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Byline: Sylvia Alloway

EVER since absolute truth (seemingly) bit the dust, numerous little ``truths'' have been nipping at our heels, begging for attention.

Global warming will kill us all. News and entertainment media are controlled by liberals. People who believe in one God are destroying the world. People who don't believe in one God are destroying the world.

Very few beliefs can be proven empirically. Most of us are content with reasonably good odds. Polaris has not always been -- nor will it always be -- the North Star but it's close enough for as long as the human race is likely to last.

So who sets the odds? How do we know if a given ``fact'' is fact? In this information age, we have almost infinite resources at our disposal. Surely, a little research on disputed ideas can help us determine what to believe. But for most of us the answer lies not in study, but in the source.

In the words of St. Paul, ``I know whom I have believed.'' He meant Jesus Christ, but many are not so lofty. For some it is Bill O'Reilly; for others George Clooney or a religious leader or scientists in consensus. There is some person or institution we are almost always willing to believe and another we are almost never willing to believe. Often this saves us from having to think for ourselves.

Ever since the education system started turning out ``life-long learners'' instead of informed citizens, we are more and more at the mercy of our own bias. Looking honestly at both sides of an issue is too much trouble. We put our trust in movie stars, experts and pundits who sound like us, only cooler, and who disagree with the ignorant fanatics we don't like.

I read the letters people write to various newspapers and blogs. Many state no facts, invite no debate and bother not at all with common courtesy. It's goody for our side and your side is bleep. As the saying goes, I've made up my mind; don't confuse me with the facts.

The dreaded ``received truth'' exists in every set of beliefs.

Take for example the recent dust-up at Reuters news service over doctored photos of the war in Lebanon. The pictures were faked; there is no doubt about that. The problems were the source of the discovery, an ultra-conservative Internet blog, and the fact that all the offending images were fixed to make Israel look bad. Did those who printed the pictures give the facts a pass to support their belief that Israel is in the wrong? Has distrust of the source led to downplay of the incident in the news?

Mel Gibson's bigoted faux pas while drunk led most people, Jewish or not, to decry his repellent outburst. Your local skinheads probably cheered. They know whom they have believed -- anyone who sounds just like them.

Mere information will not reveal absolute truth. That is anchored in the heart. You choose to admit or ignore it and take the consequences. Still, thinking for oneself at least takes a little time and energy from denigrating the opposition. It may even raise an echo from the heart -- truth loud enough to give us pause: Whom do I believe?
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 22, 2006
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