Established Truth and Awakening Truth

posted by Mike

I suspect that truth in all areas is a lot like scientific truth.  Truth in science has been and is a gradual acquiring of knowledge about the world (the universe and life).  I have recently been reading the essays of Stephen Jay Gould, the paleontologist and zoologist.  He wrote monthly essays for over 20 years for the publication, Nature.  His articles deal primarily with biological and paleontological topics, but he ranges over the spectrum of scientific issues, and in addition writes about ethics, morals, literature, and a host of other topics.  Gould was a Darwinist by persuasion and he often states that his primary love in his field is scientific research.  His essays are like little gems of information and new learning for the reader.  Gould himself reports that in writing each essay he himself learns much more about his topic, that each essay has its own awakenings for him in coming to understand the world and life on it a little bit better.  His creative approach to writing also  enlarges what we understand as “truth,” for ourselves, a little in each essay.

So I use the term “awakening truth” for scientific truth [one might also use the term “emergent truth”].  It is not static, but continually developing and enriching, when science is allowed a relatively free environment in which to work.  We have other “truths” in our experience.  Some would say we have ethical and moral truth, judicial truth (the U.S. Constitution, for example) and religious truth.  From what I see of these other truths, they, too, are flexible and change over time, reflecting new ways of thinking and seeing in these admittedly relatively stable systems.  There are some who believe that in some of these areas truth is firmly established.  I think we should be very wary of such thinking, as the realities of life are never static; conditions, cultures, and social needs do change over time and need to be reflected in cultural values and institutions.  Social and cultural change for the better has often been stymied in the past, not uncommonly for centuries, by those who were bent on maintaining established truth and who resisted those who were seeking awakening or emergent truth with the threats of exile and death by fire.

“…to those who know me only through these essays, ….Who can surpass me in the good fortune they supply; every month is a new adventure in learning and expression…I could not dent the richness in a hundred lifetimes, but I must simply have a look at a few more of those pretty pebbles.”   – Stephen Jay Gould, The Flamingo’s Smile

Stephen Gould died of cancer at the age of 61 in 2002  
[photo by Kathy Chapman]


Filed under philosophy

2 responses to “Established Truth and Awakening Truth

  1. Funny thing, I was just writing one on truth. Synchronicity?

  2. I think your “awakening truth,” is really “revealed truth.” But those may be the same. At least in your terms, there is the implication that the truth proceeded the awakening. I think only from the human perspective does the truth “awaken.” The awakening is within man and not within the truth.

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