Not everyone wants the truth. We could go as far as to say that there are questions to which none of us want honest answers.
In the course of the past few weeks I have read many reports, journal articles and chapters of books. The aim of most, if not all, of these has been to find out and present new information to add to the infamous ‘body of knowledge’ (does anybody know what this actually looks like?).
What I have found interesting is just how little some people wish to know the truth about the world around them.
Some academics are fastidious about the theory of their specialism and so design innovative and effective ways of discovering the ‘truth’ about the topic of interest. They produce articles that are sometimes difficult for a novice like me to comprehend but which, on the other hand, I have found helpful in helping me to get to grips with the existing research on my topic.
Other authors (some ‘academics’ and some, well… not) appear to begin in the service of an idea or donor and somehow manage to use researchers’ smoke and mirrors to arrive at what was clearly an expected destination.
Perhaps those are both caricatures but it seems that most pieces of academic work fall somewhere between the two. I have seen reports – gigantic pieces of work by my standards – whose origins and intended audience give them a supposed gravitas. Not all such studies are deserving of such respect, however.
This is for all sorts of reasons. It might be because the study asks the wrong questions. It might be because they have not taken actions or decisions that lead them to the right answers. Or, it might be because the answers are presented in such a way as to indicate that they say something they don’t.
Three weeks ago my judgement on whether a paper was significant or watertight was very different. And I fully expect the next three weeks and beyond to develop my thinking even further.
I still don’t understand why, if you’re going to bother researching something, you wouldn’t seek honest answers to honest questions. Having said that, however, seeking such answers certainly doesn’t look like an easy task as an outsider looking in. I hope it’s not as hard to achieve in real life!