Opinion: The truth is
Commentary by Terry Anker
Does anyone of us hold the patent on truth? Lo, these many centuries we humans have gone forth and multiplied. Perhaps we are the most successful higher creature to ever inhabit this blue rock. We are uniquely suited to work in groups. And in doing so, we fight significantly above our weight class. Among the elements required to this interaction are communication, intelligence, and likely most important, trust. We are required to believe in our compadres – to rely upon their commitment to us and the cause at hand. If we fail to have faith in their dedication, we are far less inclined to meet the challenge and keep our part. So truth, as an essential component of trust, is necessarily an essential component of human flourishing.
Truth, one might say, is sacred. Then, how do we identify it? It is simple enough when fact can be independently measured. Pure water boils at sea level when it reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit. We can all find comfort in the elegant proof of this certainty. But much of what we call fact may more accurately be identified as perspective. From where we sit, we honestly call out our read on a set of data but cannot hope to definitively call it universal truth.
The truth is that truth may be a function of social context and our own bias rather than a measurable scientific standard. If we cannot find a common starting point, can we hope to find our way to a common truth? Diversity is good. But in pursuing it, do we necessarily overlook the value of communal experience? Can we find shared truth without shared understanding? Who knows? Yet, if we hope to benefit from mutual trust, we know that finding and pursuing mutual truth is a prerequisite.