Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Why do I love science?

Jan Kramers wrote: “Science is for those who study it as a source of exultation. It is as if a force outside ourselves, say an angel, pulled us away from our previous level to a higher level in an indescribable, incomprehensible manner.” More info about that can be found here: http://www.economist.com/node/318566

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

About catholic chastity

Chastity is like a pearl which is waiting for you here and now. Find it and it will enrich your life.  

Source of inspiration: http://catholicbridge.com

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

GRE writing - analyze an argument: The following appeared in an article written by Dr. Karp, an anthropologist.

"Twenty years ago Dr. Field, a noted anthropologist, visited the island of Tertia and concluded from his observations that children in Tertia were reared by an entire village rather than by their own biological parents. However, my recent interviews with children living in the group of islands that includes Tertia show that these children spend much more time talking about their biological parents than about other adults in the village. This research proves that Dr. Field's conclusion about Tertian village culture is false, and thus that the observation-centered approach to studying cultures is invalid. Because they are using the interview-centered method, my team of graduate students working in Tertia will establish a much more accurate understanding of child-rearing traditions there and in other island cultures. " Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument.
It is rather a challenging and difficult task to fully understand other cultures. The article presents two methods that allegedly led to two different conclusions. The main aim is to explain in which way children are nurtured on the island of Tertia. While both methods of scientific experiment shade more light on the issue, probably we can trust neither of them. Perhaps, we need specific evidence and more information to comprehend the problem in a thoroughgoing way.

First, Dr. Field visited the island twenty years ago. It might be the case that the way of upbringing children was altered on the island and this is why the previous observations are not in line with current results of the interviews. Maybe, many new people, for example, from western countries, came to the island and significantly influenced its culture. This fact could certainly weaken Dr. Karp's argument. In that case, the original study could have been accurate, and Dr. Karp's research could be correct, as well.

Moreover, Dr. Karp's investigation covers group of islands that includes Tertia. It is possible that the way of rearing children is different on each of the islands. To cogently refute Dr. Fields conclusions, Dr. Karp should narrow his area of research to the island of Tertia exclusively. Thus, if Dr. Karp's students interviewed none or only a few children from the island of Tertia, then the presented conclusions would be unsupported. Maybe, Dr. Fields research based on observation was more detailed and focused, thus provided better results, what would weaken Dr. Karp's stance.

Let' take into account children who were interviewed. We can learn nothing about them from the article. We are not provide with any information about their age or sex. The children could talk more about their biological parents, because they are very young and their vocabulary is very limited, for instance, they have just learnt how to speak the main two words like “mum” and “dad”. Thus, first it should be determined what range of age we consider. Furthermore, Dr. Karp should provide us with transcript of the interviews. Then, probably it would be reasonable to select group of children and measure precisely how much time they spent with different people, especially with their parents. If the time spend by children with their parents would be substantially greater, for example, than 80%, then Dr. Karp conclusions would be valid. Contrary, if the time spend by children would be evenly distributed between different people, then probably Dr. Fields theory would be correct.

A difficult task is to judge of the merits of the two scientific methods. Certainly, one unsuccessful result of observational method could not undermine the whole idea. Maybe, other scientists managed to prove that this method is valid and can bear fruitful results, what would abate Dr. Karp's conclusions. Besides, the final favourable outcome of Dr. Karp's approach would bolster his method significantly. For example, it could be proven that lingual description is more precise and does not omit vital details that are crucial to fully understand the upbringing process. It could occur that, during Dr. Fields observations, the people who cared for children were precisely instructed by parents and followed specific rules. Maybe, children spend time in sui generis kindergartens during daytime when they parents had to work and spend remaining time with their parents.

In conclusions, Dr. Karp argument has a few weak points and unsupported claims. Both experiments reveal their weaknesses and should be improved. The evidence that could resolve the issue should be based on a specific experiment narrowed to the island of Tertia, which would be able to measure accurately the time spent by children with various people. Otherwise, it is impossible to draw any convincing conclusions.

GRE writing - Issue Task: The best way to teach is to praise positive actions and ignore negative ones.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
There are many ways how to educate and teach. Many schools prefer one system or the other but still nobody was able to come up with only one and the best method, even though many philosophers and teachers used to contemplate on the topic. Nevertheless, in my opinion, I cannot agree that praising positive actions and ignoring negative ones is the best approach to teaching. The recommendation gives too strong "all or nothing" impression.

