Part 1 – True Dat’ “True” and “truth” are finicky words at best, relative and subjective; easily confused, misused and misunderstood. Science, honesty, history, facts, morality are all in the eyes of the beholder. Even so called facts are only facts to those who believe them and are subject to change on a regular basis, historically speaking (heliocentrism, anyone?). Not only can we not agree on what is true, we don’t even necessarily agree on what true is. The OED contains, in a simple search, 27 pages of definition and etymology for the words “true” and “truth” alone, leaving a huge swath of information and fluxing definition in the word itself, much less in its meaning or how we use it. So, as at the very least a place to begin, let us start with tackling my own highly subjective views of “truth”. Since there are, as I see it, three main categories of “truth,” we’ll take them on one at a time at a time. Maybe later I’ll get to work on Rick’s Grand Unification Theory of All Things Veracious. I - Knowledge Knowledge or, rather, the definition of knowledge in my schema, is that of Fact. Science, mathematics, history, &c. all fall into this nebulous cloud of Factual Belief. Science has proven X, so, to the degree that we know and understand X, we hold it to be true. I believe that the speed of light is roundabout 300,000 km per second. I find it truthful to understand that I’m descended from some sort of Super Ape: a mitochondrial Donkey Kong. But if tomorrow science decides, as conclusively as they are able, that I come from a subspecies of sparrow then, sure, why not. Knowledge, fact, science, while held to be true and which is something I depend upon, is still up in the air. New discoveries outdate and strip away old notions and beliefs. Changing theory and new data reshape our view of the world on a near-annual basis and this has become something I’ve come to accept and become accustomed to, thanks in large part to a thorough understanding of history. When you are able to grok that man’s beliefs and concepts of the world have changed so much and so often in the past, it’s an easy step to fall back from your own perceptions and realize that they might very well change at the drop of the next Erlenmeyer flask. My father believed that the Earth is round. My grandfather before him was certain that it was flat. I, myself, find it rather elliptical. We, all of us, could still be wrong when some Dutch wiz-kid or Australian physicist dynamo declares it to be cubic. And when that happens, we’ll roll with the punches and adapt. You might assume, upon reading these thoughts, that I have a very low worth for science, but I don’t see that as the case at all. Science is wonderful and is, truly, one of the few things I depend on. I know science is true. I believe in it like a religion. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t change. As mankind advances, so do our instruments and ideas, changing our perception of the universe and the world around us. And as this new knowledge pushes its way into our world, our views of reality and our long held scientific assumptions must change. Adapt or die, as it were. Having grown up in a home which encouraged looking at everything in life through a historical and scientific lens, I grew up with both a firm belief and understanding of science as True, as well as complete acceptance that science will change and that true may well be something different tomorrow. Now, none of this is to say that I trust everything said by anyone with a PhD after their moniker. There is a lot of shady science being done and a lot of lies being propagated, which I make an effort, as best as I’m able, to interpret and to judge. But, by and large, when science, events, mathematics or any other form of knowledge makes it to the realm of general acceptance and when it passes my own set of criteria, I’m usually apt to believe it as much as the next guy until things spin round again and I don’t. Make sense? II - Honesty The second type of truth is the social, interpersonal type: the dealings with other people. This is defined in varying terms of character and moral fortitude, trustworthiness and honor. This form of truth is very George Washington and the cherry tree (a story about honesty, which is, ironically, apocryphal) and very hard to pin down, being the absolute example of a relative personal issue. It’s not hard to imagine each and every individual’s defining honesty spread out across the entire gamut of language and communication. My white lie is your mortal sin and your honest opinion is beyond my pale. Given religions may purport to have a set of standards written out for what constitutes honesty but these seem tenuous and fallible at best so I’ve never subscribed to them. The fact that the most vocally religious people I’ve ever met have also been, generally speaking, the most immoral was never a strong mark in faith’s favor. Beyond those mutable bible verses there is, of course, no set standard for what constitutes honesty. Knowing who to trust is the great American puzzle, finely crafted from our Horatio Alger rugged individualism. The shop keep who gives you a gruff attitude, a good deal and a friendly smile while asking after your mother’s health and the smooth talking shyster at the used car lot who’s imminently kind before selling you a lemon, shooting your dog and dragging your children off to work in the sweat shops in American Saipan. Both men could be a kind face and an honest smile, but in a country where the