Search This Blog

Monday, 1 February 2010


The above was the name of a Manic Street Preachers album. It came to mind when JDS posted on the Comments Board (for the Lynch/Murakami post) the following statement:

‘And there is no truth. No right answer. No absolute understanding (at least in this world)’

I’ll accept the latter – there’s plenty we’ll never understand in this world (by way of example, why the continuing success of Vernon Kay?). But the rest of the quote? Well that I utterly refute. It calls to mind Nietzche’s quote: ‘there are no facts, only interpretations’. All very interesting and post-modern, but clearly nonsense, given that in saying it he presumably believes he’s stating a fact. Just as JDS is presumably stating a perceived truth when saying there is none.

The fact is, 1+1=2. The reality is; the apple is on the table. Applied to a faith position, the reality is; either the world has come into being of its own accord from a starting point of nothing, or it has been created by a being infinitely greater than ourselves. One or the other is true. One or the other is a fact. Either Mohammad was God’s prophet (NOTE: Have altered a mistake here - wanted to acknowledge the fact or else yunshui's comment below looks delusional...) or he wasn’t. More pressingly for a society that has often relegated him to the position of ‘a good teacher’, Jesus Christ, in identifying himself as God’s promised son, was either telling the truth, lying or a madman. Ambivalence is an illegitimate response.

In reality, stating all worldviews to be equally valid is to state them all equally false. After all, they sure as heck can’t all be equally true! Not when they are often making statements in direct opposition to one another. Upon death, we are not going to be herded into separate queues, to be greeted by Mohammad, Jesus, the Buddha, Krishna, Elvis... each according to our preference. Those who place them neatly side by side are, I suspect, those who in reality expect nothing but ‘The End’ upon expiration. If they’re right, that’ll be the truth. But an absence of truth? That’s surely just a fancy way of saying ‘I don’t know’!

JDS’s view is very much the cultural trend at present. An all-encompassing straddling of the fence chimes neatly with the new, oh-so sensitive societal gospel of tolerance and equality. It doesn’t like exclusive truth statements, equating them increasingly with intolerance or hatred. But have we really given up on finding any kind of firm resolution? Do we really think there’s nothing worth investing our hopes in? I want to look for truth and celebrate when I reckon I’ve found it. I then want to talk about it with openly others. And if they disagree with me? Well I’ll happily tolerate the fact. I most certainly won’t hate them. I’ll just continue to state my case, they’ll state theirs and we’ll call it debate. And, ultimately, someone will be right and someone wrong. That there’s the truth…


  1. "either the world has come into being of its own accord from a starting point of nothing, or it has been created by a being infinitely greater than ourselves. One or the other is true."

    Or the world has always existed. Or it has been created and destroyed innumerable times. Or it's a Matrix-like fiction. Or it was created by natural forces acting on pre-existing matter. You present a false dichotomy.

    "Either Mohammad was God’s only prophet or he wasn’t."

    Show me a Muslim who makes that claim and I'll show you someone who knows bugger all about Islam. Muslims revere numerous prophets, of whom Muhammad is only the most recent.

    Those objections aside, I actually agree with you (regarding the objective nature of truth, not your conclusions, obviously!). Without reverting to multiverse theory, there is only one sequence of historical events which have led to this point in time. However, the question then becomes one of epistemology, since we have no absolutely certain way of establishing precisely what that sequence of events was. And, in the comparative religion setting you suggest above, the only possible arbiter for "truth" is faith. That's why I'm an atheist (well, one of many reasons). Faith is an unreliable tool for obtaining knowledge, since it is itself entirely subjective. How can a subjective tool be used to find an objective truth?

  2. Er yeah... whilst I am relatively ignorant about Islam, I'll still attribute the 'only prophet' gaffe to me rushing. Jesus, Abraham, Moses... they all get a look in prophet-wise so I think 'primary prophet' may have been more in order?
    Is it against blog-etiquette if, having posted this confession, I now go back and edit the post?

  3. Two things. First there is a difference between truth and fact. I'm not going to dispute 1+1=2 and the apple being on the table.

    But surely it's possible for people to look at the same set of facts, but draw differing conclusions? Isn't that what History is all about?

    Second you missed the second part of the quotation:

    "All there is, is a constant, engaging search."

    You've just proved my point...

  4. There's no disputing the fact that people can draw different conclusions from the same information - but I don't think that's what Andy's arguing against. It seems to me his point (with which I concur) is that only one of those people will be right. For example, there are those who deny that the Holocaust ever happened. They have access to the same information as the rest of us, yet they draw a different conclusion. Yet the reality (or unreality) of the Holocaust is not affected by their denial - it can't have both happened and not-happened. So either mainstream historians are correct, or the Holocaust deniers are correct - but they can't both be.

  5. while we are clarifying - my 'yes' was an agreement with Andy (unusual Andy I know!).
    Of course there is truth, even if it is more complex than we imagine it to be... to say that there is no right answer is ridiculous.

  6. And I'm not saying there's no right answer either. It's just that 'right' and 'wrong' are still constructs with regards to reality.

    Holocaust deniers and mainstream historians are both correct - within their frame of reference. And I'm not even sure both have access to the same information.

    It's easy enough to say that about something like the Holocaust denial. But what about available historical information about Jesus' life? Or the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11?

    If enough people agree on a singular viewpoint, does it become fact? If enough people agree that the Holocaust never happened, does it become fact? If enough people say they saw Jesus perform miracles, does it become fact? If enough people say they saw planes fly into the Towers and that destroyed them, does it become fact?

    There are some things we can't see yet - the seeing of which would change everything. I'm not sure who said that...but that's what I'm trying to put across.

    It still comes back to my point that all there is, is a constant engaging search.

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
    Albert Einstein

    "Life resolves itself in the process of life itself"
    Werner Erhard

    Believe what you believe.

    The truth is out there.

  7. BTW I'm not sure I'm someone who's views are "An all-encompassing straddling of the fence" who "doesn't like exclusive truth statements".

    I wonder if people who know me would think that?

  8. While it's right to argue with Nietzsche using the arguments you used in the above, I think you are a bit blasé in relation to him and post-modernism. There is a humility in understanding the mutability of knowledge, which does not require giving up on truth as a category. I think post moderns respect that. Nobody intentionally tries to walk through a wall, but 'reality is the wall you run into, when all your other options have run out.'

    I find asking what my unknown knowns are very helpful, especially when listening to somebody from a culture different from mine.

  9. On this point I recommend a video posted on my latest blog post called Unknown Knowns