Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Richard Day gets it wrong again on the state's science standards

Richard Day not only didn't like my column on Kentucky's science standards, he didn't like my response, claiming I not only did not refute, but supported his claim that my text analysis of Kentucky Academic Standards--using a word count--was not "definitive."

"Definitive" of what? Where did I say the analysis was "definitive"? "Definitive means, if my dictionary is correct, "final," or, as another has it, "supplying or being a final or conclusive statement." Not only did I not use the word "definitive," I didn't use any of the words that mean "definitive."

But maybe consulting the dictionary is too simplistic a way in Day's mind to determine the meaning of words.

I fully admit it's not "definitive." I admit the possibility that I could be wrong. All someone like Day would have to do is to go to the document and read it and come back with some kind of textual proof that what I said was an incorrect characterization of the text.

If I were wrong, it would be pretty easy to prove it. But what is interesting is that Day hasn't bothered to even attempt to do this. All he has done is carp at my method of determining the relative emphasis on particular topics in the state' standards, which consisted of the revolutionary procedure of seeing how many words had to do with that topic.

In fact, Day seems to be having continuing difficulty determining exactly what I said. He claims that I was looking at the wrong document when I did my word count, quoting someone by the name of Alex Grigg, who commented on my column in the Lexington Herald-Leader. Now I'm sure Grigg is a fine, upstanding ... whatever he is. But here is what Grigg said (and Day quoted approvingly on his blog):
Martin seems to need a little help counting. Here is the document in question, unless he is looking at something else: http://63960de18916c597c345-8e.... Global Warming is mentioned 0 times and Climate Change, which is the currently accepted scientific term for the effect in question, is only mentioned 16 times.
Uh, no. Sorry.

That is definitely (perhaps even definitivelynot the document in question. The document Grigg links to is the Next Generation Science Standards, which is the national standards document on which the science sections of Kentucky's science standard are based. I stated very clearly what document I did the word search on. Here is what I said: "If you do a simple word search through the Kentucky Core Academic Standards document ..."

Note that the Kentucky Core Academic Standards document is not the same document a the Next Generation Science Standards.


In other words, Day is simply wrong about the document in question.

The former document is based on the latter one but what connection there is after that, I don't know because I have taken only a cursory look at the latter document. If Grigg is correct (which is apparently not a safe assumption), then there are some differences.

In fact, it is interesting to see how Grigg tries to refute my analysis: by using the same procedure (a word count), which happens to be the one Day says is not legitimate! He doesn't question word counts; he questions whether I word counted correctly. Had he be using the correct document, he might have had a telling point.

And here's another interesting thing: If Grigg is correct (again, I haven't checked his count), then the Kentucky Academic Standards contains more occurrences of the term "global warming" even than the national standards! In other words, they would have had to take the national standards and added an even greater emphasis on global warming.

If I'm Day, I'm going to quit while I'm ahead right at this point. But I get the sneaking suspicion that he's only going to dig himself in deeper.

Then Day charges me with "compounding the academic felony" (I'm still not sure what this exactly refers to) by "[extrapolating] speculations on what the authors of Next Generation Science Standards were thinking!"

Huh? I seriously have no idea what he is talking about, perhaps because he never says. Then, in another strange remark, he says, " Cothran’s word count argument proves only that things are a certain way. It tells us little about why they are so."

What the heck is that supposed to mean? "The Count’s [that's me] method, while arguably helpful on a surface level - if and only if one is not mislead by the data - is insufficient. The most useful analyses tell us something about why something is so."

Once again, Day seems have jumped to conclusions way down the road which I literally never made. I never said (and don't believe) that my analysis was "the most useful" analysis. I'm sure there are many other more useful analyses that could be done. But the question is not whether it is the "most useful" analysis, but whether it's useful at all. Does it show an inordinate emphasis on a trendy scientific topic?

I think it does. And if it's incorrect, Day is welcome to disprove it. Like I said, it should be very easy thing to do if Day is right. In fact, it would be a lot easier than just obfuscating the issue by assuming I said things I never said and refuting arguments I never made--and claiming that I used the wrong document when I didn't.

I'm waiting, Richard.


Singring said...

'I fully admit it's not "definitive." I admit the possibility that I could be wrong.'

But it was enough for you to call it a 'global warming manifesto'!?

'All someone like Day would have to do is to go to the document and read it and come back with some kind of textual proof that what I said was an incorrect characterization of the text.'

Oh, I see, it's the Martin Cothran (TM) method of textual criticism: rush to conclusions based on word count, then actually read the text to do a careful analysis *after*.


Let's do that in all literature classes! It'll save loads of time and spare those poor children from having to do any critical thinking, exactly what you have been championing all along...

...hang on....


By the way - perhaps you could link to that actual document you have based your analysis on so we can see what you are actually talking about. Otherwise how can anyone who's basing what numbers on what document?

Martin Cothran said...


