Who can we trust? Wikipedia, education, TV, newspapers?

People have never lived in such an age as now where there are so many voices telling us what to do, suggesting things to purchase, how to live better lives, and many, many con-artists, tricksters, fraudsters.
There are so many people after our money, our bank accounts, our credit cards, our identity, we can get very cynical and hostile towards people.

But just who do we trust?
We need a foundation, something solid to build our life upon.
I am suggesting that the best words to listen to are Jesus Christs.
The Bible, although thousands of years old still has the power to speak to millions of people in the 21st century.

A mobile phone and a newspaper - Who can we trust?
A mobile phone and a newspaper – Who can we trust? by Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

As we go about our daily lives we get showered with other people’s opinions, which includes good and bad advice. But who can we trust?

Many voices wanting to be heard

‘Experts’ tell us:

  • what we should do,
  • what we must avoid,
  • and what is wrong and right.

By sifting through all these things, we formulate our own opinions, and we give these different sources a certain amount of authority.
For example, we may have an elderly neighbour who is well travelled, and they seem to have wise words to say on many things, so we take a lot of notice of what they think.

To make the right choices in our lives, we need to know that the information we are told is accurate, and that it is the truth.
If the information we are told isn’t reliable, then how can we make the right choice?

Let’s look at some areas which can have a big influence on how we live out our lives:

Can we trust Wikipedia?

If I want some information on a certain subject I quite often find myself on Wikipedia and it is very good on factual events or subjects.
But it can be very biased on subjects such as politics, evolution, faith, etc.

The Daily Telegraph wrote an article on Wikipedia’s influence:

Who would you name as the most influential media company in the world?
Some might offer Fox, Disney or the BBC.
Or AT&T and Comcast, the largest media giants by revenue.
In fact, the real answer may be hidden in plain view: Wikipedia….

‘You think the BBC is biased? Check out Wokepedia’ by Andrew Orlowski on 27 May 2021 [i]

On a Reddit webpage they discuss this and a comment says:

If Telegraph writers or readers have a problem with the content on there they can do the research themselves and edit it or provide their own additions.”

FreeSweetPeas Phallocentrist [ii]

That is talking about being able to edit Wikipedia to put things right.
But another commenter says:

This isn’t actually true for most contentious pages.
Changes require ‘consensus’ and those most motivated by political views to push a certain line will squat on relevant pages refusing to consent to changes they object to.
To get even a minor change made in the face of bad faith obstructionism can takes weeks or even months in which you have to build a case and go through various committees to ‘prove’ that objectors are not acting reasonably.
And because it is a rule that you have to ‘assume good faith’, you can get banned for even making the claim that someone else is acting in bad faith if you don’t follow carefully orchestrated steps to do so.
It even extends beyond politics to any form of ideology – try making an edit to the atheism page to correct it so that atheism is defined as it would be in academic philosophy and you’ll be immediately reverted by the crowd who have taken ownership of the page.
And don’t even get me started on anything to do with the Israel/Palestine conflict!
I remember a while back, the page of a hard right Israeli organisation was camped by someone who turned out to be an employee of the organisation itself.
For several years he prevented accurate changes being made to the page by simply playing dumb and claiming he didn’t understand any argument anyone made for a change, thus justifying his refusal to form a consensus.
His obstructionism drive a number of good editors away from the project and got others banned for calling out his behaviour for what it was. (Link to prove his argument)
The idea that anyone can just correct inaccuracies and edit pages freely is incorrect.
Unless you are sufficiently dedicated to devote a significant proportion of your life to overcoming the obstacles put up by those running interference, you won’t get anywhere.
And if you are sufficiently dedicated, well … you’re probably an ideologue yourself”

fourmyphoneuse [ii]

I am not endorsing everything fourmyphoneuse says, but he does make an interesting point which I too have come across.

Wikipedia has actually got an article: ‘Criticism of Wikipedia’ which I found startling:

The reliability of Wikipedia is often questioned.
In ‘Wikipedia: The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge’ (2010), journalist Edwin Black characterized the content of articles as a mixture of ‘truth, half-truth, and some falsehoods’.
Oliver Kamm, in ‘Wisdom?: More like Dumbness of the Crowds’ (2007), said that articles usually are dominated by the loudest and most persistent editorial voices or by an interest group with an ideological ‘axe to grind’.
In his article ‘The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia’ (2012), Timothy Messer–Kruse criticized the undue-weight policy that deals with the relative importance of sources, observing that it showed Wikipedia’s goal was not to present correct and definitive information about a subject but to present the majority opinion of the sources cited…
In ‘Wikipedia or Wickedpedia?’ (2008), the Hoover Institution said Wikipedia is an unreliable resource for correct knowledge, information, and facts about a subject, because, as an open source website, the editorial content of the articles is readily subjected to manipulation and propaganda.
The 2014 edition of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s official student handbook, Academic Integrity at MIT, informs students that Wikipedia is not a reliable academic source, stating, ‘the bibliography published at the end of the Wikipedia entry may point you to potential sources. However, do not assume that these sources are reliable… Wikipedia acknowledges that the encyclopedia should not be used as a primary source for research, either academic or informational’…
The British librarian Philip Bradley said, ‘the main problem is the lack of authority. With printed publications, the publishers have to ensure that their data are reliable, as their livelihood depends on it. But with something like this, all that goes out the window.’
Likewise, Robert McHenry, editor-in-chief of Encyclopædia Britannica from 1992 to 1997, said that readers of Wikipedia articles cannot know who wrote the article they are reading—it might have been written by an expert in the subject matter or by an amateur.
In an article in the Times Higher Education magazine (London), philosopher Martin Cohen describes Wikipedia as having ‘become a monopoly’ with ‘all the prejudices and ignorance of its creators,’ which he calls a ‘youthful cab-driver’s’ perspective.
Cohen concludes that ‘[t]o control the reference sources that people use is to control the way people comprehend the world. Wikipedia may have a benign, even trivial face, but underneath may lie a more sinister and subtle threat to freedom of thought…’
In 2007, an article in The Christian Post criticised Wikipedia’s coverage of intelligent design, saying it was biased and hypocritical”

‘Criticism of Wikipedia’ Wikipedia

So just be aware that Wikipedia is good for factual things but remember that subjects like evolution are a mix of fact and ideology and therefore the article will have a strong personal bias.

Can we trust education?

Two university students walking on Graduation day in their gowns.
University graduation day – Who can we trust, is education truthful? by Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

What about everything we have learned in our centres of education?

In 1978 I was at college listening to a botany lecture.
The lady lecturer had just finished explaining about an experiment which proved a certain theory on how plants worked.
Then one of the students said that he had seen an experiment which disproved what she had just said. (He did give more details).
Her answer was very interesting!
She said : “At this level, this particular experiment is taught as fact, but if you take a degree course then it won’t be taught as fact.”

So beware, not everything that we are taught is the truth!

Can we trust television, radio and the Internet?

You can trust the TV can’t you?
What you hear is the truth, isn’t it?

Philistine-pottery at the Ashdod Philistine Culture Museum.
Philistine pottery at the Ashdod Philistine Culture Museum [iii]

In 2002, I was watching a history programme about the Philistines.

The ‘expert’ said that the Philistines originally came from the Greece area because they wore metal shin guards and because of the shape of their helmets.
So far, so good.
But then he said that the Bible tells us that the Philistines have always lived ‘here’, (he was standing to the west of Israel).
So he was telling us that the Bible was wrong and what he was telling us was the truth.
He very effectively cast doubt on the Bible.

But in fact the Bible tells us that the Philistines came from Caphtor.

Amos writing about what God had said tells us this:

Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor ….”

Amos 9:7

For a long time Caphtor was thought to be in Egypt, but more modern thought is that it was in the north-eastern Mediterranean area:

From the 18th century onwards commentators attempted several identifications of Caphtor which increasingly disregarded the traditional identification as an Egyptian coastal locality in the vicinity of Pelusium.
These included identification with Coptus, Colchis, Cyprus, Cappadocia in Asia Minor, Cilicia, and Crete.”

Wikipedia [iii]

Colchis is in modern day West Georgia on the Black Sea, Cappadocia is Turkey, Cilicia is Southern Turkey, Cyprus is the island just below Turkey and Crete is an island just below Greece.

So the expert had said that the Philistines had come from Greece or somewhere like that, which was true, but his problem was telling us that the Bible had got it wrong!
How many people would have seen that programme and would have believed that the Bible was wrong?

Can we trust newspapers and magazines?

How much truth is there in a newspaper?
About 20 years ago the newspapers were saying:

Children dive for cover under their desks, as RAF plane crashes next to an infant School.
The children had to be comforted by their form teacher after this traumatic incident.
Parents were furious that RAF planes are allowed to fly so dangerously close to the school.”

A local newspaper circulating on the Suffolk and Norfolk border.

Is this the truth?
I happened to know two of the mothers who had children at that school, and this is what really happened:

The mothers, and some fathers, picked their children up from school as normal.
A mother of two children asked them about their day:
“Neil got sent home from school for being naughty,… and we saw a plane go over, and two white mushrooms came out of it.”
The mother asked if anything else had happened, and they replied no.

