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Mr.Intel's Journal: The unrelenting quest for certainty

Journal by Mr.Intel

In the context of the current presidential race, pundits and pendants alike are maligning each other over the place of faith in politics, levels of acceptable morality, and which minority should we elect this cycle (the woman, the black, or the mormon). In my private reading of these articles, it occurs to me that there is a general trend toward discrediting the concept of "truth" and "certainty", especially when it comes to politics. This is not without merit, but as far as I've seen, the concept is in its infancy, and therefore half-baked.

Ira Chernus, a Professor of Religious Studies attacks both parties for their increased religious rhetoric, but especially the conservatives, in this election cycle. He takes them to task for flinging religious platitudes at the masses in an effort to apply their brand of certitude. Amid the tumults of a depressed housing market, a war in Iraq, and skyrocketing oil prices, Chernus claims that the candidates are abusing the notion of certainty to bring the uncertain into their fold. This claim is founded in some measure of truth, but the underlying premise that certitude cannot or should not exist in politics or in the world is false.

Candidates can and do enumerate their positions on everything from steel tariffs and war, to AIDS and health care. This is a necessary function of the election process. What Chernus wants changed is not speaking to the issues, it is the use of words to create an appearance of certitude. He states, "When words and policies become symbols of moral absolutes, they are usually about preventing some "evil" deed or turning things back to the way they (supposedly) used to be." That's all well and good, but it misses a much more important point: Certainty is not a variable.

I can understand Chernus's position, but there is a moral absolute and people should be able to talk about it and claim to have it, especially in the context of a political debate. Having absolute truth is not the real issue. The issue is trying to get people to agree on what absolute truth is.

I credit the wholesale adoption of the scientific method for ruining this. Its process of peer review and consensus-based validation has made it hard for real truth to come to the surface. When people are unable to recognize a tool for what it is, they fail to use the tool properly. So it is with the scientific method. It has its place in determining truth, but we should be careful in how we apply it, or in how we categorize truth attained from other sources.

Let me offer some words from another source of truth and see what you think:

"Truth is the only meaningful foundation upon which we can make wise decisions."

"More people are finding that making wise decisions is becoming more and more difficult..."

"The scientific method is a valuable way of seeking truth. However, it has two limitations. First, we never can be sure we have identified absolute truth, though we often draw nearer and nearer to it. Second, sometimes, no matter how earnestly we apply the method, we can get the wrong answer."

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The unrelenting quest for certainty

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