'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrity

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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 8:16 am 

To add a little more.. (hope no one minds -- if they do, perhaps we can split into a new thread)

I objected earlier in the thread to a putative distinction drawn between facts and truth; it seems to me facts are, by the very definition of the term, true. As I said, there are no untrue facts; if it ain't true, it ain't really a fact. (The term "theory", of course, is not so truth-loaded.)

Serpent (sorry, I confused you for Mossling), first, and then Wolfhnd, responded in a somewhat similar fashion, if I understand them correctly: facts are indeed true, but facts are just "small truths" if you will -- Truth (with a capital T), on their construal, is the "bigger picture"; perhaps an explanatory theory constructed to accommodate and unify a set of facts which were previously not suspected to be related. Not an unreasonable response, at least at first blush, although some, maybe most, philosophers are bound to question any fact-theory dichotomy.

My apologies if I've misinterpreted. Please set me straight if I have. However, this is not what I want to focus on here.

One example of a similar distinction I would like to draw attention to here is that frequently adverted to by Richard Dawkins (yes, him again) and others between the (putative) fact of evolution and the theory of evolution. It's a distinction, I fear, that cannot be upheld; a difference that makes no difference -- to science, at least.

To speak of the "theory of evolution", or more correctly "theories of evolution", seems entirely uncontroversial. Many attempts have been made to explain the emergence and diversity of life of life we see around us. Scientists themselves enjoy no consensus on precisely how this came about. Healthy debate continues to flourish; Darwin, Dawkins and Gould, for example, may overlap to some extent, but diverge in other details. This all seems unproblematic.

But what could Dawkins possibly mean by the fact of evolution? As far as I can discern, he means nothing more than it all came about through naturalistic processes, the small print of which is still being hammered out (e.g., to what degree does natural selection play a role vs non-selective factors?). In other words, God didn't do it.

That said, assuming one adopts a position of methodological naturalism, as all contemporary scientists apparently do ("it's fine to believe in God, but check him in the locker room outside the lab"), then the "God did it" hypothesis is already ruled out a priori on methodological grounds. Therefore, it seems to me Dawkins' putative fact of evolution is entirely vacuous. The fact of evolution is only a fact in virtue of the fact (sorry!) that the traditional alternative explanation is not even entertained by science. To do so (i.e., to entertain hypotheses appealing to supernatural causation) would be, almost by definition, to cease doing science. Those who do entertain such hypotheses -- odious Creationists and similar vermin -- are almost invariably labelled pseudoscientists.

The "Professor God did it" hypothesis is not disproven by science; it is merely disregarded by science.

Any thoughts?


PS1: To repeat: I'm not religious, don't care much about God, just making (maybe *shrug* ) a logical point :)

PS2: To complicate matters, Dawkins is one of the few scientists who claims that he does consider "God did it" to be a scientific hypothesis. I'm never quite sure whether he's eschewing methodological naturalism... or just confused.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Mossling on November 20th, 2016, 10:40 am 

I remember a time when people would say (albeit already foolish at that time): "It's true, I read it on the internet!".

I think that it was inherited from the idea that there was a kind of peer-review process that took place behind any informative published material, and the internet was a place for clever people who held the integrity of the facts that they shared in high regard. After all, anyone with more correct facts would be able to publicly discredit an author, as we find on certain websites like Wikipedia, and the authors that mattered would take that seriously.

Then came the whole "Wikipedia and anything like it is often wrong" movement, and facts began to be a thing of the past. It seems that only forums like this one are the last bastions of 'true' debate, and yet it seems when it comes down to it, the vast majority of people are really not that interested in truth anymore. I suppose that it depends how much they are into science, or how much time they have on their hands to research areas that they are interested in.

Many people will also talk about how scientific research is funded by interested businesses, and so much of the peer-reviewed material is not even very trustworthy nowadays, anyway. And so truth transcends the conceptual domain and becomes this 'might makes right' idea - whoever is still alive obviously followed the 'right' way - the most practical approach. There is something to be said about this, as there was about ancient Greek virtue being reflected in the condition of the body.

But the 'war' is not over yet - and there are many more fronts now - cyber wars, drone wars, religious wars, economic wars, and so on. It seems that one could even say that there never have been individual wars - that all wars have ultimately been battles in the large war of life vs entropy - stability vs chaos, and various perceived factions got caught up in misunderstood frustrations that made them turn on one another.

As I said before above, the raw, practical economics will reveal the absolute truth - the truth of what is really going on, and it will not be in the form of communicated facts. It will be the truth of hunger felt in the belly, the truth of sleepless nights, the truth of no job to go to, etc. And that truth can never be 'spun' - it will hit up the amygdala and cause whatever necessary reaction to occur.

No one can deny demonstrations, panic, refugee movements, etc. Truth will just be pure action - and all human action is politics.

A couple of days ago I saw one commentator mentioning how consumerism is our last power before more animal behaviour is resorted to - how we 'vote' with our wallet, and fund businesses based on how they make us feel. The issues that surrounded SeaWorld in Florida and how that impacted their business, springs to mind. But who knows if those accusations made against them WERE EVEN TRUE?! Haha.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Serpent on November 20th, 2016, 10:46 am 

Odds & Ends
Theory X entails observation O (if X is true O must be observed)
O is not observed
Therefore, theory X is false

Not quite. To prove Theory X, O must be observed. O is not observed. Therefore Theory X is not proven.
The designated observer [a graduate student with a new boyfriend] may have fallen asleep. The observation may have been made, but mistaken for an artifact. The observation may not have been recorded. The observation may have been falsified. Or Theory X may be false.
Thus: we can't be 100% right, but we can find 100 ways to be wrong.
This also holds true in the courtroom....
...where facets of two (out of the six which may have relevance to the case) alternative truths are highlighted, no whole truth is ever presented: nobody expects it; nobody could handle it.

NoShips » November 20th, 2016, 7:16 am wrote:.... facts are indeed true, but facts are just "small truths" if you will -- Truth (with a capital T), on their construal, is the "bigger picture";

There is no such thing as The Truth. That's hyperbole for a belief or conviction. Any statement that contains capitalized Truth is automatically suspect. Unless you mean all of reality, of which we can only ever glimpse little fragments and make provisional descriptions. But we can compile a fairly comprehensive database of facts regarding our own mortal condition. We can be reasonably - not absolutely - certain of the truth regarding specific delimited subject matters.
perhaps an explanatory theory constructed to accommodate and unify a set of facts which were previously not suspected to be related.

Perhaps, though in most cases, there is no need to go very far afield, nor to construct much of a theory. The number of facts required to produce a true answer depends on the scope of the question.
What's the price of a kilo of Yukon Gold potatoes? ($1.98)
How did whales evolve? (Well, see this layer of shale near the bottom of the cliff? We have recovered eight partial fossils from layers of sediment of the same age, and....)
Indeed, the very possibility of a relevant truth depends on the nature of the question:
Are there any more cookies in that jar? (Sorry, no.)
What's the meaning of life? (I dunno.)
The truth value of any statement relates to the question it answers.
"navy blue" is true if you asked about the colour of an RN officer's uniform, untrue if you asked about the colour of my eyes, irrelevant if you asked where I was last thursday night - though it could still be true, if I spent the evening at a seaman's club by that name.

Not an unreasonable response, at least at first blush, although some, maybe most, philosophers are bound to question any fact-theory dichotomy.

I suppose that's their job....

the (putative) fact of evolution

Yes, it happened. (There is enough data to stop doubting.)
and the theory of evolution.

Here's how we think it happened. (There is ongoing investigation of the details.)

The "Professor God did it" hypothesis is not disproven by science; it is merely disregarded by science.

Show us how to study, measure, observe, calculate and experiment on that hypothesis, and we'll try it. If we come up with usable data, we'll put it back into science. (But, please, no more epicycles!)
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 11:31 am 

Serpent » November 20th, 2016, 11:46 pm wrote:Odds & Ends
Theory X entails observation O (if X is true O must be observed)
O is not observed
Therefore, theory X is false

Not quite. To prove Theory X, O must be observed. O is not observed. Therefore Theory X is not proven.



