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  • 00:01

    TOM CHATFIELD: Let's tear some evidence into shreds.In 1912, one of the most famous and influentialarchaeological finds of the 20th centurywas announced based on bones excavated in southern England.It was the skull of an ancestor to modern humansthat filled in a missing evolutionary link

  • 00:21

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: between humanity and apes.It was known as the Piltdown Man,after the site of its discovery, and this fossil rapidlybecame an icon of humanity's first emergenceover 750,000 years ago.Fast forward four decades.In November 1953, and "TIME" magazine

  • 00:41

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: publishes an article that has this line that it's opening,"Last w week, three British scientists,armed with modern chemistry, demolished Piltdown man.As a few skeptics had long suspected,Piltdown Man was a hoax.Scrupulous scientific investigationrevealed not an ancient hominid, but the bodged mix

  • 01:02

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: of a medieval human skull, the lower jaw of an orangutan,and fossilized chimpanzee teeth.The bones had been stained with a solutionof iron and chromic acid to make them look really old.The teeth, when examined under a microscope,appear to have had filing on themto make them look like a chimpanzee's a bit less.

  • 01:22

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: In other words, it was actually not only a fraudbut a slightly rubbish one.Investigation had demolished the fakery,but why had it taken 41 years?Well, scientific testing had certainlyimproved in that time, but the main reasonthe skull had been accepted and endured in the first place,was that it provided evidence of somethingthat people really wanted to believe.

  • 01:44

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: Precisely because it was man-made rather than natural,the skull of the Piltdown Man conformed closelyto contemporary expectations--expectations that a large-brained missinglink between apes and humans was just lying around, waitingto be dug up.And its location also flattered local scientistsand their particular geographical prejudices.

  • 02:07

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: Humanity's earliest ancestor was an honorary Brit,something that contemporary headline writers were notslow to point out.So why is this relevant today?Well, look online, and look at howpeople treat evidence that confirms thingsthey would like to believe.Is all the evidence out there approachedwith as rigorous a skepticism as evidence

  • 02:28

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: produced by peoples' opponents.or are double standards applied to friendly voicesand supportive sources?Now, I think you already know the answer to this one,especially if you spent even a little bit of timeon Facebook recently.Testing ideas against evidence isone of the most fundamental principlesof scientific investigation.

  • 02:49

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: But it's becoming ever more important to note the word"testing" in this sentence.Evidence is at its most powerful whenwe use it to subject theories to scrutiny,and when we scrutinize its own authenticityand reliability with impartial care.In an age of fake news and alternative facts,

  • 03:10

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: these principles matter all the morebecause it's very possible to drum up some kind of evidencefor almost anything that you are desperate enough to believe.Is there such a thing as global warmingcaused by human activities?What the world created by God in a week?The best evidence we possess suggests a strong "yes"

  • 03:32

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: and "no," respectively.But if you really want to believe the opposite,well, there are websites out there that can not onlyprove there's no global warming, but the dinosaurswere a malicious hoax invented by God to test the faithful.Should we trust them?Well, if an idea is truly worth your belief,the evidence supporting it deserves

  • 03:53

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: the most vigorous demanding and impartialtesting you can come up with.Anything less, any special pleading,is a confession not of faith, but of weakness and fear.

Video Info

Series Name: Critical Thinking

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2018

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Critical reading, writing and thinking

Keywords: evidence (law); hoaxes; hoaxes in anthropology

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Tom Chatfield discusses hoaxes that have been discovered thanks to evidence examination.

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Let’s Tear Evidence into Shreds

Tom Chatfield discusses hoaxes that have been discovered thanks to evidence examination.

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