Somebody’s Wrong on the Internet!

Someone I am acquainted with opined on Facebook recently that because you can manipulate data to seemingly “prove” different and even often opposing results that there is no such thing as “truth”. One person’s reality is just another person’s re-imagined data set. I’m not certain if this misunderstanding is a direct result of the Age pf Big Data, or if it’s simply a byproduct of a young mind maturing and realizing that “objective truth” is a much more elusive concept that one might wish it to be.

Here’s the thing, dear readers. Let’s go at this gently as so not to frighten to death our secret lizard brains or monkey minds or inner caveman, whatever you call your primitive hind-brain that keeps you breathing and wants up to be up and down to be firmly down– no messing around with metaphysical anomalies allowed.

The way we experience reality is indeed entirely subjective, cultural, and rooted very deeply in the way we name things. Take for example, Pluto. Is Pluto a planet or a dwarf planet? A minor planet? A Kuiper belt object? A TNO? We can quibble endlessly about definitions, pop science’s influence on public opinion about Pluto, and even the need to call that hunk of rock out there anything at all. It doesn’t change the nature of the thing, only our perceptions, and maybe our understanding of the thing.

Pluto-01_Stern_03_Pluto_Color_TXT.jpg

Color photo of Pluto from Applied Physics Laboratory

If someone became convinced that Pluto is really an alien spaceship that was going to come to earth soon and take the souls of the worthy away to a better place, however, we’ve turned down a path of subjectivity which is not only poorly supported by the available data set, but is dangerous to the believers and those around them. Think of those people who committed suicide because of similar beliefs surrounding the comet Hale-Bopp.

So all subjective opinions about reality are not created equal. We owe it to ourselves and others to evaluate the various subjective realities that are postulated to us carefully. Like followers of Asclepius, we must pledge first to do no harm, for we are the physicians of our own realities.  And secondly, we always need to keep in mind that an actual, true reality is out there even if we perceive it, to steal from Saint Paul, “through a glass darkly”.

Keep polishing that glass, dear ones. Keep polishing.

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7 thoughts on “Somebody’s Wrong on the Internet!

  1. Whew! Heavy lifting for the middle of July in downtown South Texas. Could it be the full moon? No, wait, we’re talking about Pluto. Oh well. I’ll keep scrubbing on that glass and hope my vision clears. Thanks for the taser to some of my dormant brain cells!!

  2. Pluto.. the planet that will always be. Do No Harm needs to be plastered across the world. It is true about perception, and definitely got me thinking.

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