Tag Archives: Epistemology

How to Assess a Website’s Trustworthiness, Part 2

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.

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How to Assess a Website’s Trustworthiness, Part 1

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)?

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The Fearless Person’s Truth-Loving Test

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

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“What I’ve Been Told…”

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…”

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Are Evolution and Creationism Equally Matters of Faith?

Faced with evidence for an old universe such as starlight that has clearly taken billions of years to reach us, young-Earth creationists say, “God created the universe about 6,000 years ago, but in a mature state. Your conclusion that it is old is a matter of faith in naturalistic, uniformitarian assumptions. How do you know the speed of light or the passage of time have always been the same as they are now?”

Faced with evidence for evolution such as what we saw in the last post, creationists often reply, “You see evidence for evolution, but this could equally be the work of a Designer. Your conclusion of ‘evolution’ is a matter of faith just as much as my conclusion of ‘creation’.”

Is this true? Is the choice between mainstream science and creationism just a matter of choosing one faith or another?

At one level, yes. But let’s keep going.

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More from Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit”

Here’s more from Harry Frankfurt’s essay, On Bullshit.

The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “anti-realist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry.

The young-Earth creationist does believe in objective reality. In that sense, he is not an “anti-realist.” However, he most certainly does not support “disinterested efforts to determine what is true and false.”

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A UFO Nut’s Truth-Loving Tests

We UFO nuts are always looking for evidence that will finally convince everyone that we are being visited by extraterrestrials. (It seems thousands of eyewitness accounts are not enough. Sheesh!)

Well, how about a movie from NASA that clearly shows a swarm of UFOs clustering around something we put in space? And how about if some of those UFOs could be proven to be at least a mile wide? That ought to do it!

So imagine how intrigued I was when I saw the video below.

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