There is no such thing as a fact. Society has been lying to you. You live in the Matrix. You’re the only thing that actually exists in the universe. You’re a robot. Life is a dream. You can’t know anything outside yourself. Nothing is true. I’m being a tad melodramatic, but I’m going to take you down the rabbit hole that is my brain in order to show you exactly what I’m talking about. I will show how we as humans have, on a subconscious level, built up this comforting and false idea of an unequivocal reality.
First things first, let’s take a look at ourselves. How can we know that we exist? If you’re schooled in philosophy, you probably already know where I’m going. René Descartes‘ already done the heavy lifting on this one. His cardinal philosophical principle, cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), is the only indubitable statement that he believed a person could make. Everything outside of our own mind is malleable as our senses can be fooled. But even if someone tried to trick you into believing you didn’t exist, you would have to have thoughts in order to be tricked. And therefore, since you think, you exist.
Now we’ve established one point of reference. However, this only solves the problem of self. But what about (literally) everything else?
Next up is reality. And by reality, I pretty much mean the universe and everything that we can perceive. I had a friend on Facebook just the other day post about how his science professor told his class that there is no such thing as a fact. That’s obviously an odd concept to wrap your head around. But what do you use to interact with the world around you? Your senses, and they are imperfect and unreliable. What if this is a perfected version of the Matrix? Anything could be changed with a line of code. What if you are a giant, solipsistic brain that dreamed up this reality? Everything is malleable to your imagination. What if you’re actually a robot with implanted memories that was only turned on a second ago? Think the Gangers in Doctor Who or the Replicants in Blade Runner. What if everything around you is a lie? Think The Truman Show. What if some god is just playing a very boring version of The Sims? Anything can be changed. Just the other day, physicists completed a study whose finding’s show that, according to the numbers, the universe is likely a holographic projection. I’m not going to lie and say I have any idea how that’s possible, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
So in order to live, be constructive, and learn in our reality, somewhere along the line, everyone has to make three basic assumptions. UC-Berkeley’s website lists them as:
But even though this allows us to interact with the outside world, we still can’t know anything about it for sure. Maybe in a different universe, a different galaxy, or close to a black hole, things happen differently. This is why there is no such thing as a fact. This is why science considers scientific concepts only theories, even when there is no evidence against it. Any theory could potentially be disproved. But if it holds up to rigorous and constant testing, it eventually comes to be treated as a fact. However, because of the label, this is also when you get your young earth creationists saying that evolution is just a “theory”. It’s a theory in the same sense as the theory of gravity.
And since I’m on the rant track now, let’s switch over to the idea of an objective, absolute morality. This is important because, while science reveals to us the way everything works, morality is our basis for interaction. The idea of an absolute morality means that there are objectively good and bad actions. In order to have an objective morality, you have to presuppose a guiding force behind the universe. Which can’t be proven for certain one way or the other. So let’s assume for right now there isn’t. The reason we have morals such as not to kill, not to steal, and not to lie is simple. It’s genetics. It’s survival. It’s the Golden Rule. It’s a realization that so many societies have come to and one that we as a 21st-century society have decided represents the best intentions of humanity. However, others tenets of morality that Western culture had or still hold come from human experience, things such as not eating pork and shellfish, bans on homosexuality, and bans on incest. Pork and shellfish were meats that often caused disease before we had any idea what germ theory was. Homosexuality was not going to produce any offspring and reproduction was key in an era where the infant mortality rate was abysmal. And incest produced too many genetic defects in a time when being abnormal was a death sentence. Generation after generation noticed these patterns until they were codified as an absolute morality. However, that does not mean that they are sacred. We now know how to keep food fresh and clean. We have enough children in the foster care system, so what’s wrong with some more adopting homosexual couples? And as long as the partners are in a healthy relationship (though I’m sure this isn’t normally the case) and are willing to deal with the consequences of their reproduction, there is no case to be made against incest.
And this is all my subjective viewpoint. I’m sure that someone who is religious does presuppose a guiding force and therefore finds an objective, absolute morality. I’ll just let Richard Dawkins explain better than I ever could why a subjective morality is the right path.
So this is how we as a species have constructed our own reality. This was probably reductio ad absurdum, so all my philosophy major friends, please feel free to rip me apart in the comments. I’m sure all of you reading this have your own viewpoints as well, and there’s my point. There is no such thing as objectivity. There are no moral truths to guide us. Nothing is set in stone. We have an obligation, as a society, as a species, as the most sentient creatures in the known universe, to discover and improve. We are not beholden to anything that came before, whether that be archaic laws, disproved scientific theories, a misplaced morality, or our own faulty minds. We need to use our thousands upon thousands of years of accumulated human experience to intelligently design an existence that is best for all. Now I have no idea how to go about that, but it sure does sound nice.
P.S. I’ve said the word ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ so much, they’ve lost any meaning.