Our Future Path!    A plan for a better world!

Knowledge (a Foundation)


There is an old saying that Knowledge is power. This saying basically means that people who have a lot of knowledge (facts, information and skills) have a lot more power than people who do not have as much knowledge. However, the facts, information and skills that someone has must be true for them to be knowledge and be useful to give them real power.

Knowledge gives us the power to figure out how we want to live our lives, and to guide us in making informed decisions about our health, education, work, finances, passions, future, and much more. With the acquisition of more knowledge, we can make better decisions, and we have a much better chance of creating and having a happier and more prosperous life. Therefore, it would seem to make a lot of sense to make the acquisition of knowledge a high priority in all our lives.

When we are deprived of knowledge or our knowledge is taken away from us, our power is also taken way. We can allow this to happen when we allow others to feed us misinformation or lies, allow others to manipulate us, put our trust in the wrong people, or fall for logical fallacies. To guard against being deprived of knowledge or having our power taken away from us, we must understand how people are trying to keep it from us and trying to take it away from us.

Another old saying is that Ignorance is bliss. This saying basically means that if we do not know about something, then we would not be worrying about it, and are therefore happier. If something is beyond our control, then we can live our lives without it weighing on our minds. For instance, if an asteroid is about to wipe out all life on earth, then at least we can live our final days without worrying about it. On the other hand, if we could control something, then knowing about it would allow us to do something about it before it ruined our lives. For instance, if someone had a form of treatable cancer, then knowing about it could spur this person to get the needed medical treatment.

The following subsections describe some of the methods that people may use to manipulate us to take away our power along with some ideas for countering this manipulation.

Misinformation and Lies

In our modern world, one of the biggest threats to our democracy, freedom, finances and lives is all the misinformation and lies that are being spread. In the past, it took a long time for misinformation and lies to be spread, which gave people some time to counter them before they spread too far. Today, social media can spread misinformation and lies around the world in seconds.

It is knowing the truth that gives us power, When we believe lies, we give away our power to those who lie to us. Today, it seems there are more and more people spreading misinformation and lies. Their ultimate goals may be different, but they are using misinformation and lies to try to manipulate us into doing something that would help them but would harm us.

If we knew the truth, we would not do what these manipulators wanted us to do. To save ourselves from unduly harming ourselves and others, we must see through the misinformation and lies, and learn the truth. This will allow us to keep or to take back our power.

Given the vast amount of information that bombards us every day, it is hard for the average person to analyze it all and to determine what is true and what is false. This is where our cognitive biases come into play. They help us with what to pay attention to, but also make us vulnerable to people who want to lead us astray.

The best way to handle this is to find sources that are reliable. When I talk about sources being reliable, I mean ones that are not trying to manipulate us, that verify that what they are reporting is the truth, and not just telling us what they think we want to hear or what they want us to believe.

However, even the most reliable source may still inadvertently repeat false information. Therefore, if we want to retain our power, we must stay vigilant and question everything. That means not only questioning anything that seems a bit out there or that just does not sound right, but even things that seem to fit our worldviews, since our worldviews may have been tainted by previous misinformation or lies that we have let in.

We can get our Information from many different sources. Chief among these are friends and family, news outlets, and social media.

Friends and Family

Friends and family may want to be helpful by passing on important information, but unless you know that they are getting their information from reliable sources, you need to verify everything. I had a friend who liked to pass on a lot of information, but with a little checking, I found that most of it was wrong.

News Outlets

News outlets should be the most reliable sources of information. However, our news outlets are controlled by people who may use their control to distort the truth or even to lie to promote their agenda. This is especially true in some countries where an authoritarian government controls the news, and what you get is just propaganda.

In the United States and in many other countries, some news outlets today are little more than propaganda machines for someone's extreme agenda. Therefore, we need to know the news outlet's agenda and if it is not to present honest and reliable news, then we need to find a new news outlet.

Social Media

Social Media is too much of a free for all with little control over who says what to be very reliable. Not only are there many fake accounts and bots, which allow anonymous people to spread whatever misinformation, lies, hate speech, etc. that they want, but even people with legitimate accounts will often do the same. Therefore, we need to be very careful with which social media accounts we follow.

With social media, there are also many things that social media companies can do to filter out misinformation, lies and other hateful or threatening content. Of course, each one of us should be free to decide what we want to allow through or to filter out. Therefore, the social media companies should rate content and set up various filters based on those ratings, but then give each of us the ability to decide which filters we want to use, and in general, what content we want to see.

We should be given all the needed options so that we can select what we want to receive and what we want to be blocked. For instance, we might always want some types of content blocked, but maybe be notified when that content came from certain people or sources. On the other hand, we may always want to get content from certain people or sources no matter what it contains. However, even if we did want to see everything, the content we receive should still always show how the media companies rated that content, which would allow us to decide whether we agreed or not, and to provide any appropriate feedback.

To help standardize how content is rated and filtered, and to ensure that all media companies provide all possible filtering options, the federal government should set some rules. I will talk more about this later.


To be well informed, it is also very important for us to understand how others feed us misinformation and lies, and what other means they use to try to manipulate us. There are many tricks that con artists, scammers, authoritarian leaders, and others use to try to get us to believe what they are saying, or to make us do what they want. The following are just a few of them.

First Thing Heard

We tend to believe the first thing we hear about something. If that was a lie, it can then be hard for us to believe the truth when we finally hear it. For instance, we rarely hear that a person is not guilty of something, before we hear someone say that person is guilty of something. Therefore, it is easy for someone to smear a person by accusing that person of a crime that that person did not do.

We need to remember that someone is innocent until proven guilty, and not guilty until proven innocent. In addition, we need to try to keep an open mind until we get all the facts.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

We also tend to believe things that we hear repeated over and over and over again. In life, we learn that if we get a certain result over and over and over again, then that result is a fact. Therefore, people trying to manipulate us will repeat a lie over and over and over again, even if it has been proven false or debunked. For instance, some people keep saying the 2020 election was stolen, even though the claim has been thoroughly debunked over and over and over again.

To counter a repeated lie, we need to remind ourselves each time we hear the lie that it is a lie. Then we should respond over and over and over again with the truth.


Con artists, scammers and others will also use a sense of urgency to get us to act without thinking. Every day, we could be faced with a situation where we need to react without really thinking about it. For instance, if we took the time to think about what to do when a car is careening towards us, we might die. On the other hand, someone saying you need to buy now, they could be trying to get you to buy something that you do not really need or want.

Unless you are in a real life or death situation, you should have time to think, and you should not let someone force you into a premature decision. You should take whatever time you need to make an informed decision and not be forced into acting prematurely.

Threats and Intimidation

Threats and intimidation are also used to manipulate people into doing something that the manipulator wants, but that the people being manipulated do not want to do. For instance, if someone threatens you with jail time unless you do what they say, then they are most likely trying to scam you. One example of this is a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, who threatens you with jail time unless you pay up. Legitimate organizations, like the IRS, would never do that, so you need to ignore those threats.

Nowadays, threats and intimidation are becoming more common in politics. People are now yelling and screaming at our representatives, election officials and others telling them things like they know where they live, and even threatening them with death in text or phone messages. These people may claim their free speech rights, but those rights end when they resort to threats and intimidation. When this happens, they should be reported to the police or FBI, and held accountable.


In addition to trying to create a sense of urgency, or to create fear through threats and intimidation, the people trying to manipulate us may also try to stir up other emotions like outrage and anger. When we let our emotions take over, reason goes out the window and we can more easily be manipulated. To combat this, we need to get our emotions under control, so that we can think logically about the situation and make good, informed decisions.

Flood of Lies

In some cases, people trying to manipulate us may not be able to come up with a believable lie. In this case, they may try to flood us with many different lies. They are hoping something sticks, even if different people end up believing different lies. Even if we do not believe any of these lies, they may have thrown so many different lies at us that we may not know what to believe, and therefore not even believe the truth.

