TRUTH

"Of course you can exaggerate, but what you say should be based on truth"    Will Rogers

"It only has to be true this week."    Otto Fuerbringer  (Editor, Time magazine)

“Science does not say ‘truth’ – says ‘we’re getting closer to the truth’”    Anonymous

The third angel of the ‘Daughters of Science’ is ‘Truth’.  In The Golden Seat, ‘Truth’ is also one of the three ‘legs’ of the seat: Beauty, Truth & Goodness (Plato’s natural theology).  One cannot truly understand one without the other.  We integrate truth in our worldview to complete the picture:  Beauty and Truth; Goodness and Truth.

Attempting to understand 'Truth' in itself, philosophy has yet to arrive at answers to questions like “What is truth?”, “How do we know?”  These questions are called perennial issues because they keep returning.  There is strong consensus amongst epistemological academics that the “postmodern ideas supporting relativism on these topics are proving insufficient to the needs of the human community…so the critical thinking and philosophical reflection on these matters will continue".

Defining what is ‘truth’ dates back to Plato.  Being the first philosopher to define knowledge, Plato created a 3-level (tripartite) definition of knowledge of which Truth was a requirement:

1. We must actually believe it (it must be consciously held).
2. It must be true.
3. There must be sufficient evidence for it (it must be justified).

In his ‘Allegory of the Cave’ Plato used the metaphor of the cave wall images to get us to see that true reality (truth) is unavailable to those who use only their senses. Nature is a treacherous landscape of skepticism, illusion and questionable sources of knowledge. For what is the opposite of truth, but error or deception.

There are two important types of Truths:

• Objective Truth (external)
Objective Truth deals with the exterior or objective dimension.  The observable, empirical and the exterior.  As integral philosopher Ken Wilber would say, they have ‘simple location’ (ie, something we can put our finger on).  For example if someone says, “It’s snowing outside”, we go out to look to confirm the validity of the ‘truth statement’.

• Subjective Truth (internal)
Subjective Truth deals with the interior or Subjective dimension.  So the question is not “Is it snowing outside?”, but “When you tell me it is snowing are you telling me the truth or are you lying?”  It is an issue of trust, honesty or sincerity.  Dialogue, questioning and interpretation is the only way to approach one’s interior – by talking.  Subjective Truth doesn’t have a simple location - not on the physicist’s map, the biologist’s map nor the neurologist’s map.  Litmus paper or particle accelerators don’t apply  (Subjective Truth created the lie detector to deal with the thorny issue of 'Truthfulness', however its effectiveness relies on a human to do the questioning).

To complicate the matter, people might lie to themselves unconsciously to conceal an aspect about themselves for various reasons (environmental trauma, parental upbringing, defense mechanism against other painful truths).  Or they could misinterpret their own interior and appear to be lying.  This is goal of ‘depth psychology’ – to help people interpret themselves more truthfully (eg, psychoanalysis, Gestalt, Jungian).  Other therapies have their own unique approach to interpretation:  Freudians emphasize the emotional-sexual level; cognitive therapist emphasize the verbal; transpersonal therapists emphasize the spiritual.  Truthfulness, not Truth, sets us free.

If we were to take a modern philosophy course we would learn there are three dominate theories on truth: correspondence, coherence and pragmatic.  External Pragmatism is the dominate theory of truth for most people in the developed industrial world.  The pragmatic approach is probably the best of all the truth positions to adopt and that Truth (knowledge) claims, scientific, or otherwise, are understood to be open to doubt.  As the saying goes, “I’ll take that on advisement”.

Internal and External Truths
Interpretation and judgment of truth depends on one’s interior or exterior perspective.   An example would be in sincerely believing a ship is seaworthy.  Sincerity is an interior judgment – you consciously hold a belief.  It could be based on experience and intuition, but the judgment is an interior truth.
If the ship is sent to a testing company for empirical, scientific testing, then the claim to be ‘seaworthy’ is an external truth.  Are we 100% sure the ship will not sink?  No.  What we have is faith, grounded in scientific testing, that the ship is seaworthy.  The judgment is an external truth. This is what separates belief from faith – the internal from the external (belief and faith are types of knowledge).  A failed scientific theory is similar to a sinking ship – the seaworthy test (the ‘truth test’) needs to be improved for the conditions the ship needs to endure at sea.

Defining Truth, belief and even faith can be tricky - there is no single agreed upon definitions, although there are many ideas and theories to explain them.  At ‘Yahoo Answers’, the #1 voted reply to the difference between Truth and Belief is:  “Truth relates to a mental (or empirical) activity.  Belief is more an emotional activity”.

Mercury astronaut John Glenn fondly nicknamed Launch Pad Leader Guenter Wendt "der Führer of der Launch Pad" (from his German-accented English) for his efficient, disciplined, yet good-humored pad crew leadership. His strict approach to configuration control of the equipment and commitment to safety was welcomed by the astronauts, and earned him their respect.  Before Glenn's historic 1962 Mercury flight around the Earth (‘Friendship 7’), Wendt tried to reassure Glenn's wife:

"Annie, we cannot guarantee you safe return of John. This would be lying. Nobody can guarantee you this – there is too much machinery involved. The one thing I can guarantee you is that when the spacecraft leaves it is in the best possible condition for a launch. If anything should happen to the spacecraft, I would like to be able to come and tell you about the accident and look you straight in the eye and say, 'We did the best we could.' My conscience then is clear and there is where my guideline is."


Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is the tendency to favor information that confirms to one’s preconceptions (internal truth) regardless of whether the information is truth (external truth).  Truth becomes interpreted in a biased way, typically on based on emotions or established beliefs.  Examples of emotionally charged topics:
• Education: standardized tests, teacher tenure.
• Health & Medicine: abortion, euthanasia, health care reform, medical marijuana.
• Law: ACLU, capital punishment.
• Politics: gun control, affirmative action, illegal immigration, drug testing of welfare recipients, public sector collective bargaining, US involvement in the Middle East
 (see Carter Doctrine), States vs. Federal rights, curbing the federal deficit.
• Religion: “Under God” in the US Pledge of Allegiance, Free Choice vs. Right to Life
• Science & Technology: alternative energy vs. fossil fuels, climate change’s priority, nuclear power; genetic engineering; genetic-modified foods, fetal-tissue research.
• Sex & Gender: gay marriage, prostitution.
• Sports: enhance performance drugs.

Finding ‘truth’ in these topics sometimes requires, literally, a Supreme Court decision.  And even then the ‘truth’ is not always sacrosanct. 

The best antidote against confirmation bias, in determining the best truth for the ‘good of all’, is to promote critical thinking, education and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, balanced ‘pro-con’ format.  It is also helpful in not taking a ‘doomed planet’ attitude. Yes, there are problems, but we must be watchful of grossly exaggerated claims of the ‘passionate’.

We should be mindful a government that restricts its citizenry on seeking the truth, that limits critical thinking.  On the other side we should be mindful of a citizenry who is bias with a ‘Feel Good’ mind-set, where doing something fashionable wins over doing something rational.  A healthier ‘truth’ is to promote ‘Doing Good’ rather than ‘Feeling Good’ (a ‘pragmatic’ approach).  The Golden Seat takes the stand that emotion is important, it is the driver, the activator, but the intellect must reign over emotions.

A telling example of Confirmation Bias is Julian L. Simon’s book 'The State of Humanity' in which he discloses the truth that the trends are actually positive. That, “the world is not coming to an end; all you've got to do is keep you mind on the facts”.

Universal Truths

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