Belief and Truth - Fall 2005

Faculty Schedule Monday Seminars email and WebX Projects Essays Resources
Texts Week by week Seminar go to WebX Covenant   Quizzes & Surveys

Please check this page periodically for updates, at Updated 7.Oct.2005

Program description: What do you believe and why? Can you prove it? How, or why not? Does it matter whether you can prove what you believe? Does what you believe matter? Is everything relative? Is science just another belief system? What are the roles of conjecture, evidence, and theory in understanding? If these questions intrigue you, too, join us.

Here is our detailed program description for transcripts.

Faculty: Bill Arney, Lab II, room 3264
(360) 867-6097;
Office hours by appointment.
E. J. Zita, Lab II, Rm 2272
Office hours Wed. 12:30

Schedule: First class: 12:30 pm Tuesday 27 September 2005

This is a full-time program. Students should expect to spend more than 40 hours each week in class, reading, conducting individual research, and working in groups. If you have special concerns that should be brought to the attention of the faculty, please do so in the first days of the program. If something comes up later in the quarter that you suspect might affect your ability to complete the work of the program in a timely and responsible way, let us know right away.

weekend Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
read 10 am - noon: Seminar
Sem 2, B3107 and B3109
  9:30 -11:30 am: Seminar
Sem 2, B3107 and B3109
do assignments (1:00 Faculty Seminar) 12:30 - 3:00: All-Program meeting
Sem 2, B1105
11:30-12:30: All-Program meeting, Lecture Hall 4
  DUE 3:30: Seminar Memo 3:00-5:00: Seminar
Sem 2, B3107 and B3109
(12:30-1:30: Zita's office hours)
(Activities in parentheses are not required of students.)

For our weekly schedule of activities and assignments, please see the Syllabus.

Monday Seminars (or "pre-seminars")

First, have a seminar with your classmates on the assigned reading(s). The structure and conduct of the seminar are your business. The faculty will not be present and will not "check in." We offer only the following generic advice on the conduct of seminars:

1. Read the assignment completely in advance. Take notes on your reading. Note key points of the author, insights and connections you may find, and questions you have. For each of your points, insights, and questions, note the relevant page number(s) in the text.
2. Stick to the text, in seminar. It's the only thing you have in common. It's fine to talk about the lectures, workshops, or previous seminars if they help you understand the present text. A seminar is well served by the person who asks, "Have we strayed from a discussion of the text?" Be prepared to point to the text page with material related to your comments.
3. Pay close attention to the person who is speaking. Show that you are.
4. Pay attention to the group when you are speaking. Show that you are.
5. Take notes. Write down comments that strike you as odd, helpful, distracting, brilliant... Write down speakers' names.
6. Find out what everyone wants to discuss. Then, as a group, decide what is important to pursue as a group. Pursue those things (or that thing). If you start to sense that the group is about to leave a topic, ask, for example, "Are we done with the question about ___?" If everyone says, in one way or another, yes, say something like, "Then could someone summarize the discussion for me?" If that summary is accepted, then it's okay to move on; if not, you'll see what more there is to discuss.
7. Encourage quiet people to contribute, and encourage talkative people to develop their listening skills.

Second, reflect on your work in seminar and send those reflections to your seminar leader. Post this on WebX (for Zita) or e-mail this (to Arney) by 3:30 PM on Monday. (So many theories of education say that to become educated, you must first have an experience and, second, reflect on that experience. You've had the seminar. Your memo is your first chance to reflect on that experience. Tuesday's seminar will provide a second chance for reflection.) Your memo may become public. You should tell the truth.

Here are two ways to write your reflections. A. You can write a reflective narrative and analytical memo on the seminar.

1. Outline the discussion. List important points made, turns that were productive and turns that were not. Name names. For example, "Jason seemed to jump off the track of the discussion when he said ____. Then, . . . ." This sort of narrative is useful. You may want to be analytical also: "There was a concept that emerged from the debate among Heidi, Yukio, and Bob. It proved central to the whole seminar. The concept was ____ and it helped to _____."
2. Provide a summative statement that points toward questions that remain for discussion in Tuesday's seminar. Be specific, and refer to the text. Be concise.
3. Be substantial. The faculty will read these statements closely and you can expect them to respond to these statements in lectures and seminars on Tuesday and Wednesday. So you should be specific and substantial in your reporting and your reflection. You should also be specific and substantial because this is not just reporting on the group; it is an important part of your education in this class.
4. Things to avoid: (a) Complaints about the process or the group. We would much rather hear what you did, or what someone else did, to fix the problems and difficulties that inevitably arise in group discussions. (b) Guesses about why the faculty would assign such texts. If pressed, we could invent reasons for each assignment and, if lucky, we might even agree on our reasons. Begin from the premise that the text is a good one for the program. This premise will encourage you to spend your time discussing the text and not the non-existent "intentions of the faculty" or the "true and actual things we are supposed to get from this reading."
5. Bring a hardcopy of your seminar memo with you to Seminar on Tuesday. It should give you a starting point for the discussion.

