Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘experiments

Testing 3,000 years of babbling

Goethe said “he who cannot draw on 3 thousand years is living from hand to mouth.”  

Philosophers have been arguing how man acquired knowledge, what he did with all that knowledge, and for what purpose.

Plato position was that there is nothing in the natural world that has not first existed in the world of ideas and that “the soul yearns to fly home on the wings of love to world of ideas. It longs to be freed from the chain of the body.”

The Irish bishop, George Berkeley (1685-1753), recaptured Plato concept and ventured even further “our sense perceptions proceed from God” and denied the existence of the material world beyond the human mind.

Aristotle countered Plato and wrote “nothing exist in consciousness that has not first been experienced by the senses; Plato is doubling the number of things.”

David Hume, the contemporary of Berkeley, Voltaire, and Rousseau (the Enlightenment Age in Europe), fine tuned the philosophy of Aristotle in what is called the empirical method for acquiring knowledge and said “no philosophy will ever be able to take us behind the daily experiences or give us rules of conducts that are different from those we get through reflections on everyday life.”

I propose that we test the two seemingly “opposing” hypothesis.

It is theoretically feasible to do the set of experiments, though we might face difficult ethical problems and a few confounding effects.

For example; we may select an experimental group of children, aged less than one year, and confine each child in separate rooms.  The only connection to the real world would be a wide screen showing all kinds of objects, animals, plants, people, sceneries of the environmental and geographic varieties on earth, along with all kinds of functions and relations of “laws of nature”. 

Color and audio sounds may or may not accompany the movies, depending on the experimental designs.

Consequently, the senses of touch, odor, and temperature will be reduced to the bare minimum; the senses of hearing and seeing of real objects will be restricted to the family member or nurse delivering food and health care.

There are several confounding variables that are difficult to control.

First, the child has to be fed and cared for.  A task that will inevitably get the child in contact with many real world “objects” and psychological diversities.

How this experimental group will fair compared to a control group of children in constant and free contact with the real world?

Obviously, the prime test should first focus on brain association processes before venturing in testing other forms of intelligence.

The experiments will vary in the age groups of children, the duration of the experiment, the programs on the screen, the duration of projections and their frequencies per day, the type of human contacts for caring to the well being of the child, and so on.

In any event, these experiments will provide directions to the strength of the theory that says “it is contact with real objects and the real world that is the foundation for acquiring knowledge.” 

They might provide better insight on the most advantageous age for exposing children to real world “objects”.

Second confounding factor that cannot be controlled and which is “Do genes, through a couple of million years of evolution, have any effect in supplying or overcoming deficiencies from lack of contact with the real world?”

If Plato is correct, then a human child, born say on planet Mars and then relocated to earth while still a child, will not be able to build a coherent world more complex than earth born children; simply because his “set of ideas” were confirmed in environments richer and more varied in objects and conditions; the assumption is that the child born in Mars had no time enough to build all the relevant associations in his brain.

I think that each object has many images in our mind or definitions, and depends on our mood, circumstances, and environment.

People who are intelligent in one form or another had brain mechanism of better association capabilities when they were children than do deficient children.

Part-time jobs within campus; (Ch. #38)

 

I was denied any kinds of scholarship in my first semester (1985) and my saved money ($5,000) had evaporated by the second semester.

In the second semester I received a quarter time scholarship that enabled me to pay tuitions at the same rate as US students. My scholarship was raised to half-time the next year. 

Throughout my PhD program, I had to work on at least three part-time jobs, at minimum wages inside campus by regulation, to make ends meet:  I could not earn a residence status to work outside the perimeter of the campus. Not many foreign students cared about these mean limiting laws, but I was raised to obey the law!

I used to wake up at 4 a.m. to start my first job cleaning libraries and class rooms, buffeting the floor, vacuum cleaning the sofas and on. I then rushed to attend a few classes, and off to serve lunch in banquets of hundreds of persons… I tried to study some more and then back to the main library in the evening to dumping the waste baskets, cleaning the restrooms before it closes at midnight.  I had to keep clean from trash four ultra vast floors of the university. A clean space for the students to have a proper place to study and chat:  The Students job was to dirty the floors again and again.

Other “sanitation engineer” employees would make the round once before closing; I did more than two rounds.  I had a kernel in the library to study in isolation, but I mostly used that tiny quarter for moments of solitude.  In addition to all these menial chores, I had to correct and grade countless homework and exams to satisfy the requisite hours for my scholarship.

The worst part was that I was excluded from the exciting projects that I applied for, of grants received by my department from companies. Most of the time, I was denied access to projects under the pretense of military or security credentials. For example, operation and quantifying the capabilities of jet pilots, or the control and displays in the redesigned new Ford motor series.    

I had attempted twice to present proposals not in the line of my advisor’s wishes, until he finally gave me an ultimatum to do according to his directives because he would no longer extend any grants.  I thus worked hard for a semester on his project that was related to safety and risk perception within a make-shift experimental chemistry lab environment. 

I have to mention that the company contracted by the university to publish dissertations sent me a letter stating that there is a page lacking and it needed corroboration or correction and I was no longer in the mood of handling anything related to my dissertation. 

I had paid over $100 for my dissertation to be published and for a copy left in the main library. All that I know is that I borrowed money to officially graduate, and I paraded in my gown, taken pictures and my diploma handed to me by my advisor.  Enough was enough. 

The light at the end of the tunnel was barely visible and my Golgotha road was just starting.

I experienced all kinds of part-time jobs after graduating PhD in Industrial engineering: Working at all kinds of fast food chains, all kinds of small and large restaurants, facilities for the elderly persons…

My dad had sent me a letter telling me that Maitre Emile Bejjani managed to reserve a position for me at the AUB in Beirut, but this harrowing and grueling period for graduating forced me to shun academic positions for years. 

I recall that I filled the application to the AUB but didn’t send it: I had to experience life in the USA a little more, and get my fill of humiliations and indignities. 


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2020
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