To counter a flood of lies, we need to take the time to filter out all the lies so that we can get to the truth. Once we have learned the truth, we must counter each lie with that truth.

Reluctance to admit when we are wrong

One final thing that works in a manipulator's favor is the fact that we are reluctant to admit when we are wrong for fear of looking bad. Therefore, once we have been manipulated into believing in a lie, many of us are not likely to admit that we were wrong, even when presented with otherwise convincing evidence of the truth.

However, sticking to a lie is what really makes us look bad. I have learned that it is always better to believe in the truth, even if I need to admit I had been wrong before. I even admitted that I have been wrong before up in an earlier section.

Trust Me

Many people, including our friends, business acquaintances, representatives and others, will often tell us to trust them. They may say that they know what is right or what is best for us. However, that is not always the case. They may be trying to manipulate us, or they could simply be wrong. Therefore, we need to stay well informed, to question things and to do our own due diligence to learn the truth.

I learned early on to question things when someone tells me to trust them, and this has helped me many times. To illustrate, I would like to relate a couple of the many instances of this from my programming career. This will demonstrate the benefit of questioning things and show off a little of my problem-solving abilities.

I was looking into an issue where some data was not being processed correctly. When I looked at the program that processed that data, there was a especially complex bit of code, that included a comment that said that the code had been thoroughly tested, had been shown to be correct, and should not be changed. My fellow programmer also said the code was correct. However, I could not find any other reason for the data to be processed incorrectly, so I dug into that code. I ended up finding a critical flaw in the logic, and after fixing it, the data was then processed correctly.

On another occasion, an overnight batch processing job had failed. Our manager assigned our other 4 team members to investigate the failure and asked me to continue with another critical task. Near the end of the day, I had finished my task, but my teammates still had not been able to find a solution to the data processing failure. Therefore, I jumped in to help. After about 10 minutes, I had seen a possible cause in the code. If the data had contained a "5" in a specific place in the data record, then that would have caused the failure. Everyone said that it was impossible for the data to have a "5" in that position. However, I persisted until the business manager looked at the data and found that I was correct. The data was corrected, and the batch processing job was successfully rerun.

Whenever people say that we should thrust them or that there is no need to question something, then your first thought should be to question it. They may not want us to look too closely at what they are saying, because they know it will not stand up to scrutiny, or that we could uncover something bad that they have done. They may even try to make us feel guilty about not trusting them, but if it is something important, then we must persist.

People may also try to distract us from questioning what they have said or done by trying to get us to look at something else. This is a Red Herring, which I will talk more about in the next subsection on logical fallacies. When people try to distract us from one issue by bringing up something else, then that is when we should look even closer at the original issue.

Logical Fallacies

When we try to solve a problem, we often need to use logic. We first need to understand the problem and then logically work out a solution using valid facts. Just as we would not want our accountant to use faulty math (like adding 2 and 2 and getting 5), we do not want others, including our representatives, to try to solve our problems using logical fallacies. We should also look out for them when we try to solve our own problems.

When we, our representatives or others use logical fallacies to solve our problems, we cannot be sure that we are getting a good or valid solution. Therefore, we need to be able to recognize these logical fallacies to guard against coming up with or being fed invalid solutions. The following are the two main types of logical fallacies.

A formal fallacy is an argument with a premise and a conclusion that do not hold up to scrutiny. In other words, the form of the argument is not valid. If the form of an argument is invalid, then the argument is automatically invalid. For instance, we start with the true premise that all humans are mammals, where human is the antecedent and mammal is the consequent. A valid argument form would be to "affirm the antecedent". Therefore, if we know that John is a human, then we can make the valid argument that John is a mammal.

