Building Knowledge Bases in a Selectively Skeptical Era

An interesting read, for those of us who have an interest in building knowledge in a era that explicitly dismisses the idea of “truth” and “objectivity”.

From L&FP, 59: Building A Body Of Knowledge In A Hyperskeptical, Ideologically Polarised Era That Often Dismisses Truth And Objectivity by kairosfocus

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It’s not hard to recognise that we are in a hyperskeptical, ideologically polarised warped thinking age at war with objective truth and knowledge. Fundamentally, our academics have betrayed us, starting with putting the inferior substitute, skepticism, in the place of prudence. Once that was done, there is no firewal on skepticism so it spiralled into selective hyperskepticism that promotes favoured narratives while finding any excuse to dismiss the despised other.

Inevitably, knowledge has fractured.

So, let us again turn to the JoHari window to see how it can help us build a responsible, and often counter-narrative body of knowledge:

Now, steps of thought (adapted from an earlier comment):

1: We must properly understand what knowledge is, including its subtleties, limitations and challenges.

2: This, we can see i/l/o the warranted, credibly true [so, reliable] belief approach, buttressed by the moderated insights from Dallas Willard. To wit:

To have knowledge in the dispositional sense—where you know things you are not necessarily thinking about at the time—is to be able to represent something as it is on an adequate basis of thought or experience, not to exclude communications from qualified sources (“authority”). This is the “knowledge” of ordinary life, and it is what you expect of your electrician, auto mechanic, math teacher, and physician. Knowledge is not rare, and it is not esoteric . . . no satisfactory general description of “an adequate basis of thought or experience” has ever been achieved. We are nevertheless able to determine in many specific types of cases that such a basis is or is not present [p.19] . . . .

Knowledge, but not mere belief or feeling, generally confers the right to act and to direct action, or even to form and supervise policy. [p. 20]

In any area of human activity, knowledge brings certain advantages. Special considerations aside, knowledge authorizes one to act, to direct action, to develop and supervise policy, and to teach. It does so because, as everyone assumes, it enables us to deal more successfully with reality: with what we can count on, have to deal with, or are apt to have bruising encounters with. Knowledge involves assured [–> warranted, credible] truth, and truth in our representations and beliefs is very like accuracy in the sighting mechanism on a gun. If the mechanism is accurately aligned—is “true,” it enables those who use it with care to hit an intended target. [p. 4, Dallas Willard & Literary Heirs, The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge, Routledge|Taylor& Francis Group, 2018. ]

3: This means, an adequate body of knowledge is ours, independent of what those who object, are skeptical, are selectively hyperskeptical or are outright polarised have to say. Known to us, unknown to others, not yet known to the world at large is still valid knowledge. Thus, knowledge can be counter-narrative and counter cultural. When falsity sits on the throne, sound knowledge will be an exile.

4: At the same time, we are using a commonplace, weak form sense of knowledge, which seeks truth (& may often hit it) but which recognises limitations and possibility for error. So, we need to be our own friendly critics, willing to seek criteria of adequate warrant . . . including, recognising when negative knowledge is what is established, i.e. limits of knowledge and knowing that we do not have positive knowledge. (Where feasible, this may be the framework for a research proposal and project, including pretty informal or simple cases.)

5: Similarly, we welcome responsible, reasonable, friendly “outside” critics, as they help us refine our knowledge base. (Some of these may even be willing to join the body of knowledge project and are part of the emerging school.) But, let us beware the concern troll or idea hit man, sent out to undermine and discredit for advantage.

6: By contrast, hyperskeptical and hostile, irresponsible or dishonest critics lock themselves out. By their tone, tactics, refusal to be reasonable and resulting rotten fruit shall ye know them.

7: Now, adequacy. In an empirical context, we follow Locke on the candle set up in us:

[Essay on Human Understanding, Intro, Sec 5:] Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2, Ac 17, etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshineThe Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.

8: Now, much of what we do turns on inference to best current, empirically anchored explanation and associated models. That is,

9: on current observed, recorded and shared facts O1, O2, . . . On, predictions, P1, P2, .n . . Pm and trajectory of investigations I(t), we can see which of live option explanations/models E1, E2 . . . Ek account well for the O’s, has a good track record in translating P’s into correctly predicted O’s, and of these, which is coherent and explanatorily elegant [neither ad hoc nor simplistic].

10: Of these we may have a few short listed E’s {Es} or a best one Eb, which then are focal for onward investigation.

11: In our relevant case, when an Eb emerges, we have an epistemic right to accept it on abduction/ inference to best explanation, though we remain open to adjustment and correction.

12: On either case, we have a body of knowledge, the set {Es} are our candidate alternatives, known to be the collective best, and if we have an Eb, that is saying {Es} has become a singleton. Obviously, a good rival Er, would open out the set to {Eb, Er}.

13: With this in hand, we see that the negative knowledge case of Eb, is a special case, let’s call it E0.

14: We thus see how a body of knowledge can be built even in the face of objection or hostility.

15: It then confers “the right to act and to direct action, or even to form and supervise policy.”

FAIR COMMENT: ID has attained that state, though it faces sharp and too often irresponsible objection. A capital illustration is the point recognised by Lehninger’s literary heirs:

“The information in DNA is encoded in its linear (one-dimensional) sequence of deoxyribonucleotide subunits . . . . A linear sequence of deoxyribonucleotides in DNA codes (through an intermediary, RNA) for the production of a protein with a corresponding linear sequence of amino acids . . . Although the final shape of the folded protein is dictated by its amino acid sequence, the folding of many proteins is aided by “molecular chaperones” . . . The precise three-dimensional structure, or native conformation, of the protein is crucial to its function.” [Principles of Biochemistry, 8th Edn, 2021, pp 194 – 5. Now authored by Nelson, Cox et al, Lehninger having passed on in 1986. Attempts to rhetorically pretend on claimed superior knowledge of Biochemistry, that D/RNA does not contain coded information expressing algorithms using string data structures, collapse. We now have to address the implications of language, goal directed stepwise processes and underlying sophisticated polymer chemistry and molecular nanotech in the heart of cellular metabolism and replication.]

Knowledge is a challenge, especially in an ideologically polarised era. END

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Yes, placing politics above reality will destroy science, truth, and knowledge itself. So, yes, the enemies of science, truth and knowledge — driven by their hostility to God (not a surprise) — are going to lose.

But while their defeat is certain, we need to know and learn even when the fools are still in power. Even today.

The stronger the grip on truth that we have, and the more we leverage that truth in all areas, public and private, the more we win and the more they lose. Regardless of the sea of lies, intimidation, and career destruction they spew against us.

Our forefathers failed Our Lord, which is the reason why we are in the difficult situation we are in.

Let us be faithful and obedient to Christ — the Way, the Truth, and the Light — and so build a better future for God’s children to master and grow in.

It’s time to build a better future.

And build a better Ruling Class – one who places God’s Law-Word above the Will of Powerful Men.

Yes, even above their own will.

God comes first. Men come second.

Hard Truths stand over and above pleasing lies.

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