After sipping a chilled beverage that the Fridge provided today I began to ponder the concept of authority. What is authority and where does it come from?
Some authority is simply granted, some is taken, some is enforced by coercion, some is acquired by knowledge and study. All should be questioned!
Why should it be questioned? For one simple reason. They might be wrong. How often do you hear about ‘they?‘ They say this and they say that. They are an authority on pretty much everything. They even make the rules. If a person quotes ‘they’ as their authority on the matter I, the self proclaimed profet of Fridge would tell you to take it with a huge grain of salt from the pantry. (the pantry is a disciple of the fridge as it stores food for the betterment of mankind and offers salt by which to determine the truth of things)
If a person claims truth or rule by an authority naming a person (not ‘they’) then you are a step closer to the truth of the matter. Still though you should question. A smart man by the name of J. Reuben Clark once said “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” This is clear advice that if it is a true thing it can stand the questioning. If it really isn’t true, then what is the point of following that particular train of thought? If truth sets you free then falsehoods will surely limit your progress.
Authority that is granted, taken, or enforced by coercion is simply opinion, it could be completely right and it could be completely wrong. It could be any mixture of the two but one thing you can be reasonably sure about is that it hasn’t been tested. So if it is granted authority, by the board of education, the president of the nation, Zues, Yaweh or even the Fridge you should be quick to question the ‘truth’ that you are receiving.
Authority acquired by knowledge and study is stronger than granted authority. However that alone doesn’t guarantee anything. It only increases the odds that they might be right. This type of authority is based often on experiment and test. If you can repeat the experiment you can be sure of the truth yourself. The scientific method is based on testing results independently and it used to be pretty easy to check claims of authority out for yourself. When newton figured out the law of gravity, it was a theory that we could all test it in our back yards. But should you want to test the theory of relativity that Einstein churned out, your back yard just isn’t gonna cut it.
So what is a truth seeker to do? Well you have one more tool, consensus. The nature of scientific endeavors is to publish your results and allow others to repeat your experiments, you must open yourself up to being proven wrong. If the authority isn’t willing to have his or her conclusions tested independently, you ought to seriously question the assertion being made.
“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”
Error can not, nor should it, survive inquiry. Far to often we don’t want to know so we don’t actually inquire. My last bit of advice as my drink begins to warm and inspiration fades is this:
If you aren’t willing to question your own assumptions then you are nothing but marketing fodder for the world at large. Anyone of these authorities can make a great commercial and spin a great yarn especially if they have a PR budget. The last authority you should question is your own.
The Fridge giveth light to all that open it, this is the truth. I give you my word as an Ice Profet! Hopefully you question it though and go open the door yourself!
J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn (1983). The Church Years, p 24. Provo (UT): Brigham Young University Press