Eating too many carrots can cause infertility in men. This astonishing finding was recently revealed by Dr. Henry Slevin of the Institute for Vegetable Studies in Butler, Wyoming. The study, titled “Excessive Consumption of Raw Vegetables and the Side Effects of Said Consumption,” was presented during a nutrition conference in Bangor, Missouri, last month. In it, Dr. Slevin outlined the unintended side effects of consuming a number of vegetables, but it was his finding on carrots that drew the most attention.
All of the preceding paragraph is true… Well, except the part about the carrots. And there’s no Institute for Vegetable Studies, which, consequently, means there’s no Dr. Henry Slevin that works there. It wouldn’t really matter anyway, though, because there’s no Butler, Wyoming, for it to be located in. And if there’s no Dr. Slevin, there’s obviously no study on the excessive consumption of raw vegetables, which would also mean it was never presented at any conference, which would be just as well, since there’s no such place as Bangor, Missouri.
I’m nearly positive, though, that if I carried on with what I was saying, someone would believe me. Someone would stumble across my blog, somehow link their fertility issues to eating too many carrots, share the link on Facebook and Twitter, and make this thing go viral. If I did a really good job, it might even merit its own Snopes.com entry. And not a word of it would have been true. Not a single word.
I say all this because I’m beginning to be very bothered by how there seems to be an article floating around on the internet to back up whatever belief or preference I have concerning a certain subject. For every article chastising parents for not vaccinating their children, there exists an article linking childhood vaccinations to all sorts of ills. For every article on how President Barack Obama has caused the national deficit to skyrocket, there exists an article showing how he has drastically reduced government spending. And as this past week concluded, I was treated to equal numbers of articles proclaiming Nelson Mandela as one of the greatest peacemakers of our time and, alternatively, someone who’s more questionable deeds and philosophies have been conveniently forgotten.
We all have our soap boxes. Just today, I was torturing my poor wife by making her listen to my views on why increasing the minimum wage wouldn’t be such a great idea. We’re all passionate about things. At what point, though, does our passion make us prey to those who live simply to self-promote? At what point does our desire to prove we are right supersede our critical thinking abilities? At what point do we allow for alternative views rather than simply cherry-picking bits and pieces to prop up our own philosophies?
I wouldn’t label myself an expert on journalism, but I did learn one thing from my years of working as a newspaper reporter: Never accept something as fact without verified attribution. If I’m reading an article and it says, “Studies show…”, I immediately want to know what studies and who conducted these studies and what is the reliability of those dispensing the information. Woodward and Bernstein may have had their Deep Throat, but if the paper trail didn’t lead anywhere, Nixon would probably still be in office.
Here’s what I think is happening and what I think needs to happen: We are destroying discourse by simply searching out the information we agree with, and we desperately need to begin to dig deeper when it comes to what is fed to us. I appreciate good arguments, but I worry when we live in a world when all I have to do is open up my web browser to find an article to support my position. I don’t even have to do any research; some man or woman has already told my why I’m right. Link … share … done.
If you’re someone who does believe strongly in a cause or position, by all means, don’t stop sounding the alarm. I greatly respect the independent pursuit of knowledge and the benefits it yields. This is how the world is changed. If you’re someone regurgitating the party line, though, it’s time for you to get informed. Why do you believe what you believe? Stand ready to make your arguments, and don’t rely on someone else to do it for you. If you’re going to die on a hill, bring your own ammo to the fight.
Now that I’ve got all that off my chest, I’m going to get a mug of coffee. By the way, did you know drinking too much coffee can kill you? Or is it that drinking lots of coffee will help you live longer? I should probably look that up…