More and more often, I’m hearing people refer to the current global environment as a “post-truth world.” It seems that the wholesale abandonment of truth is stronger now than at any other point in my lifetime and perhaps than what has occurred in several generations. If nothing else, global communications have enabled the propagation of lies at an unprecedented scale.
Deep fakes are pervasive. Truth is obscured by layers of deception. Information warfare is being employed around the clock—even by those who are ostensibly on your side. People from all quarters are mastering the technique of “admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations.” At a minimum, their goal is to sow enough confusion that the masses doubt that truth can ever actually be determined. Any dissent is conveniently labeled misinformation, and dissenters are either shouted down, shadow-banned, de-platformed, or otherwise maligned.
Our society has largely fallen for the dangerous pseudo-philosophy that truth is subjective, which ultimately means that there is no truth. This self-defeating premise is particularly insidious, as people give up on truth and instead, begin surrounding themselves with like-minded people who share their ideology.
People disseminate disinformation (intentionally incorrect information) to bolster popular support for their agendas. They employ supposed fact checkers who, it seems, are just as agenda-driven as those who employ them. On any issue, the global forum is quickly divided into two camps, each accusing the other of lying. Language, rather than evolving to describe new concepts with greater precision, is being intentionally co-opted and twisted to obfuscate issues and conceal agendas.
I’ve been frustrated for years with the lack of intellectual integrity within American institutional Christianity; but the secular humanists, for all their criticism of Christianity, are taking this dysfunction to a whole new level.
It’s not for nothing that in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Devil was considered to be the father of lies. Paul warned Timothy about a time when people would “not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but… will turn aside to myths.” (Paul’s second letter to Timothy, NET Bible)
Humans have seen this madness play out many times throughout history, and our prophets have warned us about the perils of rejecting the truth. With a little bit of open-minded reasoning, it becomes self-evident that truth must be supreme over all else if we want humanity to survive with any modicum of civility. Yet, despite all the warnings, and despite the historical precedents, an anti-truth ideology is possessing the masses on a global scale. Apparently, some people just gotta touch the stove.
If a significant proportion of voices in government, social, and even religious channels are employing disinformation, how do we sort through the deluge of deceit? For those who still believe the truth is important, here are a few guidelines that may be helpful in avoiding being taken in by the lies and delusions which surround us.
- Truth exists as an objective reality. Truth is that which stands on its own. It is neither changed by nor dependent upon one’s opinion.
- Truth must be our highest objective, for it is only by confronting reality that we have any hope of finding purpose in life.
- A true claim is generally independently verifiable.
- Strive to perceive agendas. If someone makes a claim that serves an agenda, their credibility should be suspect. Is the claimant seeking truth above all else, or are they making the claim to achieve a short-term, personal benefit?
- If you must lie to get people to side with you, you are automatically wrong.
- If you shut down dissent by claiming that to dissent is wrong, you are automatically wrong.
- If you must employ coercion to garner support for your cause, you are automatically wrong.
- If you must resort to sophistry (smart-sounding, subtly deceptive language) to bolster your case, you are automatically wrong.
- You should be willing to have your beliefs falsified. This doesn’t mean that you can’t hold convictions. It simply means that you have decided that you value the truth over your own beliefs.
- Be skeptical. This is the foundation of critical thinking. Being skeptical or being a critical thinker simply means that you require sound evidence before believing a claim.
Now, more than ever, it is critical for us to be perceptive and wise. If we don’t decide here and now that truth is our ultimate pursuit, then I fear that we will watch the world around us disintegrate into self-destruction. And a lot of people are going to suffer.
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