Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Gift of Skepticism

I'm a skeptic. Always have been. I'm quite certain it's driven every guy I ever dated (including my wonderful husband) crazy. I know it drives my mom crazy (but she'll just claim I got it from my dad). It's not uncommon for me to tilt my head, squint one eye and say, "I love you and all, but I'm gonna have to look that one up." I don't think this is a bad trait to have. Actually, I didn't realize I was so "bad" until it came to my attention that there are people in the world who believe commercials. Like, REALLY believe them. If the glowing box in the living room says xyz pain reliever is the best, well by george, we need to buy it, because THEY (who is that all knowing "they" everyone always talks about?) said it's the best. And we all know research studies funded by commercial interests are amongst the soundest studies out there.....can you hear my eyes rolling???

Being a skeptic, email forwards (and now, facebook forwards) really eat at me. We all played telephone as kids--where you whisper something once and only once to your neighbor and they whisper to their neighbor until you get all the way around the classroom and the last kid announces that the secret was, "blue goats wear underwear at breakfast" and we all had a big laugh. Email is a giant game of telephone. Either someone makes up something ludicrous to begin with or it gets suddenly changed along the way until it is in no way shape or form the way it started out. Talk radio is like a big game of telephone as well. I've come to the conclusion that the more pissed off your talk radio personality is, the less likely they are telling the truth--really. fact check it. One person spouts off their less than informed opinion to their audience, half of those people go home and try to relate the relevant points to friends and family, who try to relate the relevant points.....well, you get the idea.

So what's a true skeptic to do?? Well, first of all, never get your education from one source. Never. You wanna be a lactation consultant? (for an example from my own life) You need to mentor under more than one lactation consultant. Your profession requires continuing education credits? They need to be from more than one organization/conference. You see something in an email forward that makes your blood boil? Fact check it. You want to know how well a medication works? Try (if you can) to find a study that doesn't have corporate sponsorship.

Here's a starting point: Google. Yup, good ol' google. Does it give you a definitive answer? no. But if you immediately see 20 pages popping up verifying your fact, you know you're on the right path. Conversely (and usually), you'll see 20 pages referencing things like "urban legend" and "myth". Next: Snopes. Snopes covers a good majority of the email forwards that go around. They have annoying pop-ups, but good information. When politics are involved: Fact Check can give you a decent run down (hint: NO ONE tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth). Things concerning your right to bear arms (because I'm in Texas, and believe me, it comes up A LOT): Gun Law News keeps a pretty decent list going of proposed legislation as well as if it's already dying in committee or actually going anywhere (not that we should be complacent, but nor do we need to send out hyperventilating OMG! emails).

Don't get me wrong, there are sources of information that I love that fit my lifestyle well, but they are biased. Heavily biased. As long as I know that and remember that, I'm okay. Whenever there is a topic that riles me up and gets me mad or frustrated at someone or some entity, it's worth purposely going to the other end of the spectrum because the truth probably lies somewhere in between. I can pull out someone from my own little group of friends that thinks CNN is too conservative and someone else who thinks FoxNews is too liberal. EVERYONE has biases--the best way to moderate your own and make sure you haven't gone off the crazy gullible deep end is to seek a second source. Please do so before putting me on your forward list ;-)

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...