In the previous post in this series, I suggested a first guideline for deciding whether to trust a website:
#1: When the website makes a mistake, what kind is it?
What I had in mind was the distinction between honest mistakes, intentional lies, and bullshit, with the last being the worst.
Next up we have this simple idea:
#2: When the website makes a mistake, how do they handle it?
Do they publish a retraction? Do they put it in a place where a reader of the original story is likely to find it? Or, do they leave the original story as-is?
Continuing with the example from last time, Rush Limbaugh was spouting on his radio show about President Obama’s “invasion” of Uganda to fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Limbaugh said this was Obama’s effort to “wipe out Christians in Sudan [and] Uganda.” Limbaugh could not have been more wrong. The LRA were a marauding band of thugs conducting a campaign of rape, abduction and murder across the region.
I happened to catch this show on the radio and heard a someone call in to set Rush straight.
Yesterday, I took a hike in the woods with some philosophically minded friends. I wrote something for the occasion, in the spirit of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
If you’re the sort of person who can spend several minutes at a time staring at unbelievably large numbers being incremented at an unbelievable rate, check this out: Internet Live Stats.
As I write this at 9:30 am, the counter of blog posts written today is at roughly 1.8 million. It is incrementing at roughly 3,000 per minute. This in the same neighborhood as the rate at which an A-10 Warthog’s very impressive Avenger gun fires its rounds, except that according to Wikipedia, “In practice, the [Avenger] cannon is limited to one and two-second bursts to avoid overheating and conserve ammunition; barrel life is also a factor…” By the way, each of those roughly 3,000 rounds per minute weighs nearly a pound. Can you imagine!?
And that’s just the blog posts. It does not count all the stories at news sites, propaganda at campaign websites, YouTube videos, and on and on.
With all that ammunition being fired at us, how can we tell which are the good guys (the truth-lovers) and which are the bad (the liars and BS artists)?
Last time, I promised a simple way to detect which ideas are full of baloney. The technique I’ll share has kept me from being taken in numerous times, one of which I wrote about in the post, A UFO Nut’s Truth-Loving Test. As in that case, the technique is particularly effective when you have a pet idea that you think is above refutation.
Use your favorite Internet search engine to search for
Here at the public library, I just overheard a remarkable conversation.
A middle-aged woman with a couple of kids and a slightly older gentleman were sitting at adjacent computers. The woman was earnestly explaining that the Church does not consist of a building, but of people. She also said something I didn’t catch about the Rapture (the belief that when Jesus returns all true believers will be taken up to meet him in the clouds).
The man disagreed and said, “What I’ve been told is…”
Do you ever feel like you’re working harder and harder just to afford all the stuff that you need because you’re working harder and harder? You work your butt off all week to achieve the American Dream of home ownership and now you must work your butt off on the weekends mowing the lawn in the summer, and wake up early to shovel snow off the driveway in the winter.
Apparently this is nothing new. According to Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, our transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers resulted in just that sort of unintended consequence.
The structure of the world is shot through with a sublimity so sublime that it simply had to exist. …
The sublimity that had to burst into existence is not one that particularly concerns itself with us. Such a human-centered goodness would not pack the ontological wallop required to bring forth existence. (Plato at the Googleplex, pages 385-389.)
I like that phrase “the ontological wallop required to bring forth existence.” I’ll return to it in a moment. First, let’s look at a pretty picture.