This is a rich topic that raises lots of questions worth discussing in the knowledge and knower unit. I’m posting a few of the stories here but will put together lessons around this topic next school year.
But the goal of journalism shouldn’t be to craft the most culturally sensitive or partisan narrative. The goal of journalism is to seek the truth. The consequences of telling the truth should be secondary to getting the truth out there in the first place, even if it makes the Trump administration or Republican Senators look good or the Chinese government look bad.
Good journalism, like good science, should follow evidence, not narratives. It should pay as much heed to intelligent gadflies as it does to eminent authorities. And it should never treat honest disagreement as moral heresy.
The Media’s Lab Leak Debacle Shows Why Banning ‘Misinformation’ Is a Terrible Idea:
How a debate about COVID-19’s origins exposed a dangerous hubris
But Facebook’s concession that the lab leak story it once viewed as demonstrably false is actually possibly true should put to rest the idea that banning or regulating misinformation should be a chief public policy goal.
It’s one thing to discuss, debate, and correct wrong ideas, and both tech companies and media have roles to play in fostering healthy public dialogue. But Team Blue’s recent obsession with rendering unsayable anything that clashes with its preferred narrative is the height of hubris. The conversation should not be closed by the government and its yes-men in journalism, in tech, or even in public health.
The Media’s Lab Leak Debacle Shows Why Banning ‘Misinformation’ Is a Terrible Idea
Short passage from a larger documentary, “Return to Eden,” which is worth watching in its entirety. Starts at: 1:32:04.
From the description:
When Natural and human interests impinge on each other and over-regulation disturbs our biological balance. important questions arise. Do we belong to nature or does nature belongs to us? A thought-provoking story in which documentary maker Marijn Poels explores the human urge to control our climate, security and preferably the other. Balancing on a razor-thin line between regulation and manipulation. When technology reigns supreme and common sense vaporizes through the test of time, humanity is on the brink of becoming the tool. Miles away from the collective panic, fear and chaos, there is hope, inspiration and reconnection.
Starts at: 1:32:04.
Philosopher Karl Popper famously asked how to tell the two apart. His answer—falsifiability—hasn’t aged well, but the effort lives on.
Jettisoning falsifiability won’t solve our initial problem, however: demarcation is simply inevitable. Scientists have finite time and therefore must select which topics are worth working on and which are not: this implies some kind of demarcation. Indeed, there seems to be a broad consensus about which doctrines count as fringe, although debate remains about gray areas.
Attached are some passages from the book, Cribsheet by Emily Oster, an economist who wrote a data-driven guide to parenting. I put together some interesting passages from the introduction and from one of the chapters that does a nice job contextualizing the concepts of data driven decision making, what a good study is, the limits of those studies, and the ultimate uncertainty of all the knowledge produced using data.
Meaningful connections to constructing knowledge and data collection in the human sciences (particularly economics), natural sciences, and cognitive biases. Also deals well with problems of sorting out the differences between correlation and causation.
Generally great book for parenting, not just for its TOK connections.
How can you identify a good study? This is a hard question. Some things you can see directly. Certain approaches are better than others – randomized trials, for example, are usually more compelling than other designs. Large studies tend, on average, to be better. More studies confirming the same thing tends to increase confidence, although not always – sometimes they all have the same biases in their results
Passages from Cribsheet by Emily Oster
For a century, critics of all political stripes have challenged the role of science in society. Repairing distrust today requires confronting those arguments head on.
Arguments over science underlie some of our most divisive and consequential policy debates. From climate change to fracking, abortion to genetically modified foods—and much else besides—contemporary political battles generate disputes over the legitimacy of scientific theories, methodologies, institutions, concepts, and even facts. In this context, scholars, citizens, and policymakers must think carefully about science and its cultural and political ramifications. The prevailing views on these matters will significantly determine our future—and perhaps even our survival as a species. And to understand why science is so widely distrusted in the United States, it is essential to understand how that attitude has arisen.
There are a bunch of great articles from the Boston Review about science topics.
What Makes Science Trustworthy
The “scientific method” of high school textbooks does not exist. But there are scientific methods, and they play an essential role in making scientific knowledge reliable.
The more certain someone is about covid-19, the less you should trust them
Acknowledging uncertainty a little more might improve not only the atmosphere of the debate and the science, but also public trust. If we publicly bet the reputational ranch on one answer, how open minded can we be when the evidence changes?
Meaningful discussions around the concept of the production and utility of scientific knowledge, interdisciplinary knowledge, and the limitations of expertise.
It is, moreover, true that scientific consensus is often fleeting and regularly overturned, and that, in any case, consensus is neither unanimity nor a marker of infallibility. But the problem that we raise would remain a problem even if scientists were unanimous and infallible in their respective fields, and omnipotent about particular circumstances of time and place…
When the phenomena of multiple scientific fields interact, such as when it is necessary to trade off the health costs of a virus against the economic and other costs of a lockdown, policymakers can turn to experts about isolated phenomena. But there are no experts about the interaction of different kinds of phenomena or about the proper weighting of some against others. Policymakers can ask epidemiologists to weigh in on epidemiology, infectious disease specialists to weigh in on infectious disease, and economists to weigh in on economics. But there are no experts about how these subjects interact or how to balance them.
How real are the equations with which we represent nature?
Physicists’ theories work. They predict the arc of planets and the flutter of electrons, and they have spawned smartphones, H-bombs and—well, what more do we need? But scientists, and especially physicists, aren’t just seeking practical advances. They’re after Truth. They want to believe that their theories are correct—exclusively correct—representations of nature. Physicists share this craving with religious folk, who need to believe that their path to salvation is the One True Path.
But can you call a theory true if no one understands it?