“We’ve been duped” – Why you should examine the evidence yourself

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This post is adapted from a speech I prepared for my public speaking course at college. The speech was, of course, directed toward an audience of college students at a public university.


“We’ve been duped!”

How would you respond if I told you that one of your professors had lied to the class about something while they were teaching? Probably you’d be at least a little outraged, right? After all, you paid good money for this class and you are trusting your instructor to tell the truth! Well…what if I said your professor wasn’t intentionally lying to you; they believed what they said was correct. This makes the situation a little more complicated, doesn’t it? What happened was they failed to accurately represent the full range of evidence and perspectives on a crucial topic, thus leaving you with an inaccurate impression of the truth.

According to a Pew Research Center survey of American adults, 66% of individuals believe scientists generally agree that humans evolved over time (1). That figure is higher in college graduates—76%. What does this mean? American adults, especially college students, are unaware of multiple viewpoints in the scientific community on this critical issue.

As students, we are here to learn from our professors and instructors. We have a rightful expectation that what they are teaching should be accurate and balanced. We should also be concerned with the quality of our sources of information, whether that be from the class lectures or what we hear and read outside them.

Because the academic class structure is a prime environment for the misleading of students, you must employ critical thinking and do your own research on important issues. I ask each of you to consider whether you may have been duped and do your own research, seeking out other perspectives and examining the evidence for foundational issues. I’ll explain the situation that causes this misleading, describe what will happen if we don’t research for ourselves, and finally discuss how and when to search out other sides to the story.

I’ll begin by sharing some observations of our problem of confirmation bias.

The Problem: Confirmation Bias

The academic classroom setting is an often-accidental opportunity for the misleading of students because from a young age we are taught to trust and respect authority figures, and rightly so. However, college is a transition time from child to adult, dependent to independent. As adults, we must learn to discern when a topic is critical enough that we should do our own research before accepting/adopting a certain position. We can’t go through life critically questioning everything, of course, so we need to develop the skill of knowing what issues are important enough to be worth our time.

The problem is, we aren’t doing a good job of this. Another survey from the Pew Research Center shows that white Americans and black Americans have enormously different views on racial equality, with 88% of blacks and 53% of whites saying the country has more work to do on equality for blacks (2).

Additionally, another Pew Research Center survey on political polarization and media habits shows that 47% of consistent conservatives mostly see Facebook posts in line with their views, and 44% of consistent liberals have blocked someone on Facebook because they disagreed with something that person posted about politics (3). Clearly, we have a long way to go in seeing and understanding other perspectives on issues.

We are largely unaware of or improperly understanding perspectives other than our own. This is called confirmation bias (4), and it is a huge problem in our society. If we don’t even know that other viewpoints exist, how are we supposed to study and learn from them? It doesn’t mean that these other viewpoints are necessarily correct, because in fact some of them are mutually contradicting. But if we don’t examine them and the evidence supporting them, we could be duped.

Because of natural bias and selective information given, it is crucial that we as students and young adults take responsibility for doing our own research.

The Warning: Nazi Germany

As a historical example, in the creation of Hitler’s Germany, many factors were at play. Primarily, Hitler was a very charismatic guy, though we might not think of him as so. He believed in what he was promoting and doing (5), and he was actually a very successful public speaker, since he accomplished his goal of persuading people to follow him. He built others’ trust in him by helping restore Germany’s economy and status after WWI (6).

What can we say of those countless hordes of people who joined or supported his cause? Were some of them manipulated? Almost certainly. Were some of them secretly dissenters, but scared to resist? Absolutely. But the vast majority of the people were those who failed to think critically and examine the evidence for themselves. And why did they fail to do so?

These individuals went along with Hitler’s plan either because it sounded great and patriotic—save the Fatherland!—or because of peer pressure and pressure from authorities (7). Their family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers seemed to agree with the leader, and besides, if they dared to “make waves” it might affect them and their family negatively. Because no one would speak up, all seemed in agreement. They were duped.

Nazi Germany gives us a perfect example of a persuasive authority figure who people listened to without evaluating the situation for themselves, leading to the Holocaust. But there is a way to solve this problem and make sure we aren’t part of the next horror of history.

The Solution: Do Your Own Research

First of all, let me clear something up. I’m not saying we should reject or question critically every word our authority figures speak. There is a reason our professors and instructors are teaching—they know things! And there will always be someone who knows more than we do or has more experience. We should never pretend we have all the answers.

However, we need to be careful. We need to be careful not to automatically accept that everything we hear is as certain as the hand in front of our face. We must be able to identify when an issue someone is speaking about should be questioned. We should be willing to do research ourselves so we can come to an informed conclusion.

As college students, these years are a time of big changes in our lives. So many areas of responsibility that were once taken care of by our parents now fall upon our own shoulders. This is our time of setting foot in the big old world, and often it feels like a sink-or-swim situation. Our horizons are expanding, and now we must decide for ourselves what positions we take on countless situations.

