Evaluating Evidence: Crash Course Navigating Digital Information #6


Hi, I’m John Green, and this is Crash Course: Navigating Digital Information. When you were a kid, did you ever hear the
phrase “Because I said so”? Like, I most often say that after my kids
ask why they can’t have m&Ms for dinner. The answer to which, of course, is “you
will get scurvy if you eat that way.” But that just leads to more questions about
scurvy, and them begging to take a multivitamin so they can eat M&Ms–It’s because I said
so! I say this because it gets results. You listen to your parents because, you know,
they’re your parents. And also because they can take your phone
away. But as you grow older, “because I said so”
no longer cuts it. If you told your boss you deserve a raise
“because I said so” you’re liable to get fired. Also, I can’t afford raises, Stan. Do you think my fleet of lamborghinis pays
for itself? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,
if you want a raise, you need to learn how to change the oil in a lamborghini. NO! You need to provide evidence that you deserve
the raise, and that evidence needs to be convincing. And that’s how online information works,
too. Not only should you look for reliable sources
of information, but they should provide convincing evidence for their claims. Solid evidence, ideally. And often, they don’t. So today we’re going to focus on how to
tell good evidence from bad evidence, and maybe importantly, how to identify “Fine
but that doesn’t actually prove your point” evidence. The stuff that the internet is built on. INTRO In the past few weeks, we’ve learned how
to ask and answer the questions “Who said that and why?” when we encounter new online
information. But those two questions alone aren’t enough
to properly evaluate information. We need to add another question to our repertoire:
“What is the evidence?” Why do we need evidence? Can’t we just find a trustworthy source
and believe whatever they say? Wouldn’t that just be, you know, easier? Well, yes, and it’s important to find and
trust reliable sources of information, the credibility of their claims depends on the
evidence provided to back them up. Evidence could be anything, really — text,
photos, videos, data — as long as it supports a claim and gives you a good reason to believe
it’s true. If someone is making a factual claim — and
not just voicing a subjective opinion — then they need to provide proof in order for us
to believe it. This classic tweet by comedian Nathan Fielder
explains it all. In the photo you see Nathan laughing, looking
off camera. The tweet reads “Out on the town having
the time of my life with a bunch of friends. They’re all just out of frame, laughing too.” To ruin the joke by explaining it, Nathan
probably isn’t out on the town with friends, otherwise, he would show them laughing instead
of this lonely selfie. It’s funny because the evidence doesn’t
back up the claim. But often, when the evidence does not back
up the claim, it’s not funny. It’s just misinformation. Or disinformation. As you probably know from just existing on
the internet, it is really easy to hop online and make any claim you want. Like, I know this is going to sound wild,
but you can literally type anything you want into this box and click tweet, and share it
with the world. Like, the only thing this box will not publish
to the public is a thought longer than 280 characters. What a system! But the same is true across social media:
Politicians claim their opponents are bad choices for government on facebook. Conspiracy theorists take to YouTube to falsely
claim the Earth is flat. Celebrities use Instagram to claim they lost
weight using lollipops. And of course, on Tumblr everyone is claiming
that your fave could never, and/or is problematic. If a source provides no evidence at all to
back up its claims, we should be suspicious immediately. I mean, without evidence, we have no way to
know if its claims are true — and thus no reason to believe that they are. For instance, take a look at this Facebook
post that went viral in the summer of 2018. It was shared 1.5 million times. It says, “New Deadly Spider Spreads Across
USA The Spider From Hell. Five people have died this week due to the
bite of this deadly spider. This spider was first seen in South Carolina
in July. Since then it has caused deaths in West Virginia,
Tennessee and Mississippi. One bite from this spider is deadly. U.S. Government working on a[n] anti-venom. At this time please make your family and friends
aware.” The source is a seemingly random Facebook
user you don’t know. Although many posts you’ll encounter on
Facebook are from friends or friends of friends, you’ll also find posts from strangers. And if they’re not public figures, you may
not be able to verify their identity outside of Facebook. So, to determine if their information is trustworthy,
we need to look at the evidence. The post features photos of an admittedly
terrifying-looking spider. But it doesn’t include any other evidence. It doesn’t say what type of spider this
is, where it typically lives, or how it traveled from South Carolina to West Virginia without
visiting Virginia. Wait! Maybe it’s a flying spider. Stan, are we sure that this deadly flying
spider isn’t real? There are also, tellingly, no links to the
news stories about the deaths that this spider supposedly caused, because you know, there
weren’t any. Also, there is nothing to suggest the government
is studying an antidote. Or for that matter, A antidote. Now, fact-checking site Snopes.com debunked
this all pretty easily. They searched reputable sources for deaths
attributed to this spider and found nothing. They also found the person who initially posted
this hoax has started other hoaxes in the past. In this case, the lack of evidence was reason
to be very suspicious. We didn’t necessarily need Snopes to tell
us there’s no deadly spider taking over the American south, but it is nice to be able
to confirm our suspicions with another party. But of course, the mere existence of evidence
is not enough to verify a claim, though. For instance, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe
once brought a snowball onto the Senate floor in order to disprove global warming. It was February 2015 and he said that scientists
had claimed 2014 was the warmest year on record. Then he pulled a snowball out of a plastic
bag and threw it on the ground. Inside the Senate. He was trying to use the snowball as evidence
that the planet was not getting warmer because it was cold in Washington, DC — because you
know, it was winter. But we know, thanks to science, that winter
continues to exist in many parts of the world, but at the same time, the planet as a whole
is also warming. A snowball does not disprove climate change
