March 2013 – Evaluating the Evidence

Ed note: visit the new Resources – Evaluating the Evidence web page that grew out of this discussion.

Humanists speak of using critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry for evaluating and applying evidence, eschewing faith, intuition, and revelation as unworkable and misguided. But we all struggle to establish methods of employing critical reasoning, deciding what evidence is factual, and applying scientific methods in areas outside of our experience and expertise.

Our March 2013 meeting focused on this struggle and how we cope with the incredible amount of information available in a modern, connected society. Many of us expressed the importance of knowing about information sources. For example, how was it paid for, who employed and what motivated the author(s), what affiliations did the author and publication have, and what biases informed the presentation of the information. “Follow the money” was a thread that ran through the discussion.

The credibility of newspapers and journalism in general was questioned. The need for skeptical reading, critical thinking skills, and cross-checking from other sources (libraries, the web, experts, knowledgeable family and friends) were mentioned as aids to the proper evaluation of information. Our own biases and preferences must be acknowledged as we judge the validity of what we read, watch, and hear.

We all have information sources that we consider credible, and aids in the evaluation of evidence. If you have a web site, book or other aid you would like to share with the group, please leave a comment. Submissions will be added to the Resources – Evaluating the Evidence web page.

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