4th Grade Quiz: Four Ways Not to be Fooled

“What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino?”  goes the old joke. The answer: Elephino (hell if I know)!

To the question of whether the attached image is the real thing, that’s the best I can figure out. (Click to see it full-size.)

I saw it this morning on the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason Facebook page, a link shared by J.O., commenter from Gothenburg, Sweden. The original image appears to be from Imgur.

The Imgur side-caption says the picture was posted 14 hours ago (from the time I write this), and has 473,915 views.

Both images are purported to be an “Actual 4th grade science test from a school in SC.”

Real or not? I’m still looking into it. The thing is, the image strains my mind enough that I’m afraid it’s a fake. Nobody could be teaching THAT, could they?

On the other hand, for entirely different reasons, I’m afraid it’s real. Yeah, they COULD be teaching that.

But is it real? Given the daily demands of our individual lives, most of us will gloss over the question and settle for our simple reaction. But … for every lie tossed out there, someone has to look into it and report back to the rest of us, and maybe sometimes that person should be you. First so you can satisfy yourself about what sorts of things take place in the real world, second so you can report back.

But also, and very importantly, so you can defend yourself against manipulation. If you have a “button” that can be pushed, so that you react in a predictable way every single time it’s pushed, there are people who will find a way to use that against you. There’ s a whole industry of button-pushers out there, sad to say, and they’re experts at getting us to jump in ways that benefit them. And jump not just as individuals, but as HERDS of us, stampeding here and there at the will of the whip-wielders driving us.

There are a few powerful tools that can keep you safe from that.

First is Reason itself. Consider the thing before you on its face, calmly and carefully looking for logical fallacies, faulty assertions, outright lies, all the hints of falseness and foolery.

Second but simultaneous is the willingness to look beneath the surface of the thing, to seriously investigate it, to follow leads in as many directions as you can, so you’ll have something to reason about.

Third is this: Band together with a community of like-minded reasoning people so you have brothers-in-arms to wade into the thing with you, or in your stead. Trust them to help you. Encourage their own trust, in return, by being trustworthy.  (Never lie to them, never fool them, never play jokes on them for your own amusement.)

Fourth is your own individuality, which serves as your personal defense against both the original whip-crackers and your own people (who sometimes make mistakes, and even conduct their own stampedes, as I hope we all know).

So here’s me investigating: I first looked at the Dawkins page, then the Imgur link, enlarging both to be sure I was looking at the same image.

The sheet looks real enough. The “Smile” sticker is a believable touch, as is the “100 A+” in red pencil. The handwriting might be a bit too good for a 4th grader (10 or 11 years old, here in the U.S.), but it’s within the range of possibility. I noted the date on the page: March 28, 2013. Recent. But again, where?

Second, I read the caption and comments on the Dawkins site. One suspicious detail is that there’s no further information. South Carolina where? Which school? Who originally found it and brought it to light?

I clicked the link and went to the Imgur site. No detail there, but there is a second page attached, a partial page showing the question “18. The next time someone says the earth is billions (or millions) of years old, what can you say?” With a scribbled-in answer: “were you there”.

Next, I opened a Google Image Search, dragging the image from the Imgur page into the search window, where I got a small number of hits, only one of which was new, and germane.

Look at comments on the Science Fact page. Though most are of the shock-and-horror variety, there is one that appears seriously sympathetic to the religious viewpoint:

Lee Swanson: There are so many theophobes and anti-religious bigots here. It’s hard to believe all the hate. I think what I am seeing is that many are offended, probably because you don’t like the implication that you were created. If you were created, you might have to change your like style because there is a God from whom you need forgiveness. Also, do all you evolutionists really think you are so logical and scientific when you believe in any idea except the one that make the most sense. For example: There are only four logical possible explanations for the existence of the universe. 1. It came from nothing by nothing, which is what many evolutionists believe. This is scientifically impossible. 2. It is eternal. Finite, contingent things cannot be eternal. We still acknowledge a cause and effect universe, so eternality is not an option. 3. It is an illusion and the universe really isn’t here. (eastern religions). 4. Someone or something (God) outside of the universe brought it into existence. Go ahead, evolutionists, pick option one, but then you have to acknowledge you are clinging to your own religion based on faith, not fact or science.

So there’s reason to believe that there are people out there willing to defend this stuff, if not on its face then at least by attacking any critics as mere haters.

I checked with Snopes.com, and searched “4th Grade Science Quiz” and “Science Quiz,” but got no useful hits.

I would strongly doubt it’s in a public school. Even in South Carolina, some parent would eventually react. If it’s real, this would be either a private Christian school or a home-school.

Okay, that’s the thing itself. What about the thing beyond the thing? In other words, who and why and where and when?

If it’s real, it’s scary on its own, and deserves further investigation about where and why this is being allowed. But there’s still the question of motivation.

One possible motivation is that it came from a parent who dares not get involved, but who wants someone to do something about it. So this would be someone on our side of the fence.

