What Is Truth?

Think of a recent situation in which someone referred inappropriately to “my truth.” Write two or three paragraphs, in your own words, explaining to that person what you learned in this chapter.

What Is Truth?
For hundreds of years, philosophers battled over whether “truth” exists. The argument usually concerned Truth with a capital T, a kind of complete record of whatever was, is, or will be, error-proof, beyond doubt and dis- pute, a final test of the rightness or wrongness of people’s ideas and theories.
Those who accepted the existence of this Truth believed it was a spiritual reality, not a physical one. That is, it was not a celestial ledger or file drawer—yet it was beyond time and space. It was considered an understanding among the gods, or an idea in the mind of God, or simply the sum total of Reality. Could humans ever come to know Truth? Some said, no, never. Others said, yes but only in the afterlife. Still others said that the wisest and best of humans could catch glimpses of it and that the rest of humanity could learn about it through these special ones.
Those who rejected this notion of an awesome, all-embracing Truth argued that it was an empty notion. How could all reality be summed up that way? More important, what possible evidence could be offered in support of its existence? Many who reasoned this way dismissed the idea of Truth as wishful thinking, a kind of philosophical security blanket. A few went further and denied even the existence of truths (no capital).
Our age has inherited the whole argument. The focus, however, has changed. It seldom concerns Truth anymore. Even if Truth does exist, it’s of little help to us in our world and our lives because it is beyond human understanding. Even many people of strong and rather conservative religious views no longer consider the question of Truth important to the understanding or practice of their faith.
Still, the question of truth, or even truths, remains, and the position we take toward this question does have an important bearing on how we conduct our thinking and acting. Unfortunately, there is a good deal of murkiness and confusion about the concept. The rest of this chapter will attempt to shed light on it.
It’s fashionable today to believe that truth is relative and subjective. “Everyone creates his or her own truth,” the saying goes, “and what is true for you may not be true for me.” The meaning of this statement goes far beyond “It’s a free country and I can believe what I want.” The claim means that whatever a person thinks is true because he or she thinks it is. Not surprisingly, to challenge another person’s view on an issue is considered bad form. “That’s my truth you’re talking about, Buster. Show a little respect.”
The implications of this notion are quite staggering, yet for some reason few people acknowledge them, and fewer still are interested in testing their reasonableness. One implication is that everyone is right and no one is wrong. In fact, no one can be wrong. (What an argument this would make against objective tests—true/false, multiple choice, and so on: “My answers can’t be wrong, professor. They’re my truth!”) Another is that everyone’s perception and memory work flawlessly, with never a blunder, glitch, or gaffe. And another is that no one adopts other people’s “truths.” The idea of creating truth rules out borrowing—if truth is in- tensely personal, each person’s truth must be unique. Let’s examine all these ideas more closely.
Where Does It All Begin?
The idea of creating our own truth without outside influence or assis- tance may sound reasonable if we focus only on our adulthood. The moment we consider our childhood, however, the idea becomes suspect, because in childhood we were all dependent in every sense: physically, emotionally, and intellectually. What we knew and believed about every- thing was what others told us. We asked questions—”Why, Mommy?” “Why, Daddy?” Our parents answered them. We accepted those answers and made them the foundation of our belief system, no matter how elab- orate it would become in adulthood.
Relativists could, of course, claim that we leave all those early influ- ences behind when we reach adulthood, but that denies the most funda- mental principles of psychology. Here is how one writer explained the continuing influence of childhood experience:
We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them. And those preconceptions, unless education has made us acutely aware, govern deeply the whole process of perception. They mark out certain objects as familiar or strange, emphasizing the difference, so that the slightly familiar is seen as very familiar, and the somewhat strange as sharply alien. They are aroused by small signs, which may vary from a true index to a vague analogy. Aroused, they flood fresh vision with older images, and project into the world what has been resurrected in memory.1
You have heard the old saying seeing is believing. The reverse— believing is seeing—is equally correct. To a greater or lesser extent, what we regard as our unique perspective bears the imprint of other people’s ideas and beliefs.
Imperfect Perception
Is perception flawless? Hardly. For one thing, it is influenced by our desires, interests, and expectations: “From the outset perception is selective and tends to simplify the world around us. Memory continues and hastens the process.”2 For another, even within its limited focus, perception is often flawed. A college student who is positive that the textbook contains a certain statement answers an exam question with perfect confidence. Yet when the student gets the corrected test back and finds the question marked wrong, then hurriedly flips open the book and examines the passage again, he or she may find it says something else entirely.
