Truth: Time For An Alternative / Part I

The problem with truth is not that there is no truth but that there is too much of it. Forget Pontius Pilate and is Quid Est Veritas; those were simpler times that allowed for doubting truth. Now, not only does every one know and must know the truth, but what each person knows to be true contradicts or at least is different from what every one else knows to be true. As if this is not bad enough, they all insist on telling me what it is plus insisting that I accept it. It is a complicated world that changes in knowledge and creates new knowledge every day, and we must use language and its inherent vagueness and indeterminacy to talk about it and its truth. So, even if one wanted to know and talk only about the truth and nothing but the truth, it is simply not physically possible to do so. For me to know the truth of any subject, I would have to spend a full day studying its truth that would be different from the day before by which point the day would be over so I could not act on the knowledge I have gained during that day anyway, but then the truth for that one day will be a different truth tomorrow. Truth is a full-time job but I already have a full-time job. In reality of the majesty of the law, I accept its truth or go to jail which is worse that Pilate. Pilate just wanted me to work, pay taxes, and tell everyone else to do the same, after which I could do whatever I wanted and accept whatever truth I wanted and he would leave me alone. Pilate and Rome accepted Power as the only god and were honest enough to admit it. If they had to crucify an innocent to get that point across, they did it knowingly and did not cowardly hide behind ethics or some -ism claiming the sacrifice will create a utopia. As government prosecutors and police are well aware, if you talk long enough about anything, you will eventually contradict yourself and thus they will eventually be be able to accuse you and charge you with lying as leverage to be used against you for whatever else they are trying to get out of you.

 
The unfortunate reality is that I and most persons in Technological Society spend most of our days and life acting in ignorance of truth as a matter of necessity and must hide our ignorance by minimizing talk of truth and thus avoid the inevitable contradictions that lead to trouble with the law so as to earn a living, sleep, and have some fun. According to the Dunning-Kruger Effect in statistics, not only is this what most people do but the most ignorant usually are the most confident of their truth and are the most confident of it when they talk about and act upon it. We need an alternative to truth. Let’s start looking for one.

 

The clearest meaning of truth is in the hard or natural sciences including their language of mathematics; can they give me an alternative? They seem to know timeless, all possible worlds, and absolute hard truths. Want to get a rocket to the Moon, Mars, or the outer solar system or accomplish anything physical? The worker bees of the hard sciences are your source of truth. But, that is the problem with their truth. It is a collective truth. It is a massive collection of contradictory mathematical models and mathematical fictions known by a few worker bees in a few hives that are created, divided, and subdivided so as to ignore the contradictions. Of course, the simple stuff is as easy now as it was in Pilate’s day; 2 + 2 = 4 is true anywhere in the real world and in all possible real worlds except perhaps in the imaginary ones of post-modernism that are not real worlds anyway just pretend real worlds created for aesthetics and perhaps for power. However, what about the hard truths of the hard sciences? For example, what is the truth of gauge theory in physics or in mathematical logic? Is it true that the reified formula A[δ] can be treated not as the ordered pair <A, δ>, but as the result A(d1,…, dn/x1,…, xn) of substituting the objects d1 =δ(x1), … , dn = δ(xn) for the variables x1, … , xn that occur free in A? Does E really and truly = (1/2m)p2−(erE)? If relativity physics has to hypothesize the existence of non-detectable dark matter and dark energy that makes up 95% of the universe in order to get its mathematical fictions to work, does that mean it only describes 5% of the universe? If the universe is made up of atoms that cannot be experienced directly in any human sense and are themselves made of numbers consisting of waves of probabilities that are not waves in anything since there is no ether, is not the universe made up of numbers? Hell if I know.

