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If You Understand Relationships, You Can Find Truth And Detect Lies
The relational method of evaluating truth claims.
One of the primary ways I evaluate whether or not to trust someone’s claims is the way of relating they use to push their claims. For example, if someone is controlling and manipulative, or using threats, shame, and pressure to push their claims, then I assume they do not have my best interests at heart.
This might seem like an obvious statement, yet the dominant accepted method of evaluating claims is to look at “the evidence” independent of the relationship that evidence is presented in. How can we trust any evidence presented if the person or organization presenting that evidence has shown they are willing to harm others? Isn’t it likely that such a person or organization would also lie?
You don’t even have to be the target of such a person’s behavior to know how they might relate to you in the future. Past behavior is the strongest indicator of future behavior. If someone has shown they are willing to harm or bully others to get what they want, it is likely they will relate to you the same way. Likewise, if a person or organization has shown they will be fair and trustworthy with others, it is more likely they will behave the same with you.
You do not have to know “the science” or be an “expert” to evaluate relationships. You just have to observe people. For example, if a person or organization lied to you about one major issue, it is likely they are lying to you about other major issues. If they show a behavioral pattern of lying when they stand to profit or avoid liability, then it is likely they will lie in the future when doing so would allow them to profit or avoid liability.
The collapse of institutions is actually a collapse of relationships. Institutions have broken the public’s trust. Broken trust is not easily repaired. Because institutions have lied so often, even basic previously accepted claims from those institutions have been thrown into question. The attitude many have towards institutions could be summarized by the words of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”
The proliferation of absurd conspiracy theories is a result of this broken trust. The thinking goes: if those in power are willing to lie, maybe they are lying about even basic facts like whether or not the earth is round? All debates are overshadowed by this lack of trust. We cannot evaluate “the evidence” of any claim if the source of that evidence is untrustworthy.
Right now, there are no dominant trustworthy sources. No propaganda campaign against “misinformation” in favor of “trusted sources” will fix a broken relationship. Relationships are fixed by admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and showing real change. The untrustworthy must actually improve their character. This isn’t done through PR. It’s done through hard work and personal development. No person or institution in America appears to be even attempting this.
The advantage of the relational method of evaluating truth claims is that it cuts through a sea of potential misinformation and propaganda with one question: Do I trust this person? Do they actually have my best interests at heart or are they willing to lie to me or harm me to get what they want? If the source is untrustworthy, we don’t need to spend hours “debunking” them or evaluating their data. Assume malice. There is only one truth more reliable than “the science” — human nature.
P.S. One caveat: the opposite of this principle is not always true. Merely because someone has been trustworthy in the past does not mean what they say can be trusted in the future. Good people are often fooled. When someone trustworthy brings you new information, that is the time to begin evaluating the evidence and doing research. If this person has greater expertise than you, then maybe that is the time to “trust the experts.” However, this sill depends on that person having your best interests at heart. There must be trust and expertise.