Monday, December 29, 2008

Investigation into the claims of Braingym

In this BBC Newsnight investigation and interview, Jeremy Paxman (brother of the British ambassador to Mexico) looks into and questions the claims of Braingym:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Brain Gym Exercises

Brain Gym is a commercial training program that claims that any learning challenges can be overcome by finding the right movements, the use of which will create new pathways in the brain. They claim that the repetition of the 26 Brain Gym movements "activates the brain for optimal storage and retrieval of information." Its theoretical foundation has been discredited by the scientific community, who describe it as pseudoscience. Peer reviewed scientific studies into Brain Gym have found no significant improvement in general academic skills. Its claimed results have been put down to the placebo effect and the benefits of breaks and exercise. Its founder, Paul Dennison, has admitted that many of Brain Gym's claims are not based on good science, but on his "hunches". It is widely used in British state schools. It is also offered to both children and adults in parts of the United States and Canada.

Have a look at this video and try the exercises to make up your own mind:

Invalid Reasoning

Follow the link below to download a document which explains invalid ("fallacious") reasoning. Use them to attack the arguments of somebody you disagree with. The link takes you to another site. Scroll down and click on the orange download button. Avoid the other links on this site as they take you to some advertising.

Invalid reasoning

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Prescribed Essay Titles 2009-2010

Your essay will be marked according to the assessment criteria in the theory of knowledge guide. Remember to centre your essay on knowledge issues and refer where possible to other sections of your course to illustrate your experiences as a knower and a critical thinker. Always justify your statements and provide relevant examples to illustrate your arguments, remembering to include ideas of counter points of view. Remember to properly cite any external sources (use the Harvard System).

Statements in quotations should be analysed, but it is not necessary to research their context. Respond to the exact title, do not change it in any way. Your essay must be between 1200 and 1600 words in length.

1. To what extent is truth different in mathematics, the arts and ethics?

2. Examine the ways empirical evidence should be used to make progress in different areas of knowledge.

3. Discuss the strengths and limitations of quantitative and qualitative data in supporting knowledge claims in the human sciences and at least one other area of knowledge.

4. How can the different ways of knowing help us to distinguish between something that is true and something that is believed to be true?

5. "What separates science from all other human activities is its belief in the provisional nature of all conclusions" (Michael Shermer, Critically evaluate this way of distinguishing the sciences from other areas of knowledge.

6. All knowledge claims should be open to rational critisism. On what grounds and to what extent would you agree with this assertion?

7. "We see and understand things not as they are but as we are." Discuss this claim in relation to at least two ways of knowing.

8. "People need to believe that order can be glimpsed in the chaos of events" (adapted from John Gray, Heresies, 2004). In what ways and to what extent would you say this claim is relevant in at least teo areas of knowledge?

9. Discuss the claim that some areas of knowledge are discovered and some are invented.

10. What similarities and differences are there between historical and scientific explanations?

and, in my best Spanish:

1. ¿En qué medida es diferente la verdad en las matemáticas, las artes y la ética?

2. Examine los modos en que deben utilizarse las pruebas empíricas para progresar en distintas áreas de conocimiento.

3. Discuta las ventajas y las limitaciones de los datos cuantitativos y los datos cualitativos para sustentar las afirmaciones de conocimiento en las ciencias humanas y en, al menos, otra área de conocimiento.

4. ¿Cómo pueden las distintas formas de conocimiento ayudarnos a distinguir entre algo que es verdad y algo que se cree que es verdad?

5. “Lo que distingue a la ciencia de todas las demás actividades humanas es que cree que todas las conclusiones son provisionales.” (Michael Shermer, Evalúe críticamente esta forma de diferenciar la ciencia de otras áreas de conocimiento.

6. Todas las afirmaciones de conocimiento deben estar abiertas a la crítica racional. ¿Por qué razones y en qué medida está de acuerdo con esta afirmación?

7. “Vemos y entendemos las cosas tal como somos, no tal como son.” Discuta esta afirmación en relación con al menos dos formas de conocimiento.

8. “Las personas necesitan creer que, entre el caos de los acontecimientos, es posible atisbar un orden.” (Adaptado de John Gray, Contra el progreso y otras ilusiones, 2004) ¿Cómo y en qué medida diría que esta afirmación es pertinente en al menos dos áreas de conocimiento?

9. Discuta la afirmación de que algunas áreas de conocimiento son descubiertas y otras inventadas.

10. ¿Qué semejanzas y diferencias hay entre las explicaciones históricas y las científicas?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Art of Nothing

"The Art of Nothing" is a mini-documentary about the work of artist Hans Freeberling. It showcases his 2001 exhibition. This consisted of an empty room with whitewashed walls. Is this great art or an elaborate joke to see how far an artist can push the idea of conceptual art? Can some critics be blind to the criteria which are required to make something a piece of art?

Monday, December 8, 2008

The art critic

In this clip a great art critic shares his ideas about his work:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Shark at the Met

Damien Hirst's Tiger Shark #2 (titled "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living") was recently moved to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Opinion of its artistic merits are divided, especially since Hirst had a new shark preserved by professional taxidermists in 2006 after the original piece of work (Tiger Shark #1) started to go rotton. Art collector Charles Saatchi comissioned the original piece in 1991. The shark itself cost Hirst £6000 and the total cost of the work was £50 000. The shark was caught by a fisherman commissioned to do so, in Australia. Saatchi sold the original piece in 2004 for 12 million dollars (not a bad investment). This made it the second highest price paid in history for the work of a living artist.

Hirst's usual response to those who say that anyone could have done this artwork is, "But you didn't, did you?".

My question is: is it possible to defend this work as a piece of art while you would presumably be unable to do so for my Granny's old stuffed cat? After all both of them are just dead animals prepared by professional taxidermists.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Arnold Schoenberg (13 September 1874 – 13 July 1951) was an Austrian and later American composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art. He was known for his pioneering innovations in atonality—during the rise of the Nazi party in Austria, his music was labeled, alongside swing and jazz, as degenerate art. Have a listen, and make your own mind up about some of his music. This is one of the more accessible pieces, "transfigured night".

Monday, December 1, 2008

An example of flawed reason

Monty Python and the Holy Grail