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Thread: How to tell a good source from a bad one?

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    How to tell a good source from a bad one?

    I just had a draining argument with my dad, who is an anti-vaxxer, who believes that COVID19 was created in a lab, that AIDS was created as part of the polio vaccine, and as many people died from the MMR vaccine as died from measles. And yes, if you go onto the internet you will find a boatload of sites backing up those claims (somewhat, they all change the details) and a very few sites saying they're **. So who do you trust? What constitutes a reliable source? Is it simply those sources we assume to be reliable because they're "official"?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    It's about making sense, primarily. Does what is presented here make sense in terms of what we know about the basic science? If not, ignore it.
    Secondly, is there consistency, both internally and across presentations making similar claims? If not, ignore it.
    Thirdly, are there references to primary sources? Not chains of internet memes, but actual direct links to peer-reviewed scientific papers. If not, ignore it.
    Fourthly, are arguments based on appeals to emotion? If so, ignore it.

    I also have a personal disposition to mistrust web sites that use multicoloured text, more than three typefaces or text sizes, capitalized body text, multiple exclamation marks, "decorative" animated gifs, and multiple uncredited images that appear unrelated to the text content. I may have missed reading a useful and informative website as a result, but I think the chances are slim.

    Grant Hutchison

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    So who do you trust? What constitutes a reliable source? Is it simply those sources we assume to be reliable because they're "official"?
    Was your dad vaccinated many times during his youth? If so, then the most reliable source is him, assuming he's still alive and well after all these years, just like most of the rest of us.

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    He proudly said that he and his friends all just "got the measles" and that was how it was done. When I countered that people died from measles he said that more people died from the vaccine.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    When I countered that people died from measles he said that more people died from the vaccine.
    Demonstrably untrue, of course. Most western countries have monitoring systems in place for adverse events following vaccination, and we'd sorta-kinda have noticed if 1 in every 1000 children died after a vaccination. That would be a catastrophic death rate, in safety-of-medicines terms.
    Did he supply any figures comparing the risk of death from measles and from measles vaccine?

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2020-Jul-11 at 06:39 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    He proudly said that he and his friends all just "got the measles" and that was how it was done. When I countered that people died from measles he said that more people died from the vaccine.
    One of my favorite ways to deal with claims like that is to ask "what would change your mind? ". If the answer is "nothing", than arguing is a waste of time.
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    I have to come to some kind of equilibrium. He's my dad.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Demonstrably untrue, of course. Most western countries have monitoring systems in place for adverse events following vaccination, and we'd sorta-kinda have noticed if 1 in every 1000 children died after a vaccination. That would be a catastrophic death rate, in safety-of-medicines terms.
    Did he supply any figures comparing the risk of death from measles and from measles vaccine?

    Grant Hutchison
    But who set up the monitoring system? Obviously the cabal interested in population control.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    But who set up the monitoring system? Obviously the cabal interested in population control.
    Sigh. Yes, that's a pretty standard anti-vaxxer response.
    But surely you didn't start this thread so that you could channel tired old anti-vaxxer claptrap. Why did you start it? What do you hope to get from it?

    Grant Hutchison

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    I dunno. Some way to coexist with my family I suppose.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I dunno. Some way to coexist with my family I suppose.
    Well, that's not the sort of thing I'd presume to comment on.
    I thought you were asking a genuine question about how we should judge the reliability of information sources.

    Grant Hutchison

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    It sounds like your Dad has not gotten his shingles vaccination yet? Is he rejecting that one too? or is this all about the possible future of the CV-19 vaccine? I haven't yet gotten my shingles shots (2 as I understand it) but only because I'm a procrastinator.....on some things ;-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Well, that's not the sort of thing I'd presume to comment on.
    I thought you were asking a genuine question about how we should judge the reliability of information sources.

    Grant Hutchison
    I was. And your answer was perfectly satisfactory.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    One day, I could see some third world dictator sterilizing people with something called a vaccine, but word would get out.
    I watch different news channels and assume all are lying about something a rival channel might expose. Everyone can get things wrong from time to time...take the channeled scablands. Now the Grand Canyon’s age was actually lowballed by the Gradualists. A rare thing that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    Now the Grand Canyon’s age was actually lowballed by the Gradualists. A rare thing that.
    I’m sorry, it may just be a lack of vocabulary, but I’m not sure what “lowball” or “gradualist” mean...


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I’m sorry, it may just be a lack of vocabulary, but I’m not sure what “lowball” or “gradualist” mean...
    In this context, “lowball” means to understate or give too low an estimate. It also has a sports related definition but you often hear it in other contexts, like lowballing an offer to purchase a car or house.

