FINDING TRUTH #2: FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES FOR AN OBJECTIVE SEARCH FOR TRUTH


Have you ever had conversations that go like these real ones I have been involved in:
A: (mother in law after a shopping trip) Don’t put so much food in the freezer and refrigerator. It uses up electricity.
B: (me) Maybe you’re right. Let me see what the company that built the freezer says. (looks it up on the internet). Hmm..well they say that many frozen things help to keep other foods frozen and reduces electricity costs.
B: (mother in law) Well, that’s what they think. I know better. It uses lots more electricity. So don’t do it.

or

A: Racism is a pernicious evil. Here’s research that shows it is real and damaging many lives, both minorities AND the majority as well (cite research such as here and here and here: .
B: Racism doesn’t exist. No one is being oppressed. We live in the best period of earth’s history. They (and you) should just buck up and quit being deceived by victim mentality.

or

A: There is a lot of destructive greed in the republican party.
B: Maybe a little, but democrats have no evidence or facts for their ideas at all. And they kill babies.

or

A: There is a lot of destructive greed in the democratic party.
B: Maybe a little, but republicans have no evidence or facts for their ideas at all. And they are racist bigots and start lots of wars.

I’m sure you’ve seen or experienced many conversations like these.

To have mutually beneficial conversations, we must start on the same playing field where we all follow the same standards. If we don’t, than anyone can set up their own standards to point to what they emotionally prefer just as easily as a willful toddler can, or a tyrannical dictator or a psychopath.

These foundational principles to find truth are not at all presuppositions, because we use them in our daily lives to stay safe, to navigate, to achieve various kinds of success and to gain many other benefits in life.

1) ACCURATE DEFINITION OF TRUTH

There are many wildly different definitions of truth. Some say truth is what feels good to me. Others say truth is what their religious or materialistic worldview teaches. Still others say it is what a certain scientific establishment or branch of research currently thinks is true (usually one supportive of their worldview).

But we need something more objective since all those sources have made major errors that have harmed a lot of people. For example many scientists, religions and atheists have supported racism and slavery and many do not speak out or act with any serious effort against the tragedy of over 40 million people in slavery now (that would be billions if you count debt as slavery as the Bible does).

The Chinese have an interesting proverb. It says:
“If names cannot be correct, then language is not in accordance with the truth of things. And if language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success” Chinese proverb (名不正,则言不顺;言不顺,则事不成 ).

The Bible has a similar saying.
“What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)

Dr. Jerry Kroth, an expert in the use of propaganda in media and governments, says that redefining words is a common method used to deceive and manipulate people in a brilliant talk called “Propaganda and Manipulation: How mass media engineers and distorts our perceptions.” Many academics and experts call the use of changing words to manipulate people “reframing” and it is extremely common as well as harmful. For example, throughout history, many governments have instigated wars that were really for greed or power, but called them wars for freedom or to protect national security. That is one of the most common examples of reframing and continues now as well.

So one of the first duties in a genuine search for truth is to define what truth is and to define it in a way that is objective and that everyone sincere person can agree with.

Although many people have different definitions of truth, in our day to day lives we have kind of an instinctive understanding that it must have some relation to reality. And this same understanding must also be used for analyzing worldviews and whether they are true.

Many wise people have agreed on a simple definition of truth that is also found in dictionaries:
“That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/truth

Many other wise people from numerous cultures have said the same thing.

  • “Truth is exact correspondence with reality.” Paramahansa Yogananda, Indian Guru
  • Truth is “what corresponds in the mind to what is outside it.” Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Islamic scientist/philosopher
  • “To speak the truth is to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not.” Aristotle
  • “Truth is synonymous with reality.” Dr. Kim Lee Suk (pioneering cochlear surgeon on Korea) and Bryan Bissell (this article’s author

Long before anyone above, the Bible wrote about truth a great deal. The Bible doesn’t speak like a dictionary, but in numerous verses, prophets and apostles challenged people to reason and find truth based on evidence/experiences of reality. Just 4 of a myriad of examples are:

  • “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Psalm 34:8
  • “If you see me doing the beautiful works of God upon the earth, then you should at least believe the evidence of the miracles, even if you don’t believe my words!” John 10:38 (TPT)
  • “[Jesus after his death] was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.” 1 Corinthians 15:6 (NLT) 
  • “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes…18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.” 2 Peter 1:16,18

So the Bible is also saying that truth lines up with reality.

The Christian professor Dr. Paul Copan who has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Marquette University, and wrote a book on truth that also criticizes relativism, titled “True for You but Not for Me”. He says:

“Truth is a match up with reality…Reality makes something true. To say the earth is flat or the moon is made of green cheese is false. Why? Because it doesn’t match up with reality. [But in much of education and media] people speak of ‘my truth’ or say it’s true for me, or your reality as if truth is merely a matter of opinion or perspective. [But] There is only ‘The Truth’..’My truth’ undermines the idea of shared common facts.”  

https://www.prageru.com/video/true-for-you-but-not-for-me/

Another definition of truth that is a little more comprehensive is: Truth is reality or any accurate description of reality, academic, emotional or cultural, visible/natural or invisible/supernatural, comfortable or uncomfortable, contradictory or non-contradictory, etc. based on the majority or all evidence and experiences. Wise people follow the majority of evidence wherever it leads as truth.

These definitions of truth lead us to recognize that there many types of truth, academic/scientific, natural, emotional, relational, temporary, permanent, local, international, etc. If the God of the Bible is truth as the Bible says, then all these fields will have evidence that points to God’s truth that the Bible says are most valuable for eternal life but also this life (1 Tim. 4:8).

If we don’t define truth as accurate descriptions of reality, then at a minimum, “truth” becomes irrelevant to most people and they lose freedom. At worst, this false “truth” disregards/rejects the experiences of others who have experienced abuse and injustice.  It compounds the injustices and cruelties and eventually results in violence and in many cases national collapse. 


2) ALL EXPERIENCES ARE EVIDENCE

If the definition of truth is reality, then it follows that all experiences from senses must be accepted as evidence to get a full picture of reality, or truth. We use our senses every day to gather facts and truth to make decisions about driving safely, how to best enjoy our free time, what school to attend, what job to take, who to marry, and many others. In every scientific experiment, scientists use their senses to gather facts. Yes, our senses are in some cases imperfect when compared to other living things, or they can in some cases see illusions like mirages.  But if you didn’t trust them, you couldn’t even get to school or work safely every day. We trust them every day to keep us alive…and when we don’t trust our experiences and that of others, there is pain, failures and sometimes serious injury or even death.

Yes, evidence can sometimes point in wrong directions. This is why evidence should be considered like points in a sports game. Most of the time there is evidence on both sides of most questions, similar to how most sports games have points on both sides. But the hypothesis, case, worldview, etc. that has the best quality and quantity of evidence, especially in regard to what benefits humanity most (we’ll get to this in a later article), should be the one that is considered true to the best of our knowledge.

It is crucial that all evidence from senses, experiences, scientific experiments which are all based on experiences, etc. be counted as evidence.

Many atheists from Friedrich Nietzsche to the present have said,

“All evidence of truth comes only from the senses.”

God, Jesus and godly people in the Bible often told people, if you don’t believe our words, test it with your senses.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8 NLT

“…believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me.” John 10:38 (NLT) (see also Malachi 3:10-12*)

Pastors, philosophers and intellectuals like Dr. R.C. Sproul say the same thing.

“I cannot have any [accurate] thoughts about you or about the world outside of my mind, except through my senses. So as imperfect as my senses may be, that’s the only avenue to reality outside myself” (~0:00)

“…the only link I have from the interior chamber of my mind, my thinking, to the external world, the only link I have from me to you is through my senses.”(16:00+).[1]

As we all know, our senses are limited. Eagles, owls and telescopes see better than we do. Elephants can hear better than we do. Mantel shrimp have far more knockout for their size than we do. We don’t naturally have radar senses like bats do. So the Chinese say, “Two thirds of what we see is behind our eyes” because what we see about reality is based on what our brains are designed to detect. Each form of life has been designed with unique functions to help them survive and thrive. But if we abandon the evidence of our senses that are reasonably accurate, we remove the only anchor to reality that we possess. 

All testimony of people’s experiences from all backgrounds in the present and also those of people in the past must be accepted as valid evidence to get a reasonably accurate picture of reality. The only legitimate way to rule out a claimed experience is if it is proven false. Dr. John Warwick Montgomery is an international human rights lawyer, professor and Research Professor of Philosophy a Concordia University and holds eleven earned degrees. He writes:

“In a court of law, admissible testimony is considered truthful unless impeached or otherwise rendered doubtful. This is in accord with ordinary life, where only the paranoic goes about with the bias that everyone is lying.” Montgomery, Human Rights and Human Dignity, p. 140. See also 141-50.

People also do this every day in daily life, believing the testimony of people around them about all sorts of things to make judgements and assuming that people are being honest to the best of their ability, unless proven guilty or if a certain individual has a terrible track record of lying or being inaccurate, etc. If we want people to assume that our claims about our experiences are honest and should count as evidence unless proven guilty or dishonest, then to be fair, we must grant this same right to all other human beings. And that leads us to the third principle.

 
3) THE GOLDEN RULE IS CRUCIAL.

We understand innately from childhood that when game rules are applied differently or when a parent or teacher favors one child above another, that something is wrong, something is unjust. We can also see in real life that any dictator or toddler can presuppose rules or views that favor their desires and harm others. So wise people in many fields have come to realize that it is crucial to make sure that standards and policies are the same for everyone. When we don’t do this, people call that using fallacies and there are over 200 kinds of fallacies.


If we accept the golden rule, we must recognize that one of the most serious violations of the golden rule is to presuppose a worldview and disregard any and all contrary evidence. This is extremely common in our world now, but it one of the most serious ways to destroy genuine truth seeking. It is crucial to agree that we can’t allow any presuppositions of any worldview of any kind, whether it favors old or young, liberals or conservatives, rich or poor, eastern/western/northern/southern ideas, materialistic or theistic worldviews or anything else. All must compete on the same fair playing field with the same objective standards to find truth fairly, with no cheating by anyone.

That is what we will look at in the next couple articles,

1) the objective standards of determining truth fairly and

2) common fallacies and methods of propaganda that undermine this fair process of finding truth fairly.


If you disagree with anything about or have some differences, feel free to critique and make suggestions. But make sure to do so in a way that does not make any presuppositions of any worldview since any willful toddler, dictator, imbecile or criminal can presuppose anything they want if you can presuppose what you want. Presuppositions really are the complete death of truth seeking.

In session #3, we’ll look at the 3 major effective methods to find truth, which have 7 specific principles that can be used. In various fields of science, several even detailed tools are used as well. I hope you will find this next article very informative and useful.


[1]Reliability of Sense Perception, Renewing Your Mind with R.C. Sproul, Defending Your Faith, https://www.iheart.com/podcast/263-renewing-your-mind-rc-29468555/episode/reliability-of-sense-perception-30820544/

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