Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Truth-seeking and truth-speaking... Why does anybody ever do it?

The theme and conclusion of my 2012 book Not Even Trying was that real science (which is almost extinct now) was 'simply' the dedication of a group of people to seek the truth about some-thing, and to communicate honestly about it. 

That is all that can be said - as a generalization - about so-called 'scientific method'. 

But even to say this is to say a great deal - and to describe a situation that has been extremely rare in world history - and is extremely rare now. It was really only from approximately the middle 1600s to the middle 1900s in Britain and some parts of Europe (and their diaspora) that this situation prevailed to a significant degree. 

The thing it; to be a 'truthful' person is extremely rare; and to be a truthful person who is sufficiently interested in some particular 'thing' that one will work, over a significant period of time, to discover the reality of it - is much rarer still. And to have a society that values such an activity is so rare that - as I said - it perhaps only grew and survived in one place for a few hundred years. 

Anyone who is really concerned by the truth of a particular thing will rapidly realize that hardly anybody else is interested enough to make their opinion of any value. Furthermore, he will realize that few people are interested in truth at all

Truth is, at best, a low-ranked priority for most people, most of the time. Most people are orientated towards other people (whether real people, or nowadays virtual). 

Most people believe that 'truth' is just something rhetorical; something manufactured (expediently, for short term use) to support their current views of how inter-human affairs ought to proceed - or simply to support what they themselves happen to want to do. 

If you are a real scientist; you soon realize not only that extremely few other real scientists share your dedication to the truth of your particular thing; but also that few people care about truth at all

One of the most striking aspects of the leftist (political correctness) witch hunts that have been such a feature of the West since the late 1960s (and I have personally been involved in several of these; both as subject and an active participant) is the complete indifference to truth of almost everybody involved. Nobody cares what is true; only what effect a belief might have (and they always claim to be able to predict what effect a belief will have). 

Indeed, indifference is not accurate - there is a hostility to truth, and even more than this a hostility to the idea of truth. The idea that there is a true and real reality is what is the cause of such venom on the left. The left regards reality as relativistic, and something created by consensus (including 'peer review') and imposed by power.  

Yet, it must be acknowledged that there is something valid in the leftist critique - because the traditional idea of a single objective truth 'out there' waiting to be discovered, is also wrong. Science is necessarily a human activity, and real scientific truth does depend on the evaluations and judgments of people - albeit of truth-seeking and truth-seeking people. 

But then 'who decides' - and on what grounds - which people are the real scientists - especially in a world of professional science.

You cannot get away from people, from human minds, form personal judgments... Except by dishonestly disguising these with committees, votes, protocols etc - which themselves are merely either arbitrary or derived from human minds/ judgements etc as to 'what counts as' true...

At first it seems like we have a choice of just two wrong ideas. One is the idea that scientific truth does not depend on people, the other that it depends only on people. 

My answer is that the possibility of real science depends on Christian assumptions concerning the fundamental nature of reality. These include that there is a God who is creator of reality, and who loves Men - who are God's  children and made 'in God's image'.  

These assumptions must be in place for a scientist to seek and speak truth in a particular domain, for a human endeavor to seek truth to be possibly successful; and common enough that he can find other whose interest is the same. 

The assumptions can survive the loss of Christian faith in a person - for a while; or may occur in an individual of another religion (e.g. Judaism) who has absorbed, assimilated and endorsed sufficient of these assumptions from a Christian society. 

But the assumptions necessary for science cannot survive the comprehensive replacement of Christianity in a society's ways of thinking and behaving. Such a society has no reason to seek truth; and (consequently) insufficient desire to do so. 

This framework sees the scientific search for truth as being an impulse to know the reality of God's creation. The scientific impulse in Men shares in the divine creative impulse - therefore it is Good.

But to know the reality of creation (i.e. to seek and speak truth) entails aligning oneself with God's creative purposes. 

From this perspective, we can see that science is a potentially creative activity (one of many; including, but not restricted to; the arts, music, literature, philosophy, scholarship) in which Men may lend their minds and efforts to understanding the divine creative project in one particular area, and with the hope of participating in God's creation. 

The above model explains why science (as a social activity) once existed; and why science has not existed in most times and places. 

Leftist relativistic anti-science (which nw rules the world of public discourse) functions to oppose God and creation; and instead to assert that reality (ie. divine creation) does not exist/ does not matter - and that we have no obligation to seek or live-by creation.

And instead to take a this-worldly attitude of life - as being only about inter-human relationships of (for example) power and pleasure; to which considerations of truth and reality ought to be subordinated. For instance; such (common, officially-endorsed) ideas as that 'science' properly exists to increase human happiness, to alleviate suffering, to sustain a world of social justice, or to preserve the environment. 

Yet when 'science' serves such goals - instead of being truth-seeking/ speaking, then it simply becomes a part of the Establishment System, as now; and un-truthful and dishonest from top to bottom; in great and in small matters.  

Thus real science (which has always been rare, and is now all-but extinct) is a creative act of some Men which - if it is Good - will be aligned with God's plans. Real science cannot exist in a genuinely atheistic and materialistic society, where Christian beliefs have been displaced by The System.