First, does it agree with God’s Word? Jesus is The Word, and Holy Spirit is the Teacher, and the written word does not disagree. Over many centuries, and over 40 authors and yet an integrated message system! With so many things hidden in plain sight! Those who trust it, find it trustworthy. Even those who do not believe at all must admit that it is the time honored ethical tradition of a community that has persisted miraculously, and an understanding that has matured over time.
Okay, you might say, but people argue over this. I would suggest that most items are clear in the Bible. Nevertheless, you may read it for yourself. There are many translations into common vernacular, and indeed a great many easily accessible word and grammar studies in the original languages, so pointing to the argumentation of others is merely a cop-out.
Further, most ethical questions are clear. It is lack of appetite, even modern distaste, rather than lack of understanding. There are, of course, ethical dilemmas, but they are more rare than the focus on them suggests. The larger problem is that of the tendency to ignore the ethical.
Maybe the question is not one of ethics or doctrine or lifestyle? Well, probably there IS a root there, but okay, you want to know something in the scientific realm. Then the next question.
Secondly, is it good science? This is vital that you can determine the answer for yourself. Once again, many people claim much, but YOU are responsible for deciding. What is the criteria? Science deals with the empirical (what you can count and measure – so only what is observable), experimental, what is falsifiable (good experiments are not circular reasoning), and must be replicable, and is always open to new experiments. Notice that science, while powerful in the real of what we observe, is completely incompetent in other realms such as ethics. Secondly, science is based on experiments. Even this is very often overlooked in modern times. Many people are against research in general, yet wish to claim they are scientific. Do not go for this. Good research are public and state in detail every step of the experiment. They must! Why? So other scientists can replicate the experiment. If they can not, it does not stand. And science, good science, anyway is always open to new understand, based on new observation. Notice, however, that Einstein was laughed at over the theory of relativity, because it did not fit into the paradigms of the science of that day. Since then, of course, there have been experiments that have supported that theory. Similarly, Ignaz Simmelweis was run off, discredited and died in an insane asylum because “science” meaning the respected professionals of the field did not want to accept his observations (germ theory 1847). But real science is based on experiments, replicated, and of course, there have been many such observations, virtually proving the germ theory, since the time that hapless Simmelweis was discredited. So be sure you are parsing what is real science the experimental sdisicpone and “Science” the respected institution that is funded and supports whatever reigning worldview and political administration happens to exist at that time. That is why you need to be able to read the report yourself and determine where this is good science.
How? First go to the peer reviewed journal – meaning professional scientific periodicals that publish science. Look at the hypothesis and ask if it has face validity is whether or not it makes sense. For instance, crime rate and ice cream sales are positively correlated, but no one seriously thinks that ice cream sales causes violent crime or that violent crime causes ice cream sales. Of course, both rise in July and August because of the temperature. Correlation does not causation make. Other thing to ask is whether the study has reliability. Were the measures good, or in other words would it measure the same thing the same way all the time. In physics, no one would use a rubber rules. In Sociology, one must be very careful with survey questions, for instance, to be sure that the measure is reliable. Look to see if the number of cases is high. A thousand, randomly selected is probably statistically representative. If this is not the case, then make conclusions cautiously. Then see if other scientist are also doing similar experiment. What if you can’t read those scientific journals? Well, you probably can, but in substitute, look for a train of citations to peer reviewed journals. I f you have them, then you can be fairly sure you have good science – well as good as human social networks can be. Peer reviewed means that several other scientists in the field read the article and thought it was good enough o be printed in their prestigious periodical. They say they take the names off before they send it to the readers. There are many more criticisms of good papers not being published than the other way around. Publishing something that is shoddy or falsified would be a huge embarrassment.
What if there is no scientific data? Then you may have to rely on the trustworthiness of your informant. Courts of law often have to do this. Those who work there train themselves to look for discrepancies in testimonies. For a very long time, people have assumed that those in authority are more trustworthy than those not. Then more lately others have assumed the reverse. Neither default may be reliable. I sometimes look for “motive” or in other words, ask why a person might be saying what they are. Does it benefit them for you to believe one thing or another? Do they have accurate evidence? A good question is to ask people “how do you know?” You will find that surprisingly, alarmingly, most people have little knowledge about what they are telling you – regardless of degree, position, or emotion.
You might notice how much they care for you. This should influence your judgment. You mother tells you to wear your cap, whether or not her information is true, because she loves you and wants you to stay well. It may not be true at all that if your ears get cold you will get a cold, but how you respond to your mother has less to do with the veracity of the claim than her motive for making it. By extension, irrationality combined with heightened emotion, is not really an argument. Comfort may be called for, rather than inquiry via discussion. Conversely, notice if your interlocutor has no argument other than ridicule; ridicule only masquerades as an argument. Furthermore, someone who arguing one side of a controversial issue may very well be trying to trick you our of money or avoid a lawsuit. Get a disinterested and knowledgeable party, then, for better information.
Finally, wait until you hear the whole story. Almost always in our complex society, the news that comes first is one sided. Indeed, remember that most news media is commercial, so see above. But even if it is a friend that runs up and tells you they were robbed, even if you rush to comfort him, before you make a complete judgment, wait until the accused friend comes to say he was first defrauded. Wait and consider the whole story. Sometimes, rather than another person, it is another perspective that shows up. For instance, just now I read a discussion: O, vaccines are okay, they don’t have more aluminum than breast milk. Another says “I don’t believe that!” If breast milk has much metals in it, that does not make anything okay, rather it shows that we have too much toxicity in our body – quite the reverse of saying it is okay to inject more. Further, it may not be aluminum that is worrisome in vaccines. And it may not be a vaccine alone, or vaccines alone that may be a problem with the underlying issue (of whether autism is caused or exacerbated by toxins.)
If you stopped too soon, and concluded only that a certain vaccine has little aluminum in them, however factual that may be, you still may be making several mistakes: 1) the assumption then that the vaccine is safe – while no such claim was made, but only implied, 2) that research inquiring into the safety of such is ill intentioned – which was not even addressed, and 3) that everyone who is involved in the controversy (on the opposite side) is a wild eyed crazy (trustworthiness.), or that 4) it is silly to inquire into manufacture & policy regarding the safety of children (ethical argument ignored.) Although this is an ongoing and very real and current debate, it is a good illustration. The topic really is important. Many children are suffering. We may not know exactly why. You, however, may be responsible for a child and have to weigh concerns on both sides – and are tasked with making a decision. How much more weighty than merely writing a term paper! But the skills are the same. Check the ultimate guide, and don’t ignore the ethical questions. Dig to find what real science says, rather than being cowed by claims. Consider the trustworthiness of sources and their motives. Don’t speak too soon. Do not be shamed that cautious statements are “waffling;” but at the same time, when heart and brain line up, don’t be ashamed to be a leader. Once you are, and once you have been diligent, confidence is useful.