The Importance of Truth – Blog Post 0021

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” - Albert Einstein


Truth is a tricky term to define but it's important to present a working definition in order to make an argument for its usefulness and importance. However, before defining truth, we first must ask ourselves what function it serves. I would argue that truth's ultimate function is to guide us in finding an optimal path that provides us an evolutionary advantage over our competition. This, in essence, is what makes truth worth pursuing. Truth allows us to understand how past and present actions will affect the future. Put simply, truth is that which allows us to accurately forecast into the future.

Forecasting is incredibly powerful because it allows us to plan for the future. If you know it will rain tomorrow, you will pack an umbrella and keep yourself dry. If you know a certain political party will come into power, you can plan to leave the country if that party is hostile towards your group. If you know someone has been dishonest in their past business dealings, you can avoid doing business with them and protect yourself against their unscrupulous behavior. Because truth allows us to forecast more effectively, it gives us a competitive edge and increases our rates of social and biological survival.

Truth can be divided into two broad categories: 1) subjective truth and 2) objective truth. Subjective truths are those that individuals hold and are often referred to as beliefs/knowledge. Objective truths are those truths that exist independent of observation/knowledge. For example, the theory of gravity is a subjective truth that has been tested and verified in many independent ways. However, before we had a theory of gravity and a word for gravity, gravity existed as an objective truth. That is to say that we experienced the effects of gravity and could adequately plan around those effects. If a boulder was hurdling down the hill towards you, you didn't have to be a scientist to know to get out of its way.

Objective truth is the highest form of truth because it cannot be manipulated. One has to adapt themselves to objective truths and plan around them. For example, a concrete wall is a barrier that a human being cannot pass through. This is an objective truth. If a human being wants to get to the other side of such a wall, they will need to utilize their brain and tools in order to create an opening in the structure or build a ladder to climb over, etc. Subjective truth, on the other hand, can be manipulated, which makes it of lower quality as compared to objective truth. Subjective truth can be rooted in observation or can simple be faith-based. Subjective truths that are built on observations and that accurately map onto objective truths are of high quality and high usefulness. Faith-based beliefs are the lowest form of subjective truth because they cannot be tested, challenged or verified in any meaningful way. Faith-based beliefs produce unreliable forecasts and therefore have low utility.

It is important to understand that as humans, we cannot hold objective truths since we are limited beings and are necessarily biased and discriminating. However, we can have a relationship with objective truth through developing our subjective truths in a way that accurately map onto objective truth. This is done by a process of observation, experimentation and reiteration. The scientific method is a process that allows for the discovery of objective truth.

When you know something to be true and communicate it as such, you don't need to drastically transform the content of your message. You simple regurgitate what it is you know and pass along the information. When you lie about something, you have to construct the lie, which requires time and energy. You have to also store the lie and think of the various interdependencies that the lie creates and account for those interdependencies. As a result you soon have to construct a web of lies since one lie necessarily leads to other lies under conditions of scrutiny. This just goes to show that communicating truth is more metabolically efficient since it requires less energy expenditure.

Possibly the most important reason for the superiority of truth is that communicating and pursuing truth allows for individuals to cooperate and build structures and technology that no single individual would be able to construct on their own. Imagine trying to construct, operate and maintain something like the international space station if the people involved were constantly feeding each other faulty data and lying about various aspects of the project. Things would quickly fall apart and fail and some might even lose their lives as a result.

The level of precision required to do great things necessitates truth as a foundational core.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment below.

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