Workout notes Last night, 4 miles with the group. This moring: 1100 yards of easy swimming, yoga, then 3 miles with Ms. Vickie. We then ate breakfast.
Tomorrow: pick up the rental car, head to Minneapolis to the FANS race; so today will see me pay bills and pack.
About FANS: yes, I am not ready to race, though I am ready to safely participate. I have no hard and fast goals, though I really want at least 62 miles (Uli Kamm award), but I don’t know how “not ready” I am. I’ll just guess:
- 62 miles: D (passing)
- 70 miles: C (ok, I’ll take it and feel ok about it)
- 80 miles: B (good, pretty happy)
- 90 miles: A (outstanding, better than expected)
For the record,
- I once hit 101 when I was in peak condidtion on a perfect day,
- I got 88 one month later (still tired),
- hit 85 at 24 hours at Leanhorse (blistered feet, gravel course, altitude, net evelation gain),
- 83 last year at FANS (fat, tired, out of shape),
- 81 at Ultracentric 2004,
- 76 at Houston (heavy rain, fat, out of shape, got sick),
- 75 at McNaughton in 2004 (100 miler on hilly trails),
- 71 at ultracentric in 2005 (nap, threw up).
My median is 82 miles, and I might be able to meet that, say, via 45 miles in the first 12 hours, and maybe 40 in the second. Last year saw me get 48 and 35.
Nevertheless, I am nervous (in a fun way) anxious and eager. We’ll see what Providence brings.
Why do people resist science?
These intuitions give children a head start when it comes to understanding and learning about objects and people. But these intuitions also sometimes clash with scientific discoveries about the nature of the world, making certain scientific facts difficult to learn. As Susan Carey once put it, the problem with teaching science to children is “not what the student lacks, but what the student has, namely alternative conceptual frameworks for understanding the phenomena covered by the theories we are trying to teach.”
Children’s belief that unsupported objects fall downwards, for instance, makes it difficult for them to see the world as a sphere — if it were a sphere, the people and things on the other side should fall off. It is not until about eight or nine years of age that children demonstrate a coherent understanding of a spherical Earth, and younger children often distort the scientific understanding in systematic ways. Some deny that people can live all over the Earth’s surface, and, when asked to draw the Earth or model it with clay, some children depict it as a sphere with a flattened top or as a hollow sphere that people live inside.
In some cases, there is such resistance to science education that it never entirely sticks, and foundational biases persist into adulthood. A classic study by Michael McCloskey and his colleagues tested college undergraduates’ intuitions about basic physical motions, such as the path that a ball will take when released from a curved tube. Many of the undergraduates retained a common-sense Aristotelian theory of object motion; they predicted that the ball would continue to move in a curved motion, choosing B over A below.
The authors went on to point out that people predict the motion correctly if the question is phrased in terms of water coming out of a hose; this is probably because we’ve all used hoses before. The article continues:
Part of the explanation for resistance to science lies in how children and adults process different sorts of information.
Some culture-specific information is not associated with any particular source. It is “common knowledge.” As such, learning of this type of information generally bypasses critical analysis. A prototypical example is that of word meanings. Everyone uses the word “dog” to refer to dogs, so children easily learn that this is what they are called. Other examples include belief in germs and electricity. Their existence is generally assumed in day-to-day conversation and is not marked as uncertain; nobody says that they “believe in electricity.” Hence even children and adults with little scientific background believe that these invisible entities really exist, a topic explored in detail by Paul Harris and his colleagues.
Science is not special here. Geographic information and historical information is also typically assumed, which is how an American child comes to believe that there is a faraway place called Africa and that there was a man who lived long ago named Abraham Lincoln. And, in some cultures, certain religious beliefs can be assumed as well. For instance, if the existence of supernatural entities like gods, karma, and ancestor spirits is never questioned by adults in the community, the existence of such entities will be unquestioningly accepted by children.
Other information, however, is explicitly asserted. Such information is associated with certain sources. A child might note that science teachers make surprising claims about the origin of human beings, for instance, while their parents do not. Furthermore, the tentative status of this information is sometimes explicitly marked; people will assert that they “believe in evolution.”
When faced with this kind of asserted information, one can occasionally evaluate its truth directly. But in some domains, including much of science, direct evaluation is difficult or impossible. Few of us are qualified to assess claims about the merits of string theory, the role in mercury in the etiology of autism, or the existence of repressed memories. So rather than evaluating the asserted claim itself, we instead evaluate the claim’s source. If the source is deemed trustworthy, people will believe the claim, often without really understanding it. As our colleague Frank Keil has discussed, this sort of division of cognitive labor is essential in any complex society, where any single individuals will lack the resources to evaluate all the claims that he or she hears.
