Cicero in the Roman Senate

Edited transcript from a talk with Jeremy Nell on TNT Radio on the 18th May 2023

What’s the design flaw of humanity?

I think that the main design flaw is actually gullibility.

Humans are incredibly gullible. We love stories. We need stories. And when certain stories are told to us, we find it very difficult not to believe them.

And especially this story that’s been told to us for maybe the last few hundred years or so, maybe more, which is the story about science, and the story about medicine. We are witnessing, and we kind of all know, that we have been witnessing it very clearly.

I think for three years there’s been a fight over science, and there’s a fight over medicine, and each side is holding their banner and saying:

“This is my science. This is my medicine.”

The other side saying:

“No, this is my science, this is my medicine!”

And it’s it’s like trying to shout each other out.

And it became, using dirty tricks, one science versus another. And then you’ve got the people in the middle. Who in some ways have to make a choice. But the choice they will make is not really based on the numbers that are thrown at them or the diagrams, or really understanding the scientific spend.

It tends to be basic group choice. Which group do I think will protect my interests better? Or which belief is accepted, because ultimately it’s a belief, which belief is accepted more in my group? So if I’m in a specific area of work I should believe this, otherwise I may lose my income. I may lose my friends. So, ultimately it’s a group decision. It’s not about what it claims to be; it claims to be about some kind of ideal form of knowledge. And so the question is: how long can it go on? Because it can really go on forever. One person says: this is science. The other one person says: it is that. And it ultimately it will just polarise in two different directions with two different mythologies of what the real science is. And yes, we, you and I may think that one side is totally false and the other side is totally true, but that’s not going to take us very far.

Another sixty or seventy percent of people is going to think that what is false is true. So this opens up a question of: what’s true? And what’s science? And the fact that they’re not the same thing. And I think the first thing to try and bring back into these discussions and debates is that science does not mean truth, because people think it’s truth. It’s been very effective as a tool to switch off people’s brains and switch on the full gullibility mode in a lot of people, we’ve seen that with climate, we’ve seen that with covid, with all sorts of potential epidemic diseases, bird flu and chicken flu, monkeypox, and medicine as a whole.

So the question is, why do we believe that? Why and how have we come to believe that there’s this thing called science, which is truth by default, when actually it isn’t? Actually it’s just an ideology. Like all the other ideologies that we proved wrong, maybe in the twentieth century when they were pushed to extremes and in some cases led to World Wars in order to defend which ideology was going to be dominant.

We’re in the same position yet again. Why do I say it’s ideology? Because on one side there is the myth, the narrative, which is: there’s something which is called the scientific method, and it leads to people being super objective, having total detachment from what they’re looking at, and putting some input into some experiment and coming up with an answer, and that answer is the truth. But that’s an ideology. It doesn’t happen like that. Ultimately we’ve got human being beings involved, and when you’ve got humans, you’ve got bias. The way the experiment is laid out is full of bias. The way the results are collected is full of bias. Then, the way the results are presented is full of bias.

The way the conclusions are written is to please the funders. And this is something that I observed because, you know, for, for over a year or so, I was reading a lot of science, because it was almost in real time what was happening from 2020. I was reading everything that I could find to try and get a feel for myself of where the truth was. And the one thing that happened again and again, and again, was that you would read a research, some kind of method, some kind of discussion, and you’re thinking: this is really saying this. Then you’d read the conclusion and realise that the conclusion is contradicting everything that had happened before. I saw that time and time again. People would isolate a sentence in the conclusion and say: this is what the truth is. But in reality, the study, no matter how biased it was, was really indicating the opposite.

It’s not only that science is not truth: it’s a highly confusing journey, almost Kafkaesque, or a labyrinth by the Argentinian writer Borges, with numbers and data which contradict each other, which then are turned on their head in the conclusion. Anybody who’s not really able to look at this from having a lot of experience in the same field is not able to tell whether it’ totally false or not. So the starting point is not the one of truth. And we’ve had Ioannidis who analysed the output of science. Not an experiment in itself: but analysing the output and coming to the conclusion that actually most scientific research is false.

So the chances are that if I give you a piece of published science in a journal, medical journal or any scientific journal, chances are that what it says is false at quite a fundamental level. Although some of those experiments may be actually valid, in many cases they’re not. In many cases there’s fraud and there’s all sorts of other things which we cannot tell. So if we say that the science is the study of evidence, And we’ve got the evidence that most of that evidence is false, then we can only come to the conclusion that it’s not true that science is a better way to truth than what you and I can get a feel for.