Don’t be like those voters who show up to the polls not having a clue who the candidates are or what they stand for. Don’t be that person having a heated Facebook debate about something they know next to nothing about. That isn’t the kind of person we want to become.

Rather, this is our time to step out on our own two feet and stand, knowing that what we believe has a solid, sure foundation.

So, have you been duped? How do you know? The only way you can know for sure is if you check out the facts yourself.

Take Action

Now, I’m not asking you to change your major and become an investigative journalist like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who uncovered the Watergate scandal (7)(8)–unless you want to, of cousre. I’m not even suggesting you all assign yourself a research paper on origins science like this crazy gal right here (yup, that would be me).

What I ask is that, sometime in the next week, each one of you choose an important, foundational topic being discussed in one of your classes or on the news, and read up on it. Examine the evidence and the various perspectives on the subject. Then make an informed decision you can have confidence in, even if that decision is that neither side is conclusive.

In Conclusion

We have a problem: We are not doing well at recognizing and understanding other perspectives on critical issues. If we do not do our own research on important topics, especially those taught us by our instructors and other authority figures, we are setting ourselves up to be misled like Hitler’s followers were. However, if we take time to identify important issues and do some reading in the area, we will be more informed and more confident in the accuracy of our positions. Remember, this is a critical part of being an independent adult—knowing where you stand and why.

Toward that end, take some time this week to do some research on a topic that is important to you.

As Author Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography, “How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and [how] hard it is to undo that work again!” (9) His words speak the sobering reality that it is all too easy to be duped, and yet it can take work and time to undo that damage with the truth. Have you been duped? Determine now to do whatever it takes to ensure you are on the side of the truth.


  1. “Evolution and perceptions of scientific consensus.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (July 1, 2015) http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/07/01/chapter-4-evolution-and-perceptions-of-scientific-consensus/ Accessed Oct. 14, 2017.
  2. “On views of race and inequality, blacks and whites are worlds apart.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (June 26, 2016). http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/06/27/on-views-of-race-and-inequality-blacks-and-whites-are-worlds-apart/ Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
  3. “Political polarization & media habits.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (October 21, 2014) http://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits/ Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
  4. Nickerson, Raymond S. (June 1998). “Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises”. Review of General Psychology. 2 (2): 175–220. http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F1089-2680.2.2.175 Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
  5. Goode, E. (1998, November 17). Insane or just evil? A psychiatrist takes a new look at Hitler. ,http://www.nytimes.com/1998/11/17/science/insane-or-just-evil-a-psychiatrist-takes-a-new-look-at-hitler.html Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
  6. “Causes and motivations.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (n.d.). https://www.ushmm.org/learn/introduction-to-the-holocaust/ethical-leaders/background/causes-and-motivations Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
  7. Perry, J. M. (n.d.). Watergate Case Study. http://www.columbia.edu/itc/journalism/j6075/edit/readings/watergate.html Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
  8. The Woodward and Bernstein Watergate papers. (n.d.). http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/web/woodstein/ Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
  9. “2 December 1906: Paragraph 11,” in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2. 2013 http://www.marktwainproject.org/xtf/view?docId=works/MTDP10363.xml;style=work;brand=mtp;chunk.id=dv0073#pa002121

Hi y’all. It’s about time I came back to this project. I’ve been thinking about it in the past couple months, trying to decide where I see this going. I’m still thinking some of that through, so for now suffice to say I’m going to try to pick up the momentum again and get some posts up soon.

The beginning

If I were to sit down across from you today and ask you about your life, your dreams, your worries, and the things you think about at night, would it be a pleasant conversation? I hope so, and it probably would be, if you and I were both pleasant, reasonable people. As long as I was a patient listener and asked gently, and you were a kind, fairly open person, even a conversation about personal matters could be relaxed and pleasant. During our time together, opportunities would probably naturally arise for me to respond to your remarks by sharing some of my own life details and thoughts. At the end of the exchange, we would both part having enjoyed a nice time together.

Apologetics can be like that. Just a conversation. It doesn’t have to be some formal, heated debate–it doesn’t have to have an audience. I want to show you that apologetics is accessible to you. You don’t have to be some academic scholar or pastor. You just have to be willing to think, ask questions, and share your thoughts. In other words, you have to be able to carry on a thoughtful conversation.

This is the beginning. I want to walk you through this new life. For that is exactly what this is–a new way of life. Not that it’s “Christianity deluxe” or anything, but it’s a new way of using and growing tools you already have. It’s a new mindset. So here we are–the beginning. Welcome aboard.

We’ll begin with conversation.

I’m going to give you some principles for productive conversations, in four areas. Hopefully these will be both beneficial immediately and lay the groundwork for future areas. But before we begin, here is your first assignment:

Assignment 1: Notice things.

