TRUTH IS WHAT WORKS

Debating what “Truth” means is not new, and has been a very hot subject not just in the Twelfth Century Paris’ Cathedral School/University (when the great philosopher Abelard fiercely, at the risk of his life, opposed Saint Bernard about launching a Second Crusade).

Some of the greatest names in philosophy and foundations of physics  or logics of the Twentieth Century have thrived in questioning the notion of truth (Karl Popper, Einstein, Heisenberg, Jules Henri Poincaré,  for physics; Alfred Tarski, Carnap, Russell, Robinson, and many others, for logics).

As usual, just as Nietzsche made philosophy with a hammer, I deconstruct it with an H-bomb (melting all these hammers in the process). My conception of truth is simple, I have no time to twist truth is all direction, in the hope of being tolerated by all and ideologies. Why would be clear by the end of the essay (where the venom is located, as in the scorpion’s tail).

I will try to approach the truth about truth, by answering some of the comments of Eugen R, a dedicated commenter on this site, in the hope some would have similar position. I know plenty well enough that postmodernism basically asserted there was no truth (that makes Foucault’s .

***

Eugen: Science is just an instrument, how can be an instrument truth or false?

Answer: Science is what humans do. “Science” comes from the Latin for “to know”. One may then ask what “knowing” is. “Knowing” is what can be checked experimentally. Many animals use tools. Chimps who break hard nuts with stones are practicing science. They know that the stone will enable to extract the delicious innards.

Notice in passing that all advanced animals have culture: they transmit science to fellow creatures: it’s unlikely that chimpanzees,, or gorillas learn their entire pharmacopeia of plants they know (more than 50) by the experimental method (especially as some plants can be deadly). Transmitting science can be viewed as the definition of both culture and “advanced”.

Eugen: “Is science about finding out the truth”. The answer is no. Science is about to try to understand the non-understandable.

Answer: Well, scientific RESEARCH is about to try to understand what’s not understood. An attempt to stand-under. For example, there is NO science of Sub Quantum Reality. Not yet. But there are attempts to elaborate some (String Theory, Supersymmetry, SQPR: Sub Quantum Patrice Reality).

If you told a prehistoric man that Earth is round, like a ball, he would have asked what a ball is. So one would have had first to make him understand what a ball is. To understand the shape of the Earth, one needs to have a modicum of mathematics most two years old have now, but prehistoric man didn’t.

Eugen: Science also limits itself only to the natural phenomena, that can be experimentally observed.

Answer: Ex-per means out (ex) trying (per, a Proto Indo-European root). There are three ways to acquire knowledge: experimentation, culture and… FAITH (here we come!)

Some will be stupefied by the preceding. Faith??? What has faith to do with it? Everything: everybody climbing up into an aeroplane, has faith. Faith in thousands of engineers, mechanics, the laws of physics, and the pilots. Faith is what anchors knowledge into certainty (take that, Jihadists and priests).

Therein a hierarchy: because both culture and faith ultimately depend upon experiments.

Science, as a body of knowledge, not as a method, is a set of logics each unifying bodies of experiments each defining elements of TRUTH(s).

That definition also fits mathematics itself (mathematicians experiment with baby examples, and then write overarching theories unifying those baby examples; an example is that the definition of curvature for sphere, thought of in general enough a fashion, provides with a definition for the curvature for a saddle)

***

Eugen: As science advances with its understanding of the reality, and developing new sophisticated instruments, like the Hadron Collider, which is in a way extension of our limited human senses, it slowly pushes the limits of what is field of scientific research and what is not. For example the phenomena of life and consciousness were taboo for scientific research until recently.

Answer: Entirely true. For example Galileo’s X30 magnification telescope enabled to observe mountains on the moon and four satellites around Jupiter.

CRISPR allows gene editing, and thus for us to control our fate more than ever before. AI and the Quantum Computer, let alone neurology, enable us to become life and consciousness creators. We will have to elucidate what true progress really consists of, before creating with CRISPR all over. Not only we have become gods, but we have to admit it. Hence it’s all the more important that we tighten up the notion of truth, and not leave it for Jihadists and plutocrats to design, and impose truth according to their self-interested whims.

NO TRUTH, NO MORALITY

[I am very critical of the cult of Gandhi, considering what happened after he got control of India: more than ten million dead, and counting. However, I do use the occasional quote, and not just to keep my cynicism in shape…]

Eugen: Science also doesn’t ask if this or that finding about reality, even if thousand times experimentally verified, is truth or not. Science is claiming hypothesis that can be verified or refuted. If refuted, then the hypothesis is not valid, if verified, it means, it still was not refuted.

Answer: You start to sound like Karl Popper, who thought that science was all about refutation. But when a crow uses a spike to extract insects from tree bark, you are not going to tell the crow that it didn’t refute that the spike couldn’t be used to extract insects. The crow would, rightly, think you don’t know how to think.  

Popper thought too much about refutation. Sure, that’s how truth is established, so what? When a massive bell is tuned, metal is carefully removed by a lathe, until the bell sounds the right (“true”) tune.

