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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