Carnival of . . . Mathematics?

February 11, 2007

Divest yourself of that tired and false notion that you’re bad at math. That’s hooey, though it probably sets your self-expectations low enough that it damages your math performance. Don’t make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

New Carnival on the block: Carnival of Mathematics at Alon Levy’s Abstract Nonsense. It’s got some good stuff there for math teachers, and I suspect people with other interests will find something of interest, too. For me, for example, there is the link to the post that Fisks arguments of some of the more unsuspecting intelligent design fogmeisters. More pure historians may like the history of algebra post. There’s a lot more history and controversy in a post about why students should study math at all:

Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals—the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned, if at all.

—Martin Gardner
quoted by G. Simmons, Calculus Gems

(Take THAT you creators of state history standards!)

Hmmm. I’m teaching algebra and geometry this week (“go figure!”). I may use some of that stuff.

Tip of the old scrub brush to JD2718.

Evolution Sunday, and history, and reason

February 11, 2007

Today is Evolution Sunday. It’s a day when thinking Christians make a modest stand for reason, it’s a day when caring Christians make a stand for facts and truth, versus calumny and voodoo science and voodoo history.

Debunking hoaxes — finding the truth about who put the first plumbed bathtub in the White House, repeating the debunking of the “Lady Hope hoax” that claimed Darwin recanted his life’s work on his deathbed, holding a spotlight on the facts of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the events in the Gulf of Tonkin, highlighting the bravery of Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher and the crew of the Pueblo, noting that there never was a family of chainsaw murderers in Travis County, Texas — is difficult work. One wag I used to see posting on an internet bulletin board had a tagline, “Fighting ignorance since 1974 1973– it’s taking longer than I thought.”*

So, if you’re in church today, light a candle against the darkness, as Carl Sagan would say. Candles show us where demons are not, and where it is safe for humans to go. The more candles against ignorance, the greater the realm for human reason.

As Einstein almost certainly did not say, the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. And as Frank Zappa probably did say, hydrogen is not the most abundant thing in the universe — ignorance is. Light some candles against ignorance today, in church or out of it. Reason gives us hope, and there is precious little of both today.

Be grateful for those things that keep us free, for those things that keep us seeking and acquiring knowledge, and for those people (like P. Z. Myers) who prod us — righteously — to stand up for the truth.

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