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Does the Greek letter chi stand for Chicago?

Politics parading as truth
President Randel makes several questionable assertions in his column on truth. He states that truth can only be reached through reason. Apparent facts (sometimes turning out to be fictitious) can be discovered by means of reason, but fundamental truth cannot; that is why many people, particularly in the University, in the climate of a postmodern and post-Christian age, deny the possibility of fundamental truth. Without a belief in a transcendent truth, personal honesty becomes just another value to be practiced when it is personally advantageous. In my experience, personal honesty is not more common in the University than in the outside world.

President Randel suggests that the current American administration is one exemplar of political dishonesty requiring correction by the University. The reality is that scientists have become increasingly politicized; this is evident in medicine, education, and social science as well as the environmental issues to which he refers. Consider the issue of global warming, where, rejecting the political opinions of a majority of vocal scientists, the U. S. administration has played an important part in killing the pseudo-scientific Kyoto accord. Many scientists, including many who do not work in climatology or geology, claim as truth the hypothesis that global warming is not just a temporary feature of continuous climate change, that the major cause of warming is human behavior resulting in increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, and that the reduction of industrial activity in North America (but not in those populous countries where industrial activity is increasing most rapidly—India and China) will result in a measurable deceleration in the rate of global warming.

No parts of that hypothesis have been or can be subjected to tests of scientific truth; none is a refutable proposition. Some geologists and climatologists do not accept either that carbon dioxide is a cause of global warming or that it can be mitigated, and believe that spending on its attempted diminution diverts attention from the reduction of pollution of our air, land, rivers, and oceans—a project both feasible and measurable.

Ironically, President Randel’s supposedly apolitical message will likely be well received by the predominantly liberal audience of the University. An important question of truth for your readers to consider is: are the public statements emanating from the University less self-serving than those from government?

Mark Holmes, PhD’69
Port Hope, Ontario

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