Checking by Practice and Correct Attribution

The saying “Practice is the only criteria for checking truth” raised an ideological revolution,becoming the basic turning point for China to walk up onto the broad road of reform and opening.

Truth must be checked by practice. What has succeeded in practice is reliable and correct;What has failed in practice is unreliable and wrong. Nevertheless,practice is a dynamic process,and for all sorts of practical results we must do the correct attribution.

Attribution means making specific analysis of the causes of the successes and failures in practice. The attribution theory is a theory of analysis of the causal relationship in people’s practical activities. By attribution, we explain, predict and control the results of success or failure in practice. The causes resulting from attribution may fall into three dimensions in terms of different characteristics:source of cause, stability and controllability. Whether we can attribute correctly plays a crucial role in our achievement. If we attribute the failure in practice to the unchangeable stable cause,we shall not make any further effort from now on, and the practice can be declared as a total failure;If we attribute the failure to the fact that we have not found the correct method,we shall make greater efforts to seek the method, and once we have found the correct method, we will be able to succeed at last.

For thousands of years, all the practices in people’s pursuit of eternal life were failures, and we may even say they were complete failures. Hence,it is very easy for people to reach such a conclusion:Practice has given full proof that eternal life is unfeasible and impossible.

Let’s take a brief retrospect to the practices of pursuit of eternal life. At first, First Emperor Qin and Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty sent people overseas to look for the godly mountains,and ended up in failure. If the alchemists had really found the “immortality drug” from the “godly mountains”, they would have become the greatest savors of mankind, and no matter how high posts or how high salary they got, it would not have been regarded as improper. However,they failed. People attributed the failure to the fact that vegetative drugs could not prolong human life. So they changed their way of thinking, from vegetative drugs to mineral substances which are more stable:mica, quartz, jade, gold and so on,as they thought “those who ate gold would live as long as gold and those who ate jade would have a life as long as jade” (Inner Chapter of Bao Pu Zi: “Godly Drugs”).The idea that by eating gold or jade one could live forever prevailed for a time, so, people preparing and eating pills of immortality made of gold or jade became more and more. Yet, what they got was a total collapse of their bodies. By the Wei and Jin Dynasties, people had changed from taking gold pills to taking the five-stone powder, as they thought the powder made of five kinds of stone could prolong life. But it had no effect, either. Later, people changed their ideas again, believing “The pill of immortality turns out to originate from the ego”, thus, began to train the active substance (qi) in their own body. Yet, no one really succeeded. From begging gods, to begging the self,from vegetative drugs to metal or jade drugs,from taking gold or jade to preparing the cinnabar, from external training to internal training… All their practices failed, and together with the failures, they paid a huge price: from total financial loss to loss of their own lives and everything. How many monarchs, high officials, princesses and dukes, aristocrats, masterminds and personages have died in the efforts! Tragedies one after another,and lessons one after another,have forced people to hold their wrists in regret. Thus,no one dared to seek the so-called “eternal life” again, and the practice in this pursuit almost stopped completely.

Practice seems to have told people in the world very clearly:Eternal life can never be achieved. However,have we done the correct attribution for the failures in the practice?

When Nobel invented the explosive, he failed for hundreds of times within a period of three to four years. In one failure, the whole testing laboratory was bombed to nothing, and five testing workers lost their life, including Nobel’s younger brother! Faced with such a heart-breaking fiasco,should Nobel declare the abandonment of the testing? Despite the fiascos one after another, Nobel still kept on his work. Was he a “madman”?

As is well known,in the invention of the electric lamp, Edison failed more than ten thousand times. Faced with the thousands of failures, we could have two kinds of attribution:One is to attribute the failure to the fact that it is impossible to make an electric lamp. Then, when Edison had tested for 10 times, or 100 times, or 1000 times, he would have stopped his efforts to illuminate the world with the electric lamp. Then, we would not know for how many years mankind would go on living in the dim world of candles and oil lamps. But luckily, when Edison had failed for ten thousand times, he did not attribute his failure to the fact that we could not make the electric lamp, but thought “I have not failed for ten thousand times, but only found ten thousand ways that won’t do”: he attributed his failure to the fact that he had not found the correct way. Can you say that:The truth found out through the 9999th failure is that mankind can never invent the electric lamp?

Similarly, in the pursuit of eternal life, there were lots and lots of failures, but can we simply announce the death sentence of eternal life? In the trial production of the explosive, there were hundreds of failures, and in the test of the electric lamp there were ten thousand failures. In such a supreme undertaking as the pursuit of eternal life, especially in the very low level of science and technology in ancient times, even millions of failures are understandable. Can we declare its absolute impossibility just because it failed so many times?

So, it is obvious that we cannot look at the ups and downs in practice in a mechanistic way, should never consider the temporary failure(s) in practice simply as the unalterable ending, but should do correct attribution for the successes and failures in practice. If we just mechanistically understand “checking by practice”,we will fall into such a mistake certainly:Decide to give up all further efforts for all cases with repeated failures, without further analysis or discrimination, making it impossible to achieve the success that may be achieved finally.

We need to do realistic, comprehensive and correct attribution for practice, and use a positive attitude to make cool analysis of the subjective and objective causes of the failure. With regard to the ancients’ failures in pursuit of eternal life, the greatest mistake we have made is that we have not done such a correct attribution.

The ancients’ failure in pursuit of eternal life resulted from the limitation of the conditions of the times. The level of science and technology of that time was very low, so they could not find out the correct ways and measures for eternal life. Now,we have possessed the high technology characteristic of continuous change and improvement incomparable to what the ancients had, especially the great leaps in life sciences have offered us many stunning findings, which have paved the golden way for eternal life! In the past,in our marching into the mother nature, almost all the laws we found were laws of the external substances;This time,we are marching into the field of our own life, and we are bound to reveal the laws and secrets of our own life. The ancients’ struggle for prolonging the life was a blind groping in the dark whereas life sciences have offered us the pearlescent lighthouse that can point to the correct direction. A horse drawn cart can never run as fast as a primitive train, no matter how perfectly it is made. If we say people’s exploration into the secrets of life in the past was even lower than a “horse drawn cart”,then,the exploration by means of modern life sciences is “a train”, or even a “plane” or “rocket”. The genome project has just started, but it has brought us uncountable inspiring news. We have good reason to predict:Life sciences will finally decipher all the secret codes of human life and achieve an unprecedented revolution in the life of mankind!

Famous scientist Rutherford put a crocodile mark at the door of his laboratory. He thinks in scientific research we need a crocodile spirit,take our courage in both hands, and swobble everything ahead. In the pursuit of eternal life, mankind has experienced a journey full of storms and rains, and full of blood and tears. Rains and storms, or blood and tears, should not be reasons for mankind’s stop in this pursuit, and science and technology will help us win the final victory. Life sciences, gene technology and other high technologies will surely help us realize the dream of eternal life!

We should never be misled by wrong attribution again, and never suffer loss from wrong attribution again! If we give up now, mankind will no longer have self-confidence, no longer make efforts, no longer aspire; then, the happiness of eternal life that might be gained by mankind in the present age will never be obtained.

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