 
Which one of my examples above is pure mathematical logic inquiry and which is pure physics gauge theory inquiry? Only the few are given the gift of knowing the true answers to these sample questions and pretty much all the other questions and answers of the modern hard sciences. The average person has to accept what these few say on faith not on knowledge and everyone knows it but only a few admit it. The propagation of this faith depends on full-time preachers varying from incompetent scientists such as Richard Dawkins to ignorant publicists such as Bill Maher. What about the worker bees of science? Ultimately, if you are able to get an knowledgeable, intelligent, and competent worker bee individual scientist alone in a room and ask them what the f–k they are doing, the honest ones will admit: “[s]ince all models are wrong the scientist cannot obtain a ‘correct’ one by excessive elaboration. On the contrary following William of Occam he should seek an economical description of natural phenomena. Just as the ability to devise simple but evocative models is the signature of the great scientist so overelaboration and overparameterization is often the mark of mediocrity” — Box, G.E.P. (1976) in “Science and Statistics” Journal of the American Statistical Association, Vol. 71 (No. 356), pp. 791-799. Or, simpler yet, such worker bee scientists will admit “the goals of science [are] to be met by construction of theories that correctly describe all observable matters, whether or not they are right about what lies behind them … [which] is a metaphysical question best avoided by philosophy as well as science.” — Richard Healey in Gauging What’s Real: the conceptual foundations of contemporary gauge theories, Oxford University Press (2007) at p. XV. Great, they admit their truth that I must accept on faith as a basis to run Technological Society is really based on an avoidance of truth so as to be economical in their descriptions. So, they already have alternative to truth; an alternative that is just as confounding and confusing as the omnipresent and convoluted cloud of truth that surrounds me behind my ability to grasp it and deal with it in anyway but blind faith. So the hard sciences alternative so is not an alternative to truth but only a further reason to look for one.

 

What about the math? Forget words, just deal in numbers as an alternative to the word “truth”. Forget truth, all answers to problems and questions must be expressed in the form of a correct answer to a mathematical equation. If the problem and question cannot be formed mathematically, than, hey, it must not be worth asking? According to some books I have read, as many as 70% of mathematicians are Platonist — they believe they discover numbers in the same way we discover and trip over rocks. Others, such as the great Bertrand Russell concluded, “I fear that, to a mind of sufficient intellectual power, the whole of mathematics would appear trivial, as trivial as the statement that a four-footed animal is an animal” — Holt, J. (2013) in Why does the world exist?: an existential detective story, N.Y., N.Y.: Liveright Publishing Corporation, at p. 183. Given that great physicists from Aristotle to Newton, Fourier, Heisenberg, Gell-Mann, and others have had to make up new math to get their physics to work leads me to go Russell’s tautology route but maybe not; maybe they discovered their math in the same way they discovered their physics. The problem with tautologies is that they can never be proven false and thus are not science: a scientific hypothesis is one that can be falsified by parameter controlled, repeatable, experiments. So math does not seem to be a viable alternative; not only can only a few do the math and thus only a few know the math as an alternative to truth, in the end math may be a worthless and trivial alternative no better than the word “truth”. I would be replacing faith in scientists with faith in mathematicians. If numbers are Platonic, this may not be so bad. If not, the cure is as bad as the illness. I cannot even answer this basic question and must leave it to mathematicians and philosophers of math to tell me what math is — I am back to relying on faith. Numbers thus cannot be an alternative to any problems with the word “truth”.

 
There is a popular expression among trial attorneys: “There are three types of lies. There are lies, dam lies, and statistics”. Frankly, an alternative to truth dependent on one’s ability to do math with the remainder based on ignorance of math (again, does E = (1/2m)p2−(erE) and how would I know any proof you give me for this equality is actually true?) or dependent on blind faith in mathematicians and their math that may or may not be just aesthetic fictions is not much of an alternative — post-modernists can give me aesthetic fictions in which to have blind faith. I was hoping and am looking for something better than just numeric beauty and faith based aesthetics.

