A project of The Nature Institute
Biology Worthy of Life
Quote of the Week
(August 8, 2022)
You might hope that, if only by association, the invocation of science in a conversation would naturally lead people to relax their grip on hard-and-fast dogma. You might hope that the thought of science would inspire them to consider the rich, many-faceted contexts of the topic under discussion, searching these contexts for new insights — for a deeper and transformed understanding of the issues at hand.
But, no, the desire for the imprimatur of science becomes little more than competition for an authoritative word from on high. It is enough to say, “There is no scientific evidence that...” or “It has been shown scientifically that...” and the conversation is expected to halt at the stark dividing line between certainty and nonsense. If you've already “got” an unarguable truth, why muddy the waters with contextual complication?
The underlying cognitive gesture we are speaking of also helps to illuminate our loss of humanity's earlier, participative relation to knowledge and the world. If we can fix and possess the truth, then clearly it cannot possess us. By keeping a tenacious grip upon the truth — which only seems possible so far as, in good Cartesian style, we imagine the world to exist wholly outside the observing mind rather than in living conversation with it — we spare ourselves the worry that the truth of the world might demand something uncomfortable of us. Reality is no longer something we must follow, no longer a way. Our truth ceases to bring us into a mutual exchange with the world.