Am I Wrong?

When two people disagree there are only four possibilities for determining what the truth is: Person A is right and Person B is wrong, Person A is wrong and Person B is right, Person A and Person B are both right, or Person A and Person B are both wrong. If both people are right or both people are wrong, it can only be because the argument was not sufficiently precise.

For example: If Person A says "The sky is blue" and Person B says "The sky is green", the only possibilities are a) The sky is blue b) The sky is green c) The sky is blue and the sky is green d) The sky is neither blue or green.  If the true answer is either c or d, then the argument has not been stated with sufficient precision. To rectify this we could have Person A say "The sky is blue" and Person B say "The sky is not blue". The sky can not be 'blue' and 'not blue' in the same sense at the same time. If this were an actual possibility, all discourse would be meaningless, but this does not reflect life. If I point  a gun at you and say "I am going to kill you now",  you will want to know whether my statement is true or false. It would not occur to most people that the statement might be both true and false.

If we are left with a clear issue of 'True or False', we need to define a criteria for what Truth is. Being human I happen to believe that my opinions are 100% correct (otherwise I would presumably change them). The problem I encounter is that I constantly encounter other humans who also assume their opinions are 100% correct (otherwise they would presumably change them), and frequently my opinions are not 100%  compatible with the opinions of other people.

When opinions are concerned with justice and morality, people who have suffered wrongly usually have a pretty clear idea that they have been unjustly treated and this keeps the civil courts in business. People seem to be less capable of understanding how they have perpetrated injustice. If I get cut off in traffic, it is clear to me that the person who has cut me off has been very rude and has endangered my safety for his own personal and trivial gain. If I am the one cutting someone off in traffic, I realize that I am in a hurry and it is very important that I arrive at my destination as quickly as possible. It is clear that the offender and the offended have different perspectives, but if the perspective is stated accurately one side must be correct and the other incorrect, but there are several problems: A) Neither side is likely to have a full understanding of the other perspective. B) One of the perspectives must be True, but what is the standard for determining the Truth? C) Is it possible that the wrong party will win the dispute and thereby increase the injustice? D) I am pretty certain that there is a standard of justice, but when I am pressed it is very difficult to define exactly what that standard is or where it came from.

The most common criteria for truth is 'Do I believe it?'. I spend more time in my thoughts than I do anyone else's so I tend to trust my instincts more, however I am still faced with the dilemma of how to justify my beliefs when they are contradicted by another person's beliefs. With over 5 billion people on the planet, it is unlikely that I am the only person to be correct 100% of the time, so I am forced to acknowledge that my beliefs may not be 100% correct. If some of my opinions are false (and it is troubling to realize that I may hold false ideas with the same conviction that I hold true ideas), there are two possibilities: I do not have an adequate command of the facts (Although it may be possible not to have an adequate command of the facts and yet be correct accidentally) or I am not sufficiently persuaded by the facts. In either event I am still wrong. The fact that I may be strongly persuaded by an argument has no effect on whether the argument is actually true. In previous centuries many people were strongly persuaded that the earth was flat, however this opinion had absolutely no effect on the actual shape of the earth.

This leads into another criteria for Truth: Is it accepted by the majority? It seems reasonable that the more people who are convinced by an idea the more likely it is to be true. One problem with this criteria is that the majority is still comprised of humans. There have been many times in history when the majority in one nation disagreed with the majority in another nation and the disagreement led to a war. There is also the previously mentioned problem in which the majority of the population agreed that the earth was flat. The fact that the majority of people earnestly believed that the earth must be flat still failed to have any effect on the actual shape of the earth. History has destroyed many commonly held beliefs, and yet every generation seems confident that they have a handle on the Truth.

It appears evident that Truth exists. The problem we face is whether Truth can be known. It seems presumptuous to claim something is absolutely True unless we are certain we have examined 100% of the evidence. For example suppose I make the claim that 'All roses are red'. It is very possible that every rose I have encountered has indeed been red, however I have not encountered every rose on the planet. If there is one blue rose in a remote jungle, my statement is rendered false. I should also acknowledge the possibility that there are blue roses growing on a distant planet. Even if I could verify that every rose in the universe is red, there is still a possibility that a blue rose grew in a remote jungle in 729 B.C. and has long since vanished. To make the problem even more challenging: it is possible that 5000 years from now a blue rose will grow somewhere in the universe and I won't be there to see it. 

It would appear that absolute Truth is well beyond the potential of human comprehension. We would have to be able to observe the entire universe at will, and (even trickier) we would need the ability to observe the universe at any given time -- past, present, and (trickiest of all) future. 

I think it can be stated with near certainty that no human being will ever have access to such knowledge, however it has been suggested that there is a being that does have comprehensive knowledge of the entire universe throughout all of time. That being is God. This is an intriguing possibility, however not all intriguing possibilities are Reality. The possibility that God exists does not, by itself, bring me any closer to determining Truth. I am still faced with a very real restriction on human knowledge: 'How can I know God exists?' and 'If God does exists, how can I know what He knows?'

The Christian tradition suggests that we can know God exists because God has told us He exists and He has imparted Truth through the Bible. Assuming the Bible is True, there is another problem with this claim: Why do different Christians have different opinions? Again there are two possibilities: some Christians may not have an adequate command of the facts or some Christians may not be sufficiently persuaded by the facts (There is also a possibility that a person who makes a claim to be a Christian is not actually a Christian (Claiming to be a Hindu does not automatically make a person Hindu)).

So it would seem that Christians are no better off than non Christians. There is another factor to be considered however. If God exists and He possesses all Truth, He would know how to impart Truth to humans. If God were all powerful (conveniently this has also been attributed to Him), He would be able to impart Truth to humans.

Again, this is an intriguing possibility, but this, by itself, does not guarantee that God exists and even if He does exist it does not guarantee that He has imparted any Truth to humans. But I am left with a riddle: If God does not exist (or has not conveyed Truth), where did I get my sense of Justice?  And how can I define it accurately and persuasively?

see also:  Relativism  SD Morality  Fark  Carter  2  3  Craig  Geisler  Johnson  Koukl  Willard

 

         

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