Welcome to those who are seeking the truth

Humans possess an innate thirst for knowledge and understanding of why we are here and how we can control our environment.   Early humans made cave drawings and performed rituals that are associated with this quest.  Religion as a source of knowledge has roots in antiquity, while science is a more recent addition that has transformed our modern world.  The importance of the fundamental questions addressed by both science and religion compels me to consider these questions in an open forum in hope that readers will engage in lively debate. I do not seek those who know the truth, but those who seek the truth.

While ‘truth’ is an elusive concept that is difficult to define, we can probably all agree that at least a subset of ‘all truth’ is that which remains after falsehood has been whittled away.  Perhaps we can do no better than to identify that kernel of truth, which can be perceived. This, in my mind, is a worthy endeavor.

In large part, truth and falsehood are concepts that live in the brains of people.  There is no such thing as falsity in the natural world; rather, it is only our observations and interpretations that are vulnerable to error, which leads to a misrepresentation of reality – assuming, of course, that there is an objective reality.  Without an objective reality, any attempt to increase our understanding of anything is meaningless.  As such, my starting point is that the physical world constitutes objective reality. The nonphysical, whatever that may be, is a different story.

For example, political viewpoints, philosophical predispositions, or religious beliefs are often NOT the result of a long quest for the truth.  Instead, they tend to form without our conscious consent, out of an inchoate swirl of emotional impulses and other peoples’ reactions.  We trust “authorities,” rely on hearsay, close our minds to what is considered heresy, and ignore those facts that don’t fit our beliefs.  We give evidence for our point of view, no matter how dubious, more weight than is deserved.  In any discourse involving topics that we hold dear, defending our beliefs takes precedence over an honest discussion.

In the early 1980s, one of my very bright fellow graduate students was annoyed with me for not having any opinions (I did have some weakly-held opinions.)  In contrast, he had very strong opinions on many political topics.  These opinions were the result of accumulating lots of data from all sorts of sources.  Thus, he was adept at debating those who disagreed with him.  Indeed, he enjoyed a good fight.  For my part, I never felt that there was enough evidence to support either side of such arguments.  Having the stronger argument did not prove that point of view.

Recent arguments that I have witnessed as a bystander have led me back to my interest on the topic of truth.  As an example, one such argument centered on the 2003 War and present quagmire in Iraq.  Those who supported and those who opposed the war both believed they had truth on their side and were puzzled by how the other side could be so unenlightened.  They each had arguments that predicted either a horrible or rosy outcome.  I do have one belief on this topic; some on both sides will see confirmation of their beliefs in the result.   Since outcomes are not always clear-cut, there is latitude for both sides to claim that events supported their viewpoint.  In the end, there is no new understanding.

I have found that few people are willing to discuss political or religious issues for the purpose of gaining understanding; instead, they try to convince others of their beliefs – their minds already set in concrete.   This has been a lifelong personal frustration. On these pages, I will take the approach that questions everything, even if it may offend somebody’s dearest beliefs.  Only then can we have an honest discourse aimed at approaching the truth.

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