I have a question that has puzzled me for quite some time and if any of you even think you might have an answer, I would be much obliged for the input. Why is it that those people who claim to be delivering moral messages do not feel bound by any notion of truth or honesty? I'm sure I've commented on this more than once at various times in the past and concerning various groups and messages, but it has dawned on me that it is a trend that is more than a little alarming.
One of the most obvious examples is that organization that goes by the misnomer of truth.com. Not only do they fail the basic manners test (Does anyone know of an advertiser who tries harder to be rude, disgusting, and tasteless?) but they make a double mockery by calling themselves "truth" while spouting constant lies. I'm sure there are those of you (especially the non-smokers) who are just sputtering at me right now. "They point out that smoking kills! That is not a lie!" No, that is not a lie. I, a smoker, freely state that. Why, then, do they abandon this honest high ground with their hyperbolic commercials? If you think I am exagerating, start jotting down their death numbers whenever you see one of their commercials. It shouldn't take long at all to realize that not one of those commercials agrees with another when it comes to numbers. The reason for this is simplicity itself: there are no hard numbers. Medical research has failed to reach any consensus on exactly what role smoking plays in "smoking-related" deaths and no one has any real clue how many people a year die as a result of smoking. The fact of the matter is that most of those "smoking-related" deaths also include so many other poor health or bad risk factors that no true numbers are even possible. That doesn't stop the good people at truth.com from throwing out those numbers as though they alone had the hard facts.
Environmentalist are another group of moral preachers who have a less than favorable relationship with the truth. This is another area where there is so much research and so little hard consensus that you would think anyone with a rational commitment to morality could not possibly utter any more direct statement than "we do some things that we should not do but we do not know exactly what impact those things have." Instead, we have prophets of doom who want to tell us exactly what we are doing wrong and exactly what we must do to fix it. Again these people do begin with a moral high ground. There are things that we are doing wrong - Poluting the planet makes no more sense than fouling your own bed! - and there are things that we know that we could do better. There are many things that we do not know, however. Take Global Warming, for instance (and while you're doing so, please do not overlook the fact that they have craftily changed the name to "global climate change"). Thirty years ago the boogyman was the next ice age (we were, according to the same so-called scientific consensus that the press is throwing around today, long overdue) but now, in such a short amount of time, we are cooking the planet through our own behavior. Short of all-out thermonuclear war, I am hard pressed to conceive of any way that we could change the entire planet in so short an amount of time. Never mind that the actual predictions are a measly 5-10 degrees over 100 years. Never mind that even those numbers do not account for continuing scientific advancement that may or may not offset such changes. [For comparison purposes, it was widely believed in the 70's by certain people in the scientific community that we would be seeing global famine and catastrophe by the 1990's caused by overpopulation if we did not take drastic steps immediately. Not only did we not take those drastic steps, our population actually increased faster than those people feared and yet, no global famine or catastrophe occured. The reason for this is that our scientific advancement progressed at the same accelerated rate and we became able to feed people at more and more efficient rates. The same principle could quite likely apply to the current "imminent crisis".] Never mind the fact that those numbers are coming from the very same people who cannot accurately be depended upon to predict tomorrow's weather! According to the loudest voices in the environmental movements, we are all doomed (and evil to boot) if we do not take exactly the steps they decree immediately.
I will let one more example stand for the whole.
If you receive email forwards as often as I do, you have no doubt seen the dire warnings of the removal of religious liberties from public places. They are removing God from our schools (never mind the long list of federal laws expressly protecting religious liberties on school campuses, from equal access to church related student groups to religious exceptions to various school activities). They are removing God from the public square (never mind the federal laws that expressly require equal access there either). They are removing God from our politics (never mind the religious litmus test that every president we have ever elected has had to pass). They are removing God from television (never mind the fact that TV stations are privately owned and can show almost anything they want assuming there are enough viewers to secure advertising and that the programs do not violate certain decency standards, standards that have been established by the same religion groups passing these emails, oddly enough). I do not deny that there have been over-zealous individuals who have done (or tried to do) every one of these things but they have been slapped down in every case by the same laws that these emails claim are removing your liberties. If you are Christian, there is no concerted effort to remove your religious liberties and, in this country at least, never has been.
This is a small list of examples to which I am sure we could all add many, many more. Most of the people who pass around these falsehoods are honest people who simply believe what people they trust have told them to believe. The fact that lies are being spread by honest people does not, however, stop them from being lies. It only means that honest people need to be more diligent in the efforts to verify the information they pass along as fact.