Tag Archives: finding truth

228. Finding Truth in 2021

25 Apr

Now, more than ever, the determination of truth, is of primary importance. The Democrats and Republicans have remarkably different interpretations, and who is perceived as right, will have a major impact on all future US elections. I have written many times on the topic of truth, and it is of persisting importance.

First, absolute truth in many areas is not currently attainable. At best, we can say that certain ideas are more likely true than others. When a fact is most likely true, it is often reasonable to act on it. Even if it is ultimately proven wrong, we can look back and say we did our best at that time. And there is an old saying: don’t ignore the good, for a desire to be perfect (my version).

A general procedure for all types of truth, is to start by looking at major traditional sources of information, such as widely read newspapers. And to be extra cautious, examine them for inconsistencies and obvious confusion of facts. Unreliable sources tend to frequently vary in the “facts” they present. They often make promises that are unlikely to be kept. They often present ideas for which there is no clear source — generalizations without any data.

In science, ultimately “consensus” (general agreement) brings us closer to truth than other methods. Consensus means that most reputable experts in an area agree with each other. Articles in established, peer-reviewed journals are more likely true than other sources. “Peer-reviewed” means that other competent scientists in the same field have evaluated the report. In many areas of science we see a variety of opinion, gradually changing and the formation of a significant “consensus.”

A good example of consensus is the area of climate-change. For many years, I have followed this important topic. The history goes way back into the 19th century. For example, Joseph Fourier, in 1824 proposed the basic premises of atmospheric transmission. Light from the sun passes easily through the atmosphere, it warms the ground, and heat waves are generated. But the heat is limited in transmission, so our air serves as a kind of blanket, holding in the heat. There was little consensus for the early thought, but decade after decade, more evidence was gathered and the number of supporting scientists gradually increased. For at least the last 15 years, there has been a strong consensus for all aspects of climate-change and dangerous global warming. Government reports, scientific journals, established newspapers, and many foreign leaders, all support this idea.

The concept of scientific consensus, is applicable to many aspects of our lives, including covid-19 procedures, clean energy, food resources, and many types of pollution and contamination.

I suggest that people, in general, must focus on the following considerations. The nature of the world is best understood by science. Many political and religious leaders mean well and have valid ideas, but do not have a devotion to hard evidence and clearly supported facts. Many leaders will tell comforting stories, but relying on stories can interfere with the more productive, rational solving of problems. For those needing comfort, more effective is: talking to a good listener and exploring relaxation methods.

Science does not generally deal with all aspects of life, but the methods of science do have broad application. I emphasize science, but also think that kindness to others is of great value. I want to live in a world where understanding and empathy are valued over greed and domination. And this applies to all humans.

107. How Voters Find Truth

20 Aug

While politicians are the immediate cause of our country’s problems, the primary, ultimate cause is bad decisions by voters.

One problem may be that our government and social system have evolved faster than the general skill of voters. Highly educated people probably do a good job, but the most poorly educated can make disastrous mistakes. It’s similar to the ordinary person trying to understand current technology.

I suspect that many voters have a difficult time deciding who is telling the truth. In the past, great newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post, for example, were highly trusted. And also certain news people, like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and several others were considered authorities.

Compare Trump with these traditional sources. Trump never apologizes or corrects errors. The best he can say is that he was joking or being sarcastic. Major newspapers, on the other hand will print corrections if necessary, and the record shows that they do. They never state after a few days, that they were joking or being sarcastic. It is incredible that I have to say, that the words of a US President must be serious and correct. And yet, some voters just don’t care.

Here is a list of ways to determine whether a leader is truthful:
1. Is there a reasonable amount of consistency in similar statements made at different times? (See Trump’s reasons for firing FBI James Comey.)
2. Is there consistency between himself and his staff? (Trump’s attack on NATO was not supported by his staff.)
3. Does he correct errors. Everyone occasionally makes a mistake. (No corrections.)
4. Are his promises realistic (“Mexico will pay for the wall”, really?)
5. If a leader says the press is always “fake,” and he is the only source of truth, isn’t that a little suspicious. After all, the press includes a wide variety of orientations from way left to far right (even alt-right).
6. It is easy to check (with a little bit of searching) how he quotes other people.
7. Does he accurately portray established historical facts? (See what Trump says about the childhood of ex-president Obama.)
8. Does the leader appear to have a good understanding of complex issues.
9. Does the leader tend to avoid directly answering questions by the press.

