The Search for Truth

If you haven’t given up on me after the last post, I’m hoping that means the truth is important to you as well. I do not for even a split second claim to have all the answers, or to have a monopoly on the truth. You may not agree with me on the best ways to discover the truth, but I’d like to make some suggestions.

First, let’s get something out of the way: all newscasting is biased. Humans are biased. It’s virtually unavoidable. Everyone has their own unique set of deeply held personal beliefs, and it’s nearly impossible for that to not affect how we respond to certain news. Some sources are notorious for being exceptionally biased. But there are plenty of sources that try as much as possible to present the news or fact check without overtly skewing the facts toward their own bias.

I know there’s been a story going around about how “Snopes got snoped”. There’s actually a really great review of that dilemma here. The thing is, people have been claiming for years that Snopes is “too liberal”, while others have been claiming they’re “too conservative”. The truth of the matter is that they’ve done a particularly good job of remaining as neutral as it is possible to be, on a wide variety of stories on both sides of the divide, which as I said is very difficult. But here’s the most important part: they always cite their sources. If you think they’ve said something hinky, it’s super easy to follow up on the story, just by clicking on the links throughout the article. That is exactly why Snopes.com has remained a highly respected, tremendous resource for fact-checking for so many years. Snopes even has their own response to this claim that they’re biased, stating that the direction of the supposed bias changes depending on which political party is in control at the time, and whether an article fits the claimant’s preconceived notions.

And therein lies the problem.  As I said, everyone has their own beliefs, and those beliefs affect our personal bias. But we should never cling so desperately to our personal worldview that we don’t allow ourselves to remain open-minded to the truth. There will be times when we don’t like the truth. But truth can withstand any amount of intense scrutiny. We should not fear our beliefs being challenged; if they are based on truth, they will endure. It may occasionally happen that we will discover something we believe in is not based on truth, and we will need to be willing to adjust our beliefs accordingly.

If you can’t let go of the idea that Snopes is biased, though, there are plenty of other resources. Factcheck.org, Politifact, and Fact Checker are just a few. Media Bias Fact Check has a list of 10 of their favorite sites, which includes the ones I’ve mentioned. I particularly like that they use many different resources at the same site. But here’s the biggest thing: If you read a news story that seems outrageous, chances are high that the reporting is biased. If we only rely on one source for our news, we are likely to be overwhelmed by that bias, and we will become increasingly unwilling to make sure that our beliefs are in line with the truth.

I know what I’m asking. I know how deeply ingrained some beliefs can be. But if truth is more important to us than our personal bias, there are potentially times when we will have to be willing to put our beliefs through extreme investigation in our pursuit of that truth. As painful as it might be, we might be occasionally required to reevaluate our opinions. I hope that we as individuals, and as a country, have the strength of character to do exactly that.

 

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