Three Kinds of Truth

According the Neil Degrasse Tyrson & Why You Need to Think About Them

You can feel however you wan to feel about Neil and and Pluto (I personally love him) but when it comes to truth he is on point. Resently I listened to a podcast that he was on where he talked about the meaning of the word truth. I am a big word person as well and one of my favorite classes that I ever took was in Linguistic Anthropology: the study or words, how they evolve and how they change and reflect culture and the way that we preserve the world. Going into the class and everything that it has to say would take…well an entire degree but the basic premise is that language changes.

With the upcoming election and all of the information that is about to be thrown around, all of the fights over dinner and maybe even around the water cooler at work, we are about to see even more of a clash then we have felt over the last four years, which is saying something considering how tense it has already been. Taking that into account, I wanted to think deeply for a moment over the way that truth is recognized in our world now and how the word has evolved in our ever changing landscape. I will only agree with the president on one thing and that is that there is fake news out there. Let me be clear that I do not agree with him on what fake news is. Watching media outlets and other news sources, the “Facts” have become staggeringly different. Truths seem to be taken in very different directions and people are viewing truth in a very different way.

Now you can argue that truth is proven fact (Objective truth) but then it is a fact and not a truth. Because the meaning of the word truth has changed from proven (through scientific method) fact to fundamental belief (Personal truth).

  • Objective truth: Something that is true regardless of if you believe it or not. Can be proven via the scientific method. This means that there are experiments happening from different people in different places with verified results proven multiple times. An experiment needs to be repeated and have the same results for it to be an objective truth. Think gravity.
  • Personal truth: Truths that you hold dearly. You can not convince someone of your personal truth without “Talking them into it” or through violence and oppression . It is a belief but you think of it as a truth because it is true to you on a deep level. It is a fundamental part of you but you can not require that someone else share it. The obvious example here is religion but I would also argue that it is political party, the belief that a fetus is alive, the world is flat, or that homosexuality can be “Fixed”. Or the opposite for that matter.
  • Political truth: It is true because it has been repeated so many times that you believe it. Now this one I find interesting. Its basically “faking it until you make it”. Aka if I say that we did a great job fighting Covid-19 enough, that our standard of living is the best in the world, or that the liberals are out to destroy traditional marriage enough times, you will start to believe it regardless of if it is not your personal truth or an objective truth.

So why are knowing these, being able to recognize them and admit which truth they are important? In a world that is charged with emotion personal truth has become more important to people then ever and when we have these personal truths, these deep seeded beliefs, these fundamental parts of ourselves, its easy to confuse someone else’s truths with an attack on us personally. This is something that I truly needs to be stopped. We need to empathize with other people without having to change our own truths. There has been a steep decline in empathy over the last few decades (See this study on the decline of empathy and the rise or narcism). While this is not new (Look at the crusades and colonialism for goodness sake) we do have more power now to inflict harm on one another. There are people as well who want us as people to demonize each other and have the ability to do this and reach a much greater audience with their hate speech than ever before.

Political truths are another truth that need to be recognized. When something is heard over and over again you have to ask yourself why you believe it. Where is the data? What are the numbers? If there are non or there are numbers that have not been repeated by other sources that are not in the same landscape as the one giving them than it is not an objective truth. Did you know this truth before? How long ago? Then it is not a personal truth. When it is neither of these chances are it is a political truth.

Another seed I would like to plant when it comes to truth is just how f-ing useless the internet is when it comes to facts. Confirmation bias is disturbingly prevalent in the way that information is decimated through search engines and social media. Do not look for your facts on the internet or through search engines. Yes I know I am posting this on a blog so don’t take it at face value. Type into your browser “Flat earthers”. Well…according to the internet I guess the earth is flat now. You can type in anything and basically find “Confirmation” of it. This does not make it true. Most of us know this by now but it does bare repeating because with algorithms the way they are, we don’t even need to type anything in to have confirmation bias kick in. We will automatically be linked to like minded people and organizations the same way that ads for face cream and clothing do. With this happening it is very easy to believe that we live in a world where everyone agrees with us and we never see any other personal truths pop up. Knowing this and recognizing it is a major component in being able to understand how other personal truths and your own evolve into ‘facts’ that people believe are objective truths.

I firmly believe (Yes see what I did there?) that one thing all of us can do to stop division in our world is to understand what is our personal truth verses the objective truth and to know when we are being told a political truth. These two things can co-exist and always have because we do not know everything. You can be religious and still believe in evolution. You can love your great grandfather and not agree when he drops what we now know is a slur.

All of these starts with just separating our emotion from our truths through self awareness of just what those truths are.

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