Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 | ISSN 1556-5696

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Scott Crocker

Scott Crocker, the documentary filmmaker behind Ghost Bird

Ghost Bird

What happens when a creature thought to be extinct is spotted alive in the swamps of Arkansas? Can such a creature have survived? Can scientists verify the story? And when a town’s hopes and a school’s grant money are on the line, to what lengths will people go to find proof?

MonsterTalk -- presented by Skeptic magazine

This week on MonsterTalk we discuss these issues with Scott Crocker, the documentary filmmaker behind Ghost Bird — a feature length exploration into the mystery of the Ivory-billed woodpecker.


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Does the moon exist if there are
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Michael Shermer debates this question with Deepak Chopra. Read Shermer’s post. Then, read Chopra’s response to Shermer on The Huffington Post. This blog debate follows from the debate Chopra and Shermer had at Caltech on March 14 on the question of “Does God Have a Future?”

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Deepak Chopra (still from ABC Nightline debate)

AN ABC NIGHTLINE DEBATE
Does God Have a Future?

Featuring Michael Shermer and Sam Harris on one side with Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston on the other side, this is a debate you absolutely won’t want to miss!

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In this week’s eSkeptic, Dr. Jeremy E.C. Genovese examines an educational urban legend that suggests a willingness to accept assertions about instructional strategies without empirical support. This article appeared in a SOLD OUT issue of Skeptic magazine Volume 10 Number 4 (2004).

Dr. Genovese is an assistant professor of human development and educational psychology at the College of Education at Cleveland State University. He has a PhD in learning and development from Cleveland State University and a master’s in biological anthropology from Kent State University. His research interests include individual differences in learning and cognitive style and the application of evolutionary psychology to education. His paper “Piaget, Pedagogy, and Evolutionary Psychology” was published in the online journal Evolutionary Psychology.


tap that unused 90%

The Ten Percent Solution
Anatomy of an Education Myth

by Dr. Jeremy E.C. Genovese

FOR MANY YEARS, VERSIONS OF A CLAIM that students remember “10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, and 90% of what they do” have been widely circulated among educators. The source of this claim, however, is unknown and its validity is questionable. It is an educational urban legend that suggests a willingness to accept assertions about instructional strategies without empirical support.

The Claim

In a popular book on children with ADHD, the author makes the following claim:

According to statistics, students retain:

  • 10% of what they read;
  • 26% of what they hear;
  • 30% of what they see;
  • 50% of what see and hear;
  • 70% of what they say; and
  • 90% of what they say and do.”1

The claim is startling. Any instructional method that could deliver on a promise of 90% retention would revolutionize education. Moreover the claim is framed with impressive exactitude. The reader would like to know more but, alas, no source is given other than “statistics.” The figures are passed along like memes. A book on accelerated learning, for example, claims:

It has been said that on average, we remember:

  • 20% of what we read
  • 30% of what we hear
  • 40% of what we see
  • 50% of what we say
  • 60% of what we do
  • 90% of what we see, hear, say, and do”2

But no source is acknowledged and no evidence is given. A slightly different version of the claim is presented in a recent issue of the Stanford Business Review: “Some research on learning indicates that we may retain only about 10% of what we read, maybe 20% of what we see and hear in a lecture, and perhaps 80% of what we experience personally. Learning may increase even more to the extent that we take what we have experienced, put it into our own words, and then explain it to others.”3 But just what is this research and who conducted it? On this point the article is silent.

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An Internet search reveals dozens of versions of this claim. While they are all essentially similar, they often differ in the specific percentages they assign to the various instructional modalities. For example “20% of what they read” is far more common than “26% of what they read.” Some versions add the final claim that students retain “95% of what they teach to someone else.” What is the origin of this claim and why have educators accepted it uncritically?

