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This post was triggered by an essay in Scientific American Authenticity under Fire by Scott Barry Kaufman. He raises modern issues and expresses a social and psychological sense of authenticity that left me unsatisfied. So following that, I turn to a scientific standard much richer in meaning and closer to my understanding.
Researchers are calling into question authenticity as a scientifically viable concept
Authenticity is one of the most valued characteristics in our society. As children we are taught to just “be ourselves”, and as adults we can choose from a large number of self-help books that will tell us how important it is to get in touch with our “real self”. It’s taken as a given by everyone that authenticity is a real thing and that it is worth cultivating.
Even the science of authenticity has surged in recent years, with hundreds of journal articles, conferences, and workshops. However, the more that researchers have put authenticity under the microscope, the more muddied the waters of authenticity have become.
Many common ideas about authenticity are being overturned.
Turns out, authenticity is a real mess.
One big problem with authenticity is that there is a lack of consensus among both the general public and among psychologists about what it actually means for someone or something to be authentic. Are you being most authentic when you are being congruent with your physiological states, emotions, and beliefs, whatever they may be?
Another thorny issue is measurement. Virtually all measures of authenticity involve self-report measures. However, people often do not know what they are really like or why they actually do what they do. So tests that ask people to report how authentic they are is unlikely to be a truly accurate measure of their authenticity.
Perhaps the thorniest issue of them all though is the entire notion of the “real self”. The humanistic psychotherapist Carl Rogers noted that many people who seek psychotherapy are plagued by the question “Who am I, really?” While people spend so much time searching for their real self, the stark reality is that all of the aspects of your mind are part of you.
So what is this “true self” that people are always talking about? Once you take a closer scientific examination, it seems that what people refer to as their “true self” really is just the aspects of themselves that make them feel the best about themselves.
Even more perplexing, it turns out that most people’s feelings of authenticity have little to do with acting in accord with their actual nature. The reality appears to be quite the opposite. All people tend to feel most authentic when having the same experiences, regardless of their unique personality.
Another counterintuitive finding is that people actually tend to feel most authentic when they are acting in socially desirable ways, not when they are going against the grain of cultural dictates (which is how authenticity is typically portrayed). On the flip side, people tend to feel inauthentic when they are feeling socially isolated, or feel as though they have fallen short of the standards of others.
Therefore, what people think of as their true self may actually just be what people want to be seen as. According to social psychologist Roy Baumeister, we will report feeling highly authentic and satisfied when the way others think of us matches up with how we want to be seen, and when our actions “are conducive to establishing, maintaining, and enjoying our desired reputation.”
Conversely, Baumeister argues that when people fail to achieve their desired reputation, they will dismiss their actions as inauthentic, as not reflecting their true self (“That’s not who I am”). As Baumeister notes, “As familiar examples, such repudiation seems central to many of the public appeals by celebrities and politicians caught abusing illegal drugs, having illicit sex, embezzling or bribing, and other reputation-damaging actions.”
As long as you are working towards growth in the direction of who you truly want to be, that counts as authentic in my book regardless of whether it is who you are at this very moment. The first step to healthy authenticity is shedding your positivity biases and seeing yourself for who you are, in all of your contradictory and complex splendor. Full acceptance doesn’t mean you like everything you see, but it does mean that you’ve taken the most important first step toward actually becoming the whole person you most wish to become. As Carl Rogers noted, “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Kaufman describes contemporary ego-centric group-thinking, which leads to the philosophical dead end called solipsism. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind.
His discussion proves the early assertion that authenticity (in the social or psychological sense) is indeed a mess. The author finds no objective basis to determine fidelity to reality, thus leaving everyone struggling whether to be self-directed or other-directed. As we know from Facebook, most resolve that conflict by competing to see who can publish the most selfies while acquiring the most “friends.”This is the best Scientific American can do? The swamp is huge and deep indeed.
It reminds me of what Ross Pomeroy wrote at Real Science: “Psychology, as a discipline, is a house made of sand, based on analyzing inherently fickle human behavior, held together with poorly-defined concepts, and explored with often scant methodological rigor. Indeed, there’s a strong case to be made that psychology is barely a science.”
In contrast, let us consider some writing by Philip Kanarev, A practicing physicist, he is concerned with the demise of scientific thinking and teaching and calls for a return to fundamentals. His essay is Scientific Authenticity Criteria by Ph. M. Kanarev in the General Science Journal. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
A conjunction of scientific results in the 21st century has reached a level that provides an opportunity to find and to systematize the scientific authenticity criteria of precise knowledge already gained by mankind.
Neither Euclid, nor Newton gave precise definitions of the notions of an axiom, a postulate and a hypothesis. As a result, Newton called his laws the axioms, but it was in conflict with the Euclidean ideas concerning the essence of the axioms. In order to eliminate these contradictions, it was necessary to give a definition not only to the notions of the axiom and the postulate, but also to the notion of the hypothesis. This necessity is stipulated by the fact that any scientific research begins with an assumption regarding the reason causing a phenomenon or process being studied. A formulation of this assumption is a scientific hypothesis.
Thus, the axioms and the postulates are the main criteria of authenticity of any scientific result.
An axiom is an obvious statement, which requires no experimental check and has no exceptions. Absolute authenticity of an axiom appears from this definition. It protects it by a vivid connection with reality. A scientific value of an axiom does not depend on its recognition; that is why disregarding an axiom as a scientific authenticity criterion is similar to ineffectual scientific work.
A postulate is a non-obvious statement, its reliability being proven in the way of experiment or a set of theoretic results originating from the experiments. The reliability of a postulate is determined by the level of acknowledgement by the scientific community. That’s why its value is not absolute.
An hypothesis is an unproven statement, which is not a postulate. A proof can be theoretical and experimental. Both proofs should not be at variance with the axioms and the recognized postulates. Only after that, hypothetical statements gain the status of postulates, and the statements, which sum up a set of axioms and postulates, gain the status of a trusted theory.
The first axioms were formulated by Euclid. Here are some of them:
1 – To draw a straight line from any point to any point.
2 – To produce a finite straight line continuously in a straight line.
3 – That all right angles equal one another.
Euclidean formulation concerning the parallelism of two straight lines proved to be less concise. As a result, it was questioned and analyzed in the middle of the 19th century. It was accepted that two parallel straight lines cross at infinity. Despite a complete absence of evidence of this statement, the status of an axiom was attached to it. Mankind paid a lot for such an agreement among the scientists. All theories based on this axiom proved to be faulty. The physical theories of the 20th century proved to be the principal ones among them.
In order to understand the complicated situation being formed, one has to return to Euclidean axioms and assess their completeness. It has turned out that there are no axioms, which reflect the properties of the primary elements of the universe (space, matter and time), among those of Euclid. There are no phenomena, which could compress space, stretch it or distort it, in the nature; that is why space is absolute. There are no phenomena, which change the rate of the passing of time in nature. Time does not depend on anything; that’s why we have every reason to consider time absolute. The absolute nature of space and time has been acknowledged by scientists since Euclidean times. But when his axiom concerning the parallelism of straight lines was disputed, the ideas of relativity of space and time as well as the new theories, which were based on these ideas and proved (as we noted) to be faulty, appeared.
A law of acknowledgement of new scientific achievements was introduced by Max Planck. He formulated it in the following way: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”. Our attempt to report the reliability of this law to the authorities is in the history of science an unnecessary intention. Certainly, time appeared in space only after matter. But still we do not know of a source that produces elementary particles – building blocks of the material world. That’s why we have no reason to consider matter absolute. But it does not prevent us from paying attention to an interconnection of the primary elements of the universe: space, matter and time. They exist only together and regardless of each other. This fact is vivid, and we have every reason to consider an indivisible existence of space, matter and time as an axiomatic one, and to call the axiom, which reflects this fact, the Unity axiom. The philosophic essence of this axiom has been noted long ago, but the practitioners of the exact sciences have failed to pay attention to the fact that it is implemented in the experimental and analytical processes of cognition of the world. When material bodies move, the mathematical description of this motion should be based on the Unity axiom. It appears from this axiom, that an axis of motion of any object is the time function. Almost all physical theories of the 20th century are in conflict with the Unity axiom. It is painful to write about it in detail.
Let us go on analyzing the role of postulates as scientific authenticity criteria. First of all, let us recollect the famous postulate by Niels Bohr concerning the orbital motion of the electrons in atoms. This catchy model of the process of the interaction of the electrons in the atoms goes on being formed in the mind of the pupils in school despite of the fact that its impropriety has been proven more than 10 years ago.
The role of Niels Bohr’s generalized postulate is great. Practically, it is used in the whole of modern chemistry and the larger part of physics. This postulate is based on the calculation of the spectrum of the hydrogen atom. But it is impossible to calculate the spectrum of the first orbit of the helium atom (which occupies the second place in Mendeleev’s table,) with Bohr’s postulate, to say nothing of the spectra of more complicated atoms and ions. It was enough to dispute the authenticity of Bohr’s postulate, but the mission of doubt has fallen to our lot for some reason. Two years were devoted to decoding the spectrum of the first electron of the helium atom. As a result, the law of formation of the spectra of atoms and ions has taken place as well as the law of the change of binding energy of the electron with the protons of the nuclei when energy-jumps take place in the atoms. It has turned out that there is no energy of orbital motion of the electrons in these laws; there are only the energies of their linear interaction with the protons of the nuclei.
Thereafter, it has become clear that only elementary particle models can play the role of the scientific result authenticity criteria in cognition of the micro-world. From the analysis of behaviour of these models, one should derive the mathematical models, which have been ascertained analytically long ago, and describe their behaviour in the experiments that have been carried out earlier.
The ascertained models of the photons of all frequencies, the electron, the proton and the neutron meet the above-mentioned requirements. They are interconnected with each other by such a large set of theoretical and experimental information, whose impropriety cannot be proven. This is the main feature of the proximity to reality of the ascertained models of the principle elementary particles. Certainly, the process of their generation has begun from a formulation of the hypothesis concerning their structures. Sequential development of the description of these structures and their behaviour during the interactions extended the range of experimental data where the parameters of the elementary particles and their interactions were registered. For example, the formation and behaviour of electrons are governed by more than 20 constants.
We have every reason to state that the models of the photons, the electron, the proton and the neutron, which have been ascertained by us, as well as the principles of formation of the nuclei, the atoms, the ions, the molecules and the clusters already occupy a foundation for the postulates, and new scientific knowledge will cement its strength.
Science has a rather complete list of criteria in order to estimate the authenticity of scientific investigative results. The axioms (the obvious statements, which require no experimental check and have no exceptions,) occupy the first place; the second place is occupied by the postulates. If the new theory is in conflict with at least one axiom, it will be rejected immediately by the scientific community without discussion. If the experimental data, which are in conflict with any postulate (as it happened, for example, to the Newton’s first law), appear, the future scientific community, which has learned a lesson from scientific cowardice of the academic elite of the 20th century, will submit such a postulate to a collective analysis of its authenticity.
To the academicians who have made many mistakes in knowledge of the fields of physics and chemistry, we wish them to recover their sight in old age and be glad that these mistakes are already amended. It is time to understand that a prolongation of stuffing the heads of young people with faulty knowledge is similar to a crime that will be taken to heart emotionally in the near future.
The time has ended, when a diploma confirming higher education was enough in order to get a job. Now it is not a convincing argument for an employer; in order to be on the safe side, he hires a young graduate as a probationer at first as he wants to see what the graduate knows and what he is able to do. A new system of higher education has almost nullified a possibility for the student to have the skills of practical work according to his specialty and has preserved a requirement to have moronic knowledge, i.e. the knowledge which does not reflect reality.
In Science, authenticity requires fidelity to axioms and postulates describing natural realities. It also means insisting that hypotheses be validated by experimental results. Climate science claims are not scientifically authentic unless or until confirmed by observations, and not simply projections from a family of divergent computer models. And despite all of the social support for climate hysteria, those fears are again more stuffing of nonsense into heads of youth and of the scientifically illiterate.
See Also Degrees of Climate Truth