    “Gradualism” here refers to a geological term about gradual geological change, as opposed to “catastrophism.” Catastrophism tended to get a bad reputation with geologists since it usually comes up in geologically unsupportable religious context and geologists typically found processes took long periods of time. So for instance, it took years for geologists to generally accept that certain scablands were actually produced by a catastrophic event:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missoula_floods

    So geological change isn’t always gradual.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

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    I've been a crank hunter from time to time and a few things usually show up in the usual suspects. One guy shows a link to an article he wrote in a dubious journal that isn't peer reviewed. Another channel usually misquotes papers and articles. Sometimes I find these people like flat Earthers from videos and skeptical podcasts. Even if a paper is in peer reviewed journal it could be still be wrong like Wakefield and his claims on vaccines, it was found out he was working for a vaccine or by himself to bring in a different series of vaccines.
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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    <snip>
    I watch different news channels and assume all are lying about something a rival channel might expose. Everyone can get things wrong from time to time...
    I'm sorry, but that is exactly the kind of stuff I hear from hoax-believers, and conspiracy-believers, and similar ilk, to dismiss legitimate information sources that disprove their crackpot ideas. It is one of the oldest tricks of any con artist - accuse others of the wrongs you are committing, such as lying.
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I dunno. Some way to coexist with my family I suppose.
    Say, "Dad, I love you, but on these matters we shall never agree, so lets just restrict our arguments to the really important things like football*."

    *Insert most relevant sport, or other topic that works for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I'm sorry, but that is exactly the kind of stuff I hear from hoax-believers, and conspiracy-believers, and similar ilk, to dismiss legitimate information sources that disprove their crackpot ideas. It is one of the oldest tricks of any con artist - accuse others of the wrongs you are committing, such as lying.
    Then too, some thought any critique of the WHO was off base.

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    Then too, some thought any critique of the WHO was off base.
    I really don't remember anyone saying that any critique of the WHO was off-base. I do think there was, and is, very common sentiment that it is correct to be critical of the things the WHO does wrong, but misguided to anything that will hamper the WHO's ability to act in a critical situation.
    As above, so below

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    Medical matters get people on edge of course.
    I might suggest to the OP to avoid the subject.
    Not long ago I heard Mike Shermer on overnight radio talk radio about how he was a bit softer on Chopra and others, and how there is a need to be listened to. Bartender ethic I suppose.

    Of course Randi would have none of that
    If Dad must bring it up, a possible answer might be along the lines of “you believe most cops are good right? Maybe we should give doctors the same benefit of a doubt.”

    Statistics can be a cudgel, but a more understanding style allows people to learn. When you read, it is often with ones own voice unlike the spoken word. We are all human and we are just trying to find a way to get by.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I just had a draining argument with my dad, who is an anti-vaxxer, who believes that COVID19 was created in a lab, that AIDS was created as part of the polio vaccine, and as many people died from the MMR vaccine as died from measles.
    You can't fact someone out of irrational beliefs. I found that out the hard way.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    My mom drives me nuts. She had an "add on" in her browser that will inject "news stories" into her Facebook feed. It's all garbage news, stuff like anti-vax things. I didn't figure it out until I left a comment that said, "Mom, call me." She didn't because she can't see what's been posted on her behalf. I shot her a text and she answered immediately. I sent her a screen shot of what I could see in her account and she went on a quest to fix it. It took a while but she got that one fixed.

    Now if I could get her to stop clicking new things, that would be great.
    Solfe

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    As for sources, a quick search of "how to find trustworthy sources" turns up some advice, such as this list: https://paperpile.com/g/find-credible-sources/
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    HLN is pretty dry. No cheerleading...

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    The best thing you can do is do your own research on things. I did research a few years ago and learned that Monsanto's Roundup could cause cancer. I was called a conspiracy theorist in different forums. Well its turns out it is true and Bayer is being sued who bought Monsanto.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/b...-lawsuits.html

    And you had the whole Agent Orange thing in the past they tried to deny. There are many things that "experts",'MSM" and "officials" say are conspiracy theories and are not true actually turn out to be true. You should try to see your dad's point of view. At one time we used to listen to our elders that had more life lessons. I would say that he is on to something.

    Just because somebody is an "expert" don't mean they know what they are talking. And just because something is peer reviewed don't make it true. You shoud do your own research and find out for yourself. One thing I have learned is never trust mainstream media. Which is why many are flocking to alternative sources and alternative solutions because they have been lied to, for far to long. I will leave you with these quotes.

    Peer review, as a "quasi-sacred" process that somehow supposedly transcends the foibles and follies of human nature, has taken on sacred ritual status. Has the paper been blessed by the Peer Review Priest? Scientists, of course, arent't human--they are something more, something pure, something that the layperson can never be. Students undergo magical alchemical process as they proceed through the educational institutions and emerge transformed from their chrysalis with their doctorates, masters, stethoscopes and equations. They are the Chosen Ones, the purified, the holy, the redeemed, the righteous. They don not have to answer to the lowly non-scientific peasentry-let alone unbelieving heretics.
    The Failure of Peer Review-
    Especially in Medicine
    nexusmagazine.com

    Today Science is up on a pedestal. A new god has appeared, his high priests conduct the rutuals, with the nuclear reactors, moon-probing rocket shipes, cathode tubes and laser beams. And their territory is sacrosanct; laymen are denied entry.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thoth101 View Post
    The best thing you can do is do your own research on things.
    What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean actually going out, doing experiments, making measurements, analyzing those results with math and statistics? Or do you mean searching the Internet with Google and looking for any random site or video that conforms with your beliefs?

