Greg Kasarik

"Act with Empathy"
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The Reality Principle: Science is Truth.

By now many readers may very well be experiencing a vertigo, similar to standing at the edge of an abyss. Inescapable uncertainty looms with realisation that we can never know anything with any certainty, the fact that no two people can ever meaningfully communicate any genuine spiritual truth and the final understanding that what people believe is often a function of what makes sense to them, rather than what actually is. To understand these concepts is to experience a loss of balance and the fear that no concept, or truth can act as an anchor for one’s world ever again.

In many ways, this is as it should be. Uncertainty breeds the humility needed to be able to empathise with others and show tolerance for their beliefs, perspectives and ideals. By experiencing the loss of certitude, we open our minds to ideas and concepts that we may not have previously considered and thereby increase our wisdom accordingly.

But not all is lost. While it is the case that we can never know exactly where in the Infiniverse our sentience resides, it is still apparent that we reside within a particular universe, in a particular time and space. To the extent that this universe is decipherable, we have the means at hand to intelligently investigate its limits and share in its particular secrets.

The Reality Principle, “Science is Truth”, might seem like a contradiction in terms after we have only so recently discovered that we can never know anything for certain. But because it is impossible to know anything for certain, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible to know anything provisionally, or logically. For example, it might be the case that the universe that we inhabit is in fact nothing more than a computer (or magical) simulation, or the playground of a being that would call itself “God”, or perhaps even the accidental result of pure chance. But it does not follow that the universe is not intelligible on its own terms, irrespective of its underlying metaphysics.

Indeed, where the last 6000 years have conclusively demonstrated that we can never “know” anything on a metaphysical level, the last 600 have conclusively shown that we can “know” things on a technical and physical level. Indeed, it has become clear that for a glorified monkey, we have the surprising ability to not only understand our universe, but tor reliably manipulate it in such a way as to produce what can only be described as technological marvels.

And the way that we do this is through the organised and systematic observation of the universe and the development of theories that support our observations and rejection of those which don’t. In other words, through science.

It is not my intension here to postulate a preferred definition of what science is, or to claim that I know the last word regarding the scientific method. The truth is that we are at the very dawn of Humanity’s scientific endeavours and the philosophical underpinnings of that discipline are still being debated and formalised, even as our scientific understanding excellerates at an ever increasing pace. Like every other part of our understanding of the universe, I suspect that our understanding of what science “is” will continue to evolve as we continue to probe the extents of what we can discover about our universe.


The Reality Principle is not only about how we figure out the nature of the particular universe in which we reside. It is also about honesty in the claims that we make about our universe and the sort of evidence that we should all demand from those who would make any such claims. Each is dependent on the other and to ignore one is to largely ignore the other.

Honesty the cornerstone of trust and trust is central to building a functioning society in which all people are respected and in which differences are tolerated and celebrated. The Reality Principle is not so much about a blanket ban on lying as it is about a blanket ban on the “blankets of deception” that people weave out of many lies, both big and small, so that they might gain power, fame, money, prestige, sex, or whatever else takes their fancy. By engaging in this behaviour, they are acting against the Ethical Principle, because they are working to create a situation in which the people that they influence are less likely to achieve positive outcomes for themselves and others.

While they are not to be encouraged, small, situational deceptions are fairly mundane and not particularly problematic. Lying to the person who asks, “Does my bum look fat in this?” could often be the best course of action for all concerned. In a situation such as this, the benefit gained from the truth might easily be overshadowed by the personal impacts that such truth telling might have. Ultimately, we should not be encouraging any sort of deception like this, but until such a time as we have successfully created a society of well adjusted individuals who can accept themselves for who they are, this sort of deception is likely to still have its place in our behavioural repertoire.

Lying to a person who will use the truth to commit evil is nearly always going to be the best outcome for all. For example (at the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law), few would hold that telling a Nazi German SS trooper about the whereabouts of a Jewish refugee would ever be a morally good thing to do and in such circumstances the Ethical Principle almost commands one to refrain from the truth.

Instead, it is the more systematic deception that leads to the greater evil. These deceptions are often woven into an entire tapestry of lies that has significant impact on all who are its victims. Numerous examples abound, but often these systematic lies occur within the framework of religious or spiritual thinking. For example, despite overwhelming evidence for the occurrence of evolution, hundreds of millions of people still hold to the religious idea that the universe and all life within it was created in six days by God. Often they have fallen for the lie, because of their adherence to a particular religious belief and to accept the truth of evolution would put too great a pressure on their shaky understanding of the Divine.

The Importance of Critical Thinking

Where there are deceived, there is a deceiver. While deliberate deception of this kind is clearly a violation of the Ethical Principle, and is something to be avoided, there are often cases in which the deception is not deliberate, as the person genuinely believes the misinformation that they communicate. For example, I would suggest that most people reading the Christian Gospels would hold that Jesus genuinely believed that what he was communicating was the truth as he knew it. 

In situations like this, the ability to think critically and to adequately weigh up information is crucial to ensuring that deception, either deliberate, or accidental is nipped in the bud. For example, while Jesus clearly seemed to believe the message that he put across, his legacy has been one of deception and lies. If nothing else, his claim that some of the people that he spoke to would still be alive at the time of his return (Matt 16:28) should clue anybody into the fact that his claims were fundamentally wrong. Either that or we have at least one 2000 year old person living on this planet and if it is the case that such a person exists, then we should ask that they step forward and then scientifically examine their claims to living to such a great age.

Similarly, many holy books, such as the Quran (Sura 4:34) of Islam contain passages which explicitly state that man is superior to woman and that women are to be subservient to men. These claims fly in the face of over 100 years of psychological research and the evidence of women’s success in academia, the arts, the workplace and almost any other endeavour to which they put their highly capable minds. This indicates that not only are women not inferior to men, but in many situations, they are superior and more able to achieve results.

At this point, some readers might be confused. After all, doesn’t the Uncertainty Principle hold that there is no way of determining the truth of competing metaphysical claims? Haven’t I already acknowledged, in discussing the Psychological Principle, that people will believe what makes sense to them and that there is little point to pretending otherwise? Of course, these statements are both true. But in each of the examples provided, I am claiming a deception, not on the basis of a metaphysical claim, but because the claims are about the actual state of our universe. Unlike metaphysical claims, these claims can be tested for their veracity and their accuracy determined.

And while it is the case that people will believe what makes sense to them, I would also hold that we have a responsibility to encourage others to learn to engage with their ideas and beliefs in a critical manner, so that their beliefs are the highest reflection of their capacity to engage with ideas, not their lowest.

The Reality Principle: Science is Truth.

In determining truth of a particular claim regarding our particular universe, two things are therefore required. Firstly we need a mechanism for investigating the world, so that we are best able to arrive at correct conclusions and secondly, we need people who are able to engage with the world in this manner.

As previously noted, the best mechanism thus discovered for engaging with the world is science. While its methods are undergoing continual refinement, it allow us to ask questions about the universe and to be reasonably confident that the answers are more likely to be correct than incorrect.

The wonderful thing about science is that it works! Science has lead to some amazing breakthroughs and results, ranging from the medicines that saved my life last year, to the computer that I type this on and the machines that are used to construct power and maintain the cities in which we live. The power of science is that it works, and no better way of determining the facts of our universe has been determined.

It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so perhaps one of the greatest tributes to the scientific method can be seen in the way that many who would seek to deceive have sought to co-opt the trappings of science for their own purposes. For example, creationists like to fashion themselves as “creation scientists”, in order to appropriate the veneer of scientific respectability for themselves.

Similarly, many wax lyrical about how certain parts of their religious texts seem to mesh with our current scientific understanding, all the while ignoring the parts that do not. But if these texts and traditions were truly the work of an omniscient deity and if these books were genuine reflections of the world as it is, I would suggest that we would expect to see more than a few vague and random statements that can be twisted to a seemingly scientific interpretation.

Instead, we would expect to see statements about the universe that were not only correct, but were also genuinely scientific both in accuracy and in practical utility. In ancient Greek mythology Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. If ancient texts were truly scientific in nature, I would expect much more of the same, yet the Bible, Quran and other texts are completely devoid of useful and practical scientific insights from the Divine as to how we might better live our lives. Imagine how many lives would have been saved had these books included a summation of the germ theory of disease and simple, practical steps to keep us clean and healthy.

