Distortions Are the Enemies of Truth

Politicians’ creed: When in doubt, make race the issue

photo credit: Sky Noir via photopin cc

Facts are the enemy of truth.

Don Quixote

We live in a strange world where many people seem to believe that we all create our own reality.  Politicians speak from ideologies and biases intended to evoke visceral emotive responses rather than thoughtful and honest dialog.  Take the recent comments by Rep Alvin Homes (D-AL) comparing Judge Clarence Thoms an “Uncle Tom”.  And, if that weren’t disgusting enough, as the Montgomery Advertiser posted in “Alvin Holmes’ remarks on race make national headlines”:

Holmes said 99 percent of the white legislators in the chamber would raise their hand to say they’re against abortion, and that same 99 percent would make their daughters get an abortion if they were impregnated by a black man

“You ain’t gonna have no little black baby if you got two other white children, and then she’s gonna have a little black baby running around there in the living room or in the den with the rest of them,” he said. “They’re not going to let that happen. You know that and I know that.”

Are these the statements of a man seeking the truth of a matter?  Is this an example of someone having an honest debate?  I think not!  Yet, how many arguments for or against the Bible or for or against Christianity are just as filled with dishonest dialog?

How many anti-Church of God blogs contain these same elements?

I’ll admit that I never read a complete story of Don Quixote all the way through.  My junior high school teacher assigned a short story of Don Quixote’s adventures attacking a windmill that is apparently a giant or dragon or something.  Even now, I think it somewhat odd that required reading in school somehow involves the adventures of a lunatic.  I guess the story was supposed to be humorous, but there are so many other possibilities for humor, IMO.

However, that isn’t a big deal to me, and I’m sorry if someone takes offense at any perceived jab at their literary taste.  What I do consider a big deal, though, is the rhetoric some use to justify their beliefs that frankly could have come straight from the mouth of Don Quixote himself.  Post modernism has institutionalized insanity, if you want the honest unvarnished truth.  Even “truth” itself is under attack with this belief system!

It once was that when someone spoke seriously (vs, say, science fiction) about alternate realities and the like, they locked them up!  There is no such thing as “my truth” or “your truth”.  Either something is real, or it is not.  A belief in something that is not real is, frankly, insanity!

There are, unfortunately, all sorts of distortions that occur daily from all sorts of ideologues.  We can argue all day long about which group in any polarized situation has it worse, but the fact remains that everyone is infected to one degree or another with biases, bad assumptions and the like.


First of all, everyone makes assumptions.  In a complicated world, we have to assume a few things.  We generally assume that science will give us the truth about certain things.  We assume the sun will rise the next day.  We generally assume that when we sit down in a chair that it will support our weight and that it will not float up into the sky.  Some of these things might be “proven”, while some may not be.  Even “proven” ideas have a common thread, and that is that what was true today will be true again tomorrow.

Even scientific experiments are supposed to list their assumptions at the beginning.  We usually call these the “givens”.  Normally, a hypothesis is stated followed by a “given that” clause or section.  These are the things that the experiment will not set out to prove.  They are outside of the scope of the work being done.

Obviously, if a bad assumption is made, then the experiment’s results may or may not fit reality.  It’s like what we say in the computer world:  “Garbage In, Garbage Out” (GIGO).

One assumption that seems to be common among Protestant and COG folk alike is thinking that language is a static construct.  Picking out the esoteric or uncommon meaning of words and making a Big Deal™ out of it.  When you read something like “8 pronunciation errors that made the English language what it is today“, though, it should hit you just how fluid language really is.

This is why I wrote “Phileo vs Agape, or What Language Did Jesus Speak?“, because you are doing no one any favors by picking out the esoteric and making an almost-doctrine out of it.

It is also why I tend to avoid the Amplified Bible.  At first, it looks neat that it puts all of the possible meanings of some words in square brackets, which should “amplify” the meaning.  In practice, however, it turns out that often people just look for the one particular and not necessarily common meaning that fits their preconceived ideas and run with it.

Logical Fallacies

There are lines of reasoning that simply do not follow the rules of logic.  If we are really going to prove something, we need to weigh the facts and stick to the subject.  Logical fallacies invariably detour from the facts and instead usually either target the emotions or confuse/evade the issue.

Distortions and Emotional Competencies

It isn’t that emotions don’t have a role in our lives.  We are, after all, emotional beings.  At the same time, animals are rather emotional as well.  They experience fear, lust, affection, rage, etc., like we do.  The difference is a special creativity combined with a special intellect that places us squarely into the “image of God” category.

I would even argue that creativity cannot exist in a vacuum of emotions.  Even the appreciation of the arts comes from the heart.  Likewise, when we set goals in life, we often phrase them as things we want to do rather than the things that are logical to do.  What good is it, after all, doing something we absolutely hate even if we have the natural skills for it?

Take, for example, morality.  It is one thing to show that a certain norm or more is beneficial to the individual, the group or even the society at large.  However, even that predisposes that benefiting those people is in and of itself a good thing!

Rather than ignoring emotions, we need to recognize the distortions that cause us to emote a response when in reality the distortion itself doesn’t match reality.  On Emotional Competency, “Distortions” describes those distorted styles in detail.  Briefly, here they are some of them (please go to the source article to see the detailed descriptions):

  • Selective filtering
  • Overgeneralization
  • Polarized thinking/false dichotomy/false dilemma
  • “Mind reading”/False Attribution (imputing motives without supporting information, insinuations, innuendo, etc.)
  • “Catrastrophizing” (making mountains out of molehills)
  • Cognitive Dissonance (examples: Not using Jewish calendar for holy days because it is put out by “Christ hating apostate Jews” — not my words — yet looking to Jewish history to see how they observed the moon, decrying the “commentaries and opinions of men; especially the beliefs of unconverted men and commandment rejecting churches” yet histories by non-Sabbath keeping or even unknown religious affliated men is OK as long as they support foregone conclusions on BI and other matters)
  • Bias (beware of terms such as “them”, “us”, “others” and especially more derogatory terms)
  • Stereotypes (“they always”, “they never” or even “most do” indicate possible stereotyping)
  • Ego defense (denial, projection, intellectualization and other techniques to make ourselves and/or our stereotypes seem right or better)

A few on their list are repetitive, and I skipped some others, so again refer to the original article for completeness.

Conspiracy Theories and Mythology

I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of the people who claim to be part of the larger COG but peddle distortions are also given to conspiracy theories.  Some of these are so beyond the pale that I have to scratch my head to ponder why anyone in their right mind would believe such nonsense, but then I realize the question answers itself.

The following is from the Amazon description for Sherry Fiester’s Enemy of the Truth, Myths, Forensics, and the Kennedy Assassination. I have not read the book, but this introduction is enough to make me put it on my wish list:

President John F. Kennedys assassination is the most studied murder investigation of the 21st century, yet it remains plagued by questions and a variety of unproven theories. Regardless of how tenacious and believable an enduring claim may be, if lacking historical or scientific sustenance, it is a myth. While these intriguing, but unverifiable suppositions gather attention, they detract from the quality of information essential to explain this mysterious homicide. Myths are superficial, have no investigative depth and ask the reader to take a leap of faith that having supporting scientific evidence does not require. John F. Kennedy said, “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.” Filtering long held beliefs in the Kennedy assassination through contemporary, reliable, established scientific facts will help to dispel myths; the very thing Kennedy described as the great enemy of truth. Enemy of the Truth utilizes various forensic disciplines to dispel assassination mythologies, including simultaneous headshots, where the shooter for the fatal head shot was located, if the limousine stopped and more.

Mythology evokes the emotions and works to bypass logic.  Myths require a certain suspension of critical thinking in order to be believable.  Any “proofs” offered are usually thin, superficial and ignore any contradictory evidence (how many distortions and fallacies did I just name?).  Myths are often based upon real people or real events, but the stories are distorted and, given enough time, no longer even resemble the reality that was.

The Source of Truth

Truth is “out there”.  It is not something that human beings can fabricate.  In fact, even the word “fabricate” has a connotation of false, not real and processed.  We humans can make a lot of things, but things either are or are not, ideas either are true or they are false, and even a little untruth contaminates the whole.

Add to that, human beings are fallible and anything but all-knowing.  Even science recognizes that no one can know all there is to know (even though sometimes they behave differently).  Science is based upon the idea that the search for knowledge is unending.  Therefore, many of our “scientific” ideas and theories actually turn out to be quite wrong.  Perhaps they work in certain circumstances, but at some point they break down.

However, there was One Man Who was perfect.  There was One Man Who could tap into the ultimate source of knowledge.

8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Heb 5:8-9

Jesus was “made” a Son when He became human!  He was “made” perfect, which would have included the physical sense!  Since He pre-existed from all of eternity, His physical presence was “made” perfectly.  He would have been physically, spiritually and mentally complete.  He not only propagated truth, but He was truth!  As the Creator, the One Who spoke all into existence, He embodied truth!

And what did He personally say about perfection, speaking Himself in perfect humility?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Mt 5:48

Also, Jesus spoke a lot about the truth.  What did He say was the source of truth?

17 Sanctify them through thy [God the Father’s] truth: thy word is truth.

Jn 17:17

We have God’s written instructions for truth!  How exciting is that?

Yet, when people read it, do they really read what it says?  Do they engage in eisegesis or exegesis?  Do they read it while looking through the lens of distortions?  Do they read it in order to justify themselves, console themselves they are correct or to “prove” their preconceived notions?

More importantly, do we?


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