Some statements that, once upon a time, were verifiably “true:”
The earth is flat.
The sun revolves around the earth.
Men are superior to women.
White people are superior to non-white people.
Homosexuals are either criminals, mentally ill, or both.
Before they were misguided, madness, warped ideology, or simply wrong, somewhere and somewhen … they were facts. Concepts like “reason,” “reality,” and “truth” are like quantum particles: look at them too closely and they start moving around.
Sometimes what passes for an absolute is really just conventional thinking or lazy ideology. It might make us comfortable to think we are reasonable actors who understand how the world works, but the search for truth can never stop at comfort for anything longer than a rest.
Human understanding is always only provisional. We know what we know until we learn something that shows how we were wrong. The scientific method has allowed humanity to achieve great things. What other human endeavour counts being wrong as a win? (There are others, actually, but that’s another article.) We don’t say Isaac Newton was a bad scientist because Albert Einstein figured out better theories.
Things get better when we make a commitment to discovering the truth, and holding lightly and with some humility what we think we already know. When truth becomes hollowed out or weaponized, when the goal is winning rather than understanding, when might makes right, we’re heading down the wrong road.
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