Wetenschap - 30 mei 2002

Column: Separating the fact from the fiction

Column: Separating the fact from the fiction

It is time I gave you my opinion on current events, or is it? Just what do we regard as fact nowadays? We must rely on established sources, but then reputation is no guarantee of impartiality. What do we accept as significant substantiation? The truth can be an elusive goal, reserved for the righteous idealist. How can we hope to separate the actuality from the fanciful imaginings, with bombardment of hearsay to the point of saturation?

I remember precious little from history lessons all those years ago except one question our teacher insisted we keep in mind when examining a source of information. He instructed us to ask, 'Why is this bastard lying to me?' When the gain outweighs the risk, it seems the incentive behind testimony is all too often self-interest. The ulterior motive can sometimes be more revealing of the verity than the content of that said!

The justice system uses the rationale that, whoever tells the most convincing story, right or wrong, wins. For all the convicted fraudsters, many more slip past undetected. The white lie creates a matrix of half-truths that shroud fact in conflicting bias. The word politician becomes synonymous with cheating, lying scumbag. In a world where the multinational corporation transcends conventional governmental control, the profit margin replaces conscience. Fortune favours the brave, but size unfortunately matters quite a bit. Grossly corpulent affluence, and the influence it brings, tips the fickle scales of justice.

I apologetically acknowledge that I am prone to generalisation is these columns, lumping groups together in order to make sweeping statements of the obvious (or of the apparent) that I try to pass off as valid comment. I attempt to pull the wool over your eyes by emanating eloquence. I am attracted to writing by the connection of author and reader B the provocation of thought in two independent beings. We are individual entities of autonomous thought, free to act as we see fit but not necessarily left to do so unless it is in the interests of others.

At the risk of sounding gullible, I would prefer to believe someone than not. Belief is an admission of defeat to the hardened cynic but an attitude it is necessary to concede to break the deadlock of mutual suspicion, which has reeked so much havoc in recent times and throughout history. Relinquishing faith in humanity is detrimental; societies will fall apart without the cohesion of consensus. There is little choice but to accept the truth as it is presented, making it more necessary than ever to maintain objectivity and limit your susceptibility to deception. Take it all with a pinch of salt.

David Lee Hopkins