How to Dig for the Truth — Part 1
In this series of articles I will describe how to dig for the truth about something. This first part prepares the ground.
Starting with Part 2 I will look at the tsunami of information that we receive about the coronavirus and show how to dig for the truth in it. I will look at official information, expert opinions, and conspiracy theories alike. I will assess all this meticulously and neutrally from a mathematician’s point of view. I will reveal flaws and weaknesses and apply logic where appropriate.
My background: I love researching. For 27 years I had a career as a mathematician. Since 2014 I dedicate my life exclusively to researching what we humans are without our programs. (See my article “The OTHER Story of the Eagle in the Chicken Coop.”) I shifted from finding truths in mathematics to finding truths of real life.
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not a truth. (Marcus Aurelius)
Any information that we hear or read just describes the perspective of the author. No more, no less. We understand/interpret this information based on our own perspective (viewpoint, worldview, ideology).
The word perspective originates from the Latin words per (= through) and specere (= to look at) and denotes “a way to look at something.”
The view of a city from an airplane is completely different than the view of the city while standing on a neighboring hill, which is completely different than the view seen by someone taking a walk around the city itself. From a neighboring hill one sees which is the tallest building of the city, but not the shortest path from the railway station to the church. For the latter, one should use the bird’s-eye point of view of a city map.
A perspective is but a perspective. It is neither right nor wrong, neither true nor false. In a given situation it is only more or less useful.
Therefore, whatever we read or hear is neither true nor false. It is only more or less useful, for it is but a perspective.
The word truth has the Proto-Indoeuropean (PIE) root *deru- (= be firm, solid, steadfast). Truth is firm and stable; it is something we can trust in.
It follows that there is only one truth.
But there are countless perspectives. Hence, truth is beyond perspectives. Truth is beyond what we read or hear, no matter from which source or from which author.
Can we find the truth about something after all?
As an example, imagine a tree. What is the truth of the tree?
When we look at the tree, we have a perspective of the tree. We see those parts of the tree that we can see from our viewpoint, such as a side of the trunk and the crown. When we change our viewpoint, we may see other sides of the trunk and the crown.
Walking around the tree and looking at it from various viewpoints corresponds to browsing information, such as on TV, YouTube, social media, etc.
Walking around the tree gets us closer to the tree’s truth, but still not close enough. We have not yet seen its roots, which are part of the tree’s truth.
We could unearth the tree in order to explore what is under the trunk. This would reveal the roots and thus get us much closer to the tree’s truth. Clearly, unearthing the tree is much more work than walking around it.
Unearthing the tree corresponds to meticulously question all perspectives that we come across — including our own perspective.
But even when we also see the roots, we still don’t see the full truth, for we don’t see the inside of the tree, such as the inside of the trunk, etc.
Bottom line: By collecting as many perspectives as possible and meticulously questioning them, we can get more or less close to the truth. But this is work!
What is the role of science with respect to truth?
The word theory is akin to the word perspective. It originates from the Greek word theoria (= a looking at, viewing).
A scientific theory is but a perspective. Science has but perspectives — not truths. The formulation “according to the latest scientific findings/theories” already suggests that today’s scientific perspectives are different from the perspectives science had yesterday. And almost certainly, future scientific perspectives will be different from today’s.
Even within science, often different scientists have different perspectives. In other words, there is not one scientific perspective (such as one scientific perspective of the coronavirus). There are several competing ones — and they end up in power fights like it is the case in all aspects of human life. The scientists in the more powerful positions “win” these fights. (I’ve worked at a university for many years and speak of experience.)
What is the role of politics with respect to truth?
Politicians steer a country — such as a captain steers a ship. They make far-reaching decisions that affect a lot of people. Most political leaders base their decisions on the perspectives of a few selected scientists and advisors. This has been so throughout history in both dictatorial and democratic systems. Typically the leaders’ advisors are those who are in sufficiently powerful positions in the power hierarchies.
This shows how relative everything is that we hear or read about anything, such as the coronavirus. All are but perspectives — and at the heart, everything is a matter of power, not truth.
Whoever undertakes to set himself as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods. (Albert Einstein)
The best we can achieve is to try to get close to the truth by looking beyond perspectives. But this is work. The more we work, the closer we get.
A final word about digging for the roots, ie questioning perspectives.
Naturally, we are more susceptible for perspectives that are somehow compatible with our own perspective. Therefore, questioning our own perspective is the key in getting closer to the truth. Questioning oneself is a skill that demands a lot of practice.
To be continued …
(In Part 2 we will look at the “face of coronavirus,” ie the numbers that we are presented with.)