Who can we trust in a society that is riddled with falsehoods, lies and deceit?
In a world where information can be passed freely from one entity to the next, in a world where news, websites and blogs can be made by anyone, in a world where speed is everything, it becomes hard to distinguish real concrete information from ‘alternative facts’.
A lecturer of mine brought up an important lesson, each of us needs to be able to identify which sources of information are credible and relevant. With the mass of information that plagued us daily, it can become hard to do so. Therefore, he gave us just one technique to truly know whether a person is credible or not.
Is the person’s profession related to the topic they are talking about?
What did he mean by that?
One has to understand what they are talking about to have any basis of credibility. In the best case scenario, the person has to be an expert in the field. One cannot believe that a politician is credible enough to talk about science for he is not an expert in the said field. A good example is the general scientific community talking about how Charles Darwin came up with the idea of natural selection. The common example that is given by secondary school teachers and even by certain well-known scientists to their students is that Charles Darwin discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection via the Galapagos Finches. I’m sure you have heard such a story somewhere of how Darwin studied the different shapes of the beaks of the finches and came to a SUDDEN realisation that these finches must have had a common ancestor and…
Well, that is false.
Such a thing never happened and the general scientific community along with thousands of textbooks are wrong. Why? Because these scientists are not historians. They do not know the exact thing that happened. What actually happened is that Darwin didn’t even know that these finches are finches and are native to the Galapagos. Probably, the scientific community caught wind of the Galapagos Finches story and thought it was fact. They didn’t even bother to check their primary sources!
Such is an example of how untruths can come out of ignorance. Now, imagine if that is instead an information that could have caused widespread panic and damage? Such is the case of terrorism and conspiracy theories. One can unintentional cause fear if one were to report falsely about an impending terrorist attack. Imagine the magnitude of the problem such lies can cause.
Now, such a problem will be worse if it is practised in governments. One example is the sceptical thinking about global warming by the Trump Administration. At that level, such falsehoods will leak out to the public and there’ll be nothing that can stop it. The situation will continue to get worse as long as these people continue to deny it. Furthermore, these people that listen to an incompetent politician do not want to check their primary sources about global warming.
I guess why I am sharing this is that there are many lessons to be learnt about knowing who to believe and who not to believe. Sometimes we are just so saturated and bombarded by information 24/7 that we become numb to the process of reading and scrolling through news sites. Heck, even I can sometimes believe utter falsehoods. But I guess it is important for us to cross reference back any important information to their primary sources.
Thinking about it even this article can be a complete and utter lie conjured up by me, myself and I. So, please do check your primary sources.
For the Darwin story: www.darwin-online.org.uk
For the Trump story: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/donald-trump-epa-head-global-warming-not-man-made-climate-change-denial-scott-pruitt-a7621271.html