Ascertained and Presumed ‘Truths’: A Discussion about Claiming and Denying

by Rosolino Buccheri

Let me approach to such a slippery topic with only a few although concrete certainties, implied by the word ‘truth’, in its general and specific meanings. The first of these certainties is that human brain has not the possibility to see and appreciate, fully and simultaneously, the whole complex reality around us, because it is not able to keep consciously in mind the enormous quantity of occurrences, of so diverse and often contrasting nature, with which we are in contact along an entire life. This is a natural gap from which nobody may ever escape because it implies a very important limit to our view of the world around. A limitation that forces us to decide between the two: either looking deeply into the details of a restricted topic, as normally do specialists – who, on the other side, constantly risk to fall into evaluation errors when approaching contexts out of their competence or even of general type -, or looking from far, as normally try to do philosophers, who may often fall into the opposite risk to lose fine but important details, with the result of sometimes mistaking reality with fantasy.

Actually, only a small percentage of our experiential data may constantly be present to our everyday attention, the most of them being normally hidden in the unconscious from where it is not always easy to voluntary bring to consciousness. To such a knowledge gap, determined by the intrinsic limitations of the human brain, our unconscious may somehow compensate by raising to consciousness (often unwittingly) the data needed to the present aim. However, in order to dump possibly dangerous conflicts with
the adopted mental habit, not all the data hidden in the unconscious may be raised up to conscience but only those which conform to the peculiarity of our present way of living. An operation, this last, practically consisting in an unconscious filtering of our experiences by means of data able to fill the holes of our present knowledge, even if not necessarily supported by really lived events. Such arisen ‘beliefs’, artificial or real, may become with time always more stable in our minds and therefore more difficult to get free from them, in order to make us able to explicate any requested duties with the certainty to be always coherent with the role we have chosen to cover within society.

As modern psychology admonishes us, the mechanism above mentioned is put into action from our psyche – we mostly unawares – by hiding or even slightly twisting the meaning of some of our memories, in case they would find themselves in a dangerous contradiction with respect to our certainties of the moment, and therefore impossible to accept wittingly. It can be said shortly and abruptly that we are ready to accept or refuse any presumed truths mainly as a function of our mental peacefulness, as requested
by the stability of our role within society. Such acceptances or refusals, however, even if more or less addressed by our unconscious, will anyway appear to us as voluntary and justified and we will remain obsessively bound to them even if they cannot be clearly proved. In most cases, we will defend them against ‘truths’ opposed by others, who defend other ‘truths’ that, like ours, cannot be proved, just because they got stable according to the same unconscious processes to us occurred even if in different
conditions of life.

Denialism. Public ‘truths’, of which we are continuously fed along life, have not always the same level of truthfulness. There are historic or scientific truths, continuously and publicly discussed, on which we shouldn’t have any doubt, since they are always under the reflectors of our conscience because submitted to accurate analyses and approved only after years of experimentation and control. But even so and in spite of such a continuous, fine, work of great social usefulness, fringes of enemies of the reason, lacking any independent and rigorous analysis’ ability, but proudly convinced of their own thoughts’ autonomy, often suggested by their unconscious, as above mentioned – do not believe a priori to such ascertained truths. This happens independently from any evidence is put in front of their attention, especially if suggested from their unconsciously accepted certainties, or if externally stimulated with evident scopes
of enlistment to protest, when instead it would be needed some level of concentration effort, not always accessible to minds not accustomed to a constant mental application, necessary for a useful analysis of
what really happens around us.

So, just for a blind defense of their own prejudices, sometimes even supported by lack of training to study and attention, or for personal social or political interests or, finally, just for the pleasure to contest, we find many who deny even irrefutable scientific truths concerning, for example, even the roundness of Earth or the Moon’s conquest by man. Concerning the shape of the Earth, still nowadays we know about the existence of people stubborn to culture that even contests its roundness, as if we were still in the medieval age when the Copernico’s and Kepler’s studies were accepted with mistrust together with the experimental observation by Tycho Brahe and Galileo Galilei in the second half of the seventeenth century (just to quote some of them), not talking about the subsequent statements by other giants of science, like Simon de La Place, Albert Einstein and many others. Peoples rebellious to culture, these ones, but able to contest even the existence of the Apollo 11 Space Mission with the landing of the lunar module Eagle on the Moon’s surface with the American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, while the third spaceman Michel Collins waited along the lunar orbit within the Columbia command module, ready to bring back to Earth the three astronauts. Great enterprise, this one, recorded and showed all over the world in all their small details, and notwithstanding it, contested to-day by few uneducated rabid people, capable to refuse all what their insufficient knowledge does not allow to fully understand. For such people, the a priori refusal remains the easiest of the contesting possibilities to them available.

