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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Can You Handle the Truth?

This morning one of the tv stations reported that senior adults who volunteer live longer. That really sounds good until you look at the reasons that may be true.

People seldom volunteer when they are in bad health. Those in bad health die earlier than those in good health. Therefore, those who are in good health volunteer and live longer. There is no need to presuppose a cause and effect between the two. Claiming that people who volunteer live longer is true but not related.

Often I hear half-truths. There is a report of an ice shelf that is melting in Antarctica. There is no mention of the total amount of ice that is growing. We are told that a budget has been cut. We are not told that the cuts only reflect the amount of the proposed increase in budget. This means that the budget is increased but not as much as some would have liked. We find that our picture of the truth is distorted by what is being fed to us.

Most Americans get their world view by the media and their friends. Each of these is influenced by what is in vogue today. The concept of global warming is popular. The concept that America has caused the world's problems is popular. The concept that there is no need for church is popular. These become what people accept as true.

Going against the popular wisdom of today will not be popular. It means that you will be ridiculed. It means that people will draw conclusions of right-wing fanaticism or just plain stupidity. People are disturbed when their world view is disturbed. There is safety when everyone unites for a cause or a perceived truth. The safety of the popular world view is lost when there are dissenters to this view.

Going against popular wisdom means you will have to know your facts. You can't simply say that you don't believe something is true just because you don' t want to believe it. Popular wisdom can get away with that because there are few who are challenging popular wisdom. You, on the other hand, will have to do some honest research. Unfortunately, you will not be able to get that from mainstream media.

Mainstream media reports what sells. They tell a story to support popular wisdom because it gives people a reason to watch and listen. They scare you with the facts they want to report. They are silent about the ones that would negate those facts. They report what sells. Fear sells. Note this with each news report.

Journalists are at the mercy of many disciplines. Most of them did not take advanced physics, meteorology, advanced mathematics or any other subject beyond a cursory level. They are great wordsmiths but often know very little about the subjects they cover. Journalists cannot refute statements given by scientists whose grants are dependent on their research. However, many people who read their stories believe they are hearing the whole truth. This is often dependent on what the scientists are willing to tell the journalists.

Teachers often fall into the trap of acceptance of the popular wisdom. A preponderance of a statement is often accepted as true even if there are no facts to support them. Sometimes school systems require that teachers teach things as if they are the truth. Evolution is taught as fact even though it is clearly a theory. Jesus may be ridiculed because teachers can get fired for supporting Christianity. Yet, Islam may be studied seriously because it speaks of our cultural diversity. Teachers are often at the mercy of teaching things because they must rather than because of what they personally believe.

Many people have established what they have believed to be the truth before they know the facts. They have heard it from the electronic media, read it in the paper and discussed it among their friends. Centuries ago doctors bled their patients when they got sick. They accepted what they had learned before they knew the facts. People today do the same things. They accept what they have learned without serious facts.

I never cease to be fascinated by some of the documentary stations like the History Channel, Biography Channel and the Discovery Channel. They often get the most obscure people to agree with an outlandish idea. They had to search high and low to get someone to agree with Dan Brown's Divinci Code. They got the most off the wall theologians from the most unheard of institutions. I know because I have studied theology and did not recognize most to the institutions and had never heard of these theologians. These channels start with a premise and choose to present "evidence" which supports their ridiculous claims. It makes me wonder if they do the same things with other stories which deal with disciplines I know nothing about.

People must do their own research if they will know the truth. They must be willing to hear opposing ideas. They need to challenge what they think they already know. They will find the truth if they are honest with themselves. I am convinced that people will find the truth if they will study God's word. I wonder if they can handle it when it goes against what their friends are telling them.

So you do the research. You do your own reporting. It may not make you popular but it will be the truth.

Can you handle the truth?

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