I read an article the other day and the writer used the term “Gnostic Truth” to describe something (and I can’t remember what it was) in the news. He used the term correctly and started my mental wheels turning again. I am in the infusion center awaiting chemo and have nothing better to do than write. Look out, I just had steroids and those make me more wordy (wink).
I have a great interest in the process of finding truth. The philosophical term for this process is epistemology. I’ve stated before that we are living in an age that has lost its sense of truth in the classical sense.
While this fragmentation has always been around, it has been intensified in the age of social media, where there is a choice of realities to live in. I call it niche realities. So, we have lost the concept of universal truths (what I call TRUTH) and sold out to personal truths. We re-label those “truths” as “God’s Truth,” or in the political realm, where your political orientation (red or blue) is “true” and all other perspectives are “fake news.”
Honestly, I’m sick and tired of politics. I would love to do away with the Republican (my old party) and the Democratic parties. I like to create two parties. One would be called the party of liars and haters (POLH) and the other, lovers and truth seekers (POLTS). There would be some Republican’s migrating to each of the new parties and some Democrats doing the same. Then the choice would be clear and the debate over. The POLH could live in their conspiracy driven world of fantasy and hate and the POLTS would seek TRUTH no matter which political policies it would help. For example, do a good study and if you find assault weapons don’t increase violence and murder, then allow everyone to have one. If regulations are proven not to protect the environment or the workers or consumers, then get rid of all of them. I’m tried of not being able to talk about TRUTH without accused of being political.
One big conspiracy movement that was griping the evangelical movement when I was part of it in the early 1990s, (but now has gone much further now), is the idea that there is this big boogie man called “Liberal Media” that is out to deceive us, turn our children against us (or turn them gay or atheist), and to destroy the judo-Christian culture this country was built upon.
While I would love to talk more about this, I will quickly move to the point of this discussion and that is in the one finite area of Gnostic truth. At one time I was doing a long series on the loss of TRUTH, but I could tell that readership was waning. It is somewhat of a “Catch 22” that people aren’t interested in the loss of TRUTH anymore because, of the consequences of the loss of TRUTH on them previously. I would love to write a book about the journey of TRUTH in our society, but no one would buy it and read it. But if you are interested in this historical journey of Evangelicalism, I recommend Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. If you are interested in a totally non-political story that is moving and refreshing I recommend Ristretto Rain (how do you spell “Plug”?).
Gnostic Truth has roots in the very early Christian church, although this article (mentioned above) was using the term to address political ideas. The Greek root to the word “Gnostic” mean’s knowledge. But what the groups within the early church meant was a knowledge that was supernatural, that came directly to them from God without any need for study or thinking. While this sounds sexy and spiritual, it is a very lazy (intellectually) way to arrive at TRUTH and it is very easily abused to manipulate and control other people. The Bible says our psyche is the most deceitful thing on the planet, so do you really fully trust that inner voice without more evidence?
The reason that parts of the early church adopted this approach in the first place was that they had already erroneously adopted the dualistic philosophy of Plato and the mystic religions in the region. If you are a Christian, I will say that this adoption was tragic and not Biblical at all. But it claimed that the universe was divided between the “seen” or material and the spiritual. The material was inferior to the spiritual or possibly even evil. The spiritual was always supernatural (outside the laws of nature) and therefore closer to God’s intention because anything natural was inferior. But a more Biblical view is that God created everything, the seen and the unseen, the understandable and the mysterious and they are ALL good.
If you think that the pursuit of TRUTH is a minor issue in Christianity, then go back and read your Bible. TRUTH seems to be God’s highest priority. Even Jesus defined himself as “The Way, The TRUTH (classical sense not dogma), and the LIFE.” Now if you say that love is God’s greatest calling, I will say, all hate or lack of love stems from lies and misinformation. The foundation to all love is factual truth or TRUTH.
Today we mark the one year anniversary of the El Paso slaughter, directed at Hispanics. It was fueled by lies about Hispanics coming to America, taking our jobs, bringing crime, drugs. TRUTH allows love to flourish. All racism is based on lies.
Now if you say that love is God’s greatest calling, I will say, all hate or lack of love stems from lies and misinformation.
When it comes back to knowledge, the Gnostics believed that their intuitive (what they called “spiritual” truth) was superior to anything they could reason or observe through reading, hearing from teachers, and learning, because it was from this higher “spiritual” realm. They believed that reason and learning itself was of this inferior material world.
If you want to know how dangerous Gnostic truth is, it alone was most responsible for the Dark Ages and all the suffering that came with that period. Also, all cults begin with a leader who uses Gnostic truth to control and separate out his or her followers from the herd.
