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How Do We Know What Truth Is Anymore?

The processes of truth-seeking still exist, and I would argue that they’re still effective.

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ASTORIA, NYC- I believe in objective reality. I don’t believe that reality is personalized to each individual and that everyone has a different perception of what is. The latter take is a mere gaslight used by those who wish to distort reality to usurp the hearts of minds of followers without needing to rely on reason … or even facts. It’s much easier to say “this is true because I want it to be true” than going through the arduous external and internal process of truth-seeking that could very well end up with you having perspectives which land you on the outside of the ideological confines of your preferred social group. In some cases, it could end with you losing an aspect of your identity. Few people want to risk this; they take the easy way out — which I have to admit that I understand.

As I’ve written in a previous post, I still maintain a belief that there are systems — such as science, journalism, and law — that are still effective at determining truth. While all of the above can be corrupted, at their core they work. However, this viewpoint isn’t without contention. An excellent comment from Stuck in Melbourne appeared on that post and I decided to elevate it here for the purpose of further discussion:

I’ve been mulling over this quite a bit recently, and I’m not sure if it’s that simple. For example, America and Australia have similar founding stories – people left England and bravely travelled great distances to discover a new land, and forge a new life there. Fair enough, but others would say that the whitefellas came here, killed off as many of the locals as they could, then stole their land. Which is “truth”, which “fake news”? It’s not that clear-cut, it’s just one messy spectrum of grey :-/

You’d think that history (i.e. what happened in the past) would be clear-cut and unambiguous, but it’s actually very much subject to interpretation, and it’s the victors who get to write it. In the same way, truth is what you make it to be, and with respect, I suspect you’re doing a bit of that e.g. “nobody doubts”, “was proven to be”, “has been thoroughly disproven”. We point a finger at others and say “How can you not see the truth? I do. You must be stupid!”, but they do exactly the same thing to us :shrug: Who’s right? Well, me, obviously 🙂 And so “the truth” becomes “whatever I think.”

Similarly for science, once upon a time, everyone *knew* that the sun revolved around the earth, *knew* that leeches were an effective medical treatment, *knew* that the way to the way to prevent earthquakes was to sacrifice 4 goats and a virgin 🙂 But what was known to be true actually wasn’t.

I suspect that a big part of the problem today is ubiquitous access to things like the internet and Google, and everyone is now an instant expert on everything. There’s no consideration that you might be wrong, even in the slightest, no ability to analyze things, or handle any sort of nuance. We have this massive firehose of information coming in (often conflicting), and in the face of such complexity, the natural reaction is to simplify, to the point where the analysis becomes “you’re either with us or you’re against us.” I don’t have much hope for us being able to handle any kind of situation in the future. As you’ve pointed out elsewhere, the clusterfuck that was the response to COVID is a good indicator how things will play out 🙁

Good points.

But removing the grey areas and subjectivity of interpretation is precisely why we devised these protocols of truth-seeking. An essential part of the process are periods of argument — contending opinions do battle until one rises to the top — as our understanding is pushed closer to an understanding of “what is” and “what was.”

I believe our understanding of pretty much everything is better now than it was 20 years ago… and 20 years ago it was better than it was 100 years ago. Almost every discipline laughs at what was known as truth a generation ago. I mean, we put lead in gasoline for 80 fucking years and took people’s tonsils out for no reason … And there are many things that we are doing today (more than likely the snake oil, putting fluoride in drinking water, gender flat-earth theory, etc) that we will look back on in 20 years and be like, man, those fools were dumb. Our systems allow us to progress from one notion of “truth” to a better one … to a better one.

Without an agreed upon platform of truth seeking I don’t believe this would be possible.

I suspect you’re doing a bit of that e.g. “nobody doubts”, “was proven to be”, “has been thoroughly disproven”. We point a finger at others and say “How can you not see the truth? I do. You must be stupid!”, but they do exactly the same thing to us :shrug: Who’s right? Well, me, obviously 🙂 And so “the truth” becomes “whatever I think.”

This is the process by which our truth seeking systems function, I believe. But I disagree that truth is “whatever I think” because there are ways to back up and validate your opinions and measure contending ideas and see what ones come out on top. We think we’re right until we’re shown we’re not … and each individual has a different threshold of making this determination. Those who don’t eventually bend are what we call morons.

Similarly for science, once upon a time, everyone *knew* that the sun revolved around the earth, *knew* that leeches were an effective medical treatment, *knew* that the way to the way to prevent earthquakes was to sacrifice 4 goats and a virgin 🙂 But what was known to be true actually wasn’t.

Exactly! Without methods of truth seeking we’d still be believing these things.

In other words, just believe whatever we tell you to. 

