Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Where is the truth?

In a comment left to Zeitgeist - The Movie, my reader asks

Ok, I understand that I shouldn't take this film as gospel and I need to find the answers for myself, but where? Wikipedia is apparently a joke. The internet is full of false information, and after watching this video I don't know if I can trust history books anymore. If we are in fact being lied to, then what resources exist that I can actually trust? I'm feeling very cynical about this. Can anyone ever really know the truth?

Good question. Where can we find the truth?

Different people will have different answers to this question. To me, where is only one way: Triangulation from multiple independent sources.

For scientific facts, If I were doing science, I would repeat the experiment myself and verify to my own satisfaction that the outcome is really as described. Unfortunately, under most circumstances, not everyone has the resource to repeat an experiment. The second best would be find other data of similar experiments and verify the data and calculation to see if the same conclusion can be drawn.

For historical accounts, such as 9/11, again triangulation from multiple independent sources. Some sources will have more weight than others, for example those first person account IMMEDIATELY after the event, those TV interviews on that terrible day. Other important things to look for are minor details - details that rehearsed versions will not cover.

By now, I have forgotten most of "Zeitgeist - The Movie", however there are a number of questions still remain in my mind which I don't have a satisfactory answer:

1. How to explain the claim that multiple explosions were heard by people escaping from the collapsing towers on that day. These people escaping from the falling towers did not have any motivation to tell any lie. They were saying what they felt/heard. May be the "explosions" were floors hitting one another. But the speed of collapse (at free falling speed) could not support floor hitting each other.
2. How BBC could have reported the collapse of building 7 BEFORE the building had actually collapsed? Millions of people would have seen that news (and there are plenty of that video on the web) and none have come forward to claim that that news was fake. So, how can we explain that?
3. I remotely remember I saw a photo of ground zero showing huge steel column with a clean skewed cut. If my memory of that photo is correct, how can we explain that clean cut would be caused by burning of airline fuel?

Back to the main issue of this post: Where can we find the truth? The answer will not come from those with vested interest. We should be looking at elsewhere, from sources with NO motivation to lie. We should forget about the theory and look for evidence and form a theory for ourselves.


Alec Couros said...

I think you need to go back further and question the nature of truth, and whether or not there is a truth. Rather than triangulation, what about situated or relative truths, multiple perceptions of the same incident or experience? I like your approach, but I think that this question is even much more fundamental than you suggest.

Administrator: Albert Ip said...

Thank you Alec.

"Is Earth flat or is Earth a sphere?" The answer depends on time and purpose. Today, most will agree that the Earth is is a sphere, but from all practically daily activities, we can safely treat the Earth as flat - until we do air travel or something at a larger distance.

Is that situated truth or relative truth?

To me, the truth is "The earth is spherical". I came to this conclusion by triangulating several difference sources of evidence:
1. in ocean, you see the top of a ship before you see the rest.
2. the shortest distance of air travel is along the great circle
3. photos from satellite.

Is there a truth about 9/11? It depends, of course, on what do you mean by "truth". One which cannot be situational nor relative would be "whether the Towers and building 7 were a managed demolition?" The true answer to that can only be "yes" or "no".

Is 9/11 a terror attack? I am sure it is. The question is who did that? To turn the question around, we can also ask "who benefited the most?" I guess that would qualify as "situated truth".

I am sure different people at the same place at the same time will experience differently because of our brain's information filtering ability. As such people would be describing the same event differently. To these people, everything they felt would be the "truth". That's a perception. However there are objective truth which we can piece together without personal perception, bias and theory. That part, I suggest, could be, and should be, achieved via triangulation of independent evidences.