The Source

To date, all efforts to locate the source of this claim have failed because all trails have led to dead ends. For example, a 1988 paper by Felder and Silverman repeats the claim and cites a 1987 paper by Stice as their source.4 The Stice paper in turn speaks of “some data from the old Socony-Vacuum Oil Company. (The source indicates the data are from the 1930s or 1940s, but I have no other information).”5

A 1997 paper by Lee and Bowers, however, sets out on an alternative trail. These authors indirectly cite White (sic) from a 1992 paper by Hapeshi and Jones.6 The passage in Hapeshi and Jones actually reads:

Bayard-White (1990) quotes the British Audio Visual Society, which claimed that we remember about:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 80% of what we say
  • 90% of what we say and do at the same time

The evidence for these statements is not given…”7

Thus Lee and Bowers cited Hapeshi and Jones, who in turn cited Bayard-White who, they acknowledge, had no evidence for the claim. An Internet search for the “British Audio Visual Society” yielded a total of 9 hits, all of them repeating the claim and citing this organization as its source. But no record of the existence of a British Audio Visual Society has been found. It appears that once a claim has been published subsequent authors do not bother much about the actual supporting evidence.

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A third source frequently cited for the claim is Edgar Dale. In fact, many on-line versions label the claim “Dale’s Cone of Experience,” or “Dale’s Cone of Learning.” In his 1946 book, Audio Visual Methods in Teaching, Dale did present a concept called the “Cone of Experience.” described as “merely a visual aid to explain the interrelationship of the various types of audio-visual materials, as well as their individual positions in the learning process.”8 In the 1969 edition of Audio Visual Methods in Teaching Dale tells us:

In addition, we have suggested the narrowing upward shape of the Cone does not imply an increasing difficulty of learning. Both verbal and visual symbols are used by little children. Demonstrations may be complex and quite involved — much more so than a map (a visual symbol) of Alaska. The basis of the classification is not difficulty but degree of abstraction — the amount of immediate sensory participation that is involved. Thus, a still photograph of a tree is not more difficult to understand than the dramatization of Hamlet. It is simply in itself a less concrete teaching material than the dramatization.9

Dale’s Cone is really a classification of audiovisual material on a scale of abstractness and bears only slight resemblance to the claim. Indeed, it could be argued that Dale’s Cone presents a much more complex model that is trivialized when associated with the claim. All citations of Dale as the source of the claim are simply mistaken.

The Truth

I was only able to locate one paper that explicitly tested the claim, the research by Lee and Bowers who found:

These results do not support White’s(sic) percentages for the contribution of the different components of multimedia (as quoted in Hapeshi & Jones, 1992). For example, audio did not have a larger impact on learning than text, nor did graphics and animation alone have a larger impact than audio (unless one is comparing “what we see” as text and graphics together. Actually, audio had much less of an impact and audio plus graphics and text plus graphics had an equivalent impact.10

Nor does the claim agree with other empirical studies of the relative effectiveness of various teaching techniques.11

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The Meaning

In his investigation of the myth that people use only 10% of their brains, Barry Beyerstein noted a similarity to urban legends because “attempts to verify them invariably lead to an infinite regress.” He also argued that there is a connection between numerology and the 10% brain myth: “I suspect that the lucky choice of the number 10 for the denominator in our fictitious fraction has served to enhance the attractiveness of the one-tenth myth. Among magical thinkers, numerology — the belief in the magical power of numbers — is rarely far from the surface, and 10 is a perennial favorite in this camp. Probably because nature equipped us with 10 fingers and 10 toes, our ancestors developed a primitive reverence for them.”12

Beyerstein goes on to give examples of how arbitrary increments of 10 are often given special significance such as the Ten Commandments, the 10 best dressed list, and the characterization of historical periods in terms of decades. The educational claim investigated in this paper is typically framed in increments of 10, and thus fits neatly into this pattern.

A recent paper by Simkin and Roychowdhury estimated that a large percentage of authors do not actually read the papers they cite.13 As worrisome as their findings are, the multiple iterations of the claim reveal an even more distressing pattern. Not only do people often fail to read the research they cite, they sometimes fail to see if the research was ever actually conducted!

