"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." - Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius contends the concept of truth is much different than most are willing to admit or recognize. Of all things that should be considered timeless, ageless and trustworthy, one would think truth should top the list due to the fact that one makes very important decisions and choices based on such truths. Investors make billion dollar decisions based on information they acquire while loving couples join hands in marriage over the truth they find in their love for one another. Truth guides the most important decisions one can ever make in life. For this concept of truth to be timeless and trustworthy, it should meet at least three conditions; truth should be created from accurate information, truth should remain consistent regardless of the audience, and truth should not change over time.
Truth is most commonly defined as "the quality or state of being true" with the basis of that state being founded upon facts that are "real or genuine." This Truth exists apart from interpretation, influence, testing and lives outside the realm of human perception. The truth that actually exists inside the realm of human perception is substantially different; this truth is subject to elements of the human experience and is essentially some concept, belief, or opinion constructed from interpretation of facts that contribute to that respective truth. This "truth construction" embodies science, opinions, research, news, and to be more appropriate, someones reality about the world around him. This "truth" is often referred to as "personal truth." This reality deeply influences every decision one makes and infiltrates every facet of one's life and how it is lived out. The composition of this reality is ultimately determined by the method in which it is constructed.
Personal truth (PT) can only be as genuine as the information used to create it and cannot exist apart from interpretation or experience. Typically one creates his PT using one of the two following methods: he creates a concept or perspective and searches for supporting information, or he uses observational information to build a concept or perspective. Imagine someone who is absolutely convinced his boss does not like him. Using the first method for constructing his concept of truth, he tends to only notice information, body language, and other evidence that supports his position while the rest is ignored. This concept is known as confirmation bias. Don't feel guilty if this describes how you have constructed your own ideas about something. It is insanely easy and somewhat "natural" to fall victim to this type of truth construction. One is typically enamored and absolutely confident with his own ideas and interpretation of events. He remains confident of his perspective even when presented with a preponderance of evidence supporting the antithesis. Aside from the obvious concerns with this type of fact gathering, greater issues tend to pervade PT but often go unnoticed and certainly unquestioned.
For one's PT or perspective to be even redolent of the Truth, the foundation of the belief must be supported by factual information. The most common and often unnoticed error in creating a truthful perspective remains within the "facts" themselves. Whether one is forming an opinion or completing a research study, the facts that contribute to the theory or perspective is paramount. The cardinal rule for obtaining trustworthy facts is to obtain them from reputable sources. If these sources are deemed reputable, they are typically unquestionably accepted as Truth. One may tend to build his PT based on information he or she receives or researches. Scientists often use a similar approach using the scientific method. The scientist formulates a hypothesis and attempts to conduct a study to reject the null hypothesis. This is primarily done because one technically can't prove a hypothesis to be true but one can collect information to show something isn't accurate. Scientists then reform their hypothesis and start the process over to build a better theory. Although this may be one of the best methods to attempt to obtain Truth most individuals do not use the scientific method to form an opinion about a concept or idea. Conversely one tends to consume "credible" information which, in turn, helps him form an opinion. The problem with this methodology is not the actual method but lies within the veracity of the information obtained. Whether one is forming a political opinion or sizing up an applicant for a vacant position within a company, one constantly forms judgements based on the information collected. Two glaringly obvious problems exist with such data collection; it is impossible to remain completely objective while pilfering through data, and the information itself may simply not be accurate although it may be presented as such.