Erm, now we're getting silly, Spock. I was paraphrasing a naive version of Popper-esque falsificationism.

What you're doing is something entirely different: You said: "To prove Theory X, O must be observed."

No, nay, never, will I affirm the consequent no more.

{edit -sorry! Removed a chunk. Drank too much beer. My logic is a mess. I'll clear it up tomorrow}

Tread carefully, friend.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 11:37 am 

If you'd said "Not quite. To confirm Theory X, O must be observed"...

...this would be less controversial.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Serpent on November 20th, 2016, 11:39 am 

And I'm the one that's getting silly?

Oh, if only I had said "to confirm theory X".... then perhaps the actual point might have been taken. Or not.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 11:40 am 

LOL

Gotta use that "P" word cautiously here on the Enterprise :)
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 11:55 am 

Serpent, I'd like to address some other points in your post, if that's ok. not to be annoying (although seems my birthright), but just clarity, which is hard after a few beers. But anyway, you said:

"There is no such thing as The Truth."

I haven't a clue what "The Truth" is. To me, truth is a very pedestrian relationship of correspondence between statements and states of affairs in reality. "The cat is on the mat" kinda stuff that tends not to animate Buddhists. It was others in the thread that, erm, enlarged it. I can make no sense of it myself.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 12:00 pm 

Then this:

"Not an unreasonable response, at least at first blush, although some, maybe most, philosophers are bound to question any fact-theory dichotomy." [me]

"I suppose that's their job...." [you]

Don't get paid myself LOL. But if it's a clear-cut dichotomy you feel you can defend, I'll fight like a mendicant.

Tell me about these "theory-free" facts.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 12:20 pm 

Hey sorry, I kinda radically altered a post above. Not so much altered as removed a chunk. I wasn't making sense, even to myself. On reflection I suppose I should have left it. Sorry! Damn beer!

I'll clear it up tomorrow.

Sorry to all -- especially Serpent. It's not the logic; it's that I was forced to succumb to Klingon liquor or die. (*very ashamed*)
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Serpent on November 20th, 2016, 12:42 pm 

What time is it at your location? I don't get that beery till after midnight -- by when I'm usually wise enough to confront no-one more formidable than John Oliver.

Anyway, as to the fact/ truth/ Truth question, I did think I was sufficiently lucid. Review, reflect and then, if necessary, pose narrowly-focused questions.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 12:46 pm 

Hmm, to keep the field level: meet me in Mandalay. I'll pay for the first 12 beers :)

Friend, I love the intellectual stimulation. Don't care a hoot if I'm right or wrong. And I learn as I diarr, lectic with you.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 12:47 pm 

P.S. Who is John Oliver?
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Serpent on November 20th, 2016, 12:55 pm 

NoShips » November 20th, 2016, 11:47 am wrote:P.S. Who is John Oliver?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l2Y6Z-maAU
Best journalist on television. As good as or better than Jon Stewart was in the prime of The daily Show.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 12:58 pm 

Ok, thanks.

A man of facts or truth? :)
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Serpent on November 20th, 2016, 1:16 pm 

NoShips » November 20th, 2016, 11:58 am wrote:Ok, thanks.

A man of facts or truth? :)

Watch the show.
It is somewhat relevant here, though peripheral, that news-parodies contain more useful and reliable information on politics and social issues than do serious mainstream news programs.
Origin: Stephen Colbert, "The Colbert Report," 2005

"And that brings us to tonight's word: truthiness.

"Now I'm sure some of the Word Police, the wordanistas over at Webster's, are gonna say, 'Hey, that's not a word.' Well, anybody who knows me knows that I'm no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They're elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn't true, or what did or didn't happen. Who's Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that's my right. I don't trust books. They're all fact, no heart."
http://www.merriam-webster.com/press-release/2006-word-of-the-year
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 1:20 pm 

Cool! Gonna explain that vital bifurcation between facts and theories or not?
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 1:29 pm 

Here's a hint (slightly Kantian): theory without facts is empty; facts without theory are blind.

