Adventures in Ethics and Science

In pondering the effects of nature versus nurture, the Free-Ride parents have become painfully aware that a large part of their offspring’s environment is provided by the kids at school. This is how the sprogs came to be aware of the existence of The Disney Channel, whose offering seem to grate on the parental units as much as they delight the offspring.

At Casa Free-Ride, the price for choosing a television program your parent does not care for is engaging in some critical thinking about its subject matter.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK, so explain That’s So Raven to me. What is the deal with Raven and those “visions”?

Elder offspring: She’s a psychic.

Younger offspring: Yeah.

Dr. Free-Ride: A psychic, eh? What exactly does that mean?

Elder offspring: Well, she can’t really control her visions, and that’s about the only psychic thing she has.

Dr. Free-Ride: So, are her visions flashes of things that have already happened, or of things that are about to happen?

Younger offspring: About to happen.

Dr. Free-Ride: Weird. Do they have any explanation of how she can do this?

Younger offspring: No.

Dr. Free-Ride: Do other people know that she can do this?

Elder offspring: Some. Only her friends.

Younger offspring: And maybe her little brother Cory. I’m not sure.

Dr. Free-Ride: So, do you guys believe that she’s actually psychic?

Younger offspring: I don’t know … yeah.

Dr. Free-Ride: Do you think it’s possible that people could be psychic? How would that work? Isn’t the future still something that hasn’t happened yet? I’m trying to understand where these “flashes” could come from.

Younger offspring: She’s just psychic.

Elder offspring: Somewhere in the cosmos.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK, so you’re going to get all relativistic, Einsteinian, time-is-fluid like the time machine guy we heard in the car that time.

Elder offspring: Uh huh!

Dr. Free-Ride: But to the best of our knowledge, Raven isn’t trying to harness the laws of physics to have these peeks into the future, is she? This is just something that’s happening somehow.

Younger offspring: Uh huh.

Elder offspring: She just wants to be a regular kid in her school but —

Younger offspring: She’s not.

Elder offspring: Out of all the people in her school she had to be different. That’s what she thinks.

Dr. Free-Ride: I see. Well, all of us are different in some way. It’s just that most of those ways are consistent with the laws of physics.

Younger offspring: There was one episode I saw where the thing she got a vision of didn’t really happen.

Dr. Free-Ride: So sometimes she has false visions?

Elder offspring: She sees what will happen in the future if she doesn’t do anything.

Dr. Free-Ride: That means she can change the future that she’s seen in the vision? If she does something the future could be different? But doesn’t that mean that the future she’s seeing isn’t fixed, that it’s just a possibility?

Elder offspring: I don’t know.

Younger offspring: But in some of the episodes we see what her vision is.

Dr. Free-Ride: So, because the producers of the TV show let you see what she sees when she’s having her visions, you’re inclined to believe that it’s really happening.

Younger offspring: I have vision too. I saw you rolling your eyes right now.

Dr. Free-Ride: Ah, but if you look you will notice that I’m being very good and not rolling my eyes. I’m looking straight at you. Possibly you have expectations about the kinds of things that will make me roll my eyes. And possibly those expectations let you make pretty good predictions. But I don’t think that’s really the same as actually seeing the future.

Younger offspring: Hmm.

Dr. Free-Ride: I’m just a little iffy about the claim that someone could see something in the future as if they were really seeing it with their eyes. I can understand imagining the future. I can understand having predictions about what the future might be like, and they might even be pretty good predictions because you’ve been paying attention to how the past has been. In fact, that’s why I think you predicted I was going to roll my eyes, because you’ve seen me roll my eyes before in certain circumstances, and you thought this was one of those circumstances.

Younger offspring: Do you know, one time I was looking at my hands and my body one day, and I think that I remember that I see or hear something I heard another day and it looks a lot familiar and it sounds familiar.

Dr. Free-Ride: So it was like you were re-experiencing the moment you were having, but you didn’t have any memory at all of actually experiencing it the first time?

