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How Do We Know What We Think We Know - Essay Example

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Summary
This discussion talks that most of us get our daily news from a variety of sources. At one time, these sources were limited to perhaps one of three nightly news programs and/or one of a few available newspapers. Everyone essentially read or heard the same thing…
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How Do We Know What We Think We Know
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How Do We Know What We Think We Know

Download file to see previous pages... Most of us get our daily news from a variety of sources. At one time, these sources were limited to perhaps one of three nightly news programs and/or one of a few available newspapers. Everyone essentially read or heard the same thing. Today, news is available everywhere, from serious news programs to satire comedy to internet web pages to Twitter text messages. What holds true for our general news also holds true for what we think of scientific news. New approaches, policies, and inventions are quickly reported on and then we're off to a new topic. If they've managed to capture our attention at all, we always have the option of Googling for them during the commercial breaks and are then at the mercy of the search engine spiders, delivering ranked results based on the highest bidder or the most popular. What we know about the world of science today is largely based on where we get our information from. This, in turn, strongly influences our decisions when voting in elections, when choosing to support various non-profit or beginning businesses, and in shaping our overall view of the world and where it's heading. Yet how do we know that information is correct? What is it about the way that the news is conveyed that convinces us we have been given the truth? In order to resist naive belief and make better decisions for ourselves and the world at large, we need to carefully examine the scientific stories we read, such as those which warn of global warming, as a means of understanding the various ways journalists use words to shape our understanding. The problem of global warming has been written about since at least the 1970s, but it is starting to gain some ground in more recent years as evidence becomes harder to deny or refute. For example, an article in the New York Times published in March 2012 uses terms that make it clear the author is still trying to convince his readers that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity and yet provide few options as to what else might be contributing to the evidence found. The evidence that the author is attempting to convince his audience is found in the second sentence of the article: "Warnings from the scientific community are becoming louder, as an increasing body of science points to rising dangers from the ongoing buildup of human-related greenhouse gases - produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and forests." Not only does the author squarely place blame on "human-related greenhouse gases," leaving no room for argument or other possibilities, the sources of these gases are specifically named, further removing any possibility for argument. While it is possible that the author simply chose this form of expression as a means of concisely identifying his topic in keeping with Grice's (1975) maxim of quantity, to provide just as much information as necessary to make the meaning clear, it also reveals evidence of previous conversation. For example, it is not necessarily important that the term human-related be included in the above-quoted sentence to remain in accord with Grice's maxim, yet the inclusion here suggests either recency (Garrod and Anderson, 1987), in that the author may have been recently discussing the issue. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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