The secret to finding truth, part 1

It’s time to share the foundation for accurate critical thinking skills. Before I do, allow me to present some questions which will hopefully make you uncomfortable. This will illustrate why one needs a solid understanding of how not to think and what not to base your beliefs on.  Take, for example, the following question:

Do you believe the sun will rise tomorrow?

Well that’s an easy one! Of course it will!

OK, if we believe that the sun will rise tomorrow, we must have justification. Shouldn’t be too difficult, right? After all, most rational people seem to believe strongly that the sun will rise again tomorrow. Let’s find out why. This exercise is to show just how many questions need to be answered in order to justify such a basic belief (that means be ready for tangential questions).

So, question 1: Why do you believe such a claim?

The first response that comes to mind is a common-sense argument, “Well, it’s happened every day in the past, so it will happen in the future.”

To play devil’s advocate, is the claim that past events predict future results? Isn’t that the gambler’s fallacy? How does one know that the universe does not have a specific date in the future on which the laws of physics cease? Really. Just because humans have claimed to see it rise for a few thousand years means it must rise again tomorrow?

Why do you believe that this has been happening for thousands of years in the first place? You may have had a tiny handful of years experiencing such a phenomenon, but you have the confidence to extrapolate that data back how many years? Thousands? Millions? If not that many years, perhaps you can at least believe your parents’ account of this experience?

So, you believe this is true because somebody told you so? Perhaps the history books that you read claim that we have records that suggest generations before us had experienced the same thing.

Hang on, history books? Why do you believe those things are accurate? You were told so? Were you there discovering the manuscripts in the ground that suggest the sun rose 2000 years ago? Even if you were, how the heck could you know for sure how old they were? Some scientific dated method? Were you in the laboratory testing this science, or do you just rely on the word of the scientists whom you’ll never know?

Could these historians have ulterior motives to make such claims? How do you know? Have you talked to any of them? You just wholly believe in the integrity of people you don’t know and never will? Sadly, there is quite a “history” of textbooks being grossly inaccurate in every subject imaginable.

Fine, forget history! One might say, “Ah, but we can rely on science! We’re in the 21st century! The earth must continue spinning!”

The first response to such claims should again be, “Why do you believe that?”

Well, everybody knows that empirical evidence is what is needed to satisfy intellectuals! But have you ever seen the earth from the outside? Have you really seen it spinning? Do you really know that the Sun is millions of miles away? Have you personally measured the distance? Do you really know that the Sun isn’t a big light bulb in the sky? Nonsense! You simply hear and believe. Somebody claims something, and you believe it! And you have the audacity to think that you know the sun will rise tomorrow! You don’t even know what the sun is! Will tomorrow even come?!

Keep in mind that at any point along this questioning process, a single question left unanswered spoils the conclusion. For example, if it were the case that your parents lied to you when they claimed the sun rose every morning in their lifetime, or if the historians had ulterior motives, or if the scientists made one little mistake in their manuscript dating methods (and so on…), then you absolutely can not know the sun will rise tomorrow.

We like to kid ourselves into thinking that we can know things if we believe in “science” like a smart person. How many times has science been wrong? Why is that the case? It is because science is just a bunch of truth claims made by people with white coats. You are no more of an intellectual for blindly trusting a scientist’s claims than for blindly trusting a tribal witch doctor. It’s the same thought process. Step 1: listen. Step 2: believe.

Perhaps one might come back and say, “But hang on, I scrutinize the claims of the scientist as best I can. I don’t just blindly believe him.” Perhaps this is a better way to know objective truth?

What standard of scrutiny do you use to determine whether something is true or not? Your own little set of criteria? (One criteria might be, “As long as it doesn’t break these rules of physics…”)

So, you claim to know objective truth because a certain claim fulfills your subjective criteria for determining what “objective truth” is? Isn’t that the definition of subjective?

Can we really know objective truth?

You might believe. How can you know?

If you seek certainty, do not base your fundamental beliefs off of empirical evidence, or any other common standard of objectivity. Most of that comes down to simply believing what people with badges tell you.

-The secret-

If you want to be justified in your beliefs, base all of your reasoning off of logic. Yes, that is the secret to certainty. Logic. Indeed, every sentence one utters or thinks is completely, hopelessly dependent on it. I will explain why in the next post.

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26 Responses to The secret to finding truth, part 1

  1. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says:

    “Pure logic is the ruin of the spirit.”

  2. Friedrich Nietzsche says:

    “How much truth can a spirit bear, how much truth can a spirit dare?”

  3. Leonardo da Vinci says:

    “The truth of things is the chief nutriment of superior intellects.”

  4. Galileo Galilei says:

    “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

  5. Albert Einstein says:

    “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

  6. Voltaire, just Voltaire says:

    “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong”

  7. ?????? says:

    “They deem him the worst enemy who tells them the truth”

  8. Plato says:

    “I didn’t realize my Greek name turned into question marks.”

  9. President Barack Obama says:

    “We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued and they must be defeated. John Kerry knows this.”

  10. Senator John Kerry says:

    “The hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are yet to come.”

  11. President Barack Obama says:

    “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”

  12. Mahatma Gandhi says:

    “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

    • Gabby says:

      I also have a problem; when I try to run the code, I get the following in the Output box:Error: a target file must be spsfUciediee ‘mxmlc -help’ for information about using the command line.Build halted with errors (fcsh).What does it mean and how do I fix it?

  13. Winston Churchill says:

    “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction”

  14. Ralph Waldo Emerson says:

    “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”

  15. Pericles says:

    “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

  16. Epictetus says:

    “The people have a right to the truth as they have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

  17. Thomas Jefferson says:

    “I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.”

  18. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and TJ says:

    “It is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

  19. Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky says:

    “Man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic”

  20. Lewis Carroll says:

    “@Gandhi – Be what you would seem to be – or, if you’d like it put more simply – never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.”

  21. Pingback: The secret to finding truth, part 2 | one free mind

  22. Pingback: Three a week: Intellectual honesty | one free mind

  23. Pingback: The negation of truth | one free mind

  24. Amarildo says:

    Life is what we make of it,Truth is what we believe(Be Living In).The right brain and the left brain may and will explain the same truth differently,once proof and evidences are imposed to questions,relative truth may have to adjust to facts.Energy,matter,space and gravity,if you wanna go quantum

  25. Pingback: The methodological error of "faith" | one free mind

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