Above all this suggests a staggering lack of curiosity and a willingness to accept findings that agree with superficial preconceptions. Perhaps the real world effects of the claim examined here are relatively benign. After all, who would quarrel with the idea that instructors need to use a variety of teaching techniques? But the larger implication is troubling. Instructional techniques affect real children, and educators have a responsibility to ground their practice in actual research, not unsupportable clichés.

The author wishes to thank Rob Waller of the Information Design Unit for his assistance.

References
  1. Rief, S. F. 1993. How to Reach and Teach ADD/ADHD Children. West Nyack, NY: The Center for Applied Research in Education, 53.
  2. Rose, C.and M.J.Nicholl. 1997. Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century: The Six-step Plan to Unlock Your Master-Mind. New York: Delacorte Press, 142.
  3. Joss, R. 2003. “The Value of Learning by Doing” [Electronic version]. Stanford Business Magazine. Retrieved June 28, 2003,from www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/bmag/sbsm0305/deans.shtml.
  4. Felder, R. M. and L. K. Silverman. 1988. “Learning and Teaching Styles in Engineering Education.” Engineering Education, 78, 674–681.
  5. Stice, J. E. 1987. “Using Kolb’s Learning Cycle to Improve Student Learning.” Engineering Education, 77, 291–296, 293.
  6. Lee, A. Y. and A. N. Bowers. 1997. “The Effect of Multimedia Components on Learning.” Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomic Society 41st Annual Meeting, 340–344.
  7. Hapeshi, K. and D. Jones. 1992. “Interactive Multimedia for Instruction: A Cognitive Analysis of the Role of Audition and Vision.” International Journal of Computer-Human Interactions, 4, 79–99.
  8. Dale, E. 1946. Audio Visual Methods in Teaching (1st ed.). New York: Dryden Press, 37. The full text of Dale’s Pyramid, from base to apex, reads: “Direct, Purposeful Experiences, Contrived Experience, Dramatic Participation, Demonstration, Field Trips, Exhibits, Motion Pictures, Radio Recordings, Still Pictures, Visual Symbols, Verbal Symbols” (p. 39).
  9. Dale, E. 1969. Audio Visual Methods in Teaching (3rd ed). Hinsdale, IL: Dryden Press, 110.
  10. Lee and Bowers, op cit., 343. 11. Bligh, D. A. 2000. What’s the Use of Lectures? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  11. Bligh, D. A. 2000. What’s the Use of Lectures? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  12. Beyerstein, B. L. 1999. “Whence Comes the Myth that We Only Use 10% of our Brains?” In S. D. Sala (Ed.). Mind Myths: Exploring Popular Assumptions About the Mind and Brain (3–24). Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 23, 12.
  13. Simkin M. V. and V. P. Roychowdhury. 2002. “Read before you cite!” [Electronic version] Retrieved June28, 2003, from www.arxiv.org/ftp/cond-mat/papers/0212/0212043.pdf.

UP NEXT: Physicist Dr. David GOODSTEIN

On Fact and Fraud (detail of cover)

On Fact & Fraud:
Cautionary Tales from
the Front Lines of Science

Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 2 pm

FRAUD IN SCIENCE is not as easy to identify as one might think. When accusations of scientific misconduct occur, truth can often be elusive, and the cause of a scientist’s ethical misstep isn’t always clear. In his lecture based on his new book, On Fact and Fraud, Caltech physicist David Goodstein looks at actual cases in which fraud was committed or alleged, explaining what constitutes scientific misconduct and what doesn’t, and outlines some ethical foundations needed to discern and avoid fraud wherever it may arise. READ more…

Books by David Goodstein at Amazon.com
15 Comments »

