Examination and evaluation of a counterargument to continental drift:

4. The David Pratt Paper. (1 day.)

Objective: Students will (hopefully) figure out that this author, unlike the one from the previous sessions’ activity, is an “unreliable source” (read: kook) and will learn that not everything in print (electronic or otherwise) can be taken at face value.

Procedure: Have students return to the same groups they were in previously. Give each group a copy of Sunken Continents versus Continental Drift, by David Pratt. (CLICK HERE for the article.) Have them repeat the activity (to a lesser, quicker degree) in much the same fashion as they did in lesson 3. The extension activity should be heavily promoted in your short conversations to each of the groups.

Note: Examination of the paper itself should be enough to get your more observant students scratching their heads. Further investigation will reveal that Mr. Pratt subscribes to a belief system known as THEOSOPHY. HERE is a Wikipedia article for your perusal. “Odd” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Evaluation/Followup: Once enough groups figure out that this guy’s a little off-keel, ask them questions like, “What do you think of the ideas raised in Pratt’s paper in light of his personal belief system?” Gently lead conversation, bringing them eventually to a discussion of reliability of source material while conducting research.

home page 3 — page 4


5 Responses to “page 4”

  1. 1 Steven Douglas
    March 17, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    I just came across this entry. I am astounded, to say the least. Dr. James Hansen of NASA is a member of the Reorganized LDS Church. I’m actually no fan of Dr. Hansen’s ethics, but I would never, EVER try to make a connection between his personal beliefs and his scientific efforts. That would brainlessly, mindlessly, logically fallacious – AD HOMINEM, argument by ridicule, etc., and therefore out of the question for anyone of a reasonably sane mind.

    I read David Pratt’s paper, and found that, on the whole, his criticisms of plate tectonics were based on citations from a lot of well respected, mainstream scientists. Did David’s “kook” status poison that broth? Are those scientists now kooks, and not reliable sources by association? Your “procedure” for students didn’t really cover questioning the merits of any questions or arguments presented by David Pratt – but instead disingenuously steers them into a question of whether he could be sufficiently discredited based on his personal belief system as to warrant a complete dismissal and ignorance of any point, valid or otherwise, that he might raise.

    Shame. What are you doing out there, polluting young minds with that kind of unprincipled claptrap. Really, shame on you.

    • March 18, 2010 at 12:14 pm

      Wow… almost forgot I had this page posted.

      Look, to be frank with you… this whole thing was something I threw together for a grad-level education class project. I have never used it with actual young-skulls-full-of-mush, nor do I intend to. It is out of sheer laziness that I haven’t taken it down.

      But hey… I’m thrilled that you had the opportunity to add to the discussion at large regarding credibility in scientific explanations! YOU sir, if you’re not already, belong in a public-school classroom, where you can help alleviate the many problems facing the education system. I would be interested to hear back from you if you choose to take up the standard (or if you have already done so.)

      AND on that note, what are your thoughts regarding the global warming fiasco? Just curious.

  2. 4 Steven Douglas
    March 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    John, thank you for the thoughtful, candid reply, and apologies for posting with a head full of steam.

    On the warming fiasco, as you (and I would) put it, my position is that of a “lukewarmer”. I see the science, and believe that I am aware of precisely what is truly a settled, consensus view versus what is controversial (scientifically, not politically, the two of which I have absolutely no difficulty separating), and where the bulk of the most important certainties and uncertainties lie. When I say that I see and am aware, I am not including all the “climate related” science (e.g., cannibalizing polar bears that are drowning, changing avian wingspans, or migration patterns, all of which is attributed to climate change, which is then extrapolated and added onto the growing so-called “mountain of evidence” that gives near 100% root causal attribution to human fossil fuel burning, when no such studies are qualified to make such conclusions).

    I find the entire issue beyond unsettling, and for far too many reasons to count. I am absolutely certain that the climate is changing, as it always has, and always will, and I am also fairly certain that human contributions may now play a discernible part. How significant, or to what degree? Not enough to give it PRIMARY attribution for past/recent warming trends, to wit: I find it extremely difficult to accept what I consider the hypothetical that, absent human CO2 contributions, somehow the climate would have remained static since the industrial revolution. Warming has been the trend since the Little Ice Age, and we have no scientific reason to believe or expect that this trend somehow stopped, only to “pass the causal baton” onto humans, who ostensibly, subsequently, took over. But that is precisely the implication that is made, and that I am asked to not only accept, but embrace, and think of in fearful, dystopian terms, along with a “we must DO something about it” attitude.

    Furthermore, I think that the precautionary principle, as stated by many of the fully fledged warmists, is practically devoid of reason, logic, and common sense. Not the precautionary principle itself, which I believe in, but the notion that it means only one thing, which one thing does not include anticipation and adaptation. No, comes the rallying cry: It’s real, it’s a major threat, we are the primary cause of future untold disasters, and the ONLY solution is CO2 mitigation, and that via massive reorganization of and new global governmental controls over every being on the planet, collectively and individually.

    No. As a lukewarmer, I find it all extremely bizarre, and I am not buying into. I am not a “denier” of climate change or climate science itself (the observed and measurable parts anyway, which are substantial). But I am a staunch “denier” of warmists’ dire conclusions, extrapolations, and their attempts to corrupt public perceptions. I am most angered about what I see as the recent [unholy] marriage between politics and science, where anything goes, and ever line is blurred. Science is already contaminated enough by and struggling with its own politics. Joining The Big Leagues was a recipe for disaster.

    How about you? What are your thoughts? (link even, I’ll read)

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The random musings of a 30-something, West Texas high-school science teacher. Hoo-RAY.
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