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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fake Truth

What is the relationship between opinion, the interpretation of experience, conviction and Truth? That's gotta have something to do with how we sort our and arrive at conclusions, doesn't it?

 Well, these ropes...are they a circle?

OK, to start out, some terms:
Empirical reasoning: the observation ability that science is based on, but done by you and me.
Personal observation: what YOU subjectively notice because it's important for you. This may contain your vested interests, perhaps tainted by confirmation bias...(which is selectively finding what you expect to find, and dismissing anything else.)

Both of these are considered to be at odds with the golden standard of scientific observation and the definition of "Truth." Technically, things aren't true until a proper science procedures have been followed and documented and published and reviewed by peers. Of course, then there's the other Golden standard of Legal Truth too we might consider... Then there's "Your Truth," there's "What All My Friends Say Who I Believe," and there's "What the News Says." Except now, there's "Fake News." And since the RICO Act, no authority has to tell the truth unless sworn into a court of law.

It gets complicated who's version of Truth applies.

Our culture seems to be getting lost in the effort to reconstruct meaning for themselves. Even if we only speak one language, all of us must take in words and then reconstruct the meaning for ourselves. The way that we put together meaning might not be what was meant. The blame might be on either side - clumsy communication skills or our ability to misunderstand...

For me, personal research is closer to the Truth than most would consider. For me, the sum total of my experience is an operational truth that can always be updated...and does get updated. I'm proud of the fact that I can revise my convictions in the light of new information or experiences. But it frustrates me that when I trot out my findings. People don't listen because they don't have any idea of how much of my life has been devoted to my own pet research subjects. When they get a tip that improves the quality of life for them or solves a problem, they don't appreciate it. It appears that most people must pay in order to pay attention.

So - what is "proof" of reasonable, operational truth that could be revised if needed?

Why - it's the sum total of my ability to integrate the conclusions and insights I've gathered and how I have made use of them. It's the collection of experiences I've actually had first hand, assumptions I've decided to believe, what other people have told me that they believe, what I've read that I can remember. Also it's some of what I've decided to believe purely because it sounds reasonable to me.

In other words, you and I could be wrong, purely through ignorance and faulty reasoning. A field of specialization exists called Cognitive Bias. I find it a very handy field to study and keep in mind when coming to conclusions about the nature of the world and people in it.

So, how do we deal with the accusation of being wrong? How do we revise our convictions? Certainly you aren't a person who says, "Don't bother me with facts when I've already made up my mind!"

Actually, you probably are. (At least in some areas.) More commonly, people don't bother with revision of their opinions and values. Once their mind is made up, that's it. Some people are actually proud of embodying the conditioning of their cultural upbringing. Also, some people are in a situation where they hold convictions because it's a survival strategy so they can't afford to revise their convictions.

What's to blame? Partly, our English language has victimized us. The very usefulness of English is also its downfall when it comes to revising Truth.

I've observed that describing reality seems to be one of the irresistible assumptions inherent within the structure of English...and the nature of reality will differ depending on perception, attitude, and prior conditioning... AND culture.

One of the culprits for rampant miscommunication is that English doesn't have an adequate way to indicate subjective experience and frame uncertainty. English has... "seems to be," "from my point of view" or "IMHO."  Words like "Sometimes" and "Maybe" as examples of qualifiers or frames that attempt to serve this function of describing subjectivity. But these "frames" are scoffed at by the writing professionals. There's a reason for that.

When using those phrases, there's a danger that a writer's motive will be too easily misunderstood for why they are uncertain. These qualifiers are questioned as indicators of uncertainty by editors. Writers will be admonished by editors to come out and dare to boldly say the declaration. It makes it less likely that the challengers will attack.

So what if I wrote what I just said like this: ...describing reality IS an irresistible assumption inherent within the structure of English...? Would stating that sentence with conviction and certainty make it more likely for you to believe me? Are you thinking of questioning my right to say such a thing without a linguistics diploma?

We cannot open our mouths without someone questioning whether or not we have the "RIGHT" to define the nature of what we're talking about. Everyone is trying to figure out how much other people are LYING!

It's gone too far: Scientists work to prove what's True that goes on whether people believe in it or not. Lately, our culture seems to have the conviction that every fact is merely another opinion. It seems as if everyone has their agenda. Those with an agenda have gone too far to have assigned questionable truth to professionals who specialize in a field. The idea is because these scientists are specialists - they have "vested interests" in being right!

Think about it - why did our culture evolve qualifications of education and specialization? If you're a professional, you are not supposed to imply uncertainty when you're attempting to add to the sum total of knowledge. Then if you're certain - you have vested interests... This example of blatant cognitive bias drives me NUTS! 

What about when conclusions are based on many factors? Without these qualifiers, a writer's motive of an open mind won't be adequately conveyed.

What if the writer's subjective attitude is not meant to be considered a rhetorical point delivered with uncertainty, self-effacement or as a disclaimer? "From my point of view" is not necessarily another way of saying "I haven't taken a poll or conducted my research properly." It might be an indicator of being proudly humble - one of those paradoxes of culture that women express, for instance.
For me, using a subjective qualifier is a proud expression of conservatively stating my own open uncertainty toward the possibility of being wrong and openness to change.

But there is a backlash from holding this attitude. Guys like to challenge, they relish jockeying for position as a sign of respect. It just gets old when you HAVE the degrees and professional status to have the right to be believed to say what you're saying and people STILL try to fight you with outdated assumptions.

Look at the life of Edward de Bono for instance. He wanted to call his last book: "It's Too Late To Think." He had written about 80 books on thinking skills, and was never able to get thinking skills as a subject into schools during his lifetime. Bureaucracy is designed to resist innovation.

This resistance has had an effect on me too. Some readers have reacted to my using language in this way because they imagine I'm obligated to talk this way legally. Because otherwise I'm "making claims" that could be proved false. They imagine I'm afraid that I might be sued for making promises I can't keep.

Huh?