But what’s most important, I believe, is that these processes of truth seeking are defenses for the common people against those who wield power. We can read organs of the corporations and state, such as the NY Times, and be like, no, that is not correct, I don’t believe that because … and I won’t just follow along because …

Where would we would have been during the “pandemic” if there wasn’t a handful of experts and independent journalists who spoke out and citizenries who mobilized against the pseudoscience of Covid policies? We’d probably still be locked down, wearing masks, standing six feet apart, and injecting ourselves with shit that is neither safe nor effective. Where would we be without a somewhat functioning legal system? Probably like Iran. Where would we be without the scientific method? Probably still getting out tonsils taken out and mercury fillings put in. Where would we be without journalism … probably like China (however, we’re getting frighteningly close to that). Systems of truth seeking are ultimately the weapons of the working classes against the elites, and are what prevents them from determining what truth is and therefore being able to do whatever they want.

I suspect that a big part of the problem today is ubiquitous access to things like the internet and Google, and everyone is now an instant expert on everything. There’s no consideration that you might be wrong, even in the slightest, no ability to analyze things, or handle any sort of nuance. We have this massive firehose of information coming in (often conflicting), and in the face of such complexity, the natural reaction is to simplify, to the point where the analysis becomes “you’re either with us or you’re against us.”

I actually think this is one of the best things about these information platforms. We recently went through a period where a small group of networks and publications determined what truth was. It wasn’t always like that. In the 19th and early 20th century contending political / social / religious ideas flourished. There were myriad newspapers that were radically different from each other. There were zillions of little groups and clubs that all had their own publication. Anyone who wanted to gain adherents would publish a pamphlet and go out into the streets and battle for hearts and minds. We had an explosion of new political doctrines, new educational systems, and new spiritual paths during this time. People challenged ideological status-quo, they seemed to have radically different ideas and, I imagined, they battled them out in cafes, bars, and around dinner tables. Perhaps I’m romanticizing this a bit, but I see the way things are now as being a hyper-intensified return to this … only now when we have a disagreement we can pull a little cube out of our pockets and pull up ten studies to back up our points …

Even though we seem to steadfastly cling to our opinions people still do change their minds. We can measure this — look at the numbers of people who have been “red pilled” on various issues recently. If we look around we see untrue narratives fading away. Nobody relevant to the discussion is saying that the Hunter Biden laptop is Russian disinformation anymore. Likewise, everyone who followed the story now knows that Russiagate was a hoax. A couple of years ago the media world was alight with support for BLM, but now that they’ve been revealed as a bunch of crooks nobody talks about them much anymore. Or look at how the narrative changed on the snake oil — going from “take this and you won’t get infected” to “take this and you may not get as sick” to “take this because we told you to.”

Sometimes truth is still able to win.

Filed under: Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3656 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

23 comments… add one

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  • sng December 20, 2022, 8:19 pm

    “We recently went through a period where a small group of networks and publications determined what truth was. It wasn’t always like that. In the 19th and early 20th century contending political / social / religious ideas flourished. There were myriad newspapers that were radically different from each other. There were zillions of little groups and clubs that all had their own publication. ”

    Yes! It has always amazed me how well this has been scrubbed from the official version of history. That and just how wacky and weird some of these groups were and how little that seems to have mattered to anyone of the day. People were left to listen, read, and then think for themselves. What a concept.

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    • VBJ December 21, 2022, 11:28 am

      That is very interesting to me as well. From what I can tell, the acquisition of knowledge and debate was one of the most popular hobbies of that time. The battle of ideas was happening in the streets. Today, in this time where we have easier access to varying streams of knowledge than ever, debate and discourse seems to be overtly socially unacceptable. People unfriend people who say things they disagree with, people who bring up potentially contentious subjects are committing some kind of faux pax, asking someone why they think they way that they do you are considered rude. We can no longer handle people who disagree with us and do everything we can to keep our Faberge world views from being cracked.

      I live in NYC.90% of the people that I interact with believe things that I disagree with. But I think this is interesting — who wants to hang out with people who think the same thing as you? Isn’t that boring? But I know that under no circumstance should I ever open my mouth … I would surely be ostracized. That’s dumb.

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      • sng December 21, 2022, 8:21 pm

        “Today, in this time where we have easier access to varying streams of knowledge than ever, debate and discourse seems to be overtly socially unacceptable.”

        I get the sense that people feel like their take on things doesn’t matter, all they can do is choose between competing experts and take that position and dig in. No one feels allowed to have their own ideas. Or at least that’s how it seems with some people. I am, fortunately, in Florida these days, and while I don’t always speak my mind, it’s not quite as bad as I imagine it is in New York.

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        • VBJ December 22, 2022, 11:37 am

          That’s true. People who express their own ideas often get attacked by both sides 🤣 I experienced that when I first started my culture wars project.

