A multi-layered approach to thought.
We propagate and absorb new information every day, sometimes in such ungodly amounts that it seems to be an information flood everywhere prepared to devour any sanity left in the world but upon scrupulous inspection, it is almost a given that most of this information is junk, without any merit to withstand any degree of fair scrutiny.
The aforementioned claim may seem to be whimsical in its approach to reach conclusion, however, I have been noticing this pattern and giving it a fair share of thought which I will discuss further here but before that, I should discuss two events that made me argue this point in the first place.
First, a dear friend of mine has, in recent times turned into a ‘research-paper enthusiast’ to such an exorbitant degree and to such wildly unrelated subjects that it seems he is more interested in the achievement of reading words written on paper to acquire some sense of satisfaction rather than to actually ‘research’ something but I must not pass judgments myself, having been trapped in the same maze once, a story for another time. This friend of mine, seems to present an unwavering faith in the researchers he reads to the extent of exalting them to the level of ‘do-no-wrong’ infallibility (my observation, based on brief discussions, not a reflection on my friend), the kind of reaction you would expect from anyone, after all, these papers are published by reputed publishers, reviewed by peers, right?
Second, the emergence of a rather peculiar research paper among many others of its kind, peer-reviewed, published in European Respiratory Journal in July 2020 making claims like “Smokers have less chance of contracting COVID-19” the authors of which upon later inquiry were revealed to be financed by Tobacco companies.
It’s coincidences like these, the reliance of good people on traditionally credible sources of information, which are being strategically manipulated and layered by targeted information by modern means, and now revelations after such extended periods about its conflict of interests that have me worried. Many studies are cited with gradually shifting contexts, based on momentary interests giving whole new meanings to the content published in its original context.
Recent experience with my friend has me worried about the reality that most people read these studies and papers without actually worrying about how they might be manipulated.
To that end, I have found that a layered approach of scrutiny works for me, for the most part.
With new incoming information, you hold it, think about one of its contributing factors ex- source and check its biases, possible conflict of interests, etc. When satisfied, you revert to the original information in hand, traverse to another factor ex- the message itself or the context, check if it can be further splintered into more factors, hold one, scrutinize, arrive back, traverse to another factor and so on so forth until you reach a fair degree of certainty about the information and it’s quality, like traversing over the branches of a tree, discovery as many branches as possible. Granted, it may not be the most efficient of processes, it’s a place to start.