Oh, you want to see the document? Why do you need to see the document? Why would you need to see it if you criticize my reading of it without ever having seen it yourself?

Anonymous said...

Evolution is still a scientific theory, right? So why should we transform economies based upon a weaker (much) theory than man made global warming? Answer: Because Singring says so. His paycheck probably depends upon it.

martin said...

We're dealing with minds ruined by liberalism dominated institutions that have self selected over time into monstrous groupthink.

State based culture war, Pat Fagan: Mono-gamy v Poly-gamy

"*The laws of the culture of monogamy
protect by forbidding—outlawing—
certain actions. The culture of
polyamory protects by prescribing
programs and ensuring outcomes."

What's the opposite of diversity? University
"Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal."

Taxing Air 7-10-2013

" ... towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century it became clear that the Earth’s average temperature just was not consistently rising any more, however many “adjustments” were made to the thermometer records, let alone rising anything like as rapidly as all the models demanded.

So those who made their living from alarm, and by then there were lots, switched tactics and began to jump on any unusual weather event, whether it was a storm, a drought, a blizzard or a flood, and blame it on man-made carbon dioxide emissions.... "


"Modern liberalism, among other things, is a psychological state, in which very-well-off Americans find ways through their income and privilege to be exempt from the ramifications of their own ideologies, while adopting causes and pets that exempt them from guilt over their own status and limitless opportunities. Judging by their concrete actions, they are indifferent to the poor whom they romanticize at a safe distance. In short, voting for larger government and subsidies is seen as a necessary cost of being a reactionary, liberal elite."

The choice is so blindly obvious now, it is a question of who is going to allow themselves to be folded up into the state, or who is going to value their freedom. There are just too many who have no experience of the latter, living-moving-and having their being wholly within artificial liberal bubbles. And it all stands on the corpses of millions of unborn babies. Without the blood curdling 'liberty' to kill little human beings, the state's established religion, libido-liberalism falls like an human sacrificing Aztec ziggurat.

martin said...

And ultimately facts and evidence are merely in the service of a keening wounded hatred at the giveness of being, which thoroughly blinds them to their capture by religious symbols.


"Now it is in the nature of all government to wish to enlarge its sphere continuously. It is therefore very difficult for it not to succeed in the long term, since it acts with a fixed thought and a continuous will on men whose position, ideas, and desires vary every day. Often it happens that citizens work for [the central power] without wanting to. Democratic centuries are times of attempts, innovations, and adventures. There is always a multitude of men engaged in a difficult or new undertaking….They do indeed accept for a general principle that the public power ought not to intervene in private affairs, but each of them desires that it aid him as an exception in the special affair that preoccupies him, and he seeks to attract the attention of the government to his side, all the while wanting to shrink it for everyone else. Since a multitude of people have this particular view of a host of different objects all at once, the sphere of the central power spreads insensibly on all sides even though each of them wishes to restrict it. A democratic government therefore increases its prerogatives by the sole fact that it endures….One can say that it becomes all the more centralized as the democratic society gets older.—Democracy in America— http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2013/04/tocqueville-for-tax-day

It's this tool, the omnicompetant state that promulgates a conception of freedom that feeds into itself ever enlarging it - pitting citizens against each other while our rulers sit back in their gated communities and laugh. Knowing that in the resulting fire of social chaos their power will only anneal.

Singring said...


'Oh, you want to see the document? Why do you need to see the document?'

So in other words you don't want to link to it. Why not?

'Why would you need to see it if you criticize my reading of it without ever having seen it yourself?'

I criticize the very idea of judging a text by word count alone and calling it a 'manifesto' based on nothing more than how many times certain words appear.

Especially when the person doing so won;t even link to the document to allow others to follow up on his methodology.

Singring said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Singring said...


'Evolution is still a scientific theory, right? So why should we transform economies based upon a weaker (much) theory than man made global warming?'

Thank you very much for illustrating exactly why the US could do with better and more evolution and climate change focused science standards.

As long as there's people like you who can't evaluate the significance of a scientific theory like evolution or who think that climate change is 'much weaker' than it, and who obviously have no idea of the precautionary principle in how we operate as a civilization, better science education is desperately needed.

'His paycheck probably depends upon it.'

Paranoia is always the best starting point for a rational debate.

Actually, my paycheck in many ways depends on science teaching in US getting worse, rather than better.

As I have told Martin before: Speaking in self-interest and on behalf of European science graduates, there could be nothing more beneficial to Europe than if the US stopped teaching students quality science.

The more ignorant, creationist, climate-denying graduates the US produces, the more industry and academia will depend on European graduates who actually have a clue.

So go Kentucky! At least you won't be running out of people to man the counter at your local McDonald's!

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, climate change DENIERS...sounds kind of theological, doesn't it? Actually, Singring, the odds are greater that the US will once again have to save Europe from destroying itself than that we will ever learn anything from the European "precautionary principle in how we operate as a civilization." That 20th century European civilization was a sight to behold, wasn't it?

