In a world filled with more accessible information than ever before, it is much more difficult to evaluate what is truth and what is not. Which sources can you trust? From books to personal experience, one must look carefully at each and determine its level of reliability. Some of the most trusted sources of knowledge are books. Almost everything we learn in school is from a book.
We spend close to $300 every year to buy these teaching tools. Yet, have we ever stopped to think about the credibility of these sources? Many of us read books and automatically assume that the information is true.
Our knowledge obtained from books is purely authoritative knowledge (with some exceptions). Therefore, we cannot fully trust the information in a book unless the authorities are credible. How can we establish this credibility? A book’s credibility relies on its author’s credentials, sources, publisher, and copyright date.
The author should be qualified in his or her field.
One flaw in the book “Mere Christianity” is the fact that C. S. Lewis is not a qualified theologian, so a reader cannot accept all of his ideas so readily. A reader should always take into account the bibliography to ensure that the author is using factual sources. The book should be published by a well-known company, so that the reader knows the information has been rigorously tested and evaluated. In any book, one should always consider the copyright date.
For literature, this will help the reader understand the historical context of the language, ideas, and arguments presented in the story.
For science books, the copyright date must be new, because scientific knowledge changes almost every day. More importantly than any of these, it is up to the reader to read critically, being aware of any biases. For example, history books cannot always be trusted because history is often seen through a narrow scope. The American Revolution is so embraced by Americans because the Patriots fought against British “oppression” and taxes.
However, the British taxes were not oppressive at all; they were actually negligible compared to the taxes we pay today. History books bring with them another area of knowledge with its own problems. It is impossible to completely record the events of history with perfect accuracy. Everything written should be read with a critical eye. While much information is obtained through books, surely the largest source of information is the Internet. Can web sites be trusted? Once again, we are faced with the problems of authoritative knowledge with Internet web sites.
They are created by someone whom you most likely do not know, so how can you be sure that the information given is truth? Web sites should be treated in the same manner as books, but more web sites should be less trusted than books for several reasons. Almost anybody can create a website, but not everybody can publish a book. A web site does not undergo the same rigorous editing tests that books do. A class of 16 year olds created websites for a school project, but not all of those websites contain truth.
When obtaining information from the Internet, it would be even more important to compare the information given from many different web sites. If the same information is found repeatedly and consistently in many different web sites, it is most likely a sure fact. Again, a critical eye must be used, making sure the web site creator bases his or her arguments on logical reasoning and accepted facts, and not careless emotions. Books and web sites are generally trusted sources of knowledge, but the media is a highly criticized medium, for good reason.