"Of course you can
exaggerate, but what you say should be based on truth"
"It only has to be true this
week." Otto Fuerbringer (Editor, Time
“Science does not say ‘truth’ – says ‘we’re
getting closer to the truth’”
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
(tripartite) definition of knowledge of which Truth was a
1. We must actually believe it (it must be
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
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 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
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
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
"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 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
• 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
• Religion: “Under God” in the US Pledge of Allegiance, Free Choice vs. Right to
• 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
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
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