individual is king, we’ve lost our sense of community good. How do you know who to trust and who’s dealing from the bottom of the deck? I could be idealizing alternate societies from my own, of course, but there is ample literature to show that community based communities, rather than our own individual based society often breed a more honest man (I may track down the exact references for a future revision of this paper. Stay tuned!). But beyond knowing WHO is honest, who are you and I to even comment on what honest is? What is the definition of a moral person? Are white lies ok or must every word you speak be none but bible truth and verse? How about strategically not lying or leaving information out? Are there situations where a lie IS honest? How about analogy? Speak to me of metaphors! Slippery slope here: very objective. A tough nut to crack. My personal moral predilection leans towards intent. I’m a firm and fond believer in the dounto-others standard of morality. I view and choose my words and actions based on what I think will hurt the fewest people the least amount possible. Damage control. This applies to all aspects of my life, and my social honesty when interacting with others uses honest intent as its starting point. I believe that lying to a person is hurting them, but if a small fib or a white lie will hurt them less than the truth, then I don’t really hesitate to bend the truth a little. But the important thing, to my mind at least, is that my intentions are sincere, my moral fortitude aimed at generally the right place. So, while my sense of right and wrong is absolute, my definition of “truth” may be a little more slippery to get a hold of for other people. In my eyes, a “lie” is a misrepresentation with malicious intent whereas the “truth” is an exquisite balance of factual representation and desire to not allow anyone to be hurt. Boy, confusing. Lets try and sum that up a little cleaner. Most people who know me consider me an exceptionally honest person. I never lie about anything of consequence and I never cheat at anything, from the slightest board game to my taxes. In exchange for this honesty on my part, I try to assume that other people will be acting in accordance with my honesty and treat me the same. I get burned pretty often but you gotta try, right? III - Reality This is the God question: the Matrix question. Phillip K. Dick, Plato and Robert Heinlein played in this question, tempting our idea of what is and isn’t. Is this real? Are we living in the absolute honest-to-gawd true world? Or are we all going to wake up someday in a simulation. Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout speculates that he, meaning me, is the only real person and the rest of you are just Robots programmed to trigger a response from me. Some religions postulate on a greater world beyond ours, and science trends towards rotting in the ground. This is the biggie, the faith truth. When asked to speculate on the greater world that might or mightn’t exist just beyond my peripheral vision, my inclination is to simply shrug it off. For all I know I’m locked up to a computer stimulating all that I see. Maybe I’m in a loonie bin cracking my head against the wall, imagining that I’m typing these words. Or it could be that I’m a figment of someone else’s delusion. All of these things are possible, some more probably than others, but all a possibility. Some people tackle these questions by choosing one possibility over another. Some simply never think about them. If heaven happens, then I’ll believe in it when it’s there in front of me, when it’s quantifiable. If you’re a robot testing my perceptions for use in an alien study on humanity’s last vestige of self, fine. I’ll believe it when you pop up the evidence. Because why not? My background is in surrealism. I’ve read absurdist literature all my life and it has long seeped into my sense of reality. Anything can happen. I might wake up tomorrow as a bug and if that happens, I’ll accept it and move on. I am well aware of the potential for the strange, some nebulous world set beside and about ours consisting of what I long ago labeled, simply, “weird shit.” This affects my day-to-day life simply in that I follow a credo of whatever happens, happens. If I wake up tomorrow to discover that you’re all robots, fine. If I wake up as a bug, there again: ok. My goal in life, my worldview, is that whatever I’m experiencing “might” be real, so why not run with it. If it isn’t real, then who cares what I do and if it is real, then I’d look pretty dumb in the end by ignoring it. This defining sense of surrealistic tendencies in my life has been a large part of my guiding light. Because of my belief in science, I MUST assume that this life, this reality, is all that there is and I therefore act accordingly, treating others as well as I’m able and attempting to live life as well as I can given the variables that are set before me. If, in the end, I dust-to-dust on out, then fine, at least I’ll have spent my life well and kept entertained, trying every step of the way to not ever hurt anyone else. If there’s a heaven, great and keen, I’ll have lived life well and been a good person and I know, that any God who could possibly exist will understand that my intentions were always honorable and let me in even if I don’t particularly believe. If this is some crazy alien environment meant to test my reactions, then so be it. If it isn’t, then also good. I try to be open about these sorts of things. Take that, Plato.