I know that the voters that really need to read this, probably will not, but this may be helpful for anyone who is trying to promote citizen education.


18 Apr

In my last blog, I promised to discuss solutions to the problem of “Self-Defeating Votes.” Everyone knows that this is a very difficult task, but I wanted to write down some thoughts, at least to see for myself, what I can come up with. And even if I do not change the world, maybe I can stimulate others to generate better ideas.

What I can say is that if we do get solutions, they will likely come slowly,and with considerable effort. What I am going to present is basic and would be applicable to any party affiliation. However, I will state that what I present does reflect a political preference for Democrats, as I believe that they are much more likely to improve the country for all, and particularly for the life of non-rich people.

A general method for voter improvement is simply to repeatedly emphasize in all types of communication, the basic problems and the development of rigid beliefs. I am going to address each topic previously presented in my Post 6.

Politician and media lies, distortions and omissions

The first rule is that more liberal and intelligent politicians must be scrupulously honest, to keep their credibility. Then they must carefully lay out their arguements and proofs. Mostly what we hear from politicians is inspiring talk and little about actual plans and details. Probably because that is what gets a lot of votes. Maybe what we need is both. Let the politicians inspire us, but they should also set up web sites, pamphlets, and TV presentations that are very clear, logical, and well-organized. That way, they can cover both avenues, the more intellectual and the more emotional.

Many of us, including myself, learn more from visual presentations. Visual outlines of important points stick with me and I can learn more. So I think we need to add visual, logical methods to the usual inspiring speech approach.

Failure to investigate and find truth

I am going to present a strategy using the example: The Republican Paul Ryan Budget Plan. Democrats want to discredit this plan but what often happens is that each side makes statements about it and each side claims the other is lying. Democrats need to provide an easy method of downloading this budget, and then refer to this document in their criticizms, and add excerpts so that people can verify what is included. That way people can see that they are telling the truth. Of course, this will only work for a fraction of the population, since the rest would not make the effort or would not understand the wording. Still, it would be a help, and more authoritative people could work with others.

In the course of writing this blog, I searched for an hour and could not find a copy of the complete Ryan budget. At one time, I also searched for the complete Herman Cain 9-9-9 plan. My search ended up with some computer programs, which were supposed to contain the budget. These programs were impossible to understand. One thing I do understand is that these documents tend to be hidden because a real examination would be a disaster. The current system is designed for corruption.

One solution would be to divide a large topic like healthcare into several smaller parts, each part would be passed separately and in a certain sequence. This would make discussion easier, but would only be possible in situations where each part could stand alone. Another would be to develop summaries of legislative alternatives. Democrats could develop a five page summary of the Ryan budget, and challenge Ryan to make a similar summary. If there are two summaries, then it will be easier to compare the two and discrepancies could better be resolved. If Ryan refused, then he could be criticized for that.

It seems that we only develop debates between cadidates. Maybe we need to also organize formal public debates around important pieces of legislation. Prior to the debate, each side would record its written summary of the bill on the internet. Maybe there should be a law that requires an internet bill summary to accompany any proposed bill. Perhaps, for every 20 pages of bill there should be a one page summary (or similar rule).

Pride and social pressure

These are powerful forces that profoundly influence behavior. People proudly declare that they are Conservative or that they support minorities or poor people. And they declare their affiliations to similarly minded folk and get a strong rewards for this. These identifications tend to remain powerful even if their party or group has changed its nature or goals. In my view, the Republican party has changed so much from 40 years ago, that many would leave it, except for these powerfull identification and social forces.

Most of the things that Democrats do, would be helpful in affecting moderately leaning conservatives, but maybe we need more emphasis on party changes. Many ordinary Republican voters are happy with a centrist position and just need more clarifying speeches on the powerful negative influence of Tea Party people.

Final Thought

In general, I would like to see more real arguments that get to the heart of issues. Changing minds is always difficult, but I am sure it is true that as more and more people stand up and declare what is right, we will move towards better government.