This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world.
— George Orwell, “Looking Back on the Spanish War”, p. 154 of “Facing Unpleasant Facts”, a collection of Orwell’s essays compiled by George Packer. Mariner Books: N.Y., N.Y. (2008).
What Orwell feared has occurred, the concept of objective truth has faded out of Technological Society. This disappearance does not result nor is it explained by any metaphysical “social construct” explanations but results solely from the practical reality that there is simply too much of it. Because of the power of Technological Society to measure, experience, and describe reality, our senses and minds are inundated with so much objective truth that it exceeds our individual ability to understand it either holistically or atomistically — irrespective of how one defines “truth’. For most working persons, we know the objective truth of only a small part of the reality with which we work but that is it. This is true of the work and life of everyone from the least educated service worker forced by the needs of reality to specialize in provision of detailed services to a specific clientele to the most educated of scientists forced by the vastness of their studies to specialize in either its theoretical, mathematical/theoretical, experimental, observational, forensic, or some other specific aspect of their science. To function in Technological Society, we must at some point reach Acceptance (acceptance of a statement as true) of the Storytelling stated to us by others about their esoteric corner of reality and weave it into our individual Storytelling and Acceptance of life so as to create a viable social interaction and society. The universal consolation of such fading away of objective truth is that the Other is just as ignorant of objective truth as we are. So, why should we accept anything the Other says as true; why should they accept anything we say as true? In this cloud of ignorance, vagueness, and indeterminacy, how is Acceptance even possible except through propaganda and by the force of authority of those who control propaganda to seek the power of conning us into Acceptance of their truth as an end in itself? The first step in answering these questions is Acceptance without fear of this fading away of objective truth; unfortunately, we must reject Orwell on this issue. The next steps are not conceptual. This fading is a practical problem that requires practical solutions not more idealism nor conceptualization.
This new world lacking in objective truth can be contemplated even in the simplest of technical problems without getting anywhere close to any of the complicated and convoluted technical, philosophical, social, and even individual emotional happiness issues facing society. For example, this week I was faced with the question of replacing my car’s catalytic converter (CAT). This seems to be a straightforward question with a necessarily required answer: CAT gone back, so replace with new one at great expense. These are truths that demand Acceptance. Unfortunately, I am personally knowledgeable about the historical and technical process that lead to this Acceptance and thus am able to question it. Back in the day when most cars had carburetors, unless carburetors were well tuned and well tuned on a regular basis (such as weekly which no one except a few motorheads ever did), they were only fuel efficient in a narrow operating band thus there was always some excess fuel dumped into the exhaust system resulting in the smog you can see in photographs of most US cities in the 1960’s and 70’s. The catalytic converter was designed to chemically burn off that excess fuel and thus reduce smog: the carbon monoxide (CO) is converted to carbon dioxide (CO2); nitrogen oxides (NOx) are broken down into nitrogen gas (N2) and oxygen gas (O2); and hydrocarbons (HC) are converted into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). Sounds good and worked great with those smog filled photos of US cities disappearing by the late 80’s. However, at the same time there was technical progress occurring so that by the start of the 21st Century carburetors are rare even in the cheapest of cars and motorcycles most of which now have fuel injectors instead of carburetors. Fuel injectors controlled by computers can change the fuel/air mixture as often as 1/100th of second and are now the norm. In this type of reality, I and many knowledgeable engineers and scientists argue catalytic converters are a waste and do more harm than good in many ways including by the need for mining and refining of rare metals such as platinum for their manufacture. Now, not only can all the benefits of a CAT be achieved by proper tuning of fuel injected engines, such tuning would provide more power, more fuel efficiency, and more reliable engines with resulting cleaner air at far less expense for these better results. A humorous anecdote on this issue is the fact that at one point during this historical process fuel injection would not create the excess fuel and heat necessary to bring CATs up to their necessary operating temperatures, so “smog pumps” were added to engines to create higher temperature exhausts; that is, smog was created so that the CAT could remove it. As far as I am concerned, anyone who is truly morally concerned about clean air, the environment, supposed global warming, fuel efficiency, the reduction of overall pollution both air and land and so forth should remove their CAT from their fuel injected cars and do some cheap re-tuning so as to run without it. Problem is, such removal would be a criminal violation of the federal Clean Air Act and many state laws.
