Propaganda, deception, myth, junk science, can you distinguish the truth?
Notice the title carefully. It describes the subject. I will be using some
examples of things that might fall into the categories above, but please
remember that the examples are not the topic, the topic is about being deceived
vs. discerning the truth.
We are bombarded with messages from television, newspapers, magazines, movies,
radio, schools, the web. Even our friends share their opinions and beliefs with
us. It is easy to accept what our loved ones tell us. Children are especially
susceptible to believing what parents tell them. I believe this is God’s design.
He wants children to learn from their parents, and He wants parents to teach
their children. While the most important subject that a parent can teach a child
is about a loving Creator/God and His plan for redemption, it is not the only
thing. We who are parents, are responsible for training our children in ethics
and life skills, and from my observation, I think many are doing a poor job. Of
course, it is not easy, the same things I mentioned at the beginning of this
paragraph, are bombarding our children as well.
This is not about parents and children though, it is about everyone, so let’s
look at some examples of challenges we face.
Example 1 – Emotional Manipulation in Media
Let’s take global warming as one example. I am not here to debate the
validity of either side in that debate, but I want to show one way that
information is used to sway our opinions.
First off, you will notice that the photo I put here, has the iStockphoto
watermark. iStock is the source of the picture, they are a stock photo agency
that licenses buyers to use their pictures (without the watermark). If you were
to go to the iStockphoto website, and locate this picture, you will find the
“A polar bear managed to get on one of the last ice floes
floating in the Arctic sea. Due to global warming the natural environment of the
polar bear in the Arctic has changed a lot. The Arctic sea has much less ice
than it had some years ago.”
Sometimes, that quotation accompanies the picture in articles. What you would
also see at iphoto, is this:
“(This images (sic) is a photoshop design. Polarbear (sic), ice floe, ocean and
sky are real, they were just not together in the way they are now)”
In case you have not guessed, this last part is usually not quoted, maybe it
So what do we have here, we have people knowingly using a contrived picture,
and implying that this is one of the last ice floes, and somehow, this lucky
polar bear managed to find it. This is designed to arouse your emotions, feel sorry
for the polar bear, and generate real concern about these disappearing ice
floes. This could be expected to work on children, but it also seemed to work on
Again, I am not debating global warming here, I am demonstrating
manipulation. One might think that is is a good thing to do something like this,
because it is an important cause which needs to be promoted. I say fine, if
global warming is real, then sell it with facts. Will the people who use this
kind of tactic bother to tell you that there are 5 times as many polar bears
today as there were in 1950? I doubt it. Will the mention that DNA genome
studies indicate that the polar bear has survived previous global warmings? Not
likely. Do they mention that polar bears can swim 60 miles? Seldom. Do they
mention that Polar Bears can live on land, without any ice? You get the idea.
While the ice may be thinning, and the polar bear’s normal habitat may be
shrinking, they are manipulating information and images to manipulate your
emotions. Resist emotional manipulation, recognize it when it is happening, and
look deeper into things. Don’t believe something, just because it tugs your
heart strings, believe things because facts back them up. Remember, even people
we trust, who would never lie to us, can also be deceived.
Example 2 – Email Urban Legends
I got an email one time, one of those chain emails that people
forward to their friends. Fortunately, I do not have many friends, so i do not
get these often. This one was talking about some woman who purchased a large
potted cactus, and put it in her home as a decoration. Without going into all
the details that builds the story up, the cactus later explodes from the pressure
of growing baby tarantulas inside it, and the house is filled with the little
Now I read this, and had a huge laugh, because the story is so
ridiculous. Where do I begin? Cactus are not house plants, they need sun.
Tarantulas do not lay eggs in cactus. The babies, in order to grow, would have
to have a food supply, they eat insects. If there were enough insects in the
cactus to feed them, would not the cactus have already exploded from their
volume? Cacti are not hollow, there is no place for all of this to even happen.
Cacti are stronger that fragile spiders, if the pressure were that great, the
spiders would have been squished. There are so many levels that point this out
as an urban legend, but as obvious as it was so to me, apparently it was not
obvious to the friend that forwarded it to me.
If you receive this sort of email, do a little research before
passing it on. Think also, of what the consequences of passing it on might be.
For example, there are often emails forwarded about some new way criminals have
come up with to get their victims. I won’t go into examples, and I would not
forward these. Most of the time, they are not true. Some of the time, the
tactics might even be clever. By forwarding these around, the will eventually
fall into the hands of criminals, who beleive it or not, also have friends with
email. Why give them clever ways to victimize people?
There is one of these that surfaces once in a while about
Madalyn Murry O’Hair, telling of her successful effort to remove Bible
reading and prayer from schools, and her plans to get the Federal Communications
Commission to ban the gospel from broadcasting. It urges Christians to petition
the FCC. It also says that Madalyn is campaigning to remove Christmas songs and
programs from public schools.
I have no problem with Christian activism. What saddens me, is
that people just assume that these sorts of emails are true, after all, it was
forwarded to them by a trusted friend, so they forward it to people that trust
them. So, is the any truth to the claims in the email?
