“There is no such thing as objective truth.”
“Oh, there isn’t?”
“So, if I understand, what you’re telling me is that no one can make a truth claim that is actually true?”
“Therefore, your statement is false that there are no objective truths. Correct?”
“You’re putting words in my mouth!”
“Ain’t it the truth!”
Okay, so that was a silly but illustrative exchange about truth. We now live in a “post-truth” world. In our culture, it isn’t that “truths” don’t exist it is just that “truth” is now a matter of opinion. And, opinions can change.
Let’s say for just a moment that you have come to my office at the hospital and have asked me to review the findings of your MRI of your brain. It’s what I do. As a radiologist, I interpret close to 200 studies every day of all types from plain X-rays to complex MRIs. You want to know what your study shows? Have a seat. Imagine the following exchange:
“Doctor, what did my MRI show?” You ask.
The doctor smiles at you and pulls up a set of gray images on a computer screen on his desk. He studies the images and then nods.
“Well, do you want good news or bad news?” He asks.
“Good news, of course.” You say.
“Your scan is completely normal.” He smiles again.
“But, what about the pain in my head?” You ask, a bit warily.
“Well, it will get worse if I give you the bad news.”
“What is the bad news?” You ask.
“I could say you have a brain tumor. That would make you very sad, wouldn’t it?” The doctor frowns.
“Yes, it would.”
“Then, in that case, I will tell you whatever truth you want to hear.”
Now, a simple question I put to you. Do you want to know the truth? I would say under these circumstances your answer would be yes. After all, we have medical tests to find out what is happening to us. We want to know the truth. But, if there is no objective truth, then how could we EVER rely on the results of any test? How could we relay on science, history, law, and human relationships?
In theory, it would be nice if we could create our own version of truth whenever it would be to our advantage. Wouldn’t that be nice? Unless we are at the other end of that falsehood. Accused of a crime we didn’t commit, for instance. The victim of false accusations! The courts are filled with lawsuits because of this and the legal relies on us telling “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Our entire universe reeks with objective truth. The very fabric of our reality is based on intangible facts we can only learn about but can never change. Logic. Math. Laws of physics. These are unchangeable and we don’t want them to change! Imagine if gravity was at our every beck and call? On the one hand, it might seem a good idea but what happens when you throw on your brakes to avoid a collision and the lack of gravity and friction lets you glide effortlessly into a fatal car wreck?
As attractive as it may seem to have a malleable and controlled truth, such a thing is not consistent with the universe we live in and the reality of our very existence. Truth is truly inconvenient. It is TRANSCENDENT, meaning beyond our control and it should be. It is based on REALITY, and this is known as the correspondence theory. Truth is TESTABLE and should always pass the objective inquiries we throw at it. Without objective truth we have no UNIVERSAL STANDARD for human morality and behavior. And finally, objective truth give us HUMAN VALUE as individuals. Don’t believe me? As Americans we owe our freedom and liberty to an idea reflected in the first American document:
We hold these TRUTHS be self evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We must hold to objective truth if we want our culture and our society to continue. The disconnect between a desire for a “post truth” culture and the overriding knowledge that objective truth exists is one of the leading causes of depression and suicide in our culture. Particularly among our young adults and teenagers. Mark and I talk about this in our book and provide abundant documentation for this claim.
So, pause for a moment and consider the objective quality of truth. We need it. We want it. Embrace it!