AirTalk for November 20, 2013

'Lying' argues honesty is always the best policy

In 'Lying', author Sam Harris makes a case for telling the truth.

“Do these jeans make me look fat?” Has anyone ever answered that question honestly?

Would an honest answer, even if painful, be good for us?

Yes, according to neuroscientist and noted “new atheist” Sam Harris. In his new book, "Lying," Harris explores the “white” lies most of us tell. We tell them ostensibly for good reasons – to spare the feelings of others. But it’s not possible to grow from the truth, Harris contends. More than that, lies are at the heart of so much of what ails us in this society.

Politicians make promises they don’t keep, drug companies mislead the public, doctors try to “protect” us from the truth and spouses let us down “easy.”

Lying is so widespread, it’s nearly impossible to know who or what to believe anymore. Taken to the extreme, our public discourse becomes dominated by conspiracy theories. To Harris, lies are the social equivalent of toxic waste: everyone is potentially harmed by their spread. Being brutally but pragmatically honest, on the other hand, has more benefits than costs.

Would telling the truth where others lie, make all our lives better, as Harris argues? Can you handle giving or getting the truth -- all the time?

Guest:

Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of “Lying”


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