Monday, April 03, 2006

True Lies

Truth, according to the Collins English Dictionary, is
the quality of being true, genuine, actual or factual [...] a proven or verified fact, principle, statement, etc [...] a concept or system of concepts, regarded as accurately representing some aspect of the world, the universe, etc

According to Eric Harrison, writing in Nova magazine (topic for March: Truth) in an article titled "Choose Your Truth":
Truths are disturbingly mortal. They grow and die. They decay from their excesses, or fracture through rigidity. They are killed off by young, rampaging, alpha-male truths. New gods enslave the old gods, and starve them to death. Scientists demolish their predecessors. Newton dethrones Aristotle, and is dethroned in turn by Einstein. Even our personal truths are fluid. What was absolutely true for me at 20 is not true now at 55.

Where to begin? The histrionic metaphors? The confusion between "truths" and "knowledge"? Knowledge progresses and, sometimes, supplants earlier knowledge though, generally, it enhances and clarifies it. The subtle antimale message in this newage journal? Where are the alpha-female truths? Bonding in the forest somewhere? The linking of "truth" to "religious belief" in the "gods" analogy? How many scientists actually "demolish" their predecessors? Newtownian physics certainly isn't dead; it's used every day in countless applications while, on a personal level, relativistic calculations are next to pointless. Most of us don't travel at speeds approaching that of light. And what about the confusion between "truth" and "belief"? At least, that's what EoR thinks Mr Harrison is referring to as "personal truths". Or maybe it's just the postmodernist fallacy that anything that is called "true" automatically becomes "truth".

EoR agrees with Mr Harrison's statement that
True believers are often narrow-minded and intolerant

except that it's a statement more about faith than truth. Faith demands absolute devotion, and cannot sanction questions, contradictory evidence, or change. Yet, most often, it is the most bigoted and staunch believers who cannot see themselves in that description.

Mr Harrison holds up Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini as exemplars of those who believed in an Absolute Truth. Yet, here again, he confuses truth for something else, in this case ethics and morality. Fundamentalists of any colour are believers in Absolute Truth. It doesn't mean they actually possess it. In fact, a refusal to investigate those truths is a dead giveaway of their shaky foundations.

Of course, the whole article is an espousal of fundamentalist Alternatista Theology:
The Truth is a fiction - an archetypal symbol rather than a reality.

In other words: Truth = Lies. Can anyone else see the logical fallacy in that statement?
Yet absolute truths do exist. These are the truths that are absolutely true for you at this time and place in your life.

In other words, anything you want to believe is true.

EoR wonders when truths such as "2+2=4" and "rain is wet" were supplanted, since, as Mr Harrison makes clear, no truths are eternal. Perhaps "2+2=George Gershwin" and "rain is ambidextrous" are the new paradigm?

The rest of the journal continues in a similar vein. For example, Jenny Albertson, Jungian psychotherapist, in her "Dreams" column writes
The Sacred Feminine is everywhere, as old as time itself.

EoR tends to disagree. The Sacred Feminine, by definition, could not exist until the advent of sexual reproduction (a tiny fraction* of the total time the universe (and hence, time) has existed). Of course, if you consider spiritual concepts such as the Sacred Feminine solely human constructs, then they have only existed for 100,000 years or less.

These people have studied and learnt well from Big Brother.
The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. [...] Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.
George Orwell: 1984

*Does not include Young Earth Creationists.


  1. 2+2=George Gershwin

    I thought it was cake.

  2. George Gershwin was entirely composed of cake.


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