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  • Dan Dredger wrote a new post, China Seeks Tighter Grip in Wake of a Religious Revival 3 years, 10 months ago

    By Ian Johnson
    BEIJING — The finances of religious groups will come under greater scrutiny. Theology students who go overseas could be monitored more closely. And people who rent or provide space to illegal c […]

    • @OP The rules, the first changes in more than a decade to regulations on religion, also include restrictions on religious schools and limits on access to foreign religious writings, including on the internet. They were expected to be adopted as early as Friday, at the end of a public comment period, though there was no immediate announcement by the government.

      There are many places where restricted access to junk conspiracy theories, fundamentalist evangelical rantings, and AIG type pseudoscience sites (especially by children), would be of great social benefit!

      There would need to be safeguards against political abuses, and in the case of China, I have some misgivings!

    • There are many places where restricted access to junk conspiracy theories, fundamentalist evangelical rantings, and AIG type pseudoscience sites (especially by children), would be of great social benefit!

      I disagree that restricting information, even if it’s bogus, is the right way to go, but I get your point. As a pre-service Primary School teacher (another year and half to go) I can see great value in allowing children to access these junk websites, especially when discussing ‘what makes a resource a reliable resource?’

    • There is no value in asking young children to evaluate the reliability or rationality of information, until they have learned the “fair-testing techniques” of basic scientific methodology, and have started to achieve achieve the abstract and logical thought of the “Formal operations stage of mental development” (upper primary or teens).

      Analysing texts to see if they are reliable has nothing to with the formal operational stage of Piaget’s child development, which the website you have provided, discusses. The concrete operations stage, which if you follow the four stages of Piaget’s cognitive development, is pretty clear that children in this stage (typically at about the age of 6 or 7) can make a distinction between one’s own and other’s perspectives and can recognise that one’s thoughts and feelings may differ from those of others and do not necessarily reflect reality (McDevitt et al., 2013, p. 208). Reasoning about the abstract is a formal operations skill, but there is nothing abstract about discussing the quality of resources. By the way, Piaget’s stages are only one of several theories on child development. Vygotsky’s theories are completely different, for example.

      Anyway, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority is explicit about the requirement for primary school children to discuss and evaluate the reliability of resources. Just one example is the requirement for Year 4 students (maybe 9 or 10 years old) in humanities and social sciences to “Examine information to identify different points of view and distinguish facts from opinions (ACHASSI077)” ACARA HSS.

      Don’t try and tell me that children are incapable of understanding the reliability of information until they hit their teens. It is a REQUIREMENT that they can do so in Australia. Right now one of my course assignments is to construct 2 activities for Primary School students that explicitly require the Year 4 students to evaluate resources and understand how to “identify what is a valid resource”. I can’t give you a link to the assignment requirements because it will lead you to a webpage within the University site that is only accessible to students.

      Sorry, but you supplying one website on psychology won’t change my mind about the ability of children to understand the difference between reliable and unreliable sources of information. I think you seriously underestimate the minds of children.

    • Ben Jackson #4
      Oct 10, 2016 at 5:48 am

      Don’t try and tell me that children are incapable of understanding the reliability of information until they hit their teens. It is a REQUIREMENT that they can do so in Australia. Right now one of my course assignments is to construct 2 activities for Primary School students that explicitly require the Year 4 students to evaluate resources and understand how to “identify what is a valid resource”. I can’t give you a link to the assignment requirements because it will lead you to a webpage within the University site that is only accessible to students.

      Don’t worry about that, there are similar requirements in the Uk curriculum.

      Sorry, but you supplying one website on psychology won’t change my mind about the ability of children to understand the difference between reliable and unreliable sources of information.

      I think we are talking at cross purposes here. I provided a link to one website with a simple explanation. There are plenty of others with more detailed descriptions of the stages of development.

      What you are talking about is the teaching of evaluating the validity of “fair-testing methods” in simple experiments.
      This is an entirely different level of understanding, to challenging the contrived and wilfully deceptive false claims, which are made-up on conspiracy theory and fundamentalist religious websites such as the Young-Earth-Creationist AIG or Watts-Up-With-That?

      I think you seriously underestimate the minds of children.

      I don’t think so, but we do sometimes over estimate the thinking of undereducated adults who have been retarded by indoctrination and made vulnerable to propagandist deceptions.

      Analysing texts to see if they are reliable has nothing to with the formal operational stage of Piaget’s child development, which the website you have provided, discusses.

      I think you will find, it has everything to do with abstract and logical thinking.

      The concrete operations stage, which if you follow the four stages of Piaget’s cognitive development, is pretty clear that children in this stage (typically at about the age of 6 or 7) can make a distinction between one’s own and other’s perspectives and can recognise that one’s thoughts and feelings may differ from those of others and do not necessarily reflect reality (McDevitt et al., 2013, p. 208).

      Actually, some decades ago, I did some experiments with children which confirmed Piaget’s experiments at the concrete operational stage. The difference between perceptions and reality at this stage deals with simple concepts such as conservation of volume in fluids regardless of the shape of the container.

      It is important to incorporate such understanding in the planning of teaching, so opportunities are matched to levels of mental development.

    • No. I think we are definitely talking at cross purposes here. What I am talking about is teaching children the difference between a website, book, magazine etc. that has no credulity whatsoever that makes absurdist claims about any particular subject and a website that provides, for example, a list of resources that the student can then access and scrutinise in turn. I am talking about a child being able to understand the difference between a reliable resource and an unreliable resource. I am not suggesting they can properly argue for or against the content, but can look at it as a source of information.

      So, for example, a child can be taught the difference between a resource written about an Aboriginal person’s experience in the 1960s and a resource written by an Aboriginal person who actually experienced it. The same thing can be said of websites. A child can learn that a website about ‘How Floppsy The Magic Bunny Created The Universe’, which was created and sponsored by the Floppsy Bunny Society Of Magiceria, and which has a list of resources from ‘The Floppsiast Ethical Foundation,’ ‘Magic Bunnies Against Thought,’ or ‘Floppsy Against Abortions,’ might be somewhat biased. Children can learn to question where a resource came from and that has nothing to with the ability to think abstractly.

      What you are talking about is the teaching of evaluating the validity of “fair-testing methods” in simple experiments.

      No. I am not talking about experiments and never said I was. All I said was that children, can learn the difference between a reliable and unreliable resource.

      I think you will find, it has everything to do with abstract and logical thinking.

      No. Abstract and logical thinking do not develop simultaneously. Adult-like logic begins to develop around the age of 6, even if it is limited to concrete, real-life situations. I never argued that a child could of this age could think in the abstract, but they could be shown how to distinguish between a source that can be argued as reliable and one that is not.

      My initial response was that children can be taught how to distinguish between a reliable and unreliable source based on your comment that in some places children should be protected from conspiracies or rantings etc. I never actually specified that the child had to be 6 or 7.

      There is no value in asking young children to evaluate the reliability or rationality of information, until they have learned the “fair-testing techniques” of basic scientific methodology, and have started to achieve achieve the abstract and logical thought of the “Formal operations stage of mental development” (upper primary or teens).

      Upper primary children and teenagers are still children, so to go back to my original point, now that we have discussed cognitive development a little bit….

      Do you think that children, perhaps older children then, who have developed the ability for logical and abstract thought should be protected those junk websites?

    • That is a valid exercise when using materials such as selected fairy tales where the child can spot the absurdities.

      So you would suggest using fake resources instead of encouraging children to learn how to distinguish between resources?

      Yes – as so do most science educators and legislators, who prohibit this junk pseudo-science being included in science lessons.

      You are intentionally warping what I say to suit your argument. I did not suggest including these resources as actual sources of information, but to use them to distinguish between a quality resource and a bogus one. Your claim does not apply to Australian schools and legislators who work together to create the Australian Curriculum and require, by Year 4 and using actual resources (not fairy tales), that children can distinguish between sources of factual information and sources that are bias or contain false information.

      Curriculum time for learning is limited and should not be wasted on the deliberate spreading of disinformation, confusion, and fallacious thinking by anti-science charlatans. Nor should it have to be used to correct misapprehensions which have been wilfully created by delusional incompetents.

      Curriculum time should also be spent on developing a child’s ability to analyse resources. Where did I suggest that time should be spent on spreading disinformation?

      Concrete operational (7-11 years):

      Wrong. The concrete operations stage is at the age of about 6 or 7. The formal operations stage is 11-12. I’ve got more than one textbook that repudiates your website, which is an example of a poor resource since it uses posts by anyone who cares to post rather than peer-edited journal articles that have been scrutinised.

