Originally Posted by Karina
When judging truths over falsehoods, we obviously need some criteria to be met, but so far no one methodology has proven to be flawless.
Empirical testing is to limited since not everything can be tested (just think how challenging it becomes to test certain psychological or sociological theories) And even if such a given theory is testable, it is still easy to reach the wrong conclusions from the results of a test. Even in science the testability of theories becomes trickier as we dig deeper.
Another method is Ockham’s razor; it states that explanations shouldn’t be complex beyond necessity. In other words: If there are two different theories explaining a phenomenon and both theories are equally accurate, the simplest explanation is most likely to be true. The problem here is that it’s not always easy to establish whether both theories are actually equally accurate. Furthermore it’s easy to be biased with personal preference when judging which explanation out of the two is “simplest”.
Pragmatism is yet another method to sort out truth from falsehoods. It says to examine the usability of a theory to validate its truthfulness. The most useful city map -the one that gets us where we need to be
- will most likely be truthful. This is a very effective way of establishing something is true. After sending a rocket to the moon using nothing more then Newtonian physics, it seems absurd to still question its validity. It is useful, therefore it must be true. But don't forget that although the simplified city map might be easiest one to read; and thus more useful to us, that the detailed map will still bear the closest resemblance to the actual street grid. Newtonian physics might be sufficient to land a rocket on the moon. But when we start examining the world of the very small; we notice it doesn’t suffice. There we need a whole new theory -quantum physics- to describe what’s going on. An embarrassing secret for science is that Quantum mechanics is not compatible with general relativity.
Finally our most basic way of verifying truths -our own logic- on which all other methods rely upon one way or the other; is fallible. We cannot test the logic of anything without first making assumptions. A logical argument without a premise is like math without axioms. An axiom is a proposition that is not susceptible of proof or disproof; its truth is assumed to be self-evident. In mathematics it is a basic assumption about a system from which theorems can be deduced. For example, in geometry where the points and lines in the plane are a system. An axiom would be that given any two distinct points in the plane, there is a unique line through them. This seems self-evident to most people yet there is no known proof for this statement. It’s just an assumption on which our worldly mathematics are based. And there have been people who came up with alternative mathematics relying on different axioms which although very abstract were very logical and sometimes even useful!
We call the sum of all these assumptions we make, upon which we base our logical reasoning, a paradigm. A paradigm isn’t a certainty. Not even in the way a theory is certain. A theory is an explanation of certain events, like Newton’s theory of gravity which describes the relation between different objects with mass. A paradigm is a set of assumptions; that aren’t even meant to be tested. Most of them are made on an unconscious level. They are a necessary evil used by individuals, scientists and even societies on a daily basis. It’s like a simplified map of reality, which allows you to find your way in the chaos of our daily life. The danger within these assumptions lies in the fact that they trigger opinions and new theories. These will on their turn easily produce proof for the original assumption since those assumptions are already build into it. This will eventually build up an impenetrable network of tainted views. Here’s an illustrating conversation between two friends I recently witnessed:
Juliet: See, Romeo once promised me to invite me over to eat fish, but he never did invite me. Goes to show how much a men’s promise is worth.
Romeo: Well the reason I never invited you is because you came by once while I was cooking fish. At this point I asked you to join for diner which you accepted. So I no longer felt the obligation to keep up that promise of “inviting”.
Juliet: You’re an opportunist; you know I wouldn’t remember such things so you just made that up.
Whether or not Romeo had actually once cooked fish for her or not, I do not know. I did find it intriguing however that Juliet -although admitting her own memory is unreliable- prefers to believe that Romeo was lying above the more likely explanation: “she simply forgot”. Apparently she judged that thinking of Romeo as an opportunistic liar made more sense according to her feminist paradigm. Coincidently this very same paradigm -next to initiating the conversation- was also the point of view she tried to defend with this very discussion.
Such a paradigm is a home. It’s a safe haven whenever a thought comes along that looks threatening. It is a reliable friend by whom’s terms you like to discuss. It is a rope when the unknown feels like a black abyss. It’s a fantasy build to protect you from the chaotic world in your daily life. It is the simplified map which is easy to read but unrepresentative.
Ask yourself this simple question: “By what authority are my assumptions better then my neighbor’s? And such assumptions are all around us. They have always been there, and looking at the assumptions of the past, if history is any guide, much that we take for granted today is simply not true.
But how can two views views that are based on two sets of experiences out of the same world become so antagonistic? Why is it so hard to find common ground between them? Well, because the essences of some things aren’t definable in simple words. From the moment you choose a personal description to explain an idea you loose its purity. Since two people can look at the same thing and see something different, referring to it by name isn’t enough. If you want to explain why you see it differently you have to add a context and personal experience to it. But then again, focusing on to much context will send you off topic. And even more importantly, since both parties have a different approach on the subject they will dismiss each others context for being irrelevant. So basically the description of the essence is unrepresentative due to the lack of context, whereas the description of the context is unrepresentative due to the lack of essence.
So how does one eventually define something as true or false? How do we choose our paradigm? Do we even have a choice in it? Which one is the right one? Well, in the end it’s a mater of belief. Which one seems most likely? Which one has the least inconsistency? What does your personal experience tell you? Everyone chooses by their own criteria. What is belief? When is it justified? Is believing equal to knowing? Is knowing equal to believing? Are agnosticism, secularism and atheism also paradigms? And if so, what advantage do they have above theisms?
Well the above questions were retorical, but could you answer just this one, please.
If you only believe what is proven, and not that which is probable, then hypotetically speaking, if there would be a religion which is true, you would still never believe in it?