The Circle of Existence: Chapter 3 – Truth, Near Truth, Untruth

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by DCH Park

Truth Near Truth Untruth

“The glory which is built upon a lie soon becomes a most unpleasant incumbrance. How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!”
– Mark Twain

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”
– John F. Kennedy

“If you have to lie, cheat, steal, obstruct and bully to get your point across, it must not be a point capable of surviving on its own merits.”
– Steven Weber

Consider a many faceted jewel. The truth is like a jewel. You cannot take the whole thing in at once. You can only see a part of the whole at a time, even in your mind’s eye. Indeed, in a single lifetime, you are currently lucky to be able to recognize and accurately convey just one facet of the jewel.

However, even though we each have a different facet to work with, there is only one jewel. Each facet fits with the others. You can go from any one facet to any other, because both are in the same jewel. In other words, the truth is the truth. Everything true is connected to everything else that is true. Every truth is connected.

This connection is one of the foundation principles in science and mathematics. In mathematics, a major way to prove something is true is to connect from something which is demonstrably true to the proposition and back again, from the proposition to that thing you know to be true. By building these chains of equivalencies, you are saying that the proposition is equivalent to the known truth. If one thing is true, they both must be true. Science works the same way. (There may be other ways. I am not a mathematician.)

This connection includes major facets or arcs as well as minor ones. “Size doesn’t matter.” “Small” truths are connected just as “big” truths are connected. What is true is true. This means that you can start with a “minor” truth and follow its connections to other truths. If something is found to be inconsistent, something is going on. Most likely, something is misunderstood or its appearance is misleading or one or more observations are in error or incomplete.

Untruths also exist. Leaving aside why they exist (which is a separate question and a worthy one), untruths all share the property that they are unconnected from truth. Usually, they are also unconnected from each other. Nevertheless, certain untruths are widely accepted and form the cores of fundamental beliefs in society. This is not as crazy as it sounds. Network theory provides a good way to think about it. Imagine two separate networks. Each network is internally consistent, as demonstrated by its interconnections. However, only one network is consistent with observed reality in every part of reality.

In other words, an untrue network may be consistent with reality in one or several nodes but it will be inconsistent with reality somewhere. Only the truth is consistent with reality everywhere. To the extent that reality is true, it must be consistent with and connected to the network that is true and disconnected with the network(s) that isn’t(aren’t) true. However, each network is internally consistent. You may not know that a given network is untrue until you find a disconnection. The standard that all of the sciences use is that of observed reality. Using this same standard, you may not know that a network is untrue until you try to connect with observed reality. Notice that this is consistent with the mathematical technique of proving the truth of something.

(Some people may assert that if there is a conflict between a belief and observed phenomena, the observation(s) must be wrong. In other words, they assert that belief or faith is never wrong. The process I am describing, of testing the connections between things and defining truth in terms of those connections and of physical reality, is the process by which science and mathematics have advanced throughout history. It is the process by which the entire race has been advanced countless times.

Besides, it seems to me that if there were a Creator (for argument’s sake), physical reality would be part of Creation. It would have to be consistent with the non-physical parts of Creation. Anything which is inconsistent with Creation would be untrue. It would ultimately not be useful in further advancing the race, which is, I think, the same thing.)

“Problems” arise due to the manner in which the network is untrue. The network is predicting consequences to actions that are not born out. Different consequences result from the actions taken. Problems arise.

There is no judgment or determination of one thing being better. In fact, there are many such networks possible. The only thing that distinguishes one from the rest is that it is consistent with observed reality. We call this the truth. Everything else is an untruth, a partial truth, or a deliberate lie. Examples are found in the parable of the Cave and the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes (In the original version of the story, after the little boy points out that the Emperor is parading down the street with no clothes on, he’s beaten and thrown in jail and the Emperor’s parade goes on.) but they also exist in society. (Finding those institutions is left as an exercise for the reader.)

You can’t get to an untruth from the truth and you can’t get to the truth from an untruth unless you accept a lie. This means that we have a way to “easily” distinguish truth from untruth – we just have to notice the disconnection. It’s a giveaway. That’s why those untruths and the institutions that are built upon them try very hard to distract you or cover over their state of disconnection. Nevertheless, that disconnection is there.

