The Truth Part II

Objective truth is an interesting notion. Us finite creatures like to think of it as both existing and accessible, and perhaps, most importantly, capable of informing our morality. I would, however, like to point out that morality and truth-seeking can only really matter to the “developed.” Those starving can only truly care about staving off their hunger and, perhaps, their loved one’s hunger. I, suppose, that might be tipping my hat to Maslow. Still, if one doesn’t think this true, one only has to look at the looting that takes place after a natural disaster.

Furthermore, even in a culture that is developed, one has to ask if objective truth can truly be found. It is quite popular today for people to think that science and philosophical debate can shine a light on objective truth. Unfortunately, people are not rational humans at heart, and as Nietzsche pointed out time and time again in Beyond Good and Evil often a philosopher’s  argument says more about the philosopher than the truth.

The problem, at base level, with trying to use logical methods to carve out objective truth is that human beings are not inherently rational beings. Thus, this begs the question of whether or not human beings even have the ability to discover objective truth. It is as if we can only see through a people through a windshield of car, while driving through a snow storm. We are prone to error, and these errors can be dangerous.

This is to to say, a little knowledge, without enough knowledge, can be dangerous. First year med students are known to want to over diagnosis themselves and their families with horrible illnesses, it is for this reason medical schools don’t give them prescription pads. Nevertheless, we give philosophers and clergy free reign over what constitutes objective truth.

On the other hand, objective truth may be out there, but can humans grasp it? I would argue that this is not clear, and this why much of the time we need to operate in probabilistic and pragmatic truth. It matters that Janet isn’t lying when she says John raped her. It matters that the engineer who worked on the bridge did his math correct, so I can be sure my car can go over it safely. It matters that the underlying mathematical system is sound. I can be reasonably sure, that everything shown on the Ancient Aliens program is horse shit.

Finally, some want to argue that we need to have one undefined axiom and rely on that for system of truths. They, conveniently, want to add God as this axiom. The problem, however, is that the really is no sufficient reason to think that such an entity exists, and its existence raises more problems than it solves. Even if it did exist, this beingm almost by definition, be incomprehensible to us finite creatures, but this isn’t the way most monotheistic traditions see God. Instead, the Western traditions are absolutist and ingrained with either “believe in our God and in our way.” The being the believe is defined with omni properties, acts a certain way, etc. Without these notions, the whole structure of their truth and morality falls apart. I would argue the falling apart of the absolutism of the monotheistic Western God is partially responsible for the chaos and culture wars we see today in the West.


Agendas in Universities

Here’s my view about those pesky “secular progressive” agendas on campus:

On Truth: An Atheist Quotes Scripture

I am going to do some very odd for an atheist, but bear with me. I am going to quote scripture.

In John 18 Pilate is questioning Jesus who, according to the Bible, will soon be crucified.

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Many claim to be pointing to the truth. The Christians have Jesus and the Bible. The Muslims have the Quran. Many atheists declare there is no god with at least some degree of certitude, and everyone seems to think that if everyone else followed the same thought processes that they did everyone would reach the same conclusions. When everyone doesn’t reach the same conclusions, the other group is wrong and excuses are made. In a sense, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Of course, we have no idea if Pilate really said this, or indeed, if this scene really took place. Still, imagine just giving up flabbergasted and retorting, “What is truth?” I’m sure most of my readers know that it was Barabbas who was released. Does the truth matter? And what do you do with truth once it is found? Do you get a gold star for finding the truth?

But there is a scarier situation. What if on the journey to find truth, all that is found is chaos and, ironically at the same time, nothingness? What if, on finding the truth, the notion of human progress seems flimsy at best. What if there are no answers on how to live a good life? What if, at base, there are no logical answers to life’s most urgent questions? Maybe you do get that damned gold star, but at what price?

I’m not saying truth is that grim, only what if? Does one live their life wearing their gold star with pride, or do they do something different?

As always, opinions welcome!



Why, as an Atheist, have I been Talking so much about Buddhism?

Here is my unscripted off the cuff remarks on my interest in Buddhism

My Complicated Relationship with Religion

Certainly, I have a complicated relationship with religion. Currently, I am a non-religious atheist, or as I’m better described, a devout skeptic. (See the menu on the left for an article I wrote on that term.) I have been this way for years. Now, when I say I have a complicated relationship with atheism, that doesn’t mean I’m going to run to church today and go get “saved.” It’s much more “complicated” than that.

Basically, I find world religions to be truly fascinating! I’ve even invested a good amount of time and money studying them. I enjoy understanding them both from an academic prospective and from the subjective experience of their followers. This, of course, means I occasionally, once or twice a year, go to different religious services to experience what it is like to be a member of a particular religion, but I never officially join.

Although I hate what religions can do in some instances to a society, I don’t hate religions or religious people. In fact in some ways, I enjoy them, but what on earth do I mean by this? Religions are the closest things we have to actually living out a fantasy book or movie.

There is an idea in religions that there is something beyond this realm, and people can somehow harness it’s power. This is practically the plot to every fantasy book, and while I don’t believe that this religious notion is true, it is fascinating and fun to play with and study once in a while.

So, I warned my readers. My “relationship” with religion is a complicated one, but at the end of the day, I am not a theist. I don’t know if anyone can relate, and I suppose that’s okay.

As always, feel free to comment, even if you don’t like what I wrote!