In the tutorial on Critical Thinking, Set 8, Exercise 6 (found at https://www.rationaleonline.com/explore/en/tutorials/exercises/Set08/exercise6.htm) one is asked to evaluate an argument whose contention is "Capital punishment is wrong," Two reasons are offered (actually, a reason and a sub-reason) -- the reason is that "Innocent people have sometimes been executed", and the sub-reason supporting this is "Many convicted murderers have later been proven innocent." The basis for the sub-reason refers to a database of overturned convictions compiled by a Dr. Edmund Higgins, and offers the following URL -- http://www.dredmundhiggins.com/.
I went to the web address above, and initially thought this was a gag site set up by Rationale, because:
(1) There are no statistics found anywhere on the site.
(2) Two books (written by Dr. Higgins) are listed. Each book has an odd-sounding description beneath the title of the book. Below I have copied and pasted the titles and descriptions that appear on the website:
(3) The second book title is misspelled on the page ("Clinitians" should be "Clinicians.")
(4) Each book title is itself a hyperlink, and while the first title does take one to publisher's page showing the book listed, the hyperlink for the second book returns a "Page not Found" error message on the American Psychological Association website.
(5) The web page itself is exceedingly spare -- it contains a picture of Dr. Higgins, a brief description of his professional credentials, and the aforementioned book titles. Save for the two book hyperlinks (one of which is dead), no other links exist on the page.
All this led me to conclude that, at best, this source was "shaky." I was therefore rather surprised to see it evaluated as "solid" in the model presented in the exercise. (https://www.rationaleonline.com/explore/en/tutorials/exercises/Set08/exercise6_model.htm)
I gather the site has changed since this exercise was created?
Anyway, it would make for a lively discussion in class about assessing sources!
--Mark Hebert Associate Professor of Philosophy Austin College
6 years ago
Thank you for your post.
Some internet searching gave me the new address of the database: Database of capital convictions later overturned, compiled by Dr. E. Higgins . The new link is added to the example in the tutorial.
Timo ter Berg
6 years ago