As I worked feverishly on the upcoming relaunch of the new Truth-Driven Thinking Podcast, web site, and most importantly the upcoming learning community (July launch) centered on truth-driven living—a thought occurred to me. Some people question the viability and worthiness of truth as a goal. But can we agree on a few simple propositions? Assume for the moment that we’re talking more about questions of public policy, government, and/or broader societal decision-making; can you agree to the following? (Vote via a link at the bottom.)
Knowing the truth about something makes it easier to fix, understand, or improve that thing. (Assuming for now that an earthly truth exists for all questions, no matter how complex that truth may be—and that some earthly “truths” are knowable and comprehensible to humans; e.g., the space shuttle flies because we ”know” gravity and the “proven” laws of physics to be “true.”)
Actions taken based upon true assumptions are more likely to be effective and bear fruit than those based on untrue assumptions.
Therefore, improved estimations of what is true (a.k.a. “how the world really works”) are most useful for improving anything, including the wellbeing of human beings.
And finally, although absolute “Universal Truth” is unknowable and likely unintelligible to humans:
- 4. The best estimates of truth (reality and “how the world really works”) are attained through the naturalistic methods of science, reason, logic, and empirical evidence;
- 5. Therefore, those are the best tools for advancing the wellbeing of humanity.
Yes, there are all sorts of problems and details to debate about what “wellbeing of human beings” means and looks like, but that’s too much detail for now; if we can agree to this foundation, we have already made giant strides along the early part of our journey to make the world a better place. (Vote your assent or dissent here.)
If we cannot agree, that’s okay. But it may be a conversation best had another time and place. Usually if we can’t agree to these items, the problem lies somewhere in the last two items, and in a point of philosophy—often one so boring and “out there” that we regular folks’ eyes glaze over quickly. A common one is that someone says, “No, science, reason, and logic are flawed; you are forgetting faith as a means of knowing things.”
This would also lead us down a path to a lengthy epistemological debate beyond the scope of this page. For now suffice to say that the most basic tenet of truth-driven thinking is that we must always remain open to new arguments and new evidence; but that said, “faith as evidence” is a real show-stopper, and thus will be useless to our journey Will it not? This is because of that answer gives us no need to talk or inquire further; it is an unsatisfactory answer. There would be no need for a website dedicated to truth seeking if “faith” were a satisfactory proof of anything. Whose faith? Which version? Don’t we want to know more than that? When the answer to a big question about how the world works is “god did it,” you can forget going to class, forget studying why stem cells work as they do, and stop asking why.
The claims of someone’s “faith” answer may even be absolutely true, but they simply cannot be tested, falsified (proven wrong), or even debated, any more than if I say there is a dish of lasagna orbiting a tiny planet in a distant galaxy, and I know this because of my faith as a pastafarian. This is not to make fun of faith, per say, but merely to point out why it will be of little use to our journey to fix or improve things.
So while some might see that as an unfair constraint, searching for truth becomes devoid of meaning when one’s “proof” can be ”God did it.” Beyond that constraint in method, however, it is my sincere hope that whether you are religious or not, you can join us in a community that seeks truth openly and freely—wherever the inquiry takes us. Just about the only rule, then, is that no belief be held above critical scrutiny, and that all estimations of truth are provisional and temporary—open to new evidence.
(Stephen L. Gibson is the author of A Secret of the Universe, a critically acclaimed, citation-rich novel about the intersections of science, reason, and faith. Still an emotion-driven thinker in recovery, Steve shares his journey in search of ever-elusive truth with thousands via his Truth-Driven Thinking podcast, and his Perspectives blog. © 2011, Truth-Driven Strategies LLC.)