Nick Enfield | In times of ‘alternative facts’ we must care about truth on a larger scale
16776
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-16776,single-format-standard,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,side_area_uncovered_from_content,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-17.2,qode-theme-bridge,qode_header_in_grid,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.6,vc_responsive

In times of ‘alternative facts’ we must care about truth on a larger scale

In times of ‘alternative facts’ we must care about truth on a larger scale

THE PROBLEM IS NOT THAT PEOPLE DON’T CARE. IT IS THAT OUR CIRCLE OF REGARD FOR TRUTH IS IRRATIONALLY SMALL

It is often said that “people don’t care about truth”. But is this really the case? Imagine you are falsely accused of cheating in a test: Would you not care? Or you are filling up at a petrol station: Would you not care if the signs were swapped and you mistakenly fill up your petrol car with diesel? Or I tell you that the movie starts at 7, knowing that it starts at 6: Would you not care that I made you miss the first half?

Actually, people care deeply about what is true and what is false – at least in matters close to us, where facts have immediate and tangible consequences.

Yet it is also true that we are willing to be lied to. Language has by its nature always allowed people to say things that are false, and we are forever at risk of deception. Luckily, the circulation of falsehoods is not always a bad thing. While there are malevolent deceptions at one extreme, there are wonderful acts of invention at the other, as in the fiction we devour in books and on screen. When singer Tom Waits remarked that “most people don’t care if you’re telling them the truth or if you’re telling them a lie”, he hastened to add: “as long as they’re entertained by it”.

Waits did not mean we should be amused by false imprisonment or a mistaken cancer diagnosis. But his remark may help to explain why a sitting US president can now get away with publicly stating an average of four to five falsehoods per day. The election of Trump, the Brexit vote, and many other global developments from Duterte to Bolsonaro have been helped by appeals to public disaffection, through acts of sheer signalling de-linked from real evidence and supercharged by our new information economy. “Alternative facts” are celebrated, not because they help us make good decisions (of course they don’t) but because they give us what we want to hear. And this is what entertainment is about.

We seek out what makes us feel good. In the domain of ideas, what makes us feel good is what we already think. This is a disaster for discourse, fueling confirmation bias, a flaw in cognition that leads us to seek and accept evidence in favour of claims we already believe, while avoiding or dismissing evidence against. This mechanism has played a key role in creating the “post truth” problem: if not a new problem then certainly a problem at a new scale.

Nowhere is this new scale more evident than in the crisis of climate change. In our global playing-out of the tragedy of the commons, decision-makers at all levels are creating a collective demise by acting on proximate self-interest. It is not easy to have a regard for realities that are distant from our immediate context. Especially when the most powerful people on Earth are busy sowing doubt and distraction, polluting the information pool and muddying our bases for reasoning about action. Meanwhile, the truth about things which are distant from us – eg the net effects on the climate of our individual decisions – is certain to harm us greatly if we fail to care about it.

The problem is not that people don’t care about truth. It is that our circle of regard for the truth is irrationally small.

To solve this problem, we need to change the culture around our respect for reality. A way forward is suggested by the work of moral philosopher Peter Singer. In his book The Expanding Circle, Singer addressed the limits of our “circle of altruism”. We care only for the welfare of those inside the circle, but this moral circle is not fixed in size. Singer notes that it has broadened through history “from the family and tribe to the nation and race,” and he urges us to continue this broadening as we recognise “that our obligations extend to all human beings”. “The basis of this challenge”, he argues, “must be our capacity to reason”. We can take this idea from the realm of moral regard and apply it in the realm of regard for truth.

Of course, we cannot just tell people to apply the principles of reason and expect everything to work out fine. Indeed, it can be argued that reason itself is merely a device for producing justifications for the things we already think and feel. But it remains the case that we are capable of thinking logically, of identifying biases in our own everyday thinking, and of overriding or outsmarting those biases. What’s needed is the motivation to do this.

Historical endeavours like the civil rights movement succeeded in getting an entire generation to broaden their moral circles, bringing them to regard as wrong many practices that were once the norm. In the same way, a new “civil reality movement” (like the 18th-century Enlightenment before it), could promote forms of literacy and awareness in relation to argument, evidence, and rational discourse. To paraphrase author Helen Pluckrose, we need to make bad reasoning embarrassing again. Only then can we seriously address the hardest problems of our time.

 Nick Enfield is inaugural director of the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC). He will appear in a panel asking “Do We Need Cultural Change in our Regard for Truth?” on 21 November at the University of Sydney

 

Originally published on The Guardian

305 Comments
  • Denver SEO
    Posted at 11:57h, 05 October

    Denver SEO

    […]here are some hyperlinks to internet sites that we link to because we think they are worth visiting[…]

  • colorado seo
    Posted at 09:38h, 06 October

    colorado seo

    […]please stop by the sites we adhere to, including this one particular, because it represents our picks through the web[…]

  • Emergency Heating Repair Denver
    Posted at 09:49h, 06 October

    Emergency Heating Repair Denver

    […]we prefer to honor several other online sites on the net, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Below are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  • اغانى شعبى
    Posted at 22:26h, 06 October

    اغانى شعبى

    […]very handful of internet websites that happen to be comprehensive beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly nicely worth checking out[…]

  • christian video marketing
    Posted at 09:23h, 07 October

    christian video marketing

    […]The information mentioned in the article are a number of the very best offered […]

  • birmingham bartenders
    Posted at 10:09h, 07 October

    birmingham bartenders

    […]check below, are some entirely unrelated internet sites to ours, even so, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  • computer disposal oxford
    Posted at 15:09h, 08 October

    computer disposal oxford

    […]check beneath, are some absolutely unrelated web sites to ours, having said that, they’re most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  • pubg lite hile satın al
    Posted at 22:52h, 10 October

    pubg lite hile satın al

    […]Every after in a though we opt for blogs that we study. Listed below are the latest sites that we choose […]

  • Turkey plastic surgery
    Posted at 23:59h, 10 October

    Turkey plastic surgery

    […]Every as soon as inside a even though we select blogs that we read. Listed beneath would be the latest web sites that we pick out […]

  • pubg hile satın al
    Posted at 08:56h, 11 October

    pubg hile satın al

    […]one of our visitors recently encouraged the following website[…]

  • exchangecrypto
    Posted at 01:31h, 12 October

    exchangecrypto

    […]check below, are some completely unrelated websites to ours, even so, they’re most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  • Savannah Kittens For Sale Near Me
    Posted at 10:05h, 12 October

    Savannah Kittens For Sale Near Me

    […]we came across a cool web-site that you may well love. Take a appear if you want[…]

  • Rottweiler Puppies for sale Near me
    Posted at 11:22h, 12 October

    Rottweiler Puppies for sale Near me

    […]just beneath, are numerous completely not connected web sites to ours, nevertheless, they may be certainly worth going over[…]

  • Puppies for sale near me
    Posted at 12:56h, 12 October

    Puppies for sale near me

    […]below you will find the link to some internet sites that we assume you need to visit[…]

  • tabby kittens for sale near me
    Posted at 14:51h, 12 October

    tabby kittens for sale near me

    […]Every after in a although we pick out blogs that we read. Listed below are the most current internet sites that we decide on […]

  • VAPE PEN
    Posted at 16:40h, 12 October

    VAPE PEN

    […]very couple of sites that transpire to become in depth below, from our point of view are undoubtedly very well really worth checking out[…]

  • FAKE MONEY FOR SALE ONLINE.
    Posted at 17:04h, 12 October

    FAKE MONEY FOR SALE ONLINE.

    […]Here is an excellent Blog You might Come across Exciting that we Encourage You[…]

  • best dildo
    Posted at 22:59h, 12 October

    best dildo

    […]usually posts some quite interesting stuff like this. If you are new to this site[…]

  • AU Tradeline scammers
    Posted at 23:23h, 12 October

    AU Tradeline scammers

    […]The data mentioned inside the report are a few of the best obtainable […]

  • bullet sex toy
    Posted at 23:38h, 13 October

    bullet sex toy

    […]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I love but really don’t get lots of link appreciate from[…]

  • find a builder near me
    Posted at 00:54h, 14 October

    find a builder near me

    […]we came across a cool site that you may appreciate. Take a look in case you want[…]

  • dinh cu canada
    Posted at 10:00h, 14 October

    dinh cu canada

    […]very handful of internet websites that occur to become comprehensive beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly very well worth checking out[…]

  • çeşme sakız feribot
    Posted at 23:24h, 14 October

    çeşme sakız feribot

    […]that may be the end of this article. Right here you’ll discover some web pages that we believe you’ll appreciate, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  • thy uçak bileti
    Posted at 01:14h, 16 October

    thy uçak bileti

    […]Here are a number of the web sites we suggest for our visitors[…]

  • redclovefoods
    Posted at 11:13h, 17 October

    redclovefoods

    […]Every once inside a though we pick blogs that we read. Listed below would be the latest web pages that we decide on […]

