Saturday, 17 March 2012

Distorting reality

A universal seeking of Truth, Love and God (the source of both) is the foundation on which all societies must rest if they are to survive and progress. This is my belief and most people, deep down, believe the same.

Without truth it is not possible to have true love. Instead you get the kind of ‘love’ that many influential 1960s teachers in my own country felt for pupils when they refused them discipline and guidance, following the preaching of A.S.Neill, the humanist educationist icon of the time.   He no doubt meant well, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions: our standard of education and moral behaviour have steadily fallen by failing to recognise that not all human beings are naturally good and that children do not always know what is best for them. Yet a sizeable proportion of the intelligentsia, political leaders and the people who vote for them are immersed in a culture of truth distortion that, if not checked, could lead into disaster.

Some examples are listed below but please let me point out that I fully realise that within each area there are honest and good people at work, often helplessly caught up like slaves in a money-making, truth-destroying machine, although occasionally they succeed in going against the grain or setting up a profit or not-for-profit enterprise with a good ethos and providing something useful to society by taking into account the wider community. I am also aware that in a greater scheme the 1960s teaching must have had a role to play in reforming man's institutions and allowing more creativity and humanity into society. There is a purpose and a time for everything under heaven. Now the times are changing.

The list below leaves out actual fraud and corruption – all the truth distortion falls within the letter of the law.

Informative advertising about something of genuine value is an essential part of a dynamic society which wishes to progress in its quality of life. Yet each year huge amounts of money (measured in tens of billions of dollars worldwide) and teams of talented people are devoted to giving others misleading information about a product or service, as well as persuading them that it will improve their lives or even their worth as human beings. The result is not only a prodigious waste of resources but a grossly inefficient economy where production is matched to distorted demand, the economy fails to deliver a better way of life and social values are distorted.

Every major enterprise – private, public or government - has a PR department dedicated to misleading the press, the financial community, its shareholders, its customers, the government and the wider community. A waste of human effort, talent, energy and natural resources. Moreover, directors have been focused on misleading shareholders and potential investors by managing the finances of a company to maximise share prices in the short term, rather than directing capital to those activities which deliver long term added value to all the company’s stakeholders – share holders, employees, customers and the community in which the enterprise operates.

Hedge funds, futures traders, credit default swap agencies and investment banks often live in a fantasy world governed by computer models (which assume all people are governed purely by self-interest all the time and ignore any factor outside the horizon of the mechanistic model – e.g. the unexpected event, such as war or natural disaster or the creativity of nature) and the idea you can get something for nothing if you act quickly and craftily enough in response to market prices. These make an art form of deception in order to attract money by playing down the risk and exaggerating the potential gain. The result is another mismatch between market price and real value, which in turn leads to capital going into the wrong business.

Circulation has always been a part of journalism, either to maximise advertising charges or to get the biggest possible subscription revenue. Financial support from vested interests has also been a factor. Exaggeration and sensationalism have often been employed to attract readers or to influence their world-view (this blog is trying to influence yours but, I hope, without distorting reality). This has always been balanced to a degree by other factors: ethics, concern for fairness and objectivity, a sense of human decency and a responsibility for social cohesion. Yet in recent decades the press and media have gone too far towards maximising sales revenue and rewarding journalists on a readership-related performance basis. The end result is lots of readers with a distorted view of the world, which makes it difficult for the ordinary citizen to participate in a democratic process, and the formation or encouragement of warring factions in society.

MPs, senators, congressmen etc. are increasingly less interested in truthfully portraying the problems they are elected to solve or the progress they have made in keeping to previous promises, or in treating their peers with respect. This tendency arises partly from a general decline in the ethics taught at the schools they attended and is encouraged by a divisive media that not only promotes or exaggerates the slightest rift between politicians but tries to ridicule or scandalise those with the humility to admit mistakes or change their mind as circumstances change or even as they meditate on past beliefs, or to be less than perfect in their private lives. Pressure from professional lobby groups is another cause of truth distortion. Again, democracy is not feasible unless citizens have a good idea of what their politicians are doing  and how it affects their lives.

Policing and the judiciary
Faced with a society which has a decreasing respect for honesty, where the honest are deemed naive or sanctimonious, where absolute morals are not reinforced by awareness of an all-pervading Creator, where there is in effect no Holy Bible to swear on in court, where you and your family are all that matter, it is not surprising that an individual within the police or the judiciary will be concerned more with immediate expediency than the truth about a crime.

Drug companies have to attract large amounts of money to finance their R&D and provide a healthy long term return. This means distorting medical research to present a rosy picture to investors, health authorities, doctors, and the public. There is also a pressure on both private and pubic health providers to present their service to clients and potential clients in the best light rather than realistically.

Truth as established by peer reviewed academic investigation was  always affected by the race for recognition and journalistic hype, with the latter gaining ground in recent years, and the battle for research funding has meant a certain amount of hype coming from the researchers themselves. However, recently it has been under more serious attack by idealistic scientists. Truth is essential to progress but whereas at one time it was held sacred and the universe was deemed rational because it was formed by a rational Creator, there is now a move by Naturalists to distort aspects of evolution, quantum physics and cosmology to eliminate a Creator from reality and with it the sanctity of truth. Chance is increasingly invoked as the new god of the gaps, or the gaps are ignored by adopting a post modern view of reality.
See The five-fold threat to science

Since the liberalisation of schools, in the UK and elsewhere, in the 1960s, education has been run on the illusion that pupils know what is best for themselves and that all people are naturally good. Adults are not there to discipline or guide them but mostly to pander to their needs and bring them out, a policy which has led to a spiralling lack of discipline and falling education standards in the English-speaking world at least.

On top of these endemic distortions of reality and the departure from the spirit of the law there is also an increasing amount of corruption and fraud contravening the letter of the law, even in the English-speaking countries where this has hitherto been minimal by the standards of most parts of the world.

If any readers think this does not call for a spiritual renewal I would like to hear from them.

See also

 What is truth?

Hold on to the truth
(includes a review of Stephen Hawking's post modern metaphysical extravaganza, the Grand Design, shortly to be televised despite widespread debunking of the book by theoretical physicists and philosophers of science.)

Doctrine of chance
Fighting fatalism

Is there meaning behind random events?

The five-fold threat to science

Are some scientists from the planet vulcan?

Jean Paul Sartre: not the way to Peace on Earth

1984: collective post-modernism