Friday, 30 July 2010

truth by points of authority

i've always wondered how 'knowledge' is passed down. obviously we stand on the shoulders of giants, for who could be expected to plant their own beanstalks, then climb them and ransack some pitiful (yet innocent) mythical creature of his deservedly-earned plunders. especially when said beanstalk keeps growing from the time someone uppercuts that golden '?' box.

what we need in this picture is some goombas. maybe a singing harp, too.

that horrible train of thoughts is just to say that, we've run so far, delved so deep and mined so tirelessly into each and every (currently-known) area of knowledge, that we just can't expect everyone to start from scratch. that, and we risk waking up balrogs.

YOU. SHALL. NOT. PASSSSSS!. yeap, i went there.

following from this, i'd just like to give a triple example of something that's been fermenting in my mind, but i have yet to be able to express it in a coherent way. this way i seem artistic, articulate, knowledgeable and i get to make bad analogies. like about ideas and fermentation. who the hell does that, anyway?

ahem. so let's start with an easy one. science. when you're young and innocent, and the world is full of buttercups and chocolate rainbows, you are a tabula rasa of sorts. and so how do we know how electricity makes the world go 'round? how do birds fly and why do onions make mom cry like a little emo kid on his birthday? how, oh how, do fricken magnets work?

so, we have teachers. and books. and magazines, and the discovery channel. we read, and listen, we see and we absorb, everything is taken for truth and we build the unseen world of bacteria and atoms and black holes in our minds. and it all makes sense. kinda. then we grow up a bit and we realise that, though awesome, our teachers weren't perfect :( things are smudged over, and gray areas are avoided. sometimes (dear god) stories are made up for 'brevity' and 'convenience', and one day we would learn the more complicated truths ourselves. for example, i remember when i was in high school, my teacher would teach us of how simplistic the atom is, with its protons and neutrons in the nucleus and the orbiting electrons way out there somewhere, magically spinning. for all i knew, this could be witchcraft and wizardry. then i go to university and it all falls apart, and we learn about schrodinger and his silly cats and all that jazz.

so how do we know what's 'real' in science? what's really 'true' and what's just made up for the convenience of today's understanding (and let's not even go into the differences of time/space/scales/and whales, like how newton preceded einstein and his colleagues. but that's for another day). authority only gets you so far, after which you need empiricism. and for that, i think it's only fitting that you find out what empiricism is, for yourself. (i'm just lazy that way, and this post is hella long).

second on the agenda is something from the opposite pole. arts. for those taking arts and literature and maybe some related subjects, i'm going to go with the disclaimer straight off the bat 'there is no wrong or right in arts'. there is no 'truth' and 'falsities'. at least, not to yourself. but, how can you tell what is 'more true'? what is it that the people want? what is it that you want? what is it that the world wants from your form of art? here, maybe even more than in science, authority holds sway. and empiricism is just as important, although the facts or truths themselves are less important in arts than the interpretation of them, as opposed to, say, in science. now we introduce logic. although being the hallmark of mathematics and philosophy, in this context, i'm gonna go out on a limb and say 'you can't logic your way through discovery'. or something to that extent. science requires the hard facts to come from their natural sources. experiments, observations, singularities and phenomena, all go through a vigorous scientific process to come up with your microwave and ipod. of course, there's logic in putting the pieces together, but here we're talking about the obtaining of the pieces. the ways of knowing.

this opens a whole new door, but i'm trying to drive home the authority vs. empiricism thing, so i'll just leave that part hanging for today. maybe you can think about what logic really is in your free time. yeah, you're definitely going to do that, aren't you? wait, are those pigs flying outside my window? ah, nevermind, it's just an undead on a raptor on a shark with fricken laser beams.

sweet world of warcraft jesus, we're all fscked, now!

okay, let's wrap this up post-haste, because. hey. keep reading. god damn it, nobody walks away from raptors and sharks and lasers. ahem. yeah, the last part is about the in-between. limbo of sorts between science and art. enter religion: does it use the aforementioned methods of knowing?

1. authority? check.
2. empiricism? sometimes. i guess.
3. logic? yeahhhh... not gonna touch this one with a 10 foot stick.
4. enlightenment. revelation. intuition. inspiration.

well, well. what's this. all the prophets and buddha and yoda and sweet gleeful jesus and his mom (no disrespect here, mary) all have 'real' ways of knowing. well that's a relief. but just how relieved do you feel knowing that everything you hold dear and makes the world go 'round is all just... possibly someone tripping on acid weed from columbia? or having an unfresh moment, drying up in the desert sun like a prune on independence day? don't get me wrong, i'm not dissing religion. i'm not an atheist myself, and i believe in stuff higher than the equations in my math book. but i have to confess, sometimes, i don't really fall asleep feeling very confident with... certain things. then my tired a$$ dozes off and i wake up all reset like buzz and his spanish mode.

and here's where everything becomes complicated, right? yeah, i'll just leave you before i mindfrick everyone with my random banter. 'til next time, kids, toodles.

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