Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The last forbidden four letter word

I and wiser heads heads than mine have observed that the Western democracies, including the United States, are in moral, social and financial decline. I do not expect them to recover. They have thrown away their magic, lost the key that made them great. They will fall into history's ash heap.

The word that defined the West was "truth." It meant something objective not personal. What was true for one was true for all. People could debate, and vigorously did, which things were true, but some things were and some were not. That was the thread that wove the social fabric.

There were two contributors to this, Jew and Greek. The Jew said, and the Christian after him, that things were true because God's prophets spoke and what they said bore out. The Greeks said you know what is true for everyone because anyone can find it out for himself: repeatable observations, backed by formal logic and math, which they invented to prove their point. In other words the West received a dual inheritance, moral reasoning from the Bible and science from the Greeks.

I have written elsewhere  about how these two views have been pitted, falsely, against one another. They are not in disagreement at all. Science talks about repeatable observations. Without those you have no science. Religion talks about the once only events. You can stand all your life where Ezekiel stood and never see what he saw. You missed it; it is over now. Science cannot study it; it is not a repeatable episode. Religion cannot fairly criticize science for failing to make exceptions to the rules of science, which is what it would amount to if science treated miraculous claims as evidence. Scientists, in turn, cannot offer an intelligent critique of what falls outside their realm of study. Any non-repeating event, that is to say anything miraculous, falls outside their competency.

The imaginary conflict between science and religion is unfortunate, because while people were arguing about that, they lost track of what should interest them most. That is true things. People need to take an interest in what is true and what is not because truth is a friend. If you know what is true you can plan accordingly. But while we were arguing about how you know what is true, a diabolical proposition crept in. Truth is what you want it to be. A concept may be true for you but not for me. Who are you to impose your truth-concept on me?

Truth that flexible is not a friend but a fiend. It is obviously and objectively true that you cannot sail downwind from France to New York. No amount of wishing can make it otherwise, because the wind blows the other way. The difficulty arises in considering questions that have answers that are less immediately apparent. It is less obtrusively true that you cannot beggar your neighbor and thereby prosper yourself. The societal failure that comes from socialism takes time to develop. In the interval, people can lie to themselves about what they are doing, and what is happening to them, if they have a flexible sense of truth and falsehood.

The societal breakdown that results from socialism always develops the same way. If you propose to take from some and give to some, people line up to be given to. They step out of the line of people to be taken from.

The socialist, when faced with his creed's former failures and disasters in countries around the world, and told his efforts are doomed, does not see it that way, that's only your truth, his truth is he will continue to progressive social nirvana. The lessons of the past he sees as unfortunate not conclusive. He wishes to continue the experiment. But neither concept of truth supports him. He is indifferent, even dismissive, toward the truth in divine revelation. Science, for its part, says that what didn't work before won't work now. But the progressive is ever hopeful.

That is the problem with the progressive. He rejects both ideas of truth. The pulpit and the objective facts gained from observation are against him, but he knows in his heart he is right. He therefore rejects both faith and reason. He believes he can make a difference. He can make the world a better place. He needs your money to do it, your obedience, your liberty and your reason and faith.

The last thing he wants to hear, the only four letter word, really, that is forbidden any more, the word a tyrant never wants to hear from "liar!" Because, of course, if there are no firm standards of truth, who are you to impose your standards of falsehood on someone else?

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