Moving Forward With Ultimate Questions

My blog is more focussed on moving forward when it comes to the big questions of life rather than looking back. So while I certainly plan to have posts that discuss why I no longer believe certain things (because I recognize there are many people who are still convinced of beliefs which have been shown to be very unlikely and more education is needed regarding that), I would much rather focus on the progress that could be made toward answering some of our big questions. While it is certainly possible the answers to some of these questions will forever be out of our reach, we don’t know this for sure so as I’ve said before I don’t see a reason to throw in the towel. And while I see it as likely that they won’t be answered conclusively for hundreds of years, humans could be around for a lot longer than that, so why not continue seeking for answers.

So in that vein, I’d again like to post what I see as ways of moving forward with these questions.

First, the video about possiblianism:

While I wasn’t very impressed with David Eagleman’s book “Sum”, the video above impressed me with the way he presents the ideas of there being a whole possibility space for answers to the big (or “ultimate”, or “metaphysical” – I use these words interchangeably) questions we have. Each of the religions that have existed represent dots in the tremendous amount of dots that exist in the possibility range of metaphysical reality. The other big take-away for me is the focus on using objective methods (scientific method being just one example of that) in our search for answers.

John Schellenberg, although more philosophical and sophisticated than David Eagleman, really presents a very similar viewpoint in these 2 videos: Part 1 and Part 2 (if anyone can tell me how to embed videos from the Closer to Truth website I’d really appreciate it).  I highly recommend taking the time to watch the videos, especially if you are interested in understanding my viewpoint regarding religion or ultimate truth (as some of my friends have asked me to explain my views on religion, this will now be the post and videos I forward them to, along with this and this).  Obviously a few short posts and a few videos can’t explain all of my views on religion, but it’s a good starting point for the main points:

  1. We have not yet reached a point in human history where we can conclusively know the answers to our ultimate (metaphysical, spiritual, religious, etc.) questions.
  2. The possibility space for answers to these questions is tremendous compared to all of the answers we have had in the past from religions.
  3. We should use critical thinking and the objective methods that we have used in all other fields of interest to explore and research these kinds of questions.
  4. All the rigorous and nit-picky checks as well as peer reviews that are applied in the other fields should apply to these questions as well because without them history has shown that we can easily fool ourselves into believing false things without them.  We have to avoid falling into the traps of “pseudoscience”.
  5. While some of these questions may never be able to be answered with these kinds of methods, we should not give up on coming up with unique ways to overcome these difficulties.
  6. If we end up agreeing that some of the questions are out of reach of these methods, then we honestly conclude that we don’t have the answers. We don’t grab a conclusion that seems to work best and say that that is the one that everyone in the world must adhere to.

Some examples of research that has already been done: consciousness, spiritual development, spirituality in the brain (this is just a short list of examples of things being researched that I’ve quickly grabbed and it’s likely some of them don’t properly adhere to the rigors I am talking about).

Now all sorts of questions arise when we discuss research regarding ultimate questions, and there is no way I can address them all in one small post, but I will try a few.

Some say that all ultimate questions are incapable of being studied by objective methods. Here I have to disagree.  While I understand the huge difficulties and even the possibility that some of them are out of reach, there are clearly still areas that are up for research using the methods that we know work the best.  The examples I’ve given above are some.  The main idea is that while a “supernatural” or “ultimate” realm may not be able to be investigated directly, the indirect effects that it may have on our natural realm are definitely capable of investigation.  I could say more here, but I’m running very long – I’ll leave it to another post.

I’m not suggesting we spend tax dollars on this kind of research, or even suggesting that everyone should give money towards it.  But if you are giving money to a “static” institution which declares that they have the truth and there is no need for progress or research to go forward then you should consider giving some of that money toward real research in these areas.

An important part of this process is being willing to give up on our most cherished beliefs.  We don’t have to abandon them completely (unless they are very conclusively wrong), but we must be willing to challenge them and consider that they might be wrong in order to progress forward.  History has shown that this is the way that we move forward. Flat earth, sun revolving around the earth, demons being the source of sickness, bloodletting for illness treatment, less than 10,000 year old earth, and evolution denial are all examples of cherished beliefs that a lot of people had a very difficult time giving up on (and some of them still remain as issues for a large amount of people), yet once we were willing to challenge and question them we were able to progress forward.


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