Even worst, there are still those who deny the ample and historically ascertained phenomena of enormous social importance, like Hebrews’ holocaust occurred along the second world war, or the present historical moment concerning the Covid pandemic situation, in spite of the ascertained hundreds of millions dead people all over the world. The denial attitude in this case only slightly escapes from such a hard analysis, and may be, only laterally, justified because it can be attributed to the instinctual angry reaction to the unforeseen turmoil occurred because of the abruptly interrupted activities from which a lot of people draw their main sustenance, without which their existence may be heavily compromised.

It is very true that many unlucky workers risk to have nullified tens of years of hard work oriented toward a specific professional route, due to the necessary modifications, behavioral, social, and professional, inflicted by the sanitary emergence. At the same time, it cannot be hidden the fact that much of these professional routes has often been based on the unfair use of the available resources on Earth (forests, cultivations, water, biodiversity, …) without a full consideration about their long term sustainability with respect to the consequences implied for the terrestrial ambient. An unrighteous process, this one, dictated by an ever blind policy, disrespectful of the environmental needs and – unfortunately for many people inadvertently involved – interrupted by the advent of a pandemic event, unexpected by a humanity ever apt to consider itself above the same Nature from which it derives. The real and perfectly visible conse-quences of such a pandemic condition are not yet easily accepted by many, often brainwashed by a par-adisiac view of a luminous economic future, announced by those who had bet upon such a future since long time, looking at their personal fortunes.

Claiming attitude. After having mentioned, even briefly, some of the denial cases, i.e. those concerning events taken as absolute ‘truth’ even in presence of contrary demonstration, I would consider wrong to not talk about the opposite case, i.e. the convinced and net acceptance of hypothetical truths, never ascertained without any shadows of doubt. The erroneous tendency to raise some of our present living habits up to ‘nature laws’, always and forever valid, because of their convinced acceptance by many, even in spite of the absence of tangible elements of veracity on their absolute truthfulness, may be considered as the opposite case of the denial theme already discussed, therefore able to generate problems of similar seriousness.

There are various kinds of such ‘truths’ asserted with great certainty in spite of the absence (contingent or even absolute) of precise proofs able to confirm them at planetary level. I then think necessary to investigate such an item within the same discussion about presumed or ascertained truths. Item that I have indicated as ‘claiming attitude’ to mean the attitude by many people to give for certain something that has not been proved as such. In the following I shall exclude from our discussion any ridiculous beliefs that may switch on the phantasy of somebody, as for example the belief in the presence of extra-terrestrial beings spying us from undefinable and invisible space objects unknown to us, or similar trifles. Let’s go then to more interesting cases having well in mind that it is not always possible to have available means, of so strict logic value, able to prove the absolute truthfulness of statements concerning uses or beliefs established since long time.

Concerning our social life, we have to accept a priori – for ours and others’ benefit – all those basic principles needed for the stability of the society itself, independently of any proof of their absolute truth-fulness. This holds, for example, in case of truths of religious type. The religious belief cannot be subject to experimental proofs, but the great participation to such kind of feeling, measured by the enormous number of persons on the Earth to which is referred, does not allow to put it into discussion for the simple reason that it is based on the vital impulse of any human beings, mortal and fleeting on the Earth, to believe in an extraterrestrial existence able to manage our future after the unavoidable death.

Taken this point for fixed, we cannot hide the enormous variety of modes that, besides extra-human qualities like omniscience and omnipotence, are attributed to God by the various human cultures, for example those specific of the differences of hopes during and after life. Variety that materializes in front of us as soon as we compare the many ways, official or not, that describe the religious feeling around the world through the great number of dogmatic and ritual differences; all strictly dependent on the millenary traditions of any single belief, therefore variable from people to people because related to different cultures and social activities. It is a variety that frustrates the presumption of major truthfulness of one religious faith with respect to others; truthfulness that along the human history have often been mistaken for absolute certainty by opposite faiths, thus causing bloody wars and huge carnages of innocent peoples, among the most ferocious of history, phenomena occurring still to-day in many regions of the world.