Moviegoers in the 1930s and 1940s were thrilled as Tarzan uttered his famous yell and swung through the treetops to catch the villain. Tell them that Tarzan never made that yell and they’ll say, “False, we heard it with our own ears.” And yet it’s not false. According to one of the men who first played the role of Tarzan, Buster Crabbe, that yell was dubbed into the films in the studio. It was a blend of three voices—a soprano’s, a baritone’s, and a hog caller’s.
At least a dozen times every weekend from September to January, the imperfection of human observation is underlined by that marvel of tech- nology, the instant replay. Is there a football fan anywhere who doesn’t occasionally scream, “Bad call!” only to be proved wrong a moment later? We can be sure enough to bet a week’s wages that the pass re- ceiver’s feet came down inbounds or that the running back’s knee hit the ground before the ball came loose. And then the replay shows us how er- roneous our initial perception was.
The vagaries of perception have long been noted by those who deal with human testimony—notably, trial lawyers, police officers, and psy- chologists. It is well established that a number of factors can make us see and hear inaccurately. Darkness, cloudy conditions, or distance from what we are witnessing may obscure our vision. We may be distracted at a crucial moment. If we are tired or in the grip of powerful emotions such as fear or anger, our normal perceptiveness may be significantly diminished. Also, perception may be intermingled with interpretation—the expectation that an event will unfold in a certain way may color our perception of the way the event actually unfolds. Loyalty and affection toward the people or things involved may distort our vision as well. If someone we dislike speaks in a loud voice and is animated, we may regard that person as showing off to get attention. But if a friend behaves in the same way, we may regard him or her as vivacious and extroverted.
Imperfect Memory
Even when our perception is initially flawless, our memory often distorts the data. We forget details, and when later attempting to recall what hap- pened we resort to imagination to fill in the blanks. Though we may at first be aware that such a process of reconstruction is occurring, this awareness soon fades, and we come to believe we are remembering the original perception. As psychologist William James explained,
The most frequent source of false memory is the accounts we give to others of our experiences. Such acts we almost always make more simple and more interesting than the truth. We quote what we should have said or done rather than what we really said or did; and in the first telling we may be fully aware of the distinction, but [before] long the fiction expels the reality from memory and [replaces it]. We think of what we wish had happened, of possible [interpretations] of acts, and soon we are unable to distinguish between things that actually happened and our own thoughts about what might have occurred. Our wishes, hopes, and sometimes fears are the con- trolling factor.3
As if this weren’t enough, memory is vulnerable to contamination from outside the mind. Memory expert Elizabeth Loftus showed children a one-minute film and then asked, “Did you see a bear?” or “Did you see a boat?” They remembered seeing them, even though no bears or boats were in the film. She also showed adults a film of an auto accident and then asked them about it. By using the word “smash” instead of “hit,” she was able to change the viewers’ estimate of the cars’ speed and to create a memory of broken glass where there was none. In another experiment, Loftus asked the parents of college students to describe some events from their sons’ and daughters’ childhoods. Then she talked with each student about those events but added a fake event or two. With only slight coaxing, the students “remembered” the fake events, were able to elaborate on the details, and in some cases refused to believe they were fake even when Loftus explained what she had done.4
Deficient Information
The quality of a belief depends to a considerable extent on the quality of the information that backs it up. Because it’s a big world and reality has many faces, it’s easy for us to be misinformed. How many drivers take the wrong turn because of faulty directions? How many people get on the wrong bus or train? How many car owners put too much or too little air in their tires on the advice of some service station attendant? And, if mis- information is common enough in such relatively simple matters, how much more common is it in complex matters like law and medicine and government and religion?
It’s possible, of course, to devote a lifetime of study to a particular field. But not even those who make that kind of commitment can know everything about their subject. Things keep happening too fast. They occur whether we’re watching or not. There’s no way to turn them off when we take a coffee break or go to the bathroom. The college student who hasn’t been home in three months may be able to picture the neighbor’s elm tree vividly, yet it may have been cut down two months ago. The soldier may have total recall of his hometown—every sight and sound and smell—and return home to find half of Main Street sacrificed to urban renewal, the old high school hangout closed, and a new car in his best friend’s driveway.
