Posted 22 April 2014 by Chris Farmer
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How to distinguish truth from falsehood
It is important not to keep an open mind.
You have heard it said that you should always "keep an open mind."
That you should always "keep an open mind" is a very dangerous idea. It suggests that you should accept any idea as being plausible.
To keep an open mind suggests that it is a virtue to grant plausibility to anything; that anyone's idea could be true. This theory; that you should keep an open mind, is used by people to keep others confused and to cause them to accept an impossible idea as "a possibility": one that should be tested to see if there is anything in it.
But obviously, not every idea can be true. Not every idea can be true because there is only one planet earth. And it is governed by one set of unchanging natural laws, (the laws of nature). These laws are unchanging and immutable. They are not up for discussion and they don't change with the fashions or the times. Nature's laws are objective truths that are brute facts, not up for negotiation.
Therefore, it cannot be possible that all ideas can be true. Since an idea is a concept that is the minds attempt to identify a fact. And therefore there is only one true idea that corresponds to any given aspect of reality. There is and can be only one valid theory of arithmetic. There is and can be, only one valid theory of chemistry, or history, or biology. The periodic table of elements is not on equal footing with Aristotle's five elements of air, water, earth, fire and ether.
It would be a mistake to think that the periodic table of elements and Aristotle's 5 elements were both possibilities and that each person can pick his or own favourite, depending on their mood.
There is only one true theory of anything.
In any area of human activity you are faced by a multitude of conflicting, opposing and contradictory ideas, each one claiming to be true. Since there is only one reality, then there can be only one true description of that reality, and therefore there can be only one true idea. All the others are false. Therefore, your task is to try to discover which (if any) of the multitude of competing ideas on any subject is true and which ones are not. In any sphere of human activity, there can be only one true theory, the one theory that corresponds closest to reality. All the others will be false. And it could be that, in certain realms, there is not one correct theory. They are all wrong and the truth is not yet known.
It would be a mistake to think that there are multiple truths. Because truth means, "corresponds to reality". For there to be "multiple truths" would mean there were multiple planet earths, and multiple sets of natural laws. (Is there really one reality each for each of us??)
The injunction, that you should keep an open mind, suggests that there are, for any aspect of the world, multiple sets of true ideas, each one of them is possible, and therefore, you should try them all one at a time, to see which one "works best for you".
To do so would mean you waste years of precious time, endlessly trying one idea after another, in the hope that, one day, you will stumble across an idea that works for you.
One religion after another. One diet after another. One political theory after another. One husband after another. One day you will stumble across a husband that "works for you".
This is no good. Reject the idea of keeping an open mind.
Instead of having an open mind, you should strive to have an Active mind.
An active mind is one that is trying to sort truth from non-truth. Truth from falsehood. Truth from error. Truth from a lie.
The search of the one in the many.
The one true idea in the many false ideas, on the same subject.
Which is the true theory of nutrition. Not all the ideas on dieting can be true ideas.
Which is the true theory of the origin of the species.
Which is the true theory of how to run an economy.
Which is the true theory of how to gain strength.
You do not have enough time to have an open mind and try all ideas.
You have limited time on this planet and so you should not have an open mind.
Instead develop an active mind.
Develop an active mind capable of distinguishing truth from non-truth.
Find the one in the many.
For the second part of this 'How to distinguish truth from falsehood' blog please read 'Leadership skills: 20 ways to discern the truth (Part Two)'