Daily Archives: August 15th, 2011

Hyppo and Critter: Lies

Welcome to my first Hyppo and Critter without the Photoshop. And that’s no lie!

Here’s today’s science experiment. Find yourself a religious person. (I used my boss.) Go up to them and say:

Mind if I ask you a question? The Bible says “Thou shalt not lie,” isn’t that right?
–You as a scientist

See if your subject responds like my boss. If your subject is knowledgeable enough and knows their Bible, they just might say something like this:

Actually, the Bible doesn’t say that. What it really says is: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
–Possible response from a quibbler

Eh? What’s the difference? As usual, a reading from the Book of Wikipedia will illuminate:

There are different views on the meaning of this commandment. Some interpret the scope in the narrowest possible sense, as only a prohibition of lying in courtroom testimony. Other interpretations view the commandment as a prohibition on any false statement that degrades our neighbor’s reputation or dignity. Still others interpret the commandment in the broadest possible sense: as a prohibition on all lying.

Source: Wikipedia.

Why would you ever want to slice it that thin? Why not just go with the popularized version? The one that says, “Thou shalt not lie.”

One reason might be that you want that wiggle room. If you say that the Bible only applies to this narrow definition, then the other definitions must suddenly somehow be acceptable, right?

An atheist, like Hyppo says, is free to believe what he wants. He can say, for example, “I like the standard that is a prohibition on all lying.”

Obviously “little white lies” will always exist. For example, “I don’t want to attend your party because I hate your guts” may not always be appropriate. So we might say, instead, “I’m sorry. I’ve got other plans.”

Or: “Wow, your wife’s cooking really sucks.”

Or: “Yes, you really are fat. And ugly, too.”

I think there can be a thing as a bit too much honesty. That applies to these little white lies. Nonetheless, aiming to tell no lies at all is, in my opinion, a very worthy goal.

I don’t know why you’d ever want to set the standard any lower.