Even the Wisest Can Err
So far, we’ve established that people can be mistaken in what they per- ceive and remember and that the information they receive can be faulty or incomplete. But these matters concern individuals. What of group judgment—the carefully analyzed observations of the best thinkers, the wisest men and women of the time? Is that record better? Happily, it is. But it, too, leaves a lot to be desired.
All too often, what is taken as truth one day by the most respected minds is proved erroneous the next. You undoubtedly know of some examples. In the early seventeenth century, when Galileo suggested that the sun is the center of our solar system, he was charged with heresy, imprisoned, and pressured to renounce his error. The “truth” of that time, accepted by every scientist worthy of the name, was that the earth was the center of the solar system.
Here are some other examples you may not have heard about in which the “truth” turned out not to be true:
• Foralongtimesurgeonsusedtalcontherubberglovestheywore while performing surgery. Then they discovered it could be poison- ous. So they switched to starch, only to find that it, too, could have a toxic effect on surgical patients.5 ?
• Filmauthoritieswerecertaintheywerefamiliarwithallthefilms the late Charlie Chaplin ever made. Then, in 1982, a previously unknown film was discovered in a British screen archive vault.6 ?
• Forhundredsofyearshistoriansbelievedthatalthoughthepeople of Pompeii had been trapped by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, the people of neighboring Herculaneum had escaped. Then ?
the discovery of eighty bodies (and the hint of hundreds more) under the volcanic ash revealed that many from Herculaneum had also been trapped.7
• Yourgrandparentsprobablylearnedthatthereareeightplanets?in our solar system. Since Pluto was discovered in 1930, your parents and you learned there are nine. Then Joseph L. Brady of the University of California suggested there might be ten.8 But more recently Pluto was removed from the list. ?
• Aftermorphinewasusedbydoctorsforsomeyearsasapainkiller, it was found to be addictive. The search began for a nonaddictive substitute. What was found to take its place? Heroin!9 ?Truth Is Discovered, Not Created ?Let’s review what our evaluation has revealed. First, our ideas and beliefs are unavoidably influenced by other people’s, particularly in childhood. Second, perception and memory are imperfect. Third, our information can be inaccurate or incomplete. Add to this the fact, noted in Chapter 2, that some people’s thinking skills are woefully meager and/or ineffec- tively used, and the idea that “everyone creates his or her own truth” becomes laughable. We do create something, all right, but it is not truth. It is beliefs, ideas that we accept as true but that could easily be false. ?What, then, is the most reasonable view of truth? The truth about something is what is so about it—the facts in their exact arrangement and proportions. Our beliefs and assertions are true when they correspond to that reality and false when they do not. ?Did time run out before the basketball player got the shot off? How does gravity work? Who stole your hubcaps? Are there time/space limits to the universe? Who started the argument between you and your neigh- bor last weekend? Have you been working up to your potential in this course? To look for the truth in such matters is to look for the answer that fits the facts, the correct answer. ?Truth is apprehended by discovery, a process that favors the curious and the diligent. Truth does not depend on our acknowledgment of it, nor is it in any way altered by our ignorance or transformed by our wish- ful thinking. King Tut’s tomb did not spring into existence when archae- ologists dug it up; it was there waiting to be discovered. Art forgeries are not genuine when people are fooled and then fake when the deception is revealed. Cigarette smoking is not rendered harmless to our health because we would prefer it to be so. ?Much of the confusion about truth arises from complex situations in which the truth is difficult to ascertain or express. Consider a question like Are there really UFOs that are piloted by extraterrestrial beings? Although the question is often hotly debated and people make assertions that purport ?
to express the truth, there is not yet sufficient evidence to say we know the truth about UFOs. However, that doesn’t mean there is no truth about them or that people who affirm their existence and people who deny it are equally correct. It means that whatever the truth is, we do not yet possess it.
Similar difficulty arises from many psychological and philosophical questions—for example: Why are some people heterosexual and others homosexual? Is the cause of criminality genetic or environmental or a combination of the two? Are humans inherently violent? Is there an after- life? What constitutes success? The answers to these questions, and to many of the issues you will encounter in the applications in this book, will often be incomplete or tentative. Yet that fact should not shake your conviction that there are truths to be discovered.
When planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, killing several thousand people, the event was officially classified as a terrorist attack. But before long, a very different theory was advanced—that individuals in the highest levels of the U.S. government had planned and executed the crashes to provide an excuse for attacking Iraq. This conspiracy theory gained a number of well-known supporters, including movie and television stars and at least one member of Congress, and was disseminated around the world. In France, for example, a book supporting the theory became a best-seller. The issue became the subject of international debate—in some quarters, people are still divided in their views. But to my knowledge, not a single individual, in this country or abroad, took the position that both views are correct—that is, that each side is entitled to its own truth. If anyone had, he or she would have been attacked by both camps for talking nonsense and trivializing an important issue. When it comes to significant events like 9/11, people want to know the truth, what really happened.
Having the right frame of mind can make your pursuit of the truth less burdensome and give it the sense of adventure that the great thinkers in history experienced. A good way to begin is to keep the following thought in mind: “I know I have limitations and can easily be mistaken. And surely I’ll never find all the answers I’d like to. But I can observe a little more accurately, weigh things a little more thoroughly, and make up my mind a little more carefully. If I do so, I’ll be a little closer to the truth.”
That’s far different from saying, “Everyone makes his or her own truth” or “It all depends on how you look at it.” And it is much more reasonable.
Understanding Cause and Effect10
Some of the most difficult challenges in discovering truth occur in determining cause-and-effect relationships. Unfortunately, mistakes are common in such matters. One mistake is to see cause-and-effect
relationships where there are none. Another is to see only the simple and obvious cause-and-effect relationships and miss the complex or subtle ones. A third is to believe that causation is relevant only to mate- rial forces and is unrelated to human affairs. To avoid such confusion, four facts must be understood:
1. One event can precede another without causing it. Some people believe that when one event precedes another, it must be the cause of the other. Most superstition is rooted in this notion. For example, breaking a mirror, crossing paths with a black cat, or walking under a ladder is be- lieved to cause misfortune. You don’t have to be superstitious to make this mistake. You may believe that your professor gave an unannounced quiz today because students were inattentive the day before yesterday, whereas he may have planned it at the beginning of the semester. Or you may believe the stock market fell because a new president took office, when other factors might have prompted the decline.
The problem with believing that preceding events necessarily cause subsequent events is that such thinking overlooks the possibility of coinci- dence. This possibility is the basis of the principle that “correlation does not prove causation.” In order to establish a cause-and-effect relationship, it is necessary to rule out coincidence, or at least to make a persuasive case against it.
2. Not all causation involves force or necessity. The term causation is commonly associated with a physical action affecting a material reality, such as, a lightning bolt striking a house and the house catching fire and burning. Or a flowerpot being accidentally dropped out a window and then falling to the ground and breaking. Or a car speeding, failing to ne- gotiate a curve, careening off the highway, and crashing into a tree. In such cases a scientific principle or law applies (combustion, gravity, iner- tia), and the effect is inevitable or at least highly predictable.
That type of causation is valid, but it would be a mistake to think of it as the only type. Causation also occurs in the nonmaterial realities we call human affairs—more specifically, in the processes of emotion and thought. That type of causation has little, if anything, to do with scientific principles or laws, is almost never inevitable, and is often difficult to pre- dict. If we are to avoid oversimplification, we need to define causation in a way that covers both the scientific realm and the realm of human af- fairs. Here is a footnote for this: As its first definition of cause, the Oxford English Dictionary gives “that which produces an effect; that which gives rise to any action, phenomenon, or condition.” The distinction between “produces” and “gives rise to” is what we are referring to here. We will therefore define causation as the phenomenon of one thing influencing the occurrence of another. The influence may be major or minor, direct or indi- rect, proximate or remote in time or space. It may also be irresistible, as in
the examples of combustion, gravity, and inertia mentioned previously; or resistible, as in following parental teaching or the example of one’s peers. In the latter case, and in other matters involving ideas, the influ- ence (cause) does not force the effect to occur but instead invites, encour- ages, or inspires it. Consider these examples:
The idea that intelligence is genetically determined led early twentieth- century educators to conclude that thinking cannot be taught, and thus to emphasize rote learning and expand vocational curriculums.
