Since Truth is dependent upon values and beliefs that function to direct our moral conduct, facts often become unpopular among Truth holders, particularly when facts offer evidence that challenge the Truth of those who have confused or conflated their Truth (based on values and beliefs) with the empirical certainty of facts. Since those who harbor the Truth cannot use their belief alone to counter the facts that they find dangerous to the underpinning of their Truth, they convert their values, their beliefs, into false facts and then insist that they be given equal weight to the true facts that are derived from observation and experimentation, rather than being derived from a desperate cobbling together of pieces of broken faith.
This is, indeed, the situation we find ourselves in today, where Believers' facts, which are extrapolated from beliefs, vie for postion next to the facts derived from 500 years of modern science. Witness the re-emergence of the controversy surrounding the science of evolution.
With the help of right-wing political ideologues, however, we have gone one step further than the religious fundamentalists have taken us, so that now facts are now not challenged by a faith-to-fact transformation of the standard creationist variety, but, rather, facts, themselves, the ones based on observation and experimentation, are given the same previously-privileged place of faith. This gift, if you will, has less advantage for the empirically-grounded than it does for the holders of Truth, whether that Truth be religious, moral, or political--or all three. For when facts become a belief, then Truthholders are no longer required to go through the cumbersome and often-embarrassing machinations of fact manufacture. They simply have to disagree with what has been converted to another version of the Truth and then insist that their real Truth be given equal time with the one held by those who happen to believe in the facts.
Thus, the fundamentalists and the uniculturalists and the advocates of the one-Party system have come much closer in just a few short years to the ultimate relativism than ages of committed solipcists, angry anarchists, and posturing postmodernists: the Karl Roves of the world stand to inherit an epistemological relativism that will make those who control power the ultimate keepers of Truth--where propaganda is given the same stage as facts, all in the name of free speech. And the consolidation of media continues.
Here is an example from today's news that shows the current denigration of fact through its elevation to truth for political purposes--perhaps Gore should have chosen a better title--something like An Inconvenient Fact:
This week in Federal Way schools, it got a lot more inconvenient to show one of the top-grossing documentaries in U.S. history, the global-warming alert "An Inconvenient Truth."
After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. The movie consists largely of a computer presentation by former Vice President Al Gore recounting scientists' findings.
"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."
Hardison's e-mail to the School Board prompted board member David Larson to propose the moratorium Tuesday night.
"Somebody could say you're killing free speech, and my retort to them would be we're encouraging free speech," said Larson, a lawyer. "The beauty of our society is we allow debate."
School Board members adopted a three-point policy that says teachers who want to show the movie must ensure that a "credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented," that they must get the OK of the principal and the superintendent, and that any teachers who have shown the film must now present an "opposing view."
The requirement to represent another side follows district policy to represent both sides of a controversial issue, board President Ed Barney said.
"What is purported in this movie is, 'This is what is happening. Period. That is fact,' " Barney said.
Students should hear the perspective of global-warming skeptics and then make up their minds, he said. After they do, "if they think driving around in cars is going to kill us all, that's fine, that's their choice."
Asked whether an alternative explanation for evolution should be presented by teachers, Barney said it would be appropriate to tell students that other beliefs exist. "It's only a theory," he said.
While the question of climate change has provoked intense argument in political circles in recent years, among scientists its basic tenets have become the subject of an increasingly stronger consensus.
"In the light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations," states a 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advises policymakers.
"Furthermore, it is very likely that the 20th-century warming has contributed significantly to the observed sea level rise, through thermal expansion of seawater and widespread loss of land ice."
The basics of that position are backed by the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences.
Laurie David, a co-producer of the movie, said that this is the first incident of its kind relating to the film.
"I am shocked that a school district would come to this decision," David said in a prepared statement. "There is no opposing view to science, which is fact, and the facts are clear that global warming is here, now."
The Federal Way incident started when Hardison learned that his daughter would see the movie in class. He objected.
Hardison and his wife, Gayla, said they would prefer that the movie not be shown at all in schools.
"From what I've seen (of the movie) and what my husband has expressed to me, if (the movie) is going to take the approach of 'bad America, bad America,' I don't think it should be shown at all," Gayle Hardison said. "If you're going to come in and just say America is creating the rotten ruin of the world, I don't think the video should be shown."
Scientists say that Americans, with about 5 percent of the world's population, emit about 25 percent of the globe-warming gases.
Larson, the School Board member, said a pre-existing policy should have alerted teachers and principals that the movie must be counterbalanced.
The policy, titled "Controversial Issues, Teaching of," says in part, "It is the teacher's responsibility to present controversial issues that are free from prejudice and encourage students to form, hold and express their own opinions without personal prejudice or discrimination."
"The principal reason for that is to make sure that the public schools are not used for indoctrination," Larson said.
Students contacted Wednesday said they favor allowing the movie to be shown.
"I think that a movie like that is a really great way to open people's eyes up about what you can do and what you are doing to the planet and how that's going to affect the human race," said Kenna Patrick, a senior at Jefferson High School.
When it comes to the idea of presenting global warming skeptics, Patrick wasn't sure how necessary that would be. She hadn't seen the movie but had read about it and would like to see it.
"Watching a movie doesn't mean that you have to believe everything you see in it," she said.
Joan Patrick, Kenna's mother, thought it would be a good idea for students to see the movie. They are the ones who will be dealing with the effects of a warmer planet.
"It's their job," she said. "They're the next generation."