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Slow Thinking: Truth or consequences

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2013

What is your attitude toward the truth? Do you care about it? Do you make an effort to be objective in finding the truth? Do your conclusions about what is true influence your opinions and actions? Or is it the other way around, with your opinions and actions influencing your conclusions about what is true?

I expect that just about everyone would respond to those questions reflexively, claiming that they seek the truth, as objectively as possible, and that they form their opinions and determine their actions based on their conclusions about what is true.

Yet my life experience over the years has belied such claims and led me to realize that a large segment of our population ó maybe more than half ó really does not much care about what is true.

Many, if not most, people decide what they believe based on biases or suggestions from others, rather than any effort to figure out the truth and form conclusions based on it. They start by deciding what they want to believe, then dismiss or deny facts that do not fit their point of view and give recognition only to those facts that correspond with their pre-conceived position.

It is difficult to reason with people who are intent on believing what they want to believe without regard to what is true, as facts do not matter to them if those facts conflict with their beliefs. Still, there are plenty of individuals around who know how to use non-rational influences to gain the trust and support of those inclined to believe what they want to believe. Look no farther than the thugs of talk radio and cable news, with their pat bromides and tough-sounding, over simplistic solutions to complicated problems.

Masters at posturing as experts on subjects they know little about, self-servingly selective in throwing out facts that can be spun to support their opinions, these demagogic entertainers know how to push the buttons of those content to believe what they want to believe. Seducing mass audiences by telling them what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear, bring high ratings from the tens of millions who believe they are entitled not only to their own opinions but to their own facts as well.

The problem with all of this is that the truth cannot be wished away. Harsh realities are facts of life and have a way of enduring no matter how aggressively they may be disregarded or denied. And the harshness is only intensified when reality bites from a blind side.

The point is that there are consequences for failing to respect the truth, as the truth has a way of coming out, and when it has been denied for too long, it can do so with a vengeance. Facing reality, foreseeing its impact and planning for how to deal with it are indispensable to a healthy life and a healthy society. Donít let anyone seduce you into just believing what you want to believe. Seek and heed the truth.

Len Colamarino has resided in Atascadero since January 2005, after having practiced international business law in New York for almost 30 years. He ran for Atascadero City Council in 2008 and has served on the Atascadero Planning Commission since February 2009.

For the complete article see the 11-16-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 11-16-2012 paper.

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