How do you know any of my statements about CATs are true? You do not. It took me years of experience working on cars and the necessary background education to reach these conclusions — or did it? Maybe I am just full of shit and bull-shitting you? Maybe all I care about is getting an extra 5% in horsepower by removing the CAT and could not care less about fuel efficiency or clean air? How would you resolve these questions? Spend the days if not weeks necessary to get the foundation education and experience that would allow you to personally inspect the detailed, convoluted, and complicated objective reality of CATs so as to make your own individual conclusion? Spend hours viewing the conflicting articles, blogs, opinions, and so-called expert analysis available on the internet for and against CATs to find some opinion you trust and can accept? Since CATs are required by law, maybe you should have the government resolve this dispute by holding hearings, examining and cross-examining all sides of the issue, and making objective findings? So, do you have the lobbying money necessary for spending on professional lobbyists to contact government officials to get them to question the Acceptance of CATS and begin the process for such hearings? Do you have the lobbying money necessary to cancel out the lobbying money that would be spent by those who profit off CATs to oppose you? Do you have the time and resources to do such lobbying yourself instead of hiring a professional? Even if your lobbying is successful and you get a hearing, who will make the final decision? A politician? A qualified engineer or scientist? Who will decide whether the engineer or scientist is qualified? Who will decide the politician is qualified to make the final decision on such a technical issue?
Most likely, unless you are a motorhead for whom the joy of engine horsepower cancels out the threat of violence from the monopoly on violence called the law, what you will do is just bite the bullet, accept the Acceptance of CAT, comply with the law, and spend money installing a new CAT. By default, the law is the final arbiter on this issue. As you should do; most people have more important problems to deal with in their lives than the morality of their CAT. As Camus complained, “[n]obody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” Being normal and surviving life by being normal is not a sin, it is usually the only option allowed for survival in Technological Society as anything close to being a free individual.
Now translate this CAT contemplation into the voluminous amount of bigger objective truth problems faced by Technological Society varying from questions of what the age requirements for voting in a democracy ought to be to the whether the use of zoos is a social good or an unethical treatment of animals and all the problems in between. How would you come to understand and epistemically synthesize the objective truths of reality available to you in all these questions to reach true answers? Will you spend the days, weeks, months, perhaps years necessary to get the foundation education and experience that would allow you to personally inspect the detailed, convoluted, and complicated objective reality of all of them so as to reach your own individual conclusions? Spend an similar amount of time viewing the conflicting articles, blogs, opinions, and so-called expert analysis available on the internet for and against all of them to find some opinion you trust and rely on it? Rely on the law and its Inner and Outer Party elites to decide for you? Trust a qualified politician? Trust a qualified engineer or scientist? Trust a qualified something else? Who will decide whether the politician, engineer, scientist, or whatever is qualified? If science cannot accurately predict the weather 10 days from now, why should you trust them to predict the weather 100 years from now for purpose of making “global warming” decisions? Perhaps, the best option is just to flip a coin and take your chances? Perhaps, just trust those you like and thus award charisma and supposed niceness as a person with Acceptance of their truth. “[F]or while every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility or admit the supposition that any opinion of which they feel very certain may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable.” — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty at Chapter II “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion” (1859).
This issue of trusting experts and of determining qualifications of experts for purposes of Acceptance is an especially important and pertinent issue in Technological Society because the objective reality for resolving of this issue involves the same complicated and convoluted mess of facts and states of affairs that results in the fading away of objective truth from the other aspects of objective reality. The problem gets worse when ruling class ideology — ethics that is — and morality get involved. Because “moral character and ethics matter more than science”, the University of Illinois disqualified James Watson, a Nobel laureate who in 1953 created the double-helix structure conceptualization of DNA, from speaking at the University of Illinois on DNA which is something about which he is undisputedly a qualified expert; according to University of Illinois associate professor Kate Clancy, Watson is or may be a racist and thus is disqualified from opining on any aspect of objective reality and anything he says is by definition not objective reality. Many including myself have ridiculed the University for this action but admittedly they do have a point though it is not the point they are making. Expertise, even undisputed expertise, in one aspect of objectively true reality does not make objectively true one’s other opinions in other areas nor one’s general opinions on reality and especially not one’s normative evaluative or perspective opinions on objective reality. Quite the opposite, usually expertise in one area because of the time and resources spend concentrating and specializing one’s knowledge in that one area leads to unfounded and outright delusional conclusions in other areas for which one lacks time to study. Historically, Martin Heidegger and even Adolf Hitler were well qualified geniuses in some areas of thought such as continental philosophy for the former and political and military strategy for the latter but they were racist Nazis much of whose other thought despite their intelligence was and is totally delusional and incompetent as any basis for Acceptance.
