The Age of Anti-Enlightenment (Part 2 of 3)

By Blake Bouza

(Read Part 1)

Last time when we were discussing the state of information in the world, we touched lightly on how essential the Internet has been in being the glue that cements confirmation bias. 

“When people believe something that the vast majority does not, it gives them a sense of belonging and when everybody is against them, it reinforces that belief,” said Jonathan Martin, a lab tech in the biology department at Vol State. 

The belief is reinforced because people believe opponents argue the supposed truth because they are motivated by an agenda. 

The Internet has done wonders for this phenomena, which gives these people the tools to pick and choose the information that they consider to be worthwhile and factual. 

Now last time, we discussed the conspiracy theory of the flat earth in depth. Conspiracy theories are fake news taken to the extreme. Confirmation bias is, in large part, the only reason a conspiracy theory such as the flat earth can thrive. 

Fake news can be anything from an email scandal and the supposed implications thereof, to an affair with a porn star with greater national importance. 

Often times it can be a simple rumor that gets blown far, far out of proportion. 

Growing up, I heard this remarkable rumor that J.K. Rowling, world-renown author of the Harry Potter series, was a witch. 

Like a real witch, not just a grumpy person. 

I was not allowed to read the series because of this. 

In that time the Internet was not observed as a place of questionable information put forth by individuals of even more questionable motive. 

When I got older, I did a little digging on my own and found that there was quite literally nothing substantial to support this rumor and common misconception among the circles I ran in. 

The Internet, though, let me be clear, is not the enemy. Our willingness and our priorities are. 

Obviously we should not take everything at face value, yet it is much easier to do so when an article or headline is found to be agreeable with our own outlook on life.

“If you believe something is true, you privilege the information available to you that supports that position. And if you think any information about that same topic disproves it, you disregard, discount and ignore,” said Dr. Clark Hutton, chair of philosophy. 

Dr. Philip Clifford, assistant professor of biology, agreed with this line of thinking

“It’s much cleaner to try and tear something down and fail than to try and support something. If you try to support something, all you have to do is ignore everything to the contrary,” said Clifford. 

“There’s also this notion with education that if our priority is to seek a better understanding on a subject, and a willingness to do so, that must be the objective driving force behind our actions in committing to good research. 

If our priority is to have our own biases confirmed, there may be the issue. 

Once our motivation behind seeking out information is clearly stated, good research and the ability to discern that research is essential more than ever before in our day and age.

For comments and letters to the editor, email me: bbouz@volstate.edu 

Vol State Hosted Women’s History Month Tea

 

By Riley Holcraft

The national theme for Women’s History Month 2018 was “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” Volunteer State Community College celebrated this theme with a women’s tea event hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion March 29.

Tables were set up in the dining hall with teacups, printed programs, and flower centerpieces; lunch was also served for all attendees. Dr. Melva Black was the Mistress of Ceremony and she welcomed all guests by stating, “You all look magnificent. It’s always good to be in the presence of women.”

To begin the event, Tiffany Zwart, coordinator of student support, read a piece by Brené Brown, “Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted.” Lori Miller, administrative assistant in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion also read the poem “A Golden Chain” by Helen Steiner Rice. Miller stated that Rice, nicknamed “The Ambassador of Sunshine,” was her mother’s favorite writer.

Dr. Kenny Yarbrough, manager of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, introduced the two guest speakers for the event. Dr. Emily Short and Mrs. Patty Powell are two women that have worked together for 27 years. Powell is the former vice president of student services at Vol State, and Short currently holds that position. Both women shared encouraging words about one another and explained the importance of deep friendship.

Short said that Powell was the first person of color she had ever formed a relationship with. She explains that discrimination among women does nothing to fight discrimination against all women.

“Let go of petty arguments and live a judgeless life,” stated Short.

Powell expanded on her point by saying that an end to discrimination starts with learning to love and help one another along the way. Women can fight against discrimination through respect, honesty and love. They also advocated for strengthening relationships like their own to help along the journey.

Yarbrough closed the ceremony with a special thanks to Carlton Wilkinson. Wilkinson shot photographs of many women at Vol State. These photographs were displayed along the side wall, honoring the dedication of these women.

 

Vol State History Professor Discovered Ancient Cave Art

Dunbar 014

Photo Courtesy of Joe Douglas

 

By Presley Green

Dr. Joseph Douglas, a history professor at Volunteer State Community College, has enjoyed caving as sport from a young age. His enjoyment of caves branched into an interest in cave mapping and history of caves, which eventually led to one of his proudest accomplishments.

Douglas is credited with discovering cave art from the Mississippian culture in Dunbar Cave in Clarksville, Tennessee. The cave art is two rayed circles. There is an outline around the circles to look like a sun and many concentric circles. Inside the circles are interior crosses. The circle on the right has a tail and the circle on the left contains a left facing swastika.