    • Older children are still wearing “L plates” when it comes to critical thinking, logic, and evaluating evidence, so they definitely do not need materials which are carefully contrived to deceive, from charlatans who are falsely posing as expert authorities, while disputing materials from reputable honest and competent sources.

      In those whose mental development has been retarded by indoctrination or depravation, this sort of psychological projection of personal views on to others, can persist into adulthood.

      None of your arguments really make any sense. It is as though you think a teacher would just say to their students, “Here’s a website. Make your own mind up about it.” There is actual instruction involved in teaching. Who do you think helps children to get off their “L-Plates” of critical thinking, etc? A child learns how to recognise a good or bad resource through instruction and they learn to recognise why those resources are useful.

      Discussing and evaluating flawed and wilfully dishonest sources of information, is a debate for the upper teens, who have already learned how to recognise valid sources of information and valid thinking processes.

      How did they learn to recognise valid sources of information if they weren’t shown how in earlier years? Does the ability just spontaneously develop by itself?

    • “Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.”
      Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.

      What you are suggesting, Alan, is that children should be shielded and not taught how to decide for themselves whether something is bull***t. So far all you have been arguing about is at what age they should be taught to evaluate evidence when my first and primary point was that children (whether you say at age 13 or I say at age 9) should be taught the skill of evaluating resources. To restrict a child’s access to any information is to restrict their ability to evaluate its worth. You seem to want a control of information, which a lot of organisations also want, especially the one’s that you so fear will indoctrinate children. I disagree with that idea.

    • Ben Jackson #11
      Oct 10, 2016 at 11:24 pm

      “Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.”
      Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.

      What you are suggesting, Alan, is that children should be shielded

      That is correct. to educate children, material has to be presented to them at a level which is consistent with their level of mental development, capability, and earlier foundations of education. They should not have confusing material which is beyond their capabilities thrown at them, or presented by liars and the deluded, to mislead them.

      and not taught how to decide for themselves whether something is bull***t.

      They should be taught, but with materials structured to develop their capabilities, NOT material designed to disrupt and obstruct their learning.

      So far all you have been arguing about is at what age they should be taught to evaluate evidence when my first and primary point was that children (whether you say at age 13 or I say at age 9) should be taught the skill of evaluating resources.

      Evaluating resources is a learned skill, based on previous experience, role models and education in thinking processes.

      (whether you say at age 13 or I say at age 9)

      Rates of maturity vary from individual to individual, and learning is a slow progressive process over extended time scales, not an on/off sudden acquisition of skills.

      To restrict a child’s access to any information is to restrict their ability to evaluate its worth.

      Materials have to matched to capabilities and levels of development, so that children get most of it right and learn from correcting the small percentage of errors. Dropping them on to dishonest material on rogue sites, which is way out of their depth, is very counter-productive.
      A primary school child has no capability to evaluate a university science textbook, or distinguish it from a pseudo-science heap of garbage! Simply choosing what they want to believe, is not a reputable scientific process!

      The whole nature of optimising child education, is in presenting honest materials at the right level, and then building experience in a constructive sequence.

      You seem to want a control of information,

      No! I want to control proven disinformation from charlatans and fraudsters.

      which a lot of organisations also want, especially the one’s that you so fear will indoctrinate children.

      Indeed! The charlatans and fraudsters by their very nature, seek to promote their misleading materials, and disparage honest warnings about their dishonesty.

      I disagree with that idea.

      So apparently do many people creating chaos in the banking industry, promoting the quack-medicine trade, evangelists for delusional cults, and conspiracy theorists!

      Scientific methodology is the best method we have for acquiring honest information.
      Those who gratuitously dispute honest information, and substitute deception, should be exposed as the charlatans and frauds that they are, – and certainly not given access to naive and trusting children. Children below the ages of reason, are simply not equipped to analyse elaborate fraud!
      From time to time we even have gullible university age students posting rubbish on this RDFS site, after enrolling for postal courses in pseudo-history and pseudo-science at the YEC “Liberty University”.

      Ben Jackson #9
      Oct 10, 2016 at 10:24 pm – Curriculum time should also be spent on developing a child’s ability to analyse resources. Where did I suggest that time should be spent on spreading disinformation?

