More on foundations

I didn’t feel good about my blog post yesterday for a few reasons.  First, it just felt like a bit of a stream of consciousness rather than an organized coherent explanation of my most basic foundational beliefs.  I think I just have to deal with the fact that most of my posts will end up simply being stream of consciousness.  Part of this is due to my lack of writing skills – in college I avoided any class that required a paper to be written and the class I had the most difficulty with was freshman english composition (which I was required to take of course).  But I still see a benefit to getting the stuff out of my head and into a more visible space to go back to.  I’m sure if I go back in a few years and read some of this stuff I’ll probably find that I don’t quite agree with everything I’ve written.  Life is a process of continual learning and correction as new information, new understanding, and new experiences come to us.  At least I view it that way.

Another reason I didn’t feel that great about yesterday’s post is just the simple uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty.  I can’t stand uncertainty, and I believe a lot of people feel the same way about it.  Humans are uncomfortable with it, and it may be a big reason why people remain within the religions / faiths of their upbringing.  When I became a Christian I had thought that I had found certainty and it was a big reason for the ecstatic feeling I had in the first year of believing.  But then as the years went by and I learned more about it I realized that I had just inherited a whole bunch of new uncertainties.  Knowing what interpretation is the correct one of bible passages is the most obvious example that comes to mind.  But admitting uncertainty is the most honest way for me to express what I believe about the big questions of life – for again, I strongly believe that the big questions of life are the ones that unfortunately are the most elusive.  Pisser!

I was also struck by a sad thought.  As I expressed yesterday one “rule” of mine for determining whether a statement is correct is that a very large percentage of reasonable people should believe that statement to be true – and experts on the subject have a heavier weight in this test of course.  Said another way, if it is very difficult to find a reasonable person who disagrees with a statement then I consider the chances high that it is true.  It helps a great deal of course if it can be shown that these people span different cultures, religions, politics, etc.   This is not my only rule of course (and I am sure I am missing some important rules also).  Another rule would be that the statement should not go against the laws of logic or math (of course to prove my very foundational belief that the laws of logic and math are correct cannot use this rule, but that’s not what I’m getting at here).  Also, the statement should match with the things that I have experienced in my life with my five senses.  The statement should also match with other beliefs that I have concluded are correct.  What struck me as sad though was that if I had lived 2300 years ago I would have believed with high certainty that the sun revolved around the earth.  I can’t see why any of those tests of truthfulness would have failed.  Now if I had heard of the fact that a guy named Aristarchus of Samos had good reasons to believe that the earth revolved around the sun I probably would have at least knocked my certainty down a little bit, but not by a lot given that his idea was broadly rejected.  As an aside, I find it very surprising that historians haven’t found record of the idea coming back up until the 16th century!

Now there are some rules or tests for the truth that a lot of people strongly rely on which I am not a big fan of at all, however.  While I wouldn’t poo-poo them for everyone, and also wouldn’t say that they are entirely useless, they simply don’t count very much for me in determining truth because they are so incredibly subjective and for me have very often proven to not lead to correct answers, and can easily lead to contradictory conclusions:

  1. Intuition or “gut” feelings
  2. Anecdotal stories
  3. Subjective personal experiences
  4. Coincidences
  5. Feelings deep within my heart

I’m drawing a blank right now, but I’m pretty sure that list could be made longer.  Again, some of those affect my beliefs somewhat (probably intuition the most), but I try not to give any of them too much weight in determining truthfulness.

This has gotten longer than I thought it would – I’ll leave what I believe to be the best and most objective method for finding truth until my next blog post – yes the scientific method of course.


One thought on “More on foundations

  1. Pingback: In Search of Gods | Truth Is Elusive

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