You Are a Consumer of Information, It’s up to You to Make Sure it’s Right.

I was directed to this article today and found it quite valuable.

I find this quite interesting with the utter failure of journalists, pseudo-scientists, and other purveyors of wrongness.

In other words, where do you go to know that you are getting correct information?

Well, you go to the experts.  Unfortunately, it is often difficult to determine, at a glance, who is an expert and who isn’t.  For example, a recent inhabitat article mentions a doctor.  We can always trust doctors right?  Except, typing this doctor’s name into google results in his website (a for-profit operation) and his list of warnings from the Food and Drug Administration for stating things that are not true about medicine and health.  Oops.

In other words, YOU, the consumer of information, has the responsibility of making sure the information you are getting is correct and valid.

How can you do this?  One important clue is links to peer-reviewed research.  These are not links to other blogs or other newspaper articles (or no links to anything, just raw assertions with no evidence).  These should be links to original journal articles.

If something in what you are reading doesn’t quite make sense or seems too good to be true, then you should investigate further.  Google is your friend.

You should cultivate a list of websites that you trust and a list of writers that you trust.  If it’s a forum, then the users should provide links to important research and other trusted sources.  Don’t trust a source because someone says it’s OK.  Double check.  Finding a valid source on the internet can be like finding the pee in a pool.  Very, very difficult.

If there is a subject that is important to you, then you should research it yourself to the point where you can recognize false information (and help disseminate this information to others).

If you have questions, then find someone you can ask.  University professors are surprisingly approachable.  I’ve had a couple of e-mail conversations and as long as you approach them with courtesy, then they are usually happy to respond and help you (though I wouldn’t suggest trying to get a hold of a Nobel prize winner and asking for help on your freshman Biology quiz).

One last thing, passing on e-mails is a complete waste of time.  99% of everything in these e-mails is wrong.  The rest has just enough truth to be believable.

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