 
What about the soft or social sciences, do they provide an alternative for truth? They are what the philosopher of science Karl Popper called pseudo-sciences and the physicist Richard Feynman called cargo cult science in which generalization without predictive value is taken as truth. In the post-modern world preaching creativity, these sciences have lost all creativity regarding alternatives to truth with their only alternative for truth now being just one word or generalization: evolution. Whatever the problem or question, evolution is the answer and the explanation. Evolution is the new god that explains everything, makes all explanations true, and empowers everything no matter how contradictory the explanation. Whatever. I am not looking for an alternative god; I am looking for an alternative to truth. There are already too many gods in the world just as there is too much truth in the world. The overabundance of gods and of truth my be related. Evolution is a worthless alternative because even I know enough math and logic and have sufficient reasoning skill to use them to know that the concept of evolution in the social sciences is a tautology and thus is no more truth or knowledge than saying “a four-footed animal is an animal”. Again, if you get a competent, intelligent, knowledgeable worker bee scientist — even a social scientist — alone in a room safe from the condemning religious eyes of their preachers, they will admit to this.

 
Genetics and its conceptualization of evolution is science. However, genetics is a mathematical model and thus we are right back to the problems of getting alternatives for truth from science and mathematics. For example, in biology, because of its dependence on computers and their software to do the correlations required for the vast amount of data necessary to establish DNA probabilities, many biologists are complaining that the exalted DNA “explanation” is quickly “becoming epistemologically vacuous” with genes defined or equated by some biologists as no more than the mathematical algorithms or computer subroutines used to correlate the massive amount of data for physical traits with the equally massive amount of data that makes up DNA. — Buchanan, Anne V.; Sholtis, Samuel; et al. “What are genes “for” or where are traits “from”? What is the question?” Bioessays (February 2009), p. 3. doi: 10.1002/bies.200800133); Gerstein, Mark B.; Bruce, Can; Rozowsky, Joel S.; et al. “What is a gene, post-ENCODE? History and updated definition”. Genome Res. (2007) Vol. 17, p. 671. doi: 10.1101/gr.6339607. It is clear the social sciences cannot give me an alternative for truth; they are one of the main reasons I and we need an alternative for truth. Faith in them is a religious faith.

 

Finally, we have the humanities. Once the furnace for The Renaissance and The Enlightenment, in our post-modern world they are a dead end and as much a reason for needing an alternative to truth as are the social sciences. In our post-modern world, they simply make shit up. For the humanities this is not really a problem. They have a long tradition going all the way back to the great Socrates stating the alternative to truth is admitting that you do not know truth and then to accept a search for knowledge and truth as an end in itself — you may never know whether you ever find truth; it is the search for truth not the truth that is important. Yeah, right. Every time a boss asks me for the true answer to a problem, I will tell them I am in search of it and it will be a life-time search that may never end. This alternative will get me to the truth of being poor, homeless, and alone. I already know that truth; not interested in re-learning it. If one has academic tenure in the humanities at some university or other academia or even as a life tenure judge with complete immunity for failure, this alternative will work fine. However, just as the alternatives used by science and mathematics, this is a limited option only available to a select few and is not an alternative for hoi polloi.

 

I am stuck here. I need to find a new way of looking at truth. Reasoning is my usual tool for creativity. This problem is similar to the logic game of the prisoners. Its reasoning may help in my search for a truth alternative. This game goes by many names but its facts essentially are as follows:

You are in a prison. There are only two ways out. One way leads to freedom, the other to death. One way is guarded by someone who always lies, the other by someone who always tells the truth. You can leave if you pick the right exit. You are allowed to ask one guard one question. Instead of a random and arbitrary guess to choose an exist, is there one question you can ask either guard to learn the true exit to freedom?

There are actually at least two questions that will work. You could ask either guard, “what would the other guard tell me is the exit to freedom” and then take the other exit. Or, ask either guard, “what would the other guard tell me is the door to death” and then take that exit.

 
As Orwell so beautifully brought out in his writings, the Powers-that-be only care about power; power is an end-in-itself. Whatever they say, its only use and usefulness and thus its meaning is to maintain or to raise there power — neither truth nor falsehood matters; it is all bullshit. In relation to my need to survive in life as a free person, are they not equivalent to the guard who always lies? However, I am always honest with myself. Even when I am lying, I am honest to myself that I am lying. This may not always be true nor true of all persons. Some people live their whole lives or a good part of their lives in a lie. However, during the time we are living a lie, it is our truth and thus we are still being true to ourselves. So, we are always the guard that tells the truth. This is getting somewhere and neads to be developed — there may be an alternative to truth here.

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