Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Truth about Truth

I was having good conversation at my weekly CFI Sunday Social when the topic for discussion turned to truth and whether or not it exists outside our human perception. As a left-brained, science-oriented teacher, my position was that of course truth exists. It doesn't matter whether we know what it is or understand even how to arrive at it, but truth certainly does exist. My point was that everything can be boiled down to a series of dichotomies until you get back to the original truth, that we may never actually understand as humans. The two individuals I was debating had a different perspective. Truth has as much to do with our perception of what is real. And it is not always so black and white. There are shades of gray surrounding many issues and sometimes there is no single truth.

But I was unsuccessful at getting them to understand that I was not talking about a spectrum of opinion on one topic or another. I was talking about ultimate truth: How did we get here? Why then instead of another time? What is the answer to the time equation? Why are the laws of the universe the way they are? I'm pretty certain all these questions can be linked to a single, underlying truth that astrophysicists have been searching for, for a long time. This kind of truth exists. Certainly, there are shades of meaning when it comes to smaller ramifications of the truth. Does God exist or doesn't he? That is a dichotomy. God cannot almost exist, or exist in principal. He exists or he doesn't. But within that dichotomy can lie a spectrum of opinion: We can be theists, agnostics theists, agnostic atheists, hard atheists, etc. That says a lot about what we think, but it answers nothing at all about the truth: Does God exist or not? The truth seldom affects what we think about it. And how we believe doesn't affect the truth. Let's also not mistake our search for the truth for the truth itself. Take evolution for example. Either organisms on Earth change over time until they become a different species, or they don't. But let's not confuse whether or not macroevolution and microevolution are two different phenomena with the basic truth that species evolve. We can argue process. We can even argue truth. But none of our opinions and arguments about what is true changes whether or not something actually is true.

While I was in the middle of making that point, I detected that one of the other participants was feeling a little put off or uncomfortable that I was being recalcitrant. To her, it must have seemed as though I was a closed-minded fool. So the fellow across from her at the table jumped in and quickly changed the subject to a conversation about coffee. I was a little offended because it was like I didn't even exist from then on, even when I went along and said something about their new favorite subject, Dunkin' Donuts coffee. So I changed tables and started listening in on a discussion about the NBA. I wasn't at all interested in that so I decided to call it a morning. At least I have a blog that allows me an opportunity to conclude my thoughts, whether anyone takes them seriously or not.

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