Discerning Truth

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A couple weeks ago, you had the opportunity to take a Civic Literacy Exam. Ready for a Science Quiz?

What caught my eye with this test is that it indirectly claimed to answer the question "do you have the facts to back up your opinion [on global warming, evolution, embryonic stem cells, and the politicized nature of scientific research]?"

Apparently, I do ...78% of the time (after taking the test once, I now know everything I need to). So what kind of knowledge do you need to have an appropriate opinion on these topics? You need to be able to recognize things like:

  • Earth's most common atmospheric gas
  • Elements based off their atomic number
  • Various abbreviations or their term
  • Several Greek words or other definitions
  • A couple compounds or their reactions
  • The most basic commonly accepted answers for the age of things
  • Some units of measure
  • A couple equations
  • The topics certain scientists worked on
  • Various "Trivial Pursuit" tidbits about astronomy or other areas of study
  • One or two physics equations
  • A few other words and ideas

The thing that leapt off the screen and smacked me across the face is this: None of this information has much of anything to do with anyone's opinion about climate change, evolution education, stem-cell research, or science funding. Being able to properly match/guess the answers to any of the questions in no way helps you be able to discern the truth in these areas. As if amassing a certain number of accepted facts and ideas suddenly made us worthy of seeing clearly!

I get the idea in the background: Don't talk about stuff you don't know anything about. But the magnitude of disconnect between the questions on the test and the issues at hand completely distracts from that legitimate point.

So how do we discern truth about these (and many other) issues? I'll offer my suggestion, but I look forward to your insights as well:

Learn more. Often contested ideas are complex issues.

  1. Look at both sides of the argument. Try to get to the foundational issues/questions. I've found that many of these boil down to a couple core elements and either have little to do with each other, or are the outcome of wildly divergent presuppositions.
  2. Follow the money/power. Funding and fear drive a great many things, often unintentionally. What is gained or lost if one side "wins" or "loses"?
  3. Check the "fruit." Jesus was pretty clear that good comes out of good people, so I assume that ideas work the same way. But to check the fruit, you'll probably have to learn more by going back to points 1 and 2...

How do you teach your children to discern truth?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad
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3 Responses to Discerning Truth

  1. Jeff Hoots says:

    This facts / truth disconnect recently came up in Indiana: Indiana Senate Bill 98 would have authorized teaching of creation in school districts. While debating the merits of this in an online news comment forum (where all good debates now take place ?!), an evolutionist said, "everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts." The point she missed is that both creationists and evolutionists have the same set of facts, but we draw different conclusions from those facts. So facts do not equal truth. This was a great case study for Indiana homeschooling families.

  2. I don't think that quiz proved much of anything. I took basically no science in high school or college, and I scored 76%.

  3. Luke says:

    Good point, Jeff. While some would argue that Creationists ignore certain facts, the point remains: Looking at the same data, we can arrive at very different conclusions based on our presuppositions. I believe it was Perry Marshall who pointed out that we tend to tell ourselves a story of how something came to be. The question, of course, is why are we telling ourselves that story and which story is right?

    I completely agree, Chris.

    ~Luke

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