You shouldn't let poets lie to you.

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The title of this post is attributed to Björk. It's from a video where she's basically talking nonsense about how a TV works.

As seems to be the case with Björk, even when she's talking nonsense she strangely makes a lot of sense.

At the end of the video she states "You shouldn't let poets lie to you." Yet poets often lie to tell a truth.

Belief and truth are quite strange concepts that are to some extent interchangeable.

What is truth?

For someone who is religious, belief provides Truth. And so things such as I am the way and I am the truth make sense. You just have to believe.

For the more scientific among us Truth is defined through theory and experiment. Applied as the scientific method.

If we can theorise something and we can create an experiment that is reproducible and consistent with our theory we say the theory is true. This is still belief. We believe in the scientific method to define our truth. This relies on our mutual agreement on certain things. The wavelength of light that we call red is about 650nm, we agree it is red. If I suddenly decide to call 650nm light blue, that's my choice and it is still true to me. Blue light then has a wavelength of 650nm. The problem is unless I get a wide consensus for this new Blue light everyone else will claim I am a liar when I state Blue light has a wavelength of 650nm. You're also free to continue expanding on that such that "Red light has a wavelength of 650 nano metres" becomes "Blue fish has a radius of 650 scorpions". By this point rather than being called a liar you are now being called mad. It's just the consensus of the symbolism used that makes one true and one insanity.

The biggest difference, in my experience, between the scientific truth and the religious truth is that people who really believe in scientific truth don't believe it is absolute. It is the best answer so far. I believe that if science came up with evidence for a creator then most scientific believers would be quite happy with that. A large part of cosmology and physics is taken up with the search for a creator. We're not talking of a silver bearded old man in the clouds here but the lowest possible level of definition that is an explanation of how all this came to be.

Religious belief uses a similar concept (that the Truth is the answer given). The difference being that religious truth is usually not subject to challenge. Once a belief is formed it should not be challenged nor updated in the face of evidence but should be taken at various levels as the truth; whether that be the literal truth or a guide to the truth. This is mostly defined by whomever is your spiritual leader. You are not expected to question it. The "ultimate answer" is already there. God did it. And you do not question god (see the story of Job).

If religious belief was not subject to questioning though there would be only one variation of any particular major religion once it had formed. It is from this fact (there are many variations on each and every major religion) that we can derive that religion itself (read organised religion) has little to do with spirituality in most cases and far more to do with government of a body of people. On that basis it shares more in common with tribal and barbarian cultures and their government than anything else (In the west we primarily live in a tribal society by the way).

This is one of those days where strange little coincidences happen. I was already thinking down these lines when we had our first Jehovah Witness visit this morning and my partner turned them away politely.

I've had various amusing times talking to Jehovah Witnesses in my past and this morning I was right up for having them come visit me in our study and I would have put on some science based universe creation theory documentary whilst they talk to me about God and Jesus. To add to my fun I would have liked to have asked them about the story of Lot in Genesis 19 and if they could perchance explain to me the morality that I was supposed to apply in my daily life from that, as I find it very confusing on that front. Do I put forward my family for abuse over strangers when a power greater than mine challenges me for those strangers, or do I take that any who challenge me should be harmed to their detriment for life. Or does that only apply when angels are involved?

Anyway it's all poetry (science and all) and it uses lies to tell a truth.

The atom is not a big ball in the middle with lots of smaller balls flying around it, but it's a good model to simplify the complexity and it provides a way for us to understand atoms. It is not the truth though. It's poetry, an elegant way to say something about the world we live in. I'm fairly sure that covalency would have been a lot harder to grasp at school if we'd been taught about the nuclear forces and string theory.

Light has a wavelength, this is true. However light is not made of waves, it is made of particles; photons. Particles do not have a wavelength. So we are not saying that photons have a wavelength, we are saying the observable effect of photons we call light has a wavelength. If we try and observe the photons we can't actually say what their wavelength is. What we can say is the observation of photons as a wave has a wavelength. We don't say this, we simplify the truth to be Light has a wavelength. Red light particularly so :).

Science and religion both have their poetry (I personally believe that scientific poetry is far more amazing and far more elegant than anything I've read on religion). All my waffle above really comes down to it's okay to lie to provide a truth, both in religion and science, and the lie should be believed because most of what we hold as true is a lie but it serves as a practical model to work with.

I just believe that you should also question the lie and that puts me firmly in the science camp.

So back to Björk. "You shouldn't let poets lie to you.", I disagree. You should let poets lie to you, but always question their lies and particularly their motives.