The NYT has a piece on snopes, it is worth the read, even more because snopes is such an important piece of contemporary culture. Anyway, i just wanted to comment two snippets.
“It’s not like, ‘Well, we have to get out there and defend the truth,’ ” Mrs. Mikkelson added. “When you’re looking at truth versus gossip, truth doesn’t stand a chance.”
Should it? Should Truth be always-winning? I do not agree. I do not think people are in error because they mostly seek world-view-reinforcing info. To reinforce our own world-views is an important activity to carry out — even if it somehow betrays a lack of faith in said world-view, but… What i mean is, brain activity exists because of the rest of everything. Info is at life’s disposal, and not the other way around. There is life, and there is info, and when the info is unimportant it is discarded. There is no God keeping track of all the possible data — even if there is God, He is/would be full of more interesting stuff to do.
So, we think in order to live. So, ideas are ranked in order of importance to life, not in order of truth-ness. Truth-ness kinda makes any given piece of data more important, but so does candid-ness, as in “potential to be embarrassing to someone, and in that respect gossip is way way ahead of truth.
Gossip can be ahead of pure fact in many aspects. Not only it is pretty OK for people to give precedence to gossip, it is a big error to assume it should be otherwise. This assumption takes for granted an academic power structure, where the top-dog is the guy whose arguments can’t be easily contradicted, and it is OK, even good, that we as a society are able to sustain such a group of people into such an isolated and alien way-of-behaving, but this is not life. Life is not about Truth. Life is not about data.
Not that i want to be preaching what life is all about, i just get a bit troubled by the assumptions that underlie our contemporary religion-of-science, this dogmatic bunch that rabidly denies having any dogma.
So, it should come as no surprise that i love David Mikkelson’s claims that it is irrelevant to be championing truth or anything. Do some fact checking, which is a pretty good thing to do, but don’t get all zealous about how things should be instead. Surf along. Open your eyes.
There i said it.
But since i went to all the trouble, there is also another titbit at the end that interested me:
It is not just the naïveté of Web users that worries the “Snopesters,” a name for the Web site’s fans and volunteers. It is also what Mr. Mikkelson calls “a trend toward the opposite approach, hyper-skepticism.” “People get an e-mail or a photograph and they spot one little thing that doesn’t look right, and they declare the whole thing fake,” he said. “That’s just as bad as being gullible in a lot of senses.”
Both assuming the world to be magical and assuming it to be status-quo is dumb. Ideas, and thus thinking, knowledge, discussions, semantics, language, data, everything: it’s about being intelligent. About becoming un-dumb. Un-numb.
There is always another way.