15 Comments

  1. Tsvi Bisk says:

    Regarding “Does God Have a Future?” The problem is epistomological: what do you mean when you say the word God. I quote from my recent book “The Optimistic Jew”:
    The inherent inability to positively define the concept of “God”
    The inherent inability to positively define the concept of “God”
    The expression “I believe in God’ is problematic for Jews ..To utter that sentence, they would first require a clear, objective definition of what God is and then clarify what they mean by belief. Here we must refer back to Maimonides’ “negative theology”,—that is, what we cannot say about God—as an alternative to Christian “positive theology,” the attempt to describe the nature of God.
    The common translation of God’s reply (to Moses through the burning bush) is “I am who I am” or “I am that I am”. A more precise translation would be “I will be what I will be [an indefinite formulation, implying incompleteness: in biblical Hebrew it is the imperfect tense and in Modern Hebrew the future tense] . . . say unto the children of Israel: ‘I will be’ hath sent me unto you . . . this is my name forever . . . my memorial unto all generations”.
    Combine this with the Talmudic injunction that we must all be partners with God in the (ongoing) act of creation and we must conclude that the “Future of God” will be the aggregate of what conscious beings throughout the Cosmos will actually do. It is we who are creating God – God did not create us. So “his” future depends on us.

  2. AZ says:

    Oh for heaven’s sake – isn’t all this something we settled back in the dorm room or around the embers of a scout camp fire? Any bright five year old can win at stump the parson. Arguing faith over reason never pushes the debate ahead. It kills me to see brilliant minds debating with smirking clowns like DC when they could be affecting real social policy or getting back to some real science. If the atheist majority would come out of their closets and quit claiming to be agnostic, or hobby Buddhists, or just being polite, or “doing it for social solidarity”, and all the other lame excuses for not standing up, we’d have a somewhat more rational world.

    AZ

  3. shiranaize says:

    Dr. Genovese, thanks for the good article. I had heard such a claim, but never really paid much attention to it. I have seen it affect teaching styles though, and it is truly important to use empirically supported strategies, or do the experiments and research necessary to develop empirically supported strategies. Also, thank you for practicing as you preach and providing solid sources. I will be interested to see if any commentators will find more sources or research on this topic though.

    AZ, what “atheist majority” are you talking about? I’m not sure where you live (if Europe or East Asia your situation is probably different), but in the States, there is a lot of solid statistical research about religious demographics. Check the latest data, such as by the American Religious Identification Survey, and you will find that adults that self-identify as “No religion” (including atheists, agnostics, humanists, secular, etc.) are a minority (less than 20%). Even if you cut out a third of Christians as people who are “just being polite,” those with no religion are still not a majority (that honor would go to the aggregate of “Total Christians”). Point being, it is important to spend time talking and discussing with religious people as they are the majority. And living in a democratic society, they are the ones with the power. While it would be nice if we could concentrate on other issues, there is still a lot of prep work that needs to be done in the “hearts and minds” department.

    • Sarah P. says:

      Shiranaize,

      I agree it’s important to use empirically-based teaching methods and not fall into fads or be influenced by the intense marketing of commercial programs. If you google “phonics” or “reading”, you’ll get thousands of sites promoting this or that program or a totally new, revolutionary way to make your baby read, etc. I posted below (#11) but don’t know if anyone is still reading these comments.

      Are you a teacher? If you have any leads on good education skeptic sites, will you reply and give me some tips?

      I’m especially interested in literacy. It’s so confusing, because opinions on how to teach reading are often based on conservative politics (stick to the three R’s, do everything the way they did it in the good ol’ days) or liberal politics (children will learn to read by osmosis, and structure will stifle their minds), or new-age orientation (colored glasses will make dyslexic kids read; children are enlightened beings who don’t need to be taught anything), or commercial ventures (our new brain science DVDs will repair your child’s brains.) I think there is probably some evidence to support all of these approaches (except for the colored glasses) but as a non-scientist, with almost zero training in scientific method or how to evaluate research, it is hard to figure out what is research-based. I think I’m getting closer to finding out which approaches are based on research, but now it’s hard to figure out which grad schools and which school systems use research-based methods. Also, because the “reading wars” and other issues in education are so controversial, I feel inhibited about taking a stand with any grad schools or experts that I meet. I am pretty much on the left politically, but I am a big fan of structure in teaching, and explicit teaching of important skills like reading. I could get lumped in with the right wing if I phrase my questions the wrong way. I don’t even want to take a side on this fraught issue until I know more. But the one thing I do know is that I want to learn and then use proven literacy methods.

