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Are the facts important?

As I said in the introduction to my essay on this website The Meaning of Life:

What is this identity you call 'Me'? What is culture and what is knowledge? What is truth? What is goodness? What is success in life? Why are we here? Are there any rules? How do our culture, upbringing and nature work to make us what we are? Can we talk about the 'meaning of life' at all, or simply about 'the presence of life'?
Others have told us most of what we think we know. How can we trust them? Why do we believe what other people around us believe? We tend to believe trusted messengers and to be suspicious of untrusted ones irrespective of the message. How do messengers gain our trust?
Ideas and speculations are fundamental to what it is to be human, unique among the animals of this planet and probably in this universe...


As I am defined by what I know and believe, if I believe things that are fanciful, and demonstrably wrong, I am diminished to that degree. 

A scientific paradigm can be likened to a jigsaw puzzle; all the pieces must fit together to form a coherent picture.   Finding a verified fact, that does not fit, requires a paradigm change: we must undo the whole thing and start again.   So it is important that facts are properly verified: they do not stand alone but as a part of our currently validated 'world view'.   Thus discovering that there really are angels or fairies or that Astrology is valid would require some pretty drastic revisions to the presently verified scientific paradigm.

It seems to me that it is self-evident that poor information and faulty knowledge leads to a faulty 'world view' and poor decisions.

Illiteracy; ignorance; and bad ideas not only diminish us as individuals; they lead us to do things that are misjudged; and often harmful to others. 

The conditions that some Aboriginal babies are condemned to grow up under are shameful to all Australians.  Very poor decisions in the past have contributed to this terrible situation. 

I have travelled widely and have observed everywhere that living cultures evolve as knowledge grows; events unfold; and conditions change. 

Might not proclaiming of Aboriginal culture, as it might have been at the time of European settlement, to be in some way sacrosanct, prevent people from moving forward?   Should not a contemporary Aboriginal culture embrace the Internet; tertiary education; individual responsibility; and a work ethic; rather than the values of a hunting and gathering society?

Just today there is a new report of the violence that is said to be endemic within some contemporary Aboriginal communities.  Children born into these communities typically face a significantly shorter life than other Australians. Many will experience lifelong welfare dependence, marked by: illness; drug and alcohol addiction; rape and petty crime; illiteracy and ignorance.  Some will go on to abuse their own children.  

I have no Aboriginal experience or direct empirical knowledge of these matters, except the little I have seen for myself in country towns; or in Redfern; over the past six decades; or been told.  In addition to going to school in Australia with descendants of the first Australians, I have explored the anthropological exhibits of many museums; read scientific papers and books (there are half a dozen on anthropology on my shelves); seen numerous television documentaries; as well as seeing movies ranging from Jedda to Rabbit Proof Fence.  I have also known and worked with and met Aboriginal people, most recently in Darwin; and listened to commentators and the media.  But I am a concerned observer. 

Taking note of diverse commentators on Aboriginal origins, culture and 'the way forward' I notice glaring contradictions between the different sources and voices. Clearly something is wrong.

And that does matter.


 As always, I welcome informed comment or criticism - Comments will be recorded below



# Kaustuv 2021-07-11 05:29
Thanks Richard for my first and only lesson in anthropology.
And in the ancient history of my adopted land.
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