B. Another way to structure your seminar memo can be in the form of Points, Insights, and Questions.
* Points: restate a few key points of each author, concisely, in your own words. Reference (author, page) for each point.
* Insights: articulate a few key insights reached in your seminar. Acknowledge specifically how individual classmates originated, clarified, and deepened the insights you find together.
* Questions: articulate questions that are still outstanding after your Monday seminar. You and your classmates can often answer "questions of fact" for each other (and those answers may constitute some of your Insights). You may clarify and deepen other questions which do not have simple answers. Such "significant questions" can launch substantial discussions in later seminars.

e-mail (for program business)

You will need an e-mail account for program business. All Evergreen students are assigned an e-mail account. You can find out how to use this account at

We encourage you to use your Evergreen account because you get campus notices and you are subscribed to the discussion lists. (You can "unsubscribe" from discussions if you wish.) You can have mail forwarded from your Evergreen account to another e-mail account by following these directions:

1. On the net go to
2. Enter your account name and password. (Just enter your account name; do not put the suffix on it.)
3. On the next page, got to "Change email preferences."
4. Enter the forwarding address.

Sometimes it takes a few days to put the forwarding into effect. You can check to see if anything is still landing in your Evergreen account at

It is your responsibility to ensure that your e-mail account is functioning. We will try to make sure that our e-mails, including attachments, are within the size-guidelines of most common Internet services. We cannot be responsible for mail undelivered because your inbox is full, you changed accounts without telling us, your dog ate your password….


WebCrossing (WebX)

Many of your assignments will be due as "posts" to WebX, which archives text, attachments, and links. This medium can record our work together and facilitate the development of our ideas. It can serve as an online "class journal," as described by Dr. Donald Finkel, to encourage ongoing conversations and accountability to each other - not just to your professors. You will learn to use WebX in workshops the first week of class.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have access to WebX when assignments are due. If you have technical difficulties, computer support technicians on campus (x6321) or your classmates can help. If the campus server is down, you are granted an automatic extension on assignments. We cannot be responsible for difficulties using WebX from your home computer, since you have access to campus computers.


Thursday Workshops

Campus support offices will provide workshops on most Thursdays. These will introduce you to various aspects of college life and work that can be vital to your success here. Workshops may include computer topics (WebX, MS-Word, electronic searches), library research, self-evaluation, and academic planning.



We strongly urge you to read, at your earliest convenience, the notes on dialogue written by Stringfellow Barr (on the web).

Barr began his presidency of St. Johns College, Annapolis, Maryland, in 1937. He and Scott Buchanan are responsible for the unique, great books curriculum of that college. The notes begin:

Perhaps the first obstacle to writing even these random notes on dialogue is that the very word, dialogue, has been temporarily turned into a cliché. Everybody is loudly demanding dialogue, and there is not much evidence that most of us are prepared to carry one on. Indeed, to borrow a traditional phrase from professional diplomats, conversations have deteriorated. But both radio and television, whether public or commercial, remind us daily that a lonely crowd hungers for dialogue, not only for the dialogue of theatre but also for the dialogue of the discussion program.
There is a pathos in television dialogue: the rapid exchange of monologues that fail to find the issue, like ships passing in the night; the reiterated preface, "I think that …" as if it mattered who held which opinion rather than which opinion is worth holding; the impressive personal vanity that prevents each "discussant" from really listening to another speaker and that compels him to use this God-given pause to compose his own next monologue; the further vanity, or instinctive caution, that leads him to choose very long words, whose true meaning he has never grasped, rather than short words that he understands but that would leave the emptiness of his point of view naked and exposed to a mass public.

Seminars should aim for dialogue. Dialogue, as Barr makes clear, is not an exchange of opinion. And even though modern definitions say that dialogue involves "conversation," they often do not point to the potential deep meaning of that word, a term that used to imply conversion, a turning of the soul. Dialogue, the word, is constructed from dia-, the prefix meaning "through" or "across," and -logue, a term that derives from logos, the Greek term for word/wisdom. Seminars should aim higher than chit-chat, higher than an exchange of views, higher than sharing, higher than an expression of opinions (along with the conventional respect that is to be accorded the other, as in, "You have your opinion, and …"); seminars should pursue wisdom. Enjoy.

