Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Truth


My parents told me in Junior High School to forget college. For me that ended that idea. The only thing I knew about college was what I saw in movies. It was a school where you went for four years, lived in a dorm and went to classes all day. You had to pay for all this and it was expensive.
High School advisors did nothing to change this image. They talked about the cost of college and suggested we study hard because we might win a scholarship to help pay for it. In Eleventh Grade we were taken to Muhlenberg College for a day so we could get that college feel. We toured the campus and attended a football game. I remember all the hoopla of the game more than anything else. The school colors everywhere, the chants and cheers of the student body and the little gallery of Freshmen in beanies who had to do their own special cheers on command.
But this just reinforced my view that college was an expensive school where you went and lived in dorms.
Since my parents wouldn’t pay for college and I had no money, this was not a choice upon graduation, so after high school I searched for a job until I found one.
My first full-time permeant job began at a large refining company in November 1959. About four years later I was Supervisor of Addressograph and I got a new employee in my unit. His name was Dave and he and I became friends socially. Dave had been a high school athlete and he had won a football scholarship to Temple University, which was a private university at that time. (Later it became part of the state universities in Pennsylvania.) He had attended Temple for a couple years and then got injured.  His grade average was not great either and he lost his scholarship. He could not afford to pay the tuition and board, so had dropped out.  But that didn’t end his college. No, he enrolled in the evening division, still working toward his degree.
This was news to me.  Here I was a man twenty-one years old and had never even heard of going to college part-time, never knew there were alternative ways to a degree (other than a correspondence school). You could even go to college without taking SATs or other tests, you could choose how many courses you took and it was much cheaper than day college. Why the company would even reimburse you for most of the money you spent doing it.
Dave suggested I try it.  I enrolled at Temple for the Summer Session (another revelation, you could even go in the summer) of 1963 taking the Introduction to Sociology Course.
I got an A for the course and near the end of the session the professor stopped me after class and asked me my plans. I told him I was just giving it a try and he told me that my work over the summer was very good and I should seriously consider continuing toward a degree. He told me I could enroll as a non-matriculating student with no hassle and if I later decided to matriculate, all those courses would be credited, and if doing well, the grades would help being accepted. This is what I did.  I enrolled as a Sociology Major and an English Minor, although all Temple Students had to complete a basic Liberal Arts program first.
Here was a truth that no one had ever bothered to explain to me growing up: there were ways to get a college education even if you weren’t rich.

Now Sociology is a science.  It is a social science and so the findings are often not as pat and absolute as the physical sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Botany, etc.), but it is a science none the less.  One of the very first things I was taught in that introductory course was the Scientific Method. The purpose of the Scientific Approach is to give the scientist an objective means of arriving at the truth. After all, as a scientist you are supposed to approach the world with nothing more in mind but the truth.  You are a truth seeker and you are to put your own opinions and bias aside. The Scientific Method is to help you do this.
Here is how it should work. You form a hypothesis, which is a question or a statement about something.  Let us propose a hypothesis about the color of eyes. I, as a scientist, notice that people have different eye color. Some have blue eyes; others have brown or green eyes. (Lets just keep it to these colors for this example and simplicity sake.)  I happen to eat lunch regularly with a couple friends and I notice that my blue eyed friend always has blueberries for dessert and the green eyed friend always brings a stem full of grapes. I hypothesize that eye color comes from the color of the food we eat.
As a scientist I don’t just go and declare this. I need to try and prove it. I begin developing a theory of eye color origin. This is expanding my hypothesis to explain how it works and hopefully to prove it so that it becomes a Law. There are very few Scientific Laws. Most of what we hear from science is theory (the theory of relativity, the theory of evolution and so on). However, academia often treats these theories as if they were laws and refuse to teach any alternative ideas, such as creativity.  In other words, they choose their pet theory as it suit them, which is not what you should do because it impedes reaching the truth.
Now to develop a theory, you use two approaches, empirical (observation) and experimentation (tests). Thus, I may begin proving my theory by going and observing what babies are fed. Does the food they eat influence the color of their eyes?
But boom, right off I have my theory challenged.  I visit the nursery of a hospital and these newborns arrive with different colored eyes and have eaten nothing but mother's milk, and their eyes are not white. Now as an honest scientist seeking truth, I must form a new hypothesis and theory.  Ah, eye color must be determined by what the parent eats.  So now I decide to set up an experiment.
I create a group of 100 newly pregnant women who volunteer to be watched until birth. I assign 20% to eat blueberries, 20% to eat green grapes, 20% to drink chocolate milk, 20% to eat an equal mixture of these items and 20% to eat whatever they wish (this is my control group to see if chance plays a factor).  I record their eating and at birth I check if their babies’ eye colors match the mother's eating habits.  If the eye colors do, I will announce my theory and open it up to independent confirmation. Others will be given my data and others will repeat my experiment and others will do tests of their own, and if every body always gets the same result time after time, my theory may become a law. Or least be generally accepted as probable.
However, at the end of my experiment I find no correlation. Eye color apparently has nothing to do with what the mothers ate.  Do I hide this fact and release my theory and drum it into everyone’s head as true by repeating it over and over?
No, I scrap that theory and I begin searching anew for the truth about what causes different eye colors.
I believe this was true of most scientists, both natural and social, at one time, but I don’t think it is so any more. I think scientists begin with a idea and they don’t set out to find the truth, but to prove their idea is right and if something says their idea is wrong, they ignore it or fudge it or manipulate it and only present what supports their original idea. I believe this is the disease of our current society.  It isn’t interested in the truth; it is only interested in its own agenda, right or wrong.

