In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
The internet is full of crap. For every piece of reputable information you’ll find countless rumors, misinformation, and downright falsehoods. Separating truth from fiction is equal parts a mental battle and diligent research. Here’s how to make sure you never get duped.
As long as words are hitting the page, news and facts are filtered through someone. Sometimes this is a ludicrous rumor that somehow morphs into a fact, or even just a small tip that doesn’t work at all. Filtering out the junk from the facts is hard, but it’s not impossible.
Before we start filtering through all the junk, we need to quickly talk about how and why misinformation travels quickly. A number of reasons for this exist, but two are more prevalent than others. First off, we have belief perseverance, which Scientific America describes like so:
[B]elief perseverance: maintaining your original opinions in the face of overwhelming data that contradicts your beliefs. Everyone does it, but we are especially vulnerable when invalidated beliefs form a key part of how we narrate our lives. Researchers have found that stereotypes, religious faiths and even our self-concept are especially vulnerable to belief perseverance.
Essentially, once an idea becomes a “fact” in our head, we have a hard time believing that the opposite is true when it’s disproven. This is how myths and rumors gain steam.
Belief perserverance also plays well with cognitive bias: flaws in judgement where we make statistical or attribution errors based on patterns. These biases include confirmation bias, where we tend to ignore information we don’t agree with, and the bandwagon effect, where we tend to go along with what other members of a group are doing.
Essentially, both make spotting misinformation difficult because we believe just about anything if we want it to be true. The only fix is to acknowledge that you do this. Once you do, it’s time to start digging for truly reliable information…
In the small but cohesive Mormon community where he grew up, Hans Mattsson was a solid believer and a pillar of the church. He followed his father and grandfather into church leadership and finally became an “area authority” overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Europe.
When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.
But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.
Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church…
The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month.
The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor.
The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households. They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.
The new WiFi networks would also have much farther reach, allowing for a driverless car to communicate with another vehicle a mile away or a patient’s heart monitor to connect to a hospital on the other side of town.
I have a stinking feeling the telecom lobby will never let this happen, and being that it would be such a great benefit to the poor, I doubt many politicians would be for it in that regard either.
I can see the headlines talking about poor people wanting free internet service and how it’s going to raise taxes, so on and so forth already.
I say no 21st century infrastructure is complete without ubiquitous free WiFi. Make it so!