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.