Truth will out

Well, I’m not talking about the fall of Boris Johnson, though clearly the general principle applies, on the small scale, to habitual liars ant their parties and lies about one’s poor memory, and on the large scale to the West’s repeatedly claimed humiliation of the madman Putin by mighty victories in a proxy war, quickly turning to a rout for its own economies as well as for the Ukrainian regime. No, I’m thinking of identity politics.

Matt Walsh recently made a film about the whole gender phenomenon, and one recurrent theme is that, when woke people are challenged on “truth,” they always reply “Whose truth are you talking about?” in a way that to many seems unanswerable. How, sympathetic people reason, can what I believe trump what they believe about themselves? Hence the person I know, a Christian, who feels unable to reject his trans-gender grandchild’s claim that “God made me a girl, but my parents made me a boy,” despite the sheer meaninglessness of such a statement.

Now, there is a sense that the correct answer to the cavill “Whose truth?” ought to be “God’s truth,” for it is God who gets to decide what reality is not only in moral terms, but in the natural world. What God creates exists: nothing else does. Because of this, it is certain that all wrong ideas eventually crash into the buffers of reality and disintegrate. In this particular case, the first sign is the incoherence of the belief system, which we see very clearly in the clash of feminism – the assertion of inalienable rights of equality for women – and transgenderism – the assertion that anyone who says they are a woman is one. Both cannot be true, though both might possibly be false.

But the issue that seems to me often to be missed is the self-contradiction in every single one of these claims to the subjectivity of truth, because they invariably end up making claims to the very objective truth they deny exists. So in the case of transgender sports, the activists are not simply saying, “I may be biologically male, but my truth is that I am a woman,” but rather “The statement ‘biological males can be women’ is objectively true, so give me my gold medal, please.”

I suppose the more logical transgender campaign would be to get women’s sports to re-package themselves as sports for all those who self-identify by the word “woman,” but since that is absurd, they instead insist that XY males are “real” women, thus admitting that an objective reality on the matter exists. This in itself leads to incoherence, as “allies” are unable to come up with any definition of what a women is under these conditions. No objective definition is possible when no objective criteria exist, any more than one could allow any Gnumple to compete so long as they were really a Gnumple.

Similar considerations apply to novel sins like misgendering, whether the penalties are cancellation in the Twittersphere, or imprisonment for life under hate-speech laws. The very accusation implies that my subjective feeling (or, to be more accurate, my public claim – they need not be the same thing in the absence of evidence) that I am a “zhe” represents an objective truth that such genders exist. This claim is in direct contradiction to your subjective feeling – albeit backed by science and experience – that there are only two genders; or perhaps that in calling me “he” you mean my objective biological sex, not my subjective gender at all. But in making the “misgendering” accusation, I am expecting society to make an objective judgement backing my claim about the reality of multiple genders as opposed to yours that there are only two.

Of course, in reality that’s not my true wish at all: I just want the court, or the court of public opinion, to be on my side, and the question of objectivity can go and hang itself… except that at the back of my mind, the court’s imprimatur on my claim establishes it as objectively true, and yours as objectively false (which is why you get cancelled or jailed). What is true for me must become, by force, what is true for you – or else it’s no fun. I want my truth to be objective truth – which is a shame if it happens to be a delusion.

Objective truth, after all, is what courts are about. Most guilty defendants claim they are innocent of murder or rape or burglary. In many cases they persuade themselves to believe it. But the whole purpose of a trial is not simply for a judge or jury to hear the two sides and say, “Well, I now know what is true for each of you,” but to ascertain something objective. To take someone to court, of even to accuse them on Facebook, is to take one’s stand on the existence of objective truth. That’s so even if my aim is only to insist that my belief, that you hate me because I am a zhe, is true, whereas your belief, that you do not is, false. That is a paradoxical denial of the whole “lived experience” paradigm – I am claiming that I (and I hope, the court) know more about you than you do yourself. The proof of this is that nobody ever got off the “hate-speech” hook by saying their lived experience is that they don’t hate anyone.

This disparity between the claim of “individual truth” and the insistence that it become objective public truth is seen everywhere where wokeness rears its head. Your refusal to take the knee is less a personal denial of my subjective view of racism than a refusal to submit to its objective truth. My Pride flag may change its colours and meaning every week, but your daughter must have it on her Brownie uniform whatever she might believe or understand herself. Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead, but the Lailat al-Miʿraj commemorates Muhammad’s Night Journey to heaven in 621AD.

One of my favourite sayings is by François de La Rochefoucauld, who wrote “Hypocrisy is a tribute that vice pays to virtue.” If you loudly insist that all truth is subjective, but then invoke objective truth to establish yours, that is hypocrisy. It proves that objective truth, like objective virtue, exists.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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