The Truth Wears Off?

Many results that are rigorously proved and accepted start shrinking in later studies. (Credit: The New Yorker)

In a recent seminar that I was giving, a professor and scientist in the audience was offended when a slide I was showing stated that people will ignore data/information that does not match their model. He asked me if I was implying the scientists ignore data.

He went on to tell me that he would get fired in his job if he did that, and that a scientist would “never ignore data.”

I was intrigued by how strongly he reacted, but decided that it enough off topic to not pursue it.

And now I run into this interesting “The Truth wears off” article published in “The New Yorker.”

Here is an except from the article:

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology. In the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread, affecting not only antipsychotics but also therapies ranging from cardiac stents to Vitamin E and antidepressants.

Click here to read the entire article.

How does one explain such phenomena? Does this support my premise about seeing in the data what matches our model? It sure is one explanation!

The other issue that the article raises is the unstated assumption, which is another topic touched upon in “Exploring the Gap between Science and Religion.”  And that is what is the nature of truth, and does science deal with truth in the fist place.  This question is posed by the blog: “What is the nature of truth? Is it self-evident?”

Woman by the Window

by Lee Wimberly
Photo by Jerry Gay, published in “Seeing Reality.

Is she happy? Can she walk? What is the color of her dress?

I “see” you, pictured by the window,
wheelchair-bound, neck stretched and smiling.
But do I see YOUR picture?

I “see” you, a gift given by light entering window,
softened by curtain-filters to lightly paint your face,
and dress,
and arms,
and hands.
With illumination my near-sighted and
light-ray limited orbs so demand.
So they can surface connect,
fulfilling their separation-saturating role.
That I might recognize your surface, but get not a glimpse of your soul.

Yet I sense so much more than the shades of gray
given me by photographer and binding and book and paper.
How reach you out to me from flattened surface;
past eyes and nerves and brain and self-imposed words?
Past veins and arteries, through blood, past muscle,
to mysteriously move my very heart and Essence?

Let Us not, you and me and listener and onlooker,
remain caught at the superficial veneer we hide
behind to protect that fragile, self-absorbed ego.
But let us instead stand up from our wheel-chair prisons
to reach ahead of separating time and past distancing space.
Let us bask in warm glow of your projected joy,
to go beyond your camera-captured “now.”
Share with us your vibrant spirit and teach us your unspoken,
heart-earned life-lessons in the non-terms of Unifying Spirit.

Let us reach out and touch each other in ways
only understood by Creator. Let the Us we are
collapse the space-time and camera-filtering chasm
that disconnect us and go beyond our limited knowing,
to experience not that which splits us, and deceives us to be
single threads, but instead to comprehend the interwoven strands of
God-space and God-time and God-universe.
And may we gaze past that which we so easily label reality,
to experience and know the Divine.

Background: The poem “Woman by the Window” is my response to Jerry Gay’s photo, which I in turn became familiar with because of Jerry’s photography book “Seeing Reality.”

The picture and photo gives expression to the existential elements behind “Exploring the Gap between Science and Religion.”

What is the nature of Truth? Is Truth self-evident?

Trees. Two of them. The one on the right the one outside of us. The one on the left, our model.

Note the philosophical insight: there are two trees.

I often start a discussion of “Exploring the Gap between Science and Religion” ( http://www.explorethegap.net) by asking the question “Is science equipped to reveal truth?” More often than not, I get the answer: “It depends on how you define truth?”

This response and other discussions have led me to explore, read, and write about “the nature of truth?”

Let me explain why the question is phrased this way. I find many instances of people either discussing truth, or claiming to hold the “absolute truth”. When I encounter such discussions, I find myself wanting to ask “what do you mean by truth?” In some settings, I have found people reluctant to tackle the question of truth, and I find many people claiming “there are many truths.”

What occurs in response, of course, isn’t truth truth? And it would appear that even though truth is illusive, and some don’t want to tackle the topic, many seem to hold firmly that there is some kind of absolute, unchangeable, immutable truth.

So here is why I ask the question “What is the nature of truth?” If we once develop detailed criteria of what truth IS, we can then apply those criteria in evaluating things which someone might claim to be true. In fact, these criteria can be—once established—used to evaluate this analysis of the nature of truth. Yes, this appears to be backwards in approach! But by doing it this way, we can have an discussion that does not start out with an unverified premise.

I found a paper posted on the web that provides a detailed analysis and discussion titled “What is the nature of truth?
Here is an outline of the areas considered by the paper. A brief definition of each follows.

  1. Truth as correspondence.
  2. Truth as a quality of independent entities.
  3. Truth as a coherence, to which I would add the term “comprehensiveness.”
  4. Truth as regional/temporary versus absolute truth.

TRUTH AS CORRESPONDENCE: A match between observation and model/concept.

TRUTH AS QUALITY OF INDEPENDENT ENTITIES: “Experiencing makes no difference to the facts.” “The theory maintains that greenness is what is in complete independence of any and all forms of experiencing, and indeed of anything other than itself.” “Greenness is an entity in itself. And though, as experienced, it is related to a sentient consciousness, yet even in that relation it remains in itself and unaffected by the sentience.

TRUTH AS COHERENCE: “Anything is true which can be conceived. It is true because, and in so far as, it can be conceived. Conceivability is the essential nature of truth.” “To ‘conceive’ means for us to think out clearly and logically, to hold many elements together in a connexion necessitated by their several contents.” (P. 66) I interpret this to be that the concepts collectively are logical and consistent with each other. I add to it, the notion of comprehensive.

REGIONAL OR TEMPORARY TRUTH: “Universal judgments of science” “What is once true, it must be agreed, is true always: for truth, since it holds irrespectively of time, holds indifferently at all times.” (p. 88). This is contrasted with theories that change when additional information is obtained.
I will periodically pose further questions about about the nature of truth. Remember, we are trying to separate examples of truth with the criteria of truth. Here is the first question:

If we encountered truth, would it be self-evident? Or, stated differently, would the truth be independent of the observer/decider?

Universe Speaks

I cannot push words past the lump in my throat!

My wife Karen is awaiting our morning “good-bye.” She has readied herself for her post-latte walk. I’ve packed the books in the backpack, desperately hiding the tears wetting my eyes.

I can avoid it no longer, for now we stand face to face. Still I cannot force the “good-bye” past my swollen throat. Then it dawns on Karen that something is happening to her sappy husband, and she smiles her smile of understanding.

“I’d defy anyone to read this book without crying,” I finally blurt out.

The book in question is Unsaid by author Neil Abramson. It is one of the “uncorrected proofs” introduced by publisher “Hatchet Book Group” at the Northwest Booksellers Association Trade. A small rectangle on the soon-to-be-released title page gives warning that I cannot quote the book lest the quote fall victim to some eagle-eyed editor.

So I quote not!

As I begin my walk, my schedule and goals are stripped away by emotions of the moment. So I stroll in still silence and become open to the unsaid!

And through the noisy silence of leaf-filled gutters and fall breeze whispering through yellowed leaves, the Universe sings its the heart-speak language, speech heard by those with ears to hear and eyes to see.

Wandering thoughts contemplate the use of “Universe” as a replacement for “God.” And I reflect! “God” or “Universe?” Why favor one over the other?

Meanings flow! Emotions arise! History forever threatens to repeat! And the jumbled lies of the just-completed election threaten loss of serenity! Past discussions and philosophical arguments swirl in the whispering silence!

Yet Universe speaks again, and Peace continues to shape my stroll down the quiet street.
And Universe proclaims answers to the no-one and all who ask! It is an answer echoed by an industrious wood pecker perched high atop a thick-trunked tree. Winged silent spokesman hammers: “’Universe cannot be owned! ‘Universe’ cannot be owned!”

“Universe” touches my soul, relaying its soul-speak wisdom, an intimate caress in its magnificently-impersonal elegance.

And it dawns! That three-letter string “G-o-d,” so long the “keep-away” toy of those who greedily seek to own the un-ownable, which they guard with swords, and guns, and bombs so as to exploit “the least of these” for their own wealth!

And Universe speaks: “’G-o-d,’ the instrument used to blind followers into death-justifying convictions that greed and selfishness are moral values.

Universe weeping, “The blood of my silent spokespersons drips from the alter of ‘Me and Mine.’”