This is borrowed from a series of books called the Gallagher Girls, which is about the girls of a spy academy and their adventures. I absolutely adored reading these as a young teenager. The first assignment in covert operations their teacher gave was “notice things.” His point was you cannot be a good agent if you don’t notice things around you–lots of things. Details, movements, facial expressions, motives. The same is the case for the art of good conversations and good apologetics. You must be observant before, during, and after the conversation. In fact, you must get into the habit of noticing people and things all the time. What must you notice? Their thoughts, their mannerisms, their prejudices, things that annoy them, things they avoid, things they love. You must learn their stories–what made them who they are today. If you fail to notice these things, you will have a hard time getting across to them, because you will have missed who they are as a person.

Now, keeping this in mind, let’s begin the principles for good conversation.

In any conversation, there are several components. First, at least two participants. (Unless you’re talking to yourself, which does have its place. But anyway.)

Second, a topic. Although this may naturally or purposefully shift, and may be spoken on unspoken.

Third, active listening. If everyone talks at once and no one listens, what’s the point? The purpose of conversation is communication.

Fourth, good questions. I suppose hypothetically you could have a conversation without one, but miscommunications would likely abound and it would be difficult for the listener to participate and for the conversation to move forward.

Principles in the four areas of good conversation

  1. Find your participant. This can either be planned or spontaneous. You may decide you want to talk to a certain person and be the one who starts the conversation. Or someone around you may strike up a chat. It doesn’t matter. You can have a good conversation with just about anyone around you: your taxi driver, your coworker, your neighbor, your sibling, your cashier, or your friend.
  2. Discern the topic–and possibly guide it toward your own. Oftentimes, the topic related to apologetics will come up in the course of natural conversation and you will just make the effort to take it further. Other times, a current topic will allow for a nice segwey. Occasionally, you may specifically meet with someone to discuss a certain topic.
  3. Listen actively and sympathetically. Listen carefully to the other person, with a genuine desire to understand. Show concern and sympathy for them, and agree whenever possible. Make eye contact and use body language to express engagement.
  4. Ask good questions. This is a topic you’ll find coming up a lot later on. But for now, here are some suggestions: Ask for clarification of something they said, by repeating back what you understood. This helps avoid miscommunication. Ask “what if” questions about their ideas, specifically in the context of beliefs/worldviews. For example, if they say they believe abortion is an issue of personal choice, ask if the mother should be able to choose to end her child’s life once he is born as well. Use questions to lead them to another topic or to introduce a discussion you want to have. I call those “thinky questions.” For example, “If you could choose your last words, what would they be and why?” or “What’s the difference between living and existing?” Ask for definitions. As John Stonestreet has said, “The battle of ideas is a battle of definitions.” For example, “What do you mean by ‘poor’?”

So, try it! Take these principles and try to apply them to a conversation. Find your participant, establish the topic or ask a question to start off the discussion, listen carefully, and ask follow-up questions to help you learn more about them and their position. Share your own side only as applicable or when asked. For this first attempt, really focus on listening and asking questions. You shouldn’t get whacked over the head for your opinions if you aren’t stating them yet, if that makes sense. Have fun with it and don’t forget to notice things. Let me know how it goes. Remember, I’m here to help.

Tactics – A review


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I first heard about this book several years ago at the teen program of a homeschool conference I attended when I was 13. It was the second part of my introduction to apologetics at that time, and this book was recommended in one of the seminars. I wrote down the title and promptly forgot about it for years. It wasn’t until I took my first college class, which was about worldviews and apologetics, that this book came up again and I thought “I really have to read this.” Fast forward a year later and I finally got around to reading it…and I am so glad I did!

This book is incredible. It’s really unique for its genre–as explained in the book’s introduction, instead of one more apologetics book about facts and evidence (although those are good too!), this one is more of a how-to. As given by the title, this book is about tactics. How to navigate conversations with others of opposing views. How to use questions to expose flaws in their reasoning and keep them answering, rather than you. Ever noticed how a lot of conversations with people of other beliefs seem to end up with you being in the hot seat? Tactics shows you how to reverse the question arrow so it’s pointing toward your conversation mate. It includes lots of real-life examples related to current issues, and is immensely practical. One chapter even gives you tips for dealing with a “steamroller” who is trying to run over you in the conversation.

I also love how at the beginning of the book, Koukl explains the importance of having good arguments. Not quarrels or strife-causing spats, but good arguments designed to seek the truth. I felt like he’d taken the words right out of my mouth. Seriously, this book is everything I have been trying to tell people for a year now!

One of the greatest takeaways from this book is a goal Koukl has adopted and recommends to the reader as well. Rather than focusing on trying to get the person “to the cross” in every conversation, simply try to put a stone in their shoe. Unsettle something in their mind. Give them something to take home and mull over, something that will stick with them and nag them a bit. Don’t make it your goal to change their mind completely–just plant a seed of doubt in their own ideas and trust God to use it in their life.

To those who wonder “why apologetics?”

To those who find themselves awed at “the masters” but have no clue where to begin.

To those who genuinely want to seek truth.

To those who want to know how to ask great questions.

To those who want to engage better with those around them.

To those who want to better understand and articulate what they believe and why.

This is the book for you!