By Caylie Privitere || Contributing Writer
We are navigating a landscape devoid of truth. Science is a sphere of influence constantly evolving; there is not, nor has there ever been, definitive and concrete facts. And yet, we proceed as if there are. William Ebenstein, a professor of political science at the University of Santa Barbara, theorized: “history is full of opinions held by one age to be the ultimate truth and considered by subsequent ages to be false and absurd.” This advancement towards complexity, or continual development of ideas, impels our growth as a society.
And yet, we are unknowingly hindering our civilization’s ability to evolve. Not so long ago, in an age with strikingly little semblance to today, Rene Descartes wrote his Meditations, a series of parts that was concerned with the infallibility of known knowledge. Descartes devoted himself to reevaluating the basis of truth and unwinding the coils of opinion and fact while rebuilding the foundations of his beliefs. This is an exercise in humility we are not in practice with today. Our existence in the “post truth era” is devoted to stocking up arsenals of slanted facts with the purpose of disproving differing opinions, opposed to an attitude of understanding and growth. We have devolved to actively resist, we no longer promote the exchange of ideas or opinions and have instead embarked on a quest to prove each other wrong. A mentality of absolute truth is detrimental to any society, and it’s a path the United States has begun to tread.
Our education system is reflective of this regressive mentality in a distressing way, as generally students’ beliefs are no longer challenged in the classroom but, rather, reinforced. As the world witnessed on the Middlebury campus last Spring, herds of students violently revolted against a conservative speaker brought to campus. And while the students defended themselves with sentiments of resisting and devoicing ‘hate,’ a violent reaction to a key note speaker reeks of dogmatic tendencies and the repression of ideas that fall in the minority.
We’ve reached a point where we depend on the modification of information to fit a narrative, stacking up building blocks of “facts” to reinforce the opinions we already hold. The politically obsessed climate of the United States exacerbates our infatuation with static knowledge. We operate under the assumption there is an ultimate truth, and the road to uncovering it is fiery confrontations of ‘alternative facts.’ The actual nature of truth is not one sided. The United States has fallen victim to a democracy that forces citizens to choose between two juxtaposed viewpoints that radically express two specific ideologies. However, the only path to true progress will open once both ideologies converge in the middle. During the pinnacle of the Information Age, this country is in dire need of a drastic knowledge reform. We risk permanent stagnation, an outcome disastrous for us all, if we fail to compromise.
First-year Caylie Privitere is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.