Why Speak Truth?

The title of this blog, Overcoming Bias, marks a theme here: I try to look past appearances and correct biases, to see and say things as they are.  Periodically someone will ask: what’s so great about truth?  They commonly presume I’ve made a strong claim, such as that it is always better to believe and say the truth, no matter what the cost or topic.  I make no such claim.

Instead I’ll just note that it is a big world, and people vary in many ways.  A great many people give lip service to the truth, talking as if it was their highest allegiance.  Far fewer folks, perhaps none, are actually this way.  But since folks vary, there will be a furthest tail of this distribution, and those most-truth-seeking folks might appreciate relevant things to read.

In the vastness that is the web, there should be some places where folks who most want to see and say truth can congregate.  Of course far more folks want to claim the mantle of truth-teller than want to pay its real costs.  So you should treat with skepticism any claim that I’ve actually achieved this status far more than most folks.  And I make no such claim.

I will, however, suggest that truth seeking and telling can make useful and important contributions to the world.  The tendencies that we have inherited, genetically or culturally, to deceive ourselves and others no doubt contain wisdom, at least about when such behavior is in our personal interest.  But since the world is changing rapidly, our inherited tendencies can’t always get it right; someday they may go very wrong.  Somewhere, someone should think carefully and truthfully about recent or upcoming changes, ready to warn others about where our inherited self-deceptions could go off the rails.

This post dedicated to the high quality comments of TGGP.

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