Denialism vs. Doubtalism

There are very few things in life about which we can be absolutely certain. Much of what we think we ‘know’, we actually have an opinion. It may be a very strong opinion, either that a given proposition is true, or that it is false. It may even touch upon certainty, or uncertainty. But a smidgen, or at times more than a smidgen, of doubt is requisite to approach and appropriate what is presented to us as ‘truth’. I will leave aside for now questions of Faith, which are supernatural and elevated by grace. There, no doubt is permitted.

For any other sorts of truths, especially those presented to us by various authorities, we must maintain our critical faculties, and this all gets quite unhealthy, and short-circuited, when the power of the state gets involved, to force us to accept as absolutely true what may be true, but may also not be true, or, at least, not quite in the way it is presented as ‘true’.

Case in point (amongst many others): Trudeau and his Liberals want to make illegal any ‘denial’ that there are mass graves of indigenous children outside residential schools. There seem to be sub-narratives to this narrative, that children were murdered, or mistreated and neglected, secretly buried and so on.

My point here is not to sift the evidence of all this – beyond my capacity and knowledge – but only to say that having some doubts about the ‘mass graves’ is different from denying that there are ‘mass graves’. It is difficult to prove beyond any doubt a universal negative.

Father Raymond de Souza has a curious and disconcerting column, where he claims there is no need for such draconian censorship since’ ‘everyone already toeing the line on residential schools – no gag law required’. Is his implication that if everyone weren’t ‘toeing the line on residential schools’ a gag law would be required?

What they want to make illegal is not so much denialism – ‘mass graves are absolutely impossible and unthinkable’ – but ‘doubtalism’, which, again, is a natural, necessary and healthy reaction to any empirical data, seeking certainty, clarifications, distinctions and evidence and so on. The key is to prove something ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, as is done in a court of law, with ‘reasonable certainty’ being defined as ‘enough certainty to act’. But, even there, a sliver of doubt remains, and even convicted criminals are allowed to proclaim their innocence, a retrial, appeals and on it goes.

Truth, dear reader, is a journey, which never ends, and asking questions are the steps along the way.