      Here:-

      @#2 I can see great value in allowing children to access these junk websites, especially when discussing ‘what makes a resource a reliable resource?’

      This is very dangerous game which could lead children to go back independently to anti-science sites specialising in climate change denial, quack medicines, alien abduction nuttery, astrology, and Young-Earth Creationists’ pseudo-science!

      As a pre-service Primary School teacher (another year and half to go)

      BTW: I am a retired science teacher with many years of experience right across ages ranges from 3 to 18, at various classroom and departmental levels, up to acting headteacher., – and I now do part time work for a university.

      I wish you good fortune in your career, but you need to rethink some of these ideas.

      BTW: Did you read the link @#8?

    • Ben Jackson #9
      Oct 10, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      Wrong. The concrete operations stage is at the age of about 6 or 7. The formal operations stage is 11-12. I’ve got more than one textbook that repudiates your website,

      Nope! I think you are confusing the beginning of developmental stages with the age at which competence is achieved.

      Some people never achieve competence at formal operations level – even as adults.

    • Learning by discovery is a hugely attractive idea. Letting kids decide for themselves and alight upon truths, is attractive also. I have no doubt that Ben could successfully teach his own pre-teen pupils in this manner. BUT it is really only since about 2006 that we have started to become aware of the phenomenon of “over-imitation” in pre-teens and the disabling of their own rational faculties. Kids believe what an adult shows them against their own eyes and reason even if that reason has been recently inculcated in them.

      The roots of this are fascinating, they are possible the very roots of culture and a defence mechanism for a brain born in a uniquely pre-mature condition and requiring strong parental/adult direction to remain safe. Here’s a little bit of educationalist insight.

      http://www.hellofelix.com/childhood-social-learning/overimitation/the-mystery-of-overimitation.html

      From this we have to accept that any education whilst this effect persists has to be better considered indoctrination, with far greater care needed over it than we had previously thought. (Note the experiment trying to train kids to detect the incompetent demonstrator’s errors…) We must accept that children may learn from very many adults apart from educators. At young ages it may well be far better to simply present a correct but conflicting interpretation of things as a simple check on easy absorption of error from other sources. Those other folk (parents, relatives) will not be measured like you but insist upon a nice easy truth, swearing on a stack of bibles. These folk ace you in trustworthiness and demand a more robust response.

      My approach rather than trying to inculcate a cautious investigative approach in toto was to teach that grown ups lie sometimes and do so often unwittingly. I would, as daily habit, lie to my kids about one thing, which they had to identify by the end of the day. They found it hard work sometimes and I would help them thinking their thoughts through. It was not about learning analytical processes, though these were used, but about noticing the varieties of areas where there are lies to be told and the people who tell them. Nor does it mean that the scientific method is not used everywhere, but not at that age as a deliverer of ambiguous results. Opinions and interpretations are for early teens as they begin their process of individuation.

    • phil rimmer #15
      Oct 11, 2016 at 10:41 am

      BUT it is really only since about 2006 that we have started to become aware of the phenomenon of “over-imitation” in pre-teens and the disabling of their own rational faculties. Kids believe what an adult shows them against their own eyes and reason even if that reason has been recently inculcated in them.

      I think the fashion-trend over-priced gimmick advertisers, have been on to this for a long time – with hyped role-model media celebrities promoting products!

      Anyway an amusing anecdote:-

      After reading a picture book of cartoon animals with a picture of a witch with a black cat, my granddaughter pronounced that:-
      “Auntie Helen has a black cat – therefore Auntie Helen is a witch!”
      (Beginnings of reasoning from a two and a half year old.)
      Her father – not wishing to discourage her, let it go unchallenged.
      Auntie Helen has been since teased by other family members about this!

    • This is very dangerous game which could lead children to go back independently to anti-science sites specialising in climate change denial, quack medicines, alien abduction nuttery, astrology, and Young-Earth Creationists’ pseudo-science!

      If you really believe that accessing a website in a classroom will suddenly lead that child to turn into a zombie then I can’t change your mind about that. You have your thoughts about children and information and that is fine. The fact remains that here (Australia), at least, there will never likely be a complete blacklisting of all these sites. And there would be little point in banning anti-science sites that specialise in climate change denial since half our politicians specialise in the same thing. Like I have already said, ACARA makes it clear that teachers have to instruct their students on how to analyse resources to see if they are reliable. If, as you say, there is the chance that children can come across these websites independently, then isn’t it better for them to know the difference between a website that says Triceratops roamed the planet 68 million years ago and provides pictures of fossils etc and one that says Triceratops may have helped the Egyptians build the pyramids and points to the bible as its source of information?