Independently from the belief in God, the belief in creationism, although supported still nowadays by many, does not have any reason to be accepted as a certainty. Following the cosmological studies initiated by the priest-scientist George Lemaitre and those in the biologic sector started by Charles Darwin, it became definitely clear that our world was not created from nothing few thousand years ago, and that life on Earth exists since four billions years, i.e. just since its formation, probably arrived from sidereal spaces, even still in elementary forms. Knowledge, the last, that was not enough to erase at all the idyllic idea by many that human being, further than having been created only few thousand years ago, is also exempt from following the laws of evolution of life, at variance with the rest of living species.

The belief by many people to consider absolute and independent from history some social and contingent phenomena, is all the same able to enter overwhelmingly in the category of faiths, fiercely felt in a religious way. It is a fact, for example, that the notable socio-economic theory formulated by Karl Marx and Frie-drich Engels is used by many to raise up communism to an undisputable faith’s axiom. Communism was actually born and started to develop at about the end of ‘800, when the birth and developments of important technologic activities started requiring the help of large masses of workers, often using unpleasant and alienating assembly chains. Circumstance that produced humiliating submission relations be-tween employees and employers with long and exhausting work shifts and scant salaries. Such a set-up has, fortunately, gone through profound modifications along the past century, both for the advent of new machineries able to consistently reduce (making it more human) the charge of work, and also for the important cultural activity done at those time by labor unions who, to-day, in the competition with classic economic groups for the influencing power, have climbed up of many steps.

Communism, although ferociously opponent to religion along the full course of last century, has often assumed the characteristics of an almost religious belief, based on the promoted idea that humans have the same needs. Such a belief, perhaps due also to its intrinsic inconsistence, has given rise along time to the continuous appearance and disappearance of innumerable groups, often in reciprocal ideological con-trast, both for the primacy concerning the ‘purity’ of their specific principles and for the way to define an universally accepted ideal, representative of the need to modify our society in all its bases in order to give rise to a society of ‘equals’.

I believe that pretending to build a society of ‘equals’ is an unrealistic objective – other than dangerous, as demonstrated by the birth of powerful totalitarian regimes -, mainly because it is fanciful and therefore impossible to realize due to the real fact that we humans are not all equal, but, exactly on the contrary, we are all different from one another. It is a statement that derives from the fact that our DNA (the molecule of DeoxyriboNucleic Acid) is different for each single person, such to be used for individual identification. DNA says that human physicality and tendencies, although similar, are different for each one of us, circumstance easily recognizable also looking at the diversities of experiences we continuously live in the course of our life.

To have mistaken tout court ‘similarity’ with ‘equality’ has created the premises, apt – for peoples humiliated and raddled because excluded from the availability of the necessary means for a decent living – to see in the communism the axiomatic characteristics of a religion, although opposed to classic religions, thus implicitly favoring the birth, from the Russian revolution ahead, of entire nations that proudly define themselves ‘communist’. The so called ‘cold war’ of last century between Soviet Union and the liberal western countries, was the dangerous consequence of such a situation that, moreover, is nowadays amplified with the presence in the world of a conspicuous number of national states where a strict control on people is established, apt to maintain it at a civil state low but equal for all, except for those who manage the power and richness of the nation.

A virtuous political process would be desirable, able to manage with caution the natural differences between persons above discussed, such to ensure the vital needs of everybody, even different, avoiding unacceptable excesses, both of power and of poverty, whose consequences may only be supporter of accumulation of richness from some against the weakest part of the population. Probably an utopic process, the last, that might remain impossible to put into operation within any democracy, when its super-visors must inevitably be elected by a people of ‘not equals’ but considered ‘equals’ (one head, one vote), where the opinion of the frailest and less aware – but more numerous – is piloted from the minority, more powerful and aware, especially because of the unavoidable presence of economical (sometimes criminal) organizations able to benefit of such differences, thus affecting at their own advantage what should instead be a free democratic process.

