Living in a Post-Truth America

I have no idea who coined the phrase, “Post-Truth World.” An email invitation tosubscribe to Scientific American had this as a headline: “Reject a Post-Truth World,” and that is when I saw it for the first time.

This is the way Scientific American described this new world:

Advances in science elevate all humanity, but science and journalism are under siege. 

Special interests distort facts and evidence to serve narrow economic and political goals. 

Pseudoscience and falsehoods are widely disseminated through a pernicious amalgam of

Tweets, fake news, and bluster.

 

The last round of elections at every level gave ample evidence that we have arrived

full grown to a post-truth nation.  Perhaps we need to think about truth.  Pilate asked the Christ, “What is truth?” and that has perhaps been a basic question of humankind.

 

One distortion of truth in the election campaign was to make a personal attack of the opponent rather than attack the position he or she held.  An opponent was given a label that was negative or unsavory in the minds of the electorate, such as “liberal,” “oil baron,” ”shady bank executive,” etc.  This could lead people to vote for or against another candidate based upon personality or a label rather than the candidates principles and political position.

 

Another political distortion is the half truth.  I can define it by an example.  Several years ago the leader of a Protestant denominational agency was accused of being in favor of abortion.  This would be amoral and ethical position at odds with his denomination.  To prove the charge, his opponents quoted his words, “Free choice is a wonderful thing.”  That could mean only one thing: he favored abortion.

 

I researched the literature, and sure enough, the man had said, “Free choice is a wonderful thing.” But the article he had written had nothing to do with abortion. The word abortion did not appear even once.  He was writing about religious experience and the fact that God gives us free choice to acknowledge Him or not.  To the writer, the ability of humans to have God-given moral freedom of choice was a wonderful thing.

 

A popular notion today is that all ideas are equally valid.  In a free society you can believe what you want to believe and that belief is so personal that we do not question it.  In fact, I have had students who had no idea of how to question or evaluate an idea.

 

We live in a world of ideas, but there are some ideas that are better than other ideas.  We  need to know how to evaluate ideas and to recognize which ideas are the better ones.

 

 

I started out writing about truth.  In my next blog I will pursue “truth” in relation to the notion that all ideas are equal.

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