The Pathetic Fallacy
Animism masquerading as science in education
Air hates to be crowded, and when compressed it will try to escape to an area of lower pressure.
This is what a teacher at the University of California at Davis suggests is one of the simple facts which intermediate students should master. Apart from the disturbing realization that the author apparently does not distinguish between pressure and density, there is the sad business of a post-medieval university proffering animism as science to children. Mind you, the airs hate, if thwarted, might well lead to desperation, as is explained at the University of Texas at Dallas.
the atmosphere tries more desparately [sic] to escape the decreasing volume
Maybe these teachers would also recommend that the atmosphere seek professional counseling so as to help it control its psychoses, and if so, from whom? the ocean? the mountains? or, maybe the Department of Animistic Psychiatry at one of their own universities?
|Pathetic Fallacy: The mistake of attributing human aspirations, emotions, feelings, thoughts, or traits to events or inanimate objects which do not even possess the capacity for such qualities. See, for example, the discussion in The Encyclopedia Brittanica.|
And so it is, that I have come to deplore the frequent use of the pathetic fallacy as a device for teaching science.
|Animism: A belief that there there is conscious life --- spirits --- which occupy and animate things in the natural world such as the rocks and the air. For someone who was an animist, the things of which I complain would not be fallacious, but appropriate. For someone teaching science, on the other hand....|
Do you mean to say that someone claiming to be a teacher actually wrote that? Alas, yes. The cited statements are quotations of things found in the documents at the time they were posted here. It may be that what is being said, when you visit the source, will have changed, possibly in response to the criticism found here. If that is so, that change is a good thing for science teaching. However, this would not nullify the value of the original as an example of bad science teaching.
What and the Why
|Rule: When discussing the behavior of the natural world, you are not obliged to explain it; you could merely describe it. However, if you do offer an explanation, you are obliged to get it right.|
Art and Science
know you are in trouble if...
few examples from places which should know better
|University of Alaska||An anticyclone has higher pressure in its center than around its edges, so the air tries to flow away from the high-pressure core.|
|Colorado State University||A small storm tries to develop in the stratiform-covered region|
|University of Michigan||Because opposites attract, the - charge at the bottom of the thunder cloud wants to link up with the + charge of the Earth's surface.|
|University of Vermont||This hurricane wants to bring a powerful combo of wind and rain to our forecast|
|National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (USA)||If the tornado wants the windows open believe me, it will open them whether you like it or not!|
|University of Pittsburgh||Ideally wind wants to move perpendicular to isobars (lines of equal pressure) from high pressure to low pressure but because of the coriolis force it does not|
|Astronomical Society of the Pacific||Because it gets colder as you go up, the atmosphere wants to convect.|
|University of Oregon||Even though it sometimes seems like the atmosphere tries harder, the oceans are more successful at transferring heat...|
|University of Virginia||Sunlight heats the Earth and the atmosphere tries to redistribute the heat from warm areas to cool areas.|
|University of Hawaii||Rain water runs off the mountains toward the ocean; it tries to run down the steepest slope it can find|
|Saint Louis University||The atmosphere likes to absorb IR radiation so we have an imbalance.|
|Ohio State University||The water molecules align with the field, as the field changes, the water attempts to change its position to align with the field.|
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