However, "denying the antecedent" and "affirming the consequence" are both invalid argument forms. In the first case, we might make the argument that since Fido (a dog) is not human, then Fido is not a mammal. In the second case, we might make the argument that since Fido is a mammal, then Fido is a human. In both cases, we can easily see that these arguments are invalid. Unfortunately, some arguments that use invalid logic forms may not be as easy to see.

An informal fallacy is an error in the form, content, or context of the argument. In contrast to a formal fallacy, an informal fallacy cannot be identified without understanding the concepts involved in the argument. That is, the form of two arguments may be the same, but one argument may be true and the other may be false. It is all a matter of what concepts are involved.

For instance, let us look at a couple of arguments that are both in the form "Every part of X has feature Y, so therefore the whole of X has feature Y". In one argument we may know that every part of a toy is made of plastic, so therefore the whole toy is made of plastic. In a second argument we may know that every part of a toy weighs less than an ounce, so therefore the whole toy weighs less than an ounce. Although the first argument is valid, the second argument is not valid, since it contains a "composition fallacy". It may or may not be true that the whole toy weighs less than an ounce, since it all depends on how many parts are in the toy and how much each part weighs.

In many cases, the arguments that people use in various settings, including in political and policy debates, may sound convincing. However, their arguments may contain logical fallacies that they are using as rhetorical tricks to manipulate us. There are dozens of different logical fallacies that rely on a logic flaw to deceive us. The following are some logical fallacies that are often used in political and policy debates.

Red Herring Fallacy

A Red Herring argument is one that tries to change the subject or to distract the audience from the real issue to focus on something else where the speaker feels more comfortable and confident. This fallacy is also known as misdirection, smokescreen, clouding the issue, beside the point, and the Chewbacca defense.

I have observed numerous cases of a Red Herring fallacy when certain politicians are asked why they do not want to allow an abortion exception for cases of rape. In one case, the politician changed the subject to crime and talked about how we must get rapists off our streets, which is a noble goal, but does not address the issue at hand. In another case, the politician changed the subject to illegal immigration by pointing out that the subject rapist was an illegal immigrant, even though far more rapes are done here in the U.S. by citizens, and again does not address the issue at hand.

Straw Man Fallacy

A Straw Man argument is an intentional misrepresentation of an opponent’s position, which sets up an easy (and false) target for the speaker to knock down. This fallacy is also known in the U.K. as Aunt Sally.

An example of this fallacy might be the first person saying we need tighter gun control laws, and then the second person says that this first person wants to take away guns from law abiding citizens. The first person may simply be asking for better background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. However, that would be hard to argue against, so the second person misrepresents what the first person is saying to make it an easier target to knock down.

Slippery Slope Fallacy

A Slippery Slope argument is a version of a Red Herring. Specifically, this is a claim that a policy which takes a small step in one direction will lead to a chain of events that will result in drastic change. This fallacy is also known as absurd extrapolation, thin edge of the wedge, and camel’s nose under the tent.

An example of this fallacy might be arguing that teaching about slavery in our schools would lead to children believing that they are all racists, which will make them feel so bad about themselves, that it ruins their whole lives. There is no proof that any of this would happen. If taught correctly, children would learn about the horrors that some people inflicted on others and make them want to help to ensure that never happens again.

Begging the Question Fallacy

In a Begging the Question argument, the conclusion is assumed in one of the argument’s premises, and that premise is not supported by independent evidence. This is often called circular reasoning, since it begins and ends at the same place. This fallacy is also known as assuming the initial point, chicken and the egg, and circular reasoning.

An example of this fallacy might be someone arguing that he is innocent of the crime because the prosecutor failed to indict him. It may be true that he was innocent, but not being indicted may only mean that the prosecutor could not find enough evidence to prove that he was guilty.

Post Hoc Fallacy

A Post Hoc argument is one where the speaker confuses correlation with causation. In other words, the argument seeks to claim that because one event followed another, the first event caused the second. The name of this fallacy comes from the Latin phrase “post hoc, ergo propter hoc,” which means “after this, therefore because of this”. This fallacy is also known as false cause.

