how to apply crank salt

crank_salt

My bestest blogging buddy and ranting mentor is handsome Egyptian dude, Arkenaten. Like me, he thinks it improbable that invisible deities actually exist, and he doesn’t hold many organised religions in particularly high regard.

I think it’s fair to say that we both poke about the internet looking for pages with interesting information about the absurdities of religion, and particularly Christianity, the religion we are both most familiar with. Something about one of his recent posts got me thinking about the nature of ‘crank’ pages, and problem of the reliability of our internet sources, including the generally very useful Wikipedia.

We’ve all done this before. Think of any random thing you believe and do a search for it on Google. Now search for the opposite, or something ridiculous. There is online ‘evidence’ for anything you want to believe. Here are a few:

Jesus existed: http://carm.org/jesus-exist

Jesus never existed: http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/

Jesus was an alien: http://www.brandonmerhout.com/AlienJesus.html

It’s the end of the world: http://www.arewelivinginthelastdays.com/

The end of the world began on 21 December 2012 and you can buy your gifts here: http://www.december212012.com/preparedness-shop/

I think you get the picture. If you believe climate change is happening you can find 10,000 peer-reviewed papers, if you don’t, you can find 1000 papers and find a page telling you the discrepancy is down to biased funding sources, while the other side will find a page telling you the oil companies are funding the other papers, but another page will tell you this is rubbish. Unfortunately, if you want to know the true story about anything you have to go to all the original sources and make your own mind up. And most have us don’t have the time, or indeed the expertise, to do that for everything we have opinions on.

In a post several months ago where I gave some handy hints on how to tell if your religion is genuine, I fell for this quick, but less than robust method of collecting evidence about mythical gods. I googled what I wanted to believe, or had half heard, and found it quickly enough on Wikipedia. I then did another google for a secondary source, just to ‘confirm’ it was correct and then published. But when I was challenged, I found I couldn’t actually track down any original sources to confirm my solid internet ‘evidence’.

Even more so than with everything else in life, I think it’s best to take most things we read online with a hefty dose of crank salt.

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