This applies to the implications of a truth (which give rise to expectations) as much as it does to the truth itself. It is also how scientists and mathematicians work. That us why Ernest Rutherford was so surprised to find alpha particles scattered at large angles by passing through a thin layer of metal foil. He was expecting them to have only minor deviations based on the prevailing theory. Since the observed scattering of alpha particles was verifiable and repeatable, it was presumed to be correct. The theory that led to the erroneous expectations had tobe wrong.

Rutherford is one example (“as if you fired a 15-inch shell at a piece of tissue paper and it came back and hit you.”) but the history of science is full of individuals exploring the implications of theories to either continue to accept them or to modify or replace them. The fact that the theory’s expectations were not met meant that the implications that gave rise to those expectations were not true. This meant that the theory, as it was understood, was not true. If the theory could not be adapted to fit the new observations, a different theory would be called for. This is exactly what happened. (The new theory has its own implications and expectations in turn. These expectations give rise to predictions which can then be measured against observations. To the extent that observed experimental results agree with predicted expectations, the theory is considered useful and is retained. As soon as observations differ from expectations (assuming the difference is verified) the theory is either altered or a new theory is proposed.) This process is common to all human endeavors (Ghiselin, Brewster (Editor), The Creative Process: Reflections on the Invention in the Arts and Sciences, University of California Press, 1985). In addition to being found in the sciences and mathematics, it is found in various arts. Any endeavor that relies upon creative insight to further the field relies on this process.

This is the way that we have been able to discern truth from untruth. It is commonly seen to take courage to honor the truth you see and to be open to hearing truth from others. But the “courage” that is seen in those instances is brought in to overcome problems thrown up by Ego.

Ego gives rise to secrets and hiding the truth. Sometimes, fear comes into play. These things can often come from personal pride. Economic considerations also come up. People have constructed some economies in such a way as to confound these Ego-based considerations with real world considerations. Others have worked to make these distinctions clear. (See, for example, alternative views on economic systems and the nature of value as it is recognized in various countries, most notably in Europe, and the declaration of the King of Bhutan to maximize “Gross National Happiness” instead of GNP. See also the economic consequences of the King’s announcement.)

Such artifacts of Ego, indeed, the Egos themselves, come from the wounds that you carry. If you heal a wound, you are free to eliminate the Ego that comes from it, and you are free to embrace the truth a little bit more. No courage is needed. In fact, once the wound from which Ego springs is at least recognized, if not healed, it becomes clear that it is easier to honor the truth than to continue to hold with an untruth.

Nevertheless, many of the things we find in life are not true. The disconnections between what we do (and what society teaches us to do) and the truth show up in our lives as problems. At first, they are small and easily overlooked or ignored. As time goes on, these problems or disconnections have consequences that are bigger and bigger. Eventually, what started out as a gentle tap on the shoulder becomes a 2×4 to the back of the head. We are at the 2×4 stage as a race, now.

This is perhaps the greatest, most important step to take in this life. It is important to realize that some things are true and others are not. Even more remarkably, some of the things that our society and/or our economy want us to accept are not true.

Discerning and honoring what is true from what is untrue is important. If we are to survive, we need to be able to do these things. However, to make matters muddier, a common practice is to confound the truth with untruth. The hope is that you will accept the untruth along with the truth. This can happen if you fail to notice the untruth or if you accept that you must take the untruth in order to have the truth.

However, experience shows that truth is like a fish. In cleaning a fish, you cut away the guts and other unwanted organs, the scales, tail and fins, and perhaps even the bones. In making a fillet, you cut away anything you don’t want to eat. Even if you leave the bones in, you don’t eat the bones.

In the same way, you can separate the truth from untruth and “clean” it. You don’t have to “swallow it whole.” Each part must be separated from the others and its truth or untruth determined separate from any other part. When the untruth is discarded, the truth that remains will be whole as parts of the many faceted jewel. The parts you don’t have yet will be revealed through their connections with the rest of the jewel.


More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 3 – Truth, Near Truth, Untruth” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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