Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Is anything absolutely true?

A few weeks ago, I was struck by the careful wording of one of the TV news readers. She said something to the effect of, ‘According to the Japanese government, there is very slight elevation of radiation levels around the damaged reactors, not enough to impact human life.’ Then later in the newscast, she said virtually the same thing, and added, ‘However, the American government hasn’t, so far, been able to get its own people close enough to take measurements.'

In other words, don’t trust what you are hearing.

I also read a news report about Libya. It detailed the efforts of the common people to rise up and throw off their oppressive government, and the fiendish attacks on these unarmed people by the army, by military planes, and by armed Gadafi supporters.
Of course, Gadafi came back stating that the people of Libya were ‘his children,’ that they all loved him, and that the ones causing all the problems were a small bunch of rebels, being instigated by some outside group. At one turn he blamed the United States as the instigators, in the next breath he blamed al Queda.

Okay. So, I was kicking this around with a friend, and we came to an interesting conclusion. The human race is rapidly approaching the point where it will be impossible for anyone to be absolutely sure about – anything, ever again.

Either the “truth” about radioactivity in Japan is being concealed by Tokyo Electric and/or the Japanese government; or, the “truth” about Japanese radiation is being overblown to make a better story in the media; or some instigators are trying to make Tokyo Electric or the Japanese government look bad; or, it's far worse than we are being told but being covered up to prevent panic; take your pick.

The “truth” about Libya, as well as Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Jordan, etc, etc, is either that, with the help of the internet and cell phones, the common people are finally realizing that they have been cruelly exploited by greedy dictators for decades and they’ve had enough. Or, the truth is that some outside influence is plotting to overthrow the duly constituted governments of several middle eastern countries by orchestrating small demonstrations and playing the media like a cheap fiddle to maximize coverage. Or…
We have lived through, are living in, a unique time in human history, a narrow window of opportunity. Prior to the 1900s, many Christian organizations (such as the Bible societies that began to proliferate in the 1800s) felt obligated to try to carry out the command in the Bible at Matthew 28:19, 20: ‘Go and make disciples out of all the nations…and teach them to obey every command which I have given you. And remember, I am with you always, day by day, until the Close of the Age.’ 
Yet they found it a nearly impossible task, in part due to the limitations of printing, shipping, and communication, and in part due to the stranglehold The Church had on people's thinking. Those limitations completely disappeared in the twentieth century.
20 years from now, or possibly much sooner, a new limitation will have waded onto the scene. Libraries are downsizing and disappearing. Books are being reduced from tangible paper and ink to a bunch of electronic blips in a computer somewhere. Who’s to say what is real, accurate, and what has been manipulated? The scripture I quoted in the previous paragraph I found at a website of parallel bible versions. You might find it a handy tool. I use it because it is easier and more mistake-proof to copy/paste from the website than to physically take down a Bible and type in exactly what it says.

I’m willing to use that tool only because I know, from my old-fashioned paper-and-ink Bible, that the website is at least transmitting the gist of the correct message. But how is a user who is unfamiliar with the Bible supposed to know whether what is written on that website is accurate? And, in fact, a careful reader will recognize that I switched horses in midstream, pasting verse 19 from one Bible version and verse 20 from another. There is nothing to stop someone quoting me in the future and implying that my wording of that scripture is the exact contiguous text of a single version.

The old saw that ‘seeing is believing’ is no longer true, either. Youtube allows everyone - from here in Phoenix to around the world in Libya - to become a news reporter, but there are thousands of examples of phony film clips on Youtube, from a motorcycle ripping away a tablecloth without moving the 12 place settings on it, to cell phones popping popcorn

And Photoshop and "deep fakes" are making it harder and harder for the average person to trust anything.

Pontius Pilate famously, sarcastically, asked Jesus, “What is truth?” While absolute truth was, in fact, available to him had his question been sincere, we are rapidly reaching the point where no one will be able to definitively, categorically, answer that question.

And the uncertainty could kill us.

Your polite comments are welcome. 

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at

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