Over the weekend, a friend alerted me that water had lost its ability to hydrate. According to the London Daily Telegraph, that is what a couple German scientists have claimed, speaking for the European Union. What is more, if a company that bottles water in Europe says their product can prevent dehydration, they could face jail time. This bit of absurdity might make even George Orwell blush.
One of my goals here through this blog is to demonstrate how assumptions are always at work, even on hard science. If we want to make statements of fact without losing people’s trust, then we must begin by being honest with ourselves about the lenses through which we observe those facts. I am suspicious of people (including me) when they profess to be objective. Everyone operates with some kind of premise.
It is in vogue to isolate people of faith as though they are the only ones who approach the world with any pretext. But scientists can fall in love with their own unproven theories, and people with great faith can be winsomely objective. Periodically I hear someone say, “He has trouble with faith in general because he is really smart.” People who trust only what they can measure present themselves as very rational and progressive; whereas sometimes people use faith to fill in the gaps in their understanding and then retreat from further inquiry. But, every rational person is also more than rational, no matter how intelligent. Emotions, far more than ideas, drive what we think, and say, and do.
This story out of the EU about water is just a funny way to illustrate that there are always people behind facts. Faith or no faith, personal agenda are in play. Are we really supposed to believe that those German scientists doubt water’s ability to hydrate? Or, could they simply be acting in frustration about something, perhaps lashing out at the excessive production of plastic water bottles? Their acrobatic reasoning may be driven by a sense of civic duty to protect the environment. Or, maybe their in cahoots with the BBB (Bavarian Beer Board) if there is such a thing.
Whether my hunch is correct or not, the example punctuates the point that there is no neutral when it comes to a person’s point of view. There are only people who are somewhere between ignoramus and self-awareness. No one on this planet at least has yet arrived. In our more honest moments, we can admit that our motives are seldom clear.
As author G.K. Chesterton wrote:
“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.”
When we can own up to our bias, especially in an area of great passion, trust rises, and objectivity is nearer.