FAITH vs CERTAINTY
What is the sole major cause for the ills of man’s propensity for prejudice, bigotry, wars, and interpersonal friction?
Clearly, it is the historical and ubiquitous conditioning and propagation of certainty of faith issuing from every pore of humanity consciously, willingly, and deliberately by some as well as in ignorance by others. In the formative years of antiquity, man was hardly to blame. He had little to guide him beyond his poorly interpreted experiences and instinct to survive. It is unfortunate, however, that in the intervening millennia, for the general public, a distinction has not been clearly defined among three kinds of faith: 1) faith in the absence of evidence, 2) faith despite evidence to the contrary, (usually referred to as “blind faith”) and 3) faith based on evidence.
Today, however, with the billions of dollars spent daily by our schooling institutions, it borders on criminality that so much of man’s behavior is initiated by blind faith. Let me be clear, my emphasis is not on blind faith. Rather it is on the failure of our so called “educational institutions’’ and the world’s population that so grossly fail to recognize the enormous harm that evolves from their ignorance of the deleterious relationship of abuse of language that not only instills blind faith but sustains and propagates its ubiquity throughout countless millennia.
The world has been appraised and apprised of such a relationship by numerous great thinkers such as Socrates, John Locke, more contemporaneously, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and Stuart Chase, who wrote in his book, The Tyranny of Words:
Language is no more than crudely acquired before children begin to suffer from it, and to misinterpret the world by reason of it. Is the fault to be charged to the child or to the language taught him?
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality,
Of Bertrand Russell,
Pure mathematics is the subject in which we
don't know what we are talking about nor
whether what we are talking about is true.
G. H. Hardy
A mathematician is someone who not only does not know what he is talking about but, also, does not care.
S. I. Hayakawa,
The “educated” are frequently quite as naïve about language as the uneducated, although the ways in which they exhibit their naiveté may be less easily discernible. Indeed, many are worse off than the uneducated, because while the uneducated sometimes realize their own limitations, the “educated” are in a position to refuse to admit their ignorance and conceal their limitations from themselves by their skill at word-juggling. After all, “education” as it is still understood in many circles is principally a matter of learning facility in the manipulation of words.
All have been studiously ignored, including Eric Arthur Blair ( pseudonym, George Orwell) in which he so dramatically showed in his book, 1984, that who controls language, controls our thinking processes.
I have throughout my more than fifty-three years of teaching, pressed publicly and in publications, that our children are being taught what, not how, to think. As in centuries past, our “educational” authorities have ignored the warning.
Language in all its forms, conventional, scientific, philosophical, mathematical, etc., is pregnant with symbols and claims that are unfalsifiable. Yet, I wager that almost one hundred per cent of the teachers of the world, with few exceptions, fail to include in their teaching vocabulary (and if they do, to emphasize their importance in distinguishing truth from falsity), such terms as ‘verifiable,’ ‘unverifiable,’ ‘falsifiable,’ ‘unfalsifiable,’ ‘transcendental,’ ‘supernatural,’ ‘metaphysical,’ ‘abstract,’ and the like.
Such a failure coupled with a gross neglect to educate, in the true sense of that word, our students to the fact that 1) linguistic symbols have no inherent meanings, 2) the “meanings” we attribute to said symbols, are those we were instructed and very often, conditioned to do so in the absence of supporting evidence, 3) language relates to our perceptions of an assumed physical world, 4) “truth” and “falsity” are functions and do not “exist” in the absence of language, 5) truth, falsity, and knowledge are probable, not absolute, 6) every declarative sentence is preceded or proceeded by the spoken or unspoken phrase, “according to available evidence” or preceded by an unspoken “if.”
Given the unforgivable enormity of neglect on the part of all of us to teach our children how to think about what to think, is there any wonder how man’s historical and present atrocities and inhumanity to his “fellow man” still fracture and contaminate our relationship with each other?
© 2008 by Pasqual S. Schievella