Religion and the Philosophy of Pseudo-Science.

Sadly, rather than reflecting the best of scientific and technological advancement, religious movements have historically been at the vanguard of opposition to advance of science and technology. The Christian religions burnt people at the stake for proclaiming that the earth revolved around the sun, rather than the other way and modern Islam appears to be determined to retreat into a bastion of anti-science medievalism that will condemn its adherents to poverty, illness and destitution for generations to come.

However, there is more to the scientific method than simply tacking “science” onto one’s name. The scientific method is about the impartial examination of the world in which we live, in order to determine the truth of our measurable physical reality. Unlike traditional religious belief, where dogma holds prime position the scientific method is about the fearless and unprejudiced investigation of the world and most importantly, about the preparedness of the individual to let go of pet theories that are not supported by the evidence.

While any individual scientist might find it difficult to let go of a cherished theory, the scientific ideal is for the abandonment of theories for which the evidence does not hold. This is in direct opposition to the dogmatic adherence to religious belief, whereby the belief is held to be true and all evidence and theories must be made to conform to that belief.

Far too many people glory in the fact that in a conflict between the science and their holy text, they will ditch the science and instead adhere to the supposed word of God. A prime example for this is the Christian “Intitute of Creation Research”, who’s whole point of existence is with finding purportedly scientific evidence for the “truth” of the Biblical creation myth. As an organisation, they would never countenance any evidence that contradicted the myth that they are claiming is in fact real, and perhaps unsurprisingly, as an organisation, they have not come up with a single discovery, or theory of value to the wider scientific community. In refusing to even countenance that they might be wrong, they have dealt themselves out of the scientific game and instead become a fortress of deception that seeks to provide comfort to those who are unable to countenance the possibility that their faith might be wrong.

And while much of the blame for deception needs to be laid at the feet of the deceivers, the deceived are also not entirely blameless. For a variety of cultural, psychological and other reasons, many people are hostile to critical thinking and too intellectually lazy to be bothered with ascertaining the facts, or with challenging their own cherished beliefs. Rather, it is much easier to accept the “gospel truth” from an authority figure, rather than engaging in the hard slog to appropriately ascertain the veracity of what is being claimed.

Failure to engage in this process facilitates the deception and allows it to spread like a cancer within our communities. It enriches those who would seek to engage in deception, while preventing the advancement of science and technologies that would benefit us all. Rather than engaging in new scientific discoveries, scientists are needlessly distracted by the necessity of endlessly rebutting the same worn out objections to their most basic discoveries.

When I first encountered Creation Science, I was fascinated. Here, it seemed, was evidence that the world might not be as old as I had been lead to believe. In the days before the internet, I had little choice but to purchase books on the subject and ask people who might have known a bit more than I. Despite my initial enthusiasm for the subject, it soon became clear to me that the whole topic was little more than deception. Even without reading rebuttals made by evolutionary scientists, many things didn’t make sense to me. How could all those animals have fit on the Ark? How did the fish survive? How did the platypus, kangaroo and koalas of my native Australia and whose fossils only appear in Australia, know how to get back to Australia from the Middle Eastern mountain on which they had been left stranded by the receding floods? How on earth had they gotten to Noah’s Ark in the first place?

The application of critical thinking on my part resulted in my becoming quite disillusioned with those who would seek to purvey this sort of nonsense as scientific fact. Crucially, it allowed me to understand that we need to work to produce a society of critical thinkers, who are prepared to challenge their most dearly held ideas and to discard those which don’t conform to the universe in which they live.

When combined with the Uncertainty Principle, the Reality Principle really comes into its own. It forces us to actively challenging the ideas that we hold most sacred, thereby freeing ourselves from the power of those who would seek to manipulate and deceive us. It allows us to reclaim our intellectual sovereignty and work towards building a culture of enlightenment, rather than one of delusion.  In such a society, there would be no sacred cows, no untested beliefs and no seeking refuge in the ancient deceptions of long dead men who would seek to control us all from beyond the grave.

And if it means that people, of their own free will, don’t believe a word that I write about the nature of the Divine and our journey through the Infiniverse, I regard that is an acceptable price to pay. 


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