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  • Stuck In Melbourne December 22, 2022, 7:50 pm

    Lots of food for thought, but I suspect we’re going to be talking past each other to some degree, because we’re using different definitions of the word “truth” 🙂 I think we’re on the same page, understanding the importance of trying to critically analyze what’s happening around us, but differ on the process and the ultimate goal.

    You talk a lot about “truth seeking”, but this implies that there is a thing called The Truth, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, just waiting for us to find it, but I’m not sure that such a thing exists. I see things more as trying to interpret and understand what’s happening, but this is entirely subjective. The conclusions that I come to are merely my opinions, and will differ from those of somebody else. Am I right and they wrong? The other way around? Maybe we’re both right, or both wrong? How do we tell? Who is the arbiter of what is true and what is not? Is it even as clear cut as right vs. wrong?

    There is an old philosophical question that asks whether the laws of physics and mathematics are discovered or invented, and I suspect this is along the same lines. Does The Truth exist independently of us seeking it, just waiting for us to find it, or does it come about because we look for it, a la Schrodinger’s Cat 🙂

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    • VBJ December 27, 2022, 9:56 am

      Cool. Thanks for another round of your perspectives on this!

      As I stated in this beginning of this post, I believe in objective reality and find that the movement towards subjective truth to be extremely dangerous. The thing that holds tribes / groups / societies together is an agreed upon standard of what is true … or agreed upon processes for truth arbitration. The idea of what is true changes with the times and can always be challenged — that’s normal and ok — but the idea that there is no such thing as truth or that everyone has their own truth is something that’s only going cause unresolvable discord — which I also feel is an idea that’s being pushed by social elements who are trying seize power.

      “Who is the arbiter of what is true and what is not?”

      There is no arbiter, just processes of understanding. You present evidence and arguments until it’s impossible to not believe you anymore — like how the natural origin theory of Covid was eventually squashed.

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      • Stuck In Melbourne December 30, 2022, 1:44 am

        >>> The thing that holds tribes / groups / societies together is an agreed upon standard of what is true … or agreed upon processes for truth arbitration.

        When has a large group of people *ever* been able to agree on *anything*? :-/ You might argue that we have laws that we agree to abide by, but I would say no, these are rules that the powers-that-be have decided upon, and impose upon us.

        OK, so what about societal norms, that there’s an implict agreement amongst members of society about how we should behave? But you’ve lead a very unconventional life, outside these social norms, have ideas that are not mainstream, so what say you if people point the finger at you and call you a moron because you disgree with these norms? 🙂

        IOW, there is no (and I would say there *can’t* be) any “agreed upon standard of what is true” because we can’t fucking agree on anything! :-/ And in this age of the internet and Google, with everyone an instant expert on everything, the chance of someone agreeing with someone else who thinks differently from them is a hard zero. And thus, each person will have their own standard of what is true.

        Again, I’m not arguing that each person makes their own truth, I’m saying that there is no one thing that we can call The Truth, because everyone has their own idea of what that is. Consider a messy divorce – both sides will obviously have very different versions of the truth about what happened. Which one is The Truth? Or is there a third possibility? Fourth?

        You said elsewhere that “[p]references are not right or wrong, but opinions are”, but by definition, whether an opinion is right or wrong is in the eye of beholder i.e. every opinion that someone holds is right, in the view of the person holding it. That’s what “having an opinion” means, it’s “what I think is right”.

        You also said elsewhere that “many things are provably true and untrue”, which is correct, until it’s not e.g. the sun revolving around the earth. And then “where our ideas changed based on new information coming out”, which is essentially what I’m saying.

        I see many people saying that this story is true, that story is fake news, but what I don’t see is any consideration that they might be wrong. In a 1000 years from now, virtually *everything* you know to be true will be proven to be wrong. What effect does that have wrt to their claim that they know what The Truth is? That there even is a Truth? Because in another 1000 years, it will all be proven to be wrong again :-/

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  • Stuck In Melbourne December 22, 2022, 7:51 pm

    >>> I don’t believe that reality is personalized to each individual and that everyone has a different perception of what is.

    What you call “reality”, I described as “unassailable facts” before, but I think it’s *inevitable* that we each have a different perception of what’s going on. We’re all different, we have different backgrounds, beliefs, ideas, biases, so how could we possibly *not* interpret events in different ways?

    >>> that could very well end up with you having perspectives which land you on the outside of the ideological confines of your preferred social group. In some cases, it could end with you losing an aspect of your identity.

    Yep, I agree that this is a critically important point. A lot of peoples’ identity is tied up in which group they belong to, whether it be nationality, religion, political party, or football team :-/ I suspect this is part of the reason why it’s so difficult to get people to consider new ideas, because it means considering the possibility that you were wrong before, and you were on the wrong side 🙂

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    • VBJ December 27, 2022, 10:15 am

      I think there’s a difference between perception and reality. I’m sitting at something called a table right now on a sunny day. That’s the reality. There is nothing unassailable about that. You can perceive my mood or my intentions but not the basic substance of what is. Perception only kicks in where there are unknowns to the reality.

