Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What is a reliable answer? What is truth?

In my Information Architecture class we discussed Robert McHenry's article The Faith-Based Encyclopedia.

Traditional encyclopedias may hire a recognized expert to create a succinct article on a topic, but other experts may differ from the one the encyclopedia hired. On Wikipedia you can see that the expressed viewpoint is disputed and you get links to external resources that will amplify your understanding. And in a week the answer on Wikipedia may change. And it's true that the different paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry aren't necessarily internally consistent with each other.

I see Wikipedia as one's entry into the conversation on what is true rather than an authoritative resource that should be taken as gospel.

It is comforting to have a definitive answer, but definitive answers are so often misleading.

I like to flatter myself into thinking that I always choose the less comfortable, murkier realities to struggle with. I at least make an effort to investigate the shades of grey...

I do not believe that there is objective truth, there are only our perceptions of reality. It's like the blind men trying to describe the elephant. I won't digress into epistemology too much in this post, but I think that seeking a definitive answer to a query forces on to ask if there is such a thing as a true, justified answer. I think all we can get to is justification and the truth is always a bit elusive. The standard has to be a claims' persuasive value and predictive value rather than its ultimate truth.

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