Fist, we should consider current educational system which offers wide range of marks. Different countries apply various measures but probably none of the systems incorporates only good marks. For example, there are marks from 1 to 6 in Poland educational system from primary through middle to secondary schools, where 1 is the worst one and 6 is the best one. The better the student, the higher mark she or he can obtain. On the other hand, one of the British systems uses letters from A to F, where A is the highest mark and F the lowest one (fail). The main aim in these methods is to provide students with a measurable feedback that can help them understand their abilities, draw their attention to weak points and encourage them to work on them. At the same time, it points out positive facets and praise or inspire students to repeat merit behaviour. Merely positive marks would leave lazy students confused and without any motivation or support.

Second, from the psychological perspective there are many examples that show different approaches. There was a famous experiment called “Pavlov's dogs” in which a dog was awarded a bowl of food if it carried out a given task properly, otherwise was given nothing. This was a simple 0 or 1 system that included both negative and positive aspects. More sophisticated outlook on the issue is given in the book by Anthony Robbins: “Awaken the giant inside”. The author argues that there are two basic forces that influence each of us. One of them is to gain pleasure, whereas the other one is to avoid pain. Moreover, it occurs that in many cases the force to get rid of or eschew pain is more powerful than the one to pursue happiness or bliss.

Personally, my opinion is that it would be rather improbable to discourage children from drugs only by giving them positive feedback. One of the most powerful way to teach children about the consequences of alcohol and drug addiction is to take them to a detox ward and show them the miserable effects of such conduct. It is dreadful but at the same time memorable and powerful experience. Furthermore, when children start drinking alcohol or taking drugs, there is no other way but one – to reprimand them and force them to shun the addictive substances.

In conclusion, current situation and psychological experiments prove that a human being is driven by both praise and punishment. If we are only praised all the time, we usually become complacent. In contrary, the ongoing and eternal punishment can harm us deeply and prevent from any development. Thus, we should search for a golden rule and apply these two forces in the right proportions to strike the balance.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

GRE writing argument task: The following was written as part of an application for a permit to congregate by a religious group in the city of Gustav

"We plan to meet at the Hunter Pavilion on the north side of the park. We expect about 200 attendees. Although we do plan to celebrate our message in words and song, we will be mindful of others who are sharing the park on that day. We have found that in the past, when our group meets in a public space, we run the risk of harassment by those who do not agree with our message. Therefore, we would like to hire five security officers to protest our congregants from religious intolerance. We would like to post one guard at the entrance to the park and others who will dress in plain clothes, at the perimeter of our gathering. We hope you understand and will endorse the request."

Write a response in which you describe what specific examples or evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and how those examples or evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.

The analyses has to be carry out if the city of Gustav should issue a permission for a congregation by a religious group. Specific cases ought to be taken into consideration to either support or oppose the arguments. Then the application will be assessed in a thoroughgoing way and justly.

First, it should be verified if the group has a right to gather in this public place. We can learn from the application that the group indeed gathered in the past. Thus, historical and legal precedents should be examined which could assure that the group can organize the gathering. On the other hand, it can be discovered that the group is not allowed to meet in public places. For example, the reason for this prohibition would be that the group meeting was too loud or violent previously.

Second, the main purpose of the group's application is to obtain a permission to be protected by a private security guards. If the group had really experienced serious perilous harassments in the past, then this request is legitimate. On the contrary, maybe the group has never had reason to worry about security and safety, therefore private security officers are not required.

Third, the usage of the private security service should be considered. It can be the case that the police force is not sufficient in terms of number of officers or not equipped enough to patrol the park in the way the group demands and so additional help is necessary. However, it should be checked and probably consulted with the local police as it may occur that the police is capable of maintaining the peace without additional support. Moreover, it should be inspected if using private security in the park is legal. If there are rules or laws that allow private security, then this request can be accepted, but if the issue is unprecedented then perhaps it has to be investigated by a lawyer. Besides, maybe the local police are better trained and this would weaken the argument that the private security guards have to be hired. Nonetheless, it might be that the group has plentiful funds to employ top-notch security specialists.

