Some of the issues that are occurring today is due to the lack of critical thinking skills. I am making this as an overall claim to what is occurring in the United States and globally right now. What I am going to tend to address in the next few articles on this blog, is how to proceed evaluating sources on the Internet. I find it quite ironic that you're referring to this blog now, as I am about to discuss how to evaluate a blog. This leads you to believe that this blog should be irrelevant to your considerations of information. Now, I am writing this in a style of dictation and the software is writing it for me. I found Microsoft dictation software in Word to have gotten slightly better than my dragon NaturallySpeaking software. I am testing this theory by writing this post with this software through Microsoft Word. I would also go on to state, we're going to cover different topics.
What is truth or a fact versus opinions?
This is a debate that has been all the rage in academic circles for years. What is truth, is it spelled with a capital T versus a lower case t. This debate goes back to religion and science. How do we know what is going to be the best way of summing this up, and this is the where the problem begins. We could say that the Internet has increased the amount of knowledge that is exposed to an individual however, the individual now must sort through what knowledge is good and what knowledge is bad. An individual must make a decision based on that information he or she is presented.
The information will that be determinative of how they form their opinions of the world. Do vaccines cause autism? Do vaccines cause other long-lasting effects in children into adulthood? This has been one of the classic case examples have been raised about how false information is spread. Well, examine the author of articles, consider their academic standing in their ability to discuss the topic. Is it coming from a primary source? Or, is it coming from a person with an opinion that might be picking quotes out of a primary source article or paper to justify their position, when the article they are citing is completely contradictory to their point of view?
Let's take for example this article, what's to say that I, the author, have the authority to discuss this topic. Look at my academic credentials, I have a Master’s Degree in History from Western Connecticut State University, and I have an undergraduate degree in Meteorology along with minors in Math and Physics, also from Western Connecticut State University. These credentials can be verified by asking me to provide you with a certified transcript from the university, or your ability to contact me to pose questions. You can also do cursory searches to verify articles from the period when I would have been attending University to see that I was there as a student.
So therefore, you could verify that I am somewhat of an authority figure I'm figuring out how to define truth with a capital T versus a lowercase t.
What are good sources?
After you examine the author of the material that you're consuming, the question becomes, is this a good source or a bad source for you to base your opinion on? In that case, refer to how we determine the truth and what is the authority of the figure that you're reading. Are you going to weigh my opinion on the biology of the human brain cell, or what the forecast is going to be for the next 5 days? Honestly, I would not compare my paper on a human brain cell to a neurosurgeon's paper on the same topic. However, I would not hold as much weight for a neurosurgeon to give an accurate, detailed forecast of the weather for the next 5 days.
Furthermore, when you are watching television, what is the news portion versus the opinion portion? It's a question that needs to be further examined. The first question that I always like to ask myself is, "what are the facts?" Facts are intangible pieces of information that can be either proven true or false by careful examination of the written record or by evidence-based testing. These concepts I will come back to in a later post.
The way I typically parse any type of source or information is the following. There should be a claim of the facts that the author is trying to get across, then followed by some sort of supporting information to support that claim. If there is no supporting information underneath the claim based in any type of fact or truth, then we can assume the claim is based on an opinion. This is where the issues begin, let's say the claim is that the a person who committed a crime has been charged in a court of law. Does this mean the person is guilty of said crime? The answer is no. The reason is that the article or the statement did not mention the individual was convicted by a jury or pled guilty. If the piece that you're looking at says, "no, the individual has committed the crime and is guilty," without supporting evidence of the jury conviction or the plea, the individual that made that statement in the piece may be subject to legal action for defamation of character.