When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
– The Declaration of Independence
Caution! Beans will be hot after cooking!
– Bag of frozen green beans
Question: What do the citations above have in common?
Answer: They both make reference to self-evident truths.
You know the reason we can be sure that we are living in an ignorant, postmodern culture? Because these things have had to be stated in print.
Yes, postmodernism, the bane of all truth. Postmodernism, which holds that there is no such thing as a self-evident truth; everything is “show me” to the postmodern. To the postmodern mind, nothing can be simply assumed, “what if?” is the buzz phrase of every conversation, and questioning EVERYTHING is the order of the day.
To the postmodern, to say you know the truth is the height of arrogance. The truly humble, it is held, will admit that they have their own thoughts about certain things, but that these are not absolute and may change tomorrow. To say that you know how it is means you are an unenlightened, naive individual; someone to be pitied, but not to be listened to. The sages of old were bold in proclaiming the truth, whereas the postmodern sages simply shrug. The words “I don’t know” show the deepest wisdom, but the words “This is most certainly true” are the height of pride and folly.
Postmodernists claim that, since what is considered “true” is always changing and going through revision, it is quite simply foolish to dogmatically assert that you know the truth – after all, it will just change again tomorrow.
The classic example is eggs. As you may know, eggs used to be considered quite the health food. But their days were numbered, for eventually they came to be considered unhealthy due to cholesterol levels. Then they were healthy again as body-building became more popular, but not long after they were back on the “bad” list. Currently, moderation is the recommendation (as it should have been all along), but for how long?
Or what about margarine? For years it was the “healthy alternative to butter”. Health professionals hip to the latest thing were encouraging their clients to ditch butter for Crisco. But now that research has shown the artery-clogging realities, we health professionals are faced with the task of educating people on the dangers of trans-fats, and watching the faces of our heart attack victim patients drop as they realize that what they thought was a beneficial change for their heart actually did more harm.
Postmoderns take anecdotes like these and say, “See! The doctors, nurses, and dietitians who were so positive that margarine was a health food are now eating their words! They dogmatically preached the wonders of Crisco, positive that this ‘truth’ would help their patients, but they were wrong all along. See how stupid and dangerous it is to claim to know the truth?”
These arguments certainly have the appearance of wisdom, I will grant that. However, several things must be put into context.
#1 – These arguments invoke complex studies on complex issues.
Appealing to the issues of the healthiness of eggs and margarine (or what have you, these arguments are a dime a dozen) is to create a faulty parallel. The issue of the effects of certain substances on the human body is an ongoing field of research and is substantively different than the observation that I have blue eyes. The former produces data that is subject to adjustment as further studies are conducted, the latter is just a given to anyone who has ever looked me in the eye.
So really, to argue as the above is to create a sort of straw-man.
#2 – These arguments neglect the place of facts.
Yes, facts. Such as, “I drove to work today.”
Did you really? How can you be sure?
These questions have no place. You drove to work and that’s that. People saw you. The needle on your gas tank is lower. You got a paycheck. You drove to work – end of story.
You must realize that there are things in this world that are objectively verifiable. I am wearing blue jeans. I have brown hair and whiskers (which I should probably trim before Church tomorrow). I am a Registered Dietitian. I am typing on a laptop. These are things I know. They are facts.
#3 – These arguments are anything but consistent.
Life cannot be lived with a universally postmodern mindset. Go through your pantry or fridge and pull out an item. If you are consistently postmodern, you must ask yourself, “is this a can of creamed corn, or rat poison, or some other more nefarious substance?” As a postmodern, you would have to conclude that you don’t know. In fact, since almost every single postmodernist not only says they don’t know, but that no one can know and that there is no way of knowing for sure, you would have to regard that can of “whatever” with complete and utter skepticism.
Now, eventually you will get hungry enough to tempt fate and try some, even not knowing what you are ingesting. Eventually uncertainty and fear will give way to your basic human need for food, and you will cross your fingers and dig in. But here’s the thing: are you sure enough it is not poison to feed it to your wife? Your children? Will you put their lives on the line and give them something that for all you know could be arsenic/mercury/cyanide surprise?
All of this is patently insane, of course. Only the worst of schizophrenics regard creamed corn with such skepticism. The rest of us say, “yeah, says right on the label, ‘creamed corn’. This’ll go great with some baked beans and a turkey leg.” We would have no problem feeding our families with it, because we subconsciously accept the idea that absolute truth and, more importantly in this context, the knowability of truth exists.
Thus, the line of reasoning that says, “but you can’t know for sure” is inherently flawed from the start in that it is impossible to employ consistently. But some of you don’t get that. Some of you, while you would not feed your wife and children something that you don’t know exactly what it is, feed those same people everyday with your speculative “philosophy” of religion. You say, “well, there’s no way of knowing what the truth about God is; this is my best guess though. Open up!”
Okay, so what’s the point I’m driving at?
Basically, this is a warning to you, the reader. Once you open the Pandora’s box of speculation and launch into that barrage of “what if”s, you are treading on dangerous turf. The “I don’t know, nor can it be known for sure” manner of thinking is a lie, it’s a lie, it’s a lie.
Don’t drink the postmodern Kool-Aid.
Or was that Tang?
I guess we just can’t know for sure.
Anyway, more posts in this vein soon to come…