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We all know the popular saying “the truth will set you free”. That statement has never been truer than before. Truth gives life, changes lives and guarantees peace. Any truth need satisfy certain conditions that must have been pre-established. Once these elements are not present, it becomes questionable and the veracity will be in doubt.

What is truth? According to Wikipedia, “Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard. Truth is also sometimes defined in modern contexts as an idea of “truth to self”, or authenticity.”

Earlier this year, a mini-series was aired on Netflix “When they see us”. It told a story of how five teenagers tagged the ‘Central Park Five’ had their lives dramatically altered after they were wrongly accused of raping a white woman. At that time it was not discovered to have been a lie and incriminating evidence were conjured up to ensure they were convicted of the crime. A few years later the actual criminal who committed the crime owned up and thus they were vindicated. However, this was after they had spent a greater part of their early 20s in incarceration.

You will realise from this occurrence that a truth can be told in different ways. A truth can be backed up with facts and evidences and still end up being a hoax. A truth could also just be hearsay and yet end up as an undisputable fact. This also goes to show that a certain truth in a court of law may not be seen as a truth in a church.

Different bodies and organisations have standards for determining the authenticity of any ‘truth’. The media has proven ways to determine the actual facts of a case. However we won’t be going into that. But we will identify certain elements, any truth must have which cuts across anybody, organisation, religion, government and people.

One, the truth must correspond with an object of that truth. The claim that Aso Rock, (where the Nigeria’s president lives) is located in Abuja is true if and only if Aso Rock is in Abuja which we know to be a fact. If a claim arises that ‘Aso Rock’ is located in Lagos that becomes untrue. This is actually an easy one to identify since one aspect of the claim must be satisfy an already verified aspect of the claim.

Secondly, for any claim to be accepted as a truth it must be coherent. This means details describing a certain event must follow a sequential order or pattern. All facts pertaining to the truth must be consistent and blend to form a complete whole. Imagine a scenario where a traveller is robbed along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. In recounting it, he mentions certain details which may include their vehicle having a flat tire, and then they having to stop to fix it. And then suddenly from nowhere armed men appear and order that they all surrender their possessions. An in-depth analysis will show us that many parts of this story already give credibility to a robbery story.

This is because a robbery is best carried out in the night when there are few security officials around to prevent it. Also, stationed vehicles are more prone to robbery on a highway than a fast-moving vehicle. This is another aspect that makes the recount be believable. Finally, the fact that there was no announcement from the robbers before attacking also validates the story. If the passengers were alerted of their presence in time, some of them may have been able to escape into a bush and therefore would not have been robbed. All these facts happened in sequence that allows the truth to be remain unquestioned to a very large extent.

Finally, any truth must be pragmatic. To a pragmatist, if an idea works then it must be true. This is the basis upon which this third and final criteria stands on. So if I were to say a cure for HIV has been discovered, it will mean that when the cure has been found effective on a patient, then the above premise will be accepted as a fact. However, this criteria is not infallible and tends to produce false truths.

These theories of truth can be applied to many cases of unverified information, rumours and unfounded statements that tend to put people in a frenzy if allowed to go unverified. Next time you want to get carried away with that salacious piece of news, consider it critically again.

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