I was originally going to write this blog about a story I found online describing how Winston Churchill’s life was saved because of Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin and how that never would’ve happened if his father wasn’t saved from drowning in a bog by a country farmer. It was a very compelling story of how often there are a series of what seem like minor circumstantial events that lead to something major.
Before I took the information from the source online, I decided to do my own checking and found out that it was a myth. I was disappointed because it was such an inspiring story and at the same time, glad that I did the research to dig deeper.
This made me think how important it is for all of us to be critical thinkers and wise consumers of information, many times from the Internet but sometimes heralded on the news, especially in these intense political times.
It is important to do research whenever we think we’ve discovered something factual that is influencing decisions we are making. I think of the quote, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up.” How dangerous this is!
Taking the responsibility to be a wise consumer and critical thinker may seem sort of dry. However it makes us better citizens and better people, better role models for children, and become people who can challenge others when they recognize that they are counting something as factual when in reality it is not.
Here are some places where you can go to fact check on the internet: Fact Check.org, Snopes, Truth or Fiction.com, Full Fact.org, and politifact.org which focuses specifically on political information.
It can be disappointing to find out that sources we trusted are not sharing factual information with us, distorting or fabricating information or not telling us the whole story. There are some who pass along folklore, like the person I saw on Facebook REELS who shared the story of Alexander Fleming being rescued out of a bog and eventually going on to discover penicillin that saved Winston Churchill’s life. Yes, it is inspiring, but it is also not accurate.
There are researchers who experience something called implicit bias who are working to use science and facts they uncover to prove things. The trouble is that sometimes, whether they are aware of it or not, they are on a mission to prove something they believe is true.
In an article published by Discover Magazine entitled “Loss Research Notes Clear Up Racial Bias Debate in Old Skull Size Study” authors share how the work of the researcher Samuel Morton influenced beliefs about the innate intelligence of people of different races. (His research was conducted and shared in the mid-1800’s) The article states, “By objectively measuring differences in brain size between people from various societies, Morton believed he had used science to prove that white people were intellectually superior to other races.” It goes on to say, “… at the time, Morton and others used his conclusions as a ‘scientific’ justification for slavery, and he is considered a founding father of scientific racism. In recent decades, Morton’s work has been upheld as a model case for how unconscious bias can creep in to even a careful researcher’s work.” A research paper from the National Library of Medicine also provides important information about implicit biases that can influence public opinion and wound a whole race of people.
I suggest that we have a responsibility to be wise consumers and critical thinkers whenever others, especially those in power, assert what they say are irrefutable truths. We have the means to fact check and make our decisions based on research on more than one front. Yes, it is easier to blindly believe others but what are our moral obligations as parents, teachers, citizens of this amazing country?
Invitation for Reflection
- Have you had the experience of believing someone’s “truth” only to find they were lying or misrepresenting that truth? How did that impact you? How did it impact your faith in those in power who made compelling statements that turn out to be false?
- How motivated are you to be more careful with what you hear from others in power? Will you think to fact check and therefore be a wise consumer?
- Are you willing to challenge anyone who is attempting to force their opinions, often stated as facts, on you?