Regarding Truth

Regarding Truth

A Chapter by Paul

thoughts on facts and truth


Regarding Truth


I was watching a debate between flat earthers and scientists. I was struck by two statements that both came from the flat earth contingent. A man said, “consensus is orchestrated not actually scientific in any way”. Then a woman said that she liked to find things out for herself and that she began studying about flat earth on-line and went “down the rabbit hole”. But she did not seem to say this in a negative way, as if down the rabbit hole denoted a noble search for facts. I am curious to know if she thinks that Alice was happy with the way things were while she was down the rabbit hole. I would like to know if the man thinks a scientific fact is only a fact because a consensus of scientists agrees on it.

The consensus issue would seem the best place to start. Most of this man’s opinions seemed to come from a distrust of all things academic, governmental, “mainstream”. He seemed to revel in the idea of a new way to get facts, I assume, using information from alternative sites on the internet. His statement about orchestrating consensus came from some discussion about how scientists decide to rely on a theory as the best theory. He was annoyed that only scientist got to be part of this “orchestration” and that left people like him, a basement repair specialist, with no say in the matter. He said “peer review” with an air of disdain. None of the scientists thought to ask him how he feels when a college professor tries to tell him the best way to gird a basement from moisture. And, as importantly, why he trusts certain practices to keep basements dry over others. There was also a moment where one of the scientists was telling him that we need to accept some well researched theories, as true, so that we can progress; like trusting that a car will start when we turn the key. The man shrugged this off with a statement in the way of, I don’t need a theory to start a car. I thought the scientists were being too kind at this point. They may have been afraid of sounding condescending but it needed to be said that there is a lot of theory that goes into getting a combustion engine to start and move a vehicle.

America, and perhaps the world, does not trust its experts anymore. We think that common sense means that we are called to figure all things out on our own. I know there are many reasons that we got to this point. Governments have used science to confuse populaces into conforming to unpopular ideas. Many scientific/academic organizations rely on government and private industry money to continue their work. Scientists in these situations feel pressured to skew their findings to maintain funding. This is one of the ways we create a difference between truth and fact. This is where conspiracy theories get their running start. The basement expert has a point. People will decide what a truth is, despite facts.

It needs to be pointed out that fact and truth are not necessarily the same thing to all people. This has always been part of human history but seems more dangerous at certain intervals in time. This happens when facts can be twisted to any truth you want. This has been shown repeatedly with the use of statistics. But facts do not change because they are twisted; facts tell a truth regardless of one’s interest in them. Temperature readings over time can only be disputed by showing some error in how they were obtained. A working thermometer and a reliable way of marking time are the truth, garnered from measurable facts. To disprove these facts by saying that you think the scientists are lying should not be sufficient. You must prove that their data is wrong. And your data/evidence has to outweigh the data/evidence that supports the other side.

I fear that this need to dispute science, and experts of all kinds, comes from what facts have done to people’s comfort zones. This is measured in the cognitive dissonance that occurs when science goes against the things that keep many people feeling secure. My understanding of cognitive dissonance is that humans try to avoid feeling that we have been mistaken. A loss of confidence occurs and we become uneasy. We want to stick to what makes us feel secure in our decision-making abilities.  We do not want to think about how dire things will become if climate change is as bad as most scientists are telling us. We do not want to change the way we do things because it will be harder, to be successful, and more expensive. We do not want to admit that our intuition, which many prize above all things, was wrong. It is much easier to deny than to deal with issues. We are willing to pile up mounds of stupidity to hide facts. The mounds are a truth, or just as true as the facts, because we agree that it is so. One does not even need to believe in the mounds, only that the mounds show some doubt in the unwanted facts. This mentality has helped us do many things and progress as a species. Yes, believing in a truth that is not factually accurate has helped us survive at times. Hope, despite all odds, has spurred societies to do great things. At our best, and, in the best of times, we eventually realize how much of the mounds are stupidity and we get the bulldozers. This is why humans have done so well in the evolutionary game and why we could do so poorly as the stewards of our grand prize, the earth. Will we now realize we are building mounds of stupidity to avoid anxiety? Will we get the bulldozers?  

