Lesson idea: Logic of Science and anonymous posts


I’ve been a periodic reader of a blog called The Logic of Science.  The author of the blog has a mission statement or rather a list of three:

  1. Teach critical thinking.
  2. Explain how science works and why it is reliable.
  3. Use critical thinking to defend science against the numerous logically flawed attacks that are hurled at it.

Someone had shared a post from the blog shortly after the 2016 election and I can remember my first thought was “thank goodness, someone is finally explaining science to the rest of us.” However, I’ve always been a bit bothered by the fact that the blogger writes anonymously. There are so many useful articles, providing some great content and inspiration for information literacy instruction (ex. Does Splenda cause cancer? A lesson in how to critically read scientific papers) but I’ve hesitated to use any of it because there’s no verfiably information about the author.  So I started thinking, what if that’s the lesson.  Wouldn’t this be a great class discussion starter?  In their about page, the author indicates that they are posting anonymously because they’re concerned about being harrassed or trolled, which is a very legitimate concern. We’ve all seen it, there is very little restraint online these days when it comes to verbally attacking those with which we disagree with and in this blogger’s case, it appears as though their attackers are following them around the internet just seardching for an opportunity to unleash their venom.  But the question to pose to the class, I think, would be whether they should use or how should they use the information provided in the blog posts.  Should they quote the author? If so, how do they quote an anonymous blog?  The content they link out to in order to support their arguments are in many cases scholarly, academic sources.  But is that enough when we still don’t know who they are? Perhaps there should be some flexibility when it comes to anonymity especially if the blogger seems threatened.  After all, Oxford University recently announced the release of their new Journal of Controverisal Ideas that promises that very thing, to allow scholars to publish anonymously if they feel their article might threaten their position. Maybe there are arguments out there that we are afraid to have that we will only have if we don’t know who eachother are? Does this help scholarsip? Or weaken it?

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