Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Article excerpt

Evidence-Based Reasoning

More than a decade ago, Merriam-Webster named truthiness, coined by comedian Stephen Colbert, its 2006 Word of the Year, defining it as "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true." More recently, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 was post-truth--a neologism defined as when "objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief." Merriam-Webster's 2016 choice was surreal.

Surreal, indeed. In a world increasingly dependent on social media for news and information, Orwellian "alternative facts" and "fake news" proliferate while evidence-based reasoning seems under assault. Attacks on venerable news media like the New York Times are used to undermine public faith in the fourth estate and blur truth and falsehood, the real and the surreal.

Cable news and social media now allow us to view only the information and views that confirm our own biases, often accepted without evidence and with great confidence.

This has dangerous implications for daily decision-making and citizenship. Should I vaccinate my children (evidence-based answer: Yes), or is there a link between vaccines and autism? (No.) Is the climate warming, and is the warming caused by human activity? (Yes and yes.) Are genetically modified foods safe to eat or drink? …

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