Friday, 24 May 2013

critical thinking

People often re-post stuff online without using any critical thinking. Especially if it appeals to some deeply-held belief or gut feel. 

Please do the following BEFORE you post something online.

1. Does it agree with your poltiical, racial or religious views? If so, check it, it may be false.

2. Does it agree with your lifestyle, dietary views, or views on sex? If so, check it, it may be false.

How do you check something?

3. Google it. Take a copy and paste of a few sentences from the thing you want to post - e.g. an "interesting" article about how Johns Hopkins says MSG causes cancer, or how the Australian PM says that Muslims must get out of Australia. Copy two or three sentences, and paste them into Google. If the first sites that come up are hoaxslayer or, you can pretty much bet that it's a hoax.

4. Go to or and search for the key words in the claim. E.g. "MSG cancer link". See what the academics are saying.

5. Search for the same keywords on

That's all it takes to not spread misinformation online. Please do this as a matter of course. Just check your facts. Remember "Confirmation Bias". Just because something makes sense to you, does not mean it is true. Facts are not matters on which you can have an opinion, and they are not culturally relative. Facts are human-independent.

People often say that they're entitled to their opinion. No. You are not entitled to believe that beliefs are true when they are merely beliefs and not facts. You are not entitled to mislead others by spreading falsities as if they were facts, merely by name-dropping a supposed authority that pronounced them. You have to check whether the cited authority did in fact pronounce these things that you hold to be true, to be facts.

You are entitled to opinions only on matters of aesthetics, e.g. whether you find some piece of art, music, food, fashion, or some or other celebrity to be attractive or aesthetically pleasing. On matters of fact, such as politics and political claims, statistical claims, scientific claims, religious claims, etc., you are not entitled to your opinion, since you do not have sufficient knowledge or evidence, for the most part, to make any such claims.