Who is credible? What is True? How can I know?

You’ve heard the claims about the vaccines.

  • The vaccines are safe/they are NOT safe.
  • They skipped the animal testing phase/They did test animals.
  • All the animals died./ No they didn’t.
  • 5G technology fosters the spread of the COVID19 virus/ The virus isn’t spread through 5G.
  • Bill Gates put a chip in the vaccine/No he didn’t.

What are we to believe? How do we find the truth? How can we make the best decisions?

In this post, I’ll detail how you can determine what is true and what is false. Or at least, I’ll give you a series of questions that help get you closer to the truth.

Those that follow me have seen my resent pivot from Murfield International, Inc. to my collaboration with real estate broker Patrick Lynch. Together we work to help leaders in business, real estate, and sales achieve their TOTAL Career Growth. TOTAL stands for Taking Others To Audacious Levels. To reach astounding levels we help them to think bigger, reach higher, and be willing to do what others think is impossible.  To do that, we must use critical thinking. We set ourselves up for failure when we base our future on personal opinion rather than credible sources. We utilize online and in-person coaching, training, and speaking, and podcasts to help our clients.

The Problem

Digital marketing experts estimate that each of us are exposed to at least 4000 and possibly up to 10,000 messages a day. Ninety percent of these messages not only come from six major media sources for those of us in the U.S., but also from each of us who post on social media. That’s almost 4 Billion people on a daily basis.

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

That not even counting the people we actually talk to personally.

With that bombardment of messages, it is no wonder we feel overwhelmed. In each message, we ask ourselves (at least on some level) the following questions:

  • What is important?
  • What is important to me?
  • What is true?
  • How do I know it is true?

That is overwhelming. There are too many messages, often conflicting messages, for us to handle.

For example, consider how many messages you hear a day about the covid vaccine. Notice how those message reflect my opening questions. They are life savers/It’s all a big hoax. They violated the process/They followed the process. It seems like one big, never ending argument with both sides claiming the moral high ground.

So how can we figure out what is true?

The problem continues with a number of conspiracy theorists who willingly spread false information to gain power and wealth. Take your pick from the black helicopters to antisemitism to the flat earth society.

So what can we believe? How can we know it is true?

Thinking Critically

In his recent best-seller Think Again (2021), Adam Grant asks us to think like scientists. The scientist welcomes thinking that makes them challenge their assumptions. That’s unlike the preachers, politicians, and prosecutors. (See my earlier post detailing these. )

Critical thinkers challenge themselves to think beyond what they already assume is true. It is called “Critical” thinking rather than reactive or passive thinking because there is a process. The process involves a series of questions that will help us determine what is credible and what is not.

The 5 Question Process

Whenever you read something, ask yourself the following questions.

1. What is their claim?

What are they stating that is true or false. That sounds like a no-brainer but you might be surprised. Sometimes people post just to be important. They may be claiming something but the real reason is to be self-important. (I’m sure that never happens with social media. 🙂 Identify what the writer or speaker is claiming.

For our example, we will use the claim, “The vaccine hasn’t been tested.”

2. What evidence do they offer?

It is easy to throw out a statement like, “The vaccine has not been tested.” From there, we make the conclusion, “I now know that it is unsafe. I am not going to get it.”

With our vaccine argument, the evidence may be “I read it on the internet.” or “Some one told me.” We will get to it later, but at this point it is wise to ask who wrote the article or told you. Their credibility is critical to determine whether or not it is believable.

In the same way, if we believe someone just because they said it, we may be believing a lie. The person speaking may mean well but, without asking for evidence, we may be believing a lie.

3. Is there a Warrant?

Ok, I promised we would get to this.

Ask yourself, “What links the evidence to the claim?” This is a bit harder to understand because the warrant often relies on an unspoken assumption. Remember Adam Grant asks us to test those assumptions. Expose them to the light for criticism. Ask yourself, why do I believe that evidence? What reasoning am I using that makes this evidence supportive of the claim?

In the case of the vaccine, we look for enough credible evidence to convince us that the vaccine protocol was violated to get the vaccine to market.

Remember, it is easy to make a claim. It is just as easy to write an article supporting that claim. It is especially easy to make that argument to people that already believe the claim. That is preaching to the choir. But that doesn’t make the claim true.

