Thursday, October 11, 2012

The simple truth about truth

The truth is there is nothing simple about "the truth".

Truth is supposed to embrace reality, to conform to fact and what is accepted as common knowledge, and to fit into the belief systems we have established like those of organized religion. Guess what? All of the above criteria are subject to change without notice. None of the above "standards" which are designed to measure "truth" can withstand the test of time. Therefore, “the truth” is not absolute but subject to modification as new information becomes available.

What people are giving you when they are "telling the truth" is giving you a version of truth from their point of view. Frequently their version of truth is based on nothing more than hearsay, biased news reports, or hand-me-down beliefs regurgitated over the centuries and which may never have been true to begin with. For example…

Every truth the people in the Middle East believed about their life and destiny in year 100 BC was, for the most part, either turned upside down or severely challenged by the year 400 A.D. Everything society thought they knew about the Earth and sun revolving around them in the year 1000 was proven to be false by the year 1500. Everything the entire world had gained in knowledge about itself doubled from 1500 A.D. to 1850 A.D. By the time the year 2000 A.D. rolled around the knowledge base of the planet was doubling every other year. Incredible as it sounds, very little of what we thought was true one thousand years ago, let alone 2100 years ago, turns out to be true today.

A significant amount of what we were taught as children turns out to be false by the time we reach adulthood. For example, when I grew up we had nine planets. My favorite planet was Pluto. A few years ago Pluto was de-planetized and reduced in stature to a gigantic iceberg full of sand and dirt. So it turns out there is very little we know about our world today that can withstand the test of time. We are gaining in knowledge and experience at a ferocious rate. The new information we gain daily paints a different picture than the one we grew up with.

The universe, as it is now understood, is as misrepresented by the traditions of 7 billion people today as it was during the years when the Earth was host to less than 1 billion people and the consensus of opinion was the earth was flat. These distant ancestors of ours were certain their theory was correct; the church guaranteed it! Daily advances in all intellectual disciplines are so astounding anymore that everyone paying attention is gasping for breath.

It now appears as though rivers once ran on Mars! Folks, as we learn more, life just keeps getting better and more mysterious. Can real progress be far behind?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes, some beliefs impede progress. Intelligent people in this country still deny the truth revealed by modern science and insist that fairy tales and hand-me-down beliefs thousands of years old still hold water. There is only room for one correct sequence of events that contains the kernels of truth important for us to utilize going forward. It is important for our future generations to believe in a truth which contains as much factual knowledge as we are capable of developing. Superstition and innuendo offer no help when included in a foundation necessary to build our future. That is about as smart as building a home on a seashore cliff or below flood level. Unfortunately we still do both of those.

Truth may come in more than one variety. People equate “feelings", especially if they come from "the heart", as being the purest form of truth because they believe feelings come straight from the depths of our soul. It is important to note that just because we fervently believe in something, or someone like Jesus, our belief does not automatically convey the property of truth to our belief. Those less romantic believe truth must pass some form of empirical test, like a math test, and a theory must have some scientific verifiability before it can be accepted as truth. Pragmatists reject the "heart felt" component people use to justify their belief system. They believe feelings have no part in the truth behind the universe and "feelings" should be considered irrelevant to any meaningful description of “the truth”.

At any rate, the United States can no longer afford to have its belief system interfere with providing our children a truthful education. Our attempt to build a proper foundation in our colleges and universities for our children going forward must embrace the most current information available. Otherwise, we will continue to fall behind the rest of the planet just as those in the Middle East, stuck in Middle East beliefs, have done for thousands of years.

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