Week 6, Essay 3 Responses

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Week 6, Essay 3 – Responses
It’s good to see more of you responding, but I am concerned that many of these responses are not critically engaging. Lots of “I agree”, less “have you thought about.” Please review our readings for the first Thursday workshop, week 1, for guidance on writing more valuable responses to your colleagues.

McCornack –

Harding’s “lake of solid evidence’ sounds like a god think – I mean good thing – not something that would make her case “open for debate”.
Homonyms and typos aside… You want to argue that you can understand the experiences of Others by “observer”ing them. Harding strongly disagrees. This is a classic example of the solipsism of the insider. First understand why. You might start by responding to Brandon Cavazos’ essay and having a conversation with him.
You suspect Harding does not really mean what she says? but is making a “tactical point”. Philosophers are infamous for that kind of trick, but what evidence do you have in this case?
Your second point (connection?) about the uncertainties in how to choose a value-based research programme is stronger than your first.

Harris –
… and on the patient’s suggestibility, if it comes to that.

In your third paragraph, after a few false turns, you finally get to your question – is your asthma psychosomatic, induced by doctors’ suggestions? You provide counter-evidence: you have symptoms of asthma, and asthma medication relieves your symptoms. How could you test your new hypothesis? I don’t recommend skipping treatment that could be potentially life-saving, but then, I’m not that kind of doctor.
Your essay questions your own reasoning at least as much as your doctors’. Your newfound? skepticism and cynicism may become more than mere reaction when you are able to challenge arguments with compelling evidence.
Calculating Risks? Writing is more credible when an author gets little things right (like the title of the book he’s discussing).


Cutrona - Please rewrite. This draft has too many errors to read at this stage. Start by fixing the errors in your title. Read Finkel’s rules, and follow them. Post your rewrite no later than Thus.10.Nov.
Wendy K – Doctors don't always know
Why did you distrust your doctors when they all said the same thing? I'm curious whether you eventually had the surgery, and whether it helped?
How does this connect to putting too much faith in our doctors? You did what Gigerenzer advises - you got second opinions, you asked questions.
Is there something in your experience that illustrates doctors' fallibility? It appears this is your feeling, but the evidence is not so clear to me.
PS – Remember to take EVERY essay to the writing center first. You need help with basics such as punctuation, including use of apostrophes and commas. Subjects and verbs must agree. “A doctor” is singular, but “they” is plural. Writing well should be one basic goal for you as a college student.

Steever –

Please help your reader understand what you mean by “concrete” right up front. This is a new word, not commonly used by any of our authors.
“New paradigms are always being accepted” - really? I thought Kuhn said that was a revolution, which was rather uncommon?
I do not understand your sentence about Sagan. Read it aloud. Is that what you meant to write?
What you have written is an outline of an essay. To write an actual essay, you would turn each key point into an actual paragraph. Support each claim with evidence. Connect ideas. Convince your reader.

Shah – Kuhn and Harding argue that paradigm-hopping is virtually impossible. First understand their arguments, then make your counterargument, if possible. Instead, you build your argument on the unsupported assumption that paradigm-hopping is possible.

It is still not quite clear, after all the words in your first three paragraphs, what you mean by paradigm. Why focus on lab experiments if you are really concerned with language and ideas? You finally use Whorf’s words to explain the notion of paradigm that interests you. Now, what will you do with it?
“How can we understand each other if we inhabit different paradigms?” Good question, one that is investigated in quite some depth by Harding and Kuhn. Once you understand their investigations, you will be ready to start your own. You have not yet done so.
Editor’s notes: I believe I gave you this feedback on an earlier essay: Eliminate unnecessary words. Take first drafts to the writing center. Focus, hone, polish. Don’t distract the reader from your important points with tangential words.
Waltzing and hopping. It is very difficult to use metaphors gracefully, consistently, and effectively. Until then, aim first for clarity.

Slobodkin – Your thesis is correct, and shows good understanding of our authors’ main points (and some of your profs’ lectures). Your essay would be richer and more effective if you set up the social constructionists’ perspectives more specifically (instead of in one sentence each), to really draw out the apparently relativist implications - then surprised your reader with a compelling counterargument. (What does progress have to do with truth? Something, actually.)

What you have written is the outline of an essay. The full essay has yet to be written. You could do it, and it could be a good piece of work.
Who is Angela Harding?

Plotkin – Rhetoric vs. Truth

Emotional appeals and anecdotal evidence are more effective than data and reason, for most people, you have found. (Is that part of why Fox News attracts more media consumers than NPR does?) Plato observed this, and concluded that only the educated should make governing decisions. Sagan observed this, but does not give up hope in reason and data. You are wondering how to communicate with people with both integrity and effectiveness. Are these mutually exclusive? Can a combination of the two techniques be effective yet honest? See if you can find hope in Sagan.

Beautiful determinism vs. Simple statistics? (Laura M)

Simplicity is one form of beauty, as criteria for judging scientific theories. Its virtue is not merely aesthetic; it can also signal clearer understanding and stronger, more generally applicable descriptions (e.g., not weakened by many conditionals, or “ifs”).
Where does Gigerenzer argue against simplicity? How is the use of statistics in conflict with simplicity in the scientific sense?
What is the connection to systems thinking? I’m trying to follow your argument… Statistics evokes for you the image of the patient as a cog in a machine, which you find ugly? Therefore systems thinking is ugly?
What is the connection to determinism? You see this as mastery-and-control, aiming for certainty. Beautiful but not simple.
I’m not sure these juxtapositions and connections all work. Could you convince me they do?
You conclude that simplicity will sink determinist medicine. It’s not clear to me how this follows, and what it means.

Fair critique of Sagan, Steve, and many scientists would agree with you.

Sagan’s definition does seem at odds with the one you looked up. Perhaps he is using the wrong word. Do you sense any element of truth in the quote you center? You, do in your third paragraph, and so do many of us. Science can inspire awe, and awe can inspire science.
“Sagan wishes to dispel the existence of these profound emotions in favor of concrete explanations of the universe.” It’s not so clear that this is a fair critique. Can you support it more compellingly?

Kristol: Doctors should use natural frequencies, you agree. But what if doctors don’t understand the statistics themselves? What are other obstacles to clear communication? What if doctors rely too much on memorized formulae and too little on reason? Simple adoption of G’s mind tool will help, but does not take the place of clear understanding and valid reasoning. Usually your essays go deeper, Kristol.

By the way, depending on how a question is posed, probabilities are in many cases easier to use than natural frequencies – which is why probabilities were invented.
N.B: Learn the difference between Doctors and Doctor’s.

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