Just by listening to a gut feeling, we’ve probably got a bigger chance at truth. By listening to a gut feeling of whether something is truthful, rather than picking up a scientific experiment and saying this is the whole truth. I think we need to rethink the relationship between what we perceive of as truth and science altogether, because otherwise we are really setting ourselves up for the next one. We know what it’s coming from: climate fearmongering. We know it’s coming from there, but we also know that there’s more attempts at so-called pandemics and diseases, and so we need to be ready for this in the sense that anyone could come up and say:

“I am the chief scientist of X and Y and this is what’s happening.”

And we’d all automatically believe that. Whereas I think the default position should probably be the opposite. If you’ve got to that position of power, what did you do to get there? And what happened to all the other people who didn’t get there? Were they maybe more truthful? Who’s profiting from you being there? So if we rewind a little bit, see how we got here? It wasn’t always like this. The culture that I come from is, essentially Classical culture that was integrated by Christianity. That’s the world I come from. And I feel that truth is not in the body of scientific research: it’s what needs to be said. It’s what rings true to me. Some people then say, but what if what he says is false? It could be, but it rings true to me because for me, truth is actually what happens when people talk, when people talk to each other, when people question each other. And also it happens in some texts and certain practices, whereas I think what, why we are where we are, is ultimately down to a philosopher called Descartes, who basically, believed that the mark of truth is evidence.

So our idea that in order to say something truthful, we need to present evidence, comes from there, but we are only taking this worldview and we are forgetting how we got there, which wasn’t from that worldview. We have seen clearly in the last three years, and we’re seeing now with climate, that I can be lying and have a whole body of evidence and have all the top experts backing me up, I can have all the graphs, I can have people I know in movies, in politics, and probably a lot more evidence than has been produced for the contrary, because there’s less funding to say the opposite, which may be true, and I can still be lying. I would think that it’s time to totally turn on its head this Cartesian view from the start, which is that evidence is the mark of truth, and to actually start to be highly suspicious of evidence, and come back to other criteria, which I think we can talk about.

One of them is gut feeling, intuition. But there are also certain practices. If we go back before Descartes, what do we have? We have Christianity. And in Christianity, truth was understood as a belief in a certain set of moral teachings as codified in very specific books. That was the truth: it’s there, it’s written out, it has to do with morality. And what has that been replaced with? It has been replaced with the belief that truth is science. Now what has changed there? What has changed there is that actually something went missing. We lost something along the way. And what is it?

It’s morality.

You see what happened? Where is the morality inherent in science or in what we consider science?

There is none, as such. So in this passage from the belief in Christianity to the belief in science, we’ve done away with morality and I don’t think that was accidental. We are holding onto these beliefs of control. Eugenics for example, was born with scientific so-called progress, this belief that there are biologically superior beings than others, and therefore we can dispense with those that are inferior. The same thing with races. I know a lot of people try and argue that’s not what he meant, but in the subtitle of The Origin of the Species by Darwin, he writes: the preservation of favoured races. Yes, he means it in a biological sense, but it’s all there in a subliminal sense. It’s all already there. It’s all setting the world up for eugenics, which is basically a form of, of control over other humans. And that is what happens when you dispense with morality altogether.

I think we should consider turning it on its head from the start. I think we should think that evidence was maybe the wrong place to put our hopes in truth. We talked about the film that I produced called The Book of Vision, which is about modern medicine turning the human into an an object, or a set of objects, which are the organs, and it’s almost as if what we did with evidence is this: we’ve objectified truth. So truth doesn’t exists but in an object, and the object is the evidence. That’s what Descartes has done. In parallel, what we try and address in the film, The Book of Vision, is that that it is not where truth lives. It’s not in objects as such, and it’s actually in certain practices that as humans, we actually do.

So it becomes an active practice. It doesn’t exist in that scientific journal and it’s not that some people did something and that is the truth. It’s actually something that we are doing now, by talking, or what we do when we go on some social media platform that allow it, which may be Telegram, maybe twitter, that now tends to allow quite a lot. We go there and we say something and we say it to others because that’s what we are there for, and we say something, as a practice of searching for the truth, and other people may say it instead to hide the truth. So there’s some technologies which are a form of truth searching.

