One of the most difficult things for people generally to understand is that the Internet is not the same as newspapers, radio, television or any other form of professionally managed news source.
The Internet is un-edited. The internet is unfiltered opinion and as such it may or may not be true.
Now all of us have received the email from “the gentle woman from Kenya asking us to help her recover $20M where she will share it with us”. Clearly we have learned that these emails are not true. But what about the ones that claim or are actually written by people with a PhD and who have a credible story to go along with their credible titles and backgrounds?
Let me give you an example – A recent email I received talked about how the signers of the Declaration of Independence had all suffered for their courageous stand. It was heartbreaking –
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the
Declaration of Independence?
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
This was clearly sent to inspire us today. But the truth is not nearly so heart rendering. You can read the truth here on Swopes.com. You can also search Swopes.com for other clarifications like this one. The site is organized to help you.
But what about other types of topics? My favorite are articles that relate to global warming. I recently received an article from my Dad in a magazine about piping and industrial fixtures written on the editorial page by the magazine’s editor. In the article he wrote about how the sun’s 11 year sun spot cycle and other longer term solar cycles were really the cause of global (and temporary in his mind) warming.
A great site to dig into the real scientific literature but with simply written overviews is here. What makes this such a good site for you to turn to is that it while it starts with clear explanations of the case for and against the assertion that the normal solar cycle is behind what we are seeing in climate change, it goes beyond this quickly and lists 10 peer reviewed publications in the scientific literature from several different countries – USA, UK, Denmark, Finland, France.
By citing peer reviewed science, you are assured that the process of science was applied to the published information. Disagreements can still be present. Even counter view points to the generally accepted theories and research are published. But the data collection and data reduction methods must be scientifically sound and they must be current in their validity. Peer review does not stiffle disagreements in interpretation but it does greatly reduce errors related to bad mathematics, data collection and so forth.
And this is the point. Over the years climate change data has been improved, errors have been found and corrected. Sometimes new data is specifically taken to clarify earlier data that was ambigioius or incomplete. And when an article is published tha quotes older data using out of date methods or founding principles, you cannot be sure when the publication is simply from a source on the Internet.
The Internet requires us all to dig a bit deeper. To question sources and quality of information. In the past this job fell to editors of the New York Times and Scientific American. But with the Internet, and the fact that it allows anyone – including me! – to publish information directly to you without editorial review, you have to become more critical readers.
Here is my list of some key sites to check your facts –
If you have favorite sites, let me know by commenting or writing to me. I will try to update this essay periodically.