We’re in the depths of the information age, but truth is a rarity.
Truth is elusive, not because it’s intangible and otherwise unavailable. It’s rare because many of us are either unwilling or unable to search for it.
These days we hear phrases coming out of Washington D.C. such as “alternative truth,” and “truth is not truth,” and wonder if the nation’s reality compass is spinning as wildly as our founding fathers are in their graves.
Granted, arriving at what a consensus of people consider “truth” is a subjective human process, or as philosophers would say, an “epistemological leap.” But certainly, how can we expect to discover a factual truth if we only read one newspaper, peruse one website, believe one “tweet” in social media, or listen to the opinion of one broadcaster on a single radio station.
I think many would agree that cable TV news networks have become ridiculous.
Their biased reporting on all sides of the political spectrum make me want to shout “b.s.” to the rooftops, as did Peter Finch in the 1976 movie “Network,” when he decried the profiteering, ratings-groveling television news industry and yelled: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Siloing, the term used to describe selectively choosing information congruous with our existing beliefs, has been around for quite a while. From childhood, we naturally gravitate towards those who agree with us. But today’s 24-hour media miasma is like a black hole that swallows intellect and allows only a smattering of truth to escape.
In our fast food, immediate-gratification world, we go straight to Google to go for the quick answer. And oftentimes, it isn’t the correct answer. But there are so many “answers” out there, so many alternatives, does it really matter?
Of course it does.
Scientists probing the secrets of DNA or the mysteries of the subatomic world agree upon precise principles and protocols when making hypotheses and testing those hypotheses.
The scientific method offers a legitimate and predictable pathway to truth. But I’ve noticed on more than one occasion that scientific conclusions sometimes depend upon who is hiring the scientists and funding the research. However, I would still put my faith in empiricism and logic when it comes to ferreting out truth. By its very nature and at its best, science tries to rule out human bias.
Some have gleaned what they perceive as truth in their spiritual and religious faith, which brings me to what I believe is the ultimate repository of truth: nature. People who partake in nature represent a broad cross-section; such as hunters, fishermen, recreationists, farmers, gardeners, miners, scientists and many others—some by necessity, others by choice.
Granted, retreating into Alaska’s wilds is an easy escape and a definite way to abrogate our responsibilities to a troubled society. Withdrawing from the mayhem and noise into the serenity of nature is at the very least, soothing to the soul. For many people, and I include myself, it’s a much needed reality check.
Aside from science, religion, and the pure, unadulterated truth that lies in our spectacular valleys and mountains, my only other suggestion for achieving a clear view of the world is to read often and take in multiple sources of news and information. Look back through history. Be skeptical, which doesn’t mean adopting negativity. Train the ear to really hear what others say, even those with whom we disagree, and exchange views often.
Somewhere, circling on the event horizon of 21st century’s black hole of information, truth is waiting for us.
It’s elusive and often fleeting, but we should try harder to find it. We owe it to ourselves and future generations.
Frank Baker is a lifelong Alaskan and freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.