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Living With Truth Decay

Living With Truth Decay

“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it”

— Barbara Tuchman, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (1984. p. 245).

In the 20th-century but still fun party game called Telephone, people sit in a circle and someone whispers a phrase or sentence to the person to the left, who whispers it to their left, around the clock, until it reaches the original speaker, who annunciates what s/he sent and received. The final utterance may make sense, but it is almost never the one sent and is often complete nonsense. This is one form of truth decay.

Truth is a relatively scarce commodity. Science progresses by disproving theories, not proving them (that only happens in mathematics). In the real world, everything you know to be true just hasn’t been disproved yet, so it’s a good idea to stay tuned.

Not only is the amount of truth finite, it doesn’t grow very fast. Facts and opinions, on the other hand do, thanks to an intensive bombardment of truth-deficient information. Factoids, received wisdom and regurgitated opinions about everything imaginable rain upon us like nuclear fallout. Attempts to verify facts that swim in oceans of discourse finds them as slippery as eels. Truths decay like echoes do, sloping toward unintelligibility inside our echo chambers.

Fishing for evidence floating in the Net is far from compiling facts in a controlled empirical study and—contrary to the scientific method—is likely done to support a hypothesis, not to disprove one. In any event, facts are not truths. Truth rests on facts, vetted as dispassionately as possible. For instance, it’s a fact that mean global CO2 in the atmosphere officially was 404.55 PPM at the end of 2016 and 406.75 one year later, or one-half a percent more. Here are other fun facts about that:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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