There is an ever increasing drift from the true nature, and value, of the facts of today. Our communication with one another has always depended on them. Communication is also incredibly complicated and extremely important. But how is it that we are losing touch with facts to such a degree that we can’t tell what facts are? And what will it cost?
When a person has the authority to speak to the whole world instantly, as is available today, it is up to the public to do a job we might rather not do. In fact, it seems the job is not being done at all. The job is asking questions. We have a known pathological liar as our President.1 The President should be mercilessly called out on his false claims and statements. If he makes an unsubstantiated claim like being wire tapped, leaders like Angela Merkel should hold him accountable and address it. Especially after some of the things he has said during his campaign.2 How has he gotten away with so much lying?
Truth is what is known to be real. The word for truth in ancient Greek is alētheia, which literally means to “not forget” their past. Because they were so close to the things that happened in the past, there was no need for distinction between truth and legend. They did this by framing their past truths inside of stories of myths and legends.
It can be argued today that truth is always there waiting to be discovered. Lies get in the way and slow us down. All politicians lie,3 but the lies matter much more now because more people are exposed before the truth can be discovered. It slows society down at a much faster rate. And people seem to believe anything they hear from even the most questionable authorities.
Our emotions drive us to believe, and we can not help but be swept away by the excitement of the lies. People believe because it fuels their team’s argument and the country gets ever more deeply divided as a result. lies make us feel good about ourselves, our situations, and opinions. Or they energize us and make us feel that we are a part of something good. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is in our nature to be biased. We tend toward what feels good, and we deal with these emotional biases, one, by hiding ourselves from a potentially painful truth, and two, by forming groups with other like-minded people. Factions, tribes, governments, whatever you call them. Forming cooperative groups has been what has saved humanity up to this point. But now it is different. There has never been a time in history whereby so many humans can share so much information so quickly. And it is not clear yet how to deal with this shared knowledge.
We make our world significant by the courage of our questions, and the depth of our answers -Carl Sagan
Source of Knowledge
There is too much emphasis on having knowledge no matter where it comes from. Misinformation runs riot because of the oversharing. But we share in order to secure our status as informed in our group. Our lives depend on status, so it is in our nature, also, to lie and use other tools to attain it. If you are the type that craves a higher status by any means necessary then you will readily take a gamble on sharing misinformation hoping the person, or people, you are sharing with are just a little less intelligent than you. It could be that they just don’t care and are persuaded by your charming ignorance. Or the misinformation is packaged in an visually enticing way, or benefits them in some way. In this Buzzfeed article they state that fake news on Facebook outperformed real news last year as far as it reaching people’s eyes. At best it is embarrassing that someone would share information before checking the source, and at worse it is malicious and unintelligent. This is the democratization of the news, and it is not going well.
It should be said more often, and with a louder voice, that just being considered intelligent is not good enough anymore. There is a specific kind of intelligence that should be held to task. It is not what we know, or think we know, but how we know and share what we know. The specific type of intelligence I am thinking of is being critical. The simple act of asking questions. Learn as much as you can about the topics that are most relevant to you life.
College is Becoming a Terrible Thing
Aside from the wild oversharing, many college campuses are doing a great disservice to students by not allowing them to be challenged with questions and even alternative viewpoints. Creating safe spaces where students are free from critical thought is a first step toward a dictatorial society. Even if someone says something you don’t like, don’t ever suppress them, debate them. Create a dialog. And if you can’t change their mind just continue to respectfully disagree. There is no reason to take the time to be so offended if you have bigger, better things to do. And you should have bigger and better things to do.
Change Your Mind
If we continue to put feeling good over what is real then we are going to get into more and more trouble. Suppressing speech by not allowing people to ask questions and create a dialog with one another will lead to nothing but ruin. If you suppress speech then the lies have it. Be calm, listen, and learn. Question everything. Take a journey with me through this Questionology project, and let’s take a look at some of the things that we can question together. Let’s all be Questionologists.