On Truth and Sources: A Thought Experiment

On Truth and Sources — A Thought ExperimentA Thought Experiment

You are estranged from your beloved adult daughter due to an unfortunate misunderstanding ten years prior. You long to reconcile and reconnect, to see your family grow in health. So, you write her a handwritten letter, seeking to explain, to invite conversation, and to reconcile.

Learning of this, your jealous, cruel, and petty cousin also writes to your child. His letter is full of misinformation aimed at destroying the credibility of your message and encouraging your child not to read it.

Your cousin sends a duplicate of this letter to each of his ten children, instructing each to write similar letters to you. He tells them to each send their note to ten relatives, with the same instructions.

Your child returns from a long vacation to find hundreds of pieces of mail. One is your letter. The rest are from relatives, each parroting the charges of your cousin’s original letter.

Because of the estrangement, your child sets aside your letter for last, reading the others first.

These hundreds of sources, all of which make the same accusations, convince her that your letter could not contain truth. She determines never to read it. Instead, she burns it without opening it. Then, she goes tells others what she learned about you from hundreds of relatives. They believe her because, after all, she is your daughter. They know her personally, and she would never be susceptible to false information.

Your Verdict?

Did your daughter choose wisely? If so, why? If not, why not? What should she do differently?

What role should sources play as you reach conclusions? How should you weigh a solitary voice versus a hundred others? Does the fact that you can find hundreds of people repeating the same claims constitute a true, accurate, and reliable witness?

How should your answer apply to things such as the news, the definition of biblical words, Amazon product reviews, accusations against leaders and teachers, and so forth?