Is the Earth billions of years old or merely thousands? Do humans influence the climate? Is Bigfoot real? How do we know what we know? It’s hard enough parsing fact from fiction in today’s so-called post-truth environment, but how can we recognize science fact from pseudoscience? To help us think more critically before swallowing whole any idea, scientific or otherwise, paleontologist Thomas Holtz introduces the toolkit assembled by Carl Sagan, the great astronomer, science communicator, and peerless detector of scientific baloney. Holtz draws out questions to help us penetrate the web of faux facts as well as fake news: Is the claim consistent with otherwise well-established evidence? Does the proposer accept they are wrong when contradictory evidence is brought to light? Have the facts been independently confirmed and debated by knowledgeable people with opposing points of view? Are the facts quantifiable?
In a world where claims are often regarded as true until proven false, learn when to be skeptical and develop the skills to spot false narratives.
Holtz is a principal lecturer at the University of Maryland, author, and scientific adviser for BBC’s popular series, Walking with Dinosaurs.
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