An example of this fallacy might be arguing that inflation was caused by the current administration's policies, because inflation became a problem after the new administration took over. Given that it can take a long time for something to cause inflation to kick in and that inflation's roots can be global, it may require a lot of digging to find the true causes of inflation. Maybe the current administration's policies were the cause, but it could also just as likely have been the policies of the previous administration or something entirely different.

Ad Hominem Fallacy

An Ad Hominem (attacking the person) argument is one where the speaker irrelevantly attacks the person or some aspect of the person who is making the argument instead of addressing the person's argument or position. This fallacy is also known as name calling or personal attack.

An example of this fallacy might be where a Republican labels all Democrats as Socialists, or where a Democrat labels all Republicans as Fascists. Each of these labels may be true for some individuals, but not all, and is irrelevant to a debate of the issues. We need to debate the issues and not use labels, which may or may not be true and totally irrelevant to the issues at hand.

Appeal to Hypocrisy Fallacy

An Appeal to Hypocrisy argument is one where the speaker deflects criticism away from oneself by accusing the other person of the same problem or something comparable. The idea is to get people to concentrate on what the accuser may have done and not on what the accused has done. This fallacy is also known as Tu quoque, which is Latin for "you also".

An example of this fallacy might be where someone is accused of accepting donations from bad people, and the accused responds by accusing the accuser of having done the same thing in the past. Whether or not the accuser had done so in the past or not is irrelevant to the current accusation. Maybe the accuser also needs to answer for what he or she has done, but the accused needs to answer instead of trying to deflect.

Appeal to Ignorance Fallacy

An Appeal to Ignorance argument is one where the speaker claims that a conclusion must be true, because there is no evidence against it, or claims that a conclusion must be false, because there is no evidence for it. The reason people like to use this type of argument is that it shifts the burden of proof to others. One big problem with this type of argument is that it can support multiple contradictory claims at the same time. This fallacy is also known as argument from ignorance.

An example of this fallacy might be where someone claims there was fraud in an election, because no one has proven there was not fraud. Likewise, someone might claim there was not fraud in the election, because no one has shown any evidence there was fraud. Although both claims are logically fallacious, the second claim is legally valid, since we must make the legal assertion of innocent until proven guilty.

Appeal to Pity Fallacy

An Appeal to Pity argument is one that relies on provoking our emotions rather than on factual evidence. The goal is to evoke our pity, sympathy or guilt, so that we are distracted from the fact that their argument does not hold water and to side with them anyway. This fallacy is also known as sob story, Galileo argument, and Ad Misericordiam, which is Latin for "to mercy".

An example of this fallacy can be seen in our recent elections. A political candidate will try to get our vote by complaining that the criminal investigations against him are politically motivated to hurt his chances of being elected. This political candidate wants us to vote for him because we feel pity for him instead of because we think he is the best candidate. If this political candidate is guilty of a crime, then that was a valid reason not to vote for him. However, even if he is not guilty and his accusation is true, then that is still no reason to vote for him. We should vote for him only if we think he is the better candidate.

False Dilemma Fallacy

A False Dilemma argument is one that presents limited options. This is typically done by focusing on two extremes, when in fact more possibilities exist. This fallacy is a manipulative tool designed to polarize people into two opposing groups by promoting one side while demonizing the other side. This fallacy is also known as False Dichotomy.

An example of this fallacy might be arguing that you either vote for a given person or bill, or you are un-American. There may be countless reasons that someone does not vote for a given person or bill, while still being a true American. We should not allow someone to limit our options, we have the right to consider all the options.

False Equivalence Fallacy

A False Equivalence argument is one that occurs when someone incorrectly asserts that two or more things are equivalent, simply because they share some characteristics and despite there being notable differences between them. These arguments generally exaggerate some similarities and ignore the important differences. They are often used in debates to suggest there is a moral equivalence between two or more things. This fallacy is also known as Unreasonable Comparison.