Seem to me knit at the hip. You have a cure, pal?
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 1:32 pm 

Or in layman's terms. What do you see? LOL

a buzzing blinding confusion?
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 1:39 pm 

Speaking of blinding buzzing confusions...

(1) we demand better emotes

(2) goodnight
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Serpent on November 20th, 2016, 2:17 pm 

NoShips » November 20th, 2016, 12:20 pm wrote:Cool! Gonna explain that vital bifurcation between facts and theories or not?

Have. Did. Done. Read. TTFN
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Braininvat on November 20th, 2016, 3:09 pm 

Welcome to the ethanol fueled thread.

I like John Oliver, what I've seen of him, reminds of an overexcited parrot watching it all sharply from his perch.

btw, noships, are you in Burma or Taiwan? Or did they move Mandalay? Truthiness might permit us to shift it around.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Braininvat on November 20th, 2016, 3:13 pm 

Hard to find any pedestrian statement that doesn't draw in that sticky web of other beliefs. The cat is on the mat...

1. Cat is a meaningful category of animals we call a species.
2. I said "the" which means you can tell species members apart and pinpoint a specific cat.
3. That cloth rectangle qualifies as a mat.
4. There is only one relevant specific mat, hence the "the."
5. The cat is not just traversing the mat, she's come to rest there.
6. "On" means physically on top of something. It's not a 2D image of a cat painted on the mat, unless that had been explicitly stated in the sentence.
7. The above statements are subject to revision (in various particulars) if all present cats are replaced by robot cats or if cloth rectangles are all recategorized as "accent rugs" or if all cats move to a zero gravity environment where being on the mat is impossible, thus forcing cats to nestle in containment bags or your sock drawer.

Any correspondence between statements and the external reality seems to be time-and-place sensitive. Maybe the current trend in truthiness is to make statements and sneakily detach them from such limits. If it was true in 1957, it must be true now! There's a party platform in a nutshell. Cheers.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Serpent on November 20th, 2016, 3:51 pm 

Braininvat » November 20th, 2016, 2:13 pm wrote:
Any correspondence between statements and the external reality seems to be time-and-place sensitive. Maybe the current trend in truthiness is to make statements and sneakily detach them from such limits. If it was true in 1957, it must be true now! There's a party platform in a nutshell. Cheers.

Somewhere, the sun is over the yardarm: set 'em up, Joe.
And this is why I insist on relating the requisite number of facts in a truth and the value of a truth to the question it answers. And this is why the media get away with the BS they routinely get away with: They've stopped asking relevant, delimited and specific questions. So, anything they report may be true - to some degree, in some context, in some dimension.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby wolfhnd on November 20th, 2016, 4:14 pm 

NoShips we have hijacked the thread so I will accept your position.

The only point I was trying to make is that our reality is necessarily simpler than reality. Mathematical models for example gain their power in part by reducing reality to something simple enough that we can comprehend.

What I dislike about Harris's argument is it's arrogant lack of nuance. He lays out the facts and assumes that no qualifications are necessary. It's a position that says there is nothing new, that everything is a recombination of existing structures. While that may be technically accurate it underestimates complexity and the influence of near randomness. Science it seems to me constantly underestimates complexity because it relies on a habit of reduction to comprehensible approximations.

If this habit of reduction were limited to scientific research it may be fairly harmless but Harris extents it into the chaos of the political processes. Society is sufficiently complex that unintended consequences and random events require policy flexibility not based on any dogma. Within our limitations everything is a matter of degrees not kind. There are none of the absolutes that scientists take for granted, no absolute evils or good.

In our personal lives we necessarily are forced to be black and white on issues of morality because otherwise we would be paralyzed by reflection. In our public life we cannot afford to be paralyzed by trying to force our moral standards on other people. There are degrees of compromise we should not cross but an absolutist mentality is necessarily impossible in a functioning democracy.

