What is Truth?

I regularly receive an eMail from an American widow living in Nigeria who has terminal cancer. This generous hearted woman wants to bequeath me many millions of dollars so that I can do good works in her memory; all I have to do is send her details of my bank account! Do I respond to these eMails?

Of course not.

A friend of mine is writing a book on the history of email based scams and they range from the ludicrous to the very plausible. The very fact that someone continues to make the effort to send them suggests that every now and then someone is sucked in. Spam filters help but they are not consistent.

If eMail is annoying, the World Wide Web can be positively dangerous.

My daughter had a teacher who, when he set a homework assignment, would warn the class that he had been on-line and modified the related Wikipedia entries to include some falsehoods! His reasoning being twofold; first he knew that the research tool of choice was Google and that the first result returned would normally be Wikipedia; resulting in twenty plus essays that were almost identical. Secondly, he knew that Wikipedia is as reliable as radio 4’s racing tips!

The Internet contains more information than all of the libraries in the western world combined and it is available in seconds through tools like Google and Bing. We have filters that are more sophisticated than those for Spam so we can block out pornography or violence or anything that offends us. What we don’t have a filter for is the truth.The mock quote above should be a salutory lesson.

How do you decide which statements are true?

Last year JP Rangaswami posted a series of blogs on how we curate information, how we validate and distribute that information. http://confusedofcalcutta.com/2011/08/20/thinking-about-curation-in-the-enterprise/ JP was concerned primarily with corporate curation but his ideas have a wider application. In summary it is down to people to accept responsibility for determining what is truth and what is not. Those people are you and me!

It seems to me that we have delegated the role of curation to someone else. If your view on world affairs is informed by Fox news you will have a different perspective than if you follow CNN. The Daily Mail reader does not see the world through the same lens as an Indie reader. We accept as truth something that comes from a trusted source but should we really be trusting that source.

In John’s account of our Lord’s trial we hear that:

Pilate said, “What is truth?”

Then he went back out to the Jews and told them, “I find nothing wrong in this man. It’s your custom that I pardon one prisoner at Passover. Do you want me to pardon the ‘King of the Jews’?” Jn 18:38 (The Message)

Pilate, the curator of information, found nothing wrong in Jesus; but he still had Him crucified. What is Truth and who can we trust?

So why do I write these words today? Last week a friend of mine published a post pronouncing that one of the USA’s leading historians had proven that the medieval church supported gay marriage. The guy in question is a senior person in the Anglican church, he prefixes his name with initials that imply seniority, and he has more degrees than a school kid’s protractor.

I left a comment on his post saying it was garbage.

As a consequence I received a flood of mail and comments abusing me as a homophobe, a mysogenist and a follower of a “sky fairy”. The church, I was told, should be purged of folk like me. Although they didn’t say folk!

The point is, it was garbage. The post was based on an earlier post from an earlier post and it was a complete farce. No reputable historian has supported it and never will. It’s a fabrication, a Romance, a Fiction; a Lie.

I don’t want to use this post as a forum to rehearse my views on same sex marriage; we’ve done that elsewhere. I do want to encourage you to accept the responsibility to curate the information you receive.

To apply the filter of common sense. To ask others if this makes sense. We are all being bombarded with facts and truths – we need to take a collective responsibibility to purge the lies.

Remember, John Terry did not win the Cup for Chelsea, he just got himself in the photos!