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.


Completely Off the Cuff Audio Blog #2: Why I Find Certain Theologians Annoying

I have created my second audio blog. This one is why I find certain theologians very annoying tell me what you think!.

Here’s the debate between William Lane Craig and Sean Carol I was talking about in my audio blog.

Why is there something rather than nothing?

People have been asking this question, since the dawn of humanity no doubt. As of today, the question still remains unanswered, and I suppose we may never have the answer. I strongly doubt there is an answer.

In fact, I think the question can be phrased into a statement: our existence is just too be good to be true. I think the former statement gets to the heart of what people usually mean when they are asking why the universe exists. Is the universe too good to be true? Maybe. Maybe not.

Let’s assume the probability of the universe is very, very low. With this assumption, many declare a deity has to be involved in the universe. However, consider this: the universe only had to happen once. If there are multiple universes, just like our own, I admit that would be suspicious.

To clarify, let’s say we’re gambling. I bet on a number on six sided die. I earn money every time the number I chose comes up, and I lose money every time it lands on another number. The chance of my number coming up is 16.7%. (This is low; although, conceivably much higher than the chances of a universe). We roll the die. My number shows up, but I’m not surprised. The chances weren’t good, but it had to land on one number, and it is just as likely that my number will come up as opposed to any other number. Now, if my number came up over and over again, you might suspect the die is unfair, and depending on how many times my number came up, you might be right.

I don’t have the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. Perhaps, it has an answer, but I’m not convinced by fine-tuning arguments at this time.

We’re All a Little Irrational

Many atheists and skeptics declare reason as the epitome of how humans should decide all matters. I, for the most part, would agree. ( I’m hedging a little, since it is nearly impossible to divorce reason and emotion in all circumstances.) Now, not all atheists and skeptics behave or even chose atheism due to reason. (If you don’t believe me, feel free to check out atheists online who deny evolution.) Nevertheless, none of us, no matter how reasonable we try to be, is a completely rational human being. I would argue that  a completely rational human being is impossible.

I, for example, am a math person. I’m trained to be logical. I’ve also taken a few philosophy classes to boost my ability to argue with logic. Still, I know I’m not completely rational about everything. I’m terrified of driving past 40 mph. I don’t know why this is. I’ve never been in a serious accident, and I haven’t always been this way. I’ve gone to therapy over this issue, and I still can’t completely shake this fear. Nowadays, I can and do drive on highways when I absolutely have to, but this is rare. I normally have other people drive me.

So what’s the difference between me and the person who believes in unicorns? I at least try to keep irrationality to a minimum, and most of the time, if I put my mind to it, I can avoid it. Furthermore, when I do have an irrational fear or belief, I usually know I’m being irrational, and I try my best to get over it.

But all of this, is why using reason is so important. If we don’t apply it, especially to ourselves, irrationality is simply overlooked.  Sometimes it can be innocuous. Who’s ever heard of someone killing each other over a belief in unicorns? However, sometimes, irrationality can be deadly or crippling to ourselves and to society at large.

My advice? Stay in the real world as much as possible. Don’t just examine others. Examine yourself as well. We’re all a little irrational. We’re only human, but let’s try to be the best humans we can be.

A Minature Review of Penn and Teller: Bullshit!

I’ve been watching Penn and Teller: Bullshit! It’s free on my amazon prime account. This show is supposed to expose hoaxes, scams, and the like. Bullshit! was my first introduction to Penn and Teller. Before, that my only real knowledge of them was that they were magicians and outspoken atheists with crass vocabulary.

I can get passed the cornucopia of foul language; although, I would prefer not to be exposed to it. Still, this is not a show with an adequate amount of reason. For example, there is episode on environmentalism. They claim that the environmental movement is entrenched in political movements such as socialism. (This maybe true.) They then conclude that, while discussing socialism may be beneficial, hoaxes are not. Guess what the hoax is: global warming and other environmental concerns.  Although they do a good job of making certain people look stupid, they conclude that there isn’t enough evidence for climate change.

What the actual hell? Maybe Penn and Teller should have spent more time looking at the data and less time making 20-something hippies look stupid.

The Devout Skeptic

There is some discussion going on about how to properly label an unbeliever. Should we call ourselves agnostics, atheists, anti-theists etc. Personally, I have found this conversation a little bland. Obviously, at least where I’m at, the term atheist has a pretty bad connotation, but at least, lay people know what a person means when he/she uses the term. The term atheist and anti-theist can also be confusing at times. People may think atheists are claiming that there’s 0% chance of there being a god. Then suddenly, a theist shows up claiming you have to prove that God doesn’t exist, but many people who call themselves atheists/anti-theist really mean that they think the existence of a god is so improbable they can ignore it.

So, what am I going to call myself? I think I’m going to steal a term from Kellenberger. “The ideal here is that of the devout sceptic, who rejects or holds back from traditional religion, not because he shallow or immoral, but because on ethical grounds he will not believe where the truth is not clear. (Kellenberger 225) (Full citation: Kellenberger J. “Three Models of Faith” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion vol 12. No. 4 (1981) pp217-233) I think I might like to say something a bit stronger than the term devout skeptic brings. Still, I am fond of it. The reason I don’t try to force myself to believe in God anymore is due to intellectual integrity. (For my believing readers: I’m not calling you stupid.) I simply don’t find the arguments for God’s existence compelling. It would be lying to myself to claim otherwise. It is not out of the realm of possibilities that I could, one day, find a reason to believe in God. Do I think that is likely? Not really, but it could happened given a good reason.

Skepticism: Faith and Authority

Most are not 100% skeptical all of time. For example, I consider myself a skeptic, but I don’t spend my time questioning whether the grass is really green or whether water is composed of H2O. I could, but I am fairly certain my original position that grass is green and water is composed of H2O is the correct one. There are certain people who will blatantly say that is never okay to take things on faith and authority, and when the idea that many people take, say science, on faith they try to weasel their way out.

However, taking things on faith and authority, in a very limited way, can be acceptable in certain situations. I think blind faith is generally a bad idea. Still, we need to consider non-blind faith. In other words, we need to consider faith that has a basis to exist. For example, I’ve studied evolution to some degree and I know some of the major findings supporting it. I don’t know a lot of the more complex studies having to do with evolution, but I generally accept most the mainstream findings of scientists. Why? Because, “faith” in these scientists is not blind. It is based on something factual and objective about this science in the first place. Also with science, I know the method. I trust the method; because, it’s method does weed hoaxes and the like. It is open to change and scrutiny. Is this improper? Given it’s record, I don’t think it is. I know how the scientific method works, and as far as can tell, it is working quite well at the moment. If, for example, I had actual knowledge that every part of Catholicism was true but I just wasn’t sure whether the deity was triune, I might take it on faith that my priest was right about God.

Also, I think it is appropriate to take things on authority sometimes, but it depends on the authority. Is the authority reliable/trustworthy? Does the authority have a good tract record? Does the authority have the knowledge to dispense a particular claim? Does the authority have his/her mental facilities in good working order?  Is the authority unbiased? These are questions that need an affirmative answer. The problem is that a lot of people depend on an authority who does not meet the previous qualifications. I’m not going to ask my tv repair man what’s wrong with my car. Likewise, I’m not going to ask a science question to a cleric.

I think most skeptics would agree with. Although, they might argue with how I’ve treated faith. They might say that what I’m arguing isn’t faith at all, but I’d like to hear an argument on why faith should be redefined. People don’t seem to realize that we greatly depend on faith and authority a good portion of the time. It isn’t always universally wrong to do so, but we should question ourselves from time to time about what ideas we’re accepting and why.