How to Know Truth and Evaluate Competing Worldviews
- Wednesday, August 11, 2010
So it turns out that the Reality Principle is in force, even with things that are often referred to as "matters of faith." Truth is really there, and it is really knowable.
Principles for How to Know What's Really True - #2 The Bias Principle
To counter-balance the previous principle, we have to always be mindful of the Bias Principle. The Bias Principle states that how we interpret the facts tends to be influenced by the perspective of the world we already have.
We all grew up in different ways - some Christian, some Atheist, some Buddhist, some Humanist, etc.—and we tend to be convinced that we see the world the way it really is, and we interpret (or misinterpret) the facts in light of that.
The Copernican Revolution is a good example of this. Centuries ago, people believed that the sun revolved around the earth - the Geocentric view. Of course, with the additional facts we have today, we know that this view is not correct. Now, when we today see the sun rise and set, we are looking at the same data that they were, but their geocentric bias caused them to misinterpret the facts and, in that way, they were out of touch with reality. It was only when they recognized their biases, came to be open to additional facts, and were willing to have their perspectives changed by those facts that they came to be in touch with reality in this way.
We also must recognize our various biases in all fields of life and always be open to the facts as they present themselves to us. We must be willing to have our perspectives changed by them.
Principles for How to Know What's Really True - #3 The Certainty Principle
Now, there's a myth in our culture that says that you can't know something to be true unless you can prove it with absolute certainty. For example, some might say "You can't know that God exists or that Jesus really rose from the dead or that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God unless you can prove it absolutely." This leads us to the Certainty Principle.
The Certainty Principle says two things. First, it concedes that, yes, you can't know anything to be true with absolute certainty. In fact, you can't even be absolutely certain that you are reading this article! Hypothetically, you could be dreaming.
But the second and more important thing that the Certainty Principle states is that absolute certainty is not required for you to know something to be true. Sufficient certainty is all that is required. This is just how knowledge works.
For example, as I write this I am sitting in a coffee shop and looking out the window at my car. I parked it there about thirty minutes ago, I remember where I parked it, and I am looking at it. Now, it is remotely possible that, while I wasn't looking, a drunken tow truck driver pulled up, hauled my car away, and then replaced it with a car just like mine. That is possible, but as I look out the window I have a sufficient amount of certainty that allows me to rightly say, "I know that's my car."
Likewise, if you are a college student, you could say "Professor, I didn't study because I wasn't absolutely certain the test was going to be today. You could have gotten sick and postponed it." Your professor would rightly say, "I told you the test was going to be today. You knew well enough. You are responsible to take it."
The Certainty Principle tells us that there comes a point where you're sure enough about something that you can rest in the knowledge that it is true and thus become responsible to act upon it. So we can't wait until absolute proof is presented before we will believe something to be true, but must be willing to consider the facts and go where they reasonably lead.
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