HOW CAN WE KNOW IF THAT EMAIL, BLOG POST, OR NEWS STORY IS TRUE?

true or falseIs the truth important?

I think Jesus said that it was. For example, here are some of His words when He spoke to a Samaritan woman who had come to a well to obtain water.

John 4:21-24 New King James Version (NKJV)

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

When we love the things of this world (as that Samaritan woman once did) , we love something ephemeral, lies that will pass away. (1 John 2:15-17). To grab hold of that which will last, we must seek God’s viewpoint, to see what He created through His eyes. We must seek to know the whole of the truth, not just what we wish to believe.

The attitude problem

Because we prefer positive feedback, feedback that affirms us, we prefer to read and view only that which echoes back our beliefs. We tend to limit our circle of friends and acquaintances to those who share our beliefs. Such limits can become self-imposed blinders. Thus, when we receive an email, see a blog post, or hear a news story that says what we wish to believe, we jump to a conclusion. That story is true! We don’t seriously consider the possibility that that email or post is a lie. Instead, we spread the lie.

Why don’t we check the truth of the matter?

Every lie is two lies — the lie we tell others and the lie we tell ourselves to justify it. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com (H/T to www.quotegarden.com/honesty.html)

We want to believe the lie.

How do we verify an email, blog post or news story?

So before we forward it or repost it, how do we verify an email, a blog post, or a news story? We for check for sources.

When we pass on “information” without saying where we got that information, we do no one any favors. Before we can rely upon any “fact” as the truth, we have an obligation to test it. How do we test a fact?

  • We can do our own primary research.
  • We can check for sources (TV shows, newspapers, magazines, blogs, friends, and so forth), people who have already done the research required to validate the factual truth.

When do our own research, we know the quality of our work. That understanding of and trust in our own work becomes our measure of faith in that truth or fact. Usually, we do this sort of testing with respect personal choices. Who do we choose as our friends? Who becomes our spouse? What is our profession? What is our religion? Who is our doctor? And so forth.

When we rely upon sources, we depend upon the reputation of those sources and the research they say they have done. Yet from time to time we must remember the words of President Ronald Reagan.

Trust, but verify.  — Ronald Reagan

It is not a good idea to rely upon just one source nor is it a good idea to rely upon a group of a sources that all share the same ideological view. Nonetheless, we all make excuses and do exactly that. Fearful of having our beliefs challenged (and angered when they are), we may avoid making the effort to verify the reputation of our sources. That’s a big mistake!

So when we get that email, see that blog post, or hear that news story that looks too “good” to be true, how do we verify it? How To Spot an Email Hoax provides a good start, but here is a bit more.

  • Does that email, blog post, or news story cite a source?  If it does, we check the source. We read the source. We don’t just assume that the source will confirm that email or blog post. Sometimes the source may say something quite different.
  • If that email or blog post doesn’t cite a source (or a source we trust), what do we do then? We use our favorite search engine. We can search the Internet for important words and phrases from that email or blog post. To focus on decent hits, we can limit our search to news sources or to recent web posts.  If we are lucky we will get hits from a reputable websites that cite sources and confirm or deny the veracity of that email, blog post, or news story.
  • What if we don’t get any decent hits? What if that email, blog post, or news story has just gone viral, and there is still nothing to substantiate it. If that is the case, we don’t have to participate. Because it is probably not true, we don’t have any good reason to forward or repost the silly thing.

Is the truth out there?

The fact is we have a limited capacity for gathering and analyzing information.  Therefore, the Internet poses a big problem, far more data that we can ever hope to assimilate. Thus, we must filter out and ignore what don’t need and can’t use.

Nevertheless, we must validate the veracity of the data we choose to receive and use.  Is the data real? Is it complete? Does it lead us to the correct conclusions?

Consider How to check if that viral video is true and How Do You Know if What You Read Online Is True? The first article indicates the news media will post stuff they have not verified.  Because corporations exist to make money, the corporate news media cares about what increases their ratings (and echoes their own world view). The second article is aimed at children. Can you imagine why The New York Times would teach children to be skeptical of the Internet? Why not skepticism of the news media too?

Well, some are skeptical of the news media and the Internet. Hence we get numerous websites like the following.

Unfortunately, even though such websites can be helpful, we also have to filter out their biases. What do we use as the basis for that filter? I suggest becoming familiar with the wisdom contained in the Bible. The Bible serves as a mirror for our souls. When we begin to understand ourselves, then we can begin appreciate our own limits, just how and how easily we can be fooled.

 

2 thoughts on “HOW CAN WE KNOW IF THAT EMAIL, BLOG POST, OR NEWS STORY IS TRUE?

  1. Citizen Tom,
    I believe this is the best blog I have read in a very long time. I need to reblog it so I have it at my fingertips for my own reference.

    Thank you for the admonition and the encouragement and the direction. All are appreciated.

    Abundant blessings,
    Rhonda aka nanarhonda

    Like

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