Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We don’t need no education, part 2

[a re-post, brought about by this post]

(Part 1 was a post on giving birth and has nothing to do with science.)

One can hear from many people that learning science is bad for your soul. I agree. Having a sample size of 1, I can confirm: it is.

Then there is an argument that a Jew needs to know enough to survive in this world. A Jew needs to get to work in Lexington, while he lives in Brookline; so, he needs a car (ever tried mass transport in Boston area?). So, he needs to know how to drive a car. Doesn’t mean he has to be a mechanic or watch TopGear on Youtube, right?

But here comes the question: how much education is enough?

Let me give you an example. Most frum families have little kids. Most frum families at one point or another come to a fork in their lives where they have to make a decision: to own a microwave or not. There are two ways a modern Jew can answer this question: 1) write to Igros, 2) see what the secular world has to say on microwaves.

At this point, a frum Jew comes across this study by Reynolds et al. (2006). You can read the study on the web-site, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll just post the picture:

So, based on this picture, what does a person with no scientific education above 5th grade level conclude? Microwaves, like organic chemistry or theory of evolution, are the work of the devil. Indeed.

Now, I could tell you my thoughts, but since I work in science industry, and my older sister works in microwave industry, some could think I am biased. So, I will quote some statements from this here website. Let’s see:
I took two people, fed one an egg breakfast every day, the other toast and jam.
Guess what, the toast and jam guy died. I guess toast and jam kills people.
Sample size is everything...

By "double blind", you mean both the experimenter AND the plants need to be unaware of what is being administered? [OK, this comment is just for fun.]

Microwaves heat by exciting water molecules (or other molecules). Although things can be heated unevenly and complex molecules could (possibly) break down if they were heated enough, WATER does not change with a microwave. If you microwave distilled water, and cool it down again, it is STILL distilled water. Any "scientific" experiment which shows otherwise has an error and in this case there are many possible sources.

A plastic container introduces hydrocarbon residue in a microwave which could affect growth. One plant is not nearly enough. Try 50 of each. Then do it again.

1947 called, they want their poor understanding of technology back.

You know, "Think about it" isn't really a good substitute for actual evidence. My stove is black, the color of death; think about it!

Hooray little girl who will learn about control as she gets older!
OK, I am having way too much fun, so I will stop. The point, of course, is very simple. If you flip a penny and it lands on heads, then flip a quarter and it lands on tails, it’s not a reason yet to write to the Scientific American about the correlation of the size of the coin and the side of landing. You need to repeat your experiment, oh, I don’t know, maybe one hundred times.

But my point is not about the science. Or microwaves. Well, a little about the microwaves. My point is: we live in this world. Here is an example of a question that Chanie and her husband Berl might ask themselves: should we feed little Mendel and Mushkie food heated up in the microwaves? How should they get the answer?

Personally, I would just write to the Igros.

* * *

Update. From the study’s Discussion section:
On top of that she was wanting the microwaved ones to do poorly, and although most scientists would dismiss the idea, it is possible that her thoughts toward each plant had an effect as well.
I would not dismiss it. Of course, cynics would say that it’s possible that the little girl didn’t water the plants equally (either consciously, because she is a cheater, or unconsciously). But I think this proves that when you think bad thoughts about your neighbor, and his beard doesn’t grow as fast as your friend’s (or his wife’s sheitel becomes all frizzled), you are to blame.


The Real Shliach said...


Crawling Axe said...


The Real Shliach said...

Sitting on the toilet laughing out loud.

Crawling Axe said...

Oh. Thanks for sharing.

Wait, so speaking from the bathroom is not tzniusdik, but communicating electronically is?

The Real Shliach said...


Crawling Axe said...

Are you saying it doesn’t say anywhere in Shulchan Aruch something like: "One is not allowed to e-mail from his iPod while in the bathroom"? Or maybe Rema allows it?

The Real Shliach said...



Crawling Axe said...

How can both be true? If it does not say so in S"A, then Rema can’t allow it, since he couldn’t have commented on it.

The Real Shliach said...

You think the Rama never brings Chiddushim? Have you ever learned Shulchan Oruch?

Crawling Axe said...

Chiddushim — yes, but the topic has to be discussed already, no?

The Real Shliach said...

The vaguest mention is all this is sufficient...

Certified Ashkenazi said...

I think it's a little ironic that after I got married, my wife and I don't own a microwave.