Colin McEnroe Show: Are All Facts Relative?

An author and philosopher on the place of facts in literature and culture.

<< Previous
0 of 1 Images
Next >>
Michael Lynch
Photo:Chion Wolf
Colin McEnroe Show: Are All Facts Relative?
Download Audio
Audio Playlist
Colin McEnroe Show: Are All Facts Relative?

What is the truth? It's a question that comes up a lot in the news. Is Barack Obama a Muslim? Were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?  Did 9/11 happen as we were told? Was JFK killed by a lone gun man? Were there any real instances in which Vietnam veterans were spat upon? Is there any such thing as post-traumatic stress disorder? Do certain vaccines cause autism? Is evolution a theory or a scientific truth?

I could go on.

In some cases it  seems at least possible to pin down an answer. In other cases, it can at least be said that nobody can verify even one instance of a thing which people believe happened quite frequently. In other cases, we might say that the body of scientific investigation comes down squarely on one side or other, without necessarily removing all dissent or explaining every piece of outlying data.

So are all those things the same version of the truth? Are there indisputable facts?

Leave your comments below, e-mail or Tweet us @wnprcolin.




Chion Wolf is most annoying. I believe that she must have talent in order to be employed, but every single time she is the announcer I actively turn off the radio or mute the broadcast in order to avoid hearing her.


I love when you take on metaphysical questions on a 1 hour talk show. Truth is indeed one and absolute, the squishy part is perception. I think in any interaction what we experience is a small nearly infinitesimal fraction of what exists. If you are religious or spiritual you might compare your knowledge of something to God's knowledge which is by definition "complete" to get a sense of what we don't know about everything that we experience. The problem then becomes one of judgement. When we think about everything we don't or can't know about something, we're far less likely to judge it without a real need. Most of us judge the things we experience as a matter of course. Perhaps a better expression of this is in David Hawkins book POWER VS. FORCE. Chapter 20 titled "the Evolution of Consciousness" For me the net effect is that less judgement makes for a happier life.

E-mail from Eddie

Your last guest mentioned that the Theory of Evolution is the best explanation but it could be wrong. As a biologist I know nothing at all in biology, geology, and even astronomy, as well as radio dating techniques, makes sense without evolution. When people say its just a theory they don;t understand the Evolution itself is a fact but there are theories of evolution, meaning "How it happened" like natural selection or punctuated equilibrium. I felt your guest was just a tad confused about that. My two cents

E-mail from Paul

Would it be more accurate to say that there are different dimensions of truth, and that each "fact" only captures some of the dimensions of the whole truth?

Paul Allopenna
Assistant Professor - Research
Cognitive Linguistic & Psychological Sciences
Brown University

E-mail from David

If an object, and a body, falls at 32 feet per second squared, isn't it possible to determine exactly how long it took for the guy to fall? wouldn't that be as close to a fact as we can come?