In January 2004, Douglas traveled to Dunbar Cave State Natural Area in Clarksville to meet up with cave author Larry Matthews and Amy Wallace, the interpretive specialist of the park.

“In an area of the cave known as the Ballroom several hundred meters into the dark zone, Douglas noticed two charcoal drawings on the wall, overlaid by nineteenth-century grafiti.” according to the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies.

“Thousands of people walked by it before I recognized its significance,” Douglas said.  

Douglas then photographed these glyphs and sent them to his friend Jan Simek at the University of Tennessee to check for authenticity. Simek insisted on carbon dating.

Dunbar Cave was aware of some of the cave art in their caves, but after Douglas’s discovery dozens more were found, the majority of these pictographs and petroglyphs were made from charcoal and date back to the Mississippian period.

The pictographs Douglas discovered are common iconography from the Mississippian Culture, but not necessarily from then since the circles can be found in many prehistoric periods. After many tries of trying to date the pictographs they finally got a match. Based on carbon dating, the pictographs Douglas discovered date from 1200-1400 A.D.

After finding a total of 35 petroglyphs and pictographs in Dunbar Cave, a decision was made concerning damage in the cave to install a new, secure, bat-friendly gate before the artwork was announced to the public. Dunbar Cave is the only public cave art in the United States. The pictograph that he found in labeled in the cave as “Pre-Columbian Art.”

The documentation and excavation that took place in the cave led to the discovery of many pictographs and petroglyphs, but also human remains, lotted burial grounds, and four unique species of buffalo, elk, bear, and a bison. The excavation concluded that people had occupied Dunbar Cave for at least 4,000 years.

Report on Douglas’s findings: Dunbar Cave Art

CAB Hosted Women’s History Trivia

 

By Tayla Courage

In honor of Women’s History Month, Volunteer State Community College’s Campus Activities Board organized a trivia-themed café event in the Mary Cole Nichols Dining Room B March 27, at 12:45 p.m.

Crystal Sloss, chairperson of the campus activities board, explained that the formatting of the trivia activity would be similar to the game show Jeopardy. Participants used wireless buzzers to answer questions on prominent women in history.

While students were competing for the opportunity to win free Vol State merchandise, there were no penalties for incorrect answers.

“We want students to have fun and learn something at the same time,” wrote Sloss.

Similar to previous CAB café events, free food was offered as an incentive for more student engagement. Chicken tenders, chips and lemonade were available for anyone willing to join in for at least one round of trivia.

According to an email from Sloss, this isn’t the first women’s history event CAB has hosted.

“Last year we held a Women’s History BINGO. This year we thought it would be a great idea to try something new, which is where the trivia comes into play,” wrote Sloss.

Hayley Brazel, secretary of the student government association, said she enjoyed the educational PowerPoint that Sloss paired with her questions.

“Crystal was a great moderator. She taught us so much,” said Brazel.

Wyatt Tabor, a freshman, was continuously one of the first players to buzz in each round.  

“It was really fun. I enjoyed it, and I’m definitely coming back,” said Tabor.

Taylor Divney, a sophomore, commented on why she liked the event in correlation with Women’s History Month.

“I think us women are pretty savvy, so it’s cool to learn about the important and powerful things we’ve done,” she said.

Sloss said she hopes to see more creative learning opportunities offered to students and mentioned the possibility for women’s history trivia to return as an annual event.

“Students can leave the event, know that they have had fun, a free meal, and most importantly they have left with new information that they can spread to others,” wrote Sloss.

 

Artist Jessie Barnes Visited Vol State

 

By Katie Doll

Vol State hosted an art exhibit of artist Jessie Barnes from Feb. 26 to March 29 that was located in the SRB Humanities Building. Art displayed included oil on canvas, monotype, acrylic, graphite on paper, and printmaking.

Visitors had a chance to meet the artist on March 29 and ask questions. Barnes also hosted a printmaking demo where all visitors were welcome.

Barnes is originally from Jacksonville, and obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Florida in 2013 and her Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Texas in 2017.

Barnes has taught collegiate courses such as Drawing Foundations and Introductory Printmaking and Monotype. At Jacksonville University, the Maryland Institute College of Art and Penland School of Crafts, Barnes has assisted many workshops.

Her work, she stated, is inspired by personal memories but leads to art that is more complex.

“My work is driven by uncertainty,” she said. “It stems from personal memories and experiences, but taps into universal themes of adolescence, beauty, power, and fear.”

She also talked about how some elements within her work have a certain meaning to them.

“Tangled palmettos and invasive vines serve as metaphors in our lives when innocence turns to fear, while color lures the viewer closer,” she said.

Many visitors left notes on their opinions of her artwork. One visitor noted how not all art has to make sense.

“I thought this work had a deep meaning and some allusion to things I don’t understand,” Kaila O. wrote. “Now I see that it was that uncertainty that makes it make sense.”

Most of the art displayed had vibrant colors and complex shapes, while some of her other art was black and white with simplistic shapes.