Is the concept of truth supported by factual evidence, now under attack?
From the enhanced perspective of the current political and cultural reality in 2022, the basic questions of truth, facts, a free-press, accountability, free-and-fair elections, and the reliability of the human faculty to differentiate right from wrong, now illuminates more clearly the basic issues being argued in this 2009 Oxford debate.
A discussion of the nature of truth in politics and in science should not be swept-under-the-rug at this critical time in human history, as a concession to the otherwise commendable goal of maintaining congeniality.
One of the takeaways from this 2009 Oxford debate is that when one person is arguing using generalizations, and the opponent is attempting to steer the discussion towards hard facts, that this hopelessly devolves into the classic case of comparing apples with oranges.
When the losing presidential candidate following an election, asserts that his victory was stolen through the fraudulent counting of ballots, this is an assertion that can empirically be checked through the legal process of first challenging the vote-count, and then going back to perform a re-count.
But what is incredibly important here, during and after this re-count of the votes in the battleground states that could change the outcome of the election, the detailed mechanics of how the ballots are issued, collected, tallied, and verified should be communicated to the populace to eliminate the continuation of conspiracy theory generalities put forward by the losing candidate.
If after a re-count of the ballots this shows that there was no widespread fraud during the election process, but the losing candidate is freely allowed to continue to assert that the election was stolen and falsely proclaims himself the winner, then a strange paradox is created in the contest of ideas between general assertions at one level and hard empirical evidence at another level.
This apples-to-oranges contest within the political arena and within the origin-of-life dilemma can only be resolved by first agreeing upon what is the standard for determining truth…factually unsupported assertions or detailed empirical evidence.
But at a much deeper and fundamental level the question can be asked of how and why this type of contested issue could and should be a part of the human experience in the first-place…in politics, biology, or anywhere else.
The old saying that sunlight is the best disinfectant, in this parallel political analogy of confirming or disconfirming the accuracy of the vote-count in a political election, can only be resolved by both a re-count of the ballots and a thoroughly detailed explanation to the general populace of how this process accurately works.
Like the need to appeal to both the empirical evidentiary facts and a detailed explanation to the general public of the mechanics of the election process, to dispel the assertions of voter fraud by the losing candidate, the defense by Richard Dawkins that science does not need God in the area of biology because evolution already explains everything, in my opinion has devolved down into a data-free conspiracy theory.
When the layman on the street gets exposed to even an inkling of the detailed mechanics of DNA and the molecular machinery inside a living cell at the level of biochemistry, the immediate inference is to the recognition of design at work.
Over the last 160-plus years of intensive research into the truth or falsehood of the theory of Darwinian macroevolution, the complex, specified, and coherently integrated systems of information that describe the biology of life inside living cells can now be tested at the level of evidentiary facts rather than generalized assertions.
The organized complexity operating inside living cells does not support the generalized assertion that Darwinian evolution explains everything in biology.
At this critical time in human history, when liberal democracy is being challenged by the false claims of a stolen election, “fake-news,” the downplaying of a pandemic that has at this time taken the lives of 850,000 Americans, and the politicizing of vaccinations, the fundamental question arises as to whether claims regarding truth must be backed-up by factual evidence.
Because the narrative can be spun at the level of generalized assertions, and because humans possess the capacity for intellectual and moral discernment to differentiate the truth or falsity of truth-claims, the question of how we arrive at genuine truth is now front-and-center in our modern age.