any more than a heat wave proves it, because weather is what happens every day in the atmosphere,
and climate is what’s happening overall. And what’s happening overall is that things
are getting hotter. For another example, in 2017 a conspiracy
theory cropped up on anonymous Internet message boards claiming the United States Department
of Justice was secretly investigating a global pedophile ring. The so-called evidence for this included pictures
of Hillary Clinton, her daughter Chelsea Clinton and Sen. John McCain wearing boots for foot
injuries at different times. The boots were supposedly covering up ankle
monitors tracking them all during the investigation. But, of course, all those photos actually
prove is that feet are kind of easy to injure. And get easier to injure as you age. All of which brings me to perhaps the most
important lesson of this episode: Not all evidence is created equal. The evidence a source provides should come
from another reliable source. And if you find yourself starting to believe
complicated conspiracy theories, which, by the way, I think we all do on the internet
in 2018, you need to ask yourself, “does this information really make sense, or am
I just making it make sense in my brain?” And two, perhaps more importantly, ‘does
this information confirm my pre-existing world view which makes me pre-disposed to believing
it?’ Take this Axios report with the headline “Climate
change may boost pests, stress food supplies.” It says the global climate change could make
millions food insecure in the future. The article goes on to cite the findings of
a new study from researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University, University
of Vermont, and University of Colorado. That study was published in Science, which
some quick lateral reading can tell you, is a well-respected peer reviewed journal, god
I love lateral reading. But they didn’t just cite that one study. Axios also provided context in the form of
a Harvard study published in a different peer-reviewed journal and comments from a scientist not
involved in either study. In other words, they showed their receipts. So really, a search for reliable information
online is a search for reliable evidence. Let’s take a closer look in the Thought
Bubble. OK. Imagine this post pops into your news feed: I can’t believe the mainstream media is
hiding this story. The moon landing was fake this whole time. It’s accompanied by an image from the 1969
moon landing and includes a link to a video called: Were the moon landings faked? At face value, this post is claiming that
the U.S. government never actually sent astronauts to the moon in 1969. The evidence provided is a video purporting
to explain how they deceived the public. But the presence of evidence, here in the
form of a video link, does not guarantee the claim’s validity. If you follow the link, you’ll find the
video in question belongs to a channel called “Alltime Conspiracies.” It’s a channel is filled with videos about
conspiracy theories and supposed cover-ups, like “10 real life vampires.” Not exactly a trustworthy source. There have only been 4 vampires in real history. The video itself points out both what conspiracy
theorists have said about the moon landing and what official sources have said. But the video is structured to make you think
some questions have been left unanswered. YouTube has also added an information panel
to the video that points to the Encyclopedia Britannica article on the Apollo Space Program. Because YouTube wants you to look for information
from other sources, especially around topics that are prone to misinformation. But let’s be clear: the moon landing definitely
happened. And for it not to have happened, a conspiracy
would have needed to involve thousands of people. Thousands of people never conspire to do anything
secretly. The video may have looked interesting, but
if you check the evidence, you will see how clearly wrong the post is. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So sometimes, the source of evidence for a
claim will be reliable, it just won’t exactly be relevant to the argument. Like, say you read a story online about how
e-cigarette companies are marketing their products to be attractive to teens. Someone has commented on it, saying “It’s
totally safe for kids. After all, they help people stop smoking,
don’t they?” But wait a minute. What does smoking cessation have to do with kids using e-cigarettes? Nothing. This is a classic case of utilizing evidence
that may be relevant to the broader topic of conversation — in this case, e-cigarettes
— but doesn’t actually have any bearing on the claim at hand — that e-cigarettes
are safe for kids. And the use of irrelevant evidence like this
can be a big obstacle when evaluating online information. Because not only must you determine whether
a source sharing information is credible, you also have to determine whether they’ve
provided evidence and whether that evidence is credible. And this irrelevant evidence or evidence that
doesn’t quite make the right point is all around us online. One very popular form of irrelevant evidence
is the spurious correlation. A spurious correlation is the implied causal
relationship between events that are coincidentally linked. And this happens constantly with data. For instance, there’s a strong correlation
between the number of people who drown by falling into a pool every year and the number
of films that Nicolas Cage appears in that year. But Nicolas Cage movies do not, like, throw
people into pools, because CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION. For instance, plenty of blog posts and misleading
news articles have incorrectly implied a connection between the rate of vaccines given to children
and the rate of autism diagnoses. In the past few decades, the number of vaccines
recommended for kids has gone up as new medical discoveries have been made. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder
has also increased over the past few decades. Despite bountiful scientific evidence showing
there is no link between these two facts, many continue to believe and use the web to
spread the idea that vaccines “cause” autism. In fact, they’ve been so successful in spreading
this spurious correlation that a drop in vaccination rates and an outbreak of measles swept through
Europe in 2018. So this is not only about spiders that don’t
exist. This is, in some cases, a true matter of life
and death. Interrogating the evidence our online sources
provide us is incredibly important. We need to ask whether that evidence is reliable
and whether it actually backs up the claim being made. The quality of our evidence, like the quality
of our information, effects the quality of our decisions. And also the prevalence of measles. We’ll dig even deeper into evidence next
week. I’ll see you then.

