Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Problem With Blogs

Information comes in many forms. The vast majority of it is not only not reliable, it is not even close to reliable.

What do I really know?

- I know math. Mostly, that's because we define math, and I know what we have defined. I know that 1 = 1 because we have postulated it to be so. I know that 1 + 1 = 2 because it follows the definitions and the logic that we want to rely on. Math is really the only thing I am willing to say that I know.

- I know the scientific method, but little about science. I know a bit more about behavior than I do about essence. I can tell you that water will freeze at zero degrees Celsius, but only at STP, pure water, and probably a host of other things that I don't really know, yet. I'm less certain of what water is made from. I used to think water was an essential element. Then I thought mist, then molecules, then atoms, then protons, neutrons, and electrons, then quarks. I doubt I know the truth, yet. In fact, I'm sure that I don't. What we know in science changes continuously; some ideas stand for longer periods of time than others.

But scientific method seems to work pretty well. I hypothesize, I test, I record results, I challenge and repeat. I keep going, adding and removing confidence. It's really slow, but it can work.

- I know the philosophical inquiry, although I doubt that I know much truth about philosophy. Similar to the scientific method, I hypothesize, try to include every fact about everything that may relate to the topic, and then I subject my hypothesis to millions of other people, waiting to see what survives and what falls. Some things survive, some things fall. Progress is made. Again, very slowly.

- I know academic work. Like the scientific method, and the philosophical inquiry, the academic method is to collect every fact about the subject, answer every challenge, and present a finding. Then subject that finding to the world and see what stands. This is a general category, really; scientific inquiry could be considered academic, and academic work includes many fields.

- I know some of what I sense with my senses, and I believe a bit about what others tell me about theirs. But with the sorry state of journalism nowadays, I rarely believe more than the names of people and locations (not always) and the date in the paper.

Beyond that, I think I don't know anything. Everything else I see, hear, or speak, is opinion. Like this post. It's not academic. I didn't research it. I'm not going to source every author of epistemology while making my point. My post doesn't contain any real information. What it contains are ideas.

There are sixty million blogs, millions of newspapers, and billions of books, and precious few of them contain any real information. In fact, I can't think of a blog that contains any real information; they all contain opinions and ideas.

I've read articles about why video games are good for your kids, articles about why they are bad for your kids, articles about why they are not really bad for your kids, and so on and so forth. What I haven't read is any "information" on the subject; only opinions and ideas.

I've seen a few articles that source a lack of information, such as "there is no evidence yet that so and so." But even when we get the information, remember that it has to be challenged and repeated. One bullet of information does not a fact make.

From opinions and ideas, you can form hypotheses, from which you may be able to actually discover some information. Some information with a higher degree of certainty, that is. But opinions and ideas are not information themselves. Well, for my limited definition of "information", anyway, for lack of a better word.

So long as we remember that, we may just get through.

Yehuda

2 comments:

Mateo said...

I agree, blogs aren't information, they are ideas. that's why I don't like news blogs, science blogs, and others in this vein. I like blogs about ideas because that's where blogs can be creative. They are a storage vessel of ideas.

Yehuda said...

Thanks, mateo. I just wish people would remember that they are presenting ideas and opinions, not facts, when they blog.

Yehuda