A second motivation would also involve someone from our side, someone not directly involved but who also wanted something done. This one seems less likely; one of us would have posted the full details of where and when this took place, so we COULD respond to it.

If it’s not real — if somebody faked it up — questions about who did it and why arise. The existence of it suggests that whoever did it would know there’d be some sort of shock-and-outrage reaction from people in the pro-science, pro-education, anti-religious-indoctrination camps. The joker’s motive is opaque, of course, but it would seem likely to be the simple tweaking of noses, the desire to stir up outrage and then laugh about it privately.

But the possibility that it’s a “herder” bears thinking about too. Just because you’re NOT paranoid doesn’t mean there aren’t people out to get you. Or control you. And this thing is rather professional looking, don’t you think?

So: Are we being herded? Who would benefit? Not enough information; shelve it for now but keep it in mind. (Also keep in mind that it could even be someone in our own camp.)

Whether the joker is churchy or freelance, he/she knew we’d react to it, and probably how. We haven’t disappointed him.

Pending further information, I tend to lean very slightly toward thinking this might be fake.

I hope it is.

Adventures in Cholecystectomy Land – Part 1

daVinciProbably more than you wanted to know, but …

I promised myself I would blog about this, and so I am:

I went to the hospital on Friday for my pre-admission session, in preparation for gallbladder surgery – by an actual robot! – next Friday. Before surgery, they want to make sure you’re up to it, so they do blood tests, EKG, etc.

I aced the tests. One of the nurses even told me she really liked having people like me, because so many of her patients were, you know, smokers and such, and had multiple medical problems. She asked me all the questions – Are you a smoker or drug user? Do you drink alcohol? Ever had a heart attack or stroke? Any trouble breathing or swallowing? Etc. – and I answered No, No, No, and we just sailed through it.

Heh. One question: Do you have any religious preference you’d like the doctor or hospital to know about?

Easy one: No. (You ain’t gettin’ ME to tell one or more possibly-goddy people I’m an atheist and then placing my life in their hands. I’d sooner sweep into a restaurant and insult the entire minimum-wage staff just prior to dining. )

Continue reading “Adventures in Cholecystectomy Land – Part 1”

A Study in Conflict Between Island Cultures (Repost)

It doesn’t get much play in the publicly-available cultural anthropology literature, but there’s an island in the Pacific where an interesting conflict has played out over generations.

The island, which has an untranslatable name – generally rendered in English as  “Ryeezahn” –  is occupied by two tribes, the Kritsi and the Syenz, which have been at war for generations, a war temporarily restrained in an uneasy peace.

The root of the conflict, as visiting anthropologists have documented, is unequal resource distribution brought on by a drastic inequality in living space. The size of the Syenz territory is more than 20 times that of the Kritsi.   Continue reading “A Study in Conflict Between Island Cultures (Repost)”

Dear Mr. President

Oh man, I am so glad you won. Whew! Mitt Romney just scared the hell out of me. And Ryan a heartbeat away from the presidency? No way!

I know you have a lot on your plate right now, but … I’m going to toss one more serving up there.

“ABCD by 2023” is an ambitious scientific research project I’d like to see Americans undertake. Briefly, it’s a 10-year Apollo-style project against four diseases: Alzheimer’s. Birth defects. Cancer. Diabetes.

For the rest of it, I hope you’ll forgive me for presenting it as a presidential speech: Continue reading “Dear Mr. President”

How the Wind Does Blow

I don’t know why this intrigues me so much, but there’s a place online where you can see close-to-realtime maps of the actual WIND — Wind Map — in motion!

Click to zoom, mouse-hover to see the wind speed at any point, and look at some of the past maps to see weird and wonderful patterns of the river of atmosphere flowing over and around us.

Balls Out at the Speed of Sound

CREDIT: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull Content Pool

There are a lot of “stunts” I don’t care much for. David Blaine standing for 72 hours in a chamber with Tesla-coil lightning … well, he might as well have stood there for 72 hours with a coin taped to his forehead.

When I was about 5 years old I decided I would stay up all night by myself, just to see what it was like. The answer is: Boring.

Ditto for David Blaine. Yes, it’s sort of impressive that someone can stand on their feet for 72 hours without a bathroom break. But it’s the standing there that’s the real deal. The rest is just bells and whistles, which makes it a silly accomplishment, and not worth watching. Continue reading “Balls Out at the Speed of Sound”

60th Birthday Whale Watching Tour a Success!

I done seen whales!

But you don’t get to see them unless you click below the fold. The pictures are so awesome, so breathtaking, that I fear you will be awed and breath-taked to the point that you’ll pass out and fall onto a smaller, less massive bystander — possibly a child or a dog.

Meanwhile, content yourself with this picture of an extremely rare bird known as a “sea gull.” (Click to embiggen.) Continue reading “60th Birthday Whale Watching Tour a Success!”