Remember the post “Social science and its inherent problem…or not!” Which I mentioned that I worship truth as much as people worship God? But I also said that, likened to God, truths are non-existent. This post is therefore a mean for me to explain why I subscribe to this bizarre belief.
I’ve taken most of my insights from the book “The Wisest One in the Room” so I would like to just put it out here to give credits where it’s due. Moving on to the explanation, here is a quote from a very influential figure in comedy:
“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” -George Carlin
*George Carlin is a late comedian who was profoundly humorous, his stand-up comedies never fail to crack me up whenever I am down. If you are interested, you can look up on his performance on YouTube.
What George Carlin said perfectly captures the concept called “naive realism“. Naive realism is the idea that the beliefs and “truths” that we hold dear, are nothing more than subjective interpretations.
You might think that someone is too optimistic (drives too fast and is a maniac) but that same person would think that you are too pessimistic (drives too slow and is an idiot), both of you think that you are realists by your own standards (you are the sane and smart one who is neither driving too fast nor too slow). This simple example alone illustrates that there is no single absolute truth:
Truth is not a single point on a map, it is a spectrum of stars in the Milky Way – it stretches infinitely. The essence of truth is its unambiguity and absolutism; but since truth is so ambiguous and subjective instead, the truth is that there is no truth.
Like it or not, what you think and believe is probably not the truth, because there is no single arbiter of truth (or any useful ones unless God finally decides to address us formally); therefore the harsh adjective of “naive”. But before you get offended, I would like to say that we are all naive realists; thus we are all equally guilty of this, whether we like it or not.
Unless we can find a communicable arbiter of truth, A.K.A God, we can never prove that anyone’s perception can be the single absolute truth.
As it seems unlikely that Mr G is going to talk to us in an evident manner (using a book that is obviously written by men makes it hard to believe that it’s god’s words) and since he hasn’t done so for 6 million years, it’s unlikely that we are ever going to know what is the real and absolute truth.
And so we have to live with this newly realized reality where, in Einstein’s words,
Reality is an illusion.
Despite this depressing revelation, all is not lost for we can make use of this idea to understand the importance of empathy and judgement reservation.
If we can truly accept that we are all naive realists, we would be less inclined to insist that we are right. This is because the absence of absolute truth blurs the line between right and wrong, making us morally ambiguous- if there is no single arbiter of truth, there is no single arbiter of morality. If you’ve read my post “To move forward, we must first look back“, you can infer also that my abhorrence of absolute morality in that post is partly due to this idea as well.
To be morally ambiguous does not mean that we would be any less virtuous. It just means that we accept differences and thus bringing us closer to embracing them
Hence, understanding that we are all naive realists would lead us to reserve our judgement and empathetize with others in order to understand their circumstances and their “truth” before making decisions. That would make us better people overall and we should always strive for that, especially in our current world where morality progression is hitting a brake and probably reversing in direction.
*Disclaimer: the truths that I am referring to in this post gives exception to scientific facts, a conflict that I am unfortunately unable to resolve through the sheer force of reasoning alone. I am contemplating the idea that, perhaps, the method of science can be our arbiter of truth instead. Nonetheless, it runs into the problem of humanity. Human problems are inherently subjected to naive realism and science does not have answers to human-based problem yet; which is why I am conflicted and still contemplating.