Sep 22, 2005

Why not to lie?

Do not expect a text about moral principles. And I will not say that to lie is a sin, because I don't believe in "sins". Talking always the truth is not good because it will take you to heaven, but there are a lot of rational reasons to do that and I'll try to enumerate some.

We are social beings. We interact with other individuals. Very few of us live in total isolation. Therefore, our life depends on our relationship with other persons. Based on this, the first reason to tell always the truth is that people will always trust you. It's a great advantage! Sometime someone will tell a lie that will harm you saying that you did something you didn't. If everybody knows you only speak the truth, you'll be safe. Your word will be enough. But if you tell lies, then people may not trust you even if you are innocent. There is an additional bonus: most of people will tell you always the truth too. People will feel compelled to pay back your favor of telling them the truth by doing the same thing. It's highly probable that this will happen. People will even tell you secrets. Just because they know that if you promise so, you won't tell the secret to anybody else. And there is always someone who needs to share a secret with other person.

Another reason is that it will make you always try to do the right thing. And you'll probably benefit of this. That's because if you do something very wrong, you will have to lie to hide that. Therefore, you will try to do everything right. If you don't, you'll need to tell the truth and something bad can come of this.

Now, consider what happens when you tell lies. People get angry with you if they know. People will not trust you and this can harm you. It´s difficult to make friends if they don´t trust you. What happens is that you will end up with no friends, probably with a lot of enemies. Sometimes people gain with a lie. But in the average, the gain will bring more problems than good things. Unless you prefer a risky and lonely life, this is not the best thing to do.

Even the lightest lie can make damage. There is no little harmless lie. You're never doing any good for someone if you lie, although sometimes you may think so. Suppose people are worshipping some idol because they think that idol can do miracles. The community is happy because that renews their faith. You discover that the miracles are fake. If you don´t tell them to keep their faith, you open the doors to someone who can use that faith for own benefit. And trust me, there is always someone eager for doing this.

Once I even had a talk with another physicist that told me that maybe you can derive moral reasons from a rational model. Statistical physics is an area of physics that studies the behavior of interacting systems with a lot of components. Exactly like every society. This is interesting, but I´d better talk about this in another post…

Picture: Pinocchio - Jim Salvati

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