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09 March 2008

Comments

Evan Jones

First, thanks for your kind words and thoughtful criticism.

Regarding that last paragraph, consider it an appeal to the future, not a description of the present. Those informatics are (generally) not available at this time. But they can be, and if I have anything to say about it, they will be.

Here is how I explained it in the comments section of the original article. (You can post this here or not as you wish, but it does, in a way, address what you say.)

That last paragraph is a tall order. One that is commonly unavailable on a whole host of important subjects, and therefore regarded as impossible to achieve.

If one were to boil down global warming points to one side of a postcard, you’d get a metapostcard with perhaps a dozen or so of the most basic points, each point of which would merit a postcard of its own.

The most casual observer could easily learn the issues on card #1. He wouldn’t know all the answers, but at least he’d be able to frame the questions. Anyone who cared to look into the subject casually (the “one evening rule”) could easily get the second set of postcards under his belt.

That is about as much as a standard voter will warehouse on most subjects. The idea is to draw up those “postcards” in such a manner as to allow the voter to “drill down” on any given point. The problem is that we all to often begin drilling down without even having warehoused the very basic broad spectrum (i.e., postcard #1).

It is up to the experts and the teachers among us to make sure that the limited space it utilized to effect. We are not teaching man as we would have him; we must teach him as he is, with all his modern limitations (and advantages).

FOR EXAMPLE

If you are going to learn the history of China (all of it), postcard #1 consists of a list of the major dynasties (and interregnums) with perhaps a single sentence characterizing each one. And perhaps the most prominent dozen names and achievements. That’s it.

The next set of postcards is one dynasty (or “time of troubles”) apiece. With a sentence or two on each of the main military/political, cultural/religious, economic/wealth issues and people.

Once you know that much, as little as it is, you can go ANYWHERE.

You’d be very surprised how many honors students of Chinese history can’t rattle that off (even the first postcard’s worth). Too much damn Southern Sung peasant life gets one lost in the muck if one does not have command of the signposts. Yes, drilldown is necessary for specialization. But before you can take off your skin and dance around in your bones, you lack perspective.

This is very basic knowledge and can be easily acquired in a very short period of time by the layman. But once he has it down (or at least has his reference handy) he can hang any piece of knowledge on the tree. Therefore the knowledge accumulates rather than degrades.

The expert all to often can’t bear to do this. He must needs shove moldy tomes at a body and drone on for hours of confusing details, leaving one overwhelmed, discouraged, and possibly less wiser than before. But when he does this, he is not performing his most necessary function to society at large.

It is my intention to do that first double set of postcards for Global Warming. And the third set as well. Drilling down ONLY as necessary so as to inform the controversy (as opposed to providing a full course in Earth Science, Biology, and Wave Physics).

There are a lot of these issues voters must deal with besides GW, for example, economics and military/foreign policy. So we must make the GW knowledge very basic, very easy, and very informative so as to leave enough "room" for the others. (Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”)

George Rebane

I have an expanded response to Evan Jones' wonderful comments in a new post titled 'Postcards into a Fearsome Future – A Dialogue with Evan Jones'

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