In the modern, non-Christian world of politics, Gnostic truths are best expressed by conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories are not the exact same as Gnostic truth, but one builds on the other.
Conspiracy theories are where a confident person, usually with charisma, comes up with a theory that is attractive to their political cause. That theory is usually completely baseless but has “curb appeal” to people with a particular political perspective. Then it is easy to create “evidence” for that theory and they put that out on social or mainstream media. There is a psychological phenomena where if you believe something, you will eventually start to see evidence to justify that belief. People are drawn to just conspiracy theories because it supports their political ideology and it makes them feel smart and special. “I know something that the mainstream doesn’t know that makes me smarter.”
Common political conspiracy theories without supporting evidence (at this point) are:
On the Left;
Donald Trump has sex with his daughter Ivanka
Deutsche Bank has laundered hundreds of millions of Trump family crime money
Donald Trump raped many adolescence girls with the help of Jeffery Epstein
Donald Trump planned with the Russians how to win the election because they had a video tape of him with prostitutes in Moscow.
On the Right;
Voting by mail is full of fraud
Our failure to respond to the COVID pandemic was Obama’s fault
Scientist are suppressing the truth that hydoxychloroquine cures COVID.
I love science because most scientists pursue real TRUTH at all cost. They are doing God’s work. Most scientists are good, honest people. I worked in research full time for four years. It was incomprehensible that someone would fudge data to prove something they believed. We followed the data, wherever it took us because we were invested in TRUTH. Yes, sometimes there are biases brought into science, but it is not that common. Those who oppose science, such as unfortunately the evangelicals, the far political right and sometimes the left, and those in alternative health. My gripe with alternative health is when they make claims that either the evidence doesn’t support or has disproved. Testimonials are notoriously wrong because our own psyche’s are deceptive. You can get anybody or any small group of people (patients or doctors) to say anything, and they will do so for money or just because of their own biases. That’s why large placebo-controlled studies are the gold standard and when done right always reveal the TRUTH.
I had a friend who was an editor of a national medical journal. He told me that he got complaints from people in alternative medicine that he is biased. He said he would love to publish a good study showing that a non-pharmacological, natural treatment was as good or better than drug treatments. He would make the leading article because that is everyone’s hope. But the problem is the people in alternative medicine refused to do the same quality of studies that he required of published work from other scientists. I will say, I saw that he published a good article from a group of chiropractors this year and it was well-received by most because the science was done well. I will add that “western medicine” is far from perfect and as a patient I know that far too well. I want to write more about that when I get the chance.
But these people mentioned above often promote a conspiracy theory that science is biased and corrupt through and through. By demonizing good science, it give oxygen to their baseless ideas which science as refuted. It is magical thinking.
Simple science is based on mathematical principles called the scientific method. Virtually all our discoveries, interventions, and things that have made our lives better are based on this method. Now, some people don’t want to believe in the scientific method or even math. In my opinion, mathematics is the language of God. It is the foundation of the universe and that’s why it consistency brings us to the TRUTH.
The church, in my opinion, reached its zenith during the Enlightenment. It was during that brief period that the church and science were aligned as both wanted TRUTH and sought it with passion. But that period was short-lived. But then something happened. It is too complicated to explain here, except for a “thumbnail” version.
One of the things that happened was the the church in America (and some other regions) felt threatened in the early 20th century from the scientific community. One big example was new geological theories that dated the earth as much older than the church dated it. Remember, the Bible say absolute nothing about the age of the earth. Then, Darwin introduced his theories that life forms adapt and change (he was not promoting an atheistic theory of evolution at that time). The church started to resist, criticize, and then over time, declare war on science. To do so, they had to create their own conspiracy theories about science, none of which are true. Now, sadly, science is the arch nemesis to faith. That must break God’s heart, the creator of science. It is like having two children you love who are always fighting.
Speaking of children, as a child, I was somewhat of a science prodigy. I won our district’s science fair (all of NE Tennessee) when I built a working radio out of a pineapple. The next year I got second place, loosing out to a kid who developed a brand new method for measuring the height of geological features on the moon using observation points of the earth during the moon’s orbit and measuring the length of those feature’s shadows. And this was the days before computers and he had to use a slide rule.
