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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Is the True Truth?

SIOUX CITY, IA - DECEMBER 15:  Republican pres...
SIOUX CITY, IA - DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidates U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) (L), gets into a heated exchange with U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
         Right now we're still examining the mechanics of dealing with controversy so I hope you'll bear with me.  I can almost see the readers of this blog falling away from these posts like heart patients trying to run a marathon.  Sorry if this isn't interesting to some of you, but I hope a few faithful will hang in there.  I've got the first real controversy coming on Friday and that should tell us who has the heart, mind, and will to deal with what I'm doing.

Not the Real Truth

         In last Wednesday's post we looked at the question "Would You Rather Hear the Truth or Flattery?".  The consensus, and I don't know if it was the real truth or not, was that we would in most cases rather hear the truth.  The context of the question primarily dealt with subjective truth, which more appropriately should probably be referred to as opinion or preference.

          Although evaluation or criticism may incorporate some elements of fact and truth, an opinion or preference may be true to the beholder, but it may not be universally true or even a widely held truth.  Since there are so many variables in this type of judgement, subjective truth would almost always be an invalid evidence to use as a debate strategy.  For this reason I'll let this introduction suffice in laying aside any considerations of subjective truth.  Some future debate day topics will certainly include topics such as "favorites" but there is probably little reason to establish a rigid definition of subjective truth.

 What Is The Truth?

           For the purpose of attempting to resolve or at least have greater understanding of controversy we would hope to uncover the truth with a fact based approach as mentioned in the list from my previous post. Am I going to tell you in totality what truth is and go into the entirety of theories about truth and how to uncover the truth?  No way--unless you want to read a lot of text about the topic and I don't intend to write this at present.  There are books written on the topic.  If you're interested in reading a fairly comprehensive summary you can check out the overview presented at Wikipedia.  Let's face it, the concept of "truth" is itself a controversy.

Some Basic Considerations

           I for one, and I would hope most intelligent people considering a controversial issue, believe that the fact based argument is the most effective one to use in a general debate.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with the fact based argument:

 1)   Consider the source--Is the argument being presented by a trustworthy source?    Is your own personal bias concerning that source skewing what you believe about what you hear or read?

2)  Consider the source the presenter is using-- Are they using a credible source or is their source prejudiced toward some particular agenda?   Data from something like the census or an unbiased scholarly source can probably be trusted to a certain extent whereas the internet or mainstream media could be suspect.

3)  Facts can be misrepresented to work in the favor of the argument or against the other side.

4)  Statistics can be very useful, but they can also lie depending on how they have been collected or processed.   If alternate statistical data is available it might be wise to make some comparisons.

5)  Polls can provide some great information, but they can also be dramatically skewed.   Similar polls administered by Fox News, MSNBC, Gallup, or the Pew Research Center could show very different results.

6)  Stay informed!  Having a good knowledge of many issues attained from reading a variety of reputable resources can be a big help in separating truth and fiction.   It's a good thing to be educated.

7)  Ask questions--If the item that has been presented as truth seems dubious, ask the presenter questions to see how well they understand the claim they've made.   If possible ask someone else who might know--ask an expert if you can.

8)   Follow your gut--Fall back on your experience.  Resort to critical thinking.  If an important point has been offered as truth, put it to your own test to see if it makes sense.

            This is a start and following this procedure might help you from getting duped by a charlatan.  Granted most of us just accept much of what we hear.  Who wants to go to all this hassle of sorting out the facts?  Then again some things might be worth the trouble.  If it's a matter of your health, a major purchase, entering a new relationship, or electing a president, fact-checking might be a wise thing to take the time to do.  Start with the next few presidential debates.   The Biden--Ryan debate could be great fun.

           How readily do you accept things that people present to you as fact?   Do you consider yourself to be somewhat gullible?   What is the most important truth test that you use?



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  1. Never trust the polls. Whenever I see statistics from a poll, I wonder who on earth they polled to get those skewered results?

  2. I love the eight considerations Lee, they're going to allow me to be a lot more conscious whenever I read about local politics or Politics over in London, it's always a good idea to question things instead of simply being force fed for sure.

  3. The truth? Ha! Is there such a thing anymore? Everyone skews things for their advantage. If the truth makes you look good, you swear by it. If the truth makes you look bad, you deny or change it.

  4. I have to say it:
    Trusting your gut and critical thinking are in no way related. Often, your "gut" may tell you something that critical thinking will not back up at all. It's part of how we got into all the financial crisis (there's a good look at that in the book Bright-sided).

  5. Alex -- There are so many different ways that pollsters can devise to skew polls. I question the population samples they use as well.

    Yeamie -- Good to hear this. I'd like to think that more people would do this, but I don't think so and I'll be telling a reason why in my next post.

    Em -- Now it seems like nearly all truth is becoming subjective.

    Andrew-- I agree that "trusting your gut" only leads to some bad decision making. That's why I suggest to "follow your gut" reaction, using your suspicions as a starting point. When you get that funny sensation that you think you smell something fishy there is probably a good reason. Experience, critical thinking, research, and deeper investigation can help find the reason "your gut" is twitching. But you're right that a purely visceral reaction can often lead to making bad decisions.


