Getting Our Facts Straight

As I have said many times before, we live in a world of knowledge at our fingertips. It takes no more than a couple minutes to look up a fact and see if someone is telling the truth. So why does it seem that now, more than ever we are bombarded with seemingly contradictory facts and stories. One thing which can be blamed for this is the simple matter that researchers are constantly challenging our knowledge and making new discoveries. This is to be expected, even embraces as it’s a sign we’re constantly getting closer to every truth. This isn’t the problem we face. No, what plagues our pool of knowledge is fact checking.

It’s fantastic that we can find all this information with a swipe of the thumb, but it also means we have just as much misinformation as well. This is a concept we seem to take for granted. It’s important to question what we read and hear. Consider the source it’s coming from. Is it reliable?

Some times a source may be well meaning, but them selves been misinformed, or maybe they just didn’t understand what they initially learned correctly. You can’t fault someone for this, but it goes to show why it’s important to double check your information. I have an app on my phone filled with thousands of quick facts. It’s great after a long day when I don’t want to read a big article, but still need to complete the daily entry in my learning journal. However, I learned after reading just a few of these “facts” that some of the more unbelievable ones were simply not true (for example it is not a fact that only humans and dogs have prostate glands). So while it is easy to quickly look up a fact, I still have to do a quick double check to find out if it’s true. Usually a google search will be able to tell me within the first couple results.

But what about people who do know the facts? News outlets are reliable right? News should be an unbiased telling of facts to inform people. However the sad truth is that it’s easy for people to manipulate those facts to sway the populace toward their own agendas, particularly when it comes to politics. With the US election coming up, it’s easy to look at ten news outlets and get ten different stories of the same issue. But we all know this. Big politic news is always criticized and complained about. But surely a smaller, local news paper is just about the people and the facts right? I can attest having family in local politics that is not true at all. Seeing stories which clearly support one side of a debate by omitting things, telling half truths and just plain lying is frustrating. I see people constantly upset about things which aren’t even issues. They are simply told something and blindly believe it, often being misinformed.

So how can we know what we read is true? Well, it’s difficult. Again I will say the best thing you can do is double check your facts. Try reading from a source which may be on the other side of an argument to get the rest of the story. Know which sources can generally be trusted. Science journals, or scientific associations can usually be trusted. However, even they have been known to publish falsified documents. Look at who is telling you this. Are they a professor? Curator? Even the experts have differing opinions, but can generally be trusted to give you a fair opinion. A random person on the internet (like me!) may not be wrong, but they have no authority or anyone overseeing what is posted, so it is a good idea to take the information you read here and on other blogs, and find other sources for it. Always remember to get both sides of the argument, think critically, and double check your facts. If someone has an agenda, they are usually willing to lie in order to convince you thy’re right.

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