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Waning crescent earth seen from the moonAs we discuss denialism and its spread online, we will find that there are many topics for which there is substantial empirical evidence and scientific or historical consensus, yet still there are some who deny their veracity. Denialism is very different from true skepticism in that rather than seeking truth through reliable evidence and sound logic, it relies on outlier evidence and unreliable sources and employs a variety of logical fallacies and conspiracy claims in order to support a bias or previously held belief. If it wasnt for denialist claims, many of these topics would not be debatable; they only become arguable topics because denialists refuse to acknowledge facts and reason. For this assignment, using support from at least five sources that youll find during the course of your own research, you must write an argumentative essay refuting a denialist claim by presenting credible evidence and appealing to reason. Your essay will be a fact claim, in that you are arguing something is true or did happen while denialists argue it isnt or didnt. You will likely focus on presenting evidence for your claim and deconstructing the arguments and logic of denialists.


Image attribution: NASA, public domain


You might focus on addressing a science denial claim, like Flat Earth Theory, anti-vaccination claims, climate change denial, evolutionary theory denial, germ theory denial, claims denying the link between HIV and AIDS or between tobacco and cancer, or claims denying the safety of GMO foods. Or you may choose to focus on a historical negationist claim, such as Holocaust denial, Confederate revisionisConfem (the Myth of the Lost Cause), or denial of war crimes and human rights abuses such as those committed by Turkey in WWI, Japan in WWII, Serbia in the Yugoslav wars, or those of the Soviet Union or China. Alternatively, you could focus on a certain conspiracy theory that persists despite evidence that convincingly disproves it, such as the claims that the moon landing was a hoax, various 9/11 truther claims, the birther conspiracy theory, or some anti-Semitic canard, like the Blood Libel or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery.

Your essay must draw support material from at least 5 sources, and at least two of those must be scholarly sources from academic, peer-reviewed publications. Every body paragraph must introduce some concrete, cited support material from a source. The final draft must be a minimum of 1,600 words long and a maximum of 2,000 words (Works Cited pages are not traditionally included in word count).


Introduction: Your hook or attention-getter might be an interesting statistic or fact from a source or an engaging but brief anecdote. Background on your topic may discuss the proliferation of denialist claims and focus in by outlining this specific denialist claim and its main points. Your thesis should express your fact claim and indicate your main supporting points.

Body Paragraphs: Your body paragraphs will likely focus on pieces of evidence that help to prove your fact claim or disprove the denialist claims, each with their own source support and analysis. This is standard argumentation or persuasion structure. You may also choose to focus a paragraph or multiple paragraphs on clarifying and refuting denialists arguments, either by exposing their evidence as false or by demonstrating how their logic is flawed. Remember to use a topic sentence to clarify the focus of each paragraph and to draw on source support in each one. Sources should be clearly introduced before they are quoted or paraphrased.

Conclusion:  You might review your main ideas and express again the fact claim you are making. You might end with a call to action, encouraging readers to do or think something in the future, or with a final thought that connects to your hook, bringing the essay full circle.

Refuting a Denialist claim
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