August 3, 2021
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America’s Flawed View of Truth, Part 2

America’s Flawed View of Truth, Part 2

Part 1 discussed the error of believing that truth is within us so we don’t need to search outside our minds, apply reason, and form judgments. Instead we can just consult our feelings and regard them as our personal “truth.” I also gave examples of the consequences that this error produces. Part 2 will look more closely at the process involved.

Consider the timely issue of the dependability of news sources. Suppose Edgar, who considers truth to be within him, believes his favorite news source is totally dependable. As he often tells others, “I don’t need to check my news source for accuracy/fairness—what it presents is always true.” When he encounters a statement that conflicts with what his news source has reported, he automatically dismisses it as false. If a relative or friend holds such a view, he feels especially upset. If the person tries to explain whyshe holds that belief, Edgar becomes annoyed and even angry. If she states a fact he is unfamiliar with, he thinks, “That has to be a lie because my source didn’t confirm it.”

In time, Edgar may feel uncomfortable in that relative or friend’s company and drift away from her socially. At the same time, he will no doubt continue his association with people who share his beliefs and have the same news source. And the longer he continues that association, the more alienated he becomes from relatives or friends with a different perspective.

Let’s now consider how this belief process unfolded. Edgar began with the view that truth is within him and his feelings can be trusted to identify it. That view was the foundation of all his subsequent beliefs, attitudes, and interactions with others. Thus, whatever he feels about something, in this case his news source, acquires the status of truth; whatever challenges that “truth” is false.

Note that at the end of my first paragraph, I described what Edgar “thinks.” There is no contradiction in that statement. Although it might seem that people who believe truth is within them don’t think at all but only feel, that is not the case. They may think a great deal. The problem is, their thinking is constrained by their view of truth.  Like Edgar, they see no point in wondering whether what they think may be mistaken, whether opposing views have any merit, and thus whether they can learn from those who disagree with them. Those matters are always settled in advance.  They possess the truth! There is nothing left to know! Case closed!

The exhilaration that such a conviction about self and truth conveys is palpable. At the deepest level it implies freedom from fear of Original Sin and its supposed consequences. The Genesis story of the man and the woman seeking to, as their tempter promised, “be like God Himself” is no longer negative but positive. It confirms that we really ARE like God Himself, and we therefore need, not salvation but a higher, indeed infinite, level of self-esteem!

In reality, however, believing that truth is within us enslaves our minds rather than liberating them. It takes away our interest in learning, understanding, and insight, and makes us vulnerable to perceiving nonsense as wisdom, evil as goodness. The evidence can be found in the proposals of elected officials, the narratives in social media and the news media, and even the conversations around our own dining room tables. Here are some examples:

Amanda Cappelletti, a Pennsylvania State Senator, reportedly recommended that 14-17 year olds be allowed to get the Covid vaccine without parental consent, even though in many cases they cannot receive even aspirin without that consent.

Psychiatrist Dr. Aruna Khilanani told an audience of Yale Medical School students: “I had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white personthat got in my way, burying their body and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step. . . White people make my blood boil.” According to the news report, “Following the talk, Yale made a recording available internally to students and faculty but added a warning saying that the talk contained ‘profanity and imagery for violence.’” And she examines other people’s heads!.

The latest California forest fire required an evacuation of an Air Force base. Such fires occur with regularity, destroy property and result in injury and death. With exactly the same regularity, California’s elected officials reject the building of “fire breaks” to keep small fires from growing larger. Their intention is to preserve the environment!

When criticized for his alleged failure to meaningful guidance during the Covid pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “What you are seeing, quite frankly, is that attacks on me are attacks on science.” This implies that his statements are to be accepted as “truth” even when they contradict one another. Is he really saying “I am Science?” If so, how should we regard distinguished scientists who disagree with him?”

The lab in Wuhan is reportedly not the only one that has experimented with viruses to create superviruses. According to Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, since 1992, there have reportedly been eleven cases of laboratories in various countries doing so. Those who design, fund, or engage in such studies have yet to offer any reasonable (let alone compelling) reason for creating something so potentially deadly. 

Distinguished Harvard-trained immunologist Dr. Hooman Noorchashm appeared on the Tucker Carlson show on June 11, 2021 and discussed documented reports from Israel and other countries that children who received Covid vaccinations have developed dangerous cardiac inflammation at a rate twenty-five times higher than the usual rate. He went on to suggest that requiring young people to receive the vaccination (for example, as a condition for attending college) is unwise. The next day, YouTube removed the interview from their site for “violating their misinformation policy.” Who told YouTube that the doctor’s remarks were misinformation? Another immunologist? This is unlikely, but even if that was the case, how did YouTube decide that their scientist was more authoritative than Dr. N? Is someone at YouTube “practicing science without a license?”

The U.S. Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) reportedly refused membership to Florida Congressman Byron Donalds even though he meets the stated criteria for membership—he is Black and a member of Congress (serving on the House Community on Oversight and Reform). Given that a caucus serves to discuss viewpoints and form a consensus, what possible reason could there be for denying anyone who meets its criteria? The Congressman believes the only reason is that his views are conservative. If this is true, it suggests the CBC believes its present perspective is “true” and needs no discussion, thus rejecting its reason for being.

Many people believe that the statement “guns kill people” is completely true and thus they conclude that outlawing and confiscating guns will reduce violent crime significantly. In fact, that statement is a half-truth. The other half, which they ignore, is that guns are also a deterrent to crime and, equally important, that guns are instruments and not agents; in other words, they are used by people whose mental states must be addressed if killings by guns (or other instruments) are to be reduced.

Many political leaders in this country (and around the world) firmly believe that climate change is a serious threat to the planet. Accordingly, they advance programs to reduce co2 emissions by shutting down oil pipelines, eliminating the use of fossil fuels such as coal, and promoting the use of solar panels. Convinced that their belief is unquestionably true, they refuse to consider alternative views of climate change. What is worse in some ways is that they refuse to recognize that their “solutions” not only create a significant hardship for their constituents; they also have no chance of achieving the intended goal because China, India, and many other countries continue to harm the climate to a much greater extent than the U.S. does.

To summarize the argument offered in this essay, the notion that truth is subjective rather than objective, and found in our feelings rather than discovered outside ourselves, is not only false but dangerous. If unchecked, it will continue to do great mischief and could, at some point, destroy our country. And although we may still have the time necessary to reverse the harm it has done, the hour is late and the clock is ticking.

Copyright © 2021 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero