Thursday, May 10, 2018


“We have taller buildings but shorter tempers;
wider freeways but narrower viewpoints;
we spend more but have less;
we buy more but enjoy it less;
we have bigger houses and smaller families;
more conveniences yet less time;
we have more degrees but less sense;
more knowledge but less judgement;
more experts yet more problems.” And so on.
“Isn’t it amazing that comedian George Carlin could write something so very eloquent… and so very appropriate? His wife had recently died. What a difference a sad event makes in someone’s life.”

The full essay and those comments were posted on websites, shared with chain emails (remember those?), and later made the rounds on social media. I first saw it when a friend posted it on Facebook. Now, I know George Carlin’s humor and it just didn’t sound like something he would say. So I checked into it and sure enough – it’s a hoax. Carlin did not write it. It was written in 1995 by a pastor named Dr. Bob Moorehead. I told my friend it wasn’t Carlin and suggested she take it down, which she did. But a year later, she posted it again – I guess she really liked that essay! I had to remind her that we had been around this block before. Then last year I found the Pro-Truth Pledge. I looked into it, took the pledge, and sent it to my friend. She took the pledge too. Now she makes sure what she posts is true and it has become a discussion topic between us. I will get back to the Pro-Truth Pledge in a minute, but first let’s get our arms around the problem.
A recent study of Twitter data from 2006 to 2017 found that “Falsehood diffused significantly farther and faster than the truth … especially false political news … false news was more novel than true news, so people were more likely to share novel information…. robots spread true and false news at the same rate, so the problem is with humans, not robots. [paraphrased]”
You see, we are all are a bunch of liars. White lies, half-truths, and tall tales are everywhere. When someone asks how we are doing, we say “fine” even when you’re not.  What do you say when your wife asks if her dress makes her look fat? Tell the truth? No way! Has anyone seen Jim Carey’s movie Liar Liar? It shows how everything falls apart when his son makes a wish that his dad, who is a lawyer, cannot lie. Entire episodes of sitcoms are often based on someone covering up a lie.
What is a lie, exactly? To lie is to say something other than what you think is true. It is to know what is true, or at least think you know, and then to intentionally say something different to achieve some goal. We naturally try to avoid telling lies, but sometimes we will lie if we think the benefit of achieving the goal outweighs the cost of the lie.
And then we have bullshit. That’s right, I said it. There really is no better word to describe it. As philosopher Harry Frankfurt explains in his 2005 book titled On Bullshit, "One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share." But what is bullshit exactly? To bullshit is to say something without regard for whether it is true or not to achieve a goal that is unrelated to the truth of what you are saying. Bullshit often emerges when we are expected to say more about a subject than we actually know.
What can we, you and me, do about the spread of lies, bullshit, and false news? One step is to take the Pro-Truth Pledge:
Share Truth

  • Verify: fact-check information to confirm it is true before accepting and sharing it
  • Balance: share the whole truth, even if some aspects do no 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 when others share true information even when we disagree otherwise
  • Reevaluate if my information is challenged, retract it if I cannot verify it
  • Defend others when they come under attack for sharing true information, even when we disagree otherwise
  • Align my opinions and my actions with true information
Encourage Truth
  • Fix: ask people to retract information that reliable sources have disproved even when 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 those who retract incorrect statements and update their beliefs toward the truth
To verify claims and information we can check websites like,,, and Or Google it or look it up in Wikipedia.
We can join organizations like The Skeptics Society which promotes scientific skepticism and fights the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs. They published a Baloney Detection Kit:
  1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
  2. Does the source make similar claims?
  3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
  4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
  5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
  6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
  7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
  8. Does verifiable evidence exist?
  9. Does the new explanation account for as many phenomena as the old explanation did?
  10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?
You can apply the Pro-Truth Pledge and the Baloney Detection Kit at work. A useful phrase is “what evidence justifies your claim?” When in doubt, check it out!
So go online and take the Pro-Truth Pledge. Post it in your office. Use the Baloney Detection Kit. Make sure what you say is true and what you share online is true. Ask for evidence to justify claims. And most of all – set yourself apart – and be a truth-teller.


Pro-Truth Pledge        

The Spread of True and False News Online





The Skeptics Society 

Baloney Detection Kit - by Michael Shermer, term coined by Carl Sagan

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful. Great idea and great recommendations for fact checking sources (snopes, hoax slayer etc etc).