In our search for truths, it’s important to make some distinctions. There’s a real and substantive difference between the word ‘truth’ and the word ‘facts’. Seeking truths should necessarily involve embracing real facts and data to support these truths. For it’s impossible to hold valid truths without rational and thoughtful support underneath. Furthermore, there are real differences in how we reach these truths.
We reach them deductively when we reason from the general-to-the-specific. We start with a premise or a hypothesis. Then we evaluate and test it with facts or observations. Conversely, we think inductively when we go from the specific-to-the-general. We discover broad truths based on the facts and observations that we’ve gathered. Both deductive and inductive approaches are valid. What’s invalid, however, is Deductive Unreality. This happens when we make generalizations or create truths, while simultaneously ignoring or muzzling inconvenient facts that don’t support these ‘truths’… or the people who espouse them.
Deductive unreality becomes spiritually harmful when those who claim ‘truth’ are in positions of power over our lives and over the expression of our identities as human beings. Or when we cede our own inherent power to others. For when others try to define their truths as truths for all, it devalues us. It disempowers us. It debilitates us. It kills our souls. It extinguishes the light that God has placed within us. The snuffing out of our light often happens gradually. Sometimes without our even knowing it. And by the time we finally come to understand our predicament, we’ve already ceded our critical thinking and truth seeking to someone else. It can happen in our jobs. Within our families. On the streets and in our communities. In politics. And in our churches. Yes, even in our churches if the point of it all is blind conformance.
We would all be wise to be vigilant in this regard. And to look for the subtle or obvious signs around us in the sphere of truths and facts. We know that something is wrong when we’re asked to memorize something and to never forget it. Or when others try to confuse or obfuscate facts– rather than actively seeking and honestly verifying them. We know that something’s wrong when those who claim truth act in ways that reject, attack, and vilify those who disagree with them. Or when thoughtful discourse is reduced to the least common denominator and the fewest words possible… brief mantras like ‘witch hunt’ and ‘treasonous’, which are continuously repeated from the White House these days in response to legitimate investigations into campaign and administrative ethics.
We know something’s wrong when we’re given precious ‘talking points’ to spew out, yet we don’t have the wherewithal to explain why these ‘truths’ are actually true. We know that real truth isn’t sought when the ‘truth’ is wrapped with emotive, inflammatory words to polarize the debate. To separate the real believers from the troublemakers outside the trusted clan. We should also worry about ‘truth’ when the macro is reduced to the micro with regularity. This happens when the purveyors of ‘truth’ default to anecdotal, one-off examples rather than broader, fact-based information and trends.
We should be concerned when people purposefully confuse terms or have to subsequently ‘walk them back’ with any regularity. Or when someone has to subsequently ‘redefine’ them in order to clarify resultant confusion. Or to reinterpret their own ‘terms’ and words in ways that they didn’t intend in order to confuse us about their real meaning. We should also worry when those who profess to hold the truth move conversations along quickly. As if to cut off debate. As if to discourage our questions. As if to push things through in order to quickly wrap things up.
Finally, we should be fearful when the holders of ‘truth’ create or convey a sense of chaos and destabilization around us. Tell us that we’re under attack by sinister or evil forces that are trying to confuse or hurt us. For when we gravitate to these sellers of fear and loathing, we’re unwittingly catering to our own perceived needs for personal safety. We’re seeking protection and calm, not truth. Never mind that the chaos was created purposefully and precisely to make us fearful in the first place… and then draw us into their circle of safety.
This is especially pernicious when we subsequently circle the wagons around us. Then demonize those who disagree with us by calling them hateful names or using derogatory labels. We make these outsiders objects of our disdain at our own peril. For we become increasingly desensitized in the process. Our God-given spirituality and humanity begin to crumble away. Rapidly, in fact. All this said, there is nothing inherently wrong with deductive thinking. There’s nothing wrong with creating a supposition, then testing it against reality. In the light of real facts.
It becomes dangerous, however, when the hypothesis is already given as undeniably ‘true’. No matter what the facts tell us otherwise. This isn’t truth seeking. Nor is it deductive. And it’s not reality. But if you accept it as real, the windy sound that you’ll hear is your very soul being sucked right out of you. Worse yet, you might have already been erroneously convinced that it’s not your soul leaving your body. That would be truly and patently false. But that would also be real. Scary, but very real, indeed. Deductively speaking, that is.