      Why I feel this is important is because it’s become a popular way of arguing to counter “what is” with “perception” if “what is” doesn’t fit within the parameters of what is the desirable “what is.” CNN used to really use this … basically allowing them to make up the news (i.e. the coverage of Rittenhouse, etc). Without agreeing that there is an objective reality we allow those in power the ability to make up reality. This is dangerous.

      “A lot of peoples’ identity is tied up in which group they belong to, whether it be nationality, religion, political party, or football team :-/ I suspect this is part of the reason why it’s so difficult to get people to consider new ideas, because it means considering the possibility that you were wrong before, and you were on the wrong side 🙂”

      Yes, right on. Identity should never be tied to an idea. Ever. Identities are not fluid, but ideas are. They should be allowed to move freely. This is probably one of the biggest problems with human societies, we confuse who we are with what we think, and cement our minds in amber.

      What’s interesting is that this is a common way of arguing against ideas. Such as labeling someone who looks at the data and says “Hey, this snake oil doesn’t seem to be working and what’s up with these elevated death rates?” as an anti-vaxxer. Or someone who’s like, “Yo, having voting machines programed with non-transparent proprietary coding run by private companies that nobody can double check may be a bad idea” an election denier.

      Blending ideas and identity turns people into idiots, and idiots are easier to marginalize … but what we often don’t get is that this turns ourselves into idiots as well.

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      • Stuck In Melbourne December 30, 2022, 1:41 am

        >>> Identities are not fluid, but ideas are.

        Hard disagree on this, as well 🙂 What we believe, what we think, what motivates us, our experiences, absolutely makes us who we are. If not these, what else?

        >>> we confuse who we are with what we think, and cement our minds in amber.

        *If* you think identity is unchanging. I have different ideas to 20-year-old Stuck, I think in a completely different way, I have a whole lot more life experience, so I most certainly am a different person now to who I was back then.

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  • Stuck In Melbourne December 22, 2022, 7:51 pm

    >>> An essential part of the process are periods of argument — contending opinions do battle until one rises to the top — as our understanding is pushed closer to an understanding of “what is” and “what was.”

    But what criteria do you use to decide which one wins? How do we come up with a universally agreed upon set of criteria with which to judge the merits of each idea? You might say that there are some things that really are universal (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?), but you’ve spent time in Asia, so you know there are people there who genuinely believe that social harmony and the good of the country supersedes personal freedoms. As Westerners, we find this idea somewhat repugnant, but are they really *wrong*, or just different? They think we’re wrong :shrug:

    It might be OK if it were a free and frank discussion and exchange of ideas, but it’s not. There is a massive horde of people trying to sell you stuff, not just commercial products, but also ideas, trying to recruit you to their side. And people are simply not equipped to sift through all this shit, and come to some sort of sensible understanding of what’s going on.

    >>> Our systems allow us to progress from one notion of “truth” to a better one … to a better one.

    You seem to be stating my position exactly 🙂 You’re saying that “truth” is constantly changing, in response to new information, or maybe you connected the dots with something else, or maybe you just got older and wiser. Truth doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s always in a larger context, including the person doing the truth-seekin’.

    >>> Without an agreed upon platform of truth seeking I don’t believe this would be possible.

    This is the point I raised earlier – how do we agree on how to determine what is true or not? I’m not sure we can, I suspect it’s very subjective, and so we are inevitably going to have different opinions on the validity of different ideas, because we’re going to have different frames of reference when judging them. Which means that these differing opinions are not necessarily right, nor wrong, just different.

    >>> But I disagree that truth is “whatever I think” because there are ways to back up and validate your opinions and measure contending ideas and see what ones come out on top

    I’m not saying this at all, I’m saying that I’m not sure that such a thing as The Truth even exists, because it’s so subjective. But people think that it does, and it then often devolves into “whatever I think”.

    Each person will have different ways to validate and measurecontending ideas, which will give different results. So who’s right? Who’s found the truth? Well, me, of course 🙂

    >>> We think we’re right until we’re shown we’re not … and each individual has a different threshold of making this determination. Those who don’t eventually bend are what we call morons.

    This is sort of the thing I’m talking about. We tell people what we think, we send them links, we yell and scream at them, and if they *still* don’t see the light and come around to our way of thinking, well OMFG, they must be just plain stupid!

