Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Why Google Research Is A Problem

December 17, 2014

Does having more access to information mean we’re more informed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Two times this week, I have seen an interesting event happen. In both cases, I have been discussing with an atheist on Facebook. In both cases, I have seen them make a claim that’s completely false. In both cases, I saw them Google for a resource to use. In both cases, the link they provided that they said backed their case in fact did not back their case. In fact, in both cases, they used the same web site and seeing as it’s a web site where I know the guy who runs it, I know the quality is excellent and my opponents didn’t realize what they had done.

In the first case, I was told that it was at the Council of Nicea that the Bible had been edited. The excellent site that was used to demonstrate this claim was www.Tertullian.org and the specific page was this one. This site is run by Roger Pearse who is a Christian and an excellent researcher so I knew something was wrong immediately. With this, it didn’t take too long. All I had to do was read the first paragraph. I will bold in the important parts.

There seem to be a number of legends about the First Council of Nicaea (325AD) in circulation on the internet, presented as fact.  Some people seem to think that the council, which was the first council of all the Bishops of the Christian Church, either invented the New Testament, or edited it to remove references to reincarnation (or whatever) or burned large numbers of heretical works, or whatever.  These are in error.  This page documents the problem and provides links to all the ancient source material in order to allow everyone to check the truth for themselves.

In the next case, it was someone trying to tell me a pagan deity like Mithras was born on December 25th. Even if Jesus was not born on this day, it is a false claim to say all these pagan deities were born on that same day. The page I was linked to was this one. Yet had the person even bothered to read, he would have seen that again, it wasn’t friendly to his claims.

Cumont stated that the birthday of Mithras was 25 December, on the basis that a solar feast took place on that date and Mithras would, of course, be included. The idea was only speculation, but has been widely taken up. Clauss repeats the claim. But Beck states that this is not the case. In fact he calls this assertion ‘that hoariest of “facts”‘. He continues: “In truth, the only evidence for it is the celebration of the birthday of Invictus on that date in the Calendar of Philocalus. ‘Invictus’ is of course Sol Invictus, Aurelian’s sun god. It does not follow that a different, earlier, and unofficial sun god, Sol Invictus Mithras, was necessarily or even probably, born on that day too.”

But later Clauss states; “the Mithraic Mysteries had no public ceremonies of its own. The festival of natalis Invicti [Birth of the Unconquerable (Sun)], held on 25 December, was a general festival of the Sun, and by no means specific to the Mysteries of Mithras.”

Steven Hijmans has discussed in detail the question of whether the general “natalis Invicti” festival was related to Christmas but does not give Mithras as a possible source.

Please note this. For the sake of argument, it could be Pearse is wrong in his claims. I’m quite confident he isn’t, but let’s suppose he is just for the sake of argument. What matters is that in both cases, the person had likely just typed something in on Google and just copied the first few links without bothering to even read what they said confident that what they put up had to prove their point.

And this is the problem.

There are too many people today who think just being able to Google is all they need to make an argument and if they can find a link that says something, then that establishes it.

News flash to some of you. Not everything on the internet is true.

You see, one of the problems of the internet is anyone whatsoever can set up a blog, web site, YouTube channel, write an Ebook, etc., and be seen as an authority. Now of course I’m not going to deny there is some excellent work out there by non-scholars. I would hope some of you reading this blog think that this is the case here. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have pseudo-research but just look impressive.

If you know how to use Google, it can be an excellent tool. If you don’t know how, it can give you the appearance of knowledge without the substance thereof.

If you want the best knowledge, you will need to read the books by leading authorities in the field you want to learn. These authorities also do not produce their material for free. Every now and then, you can find some resources that are free, such as the podcast that I host regularly.Yet despite that, there is no replacement whatsoever for reading the books that you need to read.

Imagine going to a doctor and as you describe your symptoms you see him on his computer. Now this isn’t always an unusual scene. Sometimes he’s entering in data on your case. Yet what would happen if you asked him what he was doing and he said “Oh. I’m googling in your symptoms to see what you have and what the best treatment would be?” I hope all of you would be going to find a new doctor.

In Japan, one of the delicacies you can get is Puffer Fish. The problem with the meai is that the fish contains a deadly poison so if you want to serve it, you have to cook it in just the right way so that it is no longer a threat. In fact, you have to be specially licensed in order to prepare this meal. How many would be willing to have the meal at a Japanese restaurant if you knew the cook was instead just using Google to learn how to do it?

Google can too often just allow a person to be lazy and look like they know something when they don’t. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for work. There is no shortcut on the path of knowledge. If you want to learn something, you will have to work at it. You can use Google as a tool, but do not expect it to do all the work for you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Need To Analyze Information

October 28, 2014

Do we know how to analyze information? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The internet has increased the amount of information many of us have access to. Unfortunately, it has also increased the amount of misinformation many of us have access to. If we do not know how to properly analyze the information and compare it, then we will be prone to error easily and most often, just accepting information because it agrees with the point we have prior.

For instance, yesterday, I found myself arguing with an atheist who was just cutting and pasting everything from a web site. (And in fact a web site I think has hideously false information) Of course, there are times cut and paste is appropriate to show what some authority says, but that should also be done with proper citation and one should seek to have the best authorities.

When this was pointed out, the gears immediately switched to a different topic that was still being used to attack Christianity and yes, another cut and paste job. It has led me to the conclusion that there are too many atheists on the internet that simply look at a claim and decide whether it’s true or false depending on how it treats Christianity. If it puts Christianity in a negative light, it must be true. If it supports Christianity in any way, it must be false.

Before my atheist readers start complaining about a double-standard, I will address the complaint I see coming. Yes. Christians too often do the same thing.

I used to have it where my Dad would send out emails complaining about something Obama had done and with a statement of his. There was often a little problem with them. They were false. The events described did not happen. Now I’m no supporter of Obama, but I am a supporter of truth and if I want to take down an ideological opponent, I want to make sure that the claim is true. Too many times this kind of email was sent out to a large group of people so I’d hit the “reply all” button and start typing out what the true situation was.

On Facebook, this can easily happen with the “share” button. Consider how recently there was a story going around about a pagan eyewitness testimony being found to Jesus doing a miracle. Problem? The story was a complete fabrication, and yet Christians shared it like wildfire. When Christians do this, it gives the impression that Christians are gullible people who will believe anything as long as it supports their view.

Too often, that can be true.

When these claims are being passed around on the internet, it’s important to try to look and see if any valid sources are really backing this claim. If you want to know if a certain event happened, check local news to see if there is a record. My wife recently sent me a story about someone smashing a statue of the Ten Commandments saying the devil told him to do it. Sounds a bit crazy, but I checked. I saw local news stations sharing the story. That told me story was true. I said it was okay to share at that point.

What both sides need to learn is how to process information better and analyze it. There are arguments Christians use that I don’t think work. To give one example, I don’t think the ontological argument works. I know it has its supporters and many of them are very intelligent people. Still, it just doesn’t work in my eyes.

Meanwhile, there are many atheists that if you show them something that could indicate that there is some truth to something that was said in the Gospels, their heads will start turning and you would expect that they were in the Exorcist. This can be found on many popular internet atheist blogs. If anything gave any credibility to Christianity, it must be thrown out.

A great solution to this is what many people want to avoid. Read books. Many scholars will not put their work out there for free on the internet. If you read their books, you can have access to that information, and it could be a better usage of your time than watching that TV show that you want to watch. Read also the ones you disagree with. Let them show you the blind spots that could exist in your worldview. It’s why I often ask people “When was the last time you read a scholarly work that disagreed with you?”

The age of the internet can be a blessing if you know how to use it, but for too many on both sides, they will just uncritically accept whatever goes with their confirmation bias. Don’t be one of those. Research the claims. Especially if you’re a follower of Christ and claim to be a person of truth. Make sure your words are true.

In Christ,

Nick Peters