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So I was asked by my university to do a survey about my experience at UNSW and I decided to give them a little bitch slap. Any student should relate to this somewhat, though it was not put as eloquently as possible due to the word limit. I’ve long wanted to do a post on the failings of education and this in no way comes close to what I want to say, but as I’ve been increasingly lazy lately, this will have to do.

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As a student I shared a relationship with many of the young minds that this university’s goal should be to nurture. Unfortunately, I feel as though that particular endeavour was a failure. This may not be a problem unique to UNSW but there was an overwhelming sense that the only indication of success was whether your answer was correct. There was limited discussion and what discussion that did occur was limited and slanted in approach. As opposed to a forum of intellectual thought, rote learning appears to be parading around in the guise of education. It got to the point where I literally did not know any student who had not cheated in exams at least once. In the words of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson “When Students cheat on exams it’s because our School System values grades more than Students value learning.” This was largely the opinion of my university experience and it is a view shared by many.

I am not naive or unreasonable enough to neglect the fact that the university is a business and thus has restrictions, but it is quite sobering to witness. I do not feel as though marks reflected intellect, nor do I believe any student approaches university as an opportunity to learn.

I have read that new approaches to higher education around the world is taking on a new form – one that is increasingly discussion based where classes are a forum of intellectual exchange. I hope the university embraces this approach. There is no merit, for example, to memorising dozens of equations for one exam because that completely misses the purpose of the course. Some of the general education courses I took that were newer were more focused on discussion and I believe they imparted information far more effectively. I believe this reflects the way tradition obstructs progress, and realistically, I think the best I can hope for is that some of the older courses get a revamp to a more modern and effective teaching method, and that education once again becomes about learning not marks.

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“Well, you can’t prove that god doesn’t exist”.

Uh, yes I can.

I’m sure many of you have heard this “argument” before. Here’s a three-pronged destruction of this attempt to dodge the question that no theist can answer (“What proof do you have?”). The last nail in the coffin is saved for last – I’m sure many of you have heard the first two points but not many will have heard the last.

1. Why are you asking me to disprove your theory? That’s a burden of proof fallacy. You came up with the idea, you prove it. You don’t see me running around screaming at people “Prove I can’t fly!”. When a scientist comes up with a new theory, it’s backed by years of research, correlation with existing years of research, multiple experimentation and is then peer reviewed. When a theist has some theory his only proof is “well, you can’t prove it’s wrong”.

Well guess what? That’s literally irrational behaviour. For a refresher, see my post about Rationalism but the short of it is that rational behaviour is based on mathematical likelihood. It’s highly likely that jumping into lava will kill you, therefore it is irrational to believe otherwise. In terms of the burden of proof, the burden lies with whoever is making the extraordinary claim. As Carl Sagan once said:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

What does this mean? Imagine I claim there is a tree in my backyard. Would a rational person contest my claim (at his own expense)? No, because even if I’m lying it’s highly likely that there is a tree in my backyard and there is little reason why I would lie about it – therefore not much proof is needed for me to assert my claim. Now, what if I claimed that I had a cat riding a unicorn shooting rainbow lasers in my backyard? Would you require proof before believing that? Apparently theists wouldn’t.

2. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because something hasn’t been proven to not exist, doesn’t therefore mean that it does. That’s a logical fallacy called false dichotomy. It’s also stupid – because you can think up myriad things that can’t be proven not to exist. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a crowd favourite. Russel’s Teapot is another – you can’t prove that there isn’t a teapot orbiting Jupiter but there’s no rational cause for you to believe that in the first place.

Sometimes this is used to defend religion – just because there is no evidence of god doesn’t mean that god doesn’t exist. Well, science doesn’t work in absolutes but there is literally no rational reason for you to believe in god. However, I can indeed prove that god (or at least the definition of god as is understood by the major religions today) does not exist, which makes it doubly irrational to believe.

3. There can never be any proof of god. Why? Let’s take a look at the foundation of proof. As with the Rationalism movement, mathematics is a fundamental concept for proof. 1+1=2 regardless of what you apply it to, what you believe in and what you experience with your senses. Therefore, it follows that maths is the absolute proof – if it can exist, it can be described mathematically in some way or form. Mind you, not everything that is mathematically reconcilable exists (or at least not all of them have been proven). Maths is just the large boundary separating the possible from the impossible – just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s real; but if it’s impossible then it’s definitely not real.

The problem? You cannot mathematically describe god because that would be akin to removing his omnipotence. If the singularity is a point of infinite mass and infinite gravity, how do you describe a god that created this infinity? 2 x infinity? Infinity squared? It’s still infinity. Are you thus claiming that god is equal in power to a singularity? God, by definition, breaks all universal laws and defies all mathematics. It is therefore impossible to provide any proof of god – and by extension god cannot rationally exist. It is an empty concept that has lingered since ancient times for small minds to placate themselves in the absence of knowledge.

Many theists acknowledge this problem and have said that it is impossible to find any evidence of god in the universe because the act of finding such evidence would mean that god is bound by some sort of parameters allowing us to find his hand in things – hence removing his omnipotence. Fair enough, at least these people acknowledge that there can never be any evidence. The question then remains, if you’ve accepted that there is absolutely no evidence in existence to support your faith, why do you still blindly follow?

I … I’m alive. It was horrible. Is anyone else out there? Did anybody else survive the terrible apocalypse?

Hah. I did mention in my previous post about everything wrong with the doomsday predictions that I would come make a post saying “told you so”. Well, here it is. Told you so.

It is currently 12:07AM 21/12/12. I also mentioned the Mayans didn’t know about timezones, but since I come from the “future”, I can safely tell you guys that the world did not end.

And if you’re one of those people who spent their kids’ college fund and destroyed your family to prepare for this hoax … well I feel bad for you because you’re going to feel like an idiot. Or maybe you won’t. After all, ignorance is bliss.

 

Haha. Colon.

Don’t have time for a post so I just wanted to share this funny picture for those of you who like your grammar.

To start with, here’s a funny picture I noticed at one of the beauty/cosmetic stores in the city. Some of you may already be chuckling to yourself, but I’ll work under the assumption that not everyone can see what’s wrong with this advertising poster.

“Beauty is never closer”.

That’s a very unfortunate description for a store that supposedly sells products to make the consumer more beautiful. I think what they were going for was something along the lines of “Beauty has never been closer”. What their little slogan means is that no matter what you do, you will never get closer to beauty – as in you will never be beautiful. “Here, buy these beauty products! They will never make you beautiful though. Thank you for your purchase, these products won’t make you any prettier. Hope to see you again.”

Not that I’m on a particularly zealous English literacy crusade or anything, but it sort of undermines your professional integrity when your advertisement completely contradicts the purpose of your business’s existence. It would be nice to see an increase in appreciation for quality writing though. I kind of feel as though the literary arts are dying, especially with the recent popularity of mediocre to appalling texts lately – but that’s a whole different rant.

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