On Truth

How can we define truth?

Truth seems so simple. Everything must be true or false – surely it’s binary.

Unfortunately when you get down to it, it’s impossible for us to say anything is true. Even in science, we know nothing as definite. We can be confident to some margin, but even when we are 99.99% confident, there is a chance of being wrong.

Our confidence is the only tool we have so we have to make best use of it.

Indecision sets in

When faced with the idea that their is always a possibility you may be wrong, it is easy to freeze up. But if we do this then nothing can change, and we can never be right (you can be right without being entirely confident that you’re right).

We have to work based on the evidence that we have. Sometimes it is impossible to wait the time it takes for our confidence in a statement to change.

If we are 50% confident that something is true, then it is equally likely to be false, but does this mean making a decision is wrong?

No – you have to weigh up the consequences of a decision. We should work out the to balance of risk and reward, and move forwards with a decision based on this. Sometimes it’s too risky, but sometimes the rewards


Conspiracies are born in the cracks of popular perception. Small doubts and coincidences can easily create a movement.

Just because there is a small possibility of something being true doesn’t mean that it is, but nor does it mean it isn’t. We shouldn’t act on things we really don’t know are true, but maybe we should look at gathering scientific (this is the important part) evidence to take that small confidence in our hypothesis into a much larger one or maybe this will cause us to decide we are wrong.

This evidence needs to hold up – word of mouth is the worst kind of evidence, and coincidences do happen – correlation is not causation. What we don’t want to do is make a big decision, that could impact many lives, on something that we have low confidence in being true.

Everyone should be open to their beliefs and assumptions being questioned – this is the only way we can improve or modify our assumptions on reality. We can’t expect to know the answers, or be able to contemplate the truth and therefore sometimes we should consider other peoples beliefs with more weight then our own.

To finish… a thought experiment

Should we believe a majority of people who have an opinion on a topic? Let’s say 99 out of 1 hundred people believe something but 1 thinks the opposite. Who is right here?

You may think to believe the 99, and without context this is the logical solution. But with context, its not so simple, maybe the 1 person has spent their whole life investigating this, whereas every one else is just making an educated guess.

Now you may be thinking we believe the 1. But even this is not a simple solution – we need to look at the merit of the 1 person – have they produced positive results in the past? Are they regularly right? They could have spent their whole life investigating this issue but it still doesn’t mean they are right.

All this to say is truth is a fickle being and we need to be more careful about which direction we sway in. Don’t sway in the breeze just because others do.

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