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To falsify truth by mistake is not a good thing though it could lead to something good; a writer/speaker could learn some humility as a result when his balloon of self-adoration is punctured.
But “mistake” need not always mean precisely the same thing though it will always mean the same thing. To falsify truth “by mistake” means there's no conscious intent to falsify and, while the mistake may still be as injurious as if it had been intentional misleading, we won’t accuse the one in error of a sinister motivation. That would be a distortion of the truth.
Still, while we might not accuse him of deliberate deceit we might accuse him of laziness, of shoddy work, of insulting his readers/hearers by thinking they are as little concerned about truth and accuracy as he/she is.
Not all “mistakes” are completely innocent. Arrogance can lead a person to presume that she knows more than she knows and to rely on her own “giftedness” to the exclusion of careful study. Her mistakes, then, are part of her moral weakness.
Sometimes we have vested interests, a personal agenda that has such a hold on us that we work hard to find support for it but understate or avoid or give little attention to what opposes our interests. I’m not suggesting a deliberate understating or ignoring but I am saying that what we prefer to believe or practice (or not practice) can mean so much to us that down inside we don’t want to find contrary truth and, that being the case, that’s what we don’t find, truth that goes against us.
In such cases the lack of innocence I mentioned has to do with the spirit of the research that can well affect our results. I would suppose that our working for a pharmaceutical industry that badly wants to prove that its drug X is a good thing might undermine our objectivity. Illustrations are easy to come by. In John 5 :44 Jesus said that some church leaders couldn’t find truth because they sold themselves to gaining the praise of men—not because they were intellectually disabled or that the facts weren’t evident. They just loved too much the pleasure of being part of the "in crowd" and being admired or feeling secure. [Oscar Wilde said he hated people arguing with him because he often found them persuasive.]
Still, mistakes can arise because we’re weary or because we have too many irons in the fire at once. Mistakes can arise because we’re working in an area in which we’re not experienced or even adequate for the job. There are times when we have to venture into areas that are beyond our expertise and for all our care and good intentions we misunderstand or overlook material that is plain and well known to others. It makes sense—especially if the matter at issue is very important—to do or check our work when we are not weary or when we are free from numerous jobs that divide our attention. If we must work in an unfamiliar area it makes sense to move with extra care, acknowledging our real limitations and asking for help where we can get it. All this makes sense but in the pressure of life good sense is often pushed into the corner out of sight.
Mistakes always matter but while they always matter and need to be corrected, they’re not all of equal importance; that’s a truth too obvious to need developed. Grant that the mistake is one “worth bothering about” (and that will mean different things in different areas—history, science, medicine, grammar and so forth) it needs to be corrected without malice even though it was unintentional. We shouldn’t dismiss lower level misrepresentations of truth as of no account. It’s not for people of integrity to pick and choose which truths they will submit themselves to, and to ignore truth when it is misrepresented (even by mistake) as if it didn't matter is less than truth deserves. If we willingly give truth less than it deserves by choosing to ignore mistakes or by refusing to own up to them or to dismiss them with a wave of the hand—if we do that we weaken its claim on us and that opens the door to deliberate abuse of truth.
Speaking as a Christian I’d say we aren’t to worship “Truth” but we are to worship the one true God who has revealed himself in and as Jesus Christ. The distinction is real and vital but we’re not to sever love of truth from being a lover and follower of him who said, “I am Truth!”
I know scientists are sinners and capable of being jealous, devious, overly-ambitious, arrogant and tailoring the facts to suit their vested interests—in short, they’re just like the rest of us. When they get it wrong, when drugs prove to be dangerous or theories prove to be unfounded we expect them to own up. When the evidence is against them we expect them to swallow their pride and subject themselves to that truth though they don’t always do that. What Christian people expect from others they should come up with themselves. If the majority of scientists had been as shoddy in their approach and their research as a mass of Christian communicators are I don’t see how we would ever have got out of the Stone Age (presuming there was a Stone Age).
It’s a real lift to the heart to hear of scientists and researchers who swim against the current to correct mistakes, expose lies and bring truth to light and it’s make the heart surge to read biblical and theological work that opens our eyes to a richer gospel and a more grounded hope even if (or maybe, especially when) it dismantles our cherished views.
So here’s to all those who teach us to be careful and courageous lovers of truth.