  • برنده شدن بازی انفجار
    Posted at 23:04h, 17 October

    برنده شدن بازی انفجار

    […]here are some hyperlinks to web-sites that we link to because we consider they are worth visiting[…]

  • macca daklak
    Posted at 23:57h, 17 October

    macca daklak

    […]the time to read or go to the content or websites we have linked to beneath the[…]

  • hat macca
    Posted at 10:11h, 18 October

    hat macca

    […]check below, are some completely unrelated websites to ours, even so, they’re most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  • giayu2
    Posted at 10:38h, 19 October

    giayu2

    […]please take a look at the web sites we stick to, like this 1, as it represents our picks in the web[…]

  • magic wand massager
    Posted at 22:40h, 19 October

    magic wand massager

    […]here are some hyperlinks to sites that we link to since we consider they are really worth visiting[…]

  • buy cialis
    Posted at 01:22h, 20 October

    buy cialis

    Nick Enfield | In times of ‘alternative facts’ we must care about truth on a larger scale

  • go to my site ΠΑΝΟΣ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΟΣ
    Posted at 23:33h, 21 October

    go to my site ΠΑΝΟΣ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΟΣ

    […]Here is an excellent Weblog You may Come across Fascinating that we Encourage You[…]

  • blogcaodep.com
    Posted at 01:34h, 22 October

    blogcaodep.com

    […]Here is an excellent Weblog You may Uncover Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

  • wikipedia reference ΠΑΝΟΣ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΟΣ
    Posted at 10:48h, 22 October

    wikipedia reference ΠΑΝΟΣ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΟΣ

    […]just beneath, are many totally not related internet sites to ours, having said that, they are surely worth going over[…]

  • electronic
    Posted at 08:49h, 23 October

    electronic

    […]usually posts some incredibly fascinating stuff like this. If you are new to this site[…]

  • greengo
    Posted at 10:09h, 23 October

    greengo

    […]that would be the finish of this post. Here you will uncover some web pages that we think you will value, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  • reparatie wasmachine
    Posted at 13:21h, 23 October

    reparatie wasmachine

    […]Here are several of the internet sites we recommend for our visitors[…]

  • www.youtube.com
    Posted at 10:07h, 24 October

    http://www.youtube.com

    […]Here is a great Blog You may Find Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

  • cheapest online vape store
    Posted at 11:44h, 24 October

    cheapest online vape store

    […]Here is a good Weblog You may Come across Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

  • tabaksvervanger
    Posted at 14:11h, 24 October

    tabaksvervanger

    […]please go to the web sites we adhere to, including this one particular, as it represents our picks through the web[…]

  • premier energy
    Posted at 14:05h, 25 October

    premier energy

    […]Every after in a whilst we decide on blogs that we study. Listed beneath are the most recent websites that we opt for […]

  • https://www.telocard.com/
    Posted at 14:31h, 25 October

    https://www.telocard.com/

    […]Every as soon as inside a when we opt for blogs that we read. Listed below would be the most recent web-sites that we opt for […]

  • Gerüstbau
    Posted at 04:22h, 26 October

    Gerüstbau

    […]that is the finish of this post. Here you’ll discover some web-sites that we consider you’ll enjoy, just click the links over[…]

  • Where to buy Mini Australian Shepherd Puppy
    Posted at 12:16h, 26 October

    Where to buy Mini Australian Shepherd Puppy

    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]

  • yout
    Posted at 16:03h, 26 October

    yout

    […]Here is an excellent Weblog You may Discover Interesting that we Encourage You[…]

  • toz klor
    Posted at 23:35h, 26 October

    toz klor

    […]we came across a cool internet site that you simply may possibly take pleasure in. Take a search when you want[…]

  • Bodrum havuz kimyasallarý
    Posted at 02:31h, 27 October

    Bodrum havuz kimyasallarý

    […]please visit the web-sites we follow, which includes this one, as it represents our picks in the web[…]

  • sývý klor
    Posted at 06:27h, 27 October

    sývý klor

    […]that could be the end of this report. Here you’ll discover some web-sites that we assume you will enjoy, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  • mobilya fiyatlarý
    Posted at 11:56h, 27 October

    mobilya fiyatlarý

    […]the time to read or check out the material or sites we’ve linked to below the[…]

  • Continue Reading ΑΠΟΦΡΑΞΕΙΣ
    Posted at 13:42h, 27 October

    Continue Reading ΑΠΟΦΡΑΞΕΙΣ

    […]Here are a number of the web pages we advocate for our visitors[…]