The next day the newspaper reporters were waiting outside the school and they immediately bombarded the parents with questions:
“Don’t you think it is terrible how low these RAF planes fly? Isn’t it dangerous having RAF jets flying so close to the school? Aren’t you scared for your children’s safety?”

But the reporters were ignoring the parents who were saying:
“NO the plane crashed a long way away.”

The reporters just weren’t interested in what they had to say.
They only wanted to find the parents who would agree to their particular slant!

Fake News, do we trust everything?

Fake News is prolific on platforms like Facebook and other social media websites.

Many of us share things on those platforms and it is so easy to like another persons comment or share an article, etc.
But when you see something you like online, do you check to make sure that it’s true before you share it?
Not everything that we read or see on the internet is true – and if it isn’t, and we share it, we could be persuading some to believe something that is actually made up.
This is called fake news and there is a huge amount of it about.
There are two kinds of fake news:
1. False stories that are deliberately created to deliberately slander someone else, or to get people believing something that is untrue.
These are deliberate lies that are put online and some people make money out of doing it.
2. Stories that may have some truth to them, but they’re not completely accurate.
This is because the people propagating the story haven’t done the research and haven’t checked to see if it is true.
Or they pad their story out to make it longer and more exciting by just adding totally made up material.
Many people are forgetting ‘truth’ and are aiming at getting as many shares as possible.

Unfortunately fake news can and does get into the newspapers and magazines.
Many true stories can be padded out to fill a slot so they can get distorted and end up just not being true.

So just who can we trust? We are a sceptical generation, can we trust anything or anyone?

Can we trust the Bible?

Wikipedia’s ‘Bible’ page states:

With estimated total sales of over five billion copies, it is widely considered to be the best-selling book of all time.
As of the 2000’s, it sells approximately 100 million copies annually.”

‘Bible’ Wikipedia [iv]

The encyclopaedia Britannica says about the Bible:

The Bible in Latin shaped the thought and life of Western people for a thousand years.
Bible translation led to the study and literary development of many languages.
Luther’s translation of the Bible in the 16th century has been called the beginning of modern German.
The Authorized Version (English) of 1611 (King James Version) and the others that preceded it caught the English language at the blooming of its first maturity.
Since the invention of printing (mid-15th century), the Bible has become more than the translation of an ancient Oriental literature.
It has not seemed a foreign book, and it has been the most available, familiar, and dependable source and arbiter of intellectual, moral, and spiritual ideals in the West.
Millions of modern people who do not think of themselves as religious live nevertheless with basic presuppositions that underlie the biblical literature.
It would be impossible to calculate the effect of such presuppositions on the changing ideas and attitudes of Western people with regard to the nature and purpose of government, social institutions, and economic theories.”

‘Biblical Literature’ by Krister Stendahl Britannica [vi]
An open Bible.

When Jesus was praying to God the Father, He said:

Your Word is Truth.”

John 17:17

That means the Bible, God’s Word, is Truth, is the Truth.
On another occasion Jesus said:

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples (followers).
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

Can you imagine what those people listening said?
It’s the same response that we would say now:

We’ve never been slaves to anyone!
How can you say that we shall be set free?”

John 8:33

And that’s what we would say, isn’t it?
But Jesus’ answer is very interesting: He said:

I tell you the Truth. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

John 8:34 NLT

‘Truth!” It’s that word again!
We are all slaves to sin!
What is sin? It’s all those things we:

  • shouldn’t have done to other people: Cruel thoughts, telling lies, hurting people, etc.
  • should have done: A helping hand, sharing things, encouraging rather than criticising, etc.

But that is not all:

  • It’s when we ignore God and go our own way.

Most things we hear on the T.V. or what we read in newspapers, etc, is a mixture of truth and error.
But the Bible is pure, unmixed Truth.
So when we read the Bible, we see how pure, and holy God is, and how twisted our own lives are!

The Bible is the Truth and it is totally trustworthy.

But the Truth doesn’t just stop there

It shows us how to escape our slavery to sin – to be set free!
In fact, a word used in the Bible to describe this escape is ‘redeem’ which means to ‘buy up’ from the slave market.
It was Jesus Christ who paid the price to release us from our slavery to sin:

..the Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:28

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…”

1 Timothy 2:5-6

Are we willing to face the Truth?

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John 20:30-31

[i] ‘You think the BBC is biased? Check out Wokepedia’ Telegraph
[ii] ‘You think the BBC is biased? Check out Wokepedia’ Reddit
[iii] BukvoedCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
[iv] ‘Bible’ Wikipedia
[v] ‘Criticism of Wikipedia’ Wikipedia
[vi] ‘Biblical Literature’ by Krister Stendahl Brittanica

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