Verification of Truth

truthThe image right has not been selected to shock or to offend, but simply to underline that while the saying might be that "seeing is believing" it is no guarantee of the truth. We might wish to also highlight another saying `history is written by the victors` that casts doubt on the truth that we might read. As such, the concept of a truthful account often depends on the level of verification that can be attached to any statement. In the context of history, the truth has often been suppressed because it conflicted with the beliefs of an accepted cultural worldview of the day. Therefore, it is not surprising that the extension of this argument would also spill over into other areas, i.e. theology, philosophy and science. As such, no fact can implicitly be assumed to be true without adequate verification and therein lies a problem.

 Verification of the Physical

In part, science proceeds by verifying the truth of a rational idea. In principle, this approach is not unreasonable, while the ideas are constrained to a physical world that we can access with our natural senses, e.g. that which we can touch and see. However, as our scientific understanding expanded beyond the constraint of the everyday world, empirical verification not only became more difficult, but subject to interpretation. Even if we initially constrain our ideas to the physical world, the idea of atomic particles that are too small to be seen or touched was clearly going to be problematic without an ability to extend the definition of our empirical senses. In this context, modern science had to wait until technology evolved the instruments that allowed verification to be extended beyond the natural ability of our senses. However, there was always an implicit danger that the complexity of the verification process itself would grow beyond the general understanding of mainstream society. If so, this also raises a problematic question:

How does an individual continue to judge the truth of scientific fact, if they do not understand the mechanisms by which those facts have been verified?

Verification of the Metaphysical

Of course, once ideas began to describe the nature of a metaphysical world, even the most advance verification process could be ineffective. In a sense, our perception of science may be forced down the path of one of two directions:

  • An acceptance of a metaphysical world that can only be described by belief or philosophical argument, albeit unproven.

  • An acceptance of science that, without verification, must challenge or deny the existence of the metaphysical world.

Possibly, in the wider context of these issues, we might begin to understand why different worldviews are themselves full of contradiction and why any new scientific paradigms might be seen as a challenge to the status quo. Today, science tells us that our internal genetic code has remained essentially unchanged from that of the first people to migrate out of Africa, some 100,000 years ago, and only the external nature of our civilisations has changed beyond all recognition. If so, while the external structure of our civilisations  may have come to embrace the benefits of science, our internal genetic structure might not be so different from our ancestors that we can entirely let go of our emotional beliefs in the supernatural.

In truth, if individuals are still guided by unsubstantiated beliefs, what chance is there that a collective society can be described as wholly rational?