Chapter 3 What Is Truth?
一、Where Does It All Begin?
We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them. And those preconceptions, unless education has made us acutely aware, govern deeply the whole process of perception.
Is there a football fan anywhere who doesn’t occasionally scream, “Bad call!” only to be proved wrong a moment later? We can be sure enough to bet a week’s wages that the pass receiver’s feet came down inbounds or that the running back’s knee hit the ground before the ball came loose. And then the replay shows us how erroneous our initial perception was.
If someone we dislike speaks in a loud voice and is animated, we may regard that person as showing off to get attention. But if a friend behaves in the same way, we may regard him or her as vivacious and extroverted.
Loftus asked the parents of college students to describe some events from their sons’ and daughters’ childhoods. Then she talked with each student about those events but added a fake event or two. With only slight coaxing, the students “remembered” the fake events, were able to elaborate on the details, and in some cases refused to believe they were fake even when Loftus explained what she had done.
杰出的记忆研究专家 伊丽莎白·洛夫特斯(Elizaheth Loftus)要求大学生的父母描述自己儿女童 年时期的一些事情。然后她跟每个学生谈论这些事，但同时添加一两件捏 造的事件。仅稍微哄骗一下，学生就“记住了”这些捏造的事件，并能阐述细节，而且在某些情况下，即使洛夫特斯解释自己所做的事情，他们也拒不相信它们是捏造的。
The quality of a belief depends to a considerable extent on the quality of the information that backs it up. Because it’s a big world and reality has many faces, it’s easy for us to be misinformed. How many drivers take the wrong turn because of faulty directions? How many people get on the wrong bus or train?
五、Even the Wisest Can Err
All too often, what is taken as truth one day by the most respected minds is proved erroneous the next. You undoubtedly know of some examples. In the early seventeenth century, when Galileo suggested that the sun is the center of our solar system, he was charged with heresy, imprisoned, and pressured to renounce his error. The“truth” of that time, accepted by every scientist worthy of the name, was that the earth was the center of the solar system.
六、Truth Is Discovered, Not Created
Let’s review what our evaluation has revealed. First, our ideas and beliefs are unavoidably influenced by other people’s, particularly in childhood. Second, perception and memory are imperfect. Third, our information can be inaccurate or incomplete. Add to this the fact, noted in Chapter 2, that some people’s thinking skills are woefully meager and/or ineffectively used, and the idea that “everyone creates his or her own truth” becomes laughable. We do create something, all right, but it is not truth. It is beliefs, ideas that we accept as true but that could easily be false.
What, then, is the most reasonable view of truth? The truth about something is what is so about it—the facts in their exact arrangement and proportions. Our beliefs and assertions are true when they correspond to that reality and false when they do not.
Truth is apprehended by discovery, a process that favors the curious and the diligent. Truth does not depend on our acknowledgment of it, nor is it in any way altered by our ignorance or transformed by our wishful thinking.
“I know I have limitations and can easily be mistaken. And surely I’ll never find all the answers I’d like to. But I can observe a little more accurately, weigh things a little more thoroughly, and make up my mind a little more carefully. If I do so, I’ll be a little closer to the truth.”
七、Understanding Cause and Effect
Some of the most difficult challenges in discovering truth occur in determining cause-and-effect relationships. Unfortunately, mistakes are common in such matters. One mistake is to see cause-and-effect relationships where there are none. Another is to see only the simple and obvious cause-and-effect relationships and miss the complex or subtle ones. A third is to believe that causation is relevant only to material forces and is unrelated to human affairs. To avoid such confusion, four facts must be understood: