Fact and fiction for Earth Day. Throughout the reality of our world, the fix dinner, learn to drive a car, catch the bus, fly in an airplane, watch TV, get married (or not), replace the air conditioner, and all the ad infinitum of daily life, there is absolute truth (fact) and absolute fiction (imagination) and in the grand scope of human existence, from childhood to old age, fact, fiction, and reality dance together and make a life. Often it is difficult to tell the difference, and often we don’t try to discern the difference. The huge, enormous bulk of human endeavor is based on the ubiquitous and highly variable blend of unintentional and intentional fact and fiction that we call news, advertising, human relations, history, publicity, opinions, blogs, politics, pretty much all human communication, and yes, also science and religion. The percentage of fact and fiction in all of human endeavors varies greatly. In science there is a very strong effort to keep fiction as minimal as possible, especially fiction that is deliberately included to strengthen or weaken a valid hypothesis and of course to expose and discard any deliberate false result. The antithesis of science is producing a managed result that supports a preconceived conviction. In religion, however, this is pretty much reversed. There are exceptions with purely historical research and I hope most scripture translations that try to capture the essence of the intent of an ancient writing into modern thought. But basically, in most religiously based scientific, social, political, behavioral, and popular tomes, programs, and endeavors, the results are designed to serve and to confirm religious thought, history, and intent. After all, if one is a true believer in a religious doctrine, anything that is found, thought, or developed that is in opposition to the truth as revealed by God(s) cannot be correct and must, by definition, in some way be in error. And being in error it must be either corrected or suppressed. And that certainly seems to be the go to process for most religiously based scientific research.
Daily, we wander through that forest of factual and fictional information along the paths created by our own experiences and prejudices and try to find the data and information that makes sense to us. Some of us have our paths through these forests of life marked with permanently placed concrete markers and never deviate from that path, and others will travel many paths, some quite obscure, seeking the security and certainty that supports our self image. Usually the truths we find will be the truths we seek, and in most endeavors that will be satisfactory to us, satisfy our beliefs, give us comfort, and be our truths, at least in the short run of our lives. Human cultures are ever changing over time with environmental change and technological change and the beliefs and customs that anchor our lives were not the same as those of past cultures and will not be the same as those of future cultures. And never before have these changes in daily life been as rapid as they are now.
Our beliefs and necessities of life are intertwined, and each grows and develops as each changes. But one major aspect of human life that has been constant throughout our time as a sentient species. Despite any and all supernatural beliefs we may have developed over the ages, we all have been and are, scientists. Humans have long been very pragmatic with the details of analyzing, inventing, and improving the circumstances of human life, and that, with the important addition of working to understand who we are and how the world works, is the be all and end all of scientific endeavor. The brain surgeon, the rocket scientist, the engineer, and the physicist employ the same basic human cognitive capabilities as the chef, the mechanic, the farmer, and the house wife to analyze the task at hand, learn from experience of others, experiment to find the best solution and then go with what seems to provide the best answers and provides the most effective procedures under the existing conditions. This is the driver of change in human cultures and it is all science, pure and simple. Another human trait that is a great aid, sometimes a great detriment, to life and science, is our tendency, nay, our instinctual mandate to categorize pretty much everything, label it, name it, and then create a hierarchy that defines it. We can then brand it as good or bad, helpful or dangerous, and then deal with it as our experiences, customs, beliefs, and needs require. The realities of truth and falsehood, and the future ramifications of our actions and opinions that result from these mental processes are often not a consideration and further analysis is not desired or undertaken. But nevertheless, the human animal has survived and thrived, so far, but only through the application and growth of “science” in our daily lives.