By June 5, 2014 Read More →

The Six Filters for Truth

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“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” — Galileo Galilei

The world is full of advice.  And your personal experience may vary.

How do you sort the truths from the biases and B.S. that comes your way?

You can filter for it.

Like panning for gold, you can filter your way through until you find the essence.  Or, at least until you find a useful pattern that helps you.

And if you’re a “truth seeker,” you love the process.

In the book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, Scott Adams shares Six Filters for Truth you can use to help you separate truth from fiction.

The Six Filters for Truth

According to Scott Adams, here are the Six Filters of Truth:

  1. Personal experience (Human perceptions are iffy.)
  2. Experience of people you know (Even more unreliable.)
  3. Experts (They work for money, not truth.)
  4. Scientific studies (Correlation is not causation.)
  5. Common sense (A good way to be mistaken with complete confidence.)
  6. Pattern recognition (Patterns, coincidence, and personal bias look alike)

Consistency Helps Us Find More Truth

When something is consistent, it has a better chance of being true.  That’s what scientists look for.

Via How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life:

“In our messy, flawed lives, the nearest we can get to truth is consistency.  Consistency is the bedrock of the scientific method.  Scientists creep up on the truth by performing controlled experiments and attempting to observe consistent results.  In your everyday, nonscientist life you do the same thing, but it’s not as impressive, nor as reliable.”

Consistency Might Not Be Science, But It’s Useful

Consistency doesn’t need to be a controlled experiment to be useful.  When you find a pattern it can help you recognize repeatable results.

Via How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life:

“For example, if every time you eat popcorn, one hour later you fart so hard that it inflates your socks, you can reasonably assume popcorn makes you gassy.  It’s not science, but it’s still an entirely useful patternConsistency is the best marker of truth that we have, imperfect through it may be.”

Check at Least Two Dimensions for Confirmation of Truth

A lack of consistency is a red flag when seeking the truth.

Via How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life:

“When seeking truth, your best bet is to look for confirmation on at least two of the dimensions I listed.  For example, if a study indicates that eating nothing but chocolate cake is an excellent way to lose weight, but your friend who tries the diet just keeps getting fatter, you have two dimensions out of agreement.  (Three if you count common sense. ) That’s a lack of consistency.”

Ask a Smart Friend

If you happen to have some smart friends, they can be a short-cut to the truth.

Via How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life:

“Once you have your bullshit filter working, think about how you begin the process of tackling any new and complicated problem.  There’s one step you will always do if it’s available to you:  You’ll ask a smart friend how he or she tackled the same problem.  A smart friend can save you loads of time and effort.  Many of you have a smart friend or two already, and you are lucky to have them.  But my observation is that a startling percentage of the adult population literally has no smart friends to help them in their quest for success and happiness.”

As you seek the truth, I’d like to leave you with a few words of wisdom from Mahatma Gandhi:
“Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.”

Find your truth.

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5 Comments on "The Six Filters for Truth"

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  1. Mohan says:

    “Truth never changes with Time” will also add the basic criteria to filter the truth

  2. Jon says:

    The main problem with “Check at Least Two Dimensions for Confirmation of Truth” is the confirmation bias: the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias).

    • JD says:

      That’s true. That’s why many people don’t even check one.

      Checking at least two dimensions is a good start in the right direction.

      As a personal practice, I try to find people who surprise me with insight I didn’t expect. I look for the exceptions and surprises, as a way to hack toward truth.

      And, where possible, I try to find sources of truth that live and breathe whatever I’m trying to research or evaluate, hoping they will be at least further along than I am in their journey for truth.