Evolution. The concept of evolution is not only relative to the expansion of the universe. Our ideas about the knowledge and management of the world around us evolve too, together and coherently with the changes occurring along the development of the human society. What is first wrapped within myth’s aura or within our hopes, may become in the course of time a steady knowledge, or may dissolve in a dream and abandoned. This concepts may become even clearer when we consider that our world, subdivided since millennia into very little communicating communities, is nowadays exploding toward a system totally interconnected, where it is easy to expect the future disappearance of many local traditions together with their implicit pseudo-certainties, which have been up now protected by the difficulties of communications. The present situation may be such that we all could sooner or later converge in a common view of the world and, as a consequence, a common modus vivendi. A new state of affairs, then, tending unavoidably to bring notable and unexpected modifications to our beliefs, up to now thought as absolute within the previous limited borders of each single human community.

We are not limited only spatially, however. Even the perception of Time may be a limiting factor. Actually, one of the most important motivations of the need to believe in absolute truths and, sometimes, even to totally adhere to them, is the unavoidable fact to live a life whose duration is infinitely shorter of the duration of the overhead cosmic events. A somehow unmodifiable situation this one, that gives to man a very slow perception of the time flow, certainly good for our living but that makes extremely difficult to look well beyond our brief existence – both individual and social –, due to our being merged in the perpetuating human generations with always similar physical and mental characteristics for times ex-tremely longer than a single human life but extremely shorter with respect to cosmic events.

A perception, this one, that can be considered reasonable and even necessary for human life, but one that prevent us to have clear in mind the important influence of Time, particularly for what concerns the comparison between the duration of the human civilization on Earth – only few tens of thousands years – and the duration billions of times longer of the cosmic events. The only fact that we cannot fully comprehend such an enormous difference lets us implicitly believe that we and humanity itself are stable with time, independently from the fact that the life of our solar system is only at half of its vital cycle and that we have still water and oxygen for the next four billions years, before that our Sun will become a red giant star, so destroying everything on Earth, living and not living. This enormous difference between the duration of cosmic events and that of the human civilization on Earth – and even more that of our single lives – does not allow us to even imagine that our physical and mental abilities (that we believe be absolute and unchangeable) have still much, much, time available to continuously grow by means of new and possibly unattended ‘emerging properties’ – as it happened, for example, with the sudden appearance of the gene NOTCH2 that 3,5 million years ago triplicated the number of neurons in the human brain. Such wrong confidence deprives us of the awareness about our present low evolution level. A level nevertheless destined to continue to evolve by still raising up the physical and mental abilities of the human being, provided that the present claim of omnipotence would not bring him in the meantime to self-destruction.

If we dare to enlarge our sight toward a more remote future (certainly unreachable for us who are just writing these notes but certainly compatible with the remaining, still very long, Earth’s habitability), nobody could a priori exclude that the physical and mental abilities of humans would not evolve up to the point to be able to exploit, much better than possible nowadays, all the experiences stored in our brain. These experiences – today prudently hidden, mostly ineffective, in the unconscious – could be very useful for giving us new and more favorable ways for a deeper understanding of all the knowledge collected along life. If such a favorable condition would arise, as believable, it would help finding new and more favorable roads toward a more useful exploitation of the natural resources and with more evolved ways to travel with safety along the huge interplanetary spaces, being able to colonize new livable worlds, before that life in our planet would become impossible due to the dying sun, thus succeeding to stretch any further possibilities of life evolution.

The present attitude to aprioristically accept ‘certainties’ considered valid and unconfutable forever be-cause we have seen them stable for periods of time by us appearing very long, has to be considered obvious from the human point of view. However, if we consider that the living time in which we can do concrete evaluations on the existence of our society is extremely short with respect to the cosmic times in which the entire universe is running together with our Earth, should invite us to caution when judging as eternally valid our today convictions, and invite us to understand how small we are to fully comprehend the resources of a Cosmos whose vastness of space and potentiality of movements is so far from our everyday worries! Conscious of the limitations about the space and time in which our perceptions are unavoidably forced due to the physical and astronomical conditions in which we find ourselves, we should try, as much as possible, to come out of them at least mentally, and knowingly give up any fix convincement contrary to the concept of evolution, such to be able to look without any mental binding to the not impossible future of humanity concerning its theoretical and technological, knowledge achievements, thus giving to the meaning of the words homo sapiens the fullness of meaning that such terms require.

Myth, Chaos, and Certainty
Notes on Cosmos, Life, and Knowledge

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