Questioning the Validity of Information
I just recently finished reading Dan Brown's new book, The Lost Symbol, and, apart from all of the conspiracy theories and unorthodox perspectives he introduces throughout the reading, the text got me thinking about an issues unrelated to the book's topic but that is also very relevant for people today - particularly students. In his book, Brown addresses a countless number of historical facts about people, locations, beliefs, etc. While all of this information is very interesting and often supports his hypotheses throughout the story, I couldn't help but question whether or not all of the information was true and accurate.
Personally, I would like to believe the information is true because, regardless of whether or not the facts are true, many of Brown's opinions, according to his book, coincide with my own. It is not that any of his information does not make sense or is not relevant which would cause me to question its validity, my issue is simply that there is so much information and it is so indepth that it would be easy for him to slightly obscure it in order to support his opinions, which causes my to be weary of what I should and should not believe.
In schools today, teachers always tell us to cite our sources of information when writing papers, doing reseach papers, etc. Often times, at least for me, the bibliographical process seems auxiliary and a bit unnecessary. Nonetheless, when I began to think about this issue I had with Dan Brown's book, I concluded that a simple citation of his sources of information at the back of his book would answer all of my questions. It would be asking much of an author like Brown to do this, however, because his book mixes fact with fiction. It would be a difficult task for any historical fiction writer to fulfill this, however so often today, in almost every aspect of life - not just literature - there is no way to know the legitimacy of our sources of information. Whether it be historical texts, media coverage, books meant for education or entertainment, political propaganda, or near anything else, there is so much output with so little identification of it sources that everytime I learn something new I feel I must question whether or not to believe it.
The internet is one of the greatest problem today in this respect. There is immeasurable amounts of information one can access, however, the majority of the time, there is no way to know if it is a legitimate sources. Take as an example Wikipedia.org. Although many may not admit it, I know for a fact that a vast number of me peers, myself included, use wikipedia as a source of information for any number of things because it is so easily accessable. This is a problem because it allows information that has not been validified to become widespread and often times common knowledge. Wikipedia states in boldface type in their general disclaimer statement that "Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here." Regardless of this fact, people continue to use information from this website as sources for essays, research papers, etc. although they may not cite it due to the fact that they know it is not necessarily valid.
To sum up, I basically feel that we as a society need to reform the ways in which we allow information to be published. There are so many people who distort facts in order to benifit themselves or help to validate their viewpoints. Some do it through censorship, other through total fabrication of information, but either way it has got to be stopped. How can upcoming students like myself and my peers have faith that what we are being taught in everyday life is even the truth if we have no way to verify it. I think if we can solve this problem it would in turn resolve many of the issues the world faces today.