October 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

Continued from:

How to handle lies?

(Based on talks on the subject of global survival)


Author of “How to avoid Armageddon”

Available through Amazon, Click:   type: how to avoid armageddon

A problem that we all face is how do we know when what is being said or claimed is really the truth? How can we be sure that something we read or hear is factually correct? That it’s not a mistaken assumption or an outright lie? This is an immensely important question. And there is no foolproof answer. While I don’t think that we should always automatically be cynical or skeptical about everything, we should be sensitive when half-baked claims are made; we should be able to detect disinformation and other forms of falsehood no matter who or what is the source. That means recognizing demagoguery and glib propaganda, especially when it’s used to promote political or ideological interests. We should pay attention, not only to the appearance and style of the speakers, but to their actual words – what is really being said, what is omitted, what is inconsistent with previous statements, what doesn’t really make sense, what appeals to our sense of wishful thinking? Above all, we must be critically honest with ourselves. And if we do identify any form of falsehood – if it is obvious that someone is lying to us, we must expose it. Granted, this is a very complex expectation. But it is very important.

Often, the best we can do is simply assume the validity or falsehood of what is claimed. We might be able to assess the likelihood according to a scale of credibility, ranging from probable – I can’t be absolutely sure, but it’s probable that such and such is the case … or … there’s a possibility that it’s so … or there’s a slight possibility, or no way!

This scale of credibility can help us think more clearly. It can help us make sensible decisions and value judgments on just about every aspect of our lives – family and work matters, as well as issues of a wider social, national and even global significance.

Let’s take global warming, for example. Many scientists warn that it’s the extensive use of fossil fuels and other pollutants that is causing global warming and climate change, and that could well lead to widespread disaster, unless drastic changes are made … now! But there are other scientists, albeit a minority, who argue that the whole issue of global warming is really a hoax and that fossil fuels have little or no bearing whatsoever on climate change.

So what am I to believe? This is a very serious issue. But I don’t know much about chemistry, meteorology and other related environmental sciences, so how can I reach a fair conclusion? Well firstly, I can get a layman’s grasp by reading material on the subject, including opposing viewpoints, while trying to keep an open mind. But in the end I can only rely on my common sense and intellectual integrity, which might enable me to come to a conclusion one way or another, or at least an assumption on which I can base my stand on the issue. An assumption based on the scale of credibility.

Whatever conclusion I reach, should have little to do with whether it matches the stand of whatever political or ideological movement I follow. If it matches, then well and good. If not, I need to consider the issue on its own merits. And there’s another parameter that I can use to assess the credibility of something. Simply ask the question: Does it make sense? Does it make sense that pouring millions of tons of carbon gases into the atmosphere won’t have any effect on the climate? Does it make sense that pouring millions of tons of waste matter into our rivers, lakes and oceans won’t cause dreadful damage to the ecological balance? The questions often become rhetorical and therein can be found our answers.

An important aspect of thinking clearly is how we relate to disagreement. When someone disagrees with us, do we see it as a challenge to be met and won at all costs, or as a personal slight that must be firmly righted? This is how most people react to disagreement, whether it’s on a trivial subject or something of definite personal, ideological or professional importance.

But this kind of response to disagreement is seldom productive and can be disruptive to say the least. Now I’m going to say something that might sound strange to many of you. I’m going to say that we should welcome disagreement and see it, not necessarily as an argument to be won … at all costs, but rather as an opportunity to clarify something. Perhaps the other person really knows what he or she is talking about and is able to put us right about something. If that is the case we might have gained something through this other person’s disagreeing with what we had said, and we should always be ready to admit that we had been wrong and even respond with something like: “Thank you for putting me right.” Especially if it is something that might help us in our lives. Losing an argument shouldn’t be seen as losing face – but rather as an opportunity to learn something.

I’m not saying that we should always readily agree with what other people say. Of course not. If, for example in the course of a discussion or an argument, the other person seems to have a point, but we are not fully convinced, we can still continue reasoning with each other. We can see it as a joint search for correct answers. We might even find that additional argument and counter-argument will help substantiate our point of view; that yes, we might even see that we had it right all the time; that what we had thought, was indeed the case. And if the other guy can’t get it he’ll be losing out, whether he realizes it or not.

The tendency to argue, that is so common, is often a case of choosing to ignore readily observable facts or even discard the rules of plain logic. This tendency to try to always win an argument, to never admit that the other person might have a point, is actually pursuing denial and twisting facts. And no matter how honest we might generally be, when that’s what we do in the course of an argument, we are in fact pandering to untruthfulness.  To be continued.

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Entry filed under: dangeous lies and halftruths, How to avoid Armageddon, In order to survive. Tags: , , , , , .


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