In conclusion, there are three main issues that have to be scrutinized to assess the argument. Hence, it has to be verified if the group has a right to gather in public places. Next, the previous meetings of the group should be checked to assure that there were cases of harassment. Finally, it should be decided if either the police force or private security guards shall be appointed. After these steps, the decision about the permission should be made.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

GRE writing issue task: salaries in the arts and sciences

Issue task:
People who work in the arts and humanities should earn less than those who work in the sciences and economics because the benefits of the arts and humanities to the population is less important than that of scientific or economic endeavours.

Write your own response to the recommendation in which you discuss why you either agree or disagree with it. Support your response with evidence and/or examples. Use a hypothetical set of circumstances to illustrate the consequences of accepting or rejecting the recommendation, and explain how this informs your thinking.

There are as many path of careers as there are people in the world. Everybody has his or her own vision of life. One of the main demarcation between these outlooks on life can be noticed in the case of choosing either work in sciences and economics or work in the arts and humanities. The main issue here is if people who work in the arts and humanities should be paid more or less than people who work in the sciences and economics considering the importance of the result of their work. In my opinion, the current situation shows clearly that people who work in the sciences and economics receive better salaries on average. In my view, this situation will continue, but the reason of the current state is not because of the importance of the work.

Firstly, considering the current situation, without any doubts the jobs in technology and economics are well-paid. The demand for these professions is increasing each year and this is a highly valued position but there is not sufficient number of students who want to pursue this path. This is why many prominent people like Larry Page, Sergey Brien (cofounders of Google) or Mark Zuckerberg promote so called STEM studies. Technology and economics changed the way we live dramatically in the last 100 years. These branches provided us with tangible effects and as a result we lead longer, more comfortable and healthier lives.

Secondly, from the economical perspective, the market regulates the salaries and demands for different jobs. Governments can invest part of their funds in the art or humanities but this can bring only a minor effect. The sciences and economics have bigger influence and can reach more people on the whole. In the current situation, especially in European countries, we can detect a stable growth of the whole societies. This situation does require to produce goods on a global scale and technology can handle this demand, whereas art is rather more original and customized to specific needs. The art is a luxury that most people cannot afford.

Thirdly, the STEM studies are more demanding and burdensome. Even from my personal experience, I am studying computer science and have to study and work on my projects much longer than my friends who studied the arts and humanities majors, for example, classical music. Undoubtedly, people who are pursuing the arts and humanities in the framework of their studies have passion. Thus, we should not be afraid that by paying them less we would find nobody who would like to study the arts. On the other hand, the higher salaries for the sciences and economics would persuade people who hesitate between these the arts and sciences. Eventually, they would select the STEM studies or economics studies and contribute more to the society, at least fulfilling the current global need.

In conclusion, there are many compelling reasons why those who work in the sciences and economics should be paid more than those who work in the arts and humanities. Furthermore, it is rather impossible to judge the benefits and importance of work in these cases. Increasingly, there can be greater synergy from combining scientific pursuit with the human insights from the arts.

BTW, another great essay can be found here: http://pencilled.blogspot.com/2012/07/issue-task-people-who-work-in-arts-and.html

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

GRE writing argument task: The following appeared in a letter from a homeowner to a friend.

"Of the two leading real estate firms in our town—Adams Realty and Fitch Realty—Adams Realty is clearly superior. Adams has 40 real estate agents; in contrast, Fitch has 25, many of whom work only part-time. Moreover, Adams' revenue last year was twice as high as that of Fitch and included home sales that averaged $168,000, compared to Fitch's $144,000. Homes listed with Adams sell faster as well: ten years ago I listed my home with Fitch, and it took more than four months to sell; last year, when I sold another home, I listed it with Adams, and it took only one month. Thus, if you want to sell your home quickly and at a good price, you should use Adams Realty."
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.

While it may seem correct at the first glance that Adams Realty is a better real estate firm than Fitch Realty, there are a few unsupported assumptions which can undermine the statement. This issue requires a thoroughgoing examination. In my opinion, the given arguments are not cogent enough to prove that Adams Realty is clearly superior.