    People try to argue with you that the Biden laptop story and Russiagate are actually a thing, why won’t you see the light, isn’t it *obvious*?! But you don’t, you won’t change your mind. Does that make you a moron, as well? And so we reach this impasse where everyone is pointing a finger at everyone else who doesn’t agree with them, saying that because they think differently to you, that’s *proof* that they’re stupid. How do we get out of this situation, how do we progress forward from here?

    >>> Without methods of truth seeking we’d still be believing [outdated science].

    Science has always been about trying to understand the world around us, and calling it “truth seeking” might be a bit grand. What we currently know about quantum physics or medicine is simply our best understanding so far, and it will certainly change over time. Is there some fundamental truth that underpins how all this works? Maybe :shrug: We’ll certainly never know if and when we finally find it – it’s not like you can check your answers at the back of the book 🙂

    Think about how we look at people in the year 1000. How primitive they were! But people in the year 3000 will surely look at us in the same way. What do you say when you realize that almost everything you *know* to be true will actually be demonstrated to be false over the coming years? What does this say about the idea that there is a fundamental truth underlying everything, when it is constantly changing every time new information comes in, or somebody has a new idea? “Seeking to better understand the world around us” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as nicely as “truth seeking”, but it’s probably more accurate 🙂

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    • VBJ December 27, 2022, 11:16 am

      “But what criteria do you use to decide which one wins?”

      Since the beginning of recorded history people have been coming up with mechanisms for determining this criteria … science, law, journalism. They are all little more than criteria for determining truth.

      “You might say that there are some things that really are universal (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?), but you’ve spent time in Asia, so you know there are people there who genuinely believe that social harmony and the good of the country supersedes personal freedoms. As Westerners, we find this idea somewhat repugnant, but are they really *wrong*, or just different?”

      I said that truth is universal, not opinions or societal preferences. Putting social harmony before individual wants / needs is a cultural preference, it’s not a matter of truth.

      “It might be OK if it were a free and frank discussion and exchange of ideas, but it’s not. There is a massive horde of people trying to sell you stuff, not just commercial products, but also ideas, trying to recruit you to their side. And people are simply not equipped to sift through all this shit, and come to some sort of sensible understanding of what’s going on.”

      Yes, that’s what dictators and autocrats have been saying since the beginning of time 🤣 Just messing with you …

      I believe that the massive horde that you mention is part of the free exchange of ideas. Knowing where arguments are coming from is a big part of determining their merits.

      People being able to sift through all of the information to determine what’s true is the very mechanism that frees us from various priesthoods — religious, governmental, corporate — who try to control us. The triaging of truth is why those in power can’t do whatever they want.

      “You seem to be stating my position exactly 🙂 You’re saying that “truth” is constantly changing, in response to new information, or maybe you connected the dots with something else, or maybe you just got older and wiser. Truth doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s always in a larger context, including the person doing the truth-seekin’.”

      Our understanding of truth is always changing, but not truth itself. The process of understanding is just a process. We shouldn’t confuse the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.

      “This is the point I raised earlier – how do we agree on how to determine what is true or not? I’m not sure we can, I suspect it’s very subjective, and so we are inevitably going to have different opinions on the validity of different ideas, because we’re going to have different frames of reference when judging them. Which means that these differing opinions are not necessarily right, nor wrong, just different.”

      By using our systems of truth-seeking that we’ve developed over thousands of years. I don’t believe this is subjective at all. Preferences are not right or wrong, but opinions are. What’s an opinion other than a hypothesis? They’re very nature is that they should be proven or disproven.

      “I’m not saying this at all, I’m saying that I’m not sure that such a thing as The Truth even exists, because it’s so subjective. But people think that it does, and it then often devolves into “whatever I think”.”

      “Whatever I think” is the argument, it’s not the truth. It could eventually be proven to be the truth, but that’s not a given.

      “Each person will have different ways to validate and measurecontending ideas, which will give different results. So who’s right? Who’s found the truth? Well, me, of course 🙂”

      Each person doesn’t have their own ways to validate and measure contenting ideas. We all use the same tools — logic, science, whatever … The person who is right is the one who can prove it with the best explanation. Looking at things that are being contended in the present may not be a good way of going about this. Looking at the development of ideas in the past is much cleaner, as there are lines of thinking that were clearly proven incorrect and others that we still maintain their veracity.

      “This is sort of the thing I’m talking about. We tell people what we think, we send them links, we yell and scream at them, and if they *still* don’t see the light and come around to our way of thinking, well OMFG, they must be just plain stupid!

      People try to argue with you that the Biden laptop story and Russiagate are actually a thing, why won’t you see the light, isn’t it *obvious*?! But you don’t, you won’t change your mind. Does that make you a moron, as well? And so we reach this impasse where everyone is pointing a finger at everyone else who doesn’t agree with them, saying that because they think differently to you, that’s *proof* that they’re stupid. How do we get out of this situation, how do we progress forward from here?”

