Musings from a Grateful Convert: Data ≠ Truth

Musings from a Grateful Convert: Data ≠ Truth

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In a conversation with an old friend, we reminisced about building models of different kinds in our youth. Model cars, ships, airplanes—even dinosaurs and monsters were mentioned. A great joy welled up inside me as I remembered the experience of touching the plastic, of dipping the thin little paint brush into the tiny bottle of oil-based silver paint to “put the chrome on” the bumper of the old car, etc.

The above scenario is in its essence and in its entirety a totally human experience. I compared that experience with the more contemporary one of dealing with a computer, where “real world” objects are represented by something called data. Here you have a human interacting with information and fashioning the result to approximate something that is humanly meaningful.

Data is really just information. It is a way to describe something that is real. It is not real itself, but it has been given the moniker “virtual”, which reduced to colloquial terms means “basically pretty-much like, but not exactly…”

In my estimation, the human contact with the physical matter—in the above case, a bunch of plastic parts and paint and the resulting product—are what I would call truth for our purposes for this entry. My emphasis here is how truth describes the experience of human interaction with the same real world that data can only estimate.

Since I value the artistic capabilities of a computer, I am fending off a debate on whether digital art, music and film is better or worse than its analogue counterparts, and simply posit that the idea of representing truth external to that truth leaves something to be desired, especially when the experience of interacting with the principle is available. In fact, the two—data and truth—are not equivalent.

How clearly this is demonstrated in the area of the Christian Faith, where in the example of “Communion”, we have the “modern” meaning (i.e., since the advent of Scholasticism in the West) reducing the words of our Lord (“Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you…this is my blood….”) to mere data points in a manuscript. The “emblems” or “elements” of Communion—a little piece of bread with a thimble-full of wine—are not “real” in the experiential sense, but serve as a stimulus to the mind to “remember” out of obedience to the Lord’s command…and by golly, we’re remembering, aren’t we!

Contrast this with the Classical Christian, a/k/a, Orthodox, practice of what in the Greek NT is called anamnesis, a kind of “remembering” where the element used becomes united with that which it represents. Here the Body and Blood of our Lord is mystically present in the cup, and as we partake, we are experiencing the fullness of Holy Communion with everyone else who has ever partaken or will partake in the future, including the twelve Apostles at the original event.

So data is useful for many purposes, but let us not be deceived by the complexity of “the array of data” to blindly accept it as truth. Truth is, and always has been, experienced by us as human—created in God’s image—interacting with the physical universe (the kosmos in Greek, or the world). The use of data has promoted the effort to demystify Christianity; the retention of mystery in our worship and in our life as a whole has underscored the glory of Truth.

Christ is in our midst!

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About author
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Roger Hunt

Born and raised in Indiana as the son of a doctor, the late Roger Hunt was gifted in writing, Roger devoted most of his talents in the field of music as composer, arranger, and producer of both live and recorded music since the 70’s. He created music (and various music-and-sound-related productions) for OCN and others; and, having converted to the Orthodox Faith in 2010, he enjoyed writing the blog series “Musings of a Grateful Convert” for The Sounding. May his Memory Be Eternal.