Firstly, The number of estate agents is not a direct factor which can unambiguously point out a better company. Event though there are only 25 estate agents working for Fitch Realty, they can be much more productive, impassioned, determined, qualified, trained, and experienced. On the contrary, these 40 real estates agents from Adams Realty can lack these essential and vital qualities. As a result, if we were able to compare the amount of work done on average by a person during a day in both of these companies, we would find out that Fitch Realty's workers are simply better and more efficient.

Secondly, considering revenue holistically is not a proper approach, for the reason that Fitch Realty is a smaller firm than Adam Realty. Thus, once again, we should search for another factor or a parameter that would be more objective and commensurate in this case. For instance, we could divide the revenue by number of hours devoted by all employees. Furthermore, although Adam's revenue was two times higher, Fitch's home sales where only about 15% less than Adam's home sales. This indicates that probably Adam's charges are higher than those of Fitch's. It might be the adequate reason for the gap in revenue of both the firms. There is also another possibility that Adams sells only high priced houses, which brings more income. Hence, the argument cannot be concluded without all this information.

Thirdly, the argument that home listed with Adams sell faster is not fully developed. The case with the author's homes is not objective. The crucial flaw here is that these were two totally different homes. The first home sold with Fitch could have been in very bad condition or it could have been overpriced. Moreover, the market conditions could make the sell much more cumbersome. On the other hand, in the case of the second home, the market conditions could have been much better, the home could have been keenly priced and in prominent district. In fact, these are only two very specific cases and an element of randomness can play here a great role. It could have been the case that Adams found a buyer by accident. A more pronounced property would be an average time per sell.

In conclusion, the arguments given by the author are raft of fallacies. There are many unstated and unwarranted assumptions. Finally, without further details on this matter we are not able to state unanimously which company offers a better service. Besides, some arguments can prove even a contrary statement which would clearly show that Fitch Realty is better.

Monday, 1 September 2014

GRE writing issue topic: Governments must ensure that their major cities receive the financial support they need in order to thrive.

Claim: Governments must ensure that their major cities receive the financial support they need in order to thrive.
Reason: It is primarily in cities that a nation's cultural traditions are preserved and generated.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

The distribution of financial support is a challenging task which requires thoroughgoing analysis. Nowadays we have to invest more and more money into institutions that are responsible for maintaining national culture and identity. The claim posits this kind of support only for major cities and does not mention anything about other parts of the country. Probably, we can assume that the financial support for major cities is the first priority. According to the further statement, the main reason for this approach is that traditions are preserved and generated primarily in cities. In my opinion, this view is not fully developed and requires further consideration.

First, we should carefully examine the current state of main cities, let alone the problem of defining what the major cities are. Thus, many of the major cities are humongous multicultural melting pots, for example, London or Paris. These is truly a mix of cultures and traditions. It is sufficient to go by an underground from one station to another in order to get an impression as if somebody were in a different country. The big cities are no longer places where the national heritage can be easily preserved. The major cities are palimpsest where clashes of modern and old culture appear on a daily basis.

Secondly, I have to admit that I am aware of the specific situation regarding projects. This aim of preserving and generating cultural traditions requires a concentration of funds in one special area. New projects should be commenced and realized efficiently. In my opinion, this action might be planned for many years and finally each citizen should receive comparable support. It is crucial to distribute the financial funds evenly because each citizen pays taxes and ought to be given a possibility of development. Otherwise, we can face a situation that people from villages will start migrating to major cities and the final result can be that most of the cities will be overpopulated whereas the remaining land will be undeveloped and ultimately wasted.

Thirdly, many countries in the European Unions receive subsidies for small cities which cultivate traditions, still produce local food and strive to preserve the folk music. These endeavours show quite a different if not a contrary approach. Moreover, many universities are based in small or average-sized cities. For instance, Oxford or Cambridge are not the major cities in the UK, however, they host two of the best universities in the country. The community which lives in the cities is composed mainly of young and open minded people who care about the traditions and shape new society. To my mind, this regions should be supported abundantly.

In conclusion, there are some pros and cons but in my humble view the financial support should be evenly distributed. National traditions are formed by each citizen and nobody should be marginalized. We have to ensure that this approach will be taken into account and eventuall realized.