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Garth Rattray | The truth about lies

Published:Monday | August 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland two weeks ago.

Every one of us tells a lie from time to time. It may not be a big lie, but we all do little fibs to avoid unpleasantness.

Scientists believe that our ability to lie well has enhanced the development of our intelligence. They say that when someone lies, the brain has to be creative, and the person who is being lied to has to out-think the liar to discover the truth. It's that back-and-forth interplay that has helped to make us superior beings.

It's been shown that primates lie. In a famous experiment, two groups of caged primates faced one another. They competed for food, and acrimony developed when one group was fed and the other was not.

One group learned to assign a liar to misdirect the other group at feeding time. A loud and animated primate would cling to the bars, look afar off, frantically point to some imaginary place, and scream as if sounding an alarm of imminent danger approaching. The opposing group of primates would look to that direction nervously and be thoroughly distracted while members of the fed group chowed down undisturbed.




We used to own seven Rottweilers. They were notorious for killing any other dog that came too near to the gate or was foolish enough to engage them in combat. Dogs were skinned alive and sometimes gutted at the gate, but for some inexplicable reason, one little brown mongrel was able to climb the fence and befriend the entire group. Much to our dismay and chagrin, this little brown dog played among them and left his mark (mess) all over the place.

One day, we rushed outside at the distinct sounds of unrestrained frolicking in order to apprehend the messy intruder. As soon as we appeared, all playing stopped and every one of the seven Rottis stood as still as statues, closed mouth and silent and stared together at a clump of nearby bushes. Their rapt attention to the clump roused my suspicions, so I scanned the surrounding, and lo and behold, there stood the little brown mongrel as silent as a church mouse a few metres behind the pack of liars. They were misdirecting or misleading us to look at the clump of bushes knowing full well that their little friend was behind them all the time.

Humans are funny about lies. The bigger the lie, the more outrageous; the more serious the consequences are of believing such a lie, the more we are likely to believe it. It's as if the human mind figures that no one could say or promise such important things or utter such outrageous statements unless they were absolutely true.




We all know this well because of politics. During campaigns, politicians will say almost anything. They will promise to eliminate taxes for a group or in some way without any repercussions to anyone else in society. They will assure their supporters and woo voters with promises of personal wealth. But when they get down to brass tacks and things do not work out as promised, when the lies must face the scrutiny of reality, their promises evaporate, leaving sympathetic supporters and disheartened converts.

When a potential United States first lady plagiarises parts of the speech given by a real first lady and senior members of her camp lie, dismissing it as mere coincidence and/or a commonality of expressive words and phrases that could be used by anyone and taken from anywhere until a speechwriter confesses to the deed, that is truly horrible.

When it is revealed that the potential first lady, in fact, supplied said passages and that the speechwriter was to modify them, but obviously did not, and the potential first lady, knowing the source, read them verbatim anyway, that speaks volumes about her character.

The truth about lies is that people will lie. It's in our nature to lie, but we must never accept deception, and we must make liars suffer the consequences of their sins. Otherwise, we will continually be lied to, fail to gain the respect of the liars, and we will stagnate socially and developmentally.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and