The idea that people are naturally good, and therefore not personally responsible for their bad deeds, has shifted blame to parents, teachers, and society, and caused judges to treat criminals more leniently.
The idea that one race or ethnic group is superior to another has led to mili- tary campaigns against neighboring countries, discriminatory laws, slavery, and genocide.
The idea that “no one over thirty can be trusted,” which was popular in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, led many young people to scorn both the advice of their parents and teachers and the accumulated wisdom of the past.
The idea that feelings are a reliable guide to behavior has led many people to set aside restraint and follow their impulses. This change has arguably led to an increase in incivility, road rage, and spouse abuse, among other social problems.
The idea that self-esteem is prerequisite to success changed the traditional idea of self-improvement, inspired hundreds of books focused on self- acceptance, and led educators to more indulgent views of homework, grad- ing, and discipline.
In each of these examples, one idea influenced the occurrence of an action or belief and, in that sense, caused it. Columnist George Will no doubt had this view of causation in mind when he encountered the claim that “no one has ever dropped dead from viewing ‘Natural Born Killers,’ or listen- ing to gangster rap records.” Will responded, “No one ever dropped dead reading ‘Der Sturmer,’ the Nazi anti-Semitic newspaper, but the culture it served caused six million Jews to drop dead.”11
3. There is a wild card in human affairs—free will. So far we have noted that causation occurs through force or necessity in material events, but through influence in nonmaterial events—that is, in human affairs. Also, that in human affairs, effects are to some extent predictable but much less so than in material events. Now we need to consider why they are less predictable. The answer is because people possess free will—that is, the capacity to respond in ways that oppose even the strongest influ- ences. Free will is itself a causative factor, and one that can trump all oth- ers. This explains why some people who grow up in the worst of circumstances—for example, in dysfunctional, abusive families or in
crime-ridden neighborhoods in which the main sources of income are drug dealing and prostitution—resist all the negative influences and be- come decent, hardworking, and law-abiding. (It can also explain why some people who are more fortunate economically and socially fall short of those ideals.)
It has been rightly said that people can seldom choose the circum- stances life places them in, but they can always choose their responses to those circumstances because they possess free will. In any investigation of causes and effects in human affairs, the factor of free will must be con- sidered. However, possessing free will is no guarantee that we will apply it. In fact, one factor makes such application difficult. That factor is habit.
Habit inclines smokers to continue smoking, liars to continue lying, selfish people to go on being selfish, and countless people to unthink- ingly embrace the latest fashion. When leading designers say “hemlines should be raised,” hordes of women comply. When oversized beltless denim jeans are in vogue, hordes of young men waddle down the street, the tops of their pants at the middle of their hips and the crotches of their pants touching their knees. When iconic athletes shave their heads, legions of fans shave theirs. Resisting the force of habit is always possible but never easy.
The most difficult habits to break are those that accrue incrementally over time. Consider the acceptance of increasing violence and sex on TV and in films. In the 1950s, not much violence and sex were shown on- screen, and what was shown was tame. Then viewers were given glimpses of blood and gore and brief peeks at naked flesh. Year by year, the number of such scenes increased and the camera drew in a little closer and lingered a little longer over them. Over time, one thematic taboo after another was broken. Eventually violence and sexuality were joined, and themes of rape, child molestation, and even cannibalism were introduced. More recently, the industry crafted a new vehicle for assaulting the senses—the forensics program, which depicts rape-murders as they happen, then presents every gory detail of the autopsies in extreme close-up, accompanied by frequent, graphic flashbacks to refresh in viewers’ minds the shocking details of the crimes.
At first the violent and sexual content provoked protests. In time, how- ever, as sensational images became familiar, people formed the habit of ac- cepting them, and the protests diminished. (In time the habit grew so strong that anyone who objected to graphic sex and violence was consid- ered odd.) What happened in this case was not that people lost their free- dom or ability to protest, but instead that habit took away their inclination to protest.
4. Causation is often complex. When a small pebble is dropped into a serene pool of water, it causes ripples in every direction, and those
ripples can affect even distant waters. NASA researchers have found a similar process at work in the atmosphere: tiny particles in the air called aerosols can have a rippling effect on the climate thousands of miles away from their source region.
Effects in human affairs can also be complex. In an effort to cut costs, the owner of a chemical plant may dispose of chemicals in a nearby stream that flows into a river. This action may result in effects he did not intend, including the pollution of the river, the killing of fish, and even the contracting of cancer by people living far from his plant. Those effects will be no less real because he did not intend them.
A woman in the early stages of influenza, unaware that she is ill, may sneeze while on a crowded airplane and infect dozens of her fellow pas- sengers. As a result, they may lose time at work; some may have to be hospitalized; those with compromised immune systems could conceiv- ably die. Given her lack of knowledge of her condition, no reasonable person would consider her culpable (morally responsible) for the effects of her sneeze, but there would still be no doubt that she caused them.
A car is driving on the interstate at night. In rapid succession, a deer jumps out and, the driver slams on his brakes but still hits and kills the deer, the car traveling closely behind slams into his car, and five other cars do likewise, each crashing into the car in front. As a result of this chain reaction, the drivers and passengers suffer a variety of injuries— minor in the case of those wearing seat belts, major in others. The task of identifying the causative factors requires careful attention to the details. The initial cause was the deer’s crossing the road at an unfortunate time, but that is not the only cause. The first driver caused the deer’s demise. Each of the other drivers caused the damage to the front end of his or her car and back end of the car in front.* And the passengers who did not fas- ten their seat belts caused their injuries to be more severe than those of other drivers and passengers.
These examples contain a valuable lesson about the need for care in investigating causes and effects. But this lesson will be even clearer if we examine a case in the way investigation usually proceeds—backward in time from the latest effect to the earliest causative factor; that is, to the “root” cause.
For example, it has been clear for some time that the number of peo- ple of Middle Eastern origin living in Europe has increased so dramati- cally that before long, according to some observers, Europe might well be called “Eurabia.” What caused this change? Analysts found that for decades European companies, with their governments’ blessing, have
*At first consideration, it might seem that the front driver in each case caused the accident behind him/her. However, the law holds each driver responsible for maintaining sufficient distance to stop and avoid a crash.
been inviting foreigners to work in their countries, and these workers brought their families, formed their own enclaves, built their own mosques and churches, and “planted” their own ethnic cultures. The next question is what caused the governments to approve this influx of work- ers? The answer is that the native population of European countries had declined to a point near or below “replacement level” and there were too few native-born workers to fill the available jobs and thus fund older peo- ple’s pensions and health care services.
What caused the population decline? The availability of effective birth control techniques in the 1960s and 1970s and the choice of more and more families to employ those techniques. What caused so many families to limit the number of their children? One factor was the century-long population movement from rural areas to cities, where children are an economic burden rather than an asset. Others were the growing emphasis on self-fulfillment and the corresponding tendency to regard child rearing as self-stifling.
As even this brief analysis of causes and effects suggests, facile re- sponses to complex issues—in this case, “Middle Easterners are trying to take over Europe” or “The Crusades are here again, in reverse”—are not only unhelpful but unfair. The following cautions will help you avoid oversimplification in your analyses:
Remember that events seldom, if ever, “just happen.” They occur as the re- sult of specific influences, and these influences may be major or minor, direct or indirect, proximate or remote in time or space; also irresistible (forced or necessary) or resistible (invited, encouraged, or inspired).
Remember that free will is a powerful causative factor in human affairs, and it is often intertwined with other causes. In the case of the changes in European society, the movement of people from farm to city and the use of birth control were individual choices, but the greater availability of jobs in the cities (an eco- nomic reality) and birth control technology (a scientific development) were not.
Be aware that in a chain of events, an effect often becomes a cause. For exam- ple, the decline in population in Europe caused the importation of foreign workers, which in turn caused a change in the ratio of native-born to foreign cit- izens, which may in time alter the continent’s dominant values and attitudes.
Be aware that, in dealing with human affairs, outcomes can be unpredictable.
Therefore, in determining causes, you may have to settle for probability rather than certainty (as you would in matters that lend themselves to scientific meas- urement). In other words, you might conclude that something is more likely than not or, when the probability is very high, substantially more likely to be the cause. Either of these conclusions has significantly more force than mere possibility, but it falls short of certainty. The difference is roughly analogous to the differ- ence in legal standards of judgment: in civil cases, the standard is “a preponder- ance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence,” whereas in criminal cases it is the more demanding standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In searching for truth, when you encounter possible cause-and-effect relationships, keep these cautions in mind.

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