Richard Day said...

First, I posted Grigg’s question about whether you were looking at the correct document. Griggs can defend Griggs. I haven’t read either the Kentucky or the National documents and don’t plan to. Our science folks all over the state are doing that.

My criticism was limited to your publishing conclusive statements from a word count methodology.

Clearly, my attempt to do so with humor failed. (Didn’t I at least get a chuckle for "They can pry…Angelina Jolie’s breasts…from my cold, dead hands?")

You did not do a “text analysis,” as you say above. You did a word count.

If you had done a text analysis, which is much more involved, produces much higher quality information, and would have satisfied Grigg’s complaint, I would have had nothing to say about it.

Your article was a claim to the public that readers could draw certain conclusions about the science standards from your method. You made conclusive statements based on your method.

As your dictionary correctly states, “Definitive” means "supplying …conclusive statement[s]." (The full quote is ("supplying or being a final or conclusive statement.")

Then you wrote,

“I fully admit it's not "definitive." I admit the possibility that I could be wrong.”

Thank you for that. I’m satisfied.

As for the rest, I’ll make one more point.

I was genuinely surprised that you didn’t get what I was saying when I wrote, "Cothran’s word count argument proves only that things are a certain way. It tells us little about why they are so."

As you may know, I was not a philosophy major in college, as you were. I was an Ed major. So I can’t go very far with philosophical arguments. But you do - at length. So when you said you were an Aristotelian-Thomist, I assumed (rightly or wrongly) that you probably agreed with Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, which I am told formed the basis for his philosophy of science – right? Plus, you’re a logic guy.

Aristotle was working out the logic of scientific reasoning.

How perfect, I thought. So I read up on what Aristotle had to say and found,

“Some demonstrations prove only that the things are a certain way, rather than why they are so. The latter are the most perfect.”

It seemed to fit. I seemed to be arguing Aristotle’s logic.

Your word count certainly produced trustworthy information about the standards. How many words, which words and phrases occur, and with what frequency… You convinced me that the standards were a certain way.

But, in my opinion, it would have taken a textual analysis (or some other advanced method that would tell us why the standards were the way they were, and provide meaning to the word count) to refute Grigg’s example of the word weather,” and produce enough trustworthy knowledge to draw conclusions from – to be definitive of the standards.

It would be unreasonable to expect anyone to know every minute detail of information buried deep within a massive set of information. But I was not expecting, “What the heck is that supposed to mean?”

Singring said...
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Singring said...

I've done a quick analysis of another famous document using Martin's pateneted technique of textual analysis, just to illustrate the point being made here:

Marx' and Engels' 'Manifesto of the Communist Party' from 1848 turns out to be a 'Bourgeois Manifesto'!

The words 'bourgeoisie' and 'bourgeois' appear a combined 303 times in the document, whereas the words 'communist' and 'communism' appear a measly 171 times - just about half as often.

The conclusion is clear - Marx and Engels got it all wrong. They thought they were writing a document advocating communisms, when in fact they were doing the opposite and were championing the bourgeoise class.

I wonder what other revelations this new method of textual analysis holds in store!

Martin Cothran said...


Okay, I get it on the Posterior Analytic quote. He's just saying that scientific reasoning determines the what not the why (the latter is supplied by philosophy).

However, I guess my point is that I was not trying to establish the why, only the what. Why there is such a stress on climate topics probably has to do with the fact that that's a fashionable issue right now. And I think it's a legitimate retroductive inference from the particular what to that particular why. But that is not something that can be determined by a word count and I don't think I said that it was.

In any case, I see what you were saying now. Thanks.

Richard Day said...

Retroductive inference?

Damn! Now I'm going to have to look that up. : )

Climate issues may be fashionable, but I suspect much more is at work than that. I'm convinced that humans have impacted the planet Beyond that, I'm not the guy to say how or how much.

I am, however, beginning to form a "wobbly wheel theory of weather" given what we've seen in recent years.

Maybe it's bad memory, or perhaps all the 24-hour weather alerts, but I don't remember the current extremes of weather events from my younger years. Even the stuff I welcome, like 75-degree July days gives me pause.

It does concern me when the bulk of the scientific community, which I rely on, says the trends are bad. We need more scientists paying attention to whatever phenomena are occurring, it seems to me.

Anyway, vacillations and extremes of weather remind me of the front tire of my childhood bicycle. From jumping curbs and whatever, the big fat tire would get out of whack at times. When I noticed it start to wobble back and forth a little, I did not always jump off the bike right away and tighten it up. As often as not, I'd lazily ignore it. But every time I procrastinated, it always got worse. It never got better and eventually it would become dangerous. I'd try not to be on it by that point. And although it has no relationship to the weather, in my mind, it reminds me that whenever things get too far out of balance, there's going to come a day of reckoning.

Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.