If someone claims that the vaccine isn’t safe and points to a article online that says it was never tested, we may rason that the claim is true. But was the evidence credible?

In a police state, there is little need for any investigation. If the police said you are guilty, you must be. In that circular argument, you will always be guilty because it would be based on their claim and they are always right.

Instead, If the police want to arrest you, they need to go to a judge and ask for a warrant. The judge will ask them what evidence they have to prove their claim that you committed a crime. Then the judge will question the credibility of that evidence. (We will get to that next.) That is a good thing because if the judge just believed the police, you would be automatically convicted based on what the police felt or believed. (This is not to make the police out to be corrupt. There are many good cops. This is just to point out the process.)

4. Is the Evidence Credible?

Just because someone said or wrote something doesn’t make it true.

Ove the last decade authority of all kinds has come into question. With the rise of the internet, everyone has a voice and therefore everyone has an opinion. Opinion does not equal fact. Remember, just because someone believes something doesn’t make it true.

That’s where we must test to see if we can believe it or not.

What makes it credible?

When looking for vaccine evidence? Given it is science, we would look for credible scientists, especially in the field of infectious diseases. The Journal of American Medicine (JAMA)would definitely be credible, especially since physicians hold it in high esteem. But would Joe’s webpage be as credible? No. Older, established organizations, like The World Health Organization (WHO) or the Center for Disease Control (CDC), have long, established histories of credible reporting health information. We don’t know who Joe is or what credibility he offers. He might be credible but we don’t know his credentials or his history of reporting.

Credibility is based on a) accuracy (validity) and b) reliability. A bathroom scale is accurate if it weighs correctly. It is reliable if it weighs consistently. If the scale weighs 5 pounds light every time, it is consistent but not accurate. If it occasionally is accurate, it is not reliable. That scale, like a good source, is credible if it is both accurate and reliable.

For example, Jama, WHO, and CDC are often seen as credible because they have provided information for decades that has proven to be true over time. However, if they provide one piece of false information, we start to question it.

Recently elite media has been questioned, in part, because many have gone to biased reporting. Fox is seen as conservative, MSNBC is seen as liberal. CNN is seen as more sensational. Add to that the “fake news” contention we have been hearing. That has brought established health organizations under doubt.

Credibility is far more than just, “I believe them.” Credibility is can what they say be verified by objective individuals. In other words, is it fact, not just an opinion.

Credibility is also more than just a single incident. Within research methods, there are quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative looks at the big picture to establish trends. These statistics are important because they help us to see far beyond our own little worlds. Meanwhile, qualitative methods look for the richness of the data in interviews and case studies. Together, they help us understand how much it impacts individuals like you and me, but also how many individuals are impacted. It helps us answer, “How Bad is it?” and “Is this normal?”

What is the truth?

We return to the questions at the beginning of the post. Who can we believe?

You tell me.

When I looked at the fact-checking sources, I found a variety of sources that were consistent in saying the vaccine is safe. Johns Hopkins, CDC, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Reuters, USA Today, and EuroNews.

Some people will disagree with these findings. If so, what sources do they consider to be credible? Why? How reliable are those other sources? How credible are they in reporting scientific findings? Are they more reliable than the traditionally credible sources? If so, what evidence do you use to prove that claim?

Science and critical thinking demand that we look for credible sources. Do the fact-checking. Be willing to be proven wrong. Listen to all sides of a discussion before forming your opinion.

Unfortunately, many have quit listening to any evidence that doesn’t fit their belief systems. “That can’t be right” or “I don’t believe it” is often the knee-jerk response.

As you can tell, I believe the scientists. Why? Because they have proven themselves most credible. I am willing to be proven wrong. So far, all I’ve heard is anecdotal evidence.

But the bigger question is, “What do you believe is true?” “What evidence do you use to support that claim?” “On what basis is it credible?”

Follow me to be the first to read about why we believe lies.

Please leave a comment but please be civil.

THINK BIGGER.

REACH HIGHER!

DO THE IMPOSSIBLE

Loren Murfield, PhD

I work with leaders and entrepreneurs in small business, sales and Real Estate to think bigger and reach higher to find their breakthrough success. Contact me to begin thinking bigger.

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