      You can’t just give a child a hand-out with a list of criteria and expect them to be able to apply that as knowledge. They need to actually use bogus resources to learn the difference. I have never suggested that I would choose websites without looking over them first and making sure they don’t contain dangerous information or websites that are so cleverly constructed that they appear to tick all the boxes of credibility.

    • You might like to test your own capabilities at recognising reliable sources of information when complex language or technical terms are used.

      Anyone can write an article and post it to a website that allows them to do so. As a uni student this article fell at the first hurdle, which for me, is whether or not it comes from a reputable published academic journal. I didn’t even bother to read it because it is not peer-edited.

      I get your point about information being dangerous, but I am not discussing evaluating information. I am talking about evaluating the reliability of a resource. Let me just explain what I mean by pretending that the article was suppose to be genuine and that as a teacher I was taking my class through a resource reliability exercise.

      First we would look at the source of the information: the website. In this instance, children could look at elsewhere.org and see straight away that it’s in the public domain – anyone can contribute to it. Right there, at the very first step, this website fails to be a reliable resource (even if some of its information turns out to be correct).

      Second, we would look at the author. A search of the author’s name would reveal whether they are a professional in their field. I did this and Charles P. von Ludwig (the author of the article) does not exist. Strike 2.

      Third, we could look at the reference list. I randomly chose no. 6 and it doesn’t seem to exist. Strike 3.

      Fourth, a search for the Miskatonic University that the author claims to work for will reveal that it is a fictional University from a H.P. Lovecraft story. Strike 4.

      Fifth, there is a paragraph that at the bottom that states the essay was meaningless – I know that is unlikely to be posted at the bottom of most crap.

      This is just a few things that we could look at when evaluating a resource. As I have said, it is less about the information and more about looking at where the information comes from.

    • Ben Jackson #17
      Oct 11, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      If, as you say, there is the chance that children can come across these websites independently, then isn’t it better for them to know the difference between a website that says Triceratops roamed the planet 68 million years ago and provides pictures of fossils etc and one that says Triceratops may have helped the Egyptians build the pyramids and points to the bible as its source of information?

      Except that Ken Ham’s “Creation Science Museum” doesn’t say that.

      It displays dinosaur fossils with labels saying they are 6,000 years old, are reviewed in a fake “peer-reviewed journal”, (only creationists need apply as reviewers), and endorsed by one or two rogue scientists who actually acquired some scientific qualifications (such as PhDs) before being employed as pseudo-science YEC stooges. !

      It also has animatronic dinosaurs with saddles on which cave men allegedly rode, and children can play on. He has thousands of deluded donors and funding from public money for his ark park with its fake Noah’s ark built of plywood and hidden “gopher steel” brackets!

      Material to blind people with pseudo-science actually quote mines and cherry picks bits, and misrepresents quotes, from genuine peer-reviewed articles in reputable journals. You seem very naive about this!

      Google “creation science” and have a look at this deceptive junk!

      I have never suggested that I would choose websites without looking over them first and making sure they don’t contain dangerous information or websites that are so cleverly constructed that they appear to tick all the boxes of credibility.

      I am pleased to hear that, because the internet is full of them.

    • Ben Jackson #17
      Oct 11, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      I have never suggested that I would choose websites without looking over them first and making sure they don’t contain dangerous information or websites that are so cleverly constructed that they appear to tick all the boxes of credibility.

      I see your post about my link @#8? has disappeared, so perhaps you have reconsidered it.

      I would point out that an essay generated in this manner and presented to a post-modernist philosophy journal was accepted as genuine not by children or teachers, but by the editors.

    • @alan4

      I want to control proven disinformation from charlatans and fraudsters.

      A very Good Intention. And an excellent paving stone for the road to Hell.

    • My 10 year old reported a pseudo-documentary she saw at school. I didn’t press for detail, but basically it recounted a “discovery” of dragon bones, or fossils. She suspected it was a fake when it claimed the creature had 6 limbs, and also the limbs didn’t conform to the pattern of “one bone, two bones, lots of little bones, digits” as elucidated by Dr Neil Shubin (Your Inner Fish). It revealed itself as a spoof at the end, much to the disappointment of several of her friends, who, like Mulder in the X-Files, wanted to believe.

