Does post-truth come after postmodernism? Post-science? Post-empiricism? Incredible as it seems, I’m noticing a distinct post-empirical trend in writing lately.
Things we think are true are sometimes not true. Things we label facts are sometimes not facts. There’s a cool article in Scientific American about how this works in the medical field, and that basic premise is a big part of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn’s groundbreaking (paradigmatic, even) (that’s an elitist Thomas Kuhn joke) study of scientific history and scientific truth.
Truth gets less true over time. So says the New Yorker, in this article about the scientific method and psychological and psychiatric studies.
We don’t really care about what’s true anyway, and belief is resilient. According to this Mother Jones article about denial, a strong conviction will find a way to stay strong, even in the face of contradictory facts. Gail Collins’s column in today’s New York Times explicitly addresses the challenge of conviction as it relates to anti-woman, anti-contraception, anti-choice politics.
How do you hold on to belief in a post-empirical world? How are you supposed to act? This quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, sums it up, for me:
There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.