Feature Article of Saturday, 10 December 2011
Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta
– Pre -Xmas Reflections
Kwesi Atta Sakyi 28th November 2011
What is truth? Truth, like light, is without darkness and it is transparent, factual and can be proved. Truth is the absence of lies and the statement of reality which is eternal and cannot be controverted, subverted nor distorted. It is a truth that light and darkness cannot co-exist and that after a period of darkness, we are ushered into daylight. We have absolute truth that two plus two equals four but it is relative truth that 3 is less than 4, 5, 6 or any other number greater than 3. Absolute truth may, in most cases, exist in logic, abstract concepts, and the ideal or in the form of concrete material objects. A table is a table and not a chair or a desk but a table. Of course, some people are capable of proving that a table is a chair and a chair, a table. These are the mind jugglers, bogglers and logicians, philosophers and those who dwell on pedantics, semantics and abstruse logicism. Not being a philosopher, I will beg indulgence and recuse myself before I get castigated for stating falsehoods. The main reason of this article is to trigger sober reflection of our actions as we approach Christmas, the anniversary of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only reason why we live and have our being. Of course, as a Christian, I am entitled to my faith and my beliefs. Stating that Christ is the centre of our being may be the absolute truth for me and others, but to non-Christians, this may be partial truth or non-truth. Whatever the statement that Christ is the centre of our being, there is bound to be disagreement because some people may hold that statement as utterly false, others as partially true, yet others as the truth, nothing but the truth. This is seen as a subjective or normative statement which has no one answer as it depends on who is stating it, where, when and how. Thus, the truth can be elusive and when arrayed along a continuum, it may range from the extremity of absolute falsehood, through near falsehood, through near truth, to absolute truth. We in Ghana, being mostly Christian, may be in the majority inclination of being on the right of center, close to the absolute truth. In science, the early pioneers preferred the scientific method as the only stringent test of separating scientific falsehood from the truth, through vigorous experimentation, testing and stages of proof. The proponents of the scientific method included Thomas Kuhn, Lakatos, Karl Popper, Bertrand Russell, among others. Even scientists in their formulations, agree that there could be spurious correlation between the arrival of storks and an increase in human births in a particular village. Was it the storks’ presence that caused the high rate of births or the births that caused the birds to arrive? That is spurious correlation for you. Scientists therefore have to prove their theories beyond all reasonable doubt by carrying out empirical research in time and space. They carry out trials repeatedly at different time periods and in different locations to verify and validate their claims. The same set of conditions is held constant or repeated in the experiments which are carried out by independent researchers in different places and at different times. When all their conclusions converge and agree, then they have arrived at a principle or scientific law. There is always an X or unexplained factor in the equations as not all the independent critical variables can be explained, isolated or identified. For example, it is said that the DNA genome mapping, first unearthed by Crick and Watson, has established that between man and the primates (monkeys), there is 99% resemblance but the difference is the unexplained 1%. Do we then take recourse to the law of large numbers by voting for 99% and easily rejecting the 1% as insignificant? Does this support Darwinism?
