1) Choose two articles from Scientific American, New Scientist, Science News Magazine, Nature, Science, Resurgence, Orion, or some other reliable source of science or environment writing. For each of the articles, write a 700-word critical analysis invoking as many concepts as possible from this week’s readings and lectures. Be sure to use the lists of concepts I supply in the lesson. Apply these concepts to analyze and criticize statements made in the articles. Are they presenting a false balance? Do they seem to contradict or agree with the precautionary principle?
The concepts are false balance and dualism, precautionary principle, and stance.
2) Choose three scientific articles (by which I mean not articles about science for a general public but rather articles by scientists (mostly also for scientists) published in peer-reviewed science journals) that use statistical methods (which you can now identify having studied this lesson). Try using the browsing techniques for scientific literature that we studied in Lesson 2. Search for topics and paper subjects that most interest you.
analyze the use of statistics in your selected articles. For each of the articles, write 300 words presenting your analysis. Answer questions such as the following (in narrative form, not as individual answers):
- How does the paper present correlations, and does it imply causation? If so, do you think it’s doing so incorrectly?
- Can you see any way in which the paper might be misleading if someone with less understanding of statistics were to read it?
- How would you characterize and possibly criticize the following values presented in the article (don’t worry if not all are presented):
- sample size
- confidence interval
- Do you think the article adequately nuances the uncertainties present?
- Do you detect any biases in the article?
- Do they affect how it presents its data and statistics?
- Can you think of alternative explanations for the findings, besides those offered by the authors?
3) Select any topic, such as climate change or vaccines, in which false balance may play a role. Find several secondary sources (newspaper articles, etc.) that report on that topic. Select your sources in such a way that they differ in their explicit (explained) or implicit (not explained) portrayals of balance. Also select them in such a way that they are reported from differing standpoints—neutral, objective, biased, and so on.
Write a 600-word essay that compares and contrasts the use of balance and objectivity in the several sources. How do their perspectives differ? And how do you expect these particular differences in balance and perspective, along with the coverage and presentation of scientific information in the sources, to shape the understandings of readers reading these pieces?
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