“Llamas are wreaking havoc all over Phoenix!”
“That dress is totally white and gold!”
“Some guy caught a 280 pound catfish today!”
Are you sure?
This past week, there were statements flying around our culture that caused loads of debate and doubt. Local events spread like wildfire throughout the world and provoked momentary cultural phenomenons. These were all independent events, but they are tied together by one topic. The events initiate discussion on how we can know truth about the world.
The big example of the week is the picture of a dress that on Thursday night began to be shared across social media outlets. Some people saw the colors of the dress as blue and black. Others saw the colors as white and gold. A discussion began on why some saw one set of colors over the other. Some people even posted scientific explanations about what was causing the division.
This dress debate poses a problem: your ability to know truth can be limited by your perspective. If you only consider your own perspective, you could miss pieces of information essential to knowing truth. As a result, you may not get a full picture of what makes a claim true or false.
If you saw the dress as white and gold, you claimed that those were the true colors because you initially used your own perspective – what you saw when you looked at the picture. You probably started to consider another claim when people rejected your claim and gave an alternate color scheme. You would have no reason to question your initial judgement otherwise.
Another example that relates to our ability to know truth involves a 280 pound catfish that was caught by an Italian fisherman. A picture of the man holding the gargantuan sea creature spread across the Internet from CNN to ESPN. People automatically became skeptical of the whole situation just because of the extraordinary size of the fish.
Of course, there was debate about the authenticity of the fish story. Skepticism even continued after videos of the fish appeared on Youtube. Some of the skepticism was lighthearted, like in one conversation where someone commented that the video quality should be better in this day and age. But some skeptical comments appeared to be serious – such as people doubting that the fish was real since it was not moving in the video.
This fish frenzy leads to another problem: your skepticism has potential to reach a level where almost nothing can be proven to you. This overriding sense of skepticism can inhibit your ability to accept truth that may be otherwise obvious. For many people, the fish video pointed to the obvious truth that the fish was actually caught by the fisherman. Some people, however, still rejected that truth due to their elevated sense of skepticism.
The presence of doubt about the fish video is surprising considering that video evidence is often demanded in order to prove that an event actually happened. And that point leads to the final example from the week: the llamas.
If someone came up to you and said there were two llamas running around Phoenix, stopping traffic, and causing havoc, all while local authorities are running after them trying to lasso them in, you might not believe that person right away. You would want to have some sort of evidence to support this claim.
This crazy claim describes a real event that happened last week. And supporting the claim was video evidence – a 35 minute video of a news crew filming the chaos. People latched on to this video coverage, and the event became a day-long cultural phenomenon. If the video evidence wasn’t available, there would most certainly be people doubting that the whole event happened.
The “Llamas on the Loose”, the catfish catch, and the dress color debate present three problems in knowing truth:
1. You are limited to your own perspective
2. Extreme skepticism limits your ability to accept truth
3. Video evidence is commonly demanded but not always available
With all of these problems, is the search for truth a hopeless endeavor? I don’t think so. And I’ll explain why in my next post.