Jones Hall, waiting for Stravinsky
With Mike Shermer in Austin, circa 2012
TAM 13, Las Vegas, July 2015
Lobo the rescue dog. Support the SPCA!
Hi there! I am Professor of Humanities at the University of Houston-Downtown, and a graduate of the University of New Mexico (B.A. Philosophy, M.A. French) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Ph.D. linguistics). After studying philosophy and literature, I spent some time working with computer-based instruction at the PLATO labs in Urbana, Illinois. The Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations system is generally recognized to be the world’s first comprehensive educational software initiative.
My first software project was the French Verb Tutor in 1993, which was released through the Intellimation Library for the Macintosh out of Santa Barbara, California. Later, I wrote papers on computer-assisted instruction for the the Ninth International Conference on Technology and Education (Paris 1992) at the Institut Industriel de Transfert de Technologie, the Ninth International Conference on Pragmatics and Language Learning in Urbana (1995), and at the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium’s symposium in Albuquerque in 1996. My publications have appeared in the ADFL Bulletin, La revue canadienne de langues vivantes, the Proceedings of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, the Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO) Journal, and Evolutionary Psychology.
In 1999, I released my second software title, Spanish for Business Professionals. SBP was the product of a $171,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the development of an interactive, intelligent, multimedia Spanish-language CD-ROM series.
Not long after, my thinking changed directions, and I became a contributer to Skeptic magazine. Since 2002, I have published about ten articles for Skeptic on science education, philosophy, language, and religion. I still make forays into language acquisition. In October 2008, my book Second language acquisition: an evolutionary linguistics approach was published by the University of Michigan Press.
In the summer of 2015, I had the honor of presenting a short talk on cancer-care marketing and CAM scams at the 13th and final TAM Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. That was the basis for the article I wrote for Skeptic in late 2016. The title is the State of Tumortown. Mike, Pat, Simone et al. at Skeptic did a great job helping me get the article up to standards, as did Vic Wang and the Humanists of Houston, who gave me another opportunity to publicly vet my complaints before publishing them.
The goal of skeptical inquiry was nicely summed up by Noam Chomsky in Knowledge of Language (1986) as “Orwell’s Problem,” that is, the persistence of “beliefs that are firmly held and widely accepted although they are completely without foundation and often plainly at variance with obvious facts about the word around us.”
To solve Orwell’s Problem, Chomsky wrote, “we must discover the institutional and other factors that block insight and understanding in crucial areas of our lives and ask why they are effective.”
The greatest minds, as they are capable of the highest excellences, are open likewise to the greatest aberrations.
René Descartes (1637)
– Discourse on Method