Here lies the mystery of creation. When Isaac Newton stated his Principles of Motion, little did he know that about 150 years later, Einstein would discover another truth which will overshadow his theory. The collider project in Switzerland is about to render Einstein obsolete and irrelevant. Thus the truth is relative in time. The truth is that, what looks an insignificant 1% to man may be cosmic-wise, extraordinarily significant. In the news media, to arrive at the truth of an incident, the media houses confirm their stories by verifying from both sides of the story and thus, obtain a balanced view, thereby leaving the audience to come to their own conclusions as to who is telling the truth. Do we see our media houses taking the trouble to carry out investigative reporting? No! Most of them are not like Anas Amereyaw Anas or Christian Amanpour, who take the trouble to go to where the story is or action is to scoop out the truth. Our reporters have become lazy armchair and hearsay reporters or news peddlers, who feed the public with half truths, concocted lies, and tall stories which are better told to the mariners. Day in day out, the numerous FM stations assail our ears with lies, just to sell their stations or their self importance and ego. Newspapers use IT skills to create false pictures to deceive the reading public. Where are the ethics of the journalism profession? I wonder whether the reporters care or are aware of crimes such as libel, sedition, misleading adverts and misrepresentation of facts. In the law courts, because of high levels of corruption, the trial judges and magistrates unnecessarily delay cases and side-step the truth, only considering pecuniary considerations. There are high levels of miscarriage of justice, travesty of justice and commercial elephantiasis. Liars are murderers. Many people these days resort to being economical with the truth, because of low moral standards in our schools, homes and churches. Many pastors and reverends strike fear in their congregants by telling them false prophecies in order to seduce, hoodwink and fleece them of their monies and properties. Some, like the serpent Lucifer, deceive their victims by claiming to have false powers to turn fortunes around. In this case, we find false prophets giving predictions about the end of the world, so as to draw attention to them selves and win more members to their churches. Many of our politicians give false promises in their manifestoes to win votes. They simply stretch the truth to gain political mileage. As we approach Christmas, let us reflect in our hearts and diligently seek the truth just as the early philosophers sought the philosopher’s stone or as the Magi from the east journeyed by following the night star to guide them to the divine truth –Jesus Christ. And when they had seen him, they worshipped him and brought tributes and gifts of myrrh, gold and frankincense, portending his kingship, his priesthood and his eventual death. When the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, she was informed of things to come and was warned not to divulge the divine revelation. She kept all those things in her heart. This also warns us that there are some truths which we are not to disclose until at germane or appropriate times.
Some believe we are approaching he end time. But the Bible warns us that no one knows that time, not even the angles in heaven, let alone mortal man. Someone said that religion is the opium of the masses (Mao Tse Dong). Where truth is lacking, legends, myths and fiction hold sway. Let those given to lying, sublimate and canalize their negative tendencies into positive ventures such as writing and publishing novels, drama and fairy tales. These days, companies hire public relations officers (PROS) to do damage control for them in the media. These engage in corporate image redemption, window dressing and promotions. Ghanaians have become like sailors, telling cock and bull stories. All this boils down to superstition, high level of gullibility and lack of knowledge. Our governments are heavily engaged in selling propaganda, our diplomats excel in diplomacy, where our lawyers wax in semantic logic. Professors in the universities exude in excavating the truth through various means such as exegesis, DNA testing, carbon dating, potassium argon dating, analysis, classifications and dilating on oral tradition, archaeological finds, linguistic clues, among others. The police and sleuths use forensic evidence and undercover activities to unravel crimes in order to arrive at the truth. Parapsychologists, séances and hypnotists are used at crime scenes to gather evidence, and hi-tech gadgets are used to gather and analyse data to generate clues for solving crimes. Sometimes, the truth is disgorged by using hard approaches such as torture, threats, lie detectors, rendition, debriefing, water boarding, electric shocks, beatings and blackmail. So what are the other methods of knowing the truth? Some people are gifted naturally and have extrasensory perception. Through a sixth sense or hunch or adumbration, they can sniff what is to come, or they may be forewarned in dreams like Joseph of old in the Bible. The theory of knowledge (TOK) informs us that we can know through experiential learning (David Kolb’s cycle of learning), through our five senses of seeing, tasting, touching, feeling, hearing and smelling. We can know also discern through reasoning or logic (induction and deduction), a priori and posteriori, and through received knowledge, handed down to us by our forebears. I am always intrigued by the lewd Ashanti proverb which states, ‘if the stone of truth lies at the remote recesses of your mother’s genitalia and you scoop it out with your manhood, it does not mean you have defiled her or caused incest. If you ponder over this conundrum, you realize that the Ashanti’s after all, had their own version of the Electra and Oedipus complexes. The truth is after all, a dilemmatic and problematic commodity whose exegesis requires wisdom and praxis, not mere prolixity or superficial dissertation like this one. For, many are the fugitives of truth because of her weighty and luminous countenance. The truth is bitter but it is naked and pure.
In conclusion, let us reflect soberly over our past actions and embrace the significance of Christmas, as the time when the light of the world came in the flesh to point us to the only one divine creator of the universe. For God is love, and we all are part of His creation or handiwork. This is despite our differences. Let us seek the truth at this period of Christmas, to be at-one-ment (atonement) with Him. Amen. Merry Christmas in advance!
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi