Alternative Facts

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I was probably ten or twelve when I asked my Sunday school teacher if there was any archeological evidence supporting the parting of the Red Sea and its collapse back over all those chariots. And in grade 7 when our science teacher, Mr. Edmonds, asked the class which way the earth travels around the sun and I told him it depends where in the universe the observer is standing. We argued and he sent me to see the Vice Principal from whom I first heard the idea of ‘convention’.

And then we all run into professors in first and second year university who tell us of the social manufacture of reality, and those who tell us how our attitudes and perceptions are shaped by the power elite. And we run into G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell and ponder the nature of truth. “Moore, are there apples in your basket?” And somewhere along the line a professor turns a chair upside down, places it on a table and asks the class, “What is this?” We tell him it is a chair, and he asks us how we know it is a chair. And someone else tells us that a light switch is neither on nor off, but in a position of relative on-ness, and that an electron might be in two places at once.

During his summer vacation between first and second year university, my grandson, in the comfort of his bedroom, day trades cryptocurrency on his new laptop. We discuss the nature of cryptocurrency, tulip bulbs, and “real” coinage, the very concept of money. I see that some articles on bitcoin are illustrated with a graphic of large, hard, embossed gold and silver coins. The irony is striking. The economists see bitcoin as a silly invented bubble; the bitcoin “experts” talk of cryptocurrency as being as big a social disrupter as the internet, liberating currency as the internet liberated information.

There are ads every night on CNN supporting legitimate journalism. They sometimes show an apple from first one angle and then a second and proclaim that it is still an apple. I think the ad writers missed the Beyond the Fringe parody of Russell and Moore, and Duchamp’s painting of a pipe titled, “This in not a pipe.”

“Moore, are there apples in your basket?”

And then we have Carter Page who apparently is referred to as a “Famous American Economist” when he gives talks in Russia, and Sean Hannity, and President Trump “totally vindicated” by the Nunes memo.

Many explanations for the rise of Donald Trump have been written, grounded in the history of the USA, the technological changes sweeping the world, the paranoia that accompanies mass migration, the always present racism, the forgotten but once privileged white working man, the attraction of populism and demagoguery….

And we are all fascinated by the extent this man can obfuscate, dissemble, lie, confabulate, and contradict himself without consequence.

But, pulling these random thoughts together, it seems to me that with Moore and Russell we left behind the certainty of 19th century truth, and with space travel, the origins of the universe, black holes, space time continuum, anti-matter, the digital revolution, the internet, robots doing our vacuuming and manufacturing, the democratization of information, the ubiquity of video illusion, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and, perhaps most importantly, the development of every day tools that only a few really understand…..we are now a very bewildered species. We used to know where we were going. Now we don’t. We used to understand our tools; now we don’t. We are inundated with fiction; we binge watch Netflix. Many teen boys can recite the political intricacies of the Star Wars series much better than that of their own world. In our fictions there are an astonishing number of American Special forces whizzing around the world killing bad guys and keeping us safe. We find ourselves applying the expectations and conventions of fiction to reality. Conspiracies abound in fiction, though real humans are more prone to folly.

It has long been preached that truth will outlive a lie. But today that lie can be widely disseminated in seconds, with conviction and graphics, while the truth is often slow, difficult, and complex. Today the lie has done its job long before the truth emerges.

It is no wonder that many of us sitting in our puddle of bewilderment and angst are easily coaxed back to primitive religions, pre-enlightenment medicines, strong-men, demigods, and false prophets.

There is a heartening backlash to all this, symbolized in a small way by Georgian College throwing out its program in homeopathy. And in reality the economies of the world are all in better shape than they ever have been, fewer people starve, fewer people die of preventable and treatable illnesses (thanks to modern western medicine), more have access to clean water (modern medicine and science), fewer people are crippled or die from nutritional deficiencies (modern medical use of supplements and scientific dietary advice), fewer people are actually killing one another than ever before, fewer are enslaved, many with chronic illnesses have better lives….. We even have better and better treatments for mental illness…and I don’t mean pig pills, micro-nutrients, and mindfulness.

We are at a tipping point I think. Can sufficient numbers of us, members of this human race, accept the reality of uncertainty, live with the angst of self-aware existence, discard the need for Gods and demigods, accept the scientific manner of seeking truth as primary, accept our species and ecological scientific truths, and get down to the task of preserving and expanding our democratic institutions, accepting this small planet as home to us all, and recognize we face two daunting tasks if we are to survive, that we must deal with over-population and global warming?

And this does not mean we should be wasting time and money shooting large rockets and small roadsters into Asteroid belts.

PS – David Stephan who was mentioned at length in the previous blog, went on a Facebook live video rant earlier this week attacking everyone involved in the cancellation of his lectures including Marvin Ross and Dr Terry Polevoy.

I feel left out. You rant against Marvin Ross and Terry Polevoy. Please add Dr. David Dawson to your list of trolls.

Now, two things: You and your wife were very scientific. You conducted an N of one experiment using nutrition, Pig Pills and supplements on a very ill child rather than taking him to a doctor for appropriate examination, tests and the application of modern medicine. The legal aspects of this are complicated. What is clear is that your pig pills and supplements and “Truehope” failed, and the child died. Your child died.

At the end of your diatribe on Facebook you say the “saddest thing” is the cancellation of your promotional speaking gigs. I would have thought it was the death of your child. It should have been the death of your child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Alternative Facts

  1. A very interesting piece. I have listened to Stephan;s mumbo jumbo and he seems not to take any responsibility for having avoided medical treatment that would have most likely saved his child. . He should be avoided at all times.

    I once was followed around a ward by a very difficult person who was afflicted with schizophrenia. She carried one of Bertrand Russell’s tomes around the closed ward and quized me non stop. Much of it was clearly over my 21 year old head, but I did know that there was a good chance that I would be bopped hard across the head with the tome. That did not happen thank heavens, but a few days later she managed to throw a plant pot from behind door, and I saw stars as i lay on the floor blinking like a bat.

    lesson: Do not mess with someone who pretends to understand Russel Principa Mathmatica! . Some quite ill patients came to my rescue. Life at all costs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David,

    I think you are right in much of what you say in that article. The biggest problem is that there are those who are intent on creating new gods, using advanced technologies. Those threaten to be gods who are more potent, in effect, than the ancient gods of myths in fact were. At least they showed some human failings, and knew some uncertainty, themselves. Those gods were far more human and the neo-gods that William Gibson, Elon Musk, and others are so deeply concerned about. After all, “god” was made in the image of man, to serve his political desires and to help assure “social control”. It was a clever invention, but the neo-gods are an even cleverer invention and there are those entirely intent on utilizing them for the very same purpose, in a far more absolute and incontrovertible manner that would make past species of totalitarianism seem lame and impotent in comparison.

    There are also some, in the mind sciences, following the (evil) genius of American psychologist B.F. Skinner, who are eager to utilize those neo-gods as the most potent portion of their own toolbox for manipulating and controlling human behavior and beliefs, in a manner that would make Nazi Germany look like a mere bread and circuses show.

    The big question is how to defend against that, if it can, in fact, be defended against, in any way at all. That is the real question of these times. I already see significant symptoms of the abuse of advanced technology, in the United States, under the current administration as it continues to tunnel into the “deep state” and is likely discovering its secrets. The fact is that the average person has absolutely no defence mechanisms against any of that. Only about 5% of the population are in any way prepared and they are almost all sworn to secrecy.

    Robert Ezergailis

    Like

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