From the Editor

John Turner

It's funny how truth gets established in this country. It's not by direct revelation or clear-cut evidence. Rather, it's a drip-drip process which, gradually, is accepted by a majority while a minority reserves for itself the right, resolutely, to reject it. Take, for example, the matter of the evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Everyone of clear mind now recognizes that the Bush administration manipulated a few indications to justify what the president had already decided to do -- for reasons that were never shared with the public or even with the Congress. Exactly when the understanding of what happened became a "fact" is impossible to say. But, it occurred somehow.

We are entering a new era when what we know will be constructed not by experts alone, not by people with credentials, but by the entire body of those -- including experts -- who take an interest in an issue. And the most interesting feature of this emerging procedure is that though it seems cumbersome, it arrives at conclusions more rapidly than experts in the past did. If we had waited for respectable scholars to establish the truth about nonexistent weapons, we would not have known it until the time came for the publishing of historical tomes, when we would have been well past the time when the truth could have had practical political effects.

Consequently, though this muddling towards the truth is frustrating, it seems to be valuable. Nobody gets the kind of credit bestowed on the great revealers of the past. But the thousands who work without credit serve the public more powerfully than the heroes ever did.

We need to comprehend the nature of our modern approach to truth, so we can keep ourselves working at it and not subside into discouragement or into feelings of futility.

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Harvard Square Commentary, August 21, 2006