      No, many things are provably true and untrue. The examples that I stated are examples of things that nobody who has followed these stories disagrees with anymore. They were proven true / untrue by our processes of truth-seeking and MANY people, major publications, political parties have already changed their positions on them.

      “Science has always been about trying to understand the world around us, and calling it “truth seeking” might be a bit grand.”

      Truth seeking is exactly what science is.

      “Think about how we look at people in the year 1000. How primitive they were! But people in the year 3000 will surely look at us in the same way. What do you say when you realize that almost everything you *know* to be true will actually be demonstrated to be false over the coming years? What does this say about the idea that there is a fundamental truth underlying everything, when it is constantly changing every time new information comes in, or somebody has a new idea? “Seeking to better understand the world around us” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as nicely as “truth seeking”, but it’s probably more accurate 🙂

      Some things will be disproven, however, that process will be on top of the body of work that we have accomplished today, just as our understanding today is on top of the body of work of ancient and old time astronomers, etc. There are plenty of things / laws / whatever that were discovered hundreds of years ago that are not contested today, just as not everything we discover today will be contested tomorrow. It’s just the continued process of truth-seeking.

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  • Stuck In Melbourne December 22, 2022, 7:52 pm

    >>> Critical thinking, as we’re taught to do it, isn’t helping in the fight against misinformation.

    This is a good example of the problem we have. The NYT talks about “misinformation” as if things are that black and white; there’s real news (of which we are, of course, purveyors of) and then there’s fake news. But it’s much more complicated than that – there’s just information, of varying levels of accuracy, with varying levels of bias, with varying levels of authority and trustworthiness, and so on and so on, and it’s impossible to sift through it all, connect it up, and try to make some sort of sense of what’s going on.

    That the mass media is a weapon of the state, of the rich and powerful, that information and freedom of thought are defenses for the rest of us, is a whole ‘nother discussion :-), but you won’t get any argument from me on that. Although I might add that while the free flow of information and ideas is a Good Thing, turning it up full blast so that people are so overwhelmed with extraordinarily low-quality information and ideas that they can’t make any sense of it, that might not be a bad play for those in power. If the masses are fighting bitterly amongst themselves about what pronouns to use, or why they should be boycotting freedom fries, then they’re not noticing the public coffers being looted, nor a creeping authoritarianism, they’re not rising up against the establishment :-/ Bread and circuses :shrug:

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    • VBJ December 27, 2022, 11:17 am

      “If the masses are fighting bitterly amongst themselves about what pronouns to use, or why they should be boycotting freedom fries, then they’re not noticing the public coffers being looted, nor a creeping authoritarianism, they’re not rising up against the establishment :-/ Bread and circuses :shrug:”

      Exactly!

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  • Stuck In Melbourne December 22, 2022, 7:52 pm

    >>> Where would we would have been during the “pandemic” if there wasn’t a handful of experts and independent journalists who spoke out and citizenries who mobilized against the pseudoscience of Covid policies? We’d probably still be locked down, wearing masks, standing six feet apart, and injecting ourselves with shit that is neither safe nor effective.

    Hard disagree on this. You’re saying that the decision-makers actually listened to these nay-sayers? They paid attention to people who were telling them to do something other than what they were going to do anyway? We had the response we got because it was the only option governments had, politically speaking. Put yourself in the place of, say, the governor of New York. What would you do? If you take a moderate approach, and people (inevitably) die, you will absolutely get nailed to wall for it. But if you get tough on germs, act decisively, lock everything down and put in place lots of restrictions, spending billions of taxpayer dollars to try keep everything propped up as you do so, what’s going to happen? If people die, well, it wasn’t because you didn’t try. And all the negative fallout of everything you did won’t happen for years, and if there’s one thing politicians love to do more than anything else, it’s kicking the can down the road. That, and avoid taking the blame :-/ It’s these two things that drove the COVID response, everywhere.

    I strongly believe that the whole things was ultimately driven by the media, whipping up fear and panic. The people go running to the government, screaming “save us! make us safe!”, and the politicians can’t say “uh, we have NFI.” Behind closed doors, people who understand this stuff would’ve argued that it’s best handled in the same way we would handle any other outbreak, but the politicians can’t sell that. People are freaking out in the streets, you can’t advocate for a plan built on an acceptable number of deaths :-/ A policy of lockdowns, masks, distancing and vaccinations is much easier to sell to a dumbed-down electorate, and the government is now seen to be Doing Something.

