Saturday, November 13, 2010

Opinion ≠ Truth

Today's thoughts:

As one might say in an unnecessarily obscure reference, "hey guys what's going o-BLARGH!". My politics exam is in three days and thus I've found it necessary to contemplate all aspects of life except political theory.

One observation that has cropped up a lot seems to be the implicit assumption that the truth is a matter of opinion. In mainstream public discourse this is never overtly stated - no one says "there is no objective truth, we are all the gods of our little solipsistic universe, let's pack in all this interaction and just use our psychic powers to create the universe that is perfect for just ourselves". No one says that. Because it's retarded and demonstrably untrue*. However, we give creedence to this suggestion when we allow opinion, as a standalone concept, to enter our enquiry into truth - whether it's specifically religion or simply any supernatural, unscientific concept.

This is particularly demonstrable in our understanding of history. "History is written by the victors", it is often said and this is doubtless true. However, what many people mistakenly take from this aphorism is the idea that it is the past itself, rather than humanity's cataloguing of it, that is subjective. The past happened: it is solid, immutable fact. We can see this from the causal effect it has on later events, right up until the present (if you're a determinist, you keep going into the future). If the past was fluid there would be no tangible present, because there would be no foundations for our current reality.

Yet this is exactly what is implied when people reject scientific analysis. We don't (and indeed, can't without time travel) know for sure what happened in the past, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Evolutionists have pieced together our best understanding of the origin of the species based on observable evidence, but still creationists believe that their opinion is more worthy because anything else conflicts with their beliefs. What monstrous arrogance. Yet we validate this when we give them equal time in a discussion. We promote the virulent idea, and this is one that is rapidly spreading in just such a fashion, that belief is just as valid as evidence. We're implying that there is no truth, no reality and this implication is itself nothing but the beginning of a slide into the misery, despair and suffering of another Dark Age.

Actually no. It's maybe two-fifths of the way into such a slide.

*(Rejection of subjective reality) Descartes sought to find just one utterly incontrovertible truth, and believed that with this anchor he could draw further truths about reality. Whether or not he was successful in the latter endeavour, he certainly found his ultimate truth. "I think, therefore I am". Inescapably, you exist. Even if you live in a Matrix-like world where your every perception is in fact carefully engineered and not objective at all (Descartes imagined a demon in this role, existing as he did before psychotic self-aware computer systems) you cannot get past the fact that to experience this engineered reality you must still exist. To exist there must be an objective reality, even though you may never experience it. QED.


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