By labeling what was essentially an opinion as a “truth” I’ve fallen into a hole I try to skirt as much as I can. Better to have said, “I agree” that knowledge is better than ignorance, leaving truth out of it.
My mother was fond of pointing out that Thomas Gray didn’t write “Ignorance is bliss.” He wrote “Where ignorance is bliss, / ‘Tis folly to be wise.” There’s a rider attached to the proposition. I would get no joy from knowing when I’m going to die, for example. On the other hand, where government is concerned, knowledge trumps ignorance in the sense that the fewer secrets kept in high places for no good reason the better. Again, an opinion.
Gun fans compare firearms to pencils: Guns don’t *kill* any more than pencils *misspell*. I question the logic, but maybe it’s apt for knowledge, too: Nuclear physics didn’t build the atomic bomb then drop it on Japan, people did. A verb cropping up in opinion pieces is “weaponize.” It’s used as best I can see to describe the act of turning something that’s neutral or benign, intrinsically not a weapon, into one. This is where the guns-to-pencils analogy gives me pause: A gun, whether used for sport or homicide, is closer to being a weapon than a pencil is. More guns than pencils have been used in combat. However, a pencil, like a hatpin or passenger liner, can literally be “weaponized.”
So can the Internet. Seeking knowledge on the Internet is like supping with the devil — best done with a long spoon. The binary backbone of cyberspace supports much true-false, yes-no, good-bad, we-they, black-white dichotomizing. Seeker beware. Still, I can refresh my grasp of Manichaeism with a quick Wiki-dip, and have done so because as I’ve pondered this post I’ve kept thinking that somehow an allusion to Manichaeism is apposite. Wiki-erudition can be a mile wide and an inch deep, but I wouldn’t want Wikipedia to go away.
The same with Google. It lets a teacher unmask a student’s cannibalized essay text by merely typing a few words from it. That’s a powerful sleuth-tool, though it’s no less vexing that the same tool also facilitates the smash-and-grab plagiarism that teachers have to cope with in the first place.
It feels odd in a way, but also timely, to ask oneself: When does what’s “factual” overlap, if ever, with what’s “true?” Are fact and truth ever synonymous? I suppose the answer depends on whether you ask a scientist, a lawyer, a theologian, or the Internet.
[Copyright (c) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.]