My current project involves challenging a liar; and arguing with their followers over the truth of the claims of that liar. The liar is Becki Percy, who claims that the people of Hull in the UK are ritually abusing and murdering children as part of a Satanic cult in that city. The followers of Becki Percy are a mix of conspiracy theorists and religious American evangelicals, who believe without critical thinking or evidence the claims of Becki Percy. The liar and their followers strikes at the core of the concept of truth and reason. The effect on society is that Percy and her followers suggest we can act on a statement made on the internet without evidence, or using any reasoning on the basis of faith alone.
People confuse a statement made on the internet as a fact rather than a claim made. Becki Percy makes the statement that she was tortured by a Satanic cult, that burned, cut and stabbed her all over her body. Such torture would leave visible evidence on the body of Percy; but she fails to offer a medical report, video or photographic evidence to her internet audience or the lawyers representing her in court to back up her statement. A statement only becomes a fact, when evidence is offered to support the statement; but the followers of Percy will accept her statement as fact, despite lack of evidence offered; in reality, they are accepting a claim on faith, not a statement of fact.
A statement of fact based on evidence is truth; but what is truth? A thing may be truth to me because I can sense it: I see it; I hear it; I smell it. A thing might also be truth to me due to having personal experience of it; I know a statement that a specific brand of chocolate cookie is nice to eat, as I have eaten that brand of cookie. Truth then comes from having some sensory or personal experience, that acts as evidence for a statement made. I have a way of being able to tell the truth of a thing by way of personal sense and experience.
If a statement is made, but no evidence is offered that matches our sense and experience of its truth, then reason should kick in; but what is reason? Becki Percy makes a statement that she was hunted through a wood, and raped multiple times in a woodland setting on repeat occasions; Percy then offers story and an internet photo (see below) of her enjoying a walk in the woods in the USA in a happy and anxiety free context. Personal experience suggests to me and objective people that the human mind associates similar events together; and a walk in a wood after a highly traumatic rape in a woodland setting, might trigger distress. When there is a disconnection between two patterns; a traumatic woodland rape against a happy woodland walk showing no signs of distress; then reason kicks in to attempt to explain the disconnection; the human mind looks for the novel new pattern to explain the lack of trauma.
So why are the followers of Becki Percy accepting her statements without evidence or reason on a basis of faith? Percy targets two highly tribal markets based on Christian evangelism and conspiracy, where emotion and faith in the tribe and its ideas are more important than objective fact and reason. Scientific studies show that conformity to the tribe and its tribal beliefs is more important than honesty and reason. The hormone oxytocin explains why the followers of Becki Percy will remain faithful to Becki Percy, even when offered evidence and reason that argue she is a dishonest manipulator.
A darkside of oxytocin also encourages a tribe to act in ways that are contrary to their own religion or country. The Christian Bible warns against the false witness; but the American evangelical followers of Becki Percy will ignore the Bible, as tribal connection is more important. Some 6000 American evangelicals have signed a petition asking their American leadership to sacrifice two hundred years of tradition and law to make an exception for Becki Percy to stay and become a US citizen; a call to destroy the USA for someone they treat as one of their tribe. It is natural that a chemical hormone is more important to Becki Percy and her followers than truth and reason. The effect of allowing oxytocin to dictate our deeds and choices can lead to a Lord of the Flies situation for everyone; where tribalism is more important than fact and reason.