PETALUMA, Calif., March 16, 2015 – During a familiar and oft-quoted exchange just before his crucifixion, Jesus is asked by Pontius Pilate that singular question that continues to reverberate some two thousand years later:
“What is truth?”
Apparently, the folks at Google are wondering the same thing.
In an effort to bring us all closer to an answer, they have devised a nifty new search mechanism that ranks websites based on their credibility, not popularity. Instead of counting the number of links to a particular page, the system instead measures the amount of incorrect information it detects.
How is that possible?
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According to the New Scientist, the software works by tapping into a vast storehouse of information Google has pulled off the Internet that everyone pretty much agrees is a “reasonable proxy for truth.”
At first blush this sounds pretty neat. It makes you wonder, though, if Google is beginning to believe in its own omniscience or, on the flip side, how willing we should be to depend on an algorithm to reveal what is and isn’t true. It’s one thing to learn if the world is flat or round, quite another to be told your place in it.
Even Google wouldn’t pretend to answer such existential questions (or would it?), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep our guard up on other fronts. Regardless of which search engine we’re using, the Internet has a funny way of conflating fact and fiction and, in the process, fooling us into believing some rather odd and inaccurate things about ourselves.
Most troubling perhaps are the many conflicting reports about health. For instance, depending on which day it is, jogging – or biking or coffee or fruit or gluten or this or that medical test – could be very good or very, very bad for you. Who’s to say? What is truth?
Here’s where some good old-fashioned intuition might help. And not just any intuition, but the sort of deep down spiritual intuition that Jesus was likely trying to inspire in Pilate when he said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” In other words, “Consider everything that I’ve done – everything that I’ve said, all the sick and disabled and mentally disturbed people I’ve healed – and you will have at least an inkling as to what is and isn’t true.”
Not only does this sort of insight provide answers to the greater questions as to our place and purpose in this world, but even to immediate and practical questions in regard to our health: Where does it come from? How is it maintained? What is and isn’t good for us?
On this last question Jesus was particularly clear, emphasizing the fact that it’s not so much what we eat and drink but what and how we think that matters most. “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man,” he said, “but that which cometh out of the mouth [or one’s thought], this defileth a man.”
The good news is that this bit of wisdom, as archaic as it may seem to some, is experiencing quite a resurgence, evident in the many medical studies – all searchable on Google – that confirm such qualities of thought as gratitude, forgiveness and compassion as being essential to our health.
“The question, What is Truth, is answered by demonstration,” writes Mary Baker Eddy, “by healing both disease and sin,” implying that we have it within ourselves to figure out whether what we’re being told is credible. Are we content with the idea that physical cause and effect constitute the whole of our health? Or are we willing to consider the Spirit-based, God-imparted understanding of life that Jesus possessed as being practical in healing both mind and body?
As good as Google might be at pointing us in the right direction, it will never be able to simulate the spiritual intuition required to answer these deeper questions.
Eric Nelson writes each week on the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Read similar columns on his web site and follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.