Thursday, May 26, 2005


Reasonable and True (birthday blog)

It is much easier to just not think about it. I often wish I could.

Thinking about it entails some attempt to understand it and to make sense out of it and to fit it into some sort of framework. Worse, thinking about it carries some sort of incentive or obligation to do something about it. Worst of all, thinking about it leads to some sort of sense of responsibility for it.

History is humbling. At least any attempt at honest history is so. There is no honest history, so an attempt is the best we can do. But since it is so deflating, perhaps it is the worst we can do.

The history of medicine is particularly damning for me, a physician. A mere century ago the truth was that all illness was caused by an imbalance of the vital humors. Today such beliefs are totally laughable. I know that all my truths of today will be totally discarded in the next century. But they are my truths, scientifically authenticated and verified, today.

Less pragmatic sciences, the "pure sciences" seek deeper truths and are more comfortable about discarding paradigms, for they are always seeking the best way to upset their current beliefs. Thus the history of science is also humorous in the truths that are embraced and then discarded, but less so because that is the game they intend to play.

More orthodox systems deal with the inevitability of change in more interesting ways.

Religion, the bastion of eternal truths, usually denies change. Instead, new truths (where DO they come from if not from Divine Inspiration?) engender new sects or new religions embodying the new REAL truths.

Politics, the bastion of the most ephemeral truths, also denies change. Politicians rewrite the past and rewrite the present: a most convenient way to handle the truth.

Politics and religion also kill off the opposition, thus silencing dissenting truths.

Leaving politics and religion, science and medicine aside, dealing only with day to day truths is still an impossibility. My truth is just not your truth. I do not believe you and you do not believe me. How could I believe you?.... you are WRONG! How could you ever believe ME?... I am SURELY wrong!

So I put aside truth and its physical manifestation -- reality (best definition: "a collective hunch").

What about "reason"? If truth is an illusion or delusion, then how can we be reasonable?

Deductive logic works just fine if we know the truth. True premises lead to true conclusions. The problem is in deriving those premises. Pesky unreliability of "truth"!

Inductive logic, always empirically based, is at best a statistical approximation of reality, at worst, an experiential guessing game.

So I muddle on... doing the best I can with the absolute knowledge that nothing is true or real. Life and death decisions are made on guesses and approximations. In the bigger world, wars are fought based on transiently truthful "facts". Ideologies battle and lives are spent for conflicting truths. In their respective recordings of history, the bearers of truth will tell their opposing tales.

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