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Brain Food #794: The truth about truth
"Cleared completely and definitely improved"
Thoughts of the day
Although the topic of what truth is has become largely political over recent years, it also carries much significance in the non-political sense. Think of the things we believe to be true because they are the norm, or the things we want to be true because they are our desires.
Just because a majority claims something to be true, this doesn’t necessarily make it the truth. How many false truths do we take for granted? What should you be more sceptical about?
The truth about truth is that it can often be shaped by our own explorations and perceptions, or distortions, of reality.
We can perhaps unearth some of these distortions of reality by questioning the first claim, or ‘proof’, that we see about the existence of something. This is similar to second-order thinking, but instead of thinking of the further consequences and outcomes of a decision, this form of questioning is related to the data and assumptions that led to a fact or conclusion.
Another related question to ask is regarding the truths not yet uncovered: what obvious thing are you missing? Van Gogh’s art was too different from what was considered art at the time, and wasn’t appreciated until after his death. Galileo faced heavy criticism because his theories were contradicting the religious beliefs that were established as norms.
And, in the 1940s, doctors were smoking Camels.
Until the 1950s, there was no scientific evidence linking smoking to negative health consequences. Philip Morris were runnings ads that claimed: “when smokers changed to Philip Morris, every case of irritation cleared completely and definitely improved.” This statement was even based on a study, one that they themselves had, of course, conducted.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company created their own Medical Relations Division so they could also discover their own convenient truth about their products. They began by giving doctors Camel cigarettes for free, and then asked them what cigarette brands they smoked. The result: “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.”
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