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Pandemic Moment: your guide to critically thinking about information

If you are still on the fence about hand washing...

This image links out to our library catalogue record for an audio-visual program on Fighting Pandemics, (Breakthrough Series) produced by National Geographic and directed by Peter Berg.

In the first minute, we encounter blood, screaming, contorted patients, lining rows of make-shift field hospital beds, interspersed by masked medical personnel and eerie, curdling sounds.  The first narrated words you will hear are, "Recently the Ebola virus threatened to sweep across the globe.  And humanity had a preview of a possible future where many suffer and die from pandemic diseases..."

Not something you want your kids to see.  This minute is designed to frighten!  However, the remainder of the film is dedicated to the science community that is on the cutting edge of the fight against deadly viruses, with a focus on the Ebola virus epidemic.  Its purpose is to educate.

In terms of our critical information practice, should we be dissuaded by the first minute, and turn away from the film?

On the first page of this guide, I presented a straightforward approach for evaluating information sources.  We should always keep in mind that there is a human(s) behind the words, audio and visuals that we encounter, and it is our responsibility to verify the reliability of what we internalize.  We can utilize a simple question and answer approach to this process of verification by asking one or two questions.

1. Is the author(s) of the words, audio and visuals we are internalizing knowledgeable about what they are saying?

2. We can ask this same type of question of the publishing body.

What do we know?

Producer: National Geographic

Director: Peter Berg

"National Geographic Society uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world."  It has a 130 year history, and a competent executive team, and board of trustees.

It is usually enough to establish the credibility of either the producer/publisher or the director/author.  Because Fighting Pandemics was produced by National Geographic, a credible information source, we should proceed beyond the frightening first minute of the film.

In contrast, on November 23, 1998, Bill Wiese was taken to Hell for 23 minutes. After returning, he wrote a book (New York Times best seller) about his experience, which includes his testimony along with his post Bible-centered research about Hell.

In addition to his book, several audio and visual experiences exist that follow his travelogue speaking tours. In just a few of his scary words, (based on his personal visual and audio tour of Hell) Hell is a real deep pit of fiery flames, with millions of people, isolated in a loud and deafening, dark horror surrounded by demons, and lasting for eternity.

23 Minutes in Hell - full length video by Bill Wiese

What do we know?  What should we make of this information?

Author: Bill Wiese

Publisher: Charisma House

Let's follow the question and answer path I described above.

1. Is the author(s) of the words, audio and visuals we are internalizing knowledgeable about what they are saying?

According to the book's jacket cover, Mr. Wiese is a dedicated Christian and a successful realtor.  In comparison to National Geographic's Fighting Pandemics film, it seems there should be a different standard for evaluating the information given by Mr. Wiese.

Although others may have had similar experiences, there is no way to verify or compare the solo testimony of the author.

Also, the ways of humans may differ from the ways of the Divine, and may not be comparable.  Our reasoned approach may not apply.  And so, this will have to be a discussion for another day.

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