A more recent exemplification of this point is the power of genius intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, and even a Jacques Derrida who arguably should be disqualified from giving any expert social and political commentary and opinion that results in discretionary power outside their specialties. These three truly are gods in their respective fields of linguistics and continental philosophy of language but this god complex makes them want to create a world in their image regardless of whether that image has anything to do with what reality is or may be — they are completely delusional once they leave the wordgame world they created to seek power over reality. Chomsky single-handedly created the wordgame of modern analytic linguistics with its generative and transformational grammar changing a simple sentence such as “the dog ate the bone” into something such as “[S [NP [D The ] [N dog ] ] [VP [V ate ] [NP [D the ] [N bone ] ] ] ]”; the complexity of these grammars when applied to any analysis of anything even remotely more complicated in language than a simple object/predicate sentence would confound even the most genius of physicists and mathematicians and their equally complicated grammars and syntax for the language of mathematics. Foucault and Derrida ingeniously created wordgames that treat the language for describing reality as if it were reality. As Wittgenstein pointed out in his writings on mathematics, the power of wordgames is that their rules bind even God: even for an omnipotent and omniscient being to understand what we mean for example by a simple phrase such as “the seventh digit of π”, this being would have to know the semantic and syntax rules of English and the mathematical rules for calculating π to seven digits and then would actually have to do the calculation — that is God would have to follow the rules of our social construct wordgames to understand them. No one can just know “the seventh digit of π”, it must be calculated; perhaps calculated outside of time and space by God but it must be calculated. In essence, God would have to become a Man to understand our social construct language — no doubt this conclusion makes Christians happy at least. Having the power to bind God through one’s wordgame creation understandably makes one a god. This is why persons such as Chomsky, Foucault, and Derrida and all worshipers of social construct language as reality are dangerous if given the power through a monopoly on violence to create a world in their image — think intellectual power joined with political power such as with a Lenin, Bukharin, Mao, or any of the many others whose thoughts were the foundation of the numerous communist genocides of the 20th Century responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions.
Luckily, the former three unlike the latter three are purely academic intellectuals and cowards who do not have the stomach to do their own killing. They prefer to act as prophets for those who are willing to do the killing; they are only competent outside of their created wordgames as preachers pontificating delusions to their worshipers — this is why I find them scary and would disqualify them from pontificating if I had the power to do so. Which is why I do not seek nor should be given such power; unlike them and their worshipers, I admit my temptations and act to avoid acting upon them.
For practical reasons based on the limited ability of the human mind to understand the vast quantity of objective truths available in reality through the sense experience provided by Technological Society, the concept of objective truth along with the hope of maintaining this concept through Acceptance of those in authority as qualified to provide us with objective reality have already or will soon fade away and rightly so. This fading away is the one objective truth remaining. Now what? The first step is the doing away of the fear felt by Orwell so as to gain Acceptance of this fading away in order to provide not conceptual replacement but practical solutions for this practical problem. Throughout history, practical inventions very often have preceded conceptual explanations for those inventions: from the ancient Greek aeolipile to Michael Faraday’s inventions of the transformer, the electric motor, and the electric dynamo or generator. It was Watt’s invention of the steam engine that led to the science of thermodynamics and not the other way around; it was Faraday’s inventions that created the need for the science of electromagnetism and not the around way around.
Because of the complexity of Technological Society, lone inventions by lone inventors may be a thing of the past but the realization and rejection of the fear of having lost objective truth is a something that requires Acceptance by the individual before it can proceed to social Acceptance. By such Acceptance, I do not mean the hypocritical and inconsistent acceptance preached by social justice theory and by most worshipers of science and law as religions by which they ridicule as subjective anything with which they disagree but accept and require everyone to accept under threat of violence their agreed truth as objectively true. Before we can leap to the next practical steps, there must be a nihilist Acceptance without fear not only “that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world” but also that this fading is a good thing allowing humanity to proceed to the next leap of faith in life.