      I am pleased at her abilities in critical thinking. Especially as she too would love to be convinced dragons are — or were — real. She’s keen on the Loch Ness Monster too, but already knows that just because it’s a Cool Story, that doesn’t make it a True Story. (She has a copy of The Magic of Reality, and dips into it from time to time.)

      On educational development stages, anyone care to comment on the broad-brush theme I recall (from somewhere) that children grow (approximately) thru 3 phases of seven years each, in which they focus in turn on Beauty, Truth, and Justice. (Is it Beautiful? Is it True? Is it Fair?) By that yardstick, age 7 to 14 would be the right time for learning how to distinguish Truth from the rest, and that can be badly skewed by deceptive teaching (as the child will naturally trust the adults in positions of authority – parents, teachers). Leaving it until the teenage years might be leaving it a bit late.

    • I see your post about my link @#8? has disappeared, so perhaps you have reconsidered it.

      I submitted the post but it didn’t appear on my screen. The same thing happened the other day. I didn’t reconsider it, I just didn’t think it actually made it through and I couldn’t be bothered re-posting it. My computer keeps updating and every time this happens it seems to mess with my posts, either by not putting it up or by somehow making it pop up a few hours later. This seems to happen when I edit a post. Maybe it will reappear.

      I would point out that an essay generated in this manner and presented to a post-modernist philosophy journal was accepted as genuine not by children or teachers, but by the editors.

      That is scary.

      I took your suggestion and had a look at a creationist website, creation.com. I wouldn’t show that to children.

    • I still don’t like the idea of creating a list of websites that can be blocked on a national level, though. Ideas that remove freedom of speech don’t sit well with me because of the precedents they set. Governments come and go. Who chooses the blacklist? Creating a blacklist relies on one particular group deciding which information should be allowed and which information should not. I would rather teach kids how to recognise rubbish than just shield them from everything that could contain rubbish. As you have argued, some websites and resources would not be suitable for children of certain developmental stages. You have also argued that some children may be ready for that challenge, specifically older children. Should they be denied access too? As a science teacher, I bet you could teach Year 10 children that the theory of evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of living things and is supported by a range of scientific evidence (ACSSU185) (ACARA). I bet you could do it well enough that if you showed them some examples of pseudo-science on creationist websites they would actually find it hilarious and it would only confirm their learning on evolution. In that kind of situation couldn’t showing children the ludicrous alternative be a good thing?

    • I took your suggestion and had a look at a creationist website, creation.com. I wouldn’t show that to children.

      Just to clarify, I wouldn’t show that website to primary school children.

    • Since my last post didn’t reappear, I’ll re-write it.

      As a uni student, I wouldn’t use this article as a resource because it is an article posted on a public website rather than in a peer-edited and verified academic journal. I didn’t even bother reading it because it does not pass my first criteria for use, which is to be published and peer-edited in a reliable academic journal.

      If I were using this article to teach Year 4 students about how to recognise a reliable resource we would look at the following:

      The website: The content of the website elsewhere.org seems to be made up of public posts. It is not a website owned by a recognised academic or educational group in Australia or anywhere else. Strike 1.

      The author: A quick websearch reveals the author to be non-existent. Strike 2.

      The university and school that the author states in their credentials: As above, a quick websearch reveals that there is no Department of Ontology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Strike 3.

      Resources: From the resource list we have chosen source no. 5 and looked it up. It does not exist. Strike 4.

      These are just a few ways that children can be taught how to recognise an educationally valuable resource and how to identify a bogus one. It is not an extensive list and, as Alan will point out to me, it may not work in cases such as certain creationist websites that can seemingly pass these tests. (By the way, thank you Alan for pointing me towards those websites). Yet there are creationist websites that could be analysed in this way.

      creationtoday.org. Let’s say we were looking at science resources and discussing whether this is a good resource. Some things to point out might be…

      Author: Eric Hovind. A websearch reveals nothing about Eric’s credentials because he has none. Strike 1.

      Website: Look at the ‘About’ page to see what the website’s purpose is. This page makes it clear that the website’s purpose is “to defend faith”. It’s main purpose is not to provide scientific information. Strike 2

      Question on bias: Given that the purpose of this website is to defend faith, how might this be a biased website in terms of the information it provides?