We don't pick the perfect candidate or policy but the one that is close enough. Science is the foundation for our engineering but it has to be applied practically.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Paul Anthony on November 20th, 2016, 5:51 pm 

d30 » Sat Nov 19, 2016 10:29 pm wrote:

Another big factor for decades in steady loss of truth is the 91% monopoly on U.S. talk radio by one political wing since President Reagan abolished the FCC Fairness Doctrine ca. 1987. In a court of law, both the prosecution and defense get equal time to speak. Not in talk radio. The other Party never gets to speak. Only one side of an issue is ever heard, by millions of commuters, day in and day out, for decades (again violating the courtroom’s “the whole truth”).


I won't debate the validity of your 91% statistic, even though I wonder how you arrived at it. I won't belittle your concern that commuters have few political choices when it comes to talk radio. But blaming Reagan?

What is preventing a liberal from producing a talk show? Did Reagan make that illegal? No. Some have tried competing, but found liberals apparently don't want to listen to talk radio. There is no cause to blame anyone, but if you must, blame liberals.

BTW, please don't take this as a dismissal of the rest of your post. I actually agree with most of what you have said. It would be nice if only the "truth" was broadcast to the public, but who do you suggest as the arbiter of "truth" and how do you suggest we force people to listen to it?
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby d30 on November 20th, 2016, 8:13 pm 

Paul Anthony » November 20th, 2016, 1:51 pm wrote:
d30 » Sat Nov 19, 2016 10:29 pm wrote:

Another big factor for decades in steady loss of truth is the 91% monopoly on U.S. talk radio by one political wing since President Reagan abolished the FCC Fairness Doctrine ca. 1987. In a court of law, both the prosecution and defense get equal time to speak. Not in talk radio. The other Party never gets to speak. Only one side of an issue is ever heard, by millions of commuters, day in and day out, for decades (again violating the courtroom’s “the whole truth”).


I won't debate the validity of your 91% statistic, even though I wonder how you arrived at it.


If trying to find a left-of-center talk radio station in most places in America doesn’t verify it for you, or trying to name a liberal radio talk show host with anywhere near the household-name fame of Rush Limbaugh:

A Google search using this search term - “talk radio” 91 percent - (included the quotes around “talk radio”) gets about 160,000 hits, chief among which was:

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues ... alk-radio/

and second

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues ... e-numbers/

The articles also give one answer to your question, “What is preventing a liberal from producing a talk show?” There are other answers such as the great difficulty of a liberal radio station salesman trying to get commonly right-leaning businesses to buy advertising time on the station. Makes viability economically, financially, difficult to start up and maintain a left-of-center-politics radio station. I knew a salesman and he said it was indeed difficult. He was often not welcome immediately.
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Paul Anthony on November 20th, 2016, 8:36 pm 

d30 » Sun Nov 20, 2016 5:13 pm wrote:
There are other answers such as the great difficulty of a liberal radio station salesman trying to get commonly right-leaning businesses to buy advertising time on the station. Makes viability economically, financially, difficult to start up and maintain a left-of-center-politics radio station. I knew a salesman and he said it was indeed difficult. He was often not welcome immediately.


Radio stations are not necessarily right-leaning. Radio stations are revenue-oriented. If they seem unwilling to consider adding a left-leaning talk show, it's probably because they have data that shows it will not be profitable. Again, if you must blame someone, blame liberals who won't support liberal radio talk shows.

Or, being a liberal, you could just blame Capitalism. ;)
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby Serpent on November 20th, 2016, 9:29 pm 

Choosing someone to blame gets you no closer to accurate information.

Wouldn't it be useful to the average listener if there were some mandated guidelines for the truth-content of whatever programming is billed as public announcements, news, analysis, editorial comment or entertainment? Say something like the FDA rules on what may be labelled "food", or FTC standard on the truth rating of "contains 100% pure fruit juice". Too bad there is no agency to enforce truthful reporting!
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Re: 'Post-Truth Politics' - Collapse in Information Integrit

Postby wolfhnd on November 20th, 2016, 9:38 pm 

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/facts/

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/

I tried to make this simple by agreeing that facts and truths can be interchangeable and that most people's truths are actually theories but that didn't wash.

The truth is I'm much more interested in the Harris Dennett debate because it directly addresses the issue of over simplification that pollutes the political process. The truth is often the best political propaganda.
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