Friday, June 29, 2012
Is it a Hoax or not?
We probably attempted too much for a 60 minute session; we never did get to the fourth mini-lesson. In case you want to see our Lesson Plans for all four segments, you will find them here. Feel free to use them in your teaching.
The target for the lessons is Genochoice.com, a site that allows parents to create designer babies online. Fact checking claims and information on the site quickly turns up Red Flags. Most external references state that the site is a hoax, the claims are bogus.
I agree with bogus, but don't think it's really a hoax. The majority of information is made up. You can't "read" DNA using a thumb scan that is nothing more than a Flash movie embedded in a page. You can't determine if my medical insurance will cover the cost of genetic "improvements" based solely on my name. There's no evidence that you can "fix" genetic disorders. Someday that may be possible, but not yet.
What is a hoax? Most definitions boil down to "a deliberate deception." Some of the more malicious ones also attempt to defraud, which is not the case with Genochoice. But while the information is deliberate, does it also aim to deceive? I think it has a different purpose.
The profile of the author is the crux of the matter. It doesn't take long to determine that Virgil Wong is responsible for the content; he also owns the domain name. But is he a deceiver?
The inconsistency comes when you stop to consider why an artist-medical keynote speaker-PhD candidate-hospital webmaster would create a popular hoax site. Wouldn't that harm his reputation?
Bogus and Hoax sites present layers of challenges. Figuring out if they are bogus or a hoax is one layer. Deeper is: why does this site exist?