How the Pro-Truth Pledge has impacted me
One of the hardest things for me as an American was coming home from the warzone to seeing how viciously divided this country had become. As a lifetime lover of science and logic, it was soul-crushing to see how the very idea of truth was under attack, as far back as 2012, if not further. And it only got worse.
I recently took the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP), and wrote at length about it here. The Pledge (found easily at www.protruthpledge.org), in short, is about truth and honesty within politics. All sides of our divisive ideological battleground can befit from it and support it. We can share it with our friends and neighbors, no matter where we stand in relation to one another in our polarized landscape of ideological grandeur.
It is essentially about an open, public commitment to valuing truth — even uncomfortable truth — over comforting lies and fake news. This is a worthwhile cause, as much as any.
The link to it (above, and here as well, for additional commentary) explains it in detail. In summary, it encourages people to share the truth. For example, here are a few of its opening calls to action. They are simple, yet often quite difficult, especially for ideologues and devoted partisans; rudimentary, yet pivotal in their necessity to our public discourse:
Balance: I will share true information, even if it does not support my opinion.
Sacrifice: I will not share falsehoods, even in service to a cause I believe is good.
Verify: Before I share information, I will make a reasonable effort to ensure it is true, for instance by using reliable fact-checking websites or evaluating the scientific consensus on the topic.
My founding of the Reason Revival movement
In 2015, I founded a grassroots movement called Reason Revival. The opening words of this project may help to capture how I feel:
“My name is John. I am an Army and DoD Veteran and a social science advocate. I have seen the damage done by political dogmatism, partisan tribalism and polarizing ideology, from our damaged neighborhoods here at home to diverse locations around the world, from South America, Africa, and the Balkans, to the Middle East and Central Asia. It has hurt us here at home, on almost every front and issue.
Our very ability to have conversations, and to reason critically, is under attack by rigid ideology and politically dogmatic modes of thinking. I am tired of seeing political dogmatism get a free pass, while science, freethinking and reason continue to be pushed to the margins of our political conversations by the Left and the Right.
No more. I am fighting a homefront battle for a revival of reason and scientific thinking within American politics and ideology. I’m working — from the pub and street corner to the halls of academia and activism — to help build a movement around this aim, and I offer solidarity with anyone who wishes to collaborate or express a similar aspiration.
Please join this fight.”
What the Pro-Truth Pledge means to me
The Pledge is about truth and honesty within politics. It is essentially about an open, public commitment to valuing truth — even uncomfortable truth — over comforting lies and fake news. This is a worthwhile cause, as much as any. It is worth doing, regardless of your politics. Truth, honesty, intellectual integrity and scientific thinking have no borders. Closed-minded levels of Left and Right ideology, and the egotistical, tribal core of our hyper-polarized discourse, have undermined the virtue of honest free inquiry and a respect for truth, for facts, and for a willingness to be wrong. They have killed our curiosity, and aligned American politics — even among average people — against everything that has made science and philosophy beautiful and enduring since ancient Greece.
We reflexively take “sides” with our own Political Tribe, our own Ideology, like a team sport. In doing this, our ideology — our precious political platform — has eroded our genuine desire to see our blind spots. To try to know when we’re sharing bogus information, or to even care if were wrong.
How its impacted me, and still continues to
I am by no means a seller human being when it comes to attention to every detail. I’ve verbally or digitally passed on bad information numerous times, I am fairly sure, as a result of honest mistakes or lack of vigorous fact checking. However, I felt after reading the details of the pledge that its not a promise to never make a mistake — such a thing wound be absurd, and unworkable. It is about the spirit behind ones love of truth. Its about an open commitment to a certain attitude. This is what got me to take it, and to think hard when I want to play an article or statistic which I’m not completely sold on.
In spite of having long sought to be truthful and honest in my approach to sharing information, the PTP really does seem to change one’s habits (even if at least a little bit), for the better. It continues to impact me in how I think and go about life. Its OK to make mistakes. Most of us occasionally (well, some more than others, to be specific) accidentally post false information, bad “scientific” studies, or fake news. Its the attitude of humility and skepticism, and of honesty and moral sincerity, with which we correct those mistakes. And it is this attitude with which we can encourage our friends and peers to do so as well.
For my closing thoughts, I will cite from my Reason Revival proposal for a revolution of skepticism and freethinking within American politics, across ideological divides:
In every Generation, efforts at sensible answers, based on evidence, logic and reality-based thinking, are mocked and ridiculed by wild-eyed zealots on both sides, often with labels such as ‘weak’, ‘deceptive’, ‘naïve’, traitorous’, ‘hateful’, ‘elitist’, even ‘satanic’. But sensible voices should rise above the tides of pseudoscientific nonsense, stubborn ideology, and the simplistic reductionism of identity politics. We must rise up. Reason itself must rise up, if we are to flourish as a nation.
Per Aspera, Ad Astra!
“Through hardship, to the Stars!”
!من خلال المصاعب إلي النجوم
Через тернии к звёздам!
Por el sendero áspero, a las estrellas!