Is There Only One ‘Truth’?

Ryan Movsowitz

In my life, I use truth consciously and subconsciously. Whether I’m expressing my views on certain political topics or religious beliefs, the truth is what’s most important. However, I find that I occasionally lie to seem more appealing to others in certain situations. Truths and lies go hand in hand, so much so that they are often confused or manipulated in some way, shape, or form.
The same holds true for today’s society. As we look to arrive at a clear answer, the lines between right and wrong, black and white, have been blurred to such a degree that they are no longer discernible. It is such a fundamental aspect of our beliefs that lying is a crime while truth morally prevails, but what is true to one individual may not be true to the majority. Perception is reality. Many of us accept certain scientific facts as being indisputable, but they may not be widely accepted. In religion, what is true for one group may be unaccepted by other groups. In politics, alternative truths and fake news have become the order of the day. In social media and advertising, the distortion of the truth manifests itself through retouched images and photoshop.
The concept of the truth dates back centuries in time. There are instances today where only a fundamental, universal truth exists–i.e.1+1=2. The progression of time dictates the truths and lies of our society. For instance, Ptolemy, an astronomer and mathematician of the Greco-Roman era, regarded the geocentric worldview as Earth and “man” at the center of the universe. This theory was later challenged and negated by Nicolaus Copernicus in the early 1500s, and then by Galileo in the early 1600s–a time in which leaders of the Catholic Church vehemently believed an opposite truth. They quickly condemned him and threatened to torture him to death if he ever spoke of his ideas to the general public. Perhaps a more pertinent example of the apparent truth being proven incorrect relates to the concepts of general and special relativity, as explained by Albert Einstein. While sitting at my desk writing this article, I seem stationary relative to the desk. But relative to the universe surrounding me, I am in constant motion, traveling at sixty-seven thousand miles per hour. This is a theory that has been proven to be the only truth.
In stark contrast to science, the notion of a single, absolute truth, is at the core of many religions. Richard Dawkins, an English scientist, said, “Religion is about turning untestable belief into unshakable truth.” The fundamental tenets of Judeo-Christian beliefs assert the creation of the world in seven days. Scientifically speaking, evolution took billions of years to occur. Cyanobacteria were the first ever species to be on Earth, approximately 2.8 billion years ago. Can we contemplate the difference between days and billions of years? No. A literal interpretation of the Bible has been, and still is, regarded as the only truth. Other religious texts considered as the only truth, such as the Islamic Qur’an, are the source of religious intolerance. ‘If my truth is the only truth, then your truth must be a lie.’ According to Jodi Picoult, perhaps “There is not one truth. There is only what happened, based on how you perceived it.”
More than ever, perception is reality. The truth is variable, and in many cases, tends to be different for everyone.
The most recent and applicable example of there being multiple “truths” lies in the politics of our day. We live in a country where the truth is regularly being disputed. Who could have thought that just two years ago there could be “fake news” and “alternative truths?” Fake news is the primary source for people to express a manipulation of the facts. We consume the news through a variety of sources such as radio, newspapers, and TV. A certain news outlet that has numerous readers proves to be credible to a percentage of the population, even though its information might not represent the full truth.
Who could have imagined that the leader of the free world would turn the truth upside down, and convince a large segment of our nation that what is obviously true is untrue? This harkens back to the darkest times in history. It reminds one of the distortions of the truth, manufactured by the Nazi propaganda machine that incited hate and allowed for the murder of millions of Jews. There is only one truth if the society you live in accepts it as being the truth. However, in this twisted world, one truth no longer exists.
A couple of weeks ago, Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly on a variety of topics related to the US, but most notably, how his administration “accomplished more than almost any … in the history of our country.” All of the UN members muttered until he said, “I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay.” Then the murmur turned into heavy laughter that permeated the entire space. In later interviews with reporters, Trump said that they were laughing with him rather than at him. This comment is the truth to him in his small encapsulated brain, but to the rest of us bystanders, it seemed idiotic and an untruthful remark.
Even in our day to day lives, the truth is distorted in social media and advertising. Social bots, influencer marketing, and photoshopping the images we are exposed to alter what is true. These days, people are in pursuit of having a particular body image that conforms to society’s view; no freckles, no pimples, no paleness, etc. Photoshopping apps remove the imperfections on one’s face that makes the person who they are. Our truth is not necessarily reality but a fictional, manufactured perception of reality.
So we come back to, what is the truth? Is there only one truth? The truth is a fact or belief that is accepted as being true by the society and the individual mentality that one lives in. There is, in fact, no single truth.