Is Everything Just a Matter of Opinion?

We are seeing “the nihilistic rejection of the concept of expertise” on the grounds that everything is now a matter of opinion. We see the BBC giving equal time to cosmologists and flat-earthers, supposedly on the grounds of “balance”. Mark Thompson argues this in a recent book Enough Said. We are living in a “post-fact” world. How then do we get well-informed choices made about policy options? As the  Guardian Weekly says: “The Chinese politburo, campus censors who close down debate in the name of political correctness, and Twitter flash mobs have more in common than they know…they all seek to gag anyone who doesn’t share their world-view” [see  Guardian Weekly, 23.9.16, p.35].

Within the 4 Seas: Religion and Science

In a set of essays called Within the Four Seas (1969) Joseph Needham agreed that there was growing disenchantment in the west about organised religion. Why? Because of factors such as science undermining the older simplistic beliefs, excessive “Puritanism”, and atrocities in Christian history such as the Crusades and Inquisition. Against that science itself had been associated with evil, take Hiroshima for example.

Underlying everything remained “the mysterium tremendum”, the wholly other, the immanent. The category of the “numinous”, with its highest ethical principles, “altogether transcends the particular manifestations of it familiar in our parochial and limited experience” (pp.196-7).