Determining What’s True and What’s False, part two

A friend from high school posed the question on facebook, “How can one determine truth?” Here’s part two of my response: Another commenter chimed in, writing, "The smaller our world has become and the closer we live in proximity to others with competing narratives, or myths, the more difficult it seems to coexist.

You mentioned ‘artifacts’ above. I think for the archaeologist studying prehistoric cultures primarily through physical evidence, there is, as in the physical sciences, much more opportunity for agreement. But when there is still ancestral memory of events recalled through lenses of perceived cruelty and injustice, it’s much more difficult for researchers to be “objective” and arrive at a single truth.

Fortunately the physical sciences - physics, chemistry, biology, etc. - which rely on data and replicable results, the lens of emotion is less of a factor." To this, I responded: "I think we need to add some nuance here. Specifically, historical truth has basic fact, like the date and time of John Kennedy‘s assassination. That is true regardless of what someone may falsely claim. What you speak of is the discerning of the meaning of raw, historical facts, which are of themselves true. It is the interpretation of the significance of the facts that can be debated and disagreed upon. Another nuance: personal bias and desire for what one wants to be true—or simply varying hypotheses—can enter into the scientific realm. Two examples: a piece of pottery found on an archaeological dig is what it is, but the interpretation of its purpose and use can be disagreed upon, and here biases can enter in

. The disputes of raw, scientific facts like the ozone layer and the fossil record are examples of how bias, one’s moral base, and one’s belief system enter into the interpretation of raw, observable fact. Science can be full of bias because science is in the business of interpreting facts. Once human interpretation enters in, we are in the realm of “possible truth“ and not of the certain truth of the raw, historical or scientific fact. To say that science is more true than history, categorically, is not true for these reasons. Both are in the same game of raw facts and the interpretation thereof." Hope this helps you, as you think about truth and bias!

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