Arrogance and Ignorance: Liberal and Conservative Truth

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

by Josh Gane

The idea that knowledge/truth is made and not found is an extremely liberal one, at least in the philosophical context.  Traditionally, western philosophical thought assumed an ultimate truth. This was usually God’s truth. Therefore, most people believed that truth cannot vary: there was just one way that the world was, period. Then with liberalism in the late 1700s, and postmodern thought in the 1900s, liberal thought gravitated towards relativism. The thought behind the movement was that it would lessen the cruelty resulting from the "I'm right, you're wrong" dynamic that ultimate truth necessarily assumes. With ultimate truth, somebody has to be wrong, and it is easier to dehumanize and act cruelly towards them.

And yet, in today’s politics, it appears that this tradition has been inverted. Liberals now treat science in the same way that conservatives treated, “the word of God.” To liberals, there is no chance that science can be wrong, or at least, they speak of it this way. On the other hand, American conservatives are now using startling catchphrases like, ‘alternative truth,’ and ‘fake news. Conservatives feel that liberals are not ‘liberal’ with information at all. In fact, the right feels as though the left sets out to control knowledge, much like liberal thinkers of the 16th century (Galileo for instance), thought of Christianity.

In 2020, for liberals, science IS the church. And yet, liberals are fooling themselves if they believe that science is without flaws. We see scientists disagree with one another all of the time about the most basic functions. A historical example is the theory of gravity. Most people give Isaac Newton full credit for ‘discovering’ gravity, but Einstein completely discredited gravitational pull with the warping of space time. Scientists disagree on the Big Bang, alternate universes, etc., even though there is math to make compelling arguments on both sides.

My point is this: science is called science, and not the ‘word of God,’ because liberal thinkers wanted to be able to disagree with long held maxims, facts, theories, laws etc. They used science in order to find the best available explanation of the universe in order to help us as humans’ function. Isn’t that enough? Why do we need science to be perfect?

I will propose an answer: I think the reason that liberals now insist on science being God-like is because conservatives stole their playbook. Conservatives are trying to do to science what liberals did to religion: discredit it. And liberals react by arrogantly cramming science down people's throats. The only problem is, conservatives are not replacing science with anything compelling. There seems to be no good explanation on their part to disagree with science other than to be difficult and advance personal interests. Replacing science with something like, “Trump said so, so it is true,” is not going to fly.

It is ignorant to believe that science is not the best available tool to aid humanity in prospering. I don’t, however, think that liberals should give science, ‘God’ power, because then it simply replaces religion as something that cannot be doubted. And, of course science should be doubted! That is how we get better science! It is intelligent to doubt, but it is ignorant to condemn without having any good explanation for it. And that is what the conservatives have done. 

The conservatives have taken full liberty with the ‘truth.’ This is dangerous. It basically means that they can just say whatever suits their current situational needs which, if it catches fire, will lead to the very thing that they accuse the liberal media of doing: controlling information. Once the public decides that truth is a game to be toyed with, a joking way to piss off the other political party, a leader will come along and exploit it in a way that harms the public good. We may already be at that point, but it can get worse. In order to save ourselves, liberals can offer an olive branch: admit that they could be wrong from time to time. Use rhetorical devices that are less divisive in appearance. Give a little to gain a lot.

In conclusion, let’s not go to extremes! It is okay to doubt, but it is not okay to be knowingly ignorant.

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