The Nature Of Truth

What is truth?

The dictionary defines "true" as "consistent with fact or reality." This implies that something which is true always has been true, and always will be true. But is that really true?

Far from it.

History shows us that again and again, ideas that were considered to be absolute fact were actually totally wrong.

Once, it was well known that the world was flat. Everyone knew it, it was a simple fact. You might have wondered if the stories about what lay beyond the edge of the world were really true, but you didn't question the fact that the world was flat. You could tell just by looking at it.

Later of course, we learned it was actually round. And that's what we are taught now as kids, and few of us question it. And indeed, in this, the era of space travel, it's pretty hard to doubt it.

But even this truth isn't strictly speaking true. The perfect spherical shape of our world that's depicted in our globes fails to reflect the truth: Earth is slightly pear-shaped.

But there are countless other examples. People used to think that compass needles pointed at the north star, not the north pole. It used to be considered true that the earth was at the center of the universe, and that the sun traveled around the earth. And when scientists first discovered that this "truth" was in fact wrong, they got into serious hot water. This was back in the good old days of the Spanish Inquisition, and highly placed religious officials didn't like it when Galileo used a telescope to chart the heavens and prove that the earth was not, in fact, at the center of the universe, like the church said it was. And so, he was hauled up before the Inquisition. At the end of his trial, he was forced to confess that he'd been wrong about the way the universe operates, and then sentenced to an indefinite prison term.

The Inquisition, of course, was another era's barbaric and futile attempt to stop a behavior which they saw as threatening by singling out and abusing a particular minority. Today, it's marijuana; to the Roman Catholic church, it was free thought.

Here's another example. It was once considered true that blacks were inferior to whites. This was the basis for slavery in America. Challenging that piece of well established truth was difficult, and yet vital to undoing our nation's most embarrassing abuse of human rights.

And another one: The Titanic was considered unsinkable. It was the captain's over-confidence in this "truth" that lead him to sail his ship right through waters known to be infested with icebergs.

A lot of things which we, as humans, have learned in one culture have been proved wrong in later cultures. Sometimes false truths are revealed as such overnight, as in the case of the Titanic... other times, it can take decades, even centuries. A lot depends on how well accepted an existing "truth" is, and how hard it is to test out the assertions of that truth.

But sometimes, sorting the real truth out from a false truth is made more difficult by politics. In some cases, such as among slave-owners in the south before the Civil War, suppressing the truth is vital to keeping their lifestyles intact. Naturally, if you own hundreds of slaves who are making you rich by working on your cotton plantation, you will be resistant to the idea that blacks can be just as capable as whites if they aren't being tortured and repressed.

So it is with today's war on drugs. There are a lot of people in a position to lose if marijuana were legalized. It's not just the DEA and the FBI and cops and prison wardens and DARE propagandizers... consider how the legal sale of pot would cut into the sale of booze?

The DEA is just like the church was when it bristled at the notion that the earth travels around the sun. It condemns anyone who dares to challenge the established beliefs and teachings, because it knows that its very existence as an institution is threatened by those teachings. That's why, even when scientific studies show that marijuana has value as a pain killing medicine, the head of the DEA hysterically shouts "It's not medicine!" After all, what kind of budget will the DEA have if pot is legalized?

As a culture, we have been taught that pot is dangerous. Is this really truth? In my opinion, the answer is no.