RE: Argument From Authority

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Sun Aug 19 2001 - 21:12:56 MDT

At 07:54 PM 8/19/01 -0700, Lee wrote:

>> Ah, then you might read Alan Cromer's UNCOMMON SENSE for another opinion.
>> He develops a Piagetian analysis of why science is really quite difficult
>> and massively counter-intuitive. Plainly we mostly approach the world on
>> the basis of evolved dispositional templates that, in conjunction with
>> cultural memory, create our *folk physics* and *folk psychology*, etc

>>From this, I assume that the reason that science is difficult is
>that our protracted study of an area reveals surprising results.
>It's possible that to say that it also reveals counter-intuitive
>results is to say something stronger.

Maybe I was using too-shorthand in saying `Piagetian'. What Cromer and some
other educational analysts have done with the widely accepted work of Swiss
psychologist Jean Piaget is to look at the typical *mental tool kits* (so
to speak) used by ordinary people, and relate these to a
conjectured/observed series of stages of development available to the human
mind as it encounters the world while growing up. Many people, according to
this analysis, remain stuck in the `preoperational' and `concrete
operational' stages, never managing the leap to `formal operational'
abstract thinking. Children at earlier levels notoriously find it hard to
understand conservation rules: pour a beverage from a tall thin container
into a wide flat one and they'll wail that they've been shortchanged; they
can't grasp that the same amount of `stuff' is still there--it's obviously
*less*, since *lower*. And so on. Cromer claims that 50% of Americans never
make it to formal operations (usually associated with the transition
through adolescence), which is requisite for hypothetico-deductive
reasoning. Arguably a lot of common sense constructs are established prior
to formal operational analysis.

Damien Broderick

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