The Enlightened Caveman


The Resistance to Truth – Part 2
August 18, 2004, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Culture and Society, Enlightened Living

We all know the question, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it make a sound?” The answer is yes. We know because the laws of science that dictate how the impact of the falling tree will produce sound waves do not change, regardless of whether there are human ears present. The fact that the tree makes a sound is what you could call a truth, but is it an absolute truth? It is a description of reality, but just because the laws of nature have yet to fail us, can we say it is absolutely true? No, we can’t, but that is no cause for panic. We have to keep in mind that humans are only so capable of perceiving absolute truth.

We are better at starting with a foundation of things we believe to be true, and using those things to infer information about the unknown. We can call this relative truth. That man has to use relative truth to get close to absolute truth is important when it comes to determining the role truth can, and should, play in life. The philosopher, Immanuel Kant, was an advocate of the idea that man can never be certain. He was a little extreme in his beliefs in that he held that man’s version of reality is a far cry from the real thing. Thanks to modern science, we know that this isn’t true. But also thanks to modern science, we know that Kant was right about man never being able to certain.

Our imaginations and our abilities to perceive reality limit our ability to fully grasp it. Yes, we can see very small things with the electron microscope, but we can’t see at the subatomic level. That realm is governed by quantum physics. Quantum physics is where man’s perceptive faculties fall short of what is required to truly observe the absolute truth of our universe. To deal with this, we use probabilities to describe the qualities of subatomic particles. That’s the best we can do, but it’s more than good enough. The laws of classical physics are founded on the conclusions we’ve reached about how subatomic particles behave, and they have proven to be about as reliable as it gets. So what’s the point of all this?

If we accept that we can never be certain, we cannot make the mistake of thinking that this entitles us to embrace whatever version of truth happens to be convenient from moment to moment. There is a method, critical rationalism (sort of a lite version of the scientific method) that can and must be used when we’re seeking truth. It relies upon the process of proposing hypotheses, testing them, eliminating the ones that do not pass, and choosing the most preferable from among what remains. This is the technique that scientists have used for centuries to get us as close to absolute truth as we are today. The problem is that far too many among us do not recognize the necessity of endeavoring to get as close to absolute truth as possible. It’s absolutely essential to eliminating long-term frustration in life, and it isn’t always easy.

Take, for example, the current obesity problem. Here’s the truth of the matter, the one that stands up to any scrutiny that can be hurled its way – the human body maintains its weight when the calories consumed are more or less on par with the calories expended. It’s that simple. Of course, some folks have faster or slower metabolisms, but the variation there isn’t as wide as some would like to believe. Nevertheless, obesity is competing with smoking as the number one cause of health problems in the US. What could possibly explain this? The resistance to truth. Period.

Our population is strewn with individuals who refuse to accept this fact. They see ads for junk like Cortislim and for diets that claim to drop weight by several pounds a week, and they become hopeful that somehow science has rewritten the laws of nature. But even if these work, and I have seen no real evidence that they do, the reality is they don’t work for long. As soon as the diet is abandoned, the old rule kicks in and the fat returns. And then there are diets like Atkins and the South Beach diet. But these are simply designed to control appetite by controlling blood sugar. That’s why they work – they’re based on the fact above. Again, however, as soon as the diet is abandoned, the pounds return. And there’s always gastric by-pass surgery. It works, too, because it limits caloric intake. In the end, there really is only one solution – lifestyle change, whether it is accomplished by sheer determination or with the assistance of medical science.

People who are overweight have two choices. Either drastically reduce the number of calories consumed or drastically increase the number of calories expended. That’s it. So, the key is to choose which of these will work best and then commit to living a life that adheres to it. But that isn’t going to be easy, especially if the people in question have let themselves get severely overweight. Be that as it may, the truth is still the truth. The sooner folks start accepting it and living their lives accordingly, the better off they’ll be. Resisting truth, in this case, is a fast path to all of the health problems that come with obesity. It all comes down to what role truth plays in life – either you seek it correctly and accept what you find or you don’t. Remember that the next time you step on a scale.

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