Man’s unfailing capacity to believe what he prefers to be true rather than what the evidence shows to be likely and possible has always astounded me. We long for a caring Universe which will save us from our childish mistakes, and in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary we will pin all our hopes on the slimmest of doubts. God has not been proven not to exist, therefore he must exist.
— Academician Prokhor Zakharov, “For I Have Tasted The Fruit”
When arriving on Chiron, everything that made colonial society go was brought from Earth. This is true in a material sense – all the generators, oxygen plants, tools and other necessities of life were Earth-made – but also in an ideological sense. The first years of habitation consisted of Earthers trying to make their way on an alien world using earthen tools and mindsets. As time went by and the number of Chiron-born began to outpace the rapidly aging ancients, however, this changed by necessity. In a thousand subtle and not so subtle ways, the old modes of thinking began to show their cracks and flaws, all the ways they were meant to explain and justify the order of things on another planet. In short, a time of reckoning was fast approaching.
The quest for intellectual integrity is both a philosophical and an ideological endeavor. In philosophical terms, it is an attempt to find a solid and rigorous basis for future modes of thinking, free of implicit biases carried over from the history of past generations. To clear out the abstract intellectual deadwood, as it were. In ideological terms, this seemingly dry and remote pursuit is a confrontation with the very concrete fact that we are not those people any more, and have to come to grips with the reality of the here and now before it comes to grips with us. Those born on Chiron are not bound by Earth traditions by mere force of continuity and habit – these has to be better reasons for holding on to the past than that. The future is now.
In a sense, what this amounts to is a faction-wide attempt to build its own ancient traditions. By necessity, this takes different forms in different factions. The Peacekeepers have to come to terms with the fact that it can not operate as if they were an organization meant to facilitate dialogue between some 200-odd countries on a socially overdetermined planet; in lieu of the old-style UN, something new is required. Likewise, the University has to untangle the Humboldtian ideal from the actually existing institutions carried over from Earth, and their innumerable ties to defunct powers that be. Pointedly, the Believers have to let go of thousands of years of religious turmoil in order to come up with one final, robust true faith. Zakharov’s jab that there ate mountains of evidence to overcome is not merely theological, but encompasses everything worth thinking about. Some ideas will be cast aside during the process of overcoming, but the end result is not nihilism; the end result is a more refined, robust version of the factions as they really are or want to be. The end product of intellectual integrity is, paradoxically, ideological purity.
This is a worrying prospect from the point of view of ecumenical dialogue and the cosmopolitan exchange of ideas. Especially if we take into account that this is a technology that can be fully mastered and implemented in-game. The implication being that this is something that can be done away with once and for all, taken off the agenda and relegated to the past. We fought the past, overcame it and began thinking true and proper thoughts – and have philosophically unassailable reasons for proclaiming it to be so. When all sources of error are removed, only correct thought remains. Which raises an ever relevant question: what does being objectively right mean for those who, eyes open, insist on being wrong?