Monday, October 30, 2017

Promoting critical thinking

How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing myths of science denial by Darryl Cunningham though published in 2013 is right on target in this day of ‘fake news’.

Looking at the science and controversies behind such topics as climate change, fracking, evolution, chiropractic and homeopathic care, vaccinations causing autism and the conspiracy story that astronauts did not land on the moon, Cunningham looks to give us some insight into the veracity of all claims.

Let’s take the chapter on climate change, a topic that is often explored in classrooms.  Presented are common arguments that the Earth’s climate is becoming warmer and as well as those that refute this claim.

Cunningham explains that to really understand climate change we need to see the big picture, we need to see what is happening on a global level, and not base our opinions on local events such as extremely hot summers or extremely cold winters.  In addition to looking at patterns on a global level we need to look at the Earth’s historical data, as well to see these patterns over very long periods of time.

Overall, there is an immense amount of data to breakdown and analyze but the science does back up the theory that the Earth’s climate is indeed changing. He presents the following facts:

*global sea levels have risen about 17 cm in the past century, a rate of increase that has doubled in the past decade.
*there has been a consistent global surface temperature rise since the 1880s and most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s with two of the warmest years happening in the past 12 years.
*all this has taken place even though the 2000s have experienced a solar output decline.
                                                                                                                         --from page 139
He presents additional information about shrinking ice sheets from highly credible sources with measurable points for comparison over time.  He explains how Earth’s atmosphere traps greenhouse gases and that there is a correlation between human activity since the industrial revolution and increases in global temperatures.

Next, he addresses the points of contention that arise in discussions about climate change like, “Isn’t it true that a growing number of eminent scientists now believe climate change to be wrong?” But statistical analysis of the opinions of climate experts showed that only 2.5 percent of the world’s top 200 climate scientists are skeptical of human-made climate change.

Cunningham explains that many of the conspiracy theories come from interest groups, such as the fossil fuel industry who have a vested interest in preserving the status quo.

Now all of this sounds like pretty heavy going, doesn’t it? But the book is done in fairly short chapters in graphic novel-style. The tone is conversational as our narrator is depicted in each section and leads us through the controversies and evidence. I think it’s taken me longer to write up the section above describing the chapter about climate change than it did for me to read about it.

This book will be a terrific addition to classrooms to promote discussions about climate change and any topic which might fall into either category of ‘news’ or ‘fake news’.  It will with encourage critical thinking for those at the secondary levels.  Each section is credited with the sources that the author consulted to write this book.

I recommend this for grades 9 or 10 and up for anyone interested in this timely topic.


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