Crisis of truth - is suspicion the answer?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by lightgigantic, Jul 8, 2007.

  1. lightgigantic Banned Banned


    For most of the history of the West, telling the truth has been seen as valuable in itself, as belong to our human dignity, and required by honour. Aristotle wrote that ‘falsehood is itself mean and culpable, and truth noble and full of praise.’ This tradition is still alive in Kant, who wrote, ‘By a lie a person throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a person.1 ’


    Onora O’Neill, in the Reith lectures of 2002, talked of a crisis of suspicion. People do not trust that they are being told the truth by politicians, doctors, business executives, the clergy and most especially by the media. Geoff Mulgan, who has just finished as director of strategy and policy at No.10, recently attacked the media for having no concern for truth. And of course the media make similar accusations against politicians and everyone else. We are drowning in information, but we do not know whom or what to believe. This is not to say that people are necessarily less truthful than before. I have no evidence for that, though I suspect that it is the case. Certainly people care about truth. The tremendous interest in the Hutton inquiry showed that we do. But we are afflicted with a profound uncertainty as to what is the truth and how we may obtain it.

    It is often assumed that the answer is as much transparency as possible. If only everything were revealed, then we would know if our suspicions were grounded or not. And so every memo, every email, telephone call and conversation in the corridors of power must be recorded for inspection. And increasingly the government checks up on us all. But O’Neill argues that this can never kill suspicion. She said that ‘demands for universal transparency are likely to encourage the evasions, hypocrisies and half-truths that we usually refer to as “political correctness”. But which might more forthrightly be called either “self-censorship” or “deception” 3 Suspicion can never be allayed. There might always be some missing bit of evidence, if only one searches hard enough, like for the elusive WMD in Iraq. The fact that we cannot find the evidence only proves that our enemies are fiendishly cunning and so untrustworthy.

    A culture of complete transparency also might actively discourage one from being truthful. One would never know when one’s words might be used as evidence against one. And how can we ever think about anything if we cannot try out crazy ideas, float hypotheses, and make mistakes? Meister Eckhart, a fourteenth century Dominican, wrote that no one may attain the truth without a hundred errors on the way. We need the freedom for words for which we are not going to be held eternally responsible. Seeking the truth requires times of protected irresponsibility. So the ideal of complete transparency is neither possible nor desirable.

    what do you think?
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  3. Evil grows in dark and secret places. If you have complete transparency then you will prevent most mischief. It will slow progress and innovation but at the current speed of life is that really a bad thing?
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Welcome to the Paradigm Shift. The comfortable old order of the Industrial Era is crumbling. Its more-or-less efficient and reliable institutions are sputtering to a halt. Corporations, government, education, religion, the press, even the family. New institutions are slowly arising to replace them in the Post-Industrial Era--the "Information Age." In some cases they're just new versions of the old institutions. In other cases they're entirely new, like the internet taking over many of the functions of socializing, shopping, and education, and making transportation less of a dominant influence in our lives.

    For many of us this is a godsend. Imagine not having to cram ourselves into overgrown cities where our children can't have a dog or clinging to their suburbs where we spend a third of our day commuting.

    But for many others--many of the people in power--this is a frightening threat. What will happen to the energy industry when people start routinely working at home? This is the Bush Dynasty and its bosom buddies in Saudi Arabia I'm talking about, some of the most powerful people on earth.

    Threatened people lie. As a management consultant I run into people constantly who assure me that America will never embrace telecommuting. "People enjoy the socializing of the workplace." "Driving their cars is the only solitude people get." "People are happy to delegate the raising of their children to nannies." "Women would rather eat junk food than cook, and men would rather eat junk food than learn to cook." What they really mean is, "I'm too stupid to figure out how to manage people that I can't physically watch, and I'm even too stupid to realize that they're smart enough to have figured out how to merely look like they're working."

    And so far I've only hit on one facet of the post-Industrial Revolution, the ability to work at home. Look at what websites like SciForums are doing to education. Look at what others have done to the news. Everything is being democratized, requiring us to find new ways of gauging truthfulness and trustworthiness.

    Politicians, the press, the entertainment industry, lots of powerful people are uneasy with the shift to a new kind of society. And they have good reason. Every Paradigm Shift changes the power structure. The last one was the series of cataclysms starting with the Reformation and the Enlightenment and progressing into the Industrial Revolution. The Church lost its stranglehold on European life. The aristocracy disappeared. Royal families were assassinated. Banks, newspapers, corporations, labor unions and a hundred new institutions of power sprang up.