      OK, this post is too long! But now that I’ve stumbled on the skeptic world, I’m hoping to get some clues about how to figure this stuff out.

      • Charles B says:

        Sarah P.,

        Through the Magic Door is a children’s book internet site focused on 1) helping parents find the books most likely to appeal to their children and 2) helping parents create an environment that is most likely to encourage their children to become habitual and enthusiastic readers.

        TTMD has recently released a report – Growing a Reading Culture (http://www.slideshare.net/ThroughtheMagicDoor/growing-a-readingculturereport)- which is the result of research regarding what works in terms of literacy. A prime motivator for the report was to move away from popular and unsubstantiated nostrums and to identify the factual basis for enthusiastic reading. A context for the report is the data point(and true for most advanced economies, not just the US) that 50% of the population reads no books electively in a year and 10% of the population are reading 80% of all books electively read in the year, i.e. reading is a highly concentrated past time. Some of the key points:

        1) Schools are effective (they accomplish the goal) of teaching children the skill of reading. 99% of children are deemed literate in the US as well as in the other major OECD countries. They can decode texts.
        2) US schools are (compared to most OECD countries)distinctly inefficient at teaching reading (cost inputs per outcome achieved).
        3) The motivation for elective and enthusiastic reading, is rarely achieved through school programs.
        4) The love of reading which leads to habitual and enthusiastic reading is a cultural attribute arising from behaviors and activities in the home environment.
        5) Schools in the US, for a variety of reasons identified in the report, face a population of incoming children with reading capabilities representing as much as a five year spread, which is part of the explanation for the inefficiency.
        6) While the relative efficiency and effectiveness of particular reading programs (such as phonics)is relevant, their importance is dwarfed by the cultural attributes of a child’s orientation towards sustained reading.

        The genesis of the report was simply to get back to the facts and identify what works. Regrettably, for reasons also identified in the report, consistent and relevant data is somewhat scarce. There are many axes being ground in the various academic fields researching reading and literacy. We have attempted to steer clear of the politics of reading and stick to the facts as we can discern them.

        Can’t speak to particular programs which are fact-based but some of the researchers whose papers and reports are solidly evidenced-based and who might be able to provide guidance would include James Heckman (Nobel Economist at University of Chicago), Susan B. Neuman at the University of Michigan School of Education, Betty Hart at the University of Kansas, and Stephen Krashen at the University of Southern California. Some of these are emeritus now.

  4. Xplodyncow says:

    42% of all statistics are made up.

  5. joe difeo says:

    michael
    enjoyed the abc debate… i would really have enjoyed a debate debunking all the myths in religion.. i feel that is where people get their god belief…. i noticed deepak didnt want to discuss where religion has been… if god wrote these books, how could god be wrong so often for so long ..
    joe difeo
    enjoy all your stuff……..

    • Henry Kiedrowski says:

      What do you base your worldview on? Why do you think the way you think?

      If you really want to know

    • Henry Kiedrowski says:

      Sorry I wasn’t finished. If you really want to understand the debate you need to study both sides of the debate. RZIM.org is a good place to go on the web to begin to understand the Christian perspective.

  6. AZ says:

    Shiranaize,
    I believe you have to count all those just being polite and lying as silent majority. Atheism is not a good resume liner. I find, especially among younger people, an indifference to religion. A not silent majority also say they believe in, astrology, ghosts, luck, aliens, Big Foot, and on and on. Debating history, logic, and psychology with the professional true believers is a time waster. I’m seeing much more atheism and skepticism in the popular media. Coming out and “outing” as a social change tactic is more effective in the present social media age. Religion is and always has been nothing but politics. I think now even atheists can be in the game.