      Website board of directors: The directors range from coffee shop owners to owners of a company that provides deer heads as trophies. No scientific credentials. Strike 3.

      I think the crap in this website is so transparent that it could be used to teach upper primary school students about reliable resources.

    • Alan, I just re-posted my reply to the website you provided in #8. It appeared and then when I refreshed the page it was gone again. So I really don’t know what is going on.

      • Hi Ben

        Yes, sorry. The website attracts a lot of spam, as you can imagine. Its spam filter is highly effective, but occasionally picks up on a post for no apparent reason. Posting a comment such as this one is a good way to alert us to the problem. We’ll always restore wrongly-spammed comments if we spot them.

        We’ve put both versions of your comment back now.

        The mods

    • Ben Jackson #23
      Oct 11, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      I still don’t like the idea of creating a list of websites that can be blocked on a national level, though. Ideas that remove freedom of speech don’t sit well with me because of the precedents they set. Governments come and go. Who chooses the blacklist?

      Indeed so – which as you may recall, is why I had misgivings about China @#1 and mentioned the issue of potential abuses.

      Creating a blacklist relies on one particular group deciding which information should be allowed and which information should not.

      Just as parents use discretion in giving young children internet access, schools or education authorities need to blacklist and bar wilfully dishonest propagandist sites.

      An example of abuse is the publication of encyclopaedias of “Creationist geology, biology, and physics”, which are advertised for fundamentalist parents to buy for their children – to warn them against “evil unbelieving teachers”, who might condemn them to Hell by teaching them evolution, cosmology, astronomy, or geology! These trash-books are full of science denial, promoting an Earth literally created in six days of Genesis story, and the “geology” of Noah’s flood!
      There are also YEC on-line pseudo-science courses from the notorious Young-Earth-Creationist US “Liberty University”, and various denominational theology colleges.

      If children or indeed a significant proportion of adults, had the skills to recognise rubbish information sources as you suggest, many popular newspapers and profitable advertising agencies, would have gone bust long ago. Many politicians would also never get elected.

      Ben Jackson #25
      Oct 11, 2016 at 11:47 pm

      Alan, I just re-posted my reply to the website you provided in #8. It appeared and then when I refreshed the page it was gone again.

      This site has a spam filter which sometimes delays posts with links until they are looked at by the moderators – and sometimes it malfunctions!!

      I posted that link to the Postmodernist Generator which was devised to produce hoax documents, and expose those who con others with high sounding, semantic, gobble-de-gook!

      Just to clarify, I wouldn’t show that [creationist] website to primary school children.

      I am pleased to see that you are improving your awareness of the deceptive junk, which often comes up at the top of the search-list on the internet.

    • Ben Jackson #26
      Oct 11, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      elsewhere.org/journal/pomo/

      Since my last post didn’t reappear, I’ll re-write it.

      As a uni student, I wouldn’t use this article as a resource because it is an article posted on a public website rather than in a peer-edited and verified academic journal.

      The problem with peer-reviewed journals, is that even where access is free, the length of the text (on the SpaceX Mars discussion I cite a peer reviewed report – 192 pages of it!), the technical language, and – in the case of science, formulii and calculations, can make it near impossible for non-specialists to understand what is written.
      Consequently for the public and children, most of the articles which they use, are summaries, with selected quotes from the originals.

      I didn’t even bother reading it because it does not pass my first criteria for use, which is to be published and peer-edited in a reliable academic journal.

      People therefore skim through material and miss key points.

      @#8 -Be sure to read to the bottom of the page to see key information.

      Such as the paragraph which tells you that this is a computer generated hoax! – That is why I set it as an enlightening test!

    • Free access to junk ideas does not equal susceptibility to them. If you are middle-aged, take a look at your children and then take a look at your parents. Chances are your children have relatively unfettered access to good and bad ideas of all kinds via the internet, while your parents have probably spent most of their lives reading one or two respectable newspapers and watching Walter Cronkite. Assuming no intentional indoctrination by some authority figure bent on cultivating their credulity, the kids are probably far quicker to spot nonsense and scams than your parents.

    • zonotrichia #31
      Oct 12, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Free access to junk ideas does not equal susceptibility to them.