    The Crisis of Truth you speak of is just one facet of the the wrenching social change you're living through. Some Chinese person must have cursed you: "May you live during interesting times."

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  7. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

    The problem, however, is that "information" should be factual and true. With the Internet, that's not only NOT the case, but it's usually loaded down with MIS-information. They should rename it "The MIS-Information Age".

    All-in-all, though, I think the post points out clearly what people have known for thousands of years ....humans lie! And the problem obviously gets worse and worse as more and more humans occupy the Earth.

    In the old days, one lie affected only a few people ...and they usually caught it early. Now, with the speed of the Internet, a lie is told and millions of people are affected even if they don't know it. And worse, it gets recorded for all of posterity ...lies or misinformation becomes recorded right along with factual info and truth ...and seems to become just as important.

    But I think it's just the natural hypocrisy of man ....we want everyone to tell us the truth, but we reserve the right to lie for ourselves!

    Baron Max
  8. Satyr Banned Banned

    I only trust the word of God, as it has been told to me and explained to me and written to me by the ‘correct’ authorities and the ‘right’ teachers.

    Thusly the “correct” epistemology is required to prove the “right” ontology.

    For instance, studying the “correct” texts will lead you to just about any “truth”.
    Not trusting in this or that politician just means that you haven’t accepted into your heart the “correct” teachings from the “right” sources that would make them trustworthy.

    It’s all a matter of “correctness” and “rightness”.
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The nomer "Information Age" doesn't imply that suddenly all of the information around us is true. It just means that our economy and with it our culture is now driven by the management of information rather than industrial processes. I've been in I.T. for forty years so I understand the problems concerning errors, whether in the raw "data" that is entered into a computer, the "information" that is derived from it and stored, or the "knowledge" that our brains process it into. We're only a generation or two into an Era that will probably last for centuries, and one of our most important tasks is to solve the problem of errors in data, information, or knowledge.

    A big factor in this is just a phenomenon of the newness of the technology. People used to have a tendency to believe everything they read, but they got over that. Today people have a tendency to believe everything they see on their computer screen. They will get over that too.

    The democratization of information can't help but improve its quality. Take Wikipedia as an example. I've seen studies reporting that an error in an article is typically corrected within an hour. Even deliberate attempts at subversion, like candidates changing each other's biographies, attract an army of outraged netizens who set up a watch and correct them even faster.
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member


    There was once a time when most people worked at home. There was once a time when people got most of their info from informal discussions among a few in their crowd.

    That was not a time of greater truth, in general.

    The greater the transparency that can be forced on the ordinary folks, the greater the power of secrecy among the elite, if they can keep it. The motives for secrecy become even more powerful, and the means are at hand.

    We have an age in which we cannot keep our Social Security numbers secret, and cannot find out the names of the major advisors to our governing officials, or the identities of the authors of our laws and policy documents.

    If people are drowning in a flood of information, it is not because they are confronted with too much of a good thing (the factual content of TV news, a thin and very slow medium anyway, is decreasing. The factual content of childhood education is less than it was in the 1950s. People spend less time, on average, attending to political info than they used to, and that info is coming in thinner and lighter streams), but because the editorial systems have been all but wrecked.

    Where people once were confronted with a few needles and some decorative hay, they now are confronted with little haypiles and - if they wish to find the needles - have to find and handle the whole haystack. Most have adopted the strategy (to mix metaphors) of looking under their favorite lamppost, where the light is better.

    It is possible that the wreckage and collapse of the editorial systems will usher in a new age of some other information exchange. It is also possible that general information exchange will simply stop happening, and the apparently deliberate divide and conquer tactics will succeed in recreating a Western Civilization where might miakes right in a very crude and simple way.
  11. psikeyhackr Valued Senior Member

    We live in an age of GigaBullSh!t

    The problem more often is not are we told the truth but are we told the important information needed to understand the truth. Knowing lots of unimportant facts that are all correct and not even knowing what the important stuff is can still leave us in total confusion.

    When I was at IBM they introduced the Datamaster 23 to replace the 5100. I was curious about how much faster the new machine was than the old one so I wrote 2 benchmarks and keyed them in to both computers. The old machine was almost twice as fast.

    I never saw the word BENCHMARK on any IBM documentation while I was there. No one ever said it but me.

    Almost all computers are von Neumann Machines. I never saw or heard that and didn't learn it until after I quit.

    The real problem is, "What is the important information that you never hear?"

    The liars depend on the liees being ignorant.

  12. Klippymitch Thinker Registered Senior Member

    Actually the internet helps seperate the false information given to us by the government and allows us to find what is really true. That is why there is so much controversy. We are finding out that some of the stuff our government is telling us is actually not facts.

    Just watch the commercials played on tv by the government on Marijuana if you dont see where Im coming from. Even an 8 year old will tell you how dumb they are.

    That's pretty bad.
  13. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

    So, do you know which is true? You seem to assume that everything on the Internet is factual, and everything from the government is false. Why? What's your evidence?

    Baron Max
  14. dixonmassey Valued Senior Member

    There is no such a thing as post industrial era (yet). Yes, USA looks "post industrial" (some places look post war), however, industry just shifted elsewhere. We can only guess how long the global sceme "paper in exchange for goods can work". Post Industrial Era "Information age" are just verbal pacifiers to keep crowds hopeful and deluded.
  15. dixonmassey Valued Senior Member

    You seems have evidences to the contrary

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    Governments lie period, it's in their blood. However, lying technology is not remaining on the stone age level, it's not lying like omissions/"black outs"/ostracism of undesirables to the fringes of media (how many times have you heard about Chomsky or Parenti or Zinn (or Chomsky himself) on CNN or FOX? My guess - 10000 times less than about Paris Hilton).
  16. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

    I don't think he assumes everything on the internet is true, that would be stupid. But the internet provides a LOT more information than we've traditionally been able to get, sometimes that information is true, sometimes it's false, sometimes it conflicts with official accounts, sometimes it supports them. Point is it makes you question everything more.

    Take a recent example. A new video sharing site called recently sprang up, looked completely innocent. You could illegally download movies like "300" after installing some software from the site which was proported to "speed up downloads". Some random blogger did a little more investigating and found out the site was actually run by a company called MediaDefender, a company employed by the MPAA (and others) to combat illegal filesharing. He also discovered that this software scanned your computer for illegal media and sent the results back to MediaDefender, probably to target people for pirating lawsuits.

    This information spread across the internet like a wildfire literally overnight and the next day the site was taken offline, the Whois registration information was deleted and MediaDefender released a public statement about it. They lied through their teeth of course, claiming it was an "internal site they forgot to password protect", nobody believed them. The jig was up, they were caught red handed, and you can bet you will never see this story in the mainstream news.

    It's more important than ever to be able to filter information into what's true and what isn't, and as this ability becomes more widespread people will start questioning everything they're being shown and told. That's my hope anyway.
  17. Klippymitch Thinker Registered Senior Member

    This is exactly what I meant.

    Thank you.
  18. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

    Filter? By what means? If you can't trust anything or anyone, then how can you ever "filter" anything into true and false? And that's the problem ...and with too much information, too readily available, the "filtering" because overwhelming, if not impossible. Who has that kind of time?

    And worse, what if your "filter" is different to Joe's "filter", and Joe says that what you say is true isn't.

    And even worse than that, ...if some site puts up nothing but truthful info, but only part of it, thus producing bias versions of the "truth". In which case, your "filter" doesn't work at all.

    Baron Max
  19. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    Well, to get back to the OP, is the pursuit of "full disclosure" the means to re-establishing the foundation of truthfulness in society?
  20. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

    It doesn't need to be perfect, you seperate the blatently false and biased information from the stuff that appears legit and form an opinion from there. Other people form their own opinions, people start talking about them and gradually you get a real picture of what's going on. That's what boards like this one are all about.
    How is that any different from how it's always been? People have always argued about what's true and what isn't, since the beginning of recorded history. Not everyone agrees with everyone and that's a good thing, it encourages discussions and allows us to see things from other points of view.
    Common sense is part of that filtering. If you're reading information about oil prices from a huge oil company's website you can bet it's biased. Sometimes it's incredibly easy to spot, sometimes it's very hard.

    And I think you're missing the point. Information has ALWAYS been biased, full of half truths or outright false. Always. Taking that into account, the more sources of information you expose yourself to the easier it becomes to spot the inconsistencies, lies and bias. At the very least it gets people thinking and questioning instead of simply accepting something as true just because FOX news says it is.
  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Only if the person to disclose themselves fully would lead a perfect, impeccable life, every second of it.

    They say an honest life is the best defense. It is impossible to object to this. It is also quite impossible to live it.

    Everyone has lesser or greater skeletons in their closests. And when a person is already under suspicion, no matter how righteously they live today, the slightest mistake from 20 years ago can ruin their life.

    I think truthfulness might be established if people lived simpler, more frugal life styles (in terms of use of resources) - and thus they would do mostly only those things they really believe in.
    There seems to be a correlation between a decadent/degraded lifestyle and complications which lead to the (perceived) need for lying.

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