An example of this fallacy might be arguing that since a musket, a pistol and an assault rifle are all firearms, then if we are allowed to carry one of these firearms then we should be allowed to carry any of them. The problem is that although they are all firearms, they are very different in how lethal they can be and under what circumstances someone would reasonably use them.

This fallacy is often used in conjunction with Ad Hominem and Appeal to Hypocrisy fallacies. For instance, someone convicted of dumping toxic chemicals points out that his opponent was once seen littering in the park. This is a fallacy trifecta. This person is attacking the other person's character by accusing that person of also being a criminal, while using an example of a criminal act that is nowhere near being equivalent.

Hasty Generalization Fallacy

A Hasty Generalization argument is one where a claim is based on a few examples rather than substantial proof. These arguments do not hold up due to a lack of supporting evidence. The claim may be true in some cases, but that does not mean it is always true. This fallacy is also known as over-generalization or faulty generalization.

An example of this fallacy might be where a person has a friend that got sick after getting vaccinated, so this person argues that the vaccine will make you sick. In this one case, the friend may have had a bad reaction to the vaccine or got sick before the vaccine had a chance to work. We need to look at far more vaccination results before being able to make such a generalization.

Bandwagon Fallacy

A Bandwagon argument is one where something is assumed to be true because a lot of other people agree with it. The argument says that if others think a certain way, then you should too. In some cases, a person may just have a lot of friends or family that believe as they do, but they may be the exception. On the other hand, even when a lot of people do believe the same way, they may be mistaken, confused, deceived, or even willfully irrational. This fallacy is also known as appeal to common belief or appeal to the masses.

An example of this fallacy might be where some people of one religion believe that everyone should believe as they do, since all their family and friends believe as they do. The problem is that some people of other religions think the same about their religion. For most people, their religion is dependent on the religion of their parents and not on any objective evaluation of other religions. If a person were to have been born into a different religion, then they would probably think others should believe that way instead.

Equivocation Fallacy

An Equivocation argument is one that occurs when a key term or phrase in an argument is used in an ambiguous way, with one meaning in one portion of the argument and then another meaning in another portion of the argument. The argument may use vague or unclear language or may call two different things by the same name or the same thing by two different names. This fallacy is also known as Doublespeak.

An example of this fallacy might be where a representative states that he has never voted for any bill that included any excess spending. The problem is that the term "excess" could mean different things to different people. Another example might be where a candidate says that his opponent wants to spend more on our bloated government, but he wants to invest more in programs that help people. The problem is that the speaker is unclear as to what each candidate wants to spend money on, and it could even be that both candidates want to spend more money on the same things.

Pay Attention

It is up to each of us to pay attention and to guard against logical fallacies and other forms of manipulation. We need to do that whether others use them, or we fall prey to using them. Not only do we need to do this in political and policy debates, but when involved in any argument, debate or discussion.

Our best defense is to learn as much as we can about using common sense and logic in our arguments and in evaluating other people's arguments. What I have presented here may be a good starting point, but additional reading or classes on the subject would be helpful to all of us.

We can also make a game out of identifying when people use these logical fallacies, or any of the other ways that some people use to try to manipulate us. For instance, I have always liked taking apart advertisements to see how companies are trying to manipulate us into buying their products. Not only can this be fun, but it can save us money by not letting ourselves be manipulated into buying something that we do not need nor want.

It is especially valuable to identify attempts to manipulate us when we listen to politicians. Unfortunately, many politicians use so many manipulative statements that it can at times be tiring trying to identify all of them. When a politician tries to manipulate us, I want to know why. To me, the answer seems to be that our politicians care more about getting and keeping power over us instead of working for us and representing our best interests.

Our Path

When we are finding and following our path through life, knowledge is the key to finding the best path. By being able to distinguish between all the true and false road signs along the way, we will stand a much better chance of staying on, or getting back to the best path that we can follow.

Next Section

Life - Some facts about Life to keep in mind on Our Future Path.

Last Updated:
Sunday, September 17, 2023
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