Posted in Book Reviews (updating)

Moral Facts and Your Opinion

Good morning, afternoon, and night to the world. Today we’re talking about why our children don’t think there are moral facts.

What’s your first impression of that sentence? Besides my obvious P.C inclusivity for the entirety of the world (brownie points?), what do you think of the term “moral facts?” This would ultimately require you to believe that there are absolutes: a fact is, after all, absolutely true. So then, is it absolutely true that murder is wrong? Is right and wrong all there is to morality? There are questions you must ponder. Does this make it subjective? We could go through this all morning, afternoon, and night.

But first, let’s start with the essay I read entitled “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts” by Justin P. McBrayer, written back in 2015.

McBayer starts with the definitions of facts and opinions provided by his son’s second grade classroom, which can be easily googled:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

At first glance, this feels, sounds, and looks right. McBayer gives reasons why it’s dead wrong.

Firstly, he says that truth and proof have very different features. For example, it can be true that I am feeling sad, but you can’t prove that; you can’t see inside of my head, and I’m excellent at hiding my feelings. McBayer also says that many things which have been “proved” have turned out false. This is the limitation of our physical experience. He also states that if proof is “required for facts, then facts become person-relative.” This means that if I can prove E=MC^2 as a physicist, and you cannot, that equation becomes fact for me but not for you, a non-physicist.

What’s worse, McBayer says, is that “students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions.” Remember those quizzes back in school, usually life science or something, where they made you sort phrases into facts or opinions? I remember them. I remember getting half of them wrong consistently. Do you?

McBayer asked his son a very simple question to show how mixed up this sort of black and white thinking is: he said, “I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that fact or opinion?” His son said it’s a fact. McBayer replies, “but I believe it, and you said what someone believes is an opinion.” His son says but it’s true, and McBayer replies, “so it’s both a fact and an opinion?”

So, some things that were classified as an opinion in his son’s homework were:

“Copying homework assignments is wrong.”

“All men are created equal.”

“It is wrong for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.”

Value claims, the worksheet says, are not facts. McBayer claims this means that public schools teach students there are no moral facts, by way of understanding all value and moral claims call into opinion category. The problem is, in the real world, it’s required of us to “acknowledge the existence of moral facts,” otherwise we could murder and justify not being outraged.

The issue here isn’t what’s being taught really, in my OPINION, but the inconsistencies: either we acknowledge morals or we don’t. Either we teach them or we don’t. Lending mixed signals is what confuses children, and once they get old enough to truly critically think about philosophy, we’ll introduce the big topics.

What do you all think? Are there moral facts? Are there universal truths? What have you learned?

Until next time.

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Posted in science, Uncategorized, writing

Why I’m Leaving Behind Psychology as a Major (but still read and talk about research).

It’s not challenging enough, simple as that.

It’s also one of those majors where 80-90% of the students pass because it’s not challenging enough. And what I mean by that is it’s easy to get through a class without doing the supplemental reading or textbook work. You can even write papers without reading all the research necessary for your paper–and still pass.

The problem with textbooks and laxadasical studying is that these students grow into clinical professionals who believe their intuition knows better than science. Now, in some cases, intuition is important. Maybe your client has a tendency toward injuring themselves, and you notice this is increased when they lack eye contact in a session, talk softly, and rub their hands. You ask if they’ve had thoughts of hurting themselves, and maybe that client is comfortable with you, so they admit it. That’s using your intuition correctly.

When you believe that you know how to treat someone’s Panic Disorder or PTSD over the ONLY emprically proven method of CBT, you’re being clinically arrogant.

You can sit here and tell me “well this treatment worked better for me than CBT.” Great. The problem is that’s anecdotal. If we studied your treatment specifically, maybe we’d find your psychologist hyped up the treatment so much, your effects were placebo. Granted, once you knew that, your symptoms could come back full force, but at least you’re know the truth.

If you’re a psychology major and don’t know what “anecdotal” means, you’re only proving my point.

I know many people whose mindset is “C’s get degrees” and that’s true. For some classes like physics where the required GPA at my university is 2.7, that’s true. Those classes are HARD.

If your mindset in psychology is “Cs get degrees” and you become a clinician with the “C’s get degrees” mindset, I wouldn’t want you on my professional team. It’s nothing against you personally, it’s about the drive, the motivation, and the curiosity. I want all three of those things in someone who is digging into my brain.

You can also say there are a lot of different career options under psychology, and that’s true, but none of them interest me. It’s all a bunch of reading and that’s just not challenging enough.

Research psychology tickles my fancy, but what’s the point when the people who are supposed to be reading the papers (clinicians and professionals) DON’T READ THEM.

I. . .

It’s BAFFLING.

Almost sickening.

The general public still believes chemical imbalance is a proven theory, when it’s nothing more than a poorly supported hypothesis (that’s been debunked by researchers many times) that got headway in the media and is easier to accept than “we don’t know what’s going on, maybe people are just a variety of human” or “maybe people are more traumatized than we realize.”

In fact, a lot of research gets headway in the media. Often if you hear a researcher in the news, their article isn’t peer reviewed nor do they have multiple replications of their data under their belt. They just want the recognition. The writers who write about science don’t always have a background in it, mostly a background in journalism or English, and purport things that aren’t discussed in the research or that they are misconstruing; they don’t understand methods and procedures, and therefore misrepresent the findings.

That’s what propels me toward science writing. If I can impact the public, if I can help researchers get valid experiments out to the general public, that would be grand. I’ll have a background in lab science as well as psychology research and I’ll understand when a researcher puts out an article talking about the black hole in the center of our universe, I’ll know it to mean we’re not getting sucked in right away.

I’m not saying don’t pursue psychology. I think they are many great students as well, who are going into it with the mindset of “I want to make a difference.” And that’s beautiful. Just make sure you understand the facts and the research and you and I will be fine.

I’m writing this for others but also for myself. It’s been hard deciding to drop a major I once fell in love with. It’s a break up. I’m processing emotions and feelings of betrayal.

It’s hard, guys.

Until next time.

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