Truth – God and Geometry

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Truth – God and Geometry

Rebecca Buck

The American Heritage® Dictionary improperly defines truth as "Conformity to fact or actuality." Conformity is the negation of truth. In order for everything to be the same, all diversity would be lost. In diversity, the various truths of the world thrive. None of them is perfect. Some can be proven; some can be disproved. For some, they are entirely grey and can neither be proved nor disproved. They all, however, are common in that they are accepted by someone or something, in an attempt to better understand the Truth. It is as in Plato's "heaven of abstractions" (Dennett 36). There is one Truth, with an infinite amount of lesser truths created as poor imitations of that Truth, in order that each person can give him- or herself value.

Brecht's Galileo was a driven man, searching to find Truth. That was his purpose in life, and he sacrificed his sight and family to try to find it. His only purpose, as he saw it, was to find Truth, and there was nothing that mattered as much. This is what he assumed about himself given the life that he was accustomed to, until that life was threatened. Only then did he look outside the tunnel in which he had lived to realize that there was life outside of the quest to uncover the Truth. Galileo was playing with fire, threatening to rip away the security that the church and his sponsors enjoyed in believing their truths. Their routine lifestyle depended on their truths, and they were well contented to continue to live by them. The faith in their hearts was enough proof for them, and they considered any other truth a threat to their life and lifestyle. Moreover, they were powerful. Yet that power rested in the fact that the people had faith in their infallibility. If they were to change the doctrine of truth that they taught, there would be consequences in the lives of all of the people. For the Pope or an Italian Prince to admit to being wrong would be tantamount to declaring that the God they were taught to believe in was not omnipotent. This was the foundation in their lives, or was supposed to be, and without it their entire universe collapsed. For the people, then, or perhaps for himself, Galileo changed his public truth. He did not tell anyone else to change theirs and did not change the truth that he knew. His change of apparent truth was for stability, just as the Prince and Pope's refusal to consider the change was for stability.

Flatland is oddly similar to Galileo. Both are about the discovery of truths of the Universe. Both involve a truth that is too dangerous for its world. However, the circumstances of the truths were vastly different. Where Galileo looked for the new, Truer truth, the square's revelation was forced upon him. Having believed that the Universe was restricted to the world he knew, he was unwilling to accept anything else. Even after his dream-discovery of Pointland and Lineland, he was unwilling to accept anything outside of his Universe. Both of the two "lesser" Universes could exist, theoretically, in his Universe. Yet he had been limited. The largest scope of his imagination of truths was his own world. In order to imagine anything else, he had to be removed from it. He was forced to see something. That something, Flatland as merely one Universe of many greater, was inexplicable by the truths he had held, and he could not refute what lay before his own eyes. It was as in Galileo – the royal officials refused to look through Galileo's telescope, as the evidence for an instable new Universe could be revealed to them, and it was not for them to knowingly lie in the face of science. Ignorance was preferable. The indignant tendency towards ignorance that the square displayed can be seen in all aspects of the world. In fact, the entirety of the Universe of Flatland is comparable to the Universe that we know. Through removing an obvious humanity from the world, Abbott made it easier to hypothesize about the world at large. Of course, there were easy parallels between humanity and the shapes, but if one was willing to refuse to see it as humanity, it was completely separate. In taking out many of the details, the larger picture became clear. A point sees nothing outside of itself, a line nothing outside of itself, and so on. Yet there is always something there that is bigger, in dimensions unfathomable. The square sees this, literally, and seeks to teach it. Yet he, like Galileo, is not believed – and put in prison. For the square, however, there is no backing out available; he is written away to his cell. Galileo, in his more cushioned cell, was also locked away so that no further heresy and lies could come from him. Of course, the heresy, lies, and insanity that the square and Galileo were believed to be telling were in fact truths. Yet, for both, the stability of the Universe was threatened – if the circles and polygons were found to not be the most estimable beings in the Universe, they would lose their power. Like in Galileo, the powerful had the right to pick and choose truths, and as their power rested in the accepted truth, there was no rationale for another to be accepted that might threaten their balance.

What was Darwin's reasoning for trying to explain speciation? Galileo's discovery was made through passion, the square's was made through force, yet Darwin's exploration of the truth is generally unexplained. It is perhaps possible to see the discovery as a natural progression of thought. Darwin explained what he found with as many examples as possible, giving evidence for the methods by which he had made his discovery. His truth is continually being questioned, yet it is largely accepted. Some of its details, as Dennett points out, have been finessed since Darwin presented them, but largely the idea is accepted. As Dennett says, only the ignorant can afford to avoid the Truth in Darwin's discoveries. There is enough evidence that it takes sheer force of will to refuse to accept the story that Darwin tells. Darwin's truth threatens the same truth that Galileo's and the sphere's did. Religion is the longest truth to hold steady, and has become a central stabilizer for humanity. However, science, through people such as Galileo and Darwin, is constantly coming up with ideas that go against what has been taught in religion. Dennett tries to find equilibrium between the two, as he says all humanity should do. In one, he finds a purpose in life; in the other, he finds the reasons for life. Both science and religion can exist independently, explaining the same things. It would seem reasonable to say that the two cannot be merged, as their ideas seem to be opposed to the other. Dennett, however, sees Truth in each of the stories, and strives to find a balance. It is for all of humanity to do so, as Dennett explains. If both truths are relatively True, there must be some balance between the two. Though Darwin's algorithm has no God needed to support it, and religion does not need evolution to continue, they are both, to some degree, True, or so Dennett believes. Darwin's ideas were terrifying to the church – an explanation of humanity without God, or any sentient pre-being. Dennett explains that the only way to reach a balance is to start over; it is necessary to make an entirely new truth, drawing from the two opposed, rather than taking one and adding bits of the other. In a way, he says, it is best to discard both truths altogether, for neither is actually True. It is a reverse of evolution – rather than One becoming Many, Many are becoming One. It is Darwin's preliminary explanation of evolution, with a graying, or averaging, and the loss of black and white. Dennett explains that in order for a new truth to be accepted, it must be willing to accept, at least in part, the past truth. Acceptance and compromise opens the doors to new discoveries.

Whether truth should be averaged is a difficult question. Perhaps the average of all truths would be the Truth. Yet if it was not, there would be no diversity to give space for development of new truths that might bring it closer the truths closer to Truth, and so humanity would be stagnated in ignorance. Yet the other options are just as unappealing. Refusing to accept any new truth leaves humanity in voluntary ignorance. Throwing away ancient accepted values devalues everything. All truths have a foundation in Truth, no matter how distant. There is no knowing if humanity is closer to Truth now, or if it was millennia ago. Truth is diverse. Just as a circle is an infinite-sided polygon, the Truth also has many sides: the truths of the Universe. Some are on opposite sides of each other, and appear to have no relation, yet they are all interlinked. Many have yet to be discovered, yet each is crucial to discovering Truth. Truth, then, depends on truths. The whole depends on the pieces. Yet a premature averaging of the pieces could exclude necessary truths, and leave the Truth infinitely undiscoverable. Therefore, acceptance of truths is the only way to find Truth.

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