Not necessarily truth arriving, but truth searching. In Christianity that was turned into some monastic practices of stripping away superfluous things: asceticism. You’d strip away the superfluous, you’d look within, and you’d find that moral core within you that you could really tune into, and then you would become a purified being. That was very much directed toward the self because the external truth had almost already been decided in certain books. Now, I’m not saying that that’s where we should go back to. I’m saying that should be as important as anything that we can see as science. The whole history of cultural, moral teachings as codified in in religious books is just as important as anything we call science. One has not supplanted the other, one is not better than the other, as we’ve been presented.

First of all, I would say put those on the same level, at least, if not actually, on a different one. Let’s practice these together so that we don’t go back into the same kind of to and fro, because in a way science came because the codified books became too restrictive, and then science becomes too restrictive. I’m not saying that we should just go back to the codified books, then we’re just going to end up with science again, which I don’t want. I’m saying let’s go even further back and let’s look at Ancient Greece and let’s look at what happened there in the dialogues, the Socratic dialogues, and in the practice of speaking to each other and speaking truth. Truth-telling, or free speech, which is a practice they had a word for: parresia. That was quite fundamental for democracy: that this was a practice that actually took place, this free speech.

The person who speaks freely, they know they speak the truth. It’s difficult for us to understand because we are so caught up in the Cartesian view that you need evidence, that we find it difficult to understand that at the time they had an idea of truth, and it was not linked to evidence.

They would probably laugh at you if you would bring an object and say:

“This in my evidence!”

Someone’s right if they say this in my evidence? They would laugh at you because they would say:

“No, you, you’ve got to fight this yourself!”

Following your own sense of what’s truthful, not relying on, on, on secondhand notions.

We turned it on its head, but back then you knew that you were speaking the truth because you really felt it. Because what you spoke coincided with a kind of moral, ethical self, set within yourself, that wanted you to do that, that wanted you to really feel for something so that you’d speak what you’d consider the truth, and no one would doubt that that was what you thought the truth to be, and therefore, that was true. What the only thing that other people could do is they could try and match that. It’s a little bit like a poker game. You put all of your money, your fiches, on the table and you say, this is as much as I’m going to put in. You’d get a sense in the way people would talk and, and you’d also get a sense with something we’ve also witnessed recently, that in order to truly speak freely, you need to take a degree of risk. If there is no risk, there is no truth because then it is just common sense: no one needs to say it, right? You know it: you don’t need to say it. So to define what the truth is, rather than going to a scientific article, you also need to think: what risks am I taking to say something that I feel to be truth? What danger am I putting myself in? If it’s none, you’re probably not truth-telling. What you say may be true, but it’s not truth-telling. It’s not really helping anything or anyone.

In their form of democracy in Athens, you had different categories of people. Not everyone was a citizen. You had the citizens, you had the slaves. And the main difference when it comes to truth-telling, and the reason why people didn’t want to be exiled from Athens (one reason may be that you spoke too much truth), they didn’t want to be exiled because if you are exiled to a to another city-state or to somewhere else, you would not have the rights of citizenship, if you had them in Athens, as not everyone did. If you had the right of citizenship in Athens, you were allowed to speak the truth. If you were a slave, you were not allowed to speak the truth. So this truth-telling was a definite sense that belonged to the democracy or proto-democracy that they had: that to be a citizen, you had to practice this truth-telling, and if you lose citizenship, you don’t do it, you know you can’t do it anymore.

If you turn it to what happened recently, you realise that everyone who is afraid of speaking the truth, because they don’t want to take the risk, they don’t want to take the danger that has always been there since least the classical times, when we have records of it. This is all in classical literature, what I am talking about. We have records of people acknowledging the risk they’re taking. We have stories of Socrates being poisoned for too much truth, and so we know it was there. If people don’t do that today, they are voluntarily putting themselves in the role of a slave in Athens, in that proto-democracy.

We know a lot of people that do that. I know a lot of people who do that. There is this situation in which a lot of people become so scared of risk. So scared of danger. Where did that come from? Why are people so afraid? Money? Or is that materialism? Or being ostracised by the community? That is basically a self-fulfilling situation in which you strip out the morality, and you say that science is everything: you relinquish what people think is truth to science.

People like you and I should just be quiet and stay on our lane: let the scientists do the talking, as we have no way to know what the truth is. So we should just be quiet. What I’m saying instead is that it’s the opposite: if we want to participate in any form of democratic system we have, what we have to remember is, that truth-telling, in the time of the Athenian proto-democracy or in classical Greece, was considered a duty. If you didn’t do that, the city itself would deteriorate and become so overwhelmed with lies, it basically would look like the world in 2023: they knew it would lead to this.