Look at our institutions. 
The object of our justice system is to arrive at the truth through adversarial means. Both the prosecution and the defense are supposed to seek the truth so the final verdict is truth. But court has become a high stakes poker game. It isn’t whether truth comes out, it is how many wins and losses you have. If the prosecution arrests you for a crime you didn’t commit, but there is a ton of evidence that makes it look as if you did, and then one of the prosecution’s investigators uncover one little bit of evidence that shows you probably couldn’t have done it, do they rush to court and yell this man is innocent, let him go?  Sometimes they do, but how often do you hear of bits of evidence mysteriously lost?  Even if they don’t hide the evidence, what do they do (and the defense does it too and perhaps even more often), but try to have the evidence declared inadmissible in court.
The defense goes to any extreme to get their client off, rather than seek the truth. The accused may have had a goatee and never dressed in anything but muscle shirts and tight jeans every day of his life, but you can bet he’ll show up in court with close cropped hair, clean shaven and wearing a neat suit, shirt and tie. The accused may have sacrificed a chicken to Satan every weekend of their adult life, but suddenly they declare they found Jesus and come to trail clutching a Bible to their heart.
Worse of all, the defense will begin investigating every witness against their client, not to see if the person is telling the truth, but to see if they can find some misbehavior in the person's past to use to discredit their character.
 Just look at the O. J. Simpson case and show me where truth was sought?

Now we have business corporations, who should be telling the truth about their financial situation to their stockholders.  This is not only fair and moral, it is actually the law. But do they all abide, no.
There is a system in place supposed to enforce the truth. Corporations must have outside auditors to examine their books and declare whether they are following the accounting standards and presenting the truth.  These firms are to be independent with one purpose, to ascertain and certify that the company has told the truth in their financial statements.
This has collapsed, and why wouldn’t it? No company doing independent audits should also be allow to peddle their counseling and consulting services to the companies they audit. They make more money in consulting fees than audit fees, so whom are they going to please? The public who doesn’t pay them any fees, or they company paying them big fees?
The head of WorldCom in his apology tried to put the blame on Author Andersen (the auditors) just as Enron did. Yes, Andersen is guilty of deception and fraud in my book, but they are not the chief villains.  Isn’t it interesting that the head of WorldCom claims it is Andersen’s fault because they didn’t report the cheating as if that somehow exonerated WorldCom from guilt?  Well who the heck was doing the cheating?  This is like you mug someone and beat him or her to death then discover a bum was in the alley and saw everything, so you slip the bum some money to buy wine if he promises not to squeal on you.  Then you get caught and say it was all the bums fault because he didn’t rat you out.  Tell me how WorldCom’s argument is any different?