This is the case for most scientific beliefs. Consider, for example, that most adults who claim to believe that natural selection can explain the evolution of species are confused about what natural selection actually is—when pressed, they often describe it as a Lamarckian process in which animals somehow give birth to offspring that are better adapted to their environments. Their belief in natural selection, then, is not rooted in an appreciation of the evidence and arguments. Rather, this scientifically credulous sub-population are deferring to the people who say that this is how evolution works. They trust the scientists.
This deference to authority isn’t limited to science; the same process holds for certain religious, moral, and political beliefs as well. In an illustrative recent study, subjects were asked their opinion about a social welfare policy, which was described as being endorsed either by Democrats or by Republicans. Although the subjects sincerely believed that their responses were based on the objective merits of the policy, the major determinant of what they thought of the policy was in fact whether or not their favored political party was said to endorse it. More generally, many of the specific moral intuitions held by members of a society appear to be the consequence, not of personal moral contemplation, but of deference to the views of the community.
Adults thus rely on the trustworthiness of the source when deciding which asserted claims to believe. Do children do the same? Recent studies suggest that they do; children, like adults, have at least some capacity to assess the trustworthiness of their information sources. Four- and five-year-olds, for instance, know that adults know things that other children do not (like the meaning of the word “hypochondriac”), and when given conflicting information about a word’s meaning from a child and from an adult, they prefer to learn from the adult. They know that adults have different areas of expertise, that doctors know about fixing broken arms and mechanics know about fixing flat tires. They prefer to learn from a knowledgeable speaker than from an ignorant one, and they prefer a confident source to a tentative one. Finally, when five year-olds hear about a competition whose outcome was unclear, they are more likely to believe a character who claimed that he had lost the race (a statement that goes against his self-interest) than a character who claimed that he had won the race (a statement that goes with his self-interest). In a limited sense, then, they are capable of cynicism.
In sum, the developmental data suggest that resistance to science will arise in children when scientific claims clash with early emerging, intuitive expectations. This resistance will persist through adulthood if the scientific claims are contested within a society, and will be especially strong if there is a non-scientific alternative that is rooted in common sense and championed by people who are taken as reliable and trustworthy. This is the current situation in the United States with regard to the central tenets of neuroscience and of evolutionary biology. These clash with intuitive beliefs about the immaterial nature of the soul and the purposeful design of humans and other animals — and, in the United States, these intuitive beliefs are particularly likely to be endorsed and transmitted by trusted religious and political authorities. Hence these are among the domains where Americans’ resistance to science is the strongest.
Emphasis mine. This really rings true for me. After all, who can be an expert on everything?
But read the whole article; it is excellent.
Science, and the rationalist movement in general, face a “sinister challenge” from leftwing thinkers who promote cultural relativism, according to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
He told a packed Hay Festival audience that although the threat from creationists and the religious right is well-documented, science is also under threat from the other end of the political spectrum: “I think we face an equal but much more sinister challenge from the left, in the shape of cultural relativism – the view that scientific truth is only one kind of truth and it is not to be especially privileged.”
The author sites episodes where nonsense under the guise of political correctness harms science. The author continues:
Earlier in the debate, Prof Dawkins had revealed that last year he received a Christmas card from the archbishop of Westminster – although not one from President Bush.
The third panelist, the President of the Royal Society, Sir Martin Rees, felt that he should grasp this olive branch with both hands because scientists needed to form an alliance with moderate faith groups in order jointly to fight fundamentalist religion.
“He should send Christmas cards to a few more archbishops,” said Prof Rees, “on the grounds that if we give the impression that science is hostile to even the kind of mainstream religion that we have in this country, I think it will be more difficult for us to combat the kinds of anti-science sentiment that are really important.”
But with Prof Dawkins now seemingly set on training his formidable intellectual artillery on politically-correct lefty thinking, the chances that he will expand his Christmas card list to cuddly archbishops seem pretty remote.
But as far as the religous moderates, I see it this way: yes, we should seek to remove superstition. But as of right now, people are, in fact, superstitious! Example: while in Little League, I grew to be sure to wear my “lucky belt buckle” for games. Or think to the NFL: the Dallas Cowboys (back in the days when they were a good team) used to wear white jerseys all of the time (at home, and usually for away games as most teams wear dark at home). But they were so into their white jerseys that some teams who normally wore dark at home made it a point to wear white at home when they played the Cowboys! (New York Giants, Philadephia Eagles were two examples).