They would push this in their literature, this notion that truth-telling as an act is necessary for democracy. And that risk and danger, including the risk of death are, inevitable risks that one needs to take the risk of truth-telling, for the sake of the city not putrefying under a total veil of lies, in which all the decisions made are wrong, which is where we are at now in 2023. Going full circle in different way, I think that, rather than in science, we should seek this truth in a sense of morality, which may be aligned with certain religious books that remind us of where morality lies. We of course are informed by those, but ultimately we find it also within ourselves. We have a sense of when we should speak out. And sometimes we do it knowing that we are putting ourselves at huge risks.

I remember the climate we were in 2021. The alleged pharmaceuticals were being rolled out and anyone who was suspicious was against the science. In that climate, I remember it, there was a sense that you were taking a risk in truth-telling and then you’d get removed from social media. Then you’d get articles coming up about you, and you don’t know when they’re going to stop. That risk is actually, if we want to go back to Descartes, the evidence of the truth. See what I mean? It’s not in the scientific, it’s in that risk. If I were to say where what’s the evidence that Robin and Jerm were trying to be truthful? Well, were they ever canceled from anywhere? If they were, there was an attempt to truth-tell. Do bots come up on their social media posts that are clearly artificial , that insult and try to steer the narrative elsewhere? Well, that means they’re taking some kind of risk and that means that there is a chance they may be exercising this form of truth-telling. If we can somehow get back to wanting to take risks, wanting to take dangers, all of us, not just a couple of us, but all of us, I think the situation would improve dramatically.

If we stop saying, well, where’s your evidence? If we stop and we actually felt it in the way you talk, do you sound sincere or not? I share a Telegram channel with, with Dr. Mike Yeadon and what got me about Dr. Mike Yeadon first, wasn’t that I looked at his scientific resumé and thought:

“Oh, he’s done this drug, and therefore, of course that means that he knows what he was talking about.”

I just listened to him and I thought:

“This guy sounds sincere to me.”

I don’t necessarily have to agree with him on everything, and I still don’t agree with him on everything, and he knows that and we both know that. But when he talks, I think this: he is being sincere. He truly believes what he says. He’s speaking the truth, not because of his PhD. He’s speaking the truth because he’s a courageous person who is willing to say sincerely what he believes, and you can hear it in the way he says it. So that for me is truth, not the scientific aspect of it.

Jeremy Nell:

An image that I got while you were talking is of a, of a magnificent waterfall. You can talk about all the science and all the evidence, but nothing can take away what you are experiencing right then in that moment, that’s truth right there, and, and no amount of scientific method can encapsulate that.

Robin Monotti Graziadei:

That’s beautiful. I like that. And, another aspect is that there was a classical book that was written, I think it was Plutarch, on how to be able to tell a friend from a flatterer.

It was the way that people talk that defined the difference between the two. In a way, the flatterer uses some kind of rhetorical arguments. It’s almost like when they talk it’s rehearsed, right? It’s like Bill Gates with his formula for world population, clicking a finger and new slide comes up. It’s so rehearsed, it’s so clean. I don’t get a sense that that’s truth. I get a sense that that’s a sales pitch. That’s a salesperson. And truth, instead, it’s, it’s a bit more raw, it’s a bit more rugged. There can be mistakes in it, but there’s more emotion in it.

There are ways of telling truth which are to do with how it’s presented. Which takes you, I think, a mile away from this idea that it’s some detached print and graphs on a scientific paper, in which there is no need for any morals, or any ethics or, or any of that.

Now, I don’t know how we can get this out in a cultural platform big enough to try and counteract this belief in science as truth, so that’s something maybe we can leave for next time. We can both have a think about how, what, we can do further to try and take back some of that ground.

Some people say:

“Oh, but you’re trying to return back to medieval times.”

No, I’m not. I don’t think science is going to die. I don’t think it’s going to disappear.

I think as a practice we will keep on using it. But I think we just need to be a little bit less gullible about it to understand that it doesn’t mean it’s true. That doesn’t mean that science shouldn’t exist. That’s why we won’t go back to medieval times, because I’m not claiming that we should abolish science. I’m saying we should just look at it like everything else that humans do: some of it is good, some of is totally bad.

On average, it’s probably bad (as Ioannidis himself has proved).

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