6 Dec 06
Presuming there is such a thing as “truth” (because if there isn’t, then we’re kinda fucked)…
From what source do we learn of this truth? Well there are scientists and there are religious/spiritual types. Ignoring for now the religious/spiritual types (because therein lies just too much fluffiness, conjecture and gumpf)… Every now and then a scientist will “discover” a “truth.” He won’t, of course, discover the absolute, pure, untainted truth, but he will discover a simulacrum of the truth as perceived by his senses and whatever instruments and measuring devices he uses to discover this “truth.” He will hopefully recognise that he has discovered this truth and feel the need to communicate it to his fellow man. He will therefore tell someone, write it down, publish a paper or write a book – or a combination of all of the above. Being human, he will tailor his communication of this truth to its recipient – i.e. he may have to dumb it down, simplify it somewhat, if he is telling a less intelligent friend or colleague. Similarly depending on whatever periodical he is publishing the paper in, or which book publisher he is using – or he may not necessarily have to “dumb it down,” but will probably have to communicate it with emphasis on a particular slant (scientific, political, social), depending on whether he is publishing in Nature, New Scientist, The British Journal of Radiology or whatever. Then people will read about his discovery. They we read it and reinterpret it according to their own beliefs and psycho-social leanings. They will then further communicate it to friends, students or extract bits of it for an article for The Daily Mail. And then the new recipients will reinterpret, re-communicate, etc, etc, etc. At some point in the future the discovery, the truth, will exist in a mangled, edited and re-jigged form in a bigger, more generalised book – a text book: Chemistry For All, “A” Level Chemistry, Beginning Chemistry, etc. And the cycle continues.
Outside of academia, the thing that has been discovered, written about, communicated, reinterpreted, will find its way into casual conversations, articles in mainstream magazines and TV programmes with Tony Robinson or Dan Cruickshank. Tony and Dan will add their own little personal touch of colour and implication to the “facts.” This will be edited by the BBC, aired and watched by the masses; each individual personality, of varying levels of intelligence, political leanings, religious tendencies, social class, economic status, etc, etc, etc, finding their own meaning and significance in the “facts” they have “learned,” which they will then further communicate via the media of online forums, chats over alcoholic beverages, blogs, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.
So I ask again…
Can we ever really know the truth about anything?