Belief and Truth - Fall 2005
Please check this page periodically for updates, at http://academic.evergreen.edu/curricular/beliefandtruth.
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
Schedule: First class: 12:30 pm Tuesday 27
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.
parentheses are not required of students.)
||10 am - noon: Seminar
Sem 2, B3107 and B3109
||9:30 -11:30 am: Seminar
Sem 2, B3107 and B3109
||(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
Sem 2, B3107 and B3109
(12:30-1:30: Zita's office hours)
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
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.
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.
notes. Write down comments that strike you as odd, helpful,
distracting, brilliant... Write down speakers' names.
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
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 _____."
a summative statement that points toward questions that remain for
discussion in Tuesday's seminar. Be specific, and refer to the text.
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
5. Bring a hardcopy of your seminar memo with you
to Seminar on Tuesday. It should give you a starting point for the
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
|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 http://www.evergreen.edu/netservices/Accounts/studentuserpass.htm
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 http://my.evergreen.edu
2. Enter your
account name and password. (Just enter your account name; do not put
the @evergreen.edu 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 http://www.evergreen.edu/webmail
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….
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
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
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
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
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.
Demonstrating an understanding of the principal concepts developed
or used by an author and of the connections among concepts.
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
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
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.
Demonstrating a cumulative understanding of the issues raised by the
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.
A significant part of your learning in this program will involve
looking more closely at a particular belief of your own. See details
|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,
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
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)
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
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,
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
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.)
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,
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
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.
If you miss a class, talk with other students to find out what you
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
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
2. Be carefully prepared for all class
3. Give prompt and careful responses to student
4. Be available for individual or small-group conferences
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
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.
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.
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
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