(Investigator 101, 2005 March)


Lies permeate childhood: "Yep, from the Easter bunny to the tooth fairy, the imaginations of our childhood are fired with weird and wonderful whoppers." (Webber 1986)

After childhood lies permeate every area of life:

Tangney (1987) distributed questionnaires to scientists and found that, "nearly one-third of respondents…had previously suspected a colleague of falsifying data."

University of Virginia psychologists found that undergraduates tell lies to their mothers in 46% of conversations. College students lie to their best friends 28% of the time and to acquaintances 48% of the time. (Kiernan 1995)  

Gerald Jellison (1997) of the University of Southern California fitted people with microphones and analysed their conversations. He found that they lied an average of 200 times per day.

In a Cornell University experiment thirty students kept a diary of conversations that lasted more than ten minutes. Lies occurred in 14% of e-mails, 21% of instant messages, 27% of face-to-face conversations, and 37% of phone calls. (Biever 2004)

Lying is "part and parcel of American life" says Hollander (1995). Some men even express, "pride in their expertise as liars."

DNA paternity tests suggest that millions of men are rearing children, or paying child support, believing they're the father when they're not. In 5% of Australian families, "the presumptive father is not the biological father." (Callahan 2004) In America it may be 10%. Thus women by millions live lives of lies, emotional exploitation and fraud!

There is now a "Dial-a-lie" service. They'll play tapes of background noises to convince a client's boss he's stuck in traffic when actually he's at home or they'll supply liars pretending to be doctors or police officers. (The Weekend Australian July 10-11, 2004)

We all know that, "The politician as liar has a long history." (Time, June 17, 1991, p. 25) For example, Germany in 1918:
Now it emerged that Germany had been misled by its leaders, by the Kaiser, the princes, the ministers, and the generals… (Mann 1974)

In 1996 the Moscow newspaper Prawda (The Truth) closed down: "…for decades it printed a circulation of 11 million, uncountable lies and seldom any news reports that were true." (Loewe 1996)

Religious lies often join with political lies to get people to die for nothing. For example, Japanese soldiers in World War II were as deceived as Islamic terrorists today:
Devoutly believing that death in battle for the Emperor would speed his soul to heaven, the Japanese would gladly crash-dive his aircraft on to its target, or leap aboard an Allied tank with a chain of explosives tied to his waist. (Wilmot 1954)

Do the law and courts uphold truth? No. Whitton (1998) says, "the law has a basic flaw: it holds that truth is not important."


Lies are when you "intentionally try to mislead someone". They are words, sentences and body language communicated to get other people to believe and act on something the communicator considers false.

This definition excludes "deceit" by animals (and plants) such as birds giving warning calls when no predator is present to scare other birds away from food.

To lie with words the liar must distinguish between what he knows and what his hearers know. Humans make this distinction from the age of four or five. (Spinney 1998)

The Soviet Union accelerated the arms race by having parades of fake missiles. By my definition such parades were not lies; but statements implying the missiles were genuine were lies.

Gestures constitute lying if they're intended to move someone to take risks he may not want. For example, if a person asks "Is this bridge safe?" and I nod to indicate "yes" although the bridge is about to collapse, I'm lying.

About 15,000 public-transport fare-evaders were caught in a 9-month crackdown in South Australia. (Hancock 2001) Their presence on public transport was body language declaring "I've paid my fare" which makes them liars — in fact liars and thieves!

Tampering with digital images is common. (Farid 2003) By my definition a misleading picture is not a lie — the lie occurs if accompanying statements imply the picture is unaltered.


The Bible has many unifying concepts including:
•    The Messiah;
•    Loss and restoration of Paradise;
•    Human rejection of God and its consequences.
An important theme is the origin and consequences of lies and liars.

Genesis 3 records the first lies in the Garden of Eden. Revelation 21:8 presents the ultimate fate of all unrepentant liars — the "lake of fire".

Between Genesis and Revelation we read of lies by kings, commoners, prophets, idolaters, diviners and false witnesses.

The Ten Commandments include: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour." (Exodus 20)  In the book of Job, God says of Job's three critics, "They have not spoken the truth about me."

