Few things are as annoying and inconvenient as discovering you are wrong. Most people hate that, and feel being wrong is a type of failure. They get that from school and true or false questions, where answers were judged by experts who knew.
But over the years, those experts were proven wrong, time and time again. Evolution experts kept unearthing new, old bones, which buried old, fossilized theories. Astronomers discovered some new black hole that swallowed up some old truths about the stars. Medical researchers discovered some treatments were worse than the disease. Historians are now re-writing the facts of history, while psychologists are re-writing the facts of human sexuality. Meanwhile, social media is challenging all truths, leading to fact-checking by a shifty mainstream media and vested experts.
Establishing and maintaining the status of truth is big business. There is a truth industry, which includes media, public relations firms, academia, religious groups, the government, and more. Truth is power and a valuable commodity, and when you possess it you want to keep it and make sure nobody sullies it with some opposing truth.
The public, of course, wants truth, and is willing to pay for it. There is no end to experts who will take your money to sell you truth. They will tell you the truth about dieting, or vitamins, or exercising, or how to bake a perfect pie. Conspiracy experts will tell you that only they know the truth, and that makes them sound very much like doctors and lawyers, so you trust them.
This means all of us must fight Big Truth. It’s the belief that we finally have it all figured out.
Every generation wants to be smarter than the past. The problem is that babies continue to be born stupid, so we need to fill their heads with stuff we call truth. They will use truth as they go through life, trying to understand and manage the world they experience. Truth provides the assumptions about life and the world, and form the structural girders which support our understanding. Shake that, and there’s money to be made by new truth-tellers.
People want the mental security of a world defined by truths. They want to feel that the sun exists and will rise tomorrow, or they will not be able to sleep in the darkness. We all need to feel that the universe is real, that we can objectively understand it, and that truth is the product of reason. The problem is that we are flawed creatures with limited senses, possessing defective reasoning skills which are clouded by emotion, are easily distracted and fooled, are born without any knowledge of anything but how to suck, and are driven by savage instincts we share with other animals. This makes truth is as elusive as a unicorn.
The way we learn things is really by trial and error, with lots of errors. We humans are in the dark, stumbling around looking for something we can identify and hold onto. We try until we succeed, and then share the news with others, passing the information down to the next, ignorant generation. Humanity thereby constructs a sense of truth. But it is always a work in progress. We chronically suffer from truth decay.
We are currently living in a time when truth is on trial, being challenged by other truths. We are the jury, needing to listen to the arguments and decide. However, in our technical world, many truths are outside most peoples’ scope of education or understanding, so they take the word of experts. And since experts never like to be proven wrong, this enshrines the current truths for the term of the lives of the experts. New experts will dethrone and bury the old ones, and have to fight off the next generation of experts.
This all means that truth is fragile, much more than you would imagine. Our sense of certainty is a ploy to convince ourselves. But more people are opening their eyes to the truth that truth is not necessarily true. And this can be disturbing to the psyche, and make you have to rethink everything you thought was true, which can be a bother.
For those who want to hold onto their truths, here are 10 tips.
- Stop thinking. You already know everything you need to know.
- Close your mind to new ideas. An open mind can let the Devil in.
- Keep in mind that ideas are really unimportant. You can live without them. Many people do.
- Never question experts. They speak truth.
- Only read things which agree with you. Everything else is false.
- Avoid truth decay by daily brushing off people who don’t agree with you.
- Burn books that push the anti-truth.
- Remember that truth is something you must fight for. Some people just need a slap in the head to see it.
- If someone discovers a new truth, it doesn’t mean you are wrong. It means they are conspiracy theorists.
- Bug other people into agreeing with you. The best way to keep your truth is to make sure everyone else believes it, too.
In summary, truth can be as fleeting as a thought, or as stable as a dogma. It can be a guess we all came to believe, or it can even be a lie. Whatever truth is, it’s becoming more fragile. All we know for sure is that tomorrow’s truths will be different than today’s. That’s the truth about truth.