[FOUNTAIN]An idol of the cave“We have clenched our teeth and endured so long to shed burning tears at Gwanghwamun.”
Ever since it was revealed that Seoul National University professor Hwang Woo-suk’s team had fabricated the paper on their stem cell cloning, we could see or hear such slogans around Seoul. Some supporters wrap themselves in the national flag of Korea and shed tears. At least to them, Dr. Hwang seems to be an idol carved deeply in their hearts. His supporters defend Dr. Hwang online as well. According to Internet media outlet e-Good News, Dr. Hwang’s online supporters at portal sites Daum and Naver total about 175,000. “I Love Hwang Woo-suk,” “Society of the People Who Love Hwang Woo-suk,” and “Society of Egg Donors for Dr. Hwang Woo-suk’s Research” are a few of the groups.
There are also a great number of opponents of Dr. Hwang. They are different from the supporters in that they cannot be found on the street. Most of them operate in cyber- space. Approximately 2,000 have joined groups such as “Hwang Woo-suk the Liar,” “Hwang Woo-suk the Trash” and “Anti-Hwang Woo-suk Cafe.” While the two groups advocate contradictory arguments, both lack scientific grounds. Only emotional and harsh words can be found.
English empiricist philosopher Francis Bacon proposed the methodology of modern science and asserted that we should rid ourselves of the “Idols of the Cave.” Once we emerge from the illusion that the knowledge we have is the absolute truth, we can learn the truth about the world. A man cannot find truth if he is locked in a cave. Idols of the cave can be created when people unconditionally believe what they read in books or follow the authority of someone they respect. An object of great attachment or prejudice from obsession or aversion can be developed into an idol of the cave.
The prosecutors’ investigation into Dr. Hwang’s case is in its closing phase. After summoning and questioning Dr. Hwang and related figures, the prosecutors plan to announce an intermediate result as early as next week. However, it is worrisome that the prosecutors’ announcement might start another controversy. A prosecution insider compared the arguments over Dr. Hwang to the idol of the cave. He was concerned that unless we break away from the idol of the cave, extreme opinions will not change, no matter what the prosecutors say. Dr. Hwang’s scandal has hurt citizens enough. I hope we part with obsession and aversion and leave the cave for the wide world. Let’s drastically let go of what we should and set out to find a new path.
by Park Jai-hyun
The writer is a deputy city news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.