Many Bible proverbs deal with truth and lies:

•    Put …devious talk far from you. (Proverbs 4:24)
•    …the Lord hates…a lying tongue, and…a lying witness who testifies falsely... (6:16-19)
•    …my mouth will utter truth... (8:6-9)
•    Lying lips conceal hatred, And whoever utters slander is a fool. (10:18)
•    Truthful lips endure forever, but the lying tongue is for a moment, Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil… (12:19-20)
•    Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord… (12:22)
•    The righteous hate falsehood… (13:5)
•    A truthful witness saves lives, but one who utters lies is a betrayer. (14:25)
•    A false witness will not go unpunished, and a liar will not escape. (19:5)
•    …do not deceive with your lips. (24:28)
•    A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (26:28

The Psalms and the Prophets likewise advocate truthfulness and condemn lies. For example: Psalm 5:6; 12; 15; 58:3; 120; Jeremiah 5:1; 9:3-5; Amos 2:4; Hosea 7:13.

The New Testament continues the lies theme. (Mark 7:20-23; John 8:44; Romans 1:25; 1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; 1 John 2:21)

The trial of Jesus included false witnesses giving false testimony. (Mark 14:56)

The New Testament says:

God "never lies" (Titus 1:2) and "Every word of God proves true…" (Proverbs 30:5) We're also told, "Become imitators of God as beloved children…" (Ephesians 5:1)


The Bible teaches that God's commands are for our good. They promote long life, health, peace, joy, good relationships and survival of "the earth".

Lies hurt. They have a price. If not obviously or immediately, then later by their consequences.

The biggest set of consequences — as seen from The Bible — flowed from the first lies in the Garden of Eden. These led to the deception of the human race, to all wars, deceitful religions, suffering, pain, disasters and sickness.

Adolf Hitler was one of the 20th-century's greatest liars. By 1945 the consequences included the devastation of a continent — hundreds of thousands of villages and towns in ruins — and German women raped, often pack-raped, at an average of 15,000 per day.  

Individual liars experience consequences in their own lives. They become less trusted which tempts them to tell more lies. Families and other relationships only work if there is trust, which requires truth and honesty.

Lies can weaken parent/child relationships. Kay Bussey, psychologist of Sydney's Macquarie University, said, "While children are told not to tell lies, they will hear their parents doing it all the time." (Nankervis 1999) In Psychology Made Simple we read, "It is vital, then, if parents want to keep the respect of their children, that they be scrupulously honest and just…" (p. 137)

Lies also hurt societies. As lying increases trust decreases and corruption and poverty follow:
Trust is one of the most powerful factors affecting a country's economic health. Where trust is low, individuals and organizations are more wary about engaging in financial transactions, which tends to depress the national economy… countries where trust is lower than a critical 30 per cent — as is the case in much of South America and Africa — risk falling into a permanent suspicion-locked poverty trap. (Grimes 2003)

Humans also have thousands of deceptive superstitions, deceptive religions, scientific lies like racism and eugenics, and also lies to justify wars.

The cost is tremendous. The "Cold War" and its associated lies cost $1trillion ($1,000 billion) per year. That's enough wealth to have conquered poverty, housing shortage, water shortage, poor roads, illiteracy and famine worldwide many times over.


Hoaxes. At Sydney 5,000 passengers were delayed due to a bomb hoax. (Sunday Mail, November 16, 2003) Of 8 million calls for emergency help to Australia's SOS call line in 1995, some 3,000,000 were hoaxes. (Sunday Mail, June 2, 1996) Following the anthrax scare in the USA 1,000 anthrax hoaxes occurred in Australia leading to new laws and penalties. (Sunday Mail, February 10, 2002)

Propaganda. Indoctrinators, political and religious, often know their claims are false but try to convince others they're true. (Welch 1999)

Cover up. When facts people have a right to know are denied or hidden. In Britain occurred, "10 years of ‘Mad cow' cover-up". (Middap 2000) In the Soviet Union: "the sheer scale of Soviet [environmental] disasters is exceeded only by the effort put into concealing them from the Soviet public and from the world outside." (Ince 1989)

Excuses. Excuses include false reasons for botched jobs, missed deadlines, refusals, or for some failing. (Snyder, 1985)

Defaulting on Commitments. Includes missed appointments, broken promises, failure to pay debts:

The Federal Government's Child Support Agency is chasing more than 20,000 South Australians who have failed to meet financial obligations to their children. (Sunday Mail, August 1, 2004)

Faking. Some people fake sickness on the Internet to gain sympathy. Such frauds, "infest the sanctuary of support groups that genuinely ill people have come to depend on." (Du Venage 2003)

Blaming. When someone who made a mistake says someone else is responsible. The opposite — taking credit for another's achievement — is also a lie.