    AZ

  7. P K Narayanan(Dr) says:

    DOES GOD HAVE A FUTURE? Really, a complex question it sounds to be: I am not clear about what the question really points to: Is it the existence of god in future? Is it about the need of future generation for a god? Any way, the answer according to facts, is this:

    THE FUTURE OF GOD DEPENDS UPON THE FUTURE OF HUMANS.

    Concept of god and all the attributes of god are the product of human mind: God resides in the minds of the people who believe in the entity of god: No animals, no birds, no reptiles have any idea of god and all what is said about god. The moment humans disappear from the face of this good old earth, there ends the existence of god, there terminates the future of god. The day, if ever it happens, humans reform to do away with “god”, there ends the existence of god, there ends the future of god.

    Yes, FUTURE OF GOD DEPENDS UPON THE FUTURE OF HUMANS.

  8. grace says:

    I feel there is no real answer , there is NO proof of god He exists only in the minds of beleivers.
    The question should be .. is there a place in the future for religion. My own opinion not if we want peace.

  9. Jim Gilligan says:

    A VERY, VERY, IMPORTANT DEBATE QUESTION THAT WAS OMITTED! But, first, Boy! Oh, Boy! Did the peace and love guru Deepak ever blow it. Like most “believers’ Deepak angrily “Talk the Talk” but he certainly “Does Not Walk the Walk”! Now, Here is a critical question that needs to be brought forward in these kinds of debates and discussions, it simplifies everything. The human mind has two was of thinking or processing thoughts, information and ideas… Mystically or in Reality, aka Objectively! Where does religion, education, governments, etc. fit into that equitation? Unfortunately, they are founded in mysticism, not reality. Your comments will be greatly appreciated.

  10. P K Narayanan(Dr) says:

    God is described as formless, all pervading, omnipotent, omniscient, all knowing creator of the world. Description and concept of god came out of human mind. To understand this process, one has to fathom a little bit about the cognitive function of human brain: When stimuli from environs reach sensory centers in the cerebral cortex through receptors, a sensation is generated. Then image is formed and the next step is concept. Cognitive activity does not stop at the stage of concepts. The processes of judgment and memory have to follow concepts.

    A close examination of belief in god shows that the entity called god had gone through all the cognitive steps and reached the stage of memory. But the fact remains that the whole process is of subjective faculty built up through conditioned nerve connections by and through the net work of Second Signal System (about which brief explanation also is given hereunder:)

    God is a creation of human mind; creation that took place out of fear. Several independent studies are available on this subject: The studies were not to evaluate whether belief in god is good or bad, but to find out how the concept of god came into being.
    First it was confirmed that animals and other living organisms have no faculty of believing in any thing; their brain cells are not capable of this activity; they have therefore no belief or idea of god. However, some advanced animals like elephants, monkeys and even cows can be trained to bow and even to prostrate before deities. Here what has been working in an elephant or monkey or cow has been a conditioned reflex action generated in the brain cells of the animal by repetition of the act of bowing or prostrating forced upon the animal by animal trainers. This act of the animal bowing or prostrating before the deity cannot be taken for granted that animals do believe in god.

    Coming to the case of humans, long before homosapiens reached the stage of civil society, what the wandering prehistoric humans, wandering for food and shelter in the dangerous terrain on the surface of earth, feared the most was wild animals, thunder, lightning, rains and floods. They started believing that these calamitous agents are the creation of some unknown powers and that pleasing of the unknown supernatural powers would help them survive against the odds of the nature. Thus was the beginning of belief; belief born out of fear.

    It took thousands of years for the humans to reach the stage of societal advancement and civility. During the course of the advance, refinement also took place in the concept of supernatural powers; refining it to the glory of “god” and all the attributes of god and prayers. But the root cause of belief remains the same: fear! Fear of odds that retard survival, that retard growth and progress in every aspect of survival; fear of odds that may not entail heavenly abode after death.