I am ignoring the bedazzled elephant head in the room. There are no facts to support the existence of any supernatural elements to our cosmos. Science has been prodding this comfort zone for many years.  There are no facts to support the existence of a god like Ganesha, with his bedazzled elephant head, nor a god like the god in the Hebrew bible, the Christian bible, the Qu'ran. Even if you are excited by the strange discoveries about consciousness and the strange discoveries in the quantum realm, the gods that are worshipped on earth do not explain these issues. In just looking at the written material involved, the bible specifically, there are many factual issues. The facts make it difficult to accept that the books in the bible were written without error and for one people. There are many facts to show that the bible is not historically accurate. It uses stories from other cultures and religions. Many books of the bible contradict each other. Three major religions depend on these books for validity. The fact that some of this information is wrong is cognitive dissonance for millions of people. The orchestrated consensus of most experts is unwanted and disbelieved. For three major religions the bible is the word of a god who does exist. He does not just exist for them. He exists no matter what anyone’s opinion of the matter is. Why then should science disrupt any of our comfort zones? One of the first things that many flat earthers will tell you is that this has nothing to do with religion. That should give one pause. One of the first blows to organized religion was finding out that the earth was not the center of the universe or even the solar system. Everything would be much easier and comfortable if we could return to what feels like common sense; our intuition that we are standing on a flat piece of land going about our business. 

We are well down the rabbit hole on several issues now. What is surreal to experts, and the people who trust in the scientific method of those experts, is merely an alternative truth to others. I believe that we must recognize that there are different truths, truths are relative, subjective. This is painful to people who strive for a world united in rational thinking. It used to be painful to religious people who wanted truth to be objective, from a creator. The red-hot iron of the irony strikes both ways.

Now we will need to be diligent when declaring facts. Facts will need to be free of interest groups and political parties, religious and non-religious influence. We have to agree on the facts, so the facts have to be above reproach. Twisting facts to give advantage to one party or another is a mainstay of parties as long as there have been parties. And by party, I mean any group with the common aim of advancing an agenda. Political parties are just the most obvious example.  

Reveling in the idea of spinning the truth should be disturbing to all of us yet it is the mainstay of lobbyists and parties today. Spinning the truth to help a cause is a badge of honor to many. It is the advertising worlds influence in every element of human life. Of course, parties have always twisted facts to their advantage. They have always made their own truth based on prior beliefs. My point is that they have never done it with such bravado, that they have never been able to do it so well. Our ability to spread information has always led to progress and crisis in human history; and we have never been able to spread information like we can today. 

This leads us to how facts are communicated. This leads us to journalists. It is time for a great awakening in the news media. There are rules to journalism, anyone who took an intro course in journalism knows the rules. Journalists are going to need to separate themselves from the story. A reader, or viewer, should not know where a journalist stands on an issue. The reader/viewer should be learning the facts that have been substantiated using boring journalistic techniques. If it is an opinion piece this should be obvious to any moron, because there are plenty of us. There should be an obvious difference between a two source story and an anonymous source. This will take a concerted effort. An effort to make getting the story right more important than getting the story first. An effort to make the news a commodity above the marketplace. 

A willingness to construe facts to our own truth comes from believing that we are right and therefore should twist the truth: the ends justify the means. We can only crawl out of this rabbit hole by having common facts, and a common application of those facts, to base our truths on. We can do this by approaching issues as scientists are supposed to, with an open mind. You can have opinions, theories, but you should be open to having them proved wrong. Proved wrong with information garnered from stringent research. If we plan on thriving in this world, we must leave science to scientists; and science must be above politics and the marketplace. We must leave journalism to journalists; and the story must be above politics and the marketplace. Only a re-commitment to professional ethics can assure this.  

This is not going to get everyone believing in the same set of facts. Some people gladly go down the rabbit hole to avoid reality; reality is hard. Some people are always going to believe that authority figures are lying, even when everyone has access to the hard data. Render this world to the natural facts. Save your faith for personal interactions and the supernatural world. Use your distrust of authority to question scientists and journalists but accept when they have done their jobs correctly. This, I believe, is our only hope of rescuing facts from disparate truths.  

© 2022 Paul

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Added on March 19, 2021
Last Updated on June 22, 2022



I am writing in the Mid Atlantic area of the United States, mostly non-fiction at this time. I am a song writer as well. Also of interest could be- http://bookstore.trafford... more..

Regarding... Regarding...

A Book by Paul