Beware of Urban Myths

I am sure everyone has been told at least one urban myth.

For example there is the story of the lady who washed her poodle and put it into the microwave to dry and it supposedly exploded.

It’s a fact!

These reported facts and events definitely happened to a friend of a friend of my brother-in-law’s aunt. They are given credibility because they appear to come from a source that is trusted and known.

But is that enough to establish the veracity of something?

Should we be more discerning?

In fact when is a fact not a fact?

Or when is truth really not all it should be?

Can statistics lie or at least be bent to advance what are unhelpful agendas?

The story goes that when asked what some statistics he had just presented meant, a Statistician was reported as saying, “What would you like them to mean?”

Or is that story also just an Urban Myth?

Absolute known and unquestioned facts can often be demonstrated to be resting on a foundation of sand, when researched into properly and the background and context properly revealed.

Statements can be dressed up to sound like solid facts if spoken with authority and in the proper context.

Nowadays we are too eager to believe what we hear. Unfortunately we have been turned into a generation of the gullible. We now tend to believe things just because we have heard them and they seem familiar.

So why is that?

Well maybe we just want to believe what we hear because it is the easy option – we don’t have to go to the trouble of checking things out. We consequently think it must be correct because “so and so” has said it and “so and so” is a reliable person.

Maybe it’s also because when told things we agree with these resonate with us – with our preconceived notions. If we like the sound of a fact then it seems plausible. We agree with what it represents therefore it must be true.

In one fell swoop we sweep away the whole discipline of critical thinking and analysis.

We leave ourselves exposed because we presume everyone is honest and without an agenda and believe the world is full of honourable men and women because people will always tend to manipulate and slant facts to their own advantage and even at times present things in a totally false light.

This is especially true in politics although we have now grown to distrust much of what is actually said by politicians.

This is also true of the internet. Much of what is said on the net is biased and inaccurate if not downright garbage. Often facts have been passed down, twisted and transmitted through several cycles of communication and the end form of the information bears no resemblance to the original.

There is a party game where everyone sits in a circle and a phrase is whispered round from one person to the next until it returns back to the person at the start.

“Do you have the right time please?” through this process can quite easily become, “Do you have the white slime grease?” to give an example from my own experience.

Indeed there is a science of communication theory that demonstrates that, even in the transfer of digitised information, there is degradation and corruption which will eventually affect the information being passed on.

Half truths and ill-remembered bits of information can cause a lot of damage if passed on with supposed credibility, even if done with the best of intentions. It’s always best to check your facts – to look before you leap as it were.

Extreme care has to be taken in the transmission of any “facts” in the lead up to the referendum on Scotland splitting with the rest of the United Kingdom.

“Facts” cannot be exposed as resting on sand, otherwise the people of Scotland will be left with the dilemma of wondering who to believe.

Also, a fact cannot be made more credible simply because of who stated it.

It must in the end stand or fall on its own authenticity.

In this debate on Scotland’s future many facts have already been given, many of these with no real substance behind them. Some are given simply as statements with the inference of “Trust me and it will be alright.”

Are we really that gullible?

Areas of concern include membership of the EU, what currency would be used in an Independent Scotland, what would be the role of oil in an Independent Scotland’s future as well as many others.

The respective position on these issues has been so varied as to be slightly worrying. Who is telling the truth? Are statements being made on a foundation of sand, or are there real facts, ones not open to different interpretations, that back these up?

We cannot continue in this vein. The people of Scotland deserve better in the lead up to this the biggest decision they will make in their lives.

We really have to get this right with honest, credible and accurate information.

Otherwise the people of Scotland will never forgive those that have misrepresented the facts to them.