Comments 100

  • A skill flat earthers and antivaxxers need… and any other brain dead people. Especially ones that are harmful like antivaxx and anti-medicine religious groups.

  • John's talking speed has gradually gotten slower over the years

  • I really love this series

  • Hope you get over that cold, also, +1 for random dig at Ted Cruz.

  • Lol. This just sounds like the fake msm media. Hahaha. Seems that you are an establishment troll. Well they pay well.

  • Can you guys make a video on the different types of evidence eg RCT, cohort studies, observational studies, etc and what makes them a higher level quality of evidence

  • CrashCourse is one of the best things that could have happened to YouTube 👍

  • Is it just me or does he seem sad for some reason

  • Time to start the anti-antivaxx movement.

  • This is an over glorified crusade against right-leaning ideologies.

  • the other hosts of crashcourse do an amazing job, but there is something so comforting about having John back

  • so you have proven the moon landing wasn't a hoax by disproving one youtube video that states it was a hoax… how would you call this? 😀

  • man, you are not old!

  • “There have only been 4 vampires in REAL history” John Green

  • Can we have video about how to read the important stuff in web pages to do some research.

  • I'm an fully grown adult and I once ate a whole package of M&M's for breakfast on a Saturday morning just because I could!

  • Source: dude trust me

  • I hate how ignorant I have been. I use to post everything. Thank you so much for this video and the lateral reading video. The videos have changed how I get information, thank you for helping make me better.

  • It might save some time if you just had an episode or 2 on rhetoric and logical reasoning. That has nothing to do with media, but is essential for evaluating media.

  • Manhattan project was a years long secret conspiracy, wasn't it?

  • I love the logic of "well I saw a light in the sky I can't explain, so therefore must be an alien spaceship" 🙄

  • Suggestion for next series: Crash Course Rational Thinking examining bestiary of cognitive biases
    Seriously, it could be like Pokemon Go for understanding information

  • Really enjoying this series – not that I can give any evidence for that

  • 7:14 green just give us a wrong information about the year ! its not 2018 its 2019!
    I just nailed it! 😂😂😂

  • I'm in a special group for autistic people in my college. There are 25 people in that group and it's the only group for people like us. Uou know how many people there are in our college? I'm not entirely sure on the numbers, but in 2017 there were about 27,000 students overall. Even is 10% of those students weren't vaccinated we would be a drop in the bucket. Antivaxxers claims hold no water in the face of evidence.

  • Last time there was Navigating Digital Information in my Statistics video, now there is Statistics in my Navigating Digital Information Video. Conspiracy?

  • "thousands of people never conspire to do anything secretly"
    If they did, would we know?

  • I know Ida B. Wells, but who are the other three people on the wall behind John?

  • When John was talking about tumblr did anyone else see Bakugo?

  • this is a fantastic series. in my oppinion

  • Shots fired at alltime conspiracies

  • All time conspiracies is not a conspiracy channel. Did any of you research them at all? They go over the theory and then they debunk it at the end. This was pretty disappointing to see you guys not research the channel at all. 2 videos watched would have made this very obvious.

