07 October 2016

Musing on epistemology

I was watching the 2 hour Nova episode about how humanity spread "out of Africa" throughout the globe, starting about 100,000 years ago, and I got to thinking about something. We behold a vast panoply of cultural wealth and sound reasons to marvel at the diversity and ingenuity of the human race in all of its various manifestations. We accept the beliefs of others as reflecting their perspective, and if we're smart, we recognize that our own cultural biases, and vested interests, sometimes blind us to realities that others have perceived better.

But having said that, I think it's important to recognize, even to celebrate the fact that there actually is a long arc of increased knowledge about the World ("universe"), and increased understanding of how to make human life, and even the life of other beings with whom we share our planet, easier, more fruitful, less violent, more productive.

So when people make truth claims based on ancient books or the cultural traditions of other cultures that simply contradict the results of long, and difficult examination of reality through the proven empirical methods of scientific investigation, I say, they should be politely, but firmly, told that they are full of shit. The world was not created in six days 6000 years ago. It's just not true. Aliens did not build the pyramids. The Great Spirit did not create the world. Native Americans have not "always been here" in America. These things are just not true, and the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that.

Respect for others, celebration of the richness and beauty of our cultural heritage, yes. But reliance on stories as a basis for our understanding of the way the world really is… no. 


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