Honoring the truth is a fundamental value of our culture, one of the first virtues taught by our parents, and it is enshrined by Judeo-Christian religions:
“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord; but they that deal truly are His delight.” (Proverbs 12:22).
“All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8).
How can we combat liars? Start by learning how to tell facts from fiction.
Sounds simple, but crafting conspiracy theories has become an art, in which a few facts are thrown into a concoction of lies and half-truths to create false or misleading narratives which may appear reasonable. Amplification by social media, as well as by corrupt politicians and their propaganda machine, make them widely available.
Thus, while it takes strong will and critical thinking, we need to be ruthless in the analysis of all information sources. Any politician or journalist that is shown to create or amplify a conspiracy theory should be flagged as unreliable and shunned from our attention.
Education curricula should change to improve critical thinking and analysis, but while that happens, collective self-learning is required to confront this assault on truth.
In the political environment nurtured by the Trump administration, seekers of truth — like academics, serious journalists, intelligence-agency personnel and scientists — have been attacked simply because facts unavoidably collide with the alternative reality created in the White House and amplified by cronies in Congress and the propaganda media.
The United States became a world superpower and we enjoyed unmatched prosperity for decades, mainly because of its heavy investments in science and technology, which by their own definition and methods are instruments to reveal truth.
American scientists have defeated polio, taken us to the moon, created the internet and cellular communications, improved the crops that feed the world, revolutionized genetics and medical research, and more. Their great accomplishments resulted from rigorous standards of fact-finding which, by repeated experimentation and validation by colleagues, lead to scientific consensus.
This includes information on subjects such as human causes of climate change, the immense contribution of vaccination to human health, evolution, and the contribution of genetically modified organisms to the world’s food supply.
Science and technology has indeed created some unintended problems (such as toxic wastes and environmental degradation), but given time, support, and adequate industry regulations, most of these problems can also be solved by scientific and technological innovation.
Restoring respect for the search of truth and its practitioners should be a major priority for the next administration. A dark page of American history will be written that will hold accountable the politicians, journalists and leaders who have disregarded truth to create false narratives, sow divisions, mislead voters and corrupt our institutions throughout this unprecedented political era.
The sooner the country moves on to make the Trump administration part of history, the easier it will become to reinstate truth as one of our most treasured values.
Carlos M. Löffler of Fort Collins is a plant breeder and agronomist with experience in agricultural research both in private industry and public institutions.
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