Elder offspring: Deja vu?

Dr. Free-Ride: Where did you hear about deja vu?

Elder offspring: Read it in a book.

Younger offspring: I can’t really understand how that happened. I think I have a way of looking at something or hearing something from the past.

Dr. Free-Ride: Well, you were in the past — at least, your past — looking and hearing. And for a lot of that time you were actually storing memories. So it wouldn’t be surprising if you remembered a lot of stuff but couldn’t always remember right off the bat where you remembered it from.

Younger offspring: OK.

Dr. Free-Ride: So, which do you think is more impressive, visions that might be of the future and that you can’t control, or a powerful memory that you can control?

Younger offspring: Or visions of the past?

Dr. Free-Ride: Aren’t those just memories?

Elder offspring: Visions of things in the past before you were born!

Dr. Free-Ride: Well, those wouldn’t be memories, but I’m not sure I’d believe they were visions, either. Maybe you’d just be imagining something really vividly based on what you read or what people told you about that past time or event.

Elder offspring: Hmm.

Dr. Free-Ride: So you guys are more impressed with visions than with memories?

Younger offspring: Yeah.

Elder offspring: Psychic visions are cool.

Dr. Free-Ride: I think I’m more impressed with memory than visions.

Elder offspring: Maybe that’s because you’re getting old.

* * * * *
The younger Free-Ride offspring offers some drawings inspired by a television show the sprogs and their parents all hold in high esteem.

i-b122dcaa827e29d919ebfb51ba1f52d9-BenderSmall.jpg

i-a48c80b7634f34ff5b7c1973bfc05b0f-BenderSingsSmall.jpg

Now if we can just get the sprogs to build their own ethanol-powered robot …

Comments

  1. #1 Donalbain
    February 22, 2008

    No! Bad sprog! Philosophy is not great!
    Science is great, but philosophy is boring, and I would know, I did one whole course of it at university.

  2. #2 J-Dog
    February 22, 2008

    Do you think it would be bad parenting to explain that Raven is like Science Fiction… without the Science? Or is Raven more like reality TV, without the Reality?

  3. #3 bill
    February 22, 2008

    all of us are different in some way. It’s just that most of those ways are consistent with the laws of physics

    You are aware, aren’t you, that every such conversation raises the sprogs’ Nerd Quotient by several points…? And that given their bloodlines, they will be off the NQ scale soon…

  4. #4 JM
    February 22, 2008

    good bender-renders!

  5. #5 Jen
    February 22, 2008

    In that first picture, who is Bender holding, is that Raven?

  6. #6 Janet D. Stemwedel
    February 22, 2008

    Bender is holding a beer. (He is, after all, Bender.)

  7. #7 JM
    February 22, 2008

    I think the beer was my favorite part.

  8. #8 Alan Kellogg
    February 22, 2008

    Sprogs,

    Some people are good at figuring things out, but they aren’t good at figuring out how they can figure things out. Like the times you’re doing something else, and then the solution to a problem you couldn’t figure out before suddenly comes to you.

    Raven has the advantage that she lives in a world where how things work allow abilities like hers. But, as far as we know, those abilities aren’t possible here. Even if they are, as far as we know they’re not reliable enough to be relied on. Which means you have to use ordinary sources of information to learn about future events. Such as announcements in the paper, or listening to the parent critters.

    Just remember, if psychics in real life really could see the future, how we behaved would go through serious changes.

    Mr. Magoo (as Ebeneezer Scrooge): Tell me spirit; are these the visions of things that will be, or the visions of things that might be?

  9. #9 Jen
    February 23, 2008

    Perhaps I did get a little too excited there thinking that Bender was about to snap Raven in half. Oh well… I should have known Bender would be holding a beer. Maybe I’ll draw a picture of Bender injuring Raven myself.

  10. #10 Abel Pharmboy
    February 24, 2008

    I love it! “Stupet” is how our accents made the word sound when we were growing up – I can even hear my late grandmother saying it that way (from my memory, not a vision.)

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