We are battered daily with constant news reports of studies on everything from the sexual activities of teenagers to the deaths caused by smoking. Many of these so-called studies are thesis activities at colleges. They are rushed out as quick as the so-called scientists can formulate them and with very little time for independent verification. How many such studies simply disappear into a student file after the big news flash?  And how many turn up as having ignored any conflicting data to their own theory with even some having manufactured data to support their premise.
The new media who should dig in and seek the facts and report the facts only spews out flashy headlines and breathless expositions of the more controversial aspects of these studies.
Where is truth in the news media?  Do they really tell you anything about the motives of these study groups or how the data was collected and controlled?
No.  It is just like they do with protests.

News reporters will cover some outfit protesting something.  Let’s say it is someone against "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. This group contacts the media and says we’re going to have a rally in front of city hall. The news media rushes to city hall and finds six rag-tail nuts with signs sitting quietly on the grass. The news media snaps on the camera and these six people begin hopping about angrily waving signs, shouting there are being forced to worship a god they don’t believe it. The camera frames a tight shot so the six look like a real crowd. The commentary says “a large group of enraged citizens has gathered at City hall in protest of…”
Of course sometimes there is a large group.  If the media is in favor of the cause or thinks it will build ratings, they will be there boosting the whole thing.  “A grand total of 100 thousand people packed the Washington Mall in support of abortion today…” But if they are against the cause, they may not cover it, or they will down play it. “A mere four hundred thousand people were scattered across the Washington mall today protesting abortion.  This was a disappointing showing, for the group was hoping for a million…”
Lies and distortion, never the truth.
Nor fairness.

The news Media will preach fairness.  Their idea is fairness means somebody on both sides of any issue has to be allowed a few seconds on camera, even if the news reporter must spend all day finding someone who supports one or other side. This actually distorts truth because it often makes it look as if more people support something than do, while it makes it appear that less support the other view.
Take the man on the street interview. They may question a hundred people on cream filled donuts and 99 people approached say cream-filled donuts taste good. One person out of the hundred approached says, crème-filled donuts, phooey! On the evening news report the anchor says, "We asked a hundred people about cream-filled donuts, here are some responses".  Picture of very fat woman (one of only ten fat people interviewed) appears and says, "Oh I just love crème-filled donuts".  Now a shot of a slim and trim gentleman who says, "Cream-filled donuts, phooey!"
You are not only given the impression this was an evenly divided opinion when it was actually 99-to-1, but also sublimely given an image of cream-filled donuts being bad for your figure. Crème-filled donuts may be bad for the figure in excess, but this news report did not present the truth.  It presented a distorted, manipulated picture of what the media would have us see.  Unfortunately they do this all the time on issues much more important to our well being than cream-filled donuts.

We are all guilty of some of this.  We like to cling to our own beliefs despite facts, but I have always tried to be open-minded.  I don’t say change your mind and deny your long-held beliefs because some one presents a challenge to them.  But you shouldn’t attack the person by calling names, branding them a bigot, or nazi or knee-jerk reactionary or whatever. You should ask them for their proofs, challenge them to convince you and listen.  Then go and study on it, challenge your own belief, work on it until you are satisfied whether it is still right or not.  If the facts are inconclusive, then hold to your belief, but continue to question.  If your belief is irrefutably proven wrong accept it.  Why live a lie?  If you are proven right, stand up for it.
And remember realizing you may sometimes be wrong about something and changing your mind is not the same thing as changing your principals.  Just because a man decides women are as capable of opening their own doors as he is no reason not to continue to hold the door open for them. I hold the door open for anyone anyway.  It is just the polite thing to do.
I conclude with the sad truth that truth is out of fashion today. Not for me and probably not for you, but I wouldn’t trust anyone or anything else out there.

Illustration: "What is truth?" James J. Tissot, Jesus Appears before Pilate for the First Interview, 1899 (Brooklyn Museum)

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