Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thinking About Taking The Pro-Truth Pledge

I've been a bit busy lately and haven't had much time to blog. I've been working with friends on putting together the first ever atheist conference in New York City and it's taking up much of my time. I'm currently in charge of recording and editing video promos for the event and this takes weeks of commitment. I'm also in charge of maintaining the site and various other event planning details.

I will have much more on this event in the upcoming weeks and months, but if you're interested, check out our site right now. Tickets just went on sale last week. We haven't heavily promoted it yet because we're waiting for a big event. But when the grand announcement is made, it will be made on all of our social media, including our Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as my site of course. I will also be speaking at the event moderating a panel. Stay tuned!

I also have many lengthy blog posts in the pipe that will be published later this month, including a critique of the "God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing suffering" theodicy.

I will also be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this weekend for the annual Pennsylvania State Atheist/Humanist Conference. The Gotham Atheist contingent and I are going down there to help out and promote our conference. So that's going to take a few days away from blogging. I will hopefully have a lot in the second half of the month.

I've caught wind of the pro-truth pledge that's being talked about. In the age of Trump and rampant lying, asking people to take a pledge towards telling the truth is a necessity. There are people who are willing to lie about anything in order to further a political, economic, religious, or social goal. The ends always justifies the means, and it's leading to horrible behavior.

For example, Trump's alt-righters will make up any lies they can about Hillary or the Democrats in order to smear them so bad that they becomes the worst things on earth (e.g. pizzagate). Reza Aslan will lie about what Sam Harris has said in order to ruin his reputation with the apparent goal that all his ideas and credibility became tarnished, or he'll lie about what Islam is about, or the plight of women in Muslim majority countries, in order to foster tolerance towards Islam and prevent critique.

This kind of behavior has seemingly been getting worse, and it can have deadly consequences. It doesn't help that our president does it on a daily basis. In order to combat this growing tumor on our society, a pro-truth pledge was devised and asks that people pledge to do the following:
Share truth 
  • Verifyfact-check information to confirm it is true before accepting and sharing it
  • Balance: share the whole truth, even if some aspects do not support my opinion
  • Cite: share my sources so that others can verify my information
  • Clarify: distinguish between my opinion and the facts
Honor truth 
  • Acknowledge: acknowledge when others share true information, even when we disagree otherwise
  • Reevaluate: reevaluate if my information is challenged, retract it if I cannot verify it
  • Defend: defend others when they come under attack for sharing true information, even when we disagree otherwise
  • Align: align my opinions and my actions with true information
Encourage truth 
  • Fix: ask people to retract information that reliable sources have disproved even if they are my allies
  • Educate: compassionately inform those around me to stop using unreliable sources even if these sources support my opinion
  • Defer: recognize the opinions of experts as more likely to be accurate when the facts are disputed
  • Celebrate: celebrate those who retract incorrect statements and update their beliefs toward the truth

I like this and generally agree with it. This is on point with what we need everyone to be committed to. I do have some concerns about taking it though.

On Twitter, I sometimes retweet links to articles I have not read or fact checked. I'm also fond of humor and sarcasm which will contain obvious untruths for the sake of comedy. Committing myself to refrain from doing this is something that won't be easy. Sharing the whole truth is obviously good. We should report both sides of the argument. However, sometimes my posts are critiques of one particular aspect of an idea and I do not have the time to show all points of view. I try to be fair whenever I can, but not every blog post can be an essay. Citing sources is always helpful. I link to them on my posts when I make a point that isn't common knowledge, and if prompted by a commentor to cite a source for a claim I will usually do so. Clarifying between my opinion and facts is something I definitely need to improve upon. Sometimes they overlap. One's opinion could be factually correct. It's best to preface with "I think.."

Honoring truth is important. When I debate theists I do point out when they are correct. It's unnecessary to completely disagree with someone just because you disagree with their central theses. Reevaluating and retracting claims is valuable as well. I constantly debate to see if certain views I have can be defended. If and when I think they can't I stop using them. Defending others who are attacked for sharing true information is obviously needed. It upholds one's service to the truth above their in-group loyalties. Aligning my opinions with the truth is something I live by.

When it comes to retracting information that reliable sources have disproved I prefer to not remove old blog posts that have views that I've since changed or that have been shown to be wrong. This is because I like seeing my intellectual progress through the years. I will, if prompted, add a note indicating that I no longer hold those views or that they source data that has been shown to be false, but I'm not going to take down whole blog posts. There is a big debate on what exactly is an unreliable source. Is CNN a reliable source? It's not if you're a typical Trump supporter. Is InfoWars a reliable source? It is if you are a certain kind of Trump supporter. There is a gray area where reliable source becomes unreliable source, and most of us can't tell where a dividing line is — if there is any. Experts are more likely to be correct, however we must be aware that there are paid experts who are hired by corporations to deliberately lie for them. And celebrating people who publicly acknowledge when they're incorrect is something I absolutely want to do.

So these are some of my concerns with taking the pledge. It's not that I'm hesitant to adhere to the truth, I'm a bit hesitant to adhere to it according to this particular pledge.

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