I saved this particularly scary topic (at least for some people) for Halloween. For those with a delicate constitution who are going to be easily offended by me disagreeing with them, I recommend something more soothing to read… like maybe a science book! For everyone else, go look under the cut.
You know how I blogged on information literacy earlier this month? We’re going to apply it here so go read it if you haven’t done so already.
Back from reading it? Good.
The piece of that particular post that I want to draw your attention to is this:
a.) Examines and compares information from various sources in order to evaluate reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias
b.) Analyzes the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods
c.) Recognizes prejudice, deception, or manipulation
d.) Recognizes the cultural, physical, or other context within which the information was created and understands the impact of context on interpreting the information
Let’s look at these standards and an example of what would be considered a good example or bad example for meeting all of the criteria.
Good example: The CDC Vaccine site
Why it is a good example: It’s a site put together by people with actual post-graduate degrees in medicine and public health, there is a process for review of everything reported, there is transparency in what is reported down to what the actual prices are for each individual vaccine, they name their sources for every piece of information presented (and the sources are incredibly varied), and the site was created to be a resource for many groups of people. (For those wondering, this is the page on autism and vaccines.)
Bad example: Vaccine Awakening
Why it is a bad example: The first problem is that it is a blog. Blogs are not considered an authoritative source in terms of information literacy because they represent someone’s opinion. (And yes, I am fully aware of the irony of me, a blogger, saying this; but I also do not purport to be an authority.) The second problem is that the blogger herself does not state what qualifications she has to be discussing this. When I looked up her biography on the site of the organization she runs, she makes a big deal about all her appointments and interviews… and tucks the fact that she lacks a medical degree way at the bottom of her biography. She was an English major! I mean, all of those appointments sound prestigious, if not for the fact that she got them because most panels and councils want to include a spectrum of viewpoints and she happens to inhabit
the lunatic fringe one part of that spectrum. The third issue is that while she has links to footnotes on her blog post, they all go back to her organization which is the equivalent of quoting herself. I did not see one footnote on her site that pointed back to *ANY* scholarly journal article or actual medical study. That’s troubling for a site that purports to be about vaccines.
I wish I could do an in-depth look at the whole issue, explain what Andrew Wakefield *DID*, why what he did was so heinous, and point out every single study done on the subject. However, I have limited spare time these days and only had the time to write this much because I finished all my homework for the week early to allow for trick-or-treating with Daniel… which ended up being very limited due to the rain and my kid’s desire to go home after only hitting up 5 houses. (I’m not complaining — I’m having bad asthma exacerbation at the moment and probably would have died had we been out longer.)
I’ll leave you with this thought from one of my favorite scientists: