CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

No, That Is NOT Research

Jul 30, 2019

Many folks share rubbish on the web, claiming they ‘researched it’ – um, not always!

It has always been very difficult for most folks to make proper arguments, to think logically and carefully, to do some honest research, and to fairly present things in a debate. Few people have the time or ability or willingness to do these things, and do them correctly.

The problem is, in an internet age all this has simply gotten a million times worse. There is so much garbage on the web, so much fake news, so many bogus sites, and so many loony conspiracy theorists out there, that most folks will just get sucked into whatever silly, sophomoric and patently false and misleading info that is out there.

They will run with anything they find there, accepting it as gospel truth. They will not seek to verify things, to double check their facts, to actually look into things much more carefully. They will just blindly run with anything they find on the net, no matter how ridiculous, how outrageous, and how false.

Millions of folks operate this way. I have seen it happening countless times, and it is so painful to behold. And even those who should know better can be guilty of doing this. Sadly far too many conservatives and Christians do this, and it sure does not help our cause.

They simply regurgitate the first thing they find in a superficial web search, accepting everything at face value, and not asking any hard questions. It seems that when they hit the web, they have left their brains elsewhere, and they simply stop thinking and using their critical faculties.

And the worst part about all this is this: I have lost count of the number of times someone posts or shares some idiotic, juvenile and absurd post, and then they will say this: “I researched this”! Yeah right. Most of these folks would not know what research is if it came and bit them on the backside!

Allow me to let you in on a basic truth that you can take to the bank: Simply clicking on a few websites or watching a few YouTube videos is NOT doing research – not even close. Anyone can run with the first thing they find from a google search, and just pass it on as gospel.

Actual research means taking the time to do some real study, verifying things, double checking things, and making sure you are not just passing on baloney. But these guys will do this sloppy and useless posting all the time when it comes to someone or something they don’t like.

For example, if they hate on Calvinism big time, they will throw out some remarks or some “quotes” to prove how terrible Calvinism is, or how diabolical Calvin was. I would say that nine times out of ten – easily – they have never actually read a word of Calvin. They just run with something they find online, usually from those who have an axe to grind.

They will go on and on about how bad Calvin is, yet they do not possess one single work by him, and have not bothered to carefully read anything he wrote – and to read it in context. They do not have one of his commentaries, or one of his treatises, or one of the versions of his Institutes.

Yet they foolishly and immaturely pass themselves off as some sort of Calvin experts. These people drive me crazy to be honest. And I am not picking just on Calvinophobes. The same can be said of anyone that such folks can attack without actually first doing some research. So it might be a Wesley or a Finney or some other figure that is wrongly and/or poorly represented.

Earth calling fake-newsers: It is the easiest thing in the world to run with a few quotes found on the net – usually pulled out of context. Anyone can do that. It is not making an argument – it is being intellectually lazy. The truth is, I can easily pull a few quotes from anyone and make them look like the devil.

And anyone can do that with my writings – in fact, it happens all the time. It is the oldest trick in the book. Grab a few words, completely rip them out of their context, and make your opponent look like an idiot or a demon. Folks on the secular left do this all the time.

But we should not be doing this. Christians and conservatives should NOT operate this way! Yet too often I find folks who are on side doing stuff like this. Talk about scoring an own goal. Talk about making ourselves look bad. Talk about damaging our credibility. We have enough bad press already without bringing on these self-inflicted wounds! We all must do much better here! I expect the other side to carry on like this, but our side should NOT be.

What is real research?

Let me mention a few more things before wrapping this up. When I speak about doing proper research, what do I mean? I simply mean doing your homework. Don’t rely on others – especially strangers. Do a bit of work and seek to determine how reliable and accurate a source is first before you run with their stuff.

Obviously none of us can be experts on everything, so we all need to draw upon the knowledge and insights of others. But we need to be careful as to who we run with. If you have no idea who is reliable and who is not, perhaps at best, find someone you know and trust who CAN recommend to you reliable and trustworthy authors, books or websites, etc.

And of course there is a place for utilising secondary sources and the like – if done properly. Let me give you an example of this. If I wanted to write, say, a 4000-word essay on John Wesley and his theology, the first thing I would do is familiarise myself with his works.

I would pull out some of the volumes in my library written by Wesley and make use of them first and foremost. But I would also make use of reliable and noted Wesley scholars. And that can include both those who are pro-Wesley and those who may not be so pro-Wesley.

If they are objective and careful scholars, and have done their homework and fairly represented his views, then yes, one can even use these scholars who are somewhat critical of his theology. But I would not normally start there. I first would read and study Wesley himself.

Sure, in some cases I do not mind relying mainly on secondary sources. If for example I am dealing with a clear, out and out heretic whose writings are few or hard to access, sometimes I am happy to rely on experts who do know his work quite well, and have done thorough work on his views.

But what I have been talking about and criticising here is altogether different. This involves folks who simply do a quick net search, run with the first thing they find, and pass it on as if it is completely true and accurate. And often when these folks attack someone and his views, it is perfectly clear that they have never read a word of the person. That really bugs me.

