In a certain limited, metaphorical sense, this seems to me the oppsite of the most recent age that is being declared. Maybe not declared by scientists who put in their vote for the Anthropocene, nor by frothing-at-the-mouth religious types who are convinced of the nighness of the End of Days but by the always-amusing apostles of the social sciences, the media and pop-culture. A mixed bunch.
This newest era the latter, eclectic peer-group is referring to has been christened The Post-Factual Age. It combines the information flood, the lack of or unwillingess for or incompetence in analysis/scrutiny with the over-powering imperative of the Postmodern Ego‘s Holy Opinion. Other factors are probably involved too, such as Fake News, etc.
The way the PFA is being described by commentators points out a general disinterest in or even ignorance of the facts [Facts in the debatable sense of what the Associated Press, the UNO and other hegemonic institutions publish]. In the Post-Factual Age, the prime examples of which are televised political debates and click-bait articles on free news-outlets, what one source states is taken to be as valid as what another states; regardless of their competence in the subject under consideration. Who evokes this impression? Politicians (the Brexit debate, the US presidential campaign 2016), publicists (20min, fox news, etc), people in positions of public standing that should be considerably more interested in factual truth production than they make the impression. [Given the fact that this topic is deserving of much more in-depth references, I, ironically perhaps, refer you to this]
Experts are one more caste of Opinionators. Science is Fiction and Science Fiction is fact. The difference between the New York Times and the New York Post is literally a single word. And what was once a debate with more and less valid arguments, with sources, with authoritative experts, with facts and counter-factual scenarios, even hard-assed epistemological debates, has devolved into a serial stating of incommensurable opinions where only the preservation of the ego‘s perfect integrity in the face of facts it might find to its disliking is the uppermost objective. Nobody can possibly know anything more than anybody else, google it. [ ….tough, I must admit, that often times, at least in my experience, one titanium-grade Wiki-fact can also settle an argument.]
Compare this, if you will, to the above quote. Here the examination of rock strata is the foundation of knowledge. Not that it is incontestable but that you have to grab your shovel and spade and hydraulic excavator and dust brush to make a hole in the very ground beneath your feet to find out what might be true or not. One needs to open the great book of earth itself and read its strata, its fossils, its aeons of calcified detritus. The facts will be presented by mother earth herself in the form of hard stone and visible strata.
And what emerges? An irreducibly complex historicity, a full archive of fossils, not something one can click through at one‘s leisure to find the hyperlink to one‘s preferred version of the truth. Here there is something rock solid, while everything that is ego melts into air. [You can hear me laugh diabolically as my rant hits a new pitch!]
So when we hear the siren calls of the Post-factual Era, the time of Hyper Normalisation, we are perhaps well-advised to remember previous epochs of knowledge production, such as the time when Geology was dug from its depths. Perhaps great antiquity and the majesty of slow and profound processes might give us the time to pause and consider how we wish to go about gaining access to the truths of the Anthropocene.