Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Science Practice in the Post-Truth Era

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Science Practice in the Post-Truth Era

Article excerpt

"Extraordinary claims require extrordinary evidence."--Carl Sagan

This is the second of two consecutive issues focusing on Developing and Using Models, a central science and engineering practice in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). But lately I've been pondering events in the news and thinking about another science practice that The Science Teacher will highlight in an upcoming issue: Engaging in Argument from Evidence.

The NGSS point out that scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence. Students "should have instruction that emphasizes why explanations are based on evidence," and be expected "to use argumentation to listen to, compare, and evaluate competing ideas and methods based on their merits... using evidence to evaluate claims" (NGSS Lead States 2013, Appendix H, pp. 7 and 13).

It is therefore troubling to find an almost complete absence of evidence--even truth--in so much recent public discourse. Leadership on both sides of the Atlantic has demonstrated a striking lack of interest in using evidence to support arguments. As Britain awoke the morning after its vote to leave the European Union, a pro-Brexit leader admitted that there was no evidence for the bold promise--a central selling point of the Brexit campaign--that [pounds sterling]350 million per week would be returned to the U.K. for health care. In the United States, fact-checking teams at the New York Times, Washington Post, and PolitiFact routinely found false statements by a major candidate for president, earning the worst "four Pinocchio" or "Pants-on-Fire" ratings for the majority of claims investigated. …

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