the evidence of your senses

I have been considering the role of reason and how some people put reason and faith in opposition to each other. Others suggest that they are two parts of something else — but the parts are coequal.  Reason was elevated to the highest level in the French Republic to disastrous effect. But faith as a purely secular concept doesn’t work either.  What I really mean is that reason and its handmaid, logic, are tools. The highest level of thinking or of the mind is the will.  Reason presents the will with logically constructed ideas about whatever baseline the will has presented and it is up to the will to choose what to believe and what conclusions to draw.  The example on my mind is this.

I presented a class of students with the following situation. We placed ice cubes on a piece of acrylic or a cube of aluminum.  We observed that the ice cube on the aluminum melted at an incredible rate compared to the ice cube on the acrylic.  Then I asked the students to tell me whether they thought the aluminum or the acrylic would have the highest temperature.  When they had chosen, they came up and used their hand to test the two substances. Normally the students want to say that the aluminum will have the highest temperature. Some of them then decide that I wouldn’t ask such an obvious question unless there is a trick so it must be that the acrylic is warmer — but they have no idea why. In fact the aluminum is icy cold and the demonstration is all about heat transfer and how great aluminum is at it. And many students try to think about what they are feeling.

However, I had a student once who insisted in the face of the evidence of his own senses that the aluminum must be warmer because the ice was melting faster. His will overrode the evidence in front of him.

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