    Because the scientists and experts that you are decrying are the ones actually doing their own research. And the peer review process is a way (imperfect, but usually self-correcting) to review those results so they aren't biased by the individual(s) publishing them.

    Just because somebody is an "expert" don't mean they know what they are talking.
    And just because someone can make a Youtube video doesn't mean they know what they are talking about either. So how exactly do you judge?

    And just because something is peer reviewed don't make it true.
    No it doesn't. But there is a heck of lot more to the scientific process than that. A big part of it is that others can come along and repeat those results and see if they are correct. And such corrections and modifications happen constantly in the literature. Which is exactly why science ISN'T a "quasi-sacred" process. There is no sacred text, penned many years ago, that all must follow. Scientific knowledge is constantly growing and changing, and yes, is often wrong and is then modified and corrected.

    Today Science is up on a pedestal. A new god has appeared, his high priests conduct the rutuals, with the nuclear reactors, moon-probing rocket shipes, cathode tubes and laser beams. And their territory is sacrosanct; laymen are denied entry.
    Nonsense. Unfortunately, too many people don't bother to learn what science is about, and only look at science as some black art that brings them new toys like cell phones, but occasionally messes up and allows their demons to escape. If science is up on any pedestal, it is because it works, and bad things happen (like pandemics and climate change) when it is ignored. But it is not sacrosanct and it is not closed; it is open to anyone willing to learn and do the work.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thoth101 View Post
    Peer review, as a "quasi-sacred" process that somehow supposedly transcends the foibles and follies of human nature, has taken on sacred ritual status. Has the paper been blessed by the Peer Review Priest? Scientists, of course, arent't human--they are something more, something pure, something that the layperson can never be. Students undergo magical alchemical process as they proceed through the educational institutions and emerge transformed from their chrysalis with their doctorates, masters, stethoscopes and equations. They are the Chosen Ones, the purified, the holy, the redeemed, the righteous. They don not have to answer to the lowly non-scientific peasentry-let alone unbelieving heretics.
    That's not just a strawman, it's a straw elephant.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thoth101 View Post
    The best thing you can do is do your own research on things. I did research a few years ago and learned that Monsanto's Roundup could cause cancer. I was called a conspiracy theorist in different forums. Well its turns out it is true and Bayer is being sued who bought Monsanto.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/b...-lawsuits.html

    And you had the whole Agent Orange thing in the past they tried to deny. There are many things that "experts",'MSM" and "officials" say are conspiracy theories and are not true actually turn out to be true. You should try to see your dad's point of view. At one time we used to listen to our elders that had more life lessons. I would say that he is on to something.

    Just because somebody is an "expert" don't mean they know what they are talking. And just because something is peer reviewed don't make it true. You shoud do your own research and find out for yourself. One thing I have learned is never trust mainstream media. Which is why many are flocking to alternative sources and alternative solutions because they have been lied to, for far to long. I will leave you with these quotes.

    Peer review, as a "quasi-sacred" process that somehow supposedly transcends the foibles and follies of human nature, has taken on sacred ritual status. Has the paper been blessed by the Peer Review Priest? Scientists, of course, arent't human--they are something more, something pure, something that the layperson can never be. Students undergo magical alchemical process as they proceed through the educational institutions and emerge transformed from their chrysalis with their doctorates, masters, stethoscopes and equations. They are the Chosen Ones, the purified, the holy, the redeemed, the righteous. They don not have to answer to the lowly non-scientific peasentry-let alone unbelieving heretics.
    The Failure of Peer Review-
    Especially in Medicine
    nexusmagazine.com

    Today Science is up on a pedestal. A new god has appeared, his high priests conduct the rutuals, with the nuclear reactors, moon-probing rocket shipes, cathode tubes and laser beams. And their territory is sacrosanct; laymen are denied entry.
    Bruce Cathie
    The Energy Grid
    Bunkum.

    Expertise is hardly arbitrary or a participation award. What makes an expert is hard learning and practice, putting in the work to master a subject. Expertise should be respected. Likewise, science is an analytical process for weeding out nonsense and misperceptions by constant testing and questioning. It is literally a way to avoid irrational doctrines and beliefs about the way things work.

    Are there experts who misuse their knowledge and skills? Individual scientists who get dogmatic? Of course, they're human. But mostly, the sins you name are the result of NON experts using the results of science badly, specifically because of their lack of expertise. Corporations and politicians are generally not experts, they are usually not even amateur scientists.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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