Ms. O’Hair never petitioned the FCC on the topic, nor does the
FCC have the authority to ban religious programming. Those who know me, know
that I believe that we need to be ever vigilant though, as the federal
government has had a track record of overstepping it’s constitutional bounds.
Never-the-less, petition number
RM-2493, to which the email refers, had nothing to do with Ms. O’Hair and
was not about banning religious broadcasting, it was about preventing
religious organizations from obtaining broadcasting licenses on channels
reserved for educational purposes, and then using them for other purposes.
It was defeated in 1975, yet the FCC still is receiving
petitions to stop Madalyn (who had nothing to do with it) from having her way.
Now, if someone were to read this email, and then just look up Madalyn Murray
O’Hair, the would discover that she went missing in 1995, and her remains
were discovered in 2001, so you can rest assured that she is not a danger to
your religious liberty. There is a newer version of this email floating around
out there, that has president Obama as the villain.
Did you notice that in all the cases above, that those who
were perpetuating this disinformation, did so one the basis of fear? You have
heard all of the dire predictions of the result of global warming, the stripping
of your religious rights, how scary would it be to have a house full of
Tarantulas? If you read something, and it induces fear, that is a good time to
take a deep breath and say “Wait, is this really true?” If you can get the fear
out of it, you can more clearly think rationally, let fear grip you, and you
will focus on the fear, and stop looking for the truth. Fear paralyzes, truth
empowers. This tactic of employing fear is wide spread. We see it in politics -
vote for us, because our opponents want to send your babies to war, and feed you
parents dog food. I know, it sounds silly, but those have been used to mobilize
opposition. For some reason, we are willing to believe our guys when they lie to
us, and are ready to believe the worst of “the other guys”. Don’t fall for it,
both sides lie and use fear in politics.
It is true in day to day advertizing as well. If you have
dandruff, bad breath, tooth decay, wrinkles, you will not be happy. If your
laundry is not a white as can be, if your car doesn’t get 40 miles to a gallon
of gasoline, you will be ostracized or you are not a responsible world citizen.
Some of this stuff isn’t even public advertising, some of it
is just word of mouth rumor. Years ago, in a discussion on Worthychat, the topic
of artificial sweeteners came up. One person contending that Aspartame
(NutraSweet, and Equal) had formaldehyde in it, and could lead to cancer and
brain tumors. Now, I am immediately skeptical of such claims, because our food
an drug administration is fairly cautious, so cautious that you could make a
valid case that thousands have died, as a result of being denied medications
that could have saved their lives, because they have not passed the stringent FDA
guidelines that allows release to the public. We sometime have to wait a decade
or more, for the release of a drug in the U.S., that has been successfully
employed in other countries. There is no way around this, we can either be
cautious, and lose people, or we can be reckless, and lose people. My point is,
that it is doubtful that the FDA would approve something, that it knew caused
cancer and tumors.
I did not challenge the chatter’s assertion that Aspartame
contains formaldehyde, because I just did not know the the facts. I did however,
look it up in the next few days. What did I discover? Aspartame does contain
formaldehyde, well sort of. . Under certain conditions of temperature, a small
amount of formaldehyde can form in aspartame. How much? Let’s put it this way.
If you drank 500 cans of soda sweetened with aspartame, you would be ingesting
about as much formaldehyde as is contained in a single orange.
A similar one, is that in some countries, they have all but
ceased using sodium lauryl sulfate. What is that? It is the main ingredient in
many if not most shampoos. It is rumored to cause cancer. Big surprise, most
‘dangerous’ things are using the cancer scare. It is said, that it is a powerful
detergent, used to clean garage floors. Now, there is some truth to that. The
properties that make for a good garage floor cleaner, would be that is is able
to clean, dissolve oil and grease, be water soluble, and not be too dangerous.
These are the same properties that we want is a shampoo, the ability to clean,
break down grease and oil, and disolve in water. Furthermore, since it is going
down the drain, it cannot to too toxic, or we put the environment at risk.
Bio-degradability is what we need. This type of substance, is known as a
biodegradable anionic surfactant. We usually refer to them as detergents. While
there are others, they all do the same thing. Any ingredient that will clean
your hair well, will also clean a garage floor. There are two types of people
who will attempt to scare you about sodium lauryl sulfate – those who are
ignorant, and those who willfully deceive in order to sell you an alternative.
Use what you want, but don’t be fooled by urband legend hype. How did this get
started? The cancer scare and shampoo started in the early seventies, because
shampoo contained nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are known carcinogens (cancer
causing substances). What is odd though is that bacon contains nitrosamines, and
we eat that. We were afraid to put nitrosamines in our hair, but not too afraid
to eat them. Go figure.
There is one ingredient commonly used in industry, which is
responsible for the deaths of thousands. It is commonly dumped into our oceans
lake and streams, and there is some in every household. An analysis of your
blood, would show it’s presence. It is not only in the chemical solutions of
cleaning products that we use, it is even used in food preparation and even as
an ingredient in the food itself. This dangerous chemical compound, is
Dihydrogen Monoxide. according to the
Research Division :
Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless and odorless
chemical compound, also referred to by some as Dihydrogen Oxide, Hydrogen
Hydroxide, Hydronium Hydroxide, or simply Hydric acid. Its basis is the highly
reactive hydroxyl radical, a species shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins,
disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. The
atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and
poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol.
