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Elementary Science Education


Fake News, How to distinguish

Accusations of  “fake news” need to be taken seriously. If we can’t tell what to believe, we are indeed lost. Therefore, a challenge to us as educators is to teach students how to distinguish between real news and fake news. Fortunately, based on science there is a “Baloney Detection Kit,” a list of specific indicators and tests that will expose Baloney. (Originally presented by Carl Sagan in “The Demon Haunted World” Random House, 1995, it has been added to and modified by various authors. Google: Baloney Detection Kit.) Key items in the current situation are the following:

  1. A forceful declaration, even by a person in power or authority, does not by itself mean the declaration/claim is fact or true. We need to look further.
  2. Does the person making the declaration have a vested interest in having us believe his/her declaration? The same goes for the other side.
  3. Is there additional evidence (actual observations, other sources of information) substantiating the claim? Check and see if there are.
  4. Does the claim fit rationally with other things that are known?
  5. Is the claim based on real evidence, or is it designed mainly or specifically to diminish the credibility of the other side?

Additional items may be added to this list. The bottom line is that we don’t need to be confused as to who or what to believe, what is real and what is fake. There are ways to distinguish truth from baloney. I invite further comments and discussion on this topic. Bernie Nebel.

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