Weighing that which is generally regarded as knowledge against the scales of opinion and knowledge that is either immutable or subject to correction in the future was helpful for me because these classifications directly affect how journalists portray such claims to knowledge.
It is exactly the confusion about this matter that has led to misinformation in the news media. Meanwhile, individuals have intuitively perceived that truth is not comprised of either-or absolutes and have rebelled against this dichotomous thinking by pushing a creed of relativism.
The press has an important responsibility of filtering out the zero-sum game between these two camps in its presentation of the knowledge it is meant to help generate and apply, and to assist readers in acquiring.
For example, in the presentation of scientific theories and religious convictions in the news media, it is crucial to properly convey the category of knowledge into which they fall because—as studies in almost every field have shown—these are the two systems of knowledge that have been the real progenitors of civilization. So nothing short of civilization is at stake. 🙂
To automatically present all scientific theories as immutable, incorrigible knowledge would not adequately represent the reality of the evolutionary path that science has followed, with the exception of perhaps pure mathematics. Especially in the unfolding period of transition, in which the scientific fundamentals rooted in the Cartesian-Newtonian worldview are being constantly challenged, the oversimplified science journalism seems naïve, out-of-touch, irrelevant and unreliable.
Similarly, when the majority of the world professes belief in a spiritual dimension of existence, the press—following suit with the current dominant consumerist-materialist culture—comes across as belligerent and having hidden motives in its refusal to present religious conviction as anything else than mere opinions. Meanwhile, believers consider Immutable to be one of the Names of God.
This last point is not to be argued, as debate and contention must be recognized for their worth: nothing (centuries of philosophical disputes have proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt). Instead, the point must be demonstrated in action and, with time, the proof will be irrefutable.
For those who find that hard to believe need only look to the process required for theories of racial superiority to travel the spectrum from widely accepted “incorrigible knowledge” to merely harmful opinion. We as humans have learned nothing if we have not learned that we are never done learning.
(Mortimer Adler’s Ten Philosophical Mistakes sparked this reflection.)