Research indicates a natural inclination in every human being to form snap judgements based on collected information. This snap judgment is usually the result of a schema formed from previously acquired and believed information. New facts are interpreted through these believed facts (schema), or the current PT. Regardless of how much one tries to remain objective when interpreting new information, it is essentially impossible to remain completely objective. The human brain is built to be biased. We would not have survived this long as a species without the ability to make snap judgments and act quickly - its simply part of human nature. The brain is hardwired to interpret new information through this said believed information (or PT). The current PT establishes how one interprets and reacts to the newly presented information. Imagine two people who are walking alongside the a country road and suddenly hear a rustle in the tall grass next to them. One of the men jumps from fear of a snake (scared of snakes) while the other one simply glances over to the area from which the noise came from (lives in the country). The grass moved simply because a wind gust rustled the grass upon further observation. The men reacted to the same stimulus in two completely opposing manners; one of the men jumped in fear while the other person simply glanced at the area of tall grass. New information is always interpreted through one's current PT. This pitfall is simply unavoidable and applies to every situation.
The reality of the matter is that "facts" are not always truthful. Just like it is impossible to interpret new information without tainting that information with one's current PT, presenting facts in pure form is next to impossible. The problem is that one tends to believe these facts when hearing them from reputable sources. Should one believe so easily? One would have to admit to absolute naivety if he fails to admit everyone has a agenda or purpose. Every person has an opinion that is the epicenter of their perception, or reality. Sure - opinions can change but most individuals seek content that reinforces their current PT. Liberals get their news information from MSNBC and conservatives get theirs from Fox News. Scientists create hypotheses in which they believe they can find support for and Psychologists look for symptoms to support their diagnoses. Do you think people and organizations who report on "facts" are any different? They have an agenda and report on "facts" that perpetuate that PT. Large corporations and companies hire public relations staff to protect their image and release information with a spin in their favor. Do they really report the "facts as they know them?" Or do they find a way to alter that information in advantageous-fashion? Are governments, science, and other "trusted" organizations any different? "Truth" depends on perspective, perspective is dependent on personal truth and personal truth is dependent on one's purpose or agenda.
Even the most well-meaning scientists and intellects fail the test of complete objectivity. How can one religion with the same tenets of belief manifest so differently in opposite sides of the world? Why does one worldwide event have so many different stories? "Truth" simply changes depending on one's vantage point. This vantage point, or perception, is influenced by one's culture, rearing, religion, age, gender, and a litany of other germaine factors. Concepts that the world claims as "truth" simply change depending on the context of origination or presentation. In some countries the preferred economic policy is socialist while others are partial to capitalism. Even western medicine greatly differs from eastern medicine methodologies. Both schools of thought are represented by research and have proven to have merit to different degrees depending on the focus of treatment. If one is facing a life-threatening illness should he opt for western or eastern medicinal practices? It depends on his perspective which is illuminated by his PT.
Reading a book on Medieval History, or even American History, tends to evoke a sense of "what the hell?" which permeates through every neuron in my mind. "Did people really believe that nonsense?" Its hard to believe that at one point in history the world was unequivocally flat and people accused of witchcraft were forced to stand the test of immense and complicated scientific inquisition to prove their innocence. If you were born during those times, would you have been the one that ventured outside the box to challenge such conventional thought? Its easy to criticize beliefs in hindsight and extremely difficult to posses the wisdom to challenge commonly accepted "truths" in their apogee. The world is fortunate enough stand on the shoulder's of such savants, although they are rarely classified as such during their time. They are often labeled as insane, destructive, liars, and their ideas are often swiftly dismissed by the governing body or educational institutions. Don't get me wrong, we have plenty of people on this earth who claim to have the "truth" about something and their ideas certainly have no merit, but in that moment in time how can you tell the difference between the two? The world can thank the pillars of our collective truth for going against the grain and eventually providing evidence to support their claims. Unfortunately, the preponderance of scientific literature and the insane body of knowledge available today has given the world a false sense of "we have arrived, intellectually" and we have somehow become the herald of Truth. And we aren't afraid to castigate naysayers in unabashed arrogant fashion acting as we have arrived to some scientific nirvana. Until we collectively submit to the notion that our personal truth pales in comparison to Truth and we will never arrive at some scientific nirvana, we are just as ignorant as flat-world proponents and will make a case to be placed on a virtual cucking stool by future generations.