Not in the Name of Truth

Food for Thought

Anxiety is undoubtedly in the air, but now that the public attention has shifted to another war, I felt less self-conscious about enjoying Russian food. With the Israel-Palestine conflict, my question is not which side I’m on but whether “truth” can still function as a trusty arbitrator.

“The truth is relative.” While seemingly accepted by the liberal-minded, this assertion often veers into murkier territory when confronted head-on. Certain truths are sacrosanct and inviolable to them, rendering the entire notion of relative truth moot. For if even a single truth can claim absoluteness, it can be used as a condition to settle all the rest.

The Sun used to circle the Earth. It was inconceivable to question this truth, yet in time, Copernicus would shift humanity’s perspective. It was still true that the Sun appeared to orbit the Earth, which is how the relativity of truth is often interpreted, but now we all know the scientific truth.

The truth is conditional, not relative. Somehow, we forget that scientific paradigms, too, inevitably change over time, just as our view of the cosmos did. In this sense, science is no more reliable than God. “The truth” is what we construct out of our current knowledge. Before the Internet, with its inexhaustible sources of information, it was conceivable to imagine that we’d mined all that could be known about any given topic. A consensus would crystallize, accepted as the absolute truth—much like the geocentric model of the Sun.

Today, we accept the impossibility of exhausting the sources of information, yet we use the sources of our choice as conditions for our absolute truth. Unconditional truth has always been a mirage, a narrative that served its purpose in resolving disputes. It no longer works, and I’d say this is progress. We just need to take the next step: If we could collectively acknowledge the transience of truth, we might no longer deem it worth sacrificing human lives in its name, even as we steadfastly assert our positions.