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Relativism, the creed of today’s academy, claims that no objective ranking can be imposed on different beliefs or “truths” in any given domain. We cannot, for example, say that the ideas contained in Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace, are in any way better than those contained in a “bodice-ripper” paperback romance. Nor can we claim that one culture is superior to another. Presumably, there is also nothing to choose between a college Civil Engineering textbook and the instructions that come with an Erector set. In short, there is no absolute capital “T” truth. Small “T” truths exist, but they are valid only within the context of the observer’s frame of reference – that is, limited to the observer’s culture, era, sex, race, etc.
But what is a relativist do when faced with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? According to Darwin, those organisms that best adapt to their environments survive while those that don’t adapt or adapt less well die out. The information encoded in the former’s DNA has proven to be objectively better than that coded in the latter’s, and better in a very fundamental sense – survival. Nature is the ultimate domain-spanning judge.
The relativist would reply that this holds true only within the context of a given environment. Frogs well-adapted to survive in the tropics quickly die in Siberia. Fair enough. But how, then, to explain homo sapiens? Human beings survive by adapting their environments to themselves rather than by adapting themselves to their environments. Instead of growing thick fur, we fashion clothes. In place of sharp teeth or claws, we make tools and weapons. Instead of sharp eyes, we create telescopes and microscopes. In other words, human beings transcend their environment rather than being either constrained or defined by it.
The ability to survive in any environment is objectively better than the ability to survive in only one if, for no other reason, that environments change. Earth’s climate endlessly cycles through ice ages and warming periods. Land once underwater emerges, dry land becomes submerged.
Global markets play nature’s role in the economy. Goods and services that “survive” are better – as judged by hundreds of millions of consumers – than those that don’t. So, we can objectively say that using a spreadsheet application on a PC is better than counting on fingers and toes, antibiotics outperform a witch doctor’s dance, and painless dentistry is far superior to the alternatives.
Relativists are certain to disagree, but it’s safe to assume that they will write their erudite, scathing, and unanswerable rebuttals on a laptop rather than using styluses to impress their thoughts into wet clay tablets. We can also safely assume that, should they come down with a serious infection, they’ll prefer penicillin to death.
In other words, relativists don’t really believe their claims, or – at the very least – they don’t act as if their beliefs are true. Could it be that their beliefs are true all the same? Sure. But if to survive, you must act as if your beliefs are false, what purpose do those beliefs serve?Published in