  • Stop spreading lies John, everybody knows that Earth is a disc standing on four elephants, standing on a giant turtle!

  • Nothing disproves global warming. It's like a god-given truth that can't possibly be falsified in any way.

  • Please address propaganda.
    Please address how RussiaGate lasted for so long with no evidence.

  • This is the worst site I've ever seen.
    Zombie teaching zombies

  • 2018?

  • Crashcourse, The spider story is obviously a hoax, but the lack of claims of deaths in Virginia is not evidence against it. They never said the species (4:44) didn’t visit Virginia, they just didn’t claim to know of any deaths there. That is an enormous difference. We fight hoaxes and bad reasoning best when we use our best reasoning.
    Thanks for the useful video.

  • Hitchens Razor. "That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence."

  • As a person who loves spiders that 'deadly spider' hoax was so irritating. Woodlouse spiders are ugly, not deadly.

  • if you want to challenge your skill of navigating digital information, try to navigate the channel Flatearth101. it`s about flatearth and they gave a well evidence

  • I love lateral reading as well! 😀

  • Flying spiders are a thing! Well, more drifting-on-the-wind spiders, but still, airborne spiders!

  • The selection process for deciding on examples to include in this video: the definition of information overload.

  • Washington state is dealing with a measles outbreak right now

    We might be over it? But it's been going on for the last few weeks

    Vaccinate your kids and yourselves please

  • wow john green taking a stab a your fave is problematic i'm shocked
    look this crash course series is good and all but come on man.

  • Actually flying spiders don't have wings didn't you watch Charlotte's Web where at the end all the spiders except three get born all fly off into the air by strings of web?
    In retrospective it was a rather depressing movie which is why I only just remembered this when you mentioned flying spider.

  • In 2016, the Washington post stated that overall global climate had started dropping around that exact time (or maybe in 2014, look for full article to verify).

    I wouldn’t be shocked if it was still dropping, so let’s all just focus on other environmental problems instead, like trash, metal poisoning, waste dumping, etc.

    Also, last year the US dropped overall carbon emissions better than all other countries, despite NOT being apart of the Paris Accords, while countries that were apart of the Accords like China and India INCREASED emissions.

    Just had to get these facts straight. Too much fake news going around.

  • The citation rabbit hole, where paper A cites paper B for a statement, but paper B cites paper C….and you trace it down to paper Z which doesn't actually proove anything.

  • I've listened to every video of Crash Course in Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry and Biology a couple of times and I literary feel like a genius! I know the answer to everything

  • "…which by the way I think we all do on the internet in 2018"

    IT'S 2019 NOW JOHN GOSH /s

  • On the growing prevalence of autism, while anecdotal evidence on its own is not terribly useful, from my own experience: I am high-functioning autistic myself. My father, who displays most of the same autistic behaviors, has never been diagnosed. It might be worth looking into whether or not that is commonly the case; I suspect that what may be happening is that a lot of people who would have been written off as just "a little weird" in generations past are now getting diagnosed as autistic — that is, it may be that it's not the rate that's going up, just the fraction of auties who actually get diagnosed. I don't know what methodology you would use to study that, but it may be a hypothesis worth looking into.

  • Great informative series! I've always compared different sources of information to find the most plausible. So important!

  • I bit disappointed with the lack of discussion on data analysis but I hope they’ve got it covered next week.

  • This should be shown in primary school and secondary school classes. Now we live in a post-fact world where educators abuse their position to impose 'X is right and Y is wrong' instead of actively encourage individual thinking.

    And you said correlation does not equal causation, wouldn't that apply perfectly to global warming?

  • "we all do on the internet in 2018"
    video uploaded 2019

  • Now…. All those who believe in existence of God… Time to evaluate the evidence… Let me know where you get to…

  • I am so sorry, CC, but you have gone way down in my estimations. For a start, whether it did or didn't happen, your moon landing argument is soooooo weak. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that many, many thousands of people are quite capable of keeping a secret.

    Just because something is labeled a conspiracy does not mean that it's not true. A conspiracy is by its nature a plot or scheme devised in secret by conspirators for an often unlawful purpose. The label of 'conspiracy theorist' has long been a pejorative to marginalise those seeking truth and asking awkward questions.

    And circumstantial evidence is still evidence that can point or lead towards other empirical, provable, measureable facts.

    Not one of your best shows. Fact.

  • Well if John says the moon landing happened I believe it… I've learnt nothing

  • All the dislikes come from flat earthers.

  • 3:45 Oooh, that's why youtube suggests a video about Shelob the giant spider from lord of the rings next xD

  • I'd be interested to see a video dissecting how to examine scientific articles and other sources for errors that might not be obvious to a layperson.

    Like, for example, we all know there are numerous think tanks and studies that follow agendas and attempt to justify their positions through studies that are misleading, omit data, correlate data falsely, come to erroneous conclusions, take liberties with the scientific method, etc.

    I'd like to see how one could break down these often jargon laden articles so as to be able to explain whether they are good sources or not and why.

  • Nathan for you is probably the perfect psa for this video topic

  • This is asking for a lot, but can you make a series on government agencies? So many exist and I can’t find anyone unbiased to give explanations for how they worked. I’m most interested in learning about CPS, but I could learn about the IRS and EPA etc

  • Nevermind

  • Peer review doesn't mean it's a trust worthy source.

  • can logic count as evidence? 1+1 = 2 ; Humans are mortal, I am human, therefore I am mortal; All swans I have seen are white, therefore the next swan I see will likely be white. …

  • LOL normal people don't have 6 messages and 97 notifications on Facebook….

  • Why are there so few views (relatively speaking here) on the latest CC videos? I'm not getting the disconnect…

  • Hello my name is jasmine and I have a couple questions going towards the fact that you're a writer.
    – do you still write?
    – what inspired you to make a youtube channel
    I know you get these questions all the time but if you could take the time and answer these questions it would be great. Also I read " the fault in our stars" and "turtles all the way down" and I don't mean to offend you but I am not a big fan of the story plot or what your stories are about but your detailing is amazing.

  • You convinced me. We need to stop Nicholas Cage from drowning people.

  • I love this series! I have high hopes that the next generation will be more informed!

  • Just the wording of that spider trope gave it away for me. Maybe I've been exposed to it more than many people but I can typically spot them instantly.

  • It's the government that I elected trying to kill me. They control everything.

  • Also, there's no conclusive evidence that e-cigarettes actually help people stop using tobacco.

  • How should i provide evidence when i only have 280 chars?🤔

  • The internet is full of more garbage than Cable TV.

    Stay Woke. My fellow Humans

  • It’s crazy that we still have to tell people not to believe everything you are told and to check information. Great video.

  • "Here's to the State of James Inhofe…the snowballs he brings in, his facts draw v little lines"

  • the left and right extremist need to watch this video 😉

  • Please do a crash course history on the president for a day, atchison.

  • 39 dislikes from anti climate change folks

  • The real question is, when will "Fart Cloud: The Movie" be coming to cinemas in Missoula?

  • Another excellent video – the internet unfortunately is geared towards confirmation bias just in the way it works… These videos should be required viewing for all children learning to use the internet.

  • Scientists are the new God. In God We Trust.

  • Got DAMMIT! Nearly every time Oklahoma hears about itself online, it's a hot mess! 🙁 We gonna try to do better in 2020, Sorry guys.

  • It's not 2018 (7:13)… it was Feb 2019 when you uploaded this.

  • The quality of our evidence like the quality of our information, affects the quality of our decision. …best line

  • OMG Nicolas Cage is killing people!!!

  • "Thousands of peoplr never conspire to do anything secretly" cough Manhattan project cough

  • Was that kid drinking his vape thing?

  • Anything to support your claim of global warming?

  • But there are flying spiders!

  • 0:51 no, you need to use a magic keyboard and say: “give us a raise, loser!”. My source: regular show. All of john green’s lambroginis, send them to the moon!

  • What is the likelihood that "reliable facts" will be spewed forth from reputable sources that may finally shed light on the backstory of 11/22/63?
    Now, that would be extremely interesting.

  • As far as conspiracy theories go, one of the main problems is the lack of falsifiability. Most of the people you engage regarding topics like this go out of their way to try and disprove mainstream theories, but never their own. When you ask them "how would you know if you are wrong" you generally get a nonanswer ("I just know") or they will require an unreasonable amount of evidence.

    Also, there's the prevalent problem of the "direct-realism" philosophy. This is the "I'll believe it when I see it" or "I know what I saw" philosophy. Which is not necessarily a problem, but can be a major one in regards to popular issues. The earth is flat because they /personally/ don't see the curvature of the earth. Or they believe autism causes vaccines because someone close to them had the two happen concurrently. You can confront them on this directly but it doesn't seem to help. Sure, conspiracies can be fun to believe in, but become very problematic when they affect real people.

    Anyone who has any advice or help, this would be welcome!

  • AOC says 12 years. So there’s that.

  • I love this video very helpful thanks Hank or John

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