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Sender: Michael Briand
Subject: on "truth" and change
Date: Mon, Mar 9, 2015
Msg: 101170

Esther had written: "I...question the term, search for 'truth', since that implies that someone is right and someone is wrong." Personally, I find it more helpful to allow that truth exists, but isn't knowable. "Beyond" ("beneath," "behind," etc.) what we are able to verify with observation, induction, and deduction there may be a reality we are unable to capture with our metaphors and models. Indeed, it is because direct apprehension of that reality is not open to us that we must content ourselves with metaphors and models, which are approximations of "the real thing." We can know many things, but not the truth about them. Consequently, no one can be right and someone else wrong about truth. Our knowledge, however, may be more or less precise, more or less complete, better-founded or less well-founded. Most of the time, the metaphor of the blind men and the elephant seems to me more useful. We all "see" a part of the beast, but none of us sees it all. Only collectively, by sharing our partial perspectives, can we get a sense of the whole. This does not rule out a distinction between views that are not as "good" and those that are "better." (Feeling the trunk probably provides more information than feeling the tail.) The issue is not right or wrong, though, but rather completeness. Incidentally, our values and principles are more "factual" and "objective," and our empirical propositions and conclusions less so, than we commonly assume.

Roger had written: I have worked with vaccine and critics of vaccines in the past while at CDC. Little change has occurred. I have seen emails this week that could have been written 15 years ago and been relevant back then." If little change has occurred, and we assume that change should have occurred, should we ask whether we have really understood and appreciated the concerns, needs, fears, perceptions, values, priorities, assumptions, etc. of those whose views have not changed? Have we probed deeply enough--and with sufficient goodwill--to identify the (likely multiple and interconnected) sources of those views? Have we done the same for the views of persons more accepting of the prudence of vaccination? Have we compared the two to see what insights the comparison reveals? Michael Briand Chico, CA


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