      The percentage of the susceptible population varies according to geography and levels of education, but it is significant in most populations.

      If you are middle-aged, take a look at your children and then take a look at your parents. Chances are your children have relatively unfettered access to good and bad ideas of all kinds via the internet, while your parents have probably spent most of their lives reading one or two respectable newspapers and watching Walter Cronkite.

      The quality criteria for acceptance would depend on perceptions of respect for sources at internet sites or for printed material.
      Young IT literate children are probably much more vulnerable to internet deceptions, whereas IT duffers, are more susceptible to opinionated tabloid rags posing as respectable news sources.

      Assuming no intentional indoctrination by some authority figure bent on cultivating their credulity,

      That would be a crass assumption in both internet and printed advertising, conspiracy theorists, religious cults, political propaganda and quackery!

      the kids are probably far quicker to spot nonsense and scams than your parents.

      I think we would need some evidence for that. – particularly where levels of education and business experience, are required in the spotting process.

    • I have been looking at various resources about this topic because it is an issue that is going to affect me as a teacher and I don’t think I have ever given it enough thought. Alan has argued that an effective method for ensuring that children are protected from pseudo-science is for education systems, or schools at least, to blacklist certain sites that provide dangerous information (if that’s incorrect or short of the mark, please jump in Alan). I argued that analysing some of those websites in activities to determine the reliability of resources could be a good thing.

      Alan pointed me in the direction of creationist websites and I found that some of those websites were so convincing that it would be impossible for primary school children to use basic reliability tests to decide whether the information is correct, scientifically proven and based upon evidence. Others could be used because they were so blatantly full of crap and the authors had no academic credentials etc. Plus a lot of them are just fishing for donations basically to keep the owner of the website from having to get a job.

      I have read articles that state that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children’s differentiation between reality and fiction. It seems that a lot of these websites are trying to ‘cash in’ on this fact. I have also read a couple of articles that discuss evangelical groups creating what can only be described as a war plan for religious conversions. These groups openly target children between the ages of 4 and 14.
      Dr. Darrel Ray, author of The God Virus, on his website kidswithoutgod, suggests to a parent who is afraid that her child is being openly indoctrinated the following advice:

      All children have a mind of their own; your job is to expose them to a
      wide range of ideas and experiences, after which they will just have
      to figure it out for themselves. Using that approach you are much more
      likely to influence her to be a freethinker.

      I think that also applies, to some degree, to teachers. Dr. Ray also states that the information provided has to be age-appropriate.
      Having looked at some of those creationist websites I would definitely agree with Alan that some of them are not age-appropriate for primary school children. In Alan’s initial post he added junk conspiracy theory websites to the list. Sites such as AboveTopSecret seem, to me, less dangerous. It is a website of discussion groups and anything I would deem appropriate to show primary school children could easily be picked apart by the most basic reliability test. For example, I quickly scanned an article on ‘UFO Destroyed the Falcon 9 Rocket’ and found the unnamed author using evidence from someone on Reddit who says they work at the site. To me, that’s a valuable internet resource if I wanted to show a year 7 class about unreliable sources of information (especially if a curious child raised the question of UFOs).

      I still have an issue with the idea of a government-level blacklisting of websites or information, but I do agree with Alan’s more moderate idea of schools blocking access to certain sites. However, I also believe that impressionable young minds need to start building the skills to determine the reliability of sources and information as soon as possible. This might begin with, as Alan suggested, looking at fairy tales, but I also think that children (from 5-17) need to progressively build those skills and that involves looking at real examples of nonsense too.

    • There may be examples of modern nonsense which could be selectively chosen and used, but let’s not forget the time which should be spent on real core examples from the history of science up-dating in the light of new evidence, and rejecting refuted theories – Flat Earth, geocentrism, phlogiston, the heart as the central thinking organ etc.

      There are flat earth websites out there trying to proclaim their ‘theory’ as alternative science. Would you agree that we (getting ahead of myself since I am not a teacher yet) can use such websites when scrutinising the reliability of resources then?

      Many of the people running these pseudo-science sites are delusional, or just criminal!

      If children, taught progressively from upper primary to upper secondary schooling, are taught how to check websites for reliability then they will be able to do a quick google search of characters such Kevin Hovind and see that they are criminals. Obviously, this won’t always be the case, but as you suggested teachers can be selective about what they present in terms of modern nonsense.