Petitions have circulated in the U.S., but to date, no
legislation has been inacted to ban or curtail it’s use. New Zealand, however,
had been on the cutting edge of fighting DHMO. In 2001 a staffer in New Zealand
Green Party MP Sue Kedgley’s office responded to a request for support for a
campaign to ban dihydrogen monoxide by saying she was “absolutely supportive of
the campaign to ban this toxic substance”. In 2007 Jacqui Dean, New Zealand
National Party MP, wrote a letter to Associate Minister of Health Jim Anderton
asking “Does the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs have a view on the banning
of this drug?”
You have probably heard of this dangerous substance
before. In the U.S., we usually refer to it as water. That is how normal,
ordinary things, can become something to fear. Nothing said about water above,
Of course, when there is a fear, it is an opportunity to sell
the antidote – to sell hope. We fear cancer, so we will but things that offer us
hope of prevention. I know someone who spent $500 on what amounts to a blender
with colored LEDs. Supposedly, you put water in this, swirl it around, and you
water, which prevents cancer. I wish you could see me roll my eyes.
However, just because there is no science to back up claims of
health from certain practices and substances, doesn’t mean they won’t work. Look
placebo effect sometime.
What is the point of all this? I’ll bet you thought I would
never come to that. The point is that we are easily and readily deceived.
What all of the above have in common is deception. Deception
can be done to us, or we can be self deceived. The worst kind of deception by
far, is religious deception. The are thousands of religions and cults
offering differing world views and ideas. Atheism and related
dogma (like evolution as an example), while not properly religion, are
practically religion, because they are based on faith and offer alternative
thought to traditional religion. Let’s be clear about one thing, if there are
ten ideas which contradict each other, no more than one of them can be correct.
Some may question why I said religious deception is the worst
kind. If it is true (and it is obviously true) that it is impossible for two or
more contradictory statements to all be true, then we have to compare religious
claims, and their implications. The bible tells us that mankind is too flawed to
enter in to eternal life in Heaven, and that we need a savior to deliver us from
the consequences of our sins. The Bible presents Jesus as that savior, and the
only way that we may enter Heaven. That claim is either true, or it is false. If
it is true, then we must follow that faith, or suffer eternal consequences. If
it is false, then we should not go about being self deceived and deceiving
others. This is of such vital importance, that we should spent to most effort
possible, to arrive at what is true. To fail to do so is to risk eternal
damnation for ourselves and for others. Nothing can possibly be more important.
Much of what I discussed above, involves what many call “junk
science”. I would like to propose, that there is also “junk religion”. Junk
religion, is similar to junk science and urban legends. It plays on fears,
exploits false hopes, and like junk science, can be exposed with a little
research and a willingness to yield to the fact, if we can get past our
emotions. Some might argue that playing on fears and emotions, offering
false hope is exactly what religion does. That is true. Since it is true that no
more than one religion can really be true (I am not talking about denominations,
but truly different religions), then that means that all but perhaps one, is a
junk religion, However, if there is one that is true, we need to find that one
and avoid all others, and discourage others from getting involved in false hope
with eternal consequences. We need to avoid all of them but one, if even one is
I am haunted by something Penn Gillette said:
“How much do you have to hate someone to believe that
everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Pretty convicting words
coming from an athiest. Whatever else you may think about Penn Gillette, I do
believe truth is important to him. He just has not discovered it yet.
Never-the-less this foul mouthed entertainer and skeptic, has done much to
expose a lot of the junk science that is out there, one can only hope and pray
that one day he will receive a blessing from God and use his sharp mind and
investigative skills and apply them to the religious issue.
We as Christians, are aware that forces of deception exist,
but being aware of them is not enough to be free of their effects. We need to be
vigilant in our pursuit of the truth, ever on the guard for religious deception,
even from witin our own ranks, perhaps especially so. Dr. John Warrick
Montgomery wrote an interesting book called “Damned through the Church”, it is
worth a read.
From within the ranks of those that call themselves
Christians, we have seen doctrines immerge which appeal to our base instincts.
The prosperity gospel, for example. Some have come to believe that God wants us
all health, happy and rich. He wants us content in our circunstances, but that
does not mean that He wants our circumstances to cause our contentment.
As usual, I have not set about to write this blog, knowing
exactly where I am going, so it should not surprise you to learn, that I do not
know when and where to end. So, having grown weary of writing by now, I will
leave you with the following verses to ponder:
2 Tim 2:15
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not
need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.NASB
1 Tim 6:3-10
3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction
of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and
understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels
about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and
constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth
and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into
the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and
clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into
temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men
into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of
evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced
themselves with many griefs.
2 Tim 4:3-6
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting
to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in
accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth,
and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure
hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
1 Peter 3:14-18
14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.
And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify
Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone
who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness
and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you
are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to
shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing
what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.