Flattery. Undeserved commendation or praise.

Popular myths. e.g. The "Cinderella myth" that married people live happily ever after.

Exaggeration. Exaggeration may be a figure of speech. But if understood literally and not corrected — it's a lie. Up to 10% of CVs, "have real exaggerations on them." (Hooper 2002)

Perfunctory lies. "How are you?" the checkout chick asks. "Alright", "Good" are standard, but not always truthful, replies.

Scams. Lies to cheat another person of their money. One scam caused the collapse of a Brazilian bank! (The Weekend Australian, February 7-8, 2004)

Counterfeiting. Passing off imitations — e.g. of money, goods or collector items — as the real thing. In China counterfeit formula milk caused malnutrition to hundreds of babies and killed dozens. In Africa AIDS is endemic and counterfeit condoms can kill. (Fox 2004) In Germany 500 dental surgeons fitted cheap Chinese dentures and passed them of as quality German dentures. (The Weekend Australian, September 11-12, 1994)

Pretence. Dummy bidders were commonly used at auctions to drive up prices but are now illegal. (Nankervis 2003) In South Australia 837 people were identified as "doctor shoppers" — visiting doctors at taxpayers' expense, "telling lies, faking symptoms and looking for drugs of addiction." (Michael 2000)

Fake identities. Pretending to be another person and creating debts in the other person's name. "Identity fraud is costing the nation [Australia] more than $1 billion a year". (Riches 2003)

Bogus documents. Crouch (2003) writes, "The Internet revolution has triggered a host of websites which threaten to undermine South Australia's tertiary education system. Some offer forged degrees from local universities or instant diplomas from fictitious overseas universities."

Mislabeling/Altering word meanings. Firms giving investment advice may advertise they take "no commission" but then take 3% of any investment as a "lodgement fee" — in effect a 3% commission. (Donnelly 1991)


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Freud, the founder of psychotherapy, wrote little about lies. The Encyclopedia of Psychology (1984) has only a short entry on lies.

Psychology thus disagreed with the Bible on whether lies are important.

Psychology was wrong and lies and deceit have now become important areas of psychological research.

Lying under oath in court (perjury) is punishable. So is slander and libel if proved. In South Australia as of 2004 people can be charged for identity theft — including some of its preparatory stages — as well as for misleading resumes. (Clemow 2004) Dummy bidding at auctions is also now an offence.

The law has thus moved a little toward agreement with The Bible on the harmfulness of lies.


Lies are among the behaviours that cause the "wrath of God" and the "Day of God" which we can paraphrase as the "end of the world".

Ephesians 4:6 says: "Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient."

"These things" include "obscene, silly and vulgar talk" (5:4).

And being "disobedient" includes disobedience to this: "So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth…" (Ephesians 4:25)

The "wrath of God" includes a worldwide earthquake (Revelation 6:12-17), and worldwide destruction by fire (2 Peter 3) which comes from "heaven" (Romans 1:18) i.e. from the sky.

Around 1990 astronomers realized that wide destruction by fire from asteroid or comet impact is inevitable — unless the technology is developed to prevent it. (See: Asteroids and their Impact, Investigator 62)

That humans could potentially stop the end of the world is clear from: "…nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them." (Genesis 11:6)

The causal link between lies and the end of the world is, I suggest, that lies caused so much conflict for so long at such cost that humans fail to develop technology fast enough to stop world destruction from Space.

In linking lies to the end of the world the Bible shows insight that billions of liars lacked.


All humankind has opposed the Bible on the wrongness of lies with incalculable suffering and loss as consequences. Future consequences include the "end of the world".


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