Thursday, June 13, 2013

How can you tell "the truth?"

No, I don't mean as opposed to lie.

The bible and other religious documents are put forward as "the truth," irrefutable and undeniable. How can this be tested?

Does Truth change?

In some instances, sure. If I tell you that the sky is blue and you walk outside (where I am) right now, as I'm typing this (these are scheduled publishes...) it will, indeed, be blue. In a few hours, it'll be much darker - most will describe it as black. And at other times, it'll be multicolored as the sun rises or sets. Does that mean I'm lying?

Of course not. But this also isn't necessarily the same sort of "truth" most people think of.

Truth, in general, should be able to be tested - and tested honestly. It used to be (and in some areas, still is) thought that you can get the "truth" through pain - thus the idea of torturing confessions out of people. We know, of course, that people will say anything the person causing the pain will want to hear eventually just to get the pain to stop - this being why torture, aside from just the pure immorality of it, is useless when it comes to justice and finding answers.

Truth on how the world works is sought in science. If I say I can hold a ball while standing upright and release it, and it will immediately go sideways, I have to prove it. I publish what I do, one way or another, if I'm honest about it. Others then try to replicate it and either prove or disprove it through repeated experimentation. Does their data match mine? Are they copying my methodology? Did I give them the standards of my test? Did *I* test repeatedly to eliminate things like, say, a freak wind blowing the ball to the side?

Or, looking at it from a not as "experiemental" viewpoint, if I say I saw Jim steal Harry's motorcycle at around 6 PM, there's going to be a bunch in that statement to test. First, does either Jim or Harry have (or were they borrowing legitimately) a motorcycle? If Jim did, but harry doesn't, was the motorcycle where I say it was around 6? If it was, was Jim or Harry? Do we have anything showing Harry on the motorcycle around that time? And so forth - all of these things can be proven or disproven, and shown to be truth (or not.) And even indirect evidence comes in - do I have reason to try to get Harry in trouble with Jim, and the like.

The stranger the claim, the stronger the evidence. And I think most people would agree. If I said "I walked out the door to get the newspaper, but it wasn't there," there's plenty of reason to not think much of it. Newspapers can be late. Maybe I forgot to renew my subscription. Maybe someone else took it. But it's not an extraordinary claim.

If I say "I jumped out my window, spun my arms around and flew," well, people are going to want proof of that. That's an extraordinary claim, and they'll want more than my word for that.

Looking for extraterrestrial life is another way of showing this sort of progression. If someone asked me if I "believed in aliens," I'd want to ask specifically what they were asking. If they just want a yes/no answer, I wouldn't necessarily give them one - I'd want to give them a full, honest answer. Which would be:

We know life exists in many forms - we have the examples here on Earth. We know there are many, many planets out there, even ones that look like they may be similar to Earth. We know the chemistry used in simple life. Therefore, for me - do I believe extraterrestrial life exists? Sure. Bacteria can survive incredible conditions.
Complex life? Still possible. The universe provides a lot of laboratories out there.
Complex intelligent life? Not unthinkable.
Complex intelligent life that's still out there? Rarer.
Complex intelligent life that travels the stars? Even rarer.
... in our galaxy? Rarer still, since you've now cut down the number of planets and systems to look at.
... that has visited Earth? Highly doubtful. Finding Earth is not finding a needle in a haystack. It's finding a needle in several counties worth of farms' haystacks.
... that has abducted people, influenced ancient civilizations, etc? I won't say "no," but there's really no evidence for it - most of what people "find" as evidence, if not fraudulent, is misinterpreted or, at best, wishful thinking. And those actions, if they wanted to make contact, don't really make sense.

I think most people would agree that's a reasonable, honest answer. And I think most people would agree to the other ideas of claims and how believable (or not) they are.

So why do they throw the standards for truth out the window when they're told to take "holy books" on faith? Even having BEEN in that situation, other than "submitting to and believing authority" and just plain indoctrination, I don't understand it now.

Take the new testament. The most important story founding the Christian faith is that of the death and resurrection of Jesus. You'd think this would be consistent... but it isn't. Yes, we have crucifixion and death. In one account we have darkening skies, lightning, earthquakes, the temple veil being torn, and ancient, dead prophets coming out to talk to people... things not noted either historically (some of which most certainly would be!) or in the other gospels. In another, the tomb is guarded - but the guards are struck dead, another earthquake comes, etc. In another, the tomb is empty. In a third, there's one person there. In another, two. This, while using the same claims to "prove" Jesus rose from the dead - itself an extraordinary claim!

Why do people blindly say "Yes, this is true and what I will base my life on!" We don't have people disappearing from tombs on their own. And Romans being spontaneously killed just after the death of a  cult leader would likely be noticed - especially in a troublesome province, which Judaea was. And yet the writers suggest the Romans "paid" people to say the cult followers - which is what Christianity was at the time (and people thought Jesus insane, a drunk, etc.... it says so, after all) stole the body. We know just from MODERN times how cult followers can be, how far they'll go to prove things (or die "for the cause.") Meanwhile, following the thread throughout the four gospels... it sounds very much like the guards were killed, the bodies probably hidden between two visits, and the followers indeed moved the body (the stone, after all, was rolled into place by one man, according to its own account.)

Which sounds more true, if we pull the name "christianity" from it and just say "a cult?" Which would you say happen - "The caretaker at the graveyard died, and people were at cult leader fred's now empty tomb saying look, it's empty - someone in the cult probably stole the body" or "Cult leader fred rose from the dead like he said! Maybe he wasn't nuts!"

No, we're not witnesses to either one - the only documents we have that were (supposedly) written about it were "written" decades after. Is it possible? Sure. But it's so far removed from everyday experience - and independent, corroborating records of these earthquakes, dead romans, etc. just don't exist to back it up - that the possibility is miniscule.

And so we're told "Take it on faith."

Why? If that's your evidence - "take it on faith" - maybe it's time to apply the standards of truth to the account and see if it's really worth believing.

No comments:

Post a Comment