About 20 years ago I was asked to be a judge of a local science fair of a Christian home-school group. It was at the high school level, the same as the fairs I had entered. When I walked into the church’s gym, where it was held, I was totally appalled. While this was a senior high school fair, the work I saw would not be allowed in a typical elementary school science fair. One was a simple can with aluminum foil around it, creating the familiar volcano. The student put in soap water and a chunk of dry ice and it foamed and came down the sides. Then I asked her about volcanoes and she knew nothing about them. Then I asked her why did the dry ice cause the bubbles and she had no clue. Then I asked her what is dry ice and she had no clue. Another entry was a tropical fish in a bowl. The student knew nothing about the species. That was a science fair entry? It was an example of the church’s total disinterest in real science. Sad was too weak of a word to use. Personally, I love science and math BECAUSE I believe in God, not in spite.
One of the best examples of this conflict between conspiracy theories and science is the present (this week) controversy over the role of hydroxychloroquine in preventing or treating COVID-19.
Here is the real TRUTH about it, as the scientific community has determined through good research. I will talk only about the prevention aspects. I reviewed all the studies once again last night. There have been two major studies where people exposed to COVID-19 were given either a placebo or real hydroxychloroquine at high or low doses. Over 2000 patients were studied. There was no difference in the number of patients who got COVID between the two groups. That is the math talking. Now, it is a fair question to ask, what would happen if you were taking prophylactic hydroxychloroquine before you were exposed? That would be a hard study to do, but someone should do it with hundreds of patients. I, or no one, knows the answer to that question.
Now I this juncture I will mention that one study published in The Lancet was found to have some false data. The pro hydroxychloroquine group quotes this all the time and exaggerate about it saying “they had to pull many studies due to false information.” This single study was not about prevention but treatment of serious patients. The false data showed a higher death rate for the hydroxychloroquine patients. This false data was supplied by a data processing company. Their motivations are still unclear. It could be political, such as an anti-Trump bias, but more likely it was just sloppy work. But even this bias was called out and Lancet retracted the study.
Now, COVID-19 should never have been political because being so it has caused the deaths of 50-100 K people (the rest of the deaths would have happened anyway). This is why these things piss me off. It is not because I want to be right, but I hate seeing people suffering and dying out of ignorance. The shooting in El Paso pissed me off.
Early on, Donald Trump promoted hydroxychoroquine as an effective treatment for COVID and now, Trump followers believe the pro-hydroxychloroquine narrative that it works, is practically a cure and that information is being suppressed by the evil scientific community. Pro-trump organizations and people like far-right personality Steve Bannon, have this agenda because of 1) Trump said it therefore we must make it true even if it’s not, and 2) If we can orchestrate the idea of a COVID cure, then the economy will bounce back just in time to get Trump re-elected.
The laypeople are left thinking, “Well, there are two sides to this story. I will listen to both and decide because they are equal.”
These sides are not equal! You have the entire research community of infectious disease experts who are honestly looking at data and coming to conclusions. These thousands of doctors, treating tens of thousands of patients are on one side. Then on the other side are a handful of doctors (I’ve looked at their backgrounds) and they are strongly aligned with the political right and either don’t practice medicine at all any more or have limited experience seeing patients in Urgent Care, aesthetic or weight loss clinics. There is absolutely no comparison.
If you are on the right and want to believe what Trump said, then do the damn studies and get away from the testimonials and theatrics. Steve Bannon has the money. Trump, Inc. has the money to support such a study. But it has to be done fairly. For us who work in medicine (or did work) and research, the “Front Line Doctors” press conference was done in such a flaky way that red flags went off like fireworks and could not be taken any more seriously than a “professional wrestling” match.
Here’s how you will convince most of us. Take 1,000 people, put half of them on whatever dose Donald Trump is promoting, and the other half on an identical looking tablet and wait six months. Ad the end of six months measure COVID-19 antibodies in the two groups. Then you will know if it works as a preventative. And it might. There is a little scientific explanation why it could work.
If I had the resources I could get 20 doctors to say that horseshit up your nose cures COVID-19 and put that on TV or FaceBook.
What frustrates me the most is this conspiracy theory nonsense that the scientific community is corrupt because they don’t support your worldview. I wish like hell that hydroxychloroquine worked. It would radically change my life. I don’t give a rats ass if it makes Trump look good. . . or bad. This whole fiasco is the really sad loss of TRUTH and the introduction of Gnostic Truth, ideas without real evidence.
What do we do about it? If you really want, stop being so gullible. Repent from your hate. Stop hating Hispanics. Stop hating blacks, even stop hating Donald Trump. Seek truth at all cost and not just the truth that you want to hear, but the real, provable TRUTH. Math never lies. And stay away from the damn conspiracy web sites on the right or the left.