  6. I rarely trust the media's interpretation of anything. I'm ignoring all campaign ads. Talk about bias and a waste of good money that could feed and clothe hungry children or fix up run down schools.

    I like the facts and then let me decide.

    I now step down from my high horse.


  7. Oh and P.S. my gut feelings are almost spot on. Evidence based. :)

  8. Teresa -- I read yesterday that Obama's reelection fund from donations was just short of one billion dollars. There is probably much more from all the other combined campaigns. As a guy on the radio yesterday said, it's great for the media outlets. It's a dubious investment to me as well.
    And some people have a real intuitive talent. I think often what we think we know should be an indicator of what is closest to truth and we should let ourselves be swayed too easily.


  9. I am very gullible, but at the same time skeptical/cynical. When I hear something that sounds good, I want to go with it, but then I stop and question. My problem is that I am too lazy to find out the truth. I want there to be one place where I can go for the truth and that just doesn't exist.

  10. There's a great Biblical adage that works for me when trying to determine the truth. "By their fruits shall you know them."

    I believe very little that the main-stream press presents nor do I watch any of the big news-networks.

    And don't even get me started with politics/politicians!

  11. No fear, Arlee. There'll be no controversy when I blog with you next week - LOL!

  12. ah, yes, the source is the key factor in believing or not believing the truth. Bad sources can give you lies as facts, sometimes even believing themselves it's the truth...
    I'd believe most of the things you say, Lee :)

  13. Thea -- I am very much like you describe. I am often very trusting, but then it turns to doubt. A lot of times I don't want to take the time to do the research and in some cases that has proved to be a mistake. I think our kind is unfortunately in the majority which is why we have the rulers and bosses that we have.

    Bish -- I tend to rely on the Bible verse as well. It's a good standard of measure for just about everything.

    Carol -- We'll probably be needing some non-controversy days and we'll have them.

    Dezmond -- I appreciate your trust in me. Sometimes I do present falsehoods, but I assure you it's my own lack of research and not anything done with malicious intent.


  14. I don't just accept anything presented to me as fact. I check it out, I do research, I want to know the background of the person, the past training or experience, etc. I listen to a presentation but then I search for documentation.

    I am not gullible.

    The most important truth test that I use is Scripture. I try to stat "sober" (no free of alcohol but aware), alert, and diligent in order not to be deceived by the dark philosophy of this world. We are warned to be on guard against vain, empty, deceitful philosophies of this present world.

  15. I use to be extremely gullible, but with current politics I'm not. I scrutinize everything.

  16. It's not that difficult to get the answers you want by twisting the questions. The old, "Do you still beat your wife?"

    Always study the questions as well as the answers.

  17. Great post Lee. What is truth? A lie can be construed as truth. It all depends on who spins the best comment, and who is gullible enought to believe that lie as the gospel truth. I don't really pay too much attention to polls, as I have never been contacted in this regard.

  18. I used to be terribly gullible and naive, and couldn't imagine why anyone would LIE to me. Unfortunately, I've learned how much things have changed, where too many people have trouble discerning the difference between truth and opinion. As for statistics. one of the recent Ig Nobel prizes went for a study showing that with sophisticated equipment and creative "massaging" of statistics, researchers could find "meaningful" brain activity just about anywhere... even in dead fish.

  19. LEE ~
    You've made me laugh. I like how you're "setting the stage" for your controversial posts to come. You lay out all the forms of argument and analytically explain the various approaches and possible methods of deception, and really lay the groundwork for a very organized--


    What I was typing there reminded me of a very funny George W. Bush quote. The lousy president we had just before this current lousy president actually said:

    "These terrorist acts and, you know, the responses have got to end in order for us to get the framework - the GROUNDWORK - not framework, the groundwork... to discuss a framework for peace, to lay the-- alright."

    Anyway... you systematically set the stage for the controversy to come, whereas I just start posting shit and dare people to debate it with me. Pretty funny how two friends can be so different, eh? Ha!-Ha!

    One last thought...
    Of course I am aware of the Biblical adage that "by their fruit you will know them", and far be it from me to argue with The Word Of God, but...

    I have not found that verse to always be the best advice when first attempting to determine whether or not someone or something is "reliable" or "true".

    The problem is that sometimes, for a very long time, one cannot actually see that a person or an idea leads to "bad fruit". It can occasionally take years and even decades before the "bad fruit" begins to appear on the "tree". But by then, it is too late to reverse course without first having to eat an orchard's worth of that bad fruit.

    Also, I could even point to a couple of examples of what I am convinced was demonic deception that first occurred decades ago but that STILL has not yet resulted in the "bad fruit".

    In other words, when we rely too heavily on the Biblical "bad fruit" test, we must, unfortunately, wait until the "harvest" to determine whether or not it was good seed.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  20. Gregg -- Your approach is the wise choice. Unfortunately I don't think it's the one most Americans choose.

    Ciara -- I'd like to think that voters go to the polls informed. But I'd also like to think that most politicians are honest and really care about the constituency.

