing projects like this is to appeal to people like you. Over the last year and a half, I have been submitting my work through the crowdsourcing website Patreon. If you follow me, you’ve probably seen my little at the bottom asking you to pledge to my campaign. My supporters have literally changed my life and allowed me to do projects I never would have imagined, all the way up to the point where I was finally able to write my own book The Next Warrior. Still, if want to give my son the life I really want, I need more. That’s why I’m going full mercenary, and writing one of my longest answers ever, just to get your attention. If you really like my submissions, I really need your help.

This is a link to my Patreon Support Page: Jon Davis is creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays. Here you can pledge any amount you like and every time I submit an article, post, or chapter to one of my books, you’ll donate that amount to the Jonathan Alexander Davis College Fund and/or Leaky Roof Trust. There is also a monthly maximum that you can elect to make, so you don’t have to worry about me writing fifty articles at a time. The only ones that make Patreon are big articles… kind of like this one.

By supporting me, you also support others. 20% of my donations go to other Patreon users as well, namely other veterans like me. So a donation to me helps others veteran artists as they grow, cope, and share their own experiences with the rest of the world. So once again here’s that link: (PS – Baby/Veteran/Poor Teacher – needs your help) Jon Davis is creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays.

That said, If you’re reading this far, I’m sure you’ve already upvoted, by the way (cough). All kidding aside and with deepest sincerity, I enjoyed every minute of the research and writing that went into it, and hope each and every one of you enjoyed it too. Thank you for reading and sharing.

Semper Fidelis,

Jon Davis