“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery. It is important to first establish what a fact is. A fact can be defined as something that is known to be true, for which there is proof or information that supports it. Facts are constantly being created and therefore, the emergence of new knowledge could either support or dispute existing facts. Even if a group of people are given the same facts, the way in which they would interpret those facts would differ, as each person would have their own unique method of using the knowledge given to them to come to a substantial conclusion.
If various such unique methods and conclusions are accepted, it can cause discord and disagreement within the community of experts. At this juncture, we would examine the validity and accuracy of the methods of knowledge production. Therefore, in the presence of multiple valid conclusions that supposedly lead to the creation of new ‘facts’, how is it possible to determine how reliable each fact is? Is there an extent of ‘truth’ that can determine the value of a fact? How far can facts be considered to be the absolute truth?
It is first important to define the meaning of ‘absolute truth’. The absolute truth about anything is considered and ‘inflexible reality’. This means that these truths cannot be altered or disputed in any way. For example, it is an undisputed truth that all humans will die at some point, and so we cannot be immortal. This has been something that has been unchanging and has held true since the beginning of human life. Technically speaking, it should be possible as competition for survival between cells could essentially lead to immortality due to the body’s ability to get rid of dead cells.
But here lies the disadvantage as cells may end up fighting for their own survival rather than the overall survival of the organism that they co-habit. Such cells are known as ‘cheater’ cells, and multiplication of such cells can lead to cancer. While it is becoming possible to live longer, it is simply not possible to live forever at this point in time. Therefore, we can determine, that in this case, the fact does indeed prove to be the absolute truth. There is no known way to dispute this truth and therefore it is widely accepted by all. However, it is important to note that this is one of very few unique cases, and that the majority of scientific theories do not always present the uncontested truth.
A prime example of a theory that didn’t always present the absolute truth would be Einstein’s static universe theory. Up till 1931, Einstein strongly believed that the earth was static and unchanging. He formulated this view by applying his theory of relativity in the universe and created a model of an invariable and unmoving, spatially curved universe. Moreover, he stuck to his theory despite the claims of others in the field, such as Georges Lemaître, who combined Einstein’s own theory of relativity and astrological information to conclude that the universe was indeed, expanding.
It was only after such claims that Einstein himself thought to apply his theory to the universe and began to accept that it was expanding. While he was not able to make substantial advancements in his research, it was Edwin Hubble, who with the help of advanced telescopes, determined that our universe expanded past our galaxy. He further theorised that the light coming from other galaxies refracted in a certain manner, which helped him determine that the galaxies were actually moving away from each other at a high speed.
This brought him to conclude that the universe was ever expanding. Ultimately, it was the conflict between various scientists that aided them to come to the theory that we are familiar with today. What was once considered the absolute truth, was actually disproved due to an advancement in technology. It is also plausible this theory might be disproved by developments in the future.