Monday, June 15, 2009

Truth Versus Manipulation

Ophelia Benson does what she does so well -- states matters clearly:

The fundamental blankness behind this way of arguing seems to be a complete blindness to the fact that some people prefer trying to get at the truth to trying to manipulate other people. Over and over we keep coming back to this 'whatever you think the truth is, you should say that science and religion are perfectly compatible, for purely instrumental short-term reasons' idea. It's depressing. It's tawdry. It's as if all of life were an endless US presidential campaign, where the only goal is to win and no lie is too gross if only it might win West Virginia.
Incidentally, the temporizing and sputtering and backsliding is not going to "win West Virginia" -- it is not going to succeed in obscuring the existence or depth of the conflict behind a comforting haze of moderation. At best, it may reach people who are devotedly not paying attention; as soon as they tune in to assemble the terms of this moderation, it will vanish under their gaze. If they do not tune in, nothing has been gained.

Such gestures don't whisper moderate as much as shout confused, incoherent, and self-contradictory. To say that life on earth began 4.5 billion years ago and yet that the Bible's six-thousand-year timeline is legitimate (or "has something to offer," or "speaks to something important," or whatever fuzz you like) only shows that the speaker profoundly misunderstands one of the terms of the discussion, leaving open only the question of which term -- life? time? billion? thousand? year? Bible?

It's better to try to get to the truth and to promote the truth as the ideal after which to strive.

No comments: