Bloggingheads Community

Bloggingheads Community (
-   Diavlog comments (
-   -   Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview (

Bloggingheads 01-04-2009 05:38 PM

Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview
Will Wilkinson and Kerry Howley are traveling in exciting foreign lands where wifi is scarce, and so were unable to appear in this week's episode of "Free Will." Happily, Josh Knobe agreed to fill in as the show's first-ever guest host. Thanks, Josh! Will and Kerry will return soon.

Deliverance 01-04-2009 07:04 PM

Re: Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview
Excellent diavlog. The concept that children are the original scientists and that scientists are extending their childhood exploratory play reminded me of something that I read, i.e., that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is "the world's largest sheltered workshop." I think that the person was actually trying to make the point that many brilliant, high-level scientists tend to lack social skills and don't function well in the "real" world.


dankingbooks 01-05-2009 09:46 PM

Re: Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview
I also think this was a great diavlog.

Even though Alison mounted a spirited defense of "children as little scientists," I do think Joshua's original critique is telling. Why did we have to wait until the 18th century for the rise of modern science? If Alison is right, science should have come about much sooner, and the scientific method should be much easier to learn.

Further, Alison has children understanding probability theory in a way that is far beyond adults. The city of Las Vegas is founded on the notion that people do not comprehend probability theory. Do we forget it all at age 12? Is probability sufficiently impractical that when we get into "production" mode we don't need to worry about it anymore?

Sorry - I don't think Alison's theory is tenable (even though she's a very smart lady). The sharp distinction between child explorers and adult exploiters doesn't ring true to me.

Baltimoron 01-05-2009 10:02 PM

Re: Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview
I also liked this diavlog, because it demonstrates just how effective Knobe is, both as an interviewer and as an interlocutor. His was one of the more versatile performances I've seen on bhTV.

On the point, I think your second point about Vegas hits the mark surer than the first. I would argue the answer to the question, why no science, is related to technology. There was science before then - witness Galen and Sextus Empiricus - but the mode of transmission to colleagues and the public was restrictive. Printing made communication easier and undermined both guilds and governments. perhaps, though, Vegas falls under the rubric of religion, the hope of payoff.

Wonderment 01-05-2009 10:22 PM

Suggestion for Joshua
Interesting stuff. I hope you'll consider a Bheads interview with an expert in (nonhuman) animal consciousness.

I think you'd have some great questions about nonhuman feeling, awareness, "thought" and worldview for someone like Frans de Waal (expert on chimps and bonobos), Irene Pepperberg of Alex the Parrot fame, or others who have worked with elephants, wolves, dolphins, etc.

uncle ebeneezer 01-06-2009 01:57 AM

Re: Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview
Just wanted to chime in to agree. Joshua is really getting good at leading these interviews. (He still could perhaps move his mic for slightly better audio quality, but it hardly matters.)

This discussion was utterly fascinating. Definitely have Allison back.

Great episode!

kman 01-06-2009 06:59 PM

Re: Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview

I enjoyed this diavlog, as well as many of your previous, but you MUST stop breathing into the microphone.

It is simply intolerable. It sounds like you are panting in my ear! Yuck!

The presentation of your ideas is as important as the ideas themselves. I was fascinated by the discussion but continually distracted by the "noises".

popcorn_karate 01-06-2009 07:48 PM

Re: Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview
culture also. The length of childhood has been extending longer and longer, allowing more and more time spent in the "explorer" stage rather than "exploiter" stage.

My great grandfather worked from the time he was about 10 to help support his family. I didn't start seriously working until I was 20.

I was not convinced of her argument but i thought it held-up fairly well.

John 01-07-2009 06:12 AM

Re: Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview
Great presentation, and we hope for many more by Joshua Knobe in the future. Surely Knobe's view implies the possibility of less ultimate restraint on human thought, or Gopnik's the choice of a more restricted initial model. Effectively the philosopher has the less restricted view, and the scientist has reason to restrict a view, but can expand it. As well as having great significance philosophically, X-Phi is becoming an important interdisciplinary tool in my opinion.

nikkibong 01-07-2009 03:10 PM

Re: Suggestion for Joshua
wonderment, have you read Do Animals Think? by Clive Wynne? I've been agitating to get him on bhtv for quite some time . . .

Wonderment 01-07-2009 04:52 PM

Re: Suggestion for Joshua

wonderment, have you read Do Animals Think? by Clive Wynne? I've been agitating to get him on bhtv for quite some time . . .
I haven't, but I will check it out, Nikki.

The field of inquiry seems to be booming. I think Bob Wright would be interested in this topic too -- especially of how morality evolves in other animals (fairness, reciprocity, forgiveness, rules of play, etc.).

I never read Bob's "The Moral Animal," but his ideas in "Nonzero" about the evolution of cooperation are intriguing.

bjkeefe 01-07-2009 06:27 PM

Re: Free Will: Children and the Scientific Worldview

Originally Posted by John (Post 100614)
... X-Phi is becoming an important interdisciplinary tool in my opinion.

And calling it that can only help boost the coolness factor. Nice!

Flaw 01-08-2009 01:58 PM

Question for Alison

Can you link some of the dots pictures you showed the children and results?

A little before 6:35 you talk about showing the children black dots and that their attention is elevated when the number count doubles or is cut in half.

You also state this is true in the case of strings of sounds played or jumps of a puppet.

You also briefly state that you control for time or a series or contrast of the dots.

I'm not saying that children don't notice numbers but not sure how it can be tested.
My question is how do you control for adding double the dots on a screen or double the sound segments without creating more area or density within an area on the screen (or rapidness of sounds played)

It could be argued that the child is simply responding to a dramatic change in the overall experience not the number count. I don't see how you can double or half the dot count without changing the experience (especially if the dots are always the same size). In the example of the dots I can not see how you present double the dots without either increasing the area they cover or the density of the area they cover significantly.

With sounds you with ether have a much longer segment of sounds played or else you will have to show the sounds much more rapidly.

In both cases is there not a big change in the overall experience.


IMHO (without looking at your data) I think you have tested for the threshold in which a child will notice change not necessarily numbers.

Random questions:
-- Were the dots always the same size?
-- Did you create a situation where the density doubles, not the count in which the child does not respond?

Flaw 01-08-2009 01:59 PM

Re: Question for Alison
Both of you great diavlog btw

Flaw 01-08-2009 02:59 PM

Adults and numbers (Book suggestion)

A good book I read in high school. Among other things it teaches you how to use grouping to gain very accurate estimations. Grouping is more easy to do if you have relative consistent density.

When you talk about adults at 9:20 and compare them to children I wonder if the test can really be compared since I'm sure the adults are giving back feedback in the form of a guess not observations on their atentivness.

With children you are testing what gets their attention not how acurate they are. With adults you are testing the accuracy of the guess.

Am I wrong?

bjkeefe 01-08-2009 03:39 PM

Re: Adults and numbers (Book suggestion)

Originally Posted by Flaw (Post 100751)

A good book I read in high school.

Second the recommendation. Also good by Paulos: A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper.

His columns on ABC's site are often worth a read, too, although I have to admit, I keep forgetting about them until someone reminds me of his name.

Flaw 01-09-2009 02:56 AM

Dressing up as Batman is the side effect of evolution.
Great diavlog

I believe like naming we are geneticly programed to imagine because having an imagination helps us develop predictive abilities which in turn help us survive. Pretending to be Batman is a side effect which negative impact is greatly exceeded by the benefits of developing reasoning abilities.

Joshua I feel is is correct in stating that the reasoning abilities developed are not the scientific method. I am not sure Alison was arguing this though.

I was not sure though. When Alison talked about imagination and children she seemed to place the cart before the horse. She talked about imagination as if it was designed; not a random occurrence which ended up benefiting the species like our thumbs.

The talk of morals to me did not hit the topic. Humans are programed to predict things, especially bad things. We better remember the pain of putting our hand on a hot stove then most pleasures. It seems reasonable we would put more focus on predicting bad things, in fact have a need to. This is why when the children empathies with the girl they blame the boy for bringing the frog home. The idea that a bad thing has no cause is disturbing even to adults even of the modern age.

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 11:43 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.