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Evaluating Sources

Suppose you want to use the following passages in an argument. How reliable do you judge them to be? (1) Authors background, (2) authors bias and purpose, (3) publisher or sponsor, and (4) intended audience.

1. Liberals tell kids in school all over America that the best way to protect themselves from AIDS is to wear condoms while engaging in sexual intercourse. It's a lie. They are imposing a death sentence on kids. The failure rate of condoms is around 17 percent. They're teaching kids to play Russian roulette. (Rush Limbaugh, See, I Told You So, 1993)

3. The average breakage rate of all condoms is 5.6 percent. The average slippage rate of all condoms is 3.67 percent. The total failure rate of all condoms is 9.13 percent. (Summary of Table 16-3 in Robert A. Hatcher et al., Contraceptive Technology, 17th ed., 1998)

4. Over 80% of Americans support very little or no immigration. Is anyone listening to us? Tired of sitting in traffic? Every day, another 6,000 immigrants arrive. Every day? (Billboards in Queens and Brooklyn, New York,
Sponsored by Craig Nelson, founder of ProjectUSA,

7. Sixty-seven percent of people would prefer that the races be separated. That's what a poll of my listeners is showing. (Mike Gallagher, radio-talk-show host) There’s no such thing as a bad Picasso. (Pablo Picasso)

Solution Preview

Passage 1: Author's background = conservative/right-wing talk show host; Author's bias/purpose = seemingly on the side of right-leaning abstinence-based education; Publisher or Sponsor = none identified; possibly an alignment with this right-wing listening base, but perhaps he is actually creating the talking points instead of using them; Intended Audience = listener base, conservative, concerned citizens, anti new President Clinton.

Evaluation of Passage 1. No data is verified in Rush's statement, so you have to question or at least attempt to validate the credibility. It doesn't mean it's not true; the excerpt is from 1993, and the data in passage 3 is from 1998, so the information could have changed. You could use ...

Solution Summary

Reliability is assessed in terms of evaluating sources.