    Vaccinations, in particular, are a simple-to-understand, easy-to-achieve goal – “the nation is 93.72% fully vaccinated and double-boosted, yay!” – and just as critically important, it gives them someone to blame if and when things don’t work out (“pandemic of the unvaccinated”, anyone? :-/) Australia is coming out of winter now, and cases and hospitalizations and deaths are at record highs, but no-one gives a shit because we’ve all been vaccinated. But when you point out that these shots only last a few months, and they got their last one a year ago, so they’ve just gone through the winter season “unprotected”, with new variants on the scene and cases exploding across the country, at best you’ll get blank stares, or more likely, they get very angry. People don’t like it when you point out they’re doing something stupid 🙂

    But governments can now start handling the situation the way they should’ve from the start – I think the Swedes had the right idea: protect the sick and vulnerable, but otherwise keep things more or less normal – and they can do that now, because people have stopped panicking, and quite frankly, they’re sick of the whole thing, and so the political winds are pushing us towards getting back to normal.

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    • VBJ December 27, 2022, 11:27 am

      “Put yourself in the place of, say, the governor of New York. What would you do?”

      I would look at data and prior research and make a decision off of that. Which the governor of Florida actually did to better or as good results in all categories (which was actually a shocking political move). They kind of tried to brainwash us into believing that we knew nothing about how to fight this but that wasn’t true. We had hundreds of years of data on pandemic control, stacks of research on why masks don’t work, and knew that there were effective treatments because we’ve all been there before. It was interesting how they just canned and censored so much of what we already knew was true … but there was obviously some other motivations at play 🤣

      “Vaccinations, in particular, are a simple-to-understand, easy-to-achieve goal – “the nation is 93.72% fully vaccinated and double-boosted, yay!” – and just as critically important, it gives them someone to blame if and when things don’t work out”

      Haha very true! Like Europe is doing now — blaming the pharmaceutical companies for their stupid decisions.

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  • Stuck In Melbourne December 22, 2022, 7:53 pm

    >>> People challenged ideological status-quo, they seemed to have radically different ideas and, I imagined, they battled them out in cafes, bars, and around dinner tables. Perhaps I’m romanticizing this a bit

    Yeah, I think you might be 🙂 Because there were fewer media channels, people were more on the same page, and whatever differences they may have had, they were starting off closer to each other. Today, things are so fragmented, when two people start yelling at each other on the internet, the chasm between them is so huge, it’s unlikely there’s ever going to be a meeting of minds in the middle somewhere :-/ But I find it hard to believe that people back then were any less contemptuous or indifferent to new ideas, had less hatred of their fellow man outside their own group. Maybe a little more polite about it than they are now 🙂

    >>> when we have a disagreement we can pull a little cube out of our pockets and pull up ten studies to back up our points

    This is a massive problem I have with the way people use this vast knowledge bank we have – they cherry-pick stuff that supports what they already believe. OK, you found 10 studies to back up your point, big deal, I found 20. You link to stories debunking Russiagate and BLM, but I’m sure I could find plenty arguing the opposite. What exactly have we achieved? The greatest invention in history of mankind for the transfer of knowledge, and this is how we use it? And dick pics. Just shoot me now :-/

    You’ve researched these stories, thought about what you’ve read, connected the dots and read between the lines, and come to your conclusions based on that. *That’s* the important part, just linking to a story that supports your position carries zero weight (well OK, Taibbi carries *some* weight :-)). You could write an article laying out your argument, but that then just becomes something that someone else links to 🙂 We’re all shouting out into the abyss, so how does a guy with a regular job, a mortgage to pay, and a family to support, go through all this shit and make any sense of it?!

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    • VBJ December 27, 2022, 11:33 am

      “But I find it hard to believe that people back then were any less contemptuous or indifferent to new ideas, had less hatred of their fellow man outside their own group.”

      Nah, as far as I can tell they were the same assholes we are now 🤣

      “This is a massive problem I have with the way people use this vast knowledge bank we have – they cherry-pick stuff that supports what they already believe. OK, you found 10 studies to back up your point, big deal, I found 20. You link to stories debunking Russiagate and BLM, but I’m sure I could find plenty arguing the opposite. What exactly have we achieved? The greatest invention in history of mankind for the transfer of knowledge, and this is how we use it? And dick pics. Just shoot me now :-/”

      I think that’s a good thing. But, as we’ve previously talked about, while things may seem to come to ideological impasses there are also progressions that I believe we need to give ourselves credit for, i.e. Rittenhouse, Russiagate, BLM, where our ideas changed based on new information coming out.

      “We’re all shouting out into the abyss, so how does a guy with a regular job, a mortgage to pay, and a family to support, go through all this shit and make any sense of it?!”

      What’s the alternative? Having a government tell you what to believe?

      But you are on to something here — truth seeking takes work and it is much easier just believing.

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  • Stuck In Melbourne December 22, 2022, 7:53 pm

    >>> We can measure this — look at the numbers of people who have been “red pilled” on various issues recently.

