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Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Our search for the truth

Last Monday, I was watching clips from a 1974 documentary with Karl Popper (1902-1994), "one of the 20th century's greatest philosophers of science". Aeon's 28 March 2019 newsletter had promoted this 29 minute video. Afterwards I realised that my new belief system Data-Info could also be viewed as a government mandated - and sometimes falsified - digital "truth".

This realisation led to a new question: why is the truth so important to us?

Actually, each of the 7 Belief systems includes our (explicit or implicit) search for the truth: Love, Data-Info (2019), Faith (2019), Money, Philosophy, Politics (2016), Religion (2016), Science, Technology (2019), and especially the Truth (2016). The years in brackets relate to old and new belief systems, following 3 paradigm shifts in the 7 Belief systems (ie, Politics, Religion, Truth).

Nearly all of our "truths" are dependent on location and time. Hence, some truths might (already or still) be falsehoods in different geographical locations and in different centuries. Example: the debate on heliocentrism including the Roman inquisition of Galileo Galilei in 1615.

Mathematics might be the only example of an absolute truth. I use the term "might" as it is unlikely, according to Karl Popper, that we will ever be able to prove the existence of an absolute truth. Mathematics might not apply outside planet Earth and/or in a multiverse (my 2016 blog).

Karl Popper argues that scientific testing of ideas must be directed towards refuting them rather than evidencing them. This testing bias may explain the current replication crisis in science (eg, BPS-2019). Moreover, this replication crisis is allowing certain politicians to question expert knowledge and to label unwelcome scientific reports as "fake news".

Karl Popper distinguished 3 kinds of truths: absolute, objective and subjective. Our search for the truth includes all 3 kinds. However, the underlying intentions in our searches differ:
  1. Absolute: Karl Popper argued that its existence is possible but may never be proven.
  2. Objective: as close to the truth as possible a.k.a. truthlike.
  3. Subjective: an individual and often partial perspective on the truth (my blogs). 

Nowadays, we seem to be in the day and age of subjective truths. A subjective truth is a weapon in a (eg, philosophical, political, religious, romantic, scientific) fight against an opponent, who argues different - and usually other subjective - truths.

Hence, China's choice to regulate the truth in its 2020 Social Credit System is understandable (eg, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tiananmen Incident). The outcome of China's choice will be presented as an objective truth but Chinese citizens will know better.

Perhaps, our search for the truth is nothing less - or more - than our way of learning. Learning appears to be one of the most fundamental human activities (my blogs). To some extent, my blogs are about teaching on the subjects that I've learned in order to return a favour to society. Also see my blogs on reciprocity.

The Truth (2005) by Anthony Hamilton


PS: a hat tip to my late and close friend Joan for mentioning this singer to me

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise 

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