Someone I follow recently posted about the ‘search for truth’. Admitting she lives in a conservative media bubble by choice, she was sufficiently self-aware to question her fury at a liberal news report of the pro-Trump violence at the Capitol. After bashing the MSM a bit, she asked: “How do you find the truth?” Well, putting aside the philosophical argument that you can’t (ie — “The Paradox of Inquiry” in Plato’s Meno and others) there are definitely ways you can come ‘closer‘ to the truth.

Firstly, begin by acknowledging your biases. They’re like nipples, we all have them. Is your view on voluntary euthanasia (for example) driven by human rights, religion, or something else? If your answer is “It is evil because The Avesta says so” then does Zoroastrianism also determine your opinion about everything else? If you can’t think for yourself because The Good Book (or whatever) doesn’t allow it, then your hunt for the truth is sadly over.

Secondly, accept that some people will always disagree with you. It’s not your mission to convert anyone. The monolithic hive-mind approach is bad. But also be warned, defaulting to “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree” moves nobody closer to the truth. Intelligence is simply the ability, when confronted by compelling evidence, to change even your most strongly-held beliefs. Only ignorant dumbasses deny compelling evidence. Don’t be triggered by competing views.

The third step may involve some back-tracking. Don’t proclaim your position too early. You’re in no hurry to commit to one bad truth over anynumber of possibly better truths. Take time to talk, read and think about it. If you’re not a natural researcher or critical thinker, learn the skills otherwise you’ll be ill-informed about everything and actually lead yourself further away from the truth.

Identify credible sources. Popularity is a bad gauge of reliability — for a long time we all agreed that the Earth was flat (btw it’s not). Journalists aiming for objectivity get on the list, gaslighting shockjocks who stoke controversy don’t. Beware any ‘expert’ until their peer-reviewed credentials are confirmed. However, while there are definitely experts-for-hire, the fact that 99.4% of scientists disagree with you doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

The fifth step is to find common ground. I once sat with an ardent climate-change denialist. While we both agreed that the weather has lately become more extreme, he said it was all natural, whereas I said humans were to blame. After a lengthy debate we agreed that humans have contributed to what are otherwise natural changes in weather patterns. Not exactly 100% satisfactory, but I believe we both probably inched closer to the truth.

The sixth is to watch your tongue. I’m so totally guilty of this. While I love a good debate, I hate an argument — massive difference! One is productive, the other destructive. If excess emotion begins to enter the debate, quit or take a time-out. The best tactic is just to admit it: “Sorry, I’m getting angry because I find the term (xxx) triggering …” Anger is to logic what alcohol is to driving skills.

Beware anyone who asks for your loyalty. Don’t be gulled by any one individual no matter how charismatic. Don’t join the cult no matter how much free-love is on offer. When Trump tried to bind FBI director James Comey to his presidential la famigla with a ‘pledge of loyalty’ the latter instead promised to always tell the truth. Another massive difference. You won’t see the truth if you are shackled to a liar.

Expect to be wrong sometimes. The difference is that instead of a 50:50 bet, you’re now more likely correct on the balance of probabilities (if not quite beyond reasonable doubt). It’s a good starting point. Taking care not to lose friends over petty shit, if someone’s talking bullshit while wrapped in a patriot’s flag and proclaiming to be doing God’s own work, then you have my blessing to take them down.

Finally, my honest belief is that truth only happens in the absence of people. The minute anything is perceived by a human mind it becomes subjective. While reflecting on your own subjectivity is useful, it won’t bring you the godlike omniscience you crave. But that doesn’t meant that “truth is relative”. Truth is a tree in a forest. You just have to go find it.

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