    I think you’re demonstrating my point – you’re saying that people have been red-pilled, they’ve finally seen the light and found truth, because they’ve come around to thinking in the same way as you do 😀

    I haven’t really followed the Biden laptop story, or Russiagate, but were these anything other than cynical political games? Sure, a lot of people believed them, or not, but the idea that the reporting and analysis of these events were a search for the truth, that they were anything other than a political and media circus, seems optimistic. What passes for news and reporting these days is rarely anything more than just another entertainment channel :-/

    And the idea that people stopped talking about BLM because they were exposed as crooks is just as questionable. People still talk about politicians, Silicon Valley tech darlings, the Saudi royals 🙂 I suspect it was less about how clean they were, and more about people realizing that these guys were just completely full of shit. Corruption was part of that, but there were no more virtual signaling points to be earned by supporting them, and everyone’s moved on to the next cause du jour. It’s a new media cycle, dahling, they’ve had their 15 minutes :shrug:

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    • VBJ December 27, 2022, 11:39 am

      “I think you’re demonstrating my point – you’re saying that people have been red-pilled, they’ve finally seen the light and found truth, because they’ve come around to thinking in the same way as you do 😀”

      I just meant that this is an example of people changing their minds about some things en masse.

      “I haven’t really followed the Biden laptop story, or Russiagate, but were these anything other than cynical political games? Sure, a lot of people believed them, or not, but the idea that the reporting and analysis of these events were a search for the truth, that they were anything other than a political and media circus, seems optimistic. What passes for news and reporting these days is rarely anything more than just another entertainment channel :-/”

      One was a true story that much of the mainstream media tried to call fake and later changed their position on and the other was a fake story that much of mainstream media called true and later changed their position on. The fight for truth in both stories were pretty intense. Both involved rather brave work from independent reporters such as Taibbi, as you mentioned, who didn’t have anything to politically gain from them.

      “And the idea that people stopped talking about BLM because they were exposed as crooks is just as questionable.”

      Well, then it was certainly a coincidence then that both events happened at the same time 🤣

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  • Stuck In Melbourne December 23, 2022, 8:20 pm

    Just in case I haven’t waffled on enough :-/, I thought of a good example of what I’m talking about. I was thinking about Taibbi leaving The Intercept, and I don’t know if he’s ever stated why, but it looks like he was butting heads with Greenwald and Omidyar.

    There are always (at least) two sides to a story, and if you asked them what happened, would it be “uncompromising investigative journalist” vs. “recalcitrant employee”? What *really* happened i.e. what is the truth? If the people directly involved can’t agree on what happened, what hope is there for someone else, reliant on second-, third-, tenth-hand reports (on the internet, FFS) of varying levels of reliability? And you don’t necessarily have to take one side or the other, you could come to a different conclusion i.e. there are now *three* “truths” :-/ And then I come in with a fourth. Who’s right? Well, me, of course 🙂

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    • VBJ December 27, 2022, 11:46 am

      If it came down to it, their dispute would be settled in court and all sides would produce their documents and they would follow a set process to attempted to figure out what happened. Disputes and disagreements as to what happened / what is will always arise, which is why we invented systems of truth-seeking. They’re not perfect but they’re all we’ve got 😉

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  • Jack December 28, 2022, 12:42 pm

    Truth is whatever you are told it is. Doesn’t that fit?

    I grapple with this question often. I think that what we are told is rarely true and it comes at us from multiple sides and angles. I have no doubt that we are told what to believe and we are given alternate viewpoints that they actually control.

    Going back in this pandemic, I have always advocated for respecting the rights of others. That’s the basis for truth. If it doesn’t respect the rights of others then it’s not truth. Don’t confuse respecting my rights with respecting the rights of others though. So many people only care about the rights of others only in as far as their own rights are respected.

    Masks have effectiveness, but it’s on an analog scale rather than a binary scale. Unfortunately, it was sold as a yes or no which sets things up for adversarial. Things can get visceral and I’ll bet you(or someone else) want to reply now with how ineffective they are.

    I’ve said since early in the pandemic that we need to be giving people vitamins to fight things. Encouraging people to take zinc and Vitamin D along with a good multivitamin is surprisingly controversial. Why get people to take those precautions when they might not get a jab or take the myriad of other Big Pharma options?

    Truth is black and white but because of the way things are, it looks very gray and difficult to find.

    But you know what? It all goes back to the dumbing down of the population. People are both made stupid by the system but puffed in their pride by false measures of public stupidity. Look at the videos on Tiktok and FB showing how stupid other people are. It sure makes you feel smarter than you actually are. Everyone thinks they are smarter than they actually are. I call it Intelinarcissism.

    People read a Wikipedia page and they are geniuses on the subject in question. Nevermind that they failed science class in high school or still think Astronomy is a branch of Astrology.

    I better stop. 🙂

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