Written by Laura Peck
Lately I’ve seen numerous Facebook friends post links to fake or invalid articles on their page, such as the following about Fukushima and radiation: Holy Fukushima – Radiation From Japan Is Already Killing North Americans.
This baffles and frustrates me for multiple reasons…
People need to understand that this site, and thousands of others, often write provoking material to entice readers to their websites. This web traffic generates income from advertising.
The first step is being able to critically analyze the difference between the words hypothesis, theory, and law in science.
- A hypothesis is an educated guess, based on observation. Usually, a hypothesis can be supported or refuted through experimentation or more observation. A hypothesis can be disproven, but not proven to be true.
- A theory is a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact. It summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing.
- A law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law. Scientific laws explain, but do not describe. One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain ‘why’. An example would be Newton’s law of universal gravitation, which states that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
I have also seen the phrase “conspiracy theory” misused and misunderstood. A conspiracy is an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act. A conspiracy theory is an explanatory proposition that accuses two or more people, a group, or an organization of having caused or covered up, through deliberate collusion, an event or phenomenon of great social, political, or economic impact.
Be able to reason by identifying local fallacies. A fallacy is an argument that uses poor reasoning. An argument can be fallacious whether or not its conclusion is true. A logical fallacy is a fallacy in logical argumentation. A general list of the most common logical fallacies is provided in the image above.
Moral of the story: Take everything with a grain of salt. Question everything you read, but take everything you read into consideration – meaning in most cases don’t immediately write something off. Do your research. Make sure you verify the credibility of the publisher of the article; and in general NEVER believe everything you read… there may be some truth in their statements, but if they aren’t backed up by legitimate resources then in reality it is just a grandiose claim, and until further evidence is provided DO. NOT. BELIEVE. IT.