    LD -- Twisting the questions to get a desired answer is often the strategy used by the pollsters who are looking for a desired effect. It's wrong, but I think it's a common practice.

    Dr. Johnny -- I think a great many people are comfortable believing lies so long as they are what they want to hear.

    Susan -- I can believe this study, but what is the source? I want more evidence before I commit to believing the study.


  21. StMc -- I do like the idea of clarifying the elements of controversy. I'm probably running many readers off in boredom or maybe even fear, but I'm just creating a somewhat organized system for anyone who is interested. And it's partly for my own entertainment and practice of expressing myself. I'm stalling for time perhaps while I get some ideas straight in my own head. Kind of like what I typically do on this blog.

    I'll agree about the fruits point that you make. Often the evidence does take a while to appear, but generally speaking a careful observer can spot suspicious signs along the way, though they are often missed or forgiven. The greatest con jobs occur when someone comes across as wonderful and saintlike as the inner mind plots devious things. And as you indicate, the fruit of many deception may not be known until a very long season of development has passed. In the end, though we eventually know the fruits if we are paying attention. Most people don't pay much attention to those things, but they might know something important like every quote and plot turn of "Star Trek".


  22. >>...but they might know something important like every quote and plot turn of "Star Trek".

    If only they would move out of their parents' basement and... GET A LIFE!

    No, I understand your thinking behind setting up the scene so methodically. Please don't believe that I was being critical or denigrating your recent posts. I WASN'T! I was simply amused by our different approaches, you and I. But I wasn't judging yours as being incorrect or wrong in any way - just different.

    The Bad Fruit: I think that in most cases, one doesn't really need to wait to see what sort of fruit appears on the tree to know whether or not it is good or bad. (If you wait, and if it's bad, now you have to eat it!)

    More times than not, if a person is willing to invest the time to actually examine the seed itself, carefully, he or she can gauge the likelihood of its producing good or bad fruit.

    For example: One didn't need to elect Bill Clinton to the presidency and wait to see whether or not he would turn out to be a good or bad president. The very moment when he admitted to having smoked marijuana but claimed that he "didn't inhale" was enough to tell anyone with two brain cells to rub together that this man was a freakin' liar, and if he would lie to you about something as inconsequential as smoking pot, he would damn sure lie to you about anything more important than that!

    One didn't need to elect Barack Obama in order to find out what sort of "FRUIT" he was. His association with Bill Ayers, his belief in the Saul Alinsky worldview, his reluctance to publicly release his birth certificate, his nearly nonexistent voting record in the Senate - all of these things (and more) were evidence that he was a bad seed who would eventually produce bad fruit. We didn't need to elect him to know that he would be what he is.

    [Of course, knowing me like you do, you also know that I could produce lots of evidence to show that John McCain was a bad seed too, so it's not like I'm pro-Republican. Hell, George W. Bush is an accessory to the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent Americans on 9/11/2001. So I'm hardly just picking on Democrats here.]

    It really all comes down to a person doing their "homework" beforehand. More times than not, I think that would prevent us from having to eat an entire harvest of bad fruit.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  23. Well, Mr. McCarthy, you've just generated more controversy in your comment that I would be going to come up with in several posts. Not that I was going to deal with any of these issues, but, man, you really ran the gamut there.

    This could get to be a lot of fun. Make sure you come back Friday for the beginning of my controversies in the form of one more piece of groundwork. I hope I articulate it well. It's a topic I've been thinking about writing for 2 months now, but I haven't started writing it yet. I hope I get some reaction to it as I think it covers one of the roots of almost all of the issues of our day. Well, not the ones like you've mentioned, but the laws and social issues that are in the news so much.


  24. BOIDMAN ~
    I will certainly be there (after work) and put in my .04 cents worth.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  25. i don't know if we ever really hear the real complete truth and i am not saying i want to---my truth source is the bible---i know i rarely give my complete truth to people, with the exception of my husband and daughter i try and even then, i am sure it is filtered with either something held back or something extra added in---i am so glad you are going in this direction---i missed YOU when you opened your blog up to guests---i am disappointed, i don't think i will have access to your blog tomorrow, but i plan to look you up first thing monday--happy honesty and writing lee :)

  26. I think the truth is, most people act on emotion and not fact or truth. I think TPTB understand that and use it.

  27. I am looking forward to your "controversial posts"!

  28. I used to be super gullible, but my hubby has taught me to think, and to especially think before I react ;)

  29. StMc -- I struggled with my post. Maybe you'll be able to help me clarify my position.

    Lynn -- The real honest to goodness truth is not always what is presented. Selective truth is often the much easier way out.

    Mary-- You have made a great introduction to my Friday post. I'll be talking about this very subject.

    Linda -- I hope you'll stick with me and add some of your own thoughts.

    Lynda-- I'm kind of the same way. I'll react to something in a way I shouldn't have because I didn't take the time to sort out the facts and carefully respond to them.


  30. I extensively fact check from numerous and opposing sources. It's always a good idea to take in a number of opinions and attempt to find a balance.


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