Recently, Ursula K. Le Guin responded to an opinion letter in her local paper where a reader had compared science fiction to “alternative facts” which a certain administration has offered as an explanation for the disparity between their information and that of the media. Le Guin stated, correctly, that the two can’t be compared. That people who offer “alternative facts” aren’t crafting imaginary science fiction, they’re simply lying. And they aren’t inventing these for entertainment or enjoyment. They’re doing it to fool, scare or manipulate others.
However, why do so many of us -believe- those “alternative facts”?
For a while there, “post-truth” was all the rage. The furor has died down but I still catch a mention from time to time. More importantly, it hasn’t died down because it has gone away. It seems to have died down because people have fully bought into the notion.
I think it’s wrong. If anything, we are in an era of “hyper-truth”.
Truth is religion’s province. You don’t question it, you accept it as fact. It has no rational basis because in order to accept it you don’t need schooling or the IQ of Einstein, all you need is faith. You believe it and it is immutably true. Forever.
Rationality is what drives science. The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive though as of late, many have tried to claim they are. However the methods used which you arrive at the foundations of each are entirely exclusive of each other.
It’s what pissed me off so much about the ramp up of creationism a few years ago. Clearly, the practitioners of this belief were trying to start from a place of absolute truth and use science to work their way back to it. They did this because they felt the current scientific theory of evolution did not match their world view.
But science isn’t about truth. It’s about questions. It’s about understanding reality, not creating a singular definition of it.
So whose truth is correct?
By definition they can’t be. They’re not proven, they’re based on faith. Neither right or wrong. And that’s the damn problem.
It isn’t a problem that people hold different truths. The problem is we are hyper-truth. We are post-rational. Where everything down to the average global temperature over the past hundred years is a “truth”. Meaning data, rational discourse, and discovery don’t matter. What matters is what you believe. Where you’ve placed your faith.
We’re trapped, living our own fictions. We’ve ensconced ourselves in little cloistered worlds which confirm only what we want to believe. Used to be that only happened in church and then you left that sacred space and had to confront the real world, returning weekly to reaffirm faith. Now, it’s a full time preoccupation.
Blame it on the constant flood of connectivity. Blame it on poor schooling. Or a population confined to desks and cubicles, car seats and couches, most of their waking moments, oblivious to the real world. Whatever the cause, we are living our fictions and need to snap out of it, fast, before things spiral completely out of control.
Leave the fiction to people like me.