On a practical, administrative level, we note simply that one function of speaking in seminar is to show that one has read and tried very hard, through dedicated study, to understand difficult texts. Beyond that, students will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

1. Demonstrating an ability to state, clearly and succinctly, the thesis of a book or a chapter or, in the case of works of fiction, to summarize the plot or describe the arc of the book.
2. Demonstrating an understanding of the principal concepts developed or used by an author and of the connections among concepts.
3. Demonstrating an understanding of the place of a work in the intellectual history of the discipline or, more broadly, in the history of ideas and practices. Works of fiction try, sometimes, purposefully to deviate from conventions. Students should be able to identify such deviations (which requires some knowledge of the conventional).
4. Making sustained, discussion-enlivening contributions that help everyone in the group to understand the texts better. (These interventions may be written and passed out in seminar.)
5. Paying close attention to the contributions of others in the seminar and to the course of the discussion; showing an ability to summarize the course of the discussion and then make a substantial contribution to the discussion's progress.
6. Demonstrating a cumulative understanding of the issues raised by the program.

People who do not participate in seminars are a drag, literally. They drag the group down to an unacceptable level. We've probably heard all the reasons for not participating. None are acceptable. There is plenty of evidence in our experience that those who participate in seminars learn more. They expose their ideas to critical evaluation (by colleagues, by teachers, by oneself) and allow themselves the opportunity to rethink what they know. Evergreen was built around dialogue in seminars. If this is something you'd rather not be part of, maybe Evergreen is not the best place to go to school.


Independent Project

A significant part of your learning in this program will involve looking more closely at a particular belief of your own. See details at Independent Projects.


BOOK LIST: Get these texts by the first day of class.

Angels and Demons (2001, Pocket Star; ISBN: 0671027360), by Dan Brown (Read this over the summer; it will jumpstart our dialogues.)

selections from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Ballantine 1997) ISBN: 0345409469), by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan

On Bullshit (2005, Princeton University Press, ISBN: 0691122946) by Harry G. Frankfurt.

True to Life: Why Truth Matters (2004, Bradford Books, MIT; ISBN: 0262122677) by Michael P. Lynch. Limited numbers of this text may be available in the College bookstore. If they are out, please order this text online in week 1, so you get it in time.

Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You (2003, Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 0743254236), by Gerd Gigerenzer

Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (University Of Chicago Press, 1996, ISBN: 0226458083) by Thomas S. Kuhn

Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?: Thinking from Women's Lives (Cornell, 1991, ISBN: 0801497469) by Sandra Harding

Do not buy the texts/articles below - we will provide selections in class.

Silja Samerski and Ivan Illich, "On the numerical allure of statistics," (available on program WebX site)

selections from Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe (Fourth Estate, 2005) by Simon Singh.

selections from Science for All Americans (Oxford, 1994, ISBN 0195067711) by the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science)



Finkel/Zita rules for essays   Barr, notes on dialogue Social Contract
Arney's Writing Tips     Student Conduct Code
Finkel chapter on class journal and responses   Sandoz and Mauney on essay responses and collaborative knowledge-making Expectations of an Evergreen Graduate
      Sexual Harassment Policy
Plagiarism tutorial and information      



Program Covenant Students Faculty Academic Honesty Human subjects review Resolving conflicts Evaluations Credit

The inquiry and experiences we have designed for members of this program require a common commitment to the tasks ahead and to one another. Our work together will be most fruitful when we overcome our creative inhibitions, prepare ourselves carefully to address the assigned program material, and when we bring our most careful personal reflections to our discussions. Our learning will depend on the mutual, reciprocal, and thoughtful contributions of each one of us. There must be a common agreement and commitment to do the assigned work, to participate in all program activities and to bring to our common inquiry a respect for our individual ideas.

Special Responsibilities of Students

1. Attend and arrive on time, fully prepared, for all scheduled program activities.
2. Participate fully in all program activities. Students must notify faculty of expected absences from the program, but students must recognize that there are no "excused absences." (There are times when one might not be able to attend program activities. You should tell us when you cannot attend, but we do not want to be forced to judge the adequacy or legitimacy of "excuses.") Share in group planning, evaluating, organizing, presenting, and other tasks related to program content, structure, and harmony.
3. Participation requires preparation. Do not come to class if you have not read assigned material. Students should own a copy of each assigned work, and bring it to each discussion of the work. Come to class after reading the assigned texts carefully and after you have formed questions and topics for discussion.
4. Submit all written work on time. Any work submitted after an announced deadline may not be read. The work should be complete and carefully edited. (Any variation on the excuse, "The dog ate my computer," is not acceptable.)
5. Participate effectively in seminars. Listen to and work with colleagues as you wish to be listened to and spoken with.
6. Read and abide by the principles of the college's Evergreen's Social Contract, Student Conduct Code, and Sexual Harassment policy, as well as this covenant. By staying in this program after week 1, you are affirming that you have read and understood these documents, accept their conditions, and agree to abide by them. Please ask right away if you are unsure of or have concerns about anything.
7. Write a self evaluation in a form appropriate for inclusion in one's transcript and an evaluation of the faculty. Participate in an evaluation conference. Your evaluations must be typed, signed, carefully edited, and submitted to the seminar leader by announced deadlines. Write informal evaluations of teammates, and formal evaluations of faculty.
8. If you miss a class, talk with other students to find out what you missed.
9. Be willing to learn by being open to new ideas, suggestions, points of view, and methods of instruction. Recognize that everyone, students and faculty alike, will blunder into mistakes, lapses in good judgment, indiscretions, poorly, even objectionably, phrased comments, and so on. Everyone must be willing to point these out honestly and then to continue learning from and with the other members of this program.
10. Take responsibility for your work and your learning. Respect your work and that of others.

We recognize that this is a demanding program, particularly given the other significant responsibilities many of you have. Please voice whatever problems or concerns you have early in the year so that we may deal with them constructively. And if something important arises during the program that may affect your ability to complete the program, let the faculty know as soon as possible.

Special Responsibilities of Faculty

1. Attend-and arrive on time for-all program activities and conferences.
2. Be carefully prepared for all class sessions.
3. Give prompt and careful responses to student work.
4. Be available for individual or small-group conferences with students.
5. Prepare final evaluations of students in a timely manner at the end of the quarter and meet with each student during an evaluation conference.
6. Notify in writing, by the end of the fifth week of the quarter, any student who is in danger of not receiving full credit. (Faculty will make the best judgments they can by mid-quarter, but everyone must recognize that students who do not receive a "fifth week warning" still may not receive full credit.)
7. Abide by the principles of the Social Contract and the Sexual Harassment Policy.
8. Be willing to learn by being open to new ideas, suggestions, points of view, and methods of instruction. Recognize that everyone, students and faculty alike, can blunder into mistakes, lapses in good judgment, indiscretions, poorly, even objectionably, phrased comments, and so on. Everyone must be willing to point these out, honestly, and then to continue learning from and with the other members of this program.

Academic Honesty

The work you submit must reflect your own ideas. When you are incorporating the views of others, whether they be those of published authors or of your seminar colleagues, acknowledge your sources. While much of the work in this program will be collaborative and the ensuing ideas will reflect the contributions of more than one person, get into the habit of acknowledging the people, texts, and ideas that have influenced you. There will be many times when you will be asked to take an individual position-in an essay or in a seminar discussion-and you must assert your own distinctive interpretation and judgments. The final work you submit must reflect your own judgment and analysis while also recognizing the contributions of people who have influenced your learning.

Failure to properly acknowledge contributions of others, or presentation of the work of others as your own, is plagiarism. Any student who plagiarizes material will be asked to leave the program and may be required to leave the College. Raise any questions or concerns you may have about the policy or about a particular instance with the faculty.

Human Subjects Review

If your writing involves interviewing, videotaping, or otherwise treats another person as an object of inquiry, it is important to comply with the Human Subjects Review Policy of the College. Packets can be obtained from the Academic Deans. This policy requires that you gain informed consent from any subject you are interviewing. You must complete the Human Subjects Review form and obtain the approval of a faculty member and the academic dean before you conduct any interviews. If you have questions, talk with a faculty member.

Resolving Conflicts

Academic and personal conflicts are common and to be expected in academic communities. The Social Contract lays out expectations about how we should deal with such conflicts:

Evergreen can thrive only if members respect the rights of others while enjoying their own rights.... All [members of the community] must share alike in prizing academic and interpersonal honesty, in responsibly obtaining and in providing full and accurate information, and in resolving their differences through due process and with a strong will to collaboration. (WAC 174-120-020)

We expect all members of the program to abide by the principle of honest and face-to-face resolution of conflicts. In the event you do not feel successful in resolving a conflict, bring your concerns to the attention, first, of your seminar leader. If the individual faculty member cannot resolve the problem, he or she will bring it to the attention of the faculty team and they will take steps to resolve the problem. Any conflicts that cannot be resolved by your own efforts or the efforts of your faculty will be referred to our program's Academic Dean. You may not skip steps in this process.

Evaluations and portfolios

Each student must attend a midquarter conference and final evaluation conference. Self-evaluations and completed portfolios are due by announced deadlines. Any student who misses the final eval conference forfeits input into his or her evaluation, and may lose credit.


The faculty will award full credit to every student who satisfactorily completes the assigned program work, on time. Final decisions about credit and evaluations will be made by the program faculty team at the end of the program. The faculty assume that everyone will do sufficiently good work to receive full credit. It is in everyone's best interest that this assumption be allowed to hold.

Except in truly extraordinary circumstances, no one will be allowed to carry an INCOMPLETE beyond the end of the program.

Maintained by E.J. Zita