Fake News, Facts, and Alternative Facts – Claims vs. Deductions

Auto-grading for the first quiz in Fake News, Facts, and Alternative Facts marked my responses as incorrect for:

On the contrary, in a news report, both:

  • “In a survey of Americans, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to believe that September 11th was a government cover-up.”
  • “Scientists have looked for a potential link between vaccinations and autism an cannot find any evidence across multiple epidemiological studies.”

are claims by the person reporting that information.

You have no doubt heard surveys show a majority of Americans favor gun control. Would your opinion about those reports change if you knew the survey asked: “Do you think convicted murderers should be allowed to own guns?” Prohibiting gun ownership by convicted murderers is a form of gun control.

Knowing the questions asked in a survey, how respondents were selected, the method of conducting the survey and a host of other information is necessary before treating any report of a survey as anything other than a claim. You have no way of knowing if a reporter knew any more about the survey than the statement shown in the test. That’s a claim, not “systematically derived evidence … [that] reflects deductive testing using the scientific method.”

The claim about scientists and a link between vaccinations and autism is even weaker. Notice you are given the reporters conclusion about a report by scientists and not the report per se. You have no way to evaluate the reporters claim by examining the article, what “multiple epidemiological studies” were compared, out of a universe of how many other “epidemiological studies,” in which countries, etc.

I don’t doubt the absence of such a connection but “summarizes deductive evidence that was generated to specifically and rigorously evaluate a particular question. It reflects deductive testing using the scientific method” is an attempt to dress the claim by a reporter in the garb of what may or may not be true for the scientific study.

Reporting a scientific study isn’t the same thing as a scientific study. A scientific study can be evaluated, questioned, etc., all things that a bare report, a “claim” in my view, cannot.

Every report of a scientific study should link or give a standard reference to the scientific study. Reports that don’t, I skip and you should as well.

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