Superstition in sport is mostly harmless.
But superstition in science education IS harmful. The superstition of a real “hell” with everylasting flames and torment is harmful, especially to kids. The superstition that killing someone (or lots of someone) will result in an eternity in paradise is harmful.
Guess what? Religious liberalism is completely opposed to these superstitions!
True, I don’t buy resurected bodies, son’s of deities being sacrificed for our sins, etc. But sometimes the road to non-superstition follows a “gentle slope” upward, and sometimes one wins a long term war by starting out with essential tatical victories in the most important places.
I saw take the allies where we can find them.
Workout Notes 1000 yards of swimming (easy); taper mode. There was an article about our yoga for runners class in today’s newspaper; I’ve linked to the entire article and provided some thumbnails which link to the Journal Star Photos.
Yoga For Runners Article
From the Peoria Journal Star, 30 May, 2007
This is Vickie Culbertson’s yoga for runners class, and although the athletes are working on taking deep, even breaths and reaching their “chi” state, they laugh and joke around, too. They tell the Journal Star photographer who is visiting that day to refrain from taking photos when Culbertson leads them into the bug pose, which some might consider a compromising position. In the standing poses – which target hips, hamstrings or quads, the large muscles that distance runners tend to beat up on – a few will lose their balance for a split second then correct themselves. Sometimes there are grunts and groans. But at the end of the class, after several minutes of silence and relaxation, they say they feel fantastic.
Especially Melody Stonier, a grandmother of five who has run nine marathons and returned from crossing the finish line in Boston just days before attending the class. She said yoga helps get her a little farther over the hump of post-marathon soreness. She would prefer the 50 minutes of stretching over a soak in an ice bath any day.
“I felt much better after yoga than I did before yoga,” Stonier said.
Stonier, who runs anywhere from 30 to 50 miles a week depending on her training schedule, had read about the benefits of yoga before trying it. Since she started attending class two to three times a week, she said she has benefitted from increased flexibility, has fewer problems with her muscles and has an increased sense of calmness, even on days when she doesn’t do yoga.
Kevin Carrigan feels limber enough after the class to head directly out for his weekly 18- to 20-mile run.
“One thing some runners don’t do very well – or as much as they should do – is stretch and warm up,” Carrigan said.
Carrigan, who has been running for about 30 years and has nearly 40 marathons and two ultramarathons under his belt, also attends Culbertson’s regular yoga class at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, after which he’ll head out for a 10-mile run. He said the class helps him find a calmness in his busy life.
“It’s a centering part of my day and my week, and I feel more flexible,” he said. “I feel looser, even on non-yoga days. Physically and mechanically, I feel more at ease with my own body.”
Culbertson, who started teaching the RiverPlex class last January, leads her students through poses that help lengthen the spine, strengthen the ankles and feet, stretch out the hamstrings, open the hips. She has been known
to keep her students in the downward dog position for five minutes straight, but says every pose isn’t for everyone.
“Anybody any age can do it, but they have to start slow, listen to their body and not compete with anybody else in the class,” she said.
Ollie Nanyes, a math professor at Bradley University, has been taking yoga since August 2003. Nanyes participates in various endurance sports such as swimming, running and race walking. He said yoga has improved his posture and lowered his injury rate, but what really keeps him coming back to class is the physical challenge.
“I really no longer go to yoga for the benefits. I go because it’s another way to challenge the body. No matter how good you get at it – and I’m not saying I’m good, I still consider myself a beginner – there’s always something out there you can’t do, and I like working toward something I can’t do.”
Some of the students attend the class looking for relief from an injury.
Mitch Gregory, a triathlete who’s been running for 20 years and is now “pushing toward 50,” has been attending yoga class since February.
“I never really have been an avid stretcher,” Gregory said. “I was just one of those typical guys – I’d bike, swim and think I knew it all and I just thought, ‘I don’t need to do that, I’m good.’ ”
Last September he became bothered by a nagging hamstring injury. He’d run through the pain some days, take a lot of ibuprofen, complain often.
“That hamstring was the first time I’ve ever pulled a hamstring, and it was up high in my hip,” he said. “I just kept saying, ‘It’s going to go away.’ Well, it didn’t.” […]
Click on the thumbnail to be directed to the Journal Star Photo; more photos available at the link.
The “cat fight” (5 minutes)
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