    Now let us see what enables humans to to think, formulate create stories confined to subjectivity: Two powerful ingredients of human existence are involved here: ‘Body language’ that is confined to gesticulations and ‘words’ that is written or spoken. Before we annalise the significance of both in the path of existence, let us dwell briefly on the origin of both the means of communications: In the long journey of evolution in the deep depth of time, there was that specific stage when certain categories of the developing species reached the stage of homoerectus. All the species including homo erectus were able to express, receive and convey their feelings and emotions by and through signs and symbols. This means of communication is nick named as “First Signal System.” In the continuing process of evolution, a sect of homo erectus developed unparalleled complexities in their brain and connected nervous interactions with the environs: As a result these species could communicate and receive information through words, of course, unrefined rubble in the beginning. This stage added to the modalities of development of homosapiens, the human being. As millions of years passed by, the the specie reached the stage of modern man (women included, please) and the consequential refinements resulted in the development and formation of language, both spoken and written. The means of communication through language, – words written or spoken, – is called he “Second Signal System” which is the signal of signals.

    It is the capability of second signal system in human brain that enabled the reach of stimuli from material plane as also of spheres woven out of sheer imaginations. The creation of soul, spirits, heaven, hell, extrasensory entities and the copy righted owner of all these called god and religion are the products of imaginations enticed by and through the Second Signal System.

  11. Sarah P. says:

    Thanks, Dr. Genovese, for “The Ten Percent Solution
    Anatomy of an Education Myth.” I’ve recently begun reading skeptic blogs and listening to skeptic podcasts. What a great resource. I’m a person with a lot of higher education, but almost no science education. I value science and don’t want to be taken in by pseudo-science, but I’m so far not qualified to evaluate scientific or pseudo-scientific evidence myself. It’s great to find a place where scientists will share their expertise with the general public.

    I’m especially interested in skeptical evaluations of education methods, because I want to get a graduate degree or teaching credential that emphasizes early literacy methods. I’m trying to figure out which programs value evidence, and which ones teach hooey (ex: Waldorf). So far I haven’t found much about education on skeptics blogs. I did find two resources that look reliable– bestevidence.org and betterevidence.org, which evaluate specific teaching methods based on scientific studies, or on the lack of scientific studies. They rate a long list of literacy curriculum programs, and find that a lot of public schools buy programs with no supporting evidence, even though programs with strong supporting evidence exist.

    Apparently education, kind of like parenting, is really susceptible to methods that stem from ideology, trends, and fears rather than from evidence. I’ve read about the “reading wars,”–the conflict between using a “whole language” vs a “phonics” approach to teaching reading, and about recent research (see the book, Overcoming Dyslexia, by Sally Shaywitz, MD) about how brain processing of speech sounds is part of learning to read, and a deficit in this processing is a cause of dyslexia–research that supports the use of phonics and a newer approach, phonemic awareness, to teach reading. It seems like all K-2 teachers should be trained in that kind of brain science and in effective literacy methods, but I’ve really had trouble finding out which teaching credential and master’s programs teach evidence based methods. I don’t want to waste 2-4 years in a program that teaches hooey.

    Anyway, if any of you skeptics out there can take a look at teaching methods or teacher-training programs, or recommend a place to get more info, I’d appreciate it. Thanks for sharing your logical thinking and expertise!

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Carbon Comic

Carbon Comic (by Kyle Sanders)

Carbon Comic, which appears in Skeptic magazine, is created by Kyle Sanders: a pilot and founder of Little Rock, Arkansas’ Skeptics in The Pub. He is also a cartoonist who authors Carbon Dating: a skeptical comic strip about science, pseudoscience, and relationships. It can be found at carboncomic.com.

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

Reality Check

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future

The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Topics include: chiropractic, the placebo effect, homeopathy, acupuncture, and the questionable benefits of organic food, detoxification, and ‘natural’ remedies.

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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