Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Truth is out there...

My roommate and I disagree on just about everything. Luckily, we generally like and respect each other, but we argue pretty much constantly. If I make a statement, he generally disagrees, and we argue. If he makes a statement, I generally disagree, and we argue. In fact, I think that the only thing that we have ever agreed upon is that Volvos are good cars. That’s pretty telling.

The problem is, we have a huge fundamental disagreement, and that is this: he does not believe that there is such a thing as ultimate truth; he thinks that there is no point in arguing with people’s beliefs, because their beliefs are true “for them,” although he constantly refutes his own belief by arguing with me. I don’t believe in subjective truth. I believe, no, scratch that, I know that there is such a thing as objective truth. Just because I don’t know what it is, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

Let me give an example: Copernicus and his ilk believed that the earth was the center of the universe; that the planets, the stars and the sun revolved around it, and the earth stayed stationary. This was a belief that endured for many hundreds of years, and it was believed so fervently that Galileo was persecuted for presenting his theory that the earth and planets actually revolved around the sun, and he eventually recanted. Because it was believed that the earth was the center of the universe, did that mean that it was true? No. They were just wrong. In fact Galileo was wrong too, because the Sun is not the center of the universe either. Now, we don’t know what the center of the universe even is, but that doesn’t mean that Copernicus was right, and that the earth was the center of the universe.

Another example: At one point in time, it was widely believed that the world was flat (of course, this belief persisted much longer among the uneducated, but that isn’t the point here). Does this mean that the world actually was flat for them? No. They were just wrong. They believed the earth was flat, but it wasn’t. It is round, and it always has been, whether or not people believed that it was.

It used to be believed that the four elements (earth, wind, water, fire) were the fundamentals of all things, but that didn’t make it true. Now we believe in atoms, and quarks, but that could be wrong too. My point is not that we know the truth. My point is that believing in something doesn’t make it any truer, or more false. There is a truth, whether or not we know what it is. Even if everything in the world is just a dream, then that’s the truth, even though we think that it’s reality.

It may be true that nothing can be proven, or known absolutely. But we try. We learn from our mistakes, and maybe we’re getting closer to knowing the absolute truth about things. Maybe we aren’t. It doesn’t matter. It’s there, even if it’s unknowable.

I’m agnostic. This doesn’t mean that I don’t know whether or not there is a God, this means that I don’t believe that the existence of God can be proven, or disproved. It is a simple matter of belief. You can argue about the bible, but that doesn’t prove the existence of God to me. It proves that there were people who believed in God a few thousand years ago. Conversely, you cannot prove to me that there is no God. But either way, there either is, or there isn’t a God, and neither my belief, nor your belief is going to do anything to change it.

I can’t even prove that the world is how I perceive it. I believe that I live on earth, and that it is made up of millions of people, and that there is a sun, and a universe, and I drive my car to work, and type on my computer. But I could be wrong. This could all just be a dream. I don’t know. But if it is, then that’s the truth, and my beliefs, and your beliefs are all wrong. The only thing that I can prove to myself is that I exist.

Descartes said it best when he said “Cogitot, ergo sum.” “I think, therefore, I am.”

I may not be able to prove my existence to you. You may not be able to prove your existence to me. But I can certainly prove my existence to myself, because the very fact that I can consider my existence proves to me that I exist. And that, my friends, is the truth. Believe it or not, but think about it.

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