As I said, that is NOT research. That is just taking cheap shots, being an intellectual sloth, and being dishonest and careless and misleading. That is not what we should be doing. If you share stuff in a public forum, make sure it is true stuff, accurate stuff, and reliable stuff.

If you are not sure, then it may be best not to post it or share it.

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9 Responses to No, That Is NOT Research

  • Is it that clicking on a few websites and\or watching a few YouTube videos isn’t research, or it isn’t high level research? If I’m having an argument\discussion with someone about something online, or doing a little more ‘research’ on a subject others are arguing\discussing, I’ll often look up Wikipedia or do a quick Duck and see what results I get. It’s not serious research – that takes hours of study, and sometimes hours just to identify good sources. Something like Wikipedia will usually give an overview, assuming it’s not biased to the point of flat out lying, Alternatively I might look up a more authoritative source online – compare Bible versions of a particular passage a Strong’s concordance to see what the basis of a particular translation is, or a specialist site e.g. CMI or an MSM site for their position. I’m not going to claim to be the world’s foremost expert on whatever it is I’ve spent a few minutes researching, but if I can advance a logical argument, point out a few things others have overlooked, get a response that points out things I’ve overlooked, even simply increase my background knowledge, doesn’t that make my research payoff? Of course the amount of research required for a simple online debate is a wee bit different to that required for a serious article so perhaps that’s another issue?

  • Thanks Andrew. Sure, and I think my piece was more or less saying that. I did not say we should not use the net, or not use it briefly to find info, etc. There is nothing wrong with using it to do certain types of research. And no, it need not take hours to find helpful information. But what I did say is that we need to be careful, we need to try to double-check what we are reading, and we should not just run with the very first thing we find. That is just common sense. We do the same when seeking to buy a new computer or car, or even to get a good deal on take-away pizza. We do a bit of research first, and don’t just accept everything at face value, but try to discern truth from error, and weigh up various options. We know this is important because the web is full of false information, misleading information and unreliable websites. So we need to show a bit of caution here. That was my main point.

  • Meanwhile if anyone wants to sign the petition opposing the rushed legalization of abortion in NSW it is here:-

    https://davepellowe.com/why-is-the-nsw-liberal-party-racing-to-liberalise-abortion/?mc_cid=e625196ae0&mc_eid=b66b804be6

    This is urgent and I understand there will be a protest held at NSW Parliament house 9:30 Thursday, 1st August.

    If possible let your local member know if they support this they will lose your vote.

  • “Keep your opinions to yourself”, was one of the options I was given in resolving a charge against me, in a church court. But a minister is not paid to keep his opinions to himself.

    Those opinions should be carefully developed after much careful and prayerful research especially if one is going to be in opposition to an accepted view.
    “Here I stand, I can do no other”, Martin Luther; was proclaimed after many long years of costly research. Now, we celebrate not only his stand but also the quality of the opinion that resulted from that research.

    More than once I have felt the need to be opposite.
    On one such occasion I remember hearing criticism of a certain ministry, and superficially I to, was concerned. I bought the book and scoured it. I accessed the net for both first and secondary material. There was a whole lot of toxic criticism, so I didn’t take much notice of that, except to discover if there were any real issues. Likewise there were a number of sites that raised no questions or concerns but were really just promotions. One site that I came across though, was unusually guarded but positive. That site was really helpful, since the writer did not have a for or against agenda. The researcher/writer actually joined the movement from another country, and became an insider. It was so helpful. I now am still open to a discussion about that ministry, but I do have a view that I am confident with.

    We need to be so careful that we are not “blown around by every wind” of opinion.
    Proper research will set us up to do three things;
    1. Be confident that we are able to give an informed and helpful opinion.
    2. Be able to discuss our opinion without fear of being quickly brought undone.
    3. Being able to stand before God and His people, as a bringer of light and truth.

  • Any suicide is a tragedy.

    A oft heard statement. Research shows homophobia is a cause of (even the major contibutor to) LGBTQ suicide. However this is not necessarily so:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BwMlZ6VOOUA&feature=youtu.be

  • Andrew M, quoting Strong as an authoritative source can have problems because the same Strong’s word number can have different meanings depending on the context. Hence it’s best to go to the Hebrew or Greek (e.g. to on-line interlinears for non-scholars like me) to check the context.

    E.g. long ages of evolution has been popular for over a century, but it was not until about 1970 that English translations started appearing that corrupt Gen 1:26, 27 as referring exclusively to ‘Mankind’, ‘Humankind’, etc rather than to ‘Adam’, ‘Man’ or ‘The Man’ as the Hebrew indicates. Now we have over 20 corrupt English translations facilitating fanciful belief in pre-Adamites created long before God created Adam and Eve (said to be described in Gen 2:7).

    Some of those translations noted correctly that ‘mankind’ etc is a valid option in Gen 1:26, but I didn’t find any notes to justify translating the clear Hebrew for ‘the man’, in Gen 1:27, to the false translation of ‘mankind’ etc.

    Here Strong is of zero help because it identifies the root-word only (Word 120) not the context of Gen 1:26, 27 and 2:7.

  • Dear Bill
    I have now watched several videos of a “pastor” saying the Earth is flat. Does this constitute research? And when are you gonna get on the bandwagon? LOL
    Vic

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