In general, to find out what’s true, one eliminates what’s (experimentally) false. Initially Galileo looked at Jupiter and noted the “chance” alignment of several tiny stars with Jupiter and the ecliptic plane. The next night, looking at Jupiter on a whim, he noticed the “stars” had moved with Jupiter. So the hypothesis that they were “stars” was erroneous. Truth was established by elimination.

***

Eugen: Truth is a very different phenomenon. Truth, either you believe or you don’t.

Answer: No. In the entire human experience, truth is experimentally determined. Truth is why planes fly. Truth is experimentally determined, even in mathematics (and that’s the difference between mathematics and pure logics, where the notion of truth is much more restricted and still a matter of debate)

***

Eugen: You can’t prove or disprove truth.

Answer: This is the situation, only in pure logic, where “truth” is introduced by axioms (“propositional logic”), and, externally, by the universe within which the logic sits (the “context” in usual human parlance; there true propositions are introduced by hand). Still, it’s less easy than it looks as extremely elaborated debates on the notion of truth, even in this arena of logic and metalogic, was intensely debated around the 1950s (with unclear resolution; my conclusions about truth in logic are mine alone, and tend to simplify, if not oversimplify…)

In mathematics, baby examples are true (inasmuch as their axioms are true; many axioms were long implicit, even in Euclid and Archimedes… Or in today’s math. If you tell that to a research mathematician, s/he will often tend to get very angry…)

***  

Eugen: Patrice spoke about Euclidean geometry as being truth. Yes within its limited frame as a closed system or as Patrice called it, “attached context” it is truth. The same can be said about sentence like, “the water has property of wetness”. It is truth always, after all wetness can’t exist without water, and water can’t be not wet. But exactly as in case of wetness of water, Euclidean geometry, is only a system of words within themselves.

Answer: 1) water is not always “wet”. Ice is slippery as long as it is covered by a thin film of water. Without it, solid water is adherent. Pluto has towering ice mountains.

2) Science has found water is mostly H2O (there is some heavy water too: D2O).

3) Euclidean geometry is NOT just a “system of words”. It’s a system of words and a system of implications (either explicit, or implicit: all logic, except computer programming, contains implicit semantic drift). All together Euclidean Geometry is a logic, a “logos”.

The Christians were crafty enough, in the beginning to make “The Logos” GOD. That seduced the Neo-Platonists who ruled the empire, just below the plutocratic level. That was the bait.

Right now, many US pilots pass out in their jets: a F22 Raptor, the most sophisticated fighter in the US arsenal, crashed in 2010 that way, and the pilot, captain Haynes, was killed. Others followed since. Entire types were grounded at times for weeks. The entire fleet is affected, including F16s, F35s, etc. The cause is unknown. Some guess that the cause has to do with the very complicated software which controls the air given to the pilots and their pressure suits (one needs pressure to breathe at altitude…) This problem is still unsolved. Why? The truth has not yet been found.

***

Fake News, The Passion for Fiction, etc:

The Nobel Prize in literature was not given to non-fiction authors, for half a century (until Belarusian Svetlana Alexievich). You know people such as yours truly, Winston Churchill, Bertrand Russel, Bergson, etc. Why? Because nonfiction is an inconvenient truth. Fiction writing is, by definition, not true, with fake news, fake creatures, and fake reality all around. Alexievich, a Bielorusian, implicitly criticizing the Bielorusian dictatorship, is safely removed from the leading dictating elite of the planet, so she is free to tell all the truths she wants… We may as well encourage her, to distract the Commons…

It’s no coincidence that France has seen its prominent industry collapse in recent decades, the mood turn gloomy, while so many French truths turned to lies. Naturally enough, France is now the most tobacco drugged out advanced country, especially young women. Something not right in France, just there! At the same time, the French writing establishment is obsessed with fiction. And out there roll out another sort of fake news: insipid “novels” which have nothing novel about them.

Lest the denizens of the sister Republic, the USA, start to chuckle, I will point out that the Clinton, Bush and Obama presidencies were fueled on so many lies (“Look at me, I’m brown, thus who cares that inequality is the highest ever, thanks to eight years of my policies??… which were actually mostly those of Clinton-Bush, where it counted most“). Thus the drug epidemics in the USA is now the most lethal ever. Opiates alone kill more than either guns or car. Why? Average people want to forget the lies. That’s also why they voted for Trump (who, at the very least, is more entertaining than the look-at-my-skin type… First orange hair is funnier than bronze skin…)

Most of the establishment has been intoxicated on its fake news, fake pre-occupations, etc. What it takes to sail a sea of lies.

***

Truth Is What Works:

When what was well-known before has been proven false, what is left is the truth. What does “truth” mean? It means that, when making a tool, or following a procedure while avoiding all known errors we end up with a tool, or procedure which works, something which is “true”. Because whatever does not work is an error.

It’s not very difficult to understand. But of course people who are in power are there because of an ideology, a system of thought, and, for them, that is the tool which is true, because it works for them.

It’s precisely because truth is what works that ideologies are true for their practitioners. But they are not THE TRUTH.

THE TRUTH, within, or about, an ideology, any ideology, even one with scientific pretense, is what’s left when an ideology’s lies have been detected and rejected.

Part of the mental intoxication from the elite has been to pretend that truth is all relative, can’t be proven, does not exist, never has, never will, and the “postmoderns” have been their prophets, while eating caviar and drinking champagne, while encouraging hard core Islam, and giving a pass to all things plutocratic. Weapons have been few and far between… Until Trump, a live Molotov cocktail to throw at the establishment.

Truth is what works: a definition of truth which works, a definition which is not supporting faith denying truth, the latter being the sort of faith I have no faith in!

If truth is what works, as I believe, the state of the planet is proof enough that we are collapsing under the weight of lies and errors ruling us into oblivion. Amen.

Patrice Ayme’

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8 Responses to “TRUTH IS WHAT WORKS”

  1. SDM Says:

    Truth is at the mercy of lies. The “big lie” has held sway over truth in the minds of the people for too long. Will truth prevail when the people cannot find it through all the lies? Truth could save us or defeat us if we ignore it.
    Global warming, inequality, plutocracy all stare us in the face but many cannot see the truth as it is hidden behind treacherous lies.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Truth, indeed, is at the mercy of lies. Truth, actually is what is left when all lies, illusions, delusions, disinformations, misinformations, biases, bigotry, racism, idiocies, errors, have been repelled and extinguished. Lots of work.

      Take today’s physics: there is a contradiction between time as handled by the local time theory of Lorentz-Poincare’ (misleadingly attributed to follower and disciple Albert Einstein), and how Quantum Physics handles time (as a one parameter transformation group, NOT as a dimension!!!). This is a situation where we know there is an error somewhere (obviously! Time can’t be two completely different things!) It goes into without saying that, when physicists say (some do) that there is no problem with time, they are lying, or deluded, or misinformed, or, etc.

      The same holds, and worse, for the subjects you mention. Inequality grew under Obama, to reach higher heights than ever before. Saying anything else is a factual lie. Obama can write to me all he wants, that’s unjust, unfair, uncalled for… And a bad example for the entire planet. But when uttering this truth (that inequality grew to higher heights under Obama), many people scream to my face that I am a Trump propagandist! That latter point is itself a lie. The truth is that, if one says something, one does not say, in general, something else.

      I have raged against “Obamacare”, as soon as it pointed out its ugly muzzle. Ironically enough, and completely unexpectedly, my family lost all health coverage yesterday! As we are presently overseas, visiting family, we can’t fix it (one of the charms of the USA connecting insurance and employment)… So I have turned from critic to victim of the US health “care” system…

      The truth is a struggle, the struggle of humanity…

  2. benign Says:

    The Plutos, the Greedy, the Haters of “the People,” perpetrate the Big Lie(s) (e.g., socialism doesn’t work, we must have neoliberalism “because markets,” i.e., “Free markets for monopolies!”) to subjugate the 99%.

    Hate is the Father of the Big Lie. Greed is the Mother of All Lies. Hate and Greed quash Love and pervert the hopeful course of Evolution (see “Ultrasociety”).

    cheers,
    benign

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Indeed.
      The hilarious thing is that the USA, say from 1945 to 1975, at the apex of its relative powers, was pretty much socialist in many ways. Also both Roosevelts used socialist reforms to decrease inequality and boost the US economy (anti-monopolies and New Deal). That’s again what was done after 1945 (Marshall Plan, GI Bill)…

      Starting with Nixon, presidents took decisions which degraded US society (with the sole exception of GH Bush (Senior)!!! Graphs actually show a lowering of inequality during his reign,,,)) The fact everybody was asleep, made that degradation possible. The contrast with the late 19C is dramatic (then Anarchists were quickly infuriated). Difference? Now the media are held by Plutos (in the late 19C, media were more similar to small guys Internet as nowadays, say on this site…)

  3. EugenR Says:

    I do agree with your statement, “truth is what works”, yet it is on the practical level. Most people, who claim they know the truth, are speaking about faith in certain truth. This kind of truth is the one, that doesn’t have to prove that it works, all it needs is ignorance and arrogance of the believer. This is the truth i called a dangerous concept. Take the climate change denialers, including Donald the Great. Do they have hypothesis or evidence about their claim? No need for that.
    By the way, my hypothesis about climate change is, that if a system continuously moves to certain direction, without an opposite force to balance it, it will bring eventually the system out of balance. In certain moment, because of cumulative effect the system have eventually to collapse. Try to heat continuously your boiler infinitely without cooling it and regulating it, probably it will blow up.
    I know this is just a hypothesis, even if million times verified in the past.

    Otherwise i do agree with your analysis.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Between us, Donald Duck Trumpet, as my 7 year old daughter calls him, doesn’t believe his own excrements about the climate. Nor about transgender. He is using all this cynically, to optimize his vote getting…

      I was trying to find a definition of truth which works. Truth is what works: a definition of truth which works, not supporting faith denying truth, that being the sort of faith I have no faith in!
      Anyway, glad you agree…
      Just put out an essay on ctenophora…

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