Monday, March 4, 2024

How We Lost Truth

I know - we're spending a lot of time on the concept of truth, and I, too, am ready to move on, but there's this heavy question that remains lingering that I want to address. 

That question is: how did we even lose truth in the first place? How did we end up in a world where so few persons still believe in truth?'s complicated. (Of course it is. You already knew this.) 

But here's how we got here: 

For most of human history, humans simply believed what seemed to be obvious. Whether or not it was actually true, it was considered true because it was plain to see. Things like - the earth is flat. Or the sun revolves around the earth, which is the center of the universe. We simply believed these things because this is what our eyes told us must be the case, and there was very little argument about it. We operated as a society on the acceptance of a shared understanding of the world that we called truth, and it was true, as far as we were concerned. 

Then, a few keen observers started to notice things that most of us weren't noticing, and they proposed new theories of understanding. Most of these men (a few women) were persecuted for heresy - for trying to change truth. We were completely opposed to changing truth - what is true is true and it is obviously true so why revise it and make it false? 

Science came in and started showing some evidence of its proposals in a number of areas, and slowly, we started to accept that maybe what we thought we knew, we never really knew at all. And if science could show us the real truth about things we thought we knew, then we wanted to have the real answers. So we put everything on the table and told science to tell us what it is. (This is the modern period.) 

Science promised it would answer our questions, and it did a great job...on some topics. We were convinced that if we could just advance our science and spread its influence across all areas, we could come to control all of the realities of the world and manipulate them to our own benefit. This was the promise that this new ideology gave us. Our lives were about to dramatically improve. And we were the ones who were going to improve them. 

Science started posing more questions and, honestly, guessing at more answers. It started to caution us that it could tell us what it was investigating, but it couldn't tell us any more if its discoveries were conclusive. There were a lot of questions, but few answers, but because of the faith that we had in science - especially after it proved such big things as the roundness of the earth and the proper orientation of our solar system - we accepted that what science has to say must be true. Hey, it's been right about so much; it must be right about everything else. 

But trusting in science didn't get us to where we thought it would. We didn't improve our world and our experience the way that we thought we would. Something, somewhere, was wrong. And this is where we took a dramatic turn. 

The promise of science, and modernity, was that we controlled our own destiny based on our understanding of, and application of, the truths that we know. The truths that science told us. When it wasn't working out the way that everything promised it would, when we were finally asking what was wrong with what we thought we understood, we decided that the problem can't be us. It's not that we aren't holding up our end of the bargain. It's not that we don't know how to apply science and truth or exercise our dominion over the world as we know it. 

And if the problem is not us and not our autonomy and not our ability, then the problem must be the truth that we're believing in. If we are acting on what we think is the truth and things aren't working out the way we thought they would, and we know (because we're convinced of our own superiority) that we're doing things right...then the problem must be that the truth we're trusting in is broken somewhere. 

And if truth is broken, then what can we possibly believe in? Why, only ourselves. And if we believe in ourselves, we don't necessarily need truth. We have something better. We have self-determination. 

And that, my friends, is how we came to live in a world that no longer values truth. We simply don't need it (so we think); we have ourselves.  

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