If you can test something yourself, that’s the best source. You can believe yourself *BUT*, realize the power of bias. We are the easiest to fool if we are trying to validate our own understanding rather than really test it. Test a claim using methods that others will use who question the claim. Otherwise they’ll rightfully find fault in your methodology.
The tools of reliable knowledge are always being updated. Real scientists recognize that knowledge is always changing, improving, and getting refined as better data comes from better tools or understanding. Increasingly rare is the occasion when a well-founded understanding is changed. Enemies of science don’t get this.
If you can’t test it now you want to find who can make the most accurate statement about a claim. Here’s a hierarchy that will lead to the most reliable understanding of a topic.
- Consensus of experts. Whenever a consensus of more than 90% of experts across national borders agree on a piece of knowledge, that turns out to be extremely strong. This applies to any area of knowledge where significant data is available. Think about how you want to be treated if a doctor tells you “it looks like you have cancer, I recommend treatment x.” You go to another doctor who says the same thing: “you have cancer, treatment x is highly successful in this case.” How many doctors would you go to before going for the treatment?
- Sound research conducted with the least possible bias. We’re all biased but a study by the Banana Growers Association that shows the how bananas can cure cancer is immediately suspect. It MAY be correct, but you need to look further. There’s a bunch of aspects to know about whether research is sound and a good way to tell is if it’s quoted by a lot of scientists who understand what constitutes good research.
- An expert who respects how reliable knowledge works and has the respect of fellow experts in the field.
- A media outlet that respects how reliable knowledge works and is minimally biased. They’re all biased to some degree but see if they advertise quality journalism with fact checking or if they advertise any aspect about political direction. Use a tool like Media Bias Fact Checker for online sources.