Which is best, being right or the truth?

When faced with the question, “Which is best, being right or the truth?“, the answer might appear to be obvious, most would suggest that “truth” is what they strive for, yet in the real world most also appear to have a rather strong bias towards being right as their top priority.

So what am I getting at?

Well, lets take a few examples from yesterday.

Case 1

On Facebook a chap who was, for some rather odd reason, listed among my list of “friends” (yes yes, I know, FB redefines that word, but that is a topic for another day) posted some 9/11 truther gibberish regarding a grand US centric conspiracy. If you are not sure why, well it was of course 9/11 yesterday. So anyway, I responded with a link to the article in Popular Mechanics that debunked the 9/11 myths. The response was predictable, one chap launches into a long list of daft claims. I then pointed out that most of what he was claiming was not factually correct and asked if he had any evidence for his claims. I’m advised “no”, because it has all been buried … er yes, well you can see where all this was going. Bottom line is that my “friend” sent a personal message to my inbox announcing …

The fact you believe BULLSHIT makes me de-friend and block you as I have no patience anymore for those who believe the OFFICIAL LIE STORY of 9/11/01!

Fine, no problem, he only wants to be friends with those who agree with daft conspiracy theories that have exactly zero credible evidence, but I’m not really sure why he bothered spending the time telling me this, just de-friending would be enough. Clearly he rather liked the idea of being right far more than the idea of coming to terms with the facts; his pet conspiracy theory has no evidence, so he gets the last word then blocks so that he does not have to face any rebuttal.

The curious thing here is that being right truly mattered for him. I was open to the idea of evidence – if indeed he could verify the claims being made then I’m happy to change my mind, and yet this is not reciprocated. Instead I’m faced with a conviction that he is right, no matter what, and a strong desire to simply shut out evidence-based criticism of the claim.

Damn the actual truth … and yet, who thinks to themselves, “I think I’ll believe something truly daft and embrace it as truth” Nobody, because from his viewpoint his position is the truth. So what is really going on here, why is it like this, why is he so willing to discard the prevailing consensus and ignore the actual evidence?

Case 2

My posting yesterday regarding Islamic child abuse, upset a few people. One chap commented …

David your spewing anti islamic fucking propaganda…with someone who always holds himself to established facts this is Bull shit. There is nothig in Islam that condones temporary marriage, there is clear prohibition. Every scum bag cock sucker who has a Muslim surname who does something abhorrent is not an ambassador for the faith. Get your shit straight….

To which I suggested …

If it is indeed simply ‘propaganda’ and not factual then it should be rather easy to refute with evidence.

Did he reply? Nope, he was simply blowing off a bit of steam, and does not appear to be interested in facts, so when the facts conflict with the belief, then obviously (in his mind) the facts are simply ‘propaganda’, because the belief must be right, so once again being right takes priority over the things that are actually true. So once again I ask myself, what is really going on here, why is it like this? Well lets look at one more example.

Case 3

Evolution is well-established, and yet despite that there is a constant stream of individuals who will assert it is a myth. I’m thinking of one specific individual in a FB group that consistently asserts it is a myth, has no evidence to offer for this position, and when presented with evidence, ignores it and repeats the assertion that it is a myth. It is not simply evolution, this same individual asserts that climate change is a myth, and that the supernatural is far more important than science for determining “truth”

So why is it like this?

How do we determine what is and is not factual?

For many things humans tend a absorb opinions, beliefs, and views on many things from our culture and those we come in contact with, and we generally do this without asking ourselves if this accepted “truth” is actually true. Once we have accepted a position we then start to emotionally invest in it, and as we invest more and more, we becomes entrenched … deep enough so that we become immune to conflicting information, and so when faced with such conflicts we will rationalize them away and so maintain the investment … in other words, such entrenchment is not reached through logic or evidence, it is instead an emotional commitment.

Thinking yourself out of such tight spots can at times be challenging, but it is possible for anybody to achieve.

If you are truly interested in finding out the things that are actually true, then deploying critical thinking can get you there. In fact, asking a few simple questions and being truly honest with questions such as …

  • Why do I believe X is true or not true, how did I come to that conclusion?
  • What objective evidence exists to support that position?
  • Am I truly open to the idea of changing my mind if the evidence justifies doing so?

Start deploying such questions whenever a claim is presented and over time you will develop a well-honed bullshit detector. So when it comes to finding out the things that are actually true, well that’s a damn fine start.

3 thoughts on “Which is best, being right or the truth?”

  1. “deploying critical thinking can get you there”, agreed. Toss ‘analytical’ into the sentence and it even gets better. One problem with your premise is, some people start down that road and find the basis of their lives unraveling because it’s wrapped up in so much falsehood that it invalidates the reason(s) for them beginning the journey. In their Matrix Moment they arrive at the point where they see the foundations of their lives, their families lives, their friends lives is called into question. If they try to explain it to, they are harshly rebuked and if they persist, ostracized. Rather than embrace truth through reason, they return to the fold choosing to be a member of the ignorant group than knowledgeable but alone.

    In the post WWII era young adult males found an avenue to explore what they believed through the military Draft. Understandably, there are a multitude of good reasons for it being curtailed. However, one of it’s little examined benefits is it took the boy out of his comfort zone. For four years they are removed from family, friends and neighborhood. Thrust into an educational experience where they begin the transformation into the men they are about to become. Point is, if you want them to question entrenched beliefs, a good way start is to get them out of the trenches. Currently there is no mechanism for this to happen.

      • I will rest my case by pointing illustrating the real world example supplied by Coconut_electron’s reply. They simply don’t possess the tools required to perform the process known as ‘thinking’.


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