Many wise people throughout history have said that the most important question in life is, “What is the truth?” There are many reasons why truth is important.
In order to have any rational thinking on this issue, we must be sure that everyone is using the same principles for evidence and truth. This has to be done because so often critics or skeptics or advocates of some view or other will keep on claiming that there is no evidence for a view that they don’t like for emotional reasons or they might say there is no contemporary evidence for some historical figure or something similar. If anyone says this, you can be 100% certain that they do not know the definition of evidence, don’t know the principles of truth that have been used for 1000s of years (or that they don’t have any concern for truth and have probably gone through a lot of pain that no legitimate evidence or logic will change anyway and so you need to use a different approach). Here is a very brief review of the methods of finding truth for those who do care about truth and logic.
WHAT IS EVIDENCE?
A) ALL EXPERIENCE IS EVIDENCE
By the standards of identifying truth in academics, courts, news organizations, historians and more, all testimony based on any experience counts as evidence. In fact, the word empirical, used in empirical evidence, goes back to a Greek word ‘ἐμπειρία(emperia)’. What does emperia mean? Experience. Wikipedia says:
“Empirical evidence is the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation.”
So experiences, past, present and future, by old or young, theists and atheists, conservatives and liberals, by Asians, Arabic people, Americans or anyone else, every single experience counts as one piece of evidence. And because it would be impossible for a person to go and visit every person and location on earth where something was experienced, for practical reasons, any person’s testimony that they experienced something is assumed to be legitimate evidence unless proven false.
Cornell University states:
“Rule 602. Need for Personal Knowledge A witness may testify to a matter only if evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter. Evidence to prove personal knowledge may consist of the witness’s own testimony….”
Even indirect empirical evidence can give quite strong evidence according to academic textbooks**
Many other academic sources agree that every testimony that someone has experienced anything, whether past or present, is evidence. A piece of evidence does not yet decide truth, but all evidence must be considered to have a fair and objective conclusion. It’s similar to a sports game. All points must be counted fair to figure out who won a game. Evidence is like points. Truth is like the final score that determines the winner.
So everything based on experience is evidence. Anyone who doesn’t agree on this standard is not following the principles of truth used throughout history and in academia now. They are following propaganda.
WHAT MAKES EVIDENCE/TESTIMONY MORE RELIABLE/TRUSTWORTHY?
B) MULTIPLE WITNESSES ARE BETTER VERIFICATION OF TRUTH
One witness is always considered evidence. But it is unfortunately true that some people are heavily biased, mistaken or in some cases lying and of course some people are deceivers and scammers. It is is especially important to verify truth when we are asked to change views in ways that require a lot of sacrifice and risk.
When historians and journalists hear people make claims that they experienced an event with any of their senses, every claim like that must be considered as evidence according to academic standards. But that doesn’t yet mean the event can be considered true. They investigate and listen carefully to all testimonies and evidence related to that event, and try to figure out where the majority of evidence or if possible all evidence points. This is how the best trained academics it true. They consider every testimony evidence, and that it is innocent until proven guilty (similar to courts of law), but as Jesus in the Bible taught people to look at most/all the evidence on a topic to find truth (Luke 24:255-7), academics also look at most/all of the evidence and then evaluate it to see where most/all of the evidence points.
So historians, journalists, lawyers, etc. usually try to get independent confirmation of a story before publishing it. In order to find truth as accurately as possible, but to also avoid wasting enormous amounts of time (which would delay people knowing truth and thus harm them), historians, journalists, lawyers, etc. have agreed that when you can find 2 or more independent sources that agree on major claims major events, that is very firm verification that it is true to the best of human knowledge (even if there are a few differences in details between witnesses, which is common in every event in history as historians and lawyers can attest).
Roy Davies, former managing editor of history programs at the BBC, talks about how he learned to check truth and credibility. Davies is irreligious. (~6:30).
(~3:30) “One of the most important lessons that I learned at that stage was from a senior reporter who said,
‘From now on, do not accept any story that you are told by less than two people…meaning if one person tells you a story, go out and check it with another person who doesn’t know that person.’ “
# 247. Roy Davies Exposes Charles Darwin’s Plagiarism
So that is a standard practice in journalism and history. If 2 independent people who don’t know each other say the same thing, that’s good enough to publish it as a verified event of history.
This concept of rational thought and proving things by 2-3 witnesses or more to verify accuracy was actually pioneered in the Bible 1000s of years ago (Deuteronomy 19:15, 2 Corinthians 13:1).
WHAT ARE THE MAIN WAYS TO DETERMINE TRUTH & PROOF?
3) TYPES OF PROOF & TRUTH (PRAGMATIC, CORRESPONDENCE & COHERENCE)
We actually have many independent sources confirming what the Bible says about God and Jesus in many ways. Scholars have also discredited pretty much all the arguments of atheists and skeptics of all kinds. This by normal academic standards counts as proof beyond any reasonable doubt. But we should clarify that scholars talk about 2 kinds of proof. Dr. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at Cambridge explains:
“The word proof has two meanings. There’s the rigorous meaning in maths that is very difficult to do and rare. But then there’s the other meaning – beyond reasonable doubt”. That’s the kind of ‘proof’ we can present [for God]: arguments to bring someone beyond reasonable doubt. For example, rational arguments such as those from philosophers Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, the personal experience of Christians, and the witness of the gospel accounts in the Bible.”
Scholars throughout history have tried to gather the most and best evidence in 3 categories of truth. They are:
- PRAGMATIC TRUTH: True views bring the highest quantity and quality of life for each individual and all people over time. Every good doctor, politician, scientist, pastor, teacher, etc. and everyone responsible in some way for communities or society looks to find what can do the most good for each individual and all people. This is the gold standard of science wherever it involves human beings. This is the aim of all of God’s laws and the gold standard proof of truth in the Bible as well (1 Thess. 5:21,15, Phil. 2:4, etc.) which was primary source of this rational method. Epigenetics is showing how pragmatic good is crucial not just for the current generation, but has effects for several or even many generations.
- CORRESPONDENCE TRUTH: But you can’t figure out what is best for individuals or communities without getting evidence from people, especially many people. So to figure out pragmatic truth, you have to get lots of evidence from experiences/experiments. This is correspondence truth. True views have the most evidence from all experiences, senses and experiments. The Bible pioneered this area of truth as well (Deut. 4:34-6, 1 John 1:1, Daniel 1, etc.)
- COHERENCE TRUTH: Some things might have benefits for a short time, but be harmful long term. For example smoking and drugs give short term pleasure, but are deadly long term. So we need to also check that a view is beneficial not just in the short term, but also over long periods of time. That is called coherence truth. True views have the best track record of accuracy, explain/fit the most evidence on a topic and/or agree with other truths that we already accept (Luke 24:25-27, Proverbs 12:19, etc.)
The Christian worldview has far more evidence, facts, truth and proof than all other worldviews combined. Those who reject it have to set aside the definitions and academic methods of finding evidence, and evaluating it to find truth or proof the best of human knowledge, as cited above. They do so for emotional reasons or because they have never learned these principles or something like that.
There are many types of emotions, fallacies and propaganda that cause people to reject the fair ways to find truth above.