Truth

Truth is what people seek when they need a basis for their decision-making, and don’t have one. Making decisions about anything more important than which sock to put on first requires of us a reason, a justification for why one decision is somehow better than the other. Society teaches us that this reason may not be selfish or arbitrary – and that’s a survival trait of society. Communities don’t survive if individual members of the community value themselves very much above the rest of the community, so that is clearly wrong.

I don’t know if you noticed exactly what I did in the previous sentence: I turned a statement about truth into a statement about right and wrong, where right and wrong isn’t defined clearly by some outside argument, but by peer pressure. If the majority of the community is harmed by it, they’ll claim that an action is wrong.

Let’s tackle this from a different angle, though.

I’m sure you have, at one time or another, heard someone ask someone else to “think outside the box”. Picture, if you will, that your whole life has been spent inside a big cardboard box with no holes or openings. If that picture immediately leads to thoughts such as “How would I survive?” or “Imagine the smell!”, picture instead a closed off room, a cell. You have everything you need, except for a means of communication with the outside. You have a toilet, shower, an opening where food comes in (but it’s cleverly designed so you can’t look out), and a grille that lets in fresh air. You don’t have TV or radio.

How would you explain where your body wastes go, and where the food comes from? How is the dirty water you flush down the toilet connected to the clean water that comes out of the tap – and is it connected at all?

Knowing everything you know, which is the cell you’ve lived all your life in, you might imagine some creatures similar to you, obviously endowed with some means of cleaning water that you don’t possess, to take care of whatever needs taking care to make your world function as it does. I don’t know how you’d imagine those creatures to look, or the lives they’d lead – but I can be very, very certain, that you wouldn’t imagine that your little box is sitting on a giant ball of rock that’s hurtling at enormous speeds around an even bigger ball of fire, and that the creatures involved in cleaning your water compose a globe-spanning network of bacteria, insects, worms and plants.

What, therefore, is truth to you